Our recent introductory articles are found below.

5 of the best… Podcasts

Editor : 15 April 2017 9:58 pm : 101, Career, Impact, Leadership

The rise of the podcast in recent years has meant we now share our commute or the washing up with a massive range of experts, leaders and authors. Sometimes too much choice can be a problem, so here we recommend five of our favourites (plus a bonus one), and why we think they stand out from the crowd. We hope you try them and please let us know your recommendations!

Dose of Leadership
We like it that the guests on Richard Rierson’s interview series come from a wide range of backgrounds: as well as business leaders, Rierson finds interesting angles on leadership by talking with leaders from faith, sports and even martial arts, on a monthly basis.

Stanford Entrepreneurial Thought Leaders Series
Widely recommended are the in-depth interviews with business leaders that form Stanford’s popular weekly series. These roughly hour-long interviews have covered issues such as how a CEO’s role responds to growth and divergent thinking in product design. If you have less time , check out the Standford Innovation Lab podcasts, two seasons of shorter conversations covering topics such as Negotiation, Improvisation, and Crowdsourcing.
More or Less
Numbers are bandied around by politicians, scientists and journalists, and Tim Harford’s BBC radio show tackles bold claims, over-simplifications and selective reading. Tim recently looked at the rise of elected women, obesity in the UK, and Brexit economic forecasts. By the way, we thoroughly recommend Tim’s books, which are entertaining and full of interesting ideas.  
Office Hours
Presented by Daniel Pink, author of best-selling To Sell is Human, and commentator on motivation and human behaviour. Some of the most interesting business authors discuss their ideas in his podcast interviews. He also shares the Pinkcast, where he explores an idea in less than 180 seconds – so no excuse for not having enough time.

Weekly 40-60 minute interviews by Dave Ramsey, an expert on building and growing businesses, coupled with free tools and worksheets. An FBI hostage negotiator and naval captains join a roster of CEOs, authors and academics in sharing their thoughts on productivity, communication, and leadership.
This Is Your Life
Although currently on a self-described hiatus, there’s a great back catalogue in which Michael Hyatt addresses a wider range of practical topics, with titles like How to vacation like a pro, How to create great blog posts, and How to deal with a problem client. You can also find transcripts and links to further resources

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Gold standard strategies for recruitment & selection – Part 2: Selection

Fiona McPhail BA (Hons) MA FCMI Chartered FCIPD : 13 April 2016 10:54 am : 101, Featured, People

In our last issue Fiona McPhail talked about the importance of analysing the role and establishing your requirements at the start of the recruitment process. In this second part of the article she shares strategies for effective employee selection.

Make sure that the interview panel or a designated sub set from the panel shortlist. They should do so against the essential criteria specified for the role. As soon as a candidate fails to meet the criteria, that’s it, game over for that applicant. A clear record should be kept of why they failed to meet the requirement in case feedback is requested. Candidates who meet all of the essential requirements for the role and best meet the desirable criteria are called for interview. Keep in mind that clear records are needed for every candidate and they should be written in a professional manner as they may need to be produced. Advise shortlisters that they should ensure they are no hostages to fortune by writing personal comments about applicants!

As part of your process, you should highlight to candidates that you will make all reasonable adjustments for candidates with a disability. If a candidate who has been shortlisted has a disability, a key member of staff will need to liaise with them over any necessary adjustments so that they can compete fairly in the process. It may be necessary to amend some parts of the process and interviewers might need briefing in how they conduct aspects of the process, including allowing additional time.

Many interview processes include selection tasks. This is helpful as it provides a rounded view of the candidate. Remember though that this is not the opportunity for free consultancy! Tasks should be examples of aspects of the role that would be difficult to assess within the formal interview itself. IT tasks are a good example, it is easier to see what someone can do, rather than to get them to talk you through it in an interview. Also, take into account the impression you make on your candidate when you ask them to prepare an interview task. Is it appropriate, how much of their time will it take? Have you given them enough notice? Be specific about the task and make sure that the candidate is clear what this is assessing so that they can ensure that they prepare against the brief and the criteria against which you are assessing them.

The interview is the opportunity for the interviewee to shine. As such, the location and the approach should be designed to put the candidate at ease and the interview should be conducted in a friendly and approaching manner with pre-agreed competency-based questions which have been carefully developed and tested in advance of the interview. A pre-meeting just half an hour before the interview where questions are divided up is not a professional approach, especially given the financial investment which is about to take place. Train managers in competency-based interviewing skills so that they are clear of the knowledge, skills and behaviour that need to be demonstrated in the interview and to what level. A straightforward approach to competency-based questions is the STAR format:

Situation – Tell me about…

Task – What was your role?

Action – What did you do?

Result – What was the outcome?

For each question set, the panel need to be clear and have already decided the target response that they need to hear. This way they can avoid the risk of using one candidate as an internal benchmark, rather than scrupulously returning to the role requirements. This approach will demonstrate whether a candidate meets the requirements and how well they do so. It will highlight areas where training is needed and will also show if a candidate is actually unappointable. It also helps to avoid unconscious bias and the effect of ‘they are like me, so they will fit in then’!

The value of the reference has diminished over time, although we still seek them. Many employers make it a policy to either provide no references at all, or to do so in such a minimalist way that they only confirm the date of employment of your candidate and the duration of the employment. It is best to provide a template for references, this way you can be clear about what you want the employer to comment upon in relation to the job role. This way, you can avoid the other extreme of the reference – the essay! Given the varying approaches of employers to the provision of references, they are best used to confirm your assessment of suitability and not as part of the assessment process itself.

Don’t forget the need to give feedback to candidates who are unsuccessful. They have given their time and put effort into submitting an application to you. It is unprofessional to brush them off and fail to give feedback where this is requested. The feedback should be agreed for each candidate at the end of the interviews and should be drawn from the formal notes of the interview. It should be factual and specific given in relation to the personal specification. It should be balanced so that they are aware of their strengths and their areas for improvement. Take into account that this may be a candidate you would like to apply again. At the very least, you want the feedback that they give about your company to others to be positive! If they have a poor experience at any stage of the process, including refusal of feedback, how many people will they tell? This is not only a professional matter, it is about your reputation.  It is also good practice to seek feedback from them, what did you do well, what could have been better? Not only will they have learnt from the experience, but so will you!

You can benefit from the opportunities presented by better understanding applicants’ unique strengths by incorporating strength-based questions into your current selection practice. 9 Strengths-Based Interview Questions for you: Click Here for Your Copy

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Gold standard strategies for recruitment & selection – Part 1: Recruitment

Fiona McPhail BA (Hons) MA FCMI Chartered FCIPD : 11 March 2016 8:00 am : 101, Featured

We all know the cliché that people are your most important asset, but the reality is, that the cliché is true. It’s an organisation’s people who are critical in the success of any business and it is their knowledge, skills and behaviours which lifts one organisation above its competitors.

Although much time may be put into the Recruitment and Selection process, organisations may be missing a trick by not maximising the benefits which a recruitment opportunity brings.

Many people will have worked in organisations where there was a tendency, perhaps through time constraints and the pressure of other work, to simply revert to the original Job Description and Person Specification and then, by doing what they always did, get what they always got.

If you take a look around your own organisation, it is worth asking the question, who is here and who is not? If you see considerable homogeneity and clear occupational segregation, then a recruitment opening provides you with the opportunity to take a fresh look at what you are doing and make sure that you are reaching out to all possible talent. If you wonder why you should, then you might like to take a look at the latest research by consultants McKinsey which finds that ‘companies in the top quartile for gender or racial and ethnic diversity are more likely to have financial returns above their national industry medians. Companies in the bottom quartile in these dimensions are statistically less likely to achieve above-average returns. And diversity is probably a competitive differentiator that shifts market share toward more diverse companies over time. (Diversity Matters, McKinsey February 2015.)

Some organisations have not yet reaped the full benefit that a diverse workforce can bring and some managers can also still hold the belief that a role is full time or no time, thus missing out on valuable skills and experience from those who have family or other commitments which preclude full time work. This rich pool of talent is waiting; the organisation which is diverse and flexible may find that it has given itself a competitive edge.

Know your statistics
Larger organisations should hold monitoring data on their staff. The analysis of application rates for roles, the shortlisting outcomes and the final hires can sometimes come as a surprise when looked at in detail. If particular groups are not applying, then this begs the question why. This is where an organisation needs to go back, not just to the job description, person specification and the advert, but they also need to look at the messages they are sending out more broadly. What does the website look like? What images are used? What sort of language? Do you promote your positive working practices? What about other material? Who is this appealing to and what unconscious messages might it be sending?

It may be that the patterns you see in your data sets suggest that some upskilling is required for recruiting managers, including ensuring that they have had training in unconscious bias as part of broader recruitment and selection programmes. Few managers would like to think that they overtly discriminate, but it is the recruitment in one’s own image and the construction of cultural fit that can inadvertently lead to exclusion. Such exclusion could, of course, amount to unlawful practice – but would certainly suggest a waste of talent.

Analyse the role
There are key stages to any review of a job opening and clearly, a primary one is to analyse the role. It may be that the departure of a member of staff provides the opportunity to review the position, disperse some of the tasks and duties to other staff, thus providing greater variety and stretch in their roles, it may be that some requirements are no longer needed.

It is more though, than just analysing the role’s requirements. It is about presenting them in a way which is appealing. If you look at how the role is described, has it been articulated in a way which might make it more desirable to one group than another, have you inadvertently turned off a candidate group? A common error is to use adjectives which infer traits which can be strongly associated with a particular gender. Care is needed in the presentation of the role to ensure that it doesn’t inadvertently deter candidates whom the organisation would like to attract.

The Person Specification is what enables candidates to assess themselves against the requirements of the post. It should outline the skills, qualifications, abilities and experience which is required in relation to the position. In putting this together, it is important to interrogate the information included.

Is the person specification put together in a way which identifies those aspects which are Essential and those which are Desirable and thus trainable? It’s important to avoid adjectives such as ‘Excellent or Good … skills’ as this is not measurable, rather it seeks subjective decision making which is hard for the candidate to demonstrate and even harder for those shortlisting to assess. Also, no numbers!

Numbers of years’ experience does not give you any evidence of ability and you risk breaching the Equality Act in relation to age discrimination. Demonstrable experience to the level required in the job is what you need. Don’t forget, many candidates can bring transferable skills from other sectors, yet often personal specifications screen out candidates from other sectors who may bring a valuable perspective.

Advertising the role
Where do you advertise? Do you use the same outlets and approaches? Seek feedback from your current staff, where did they look when applying to your company. What attracted them? Was there anything that put them off? If you are seeking to diversity your staff group, think whether the current channels you are using are likely to reach your target group. If your advert comes with images, proceed with care. Any images you use, just like your text, must not infer that you have a particular group in mind for the role.

Also, don’t forget, YOU is the most important word in any advert. What will excite the person, why should they want to apply to your organisation? Don’t forget the basics, what is the role, which department, and where is it located? Crucially, what does it pay. Don’t use phrases such as ‘competitive salary’ this wastes people’s time and is frustrating. State the salary/ salary band. The applicant will decide if it’s competitive or not!

Click here to read part 2, where Fiona McPhail outlines effective strategies for selecting the right candidate.

You can benefit from the opportunities presented by better understanding applicants’ unique strengths by incorporating strength-based questions into your current selection practice. 9 Strengths-Based Interview Questions for you: Click Here for Your Copy

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Tuckman’s stages of team development

Ági Galgóczi : 15 January 2016 8:00 am : 101


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Introduction to Coaching – Part1

Eszter Molnar Mills : 28 December 2015 8:00 am : 101, Featured

Busting coaching myths and why use coaching for enhanced performance

Do you use coaching as part of your leadership practice? If not, you may wish to consider learning how to empower people through coaching. Coaching is a people management tool that supports people in giving their very best regardless of their current performance level. Sometimes all a team needs to shine is a bit of support that is focussed on helping them find solutions themselves, rather than the manager providing direction or advice.


Coaching myths

Myth1: It takes too long; it take less time if I just tell them the answer or what to do.”

You may worry that coaching is too time consuming, but it takes no more time overall than many other management practices. Crucially coaching builds capacity in your team to resolve their own issues or come to you with solutions, rather than questions – saving you time in the medium to long run.

Myth 2: “I am not a professional coach, surely an external person needs to do this work.”

While there is real value in independent executive coaching, anyone can add a coaching approach to their management toolkit.

Doing so is hugely beneficial and easier than you might think. David Rock defines coaching as ‘the art and science of facilitating positive change’.

That is mostly what the management role is – meeting people where they are, then helping them build on their skills, strengths and experiences, addressing shortcomings, finding solutions and identifying strategies to meet agreed targets.

Myth3: “I have the right answers, I should always share them.”

You should if there is only one right answer. But allowing your colleagues to maintain ownership, think issues through and work out their own solutions helps to get the best from your people. Sir John Whitmore argues that coaching encourages acceptance of responsibility, which results in a commitment, in turn optimising employees’ performance.

A coaching approach helps establish boundaries around their responsibility for delivering outcomes and resolving issues. Your role is to work with people not for them – helping them work towards solutions rather than micro-managing. It helps when people own their goals.

Coaching is a high value and relatively low cost leadership activity. It has great return on investment. A significant U.S. study that looked into application after training found that the application of learning from a course was around 22%. The rest of the people simply didn’t put anything into practice. But when training was combined with coaching or some sort of a follow-up, it really helped people put their learning into practise. Suddenly, application went up to 90%. That is a much better return on your investment.

Coaching can also be delivered just in time; you can talk about a project just as it arises. Coaching is targeted, it can be specific to your organisation and the type of work or individual that you are talking to. It can build on their experience, knowledge, and skills while addressing their specific challenges.

When to coach?

PWC’s Global Coaching Study for the International Coach Federation found that coaching creates improvements in areas such as self-confidence, relationships, communication skills, work-life balance, work performance, business management and team effectiveness.

There are few situations when you would not want these benefits, but it is crucial to have as many of these elements as you can possibly lay your hands on when there are high stakes pieces of work, big projects, or issues where you’re carrying an awful lot of responsibility.

coaching in a nutshell

By adding a coaching approach to your practice you can look forward to reaping its many personal and organisational benefits. Read our January issue for part 2 – guidance on how to use coaching with your staff.

Coaching is a core leadership skill, which time and again has been shown to increase managerial and organisation effectiveness. Join the webinar and learn the key skills of Coaching for Success: Click Here For Instant Access

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