All posts by James Osborn

Manager as Coach

Manager as Coach is an introduction to the OSCAR coaching model. This is an evolution of the simple GROW model that’s especially useful to coaching in a management context.

The model is broken out to consider the Outcome, Situation, Choices, Actions and Review. The focus on Actions and Review is the main difference for the model when compared to GROW, and this is what slants it towards a more management focused approach. GROW looks at the Coachee’s Will to commit to change, but the Coachee will not necessarily sign up to a firm agreement to make that change.

In OSCAR, Actions and Review build an agreement to both what will be done and how it’s going to be reviewed. This is familiar in style to SMART objective setting, hence the power of this model in a management coaching relationship.

As well as an introduction to the model, the book covers applying it to Coachees in various mindsets. It also walks through different types of relationship that can benefit from coaching, how you can show the value of coaching to an organisation and how you can build a coaching culture.

There are lots of examples spread throughout the book, with case studies and testimonies throughout every chapter. This really helps to bring to life some of the considerations raised in the main text.

The book may be a little bit long in some places, attempting to apply OSCAR to too many situations beyond the core coaching conversation. There’s certainly sections that are less valuable once you’ve picked up the core model, so don’t be afraid to pick and choose your reading after the first few chapters.

Other than that, it’s a worthwhile read for managers new to coaching approaches and is deserving a place on your coaching bookshelf.

 

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Are you ready for Coaching?

At its heart, the process of Coaching is about enabling change and empowering your growth.

Change can be difficult, and you might not be ready to really commit to it. Coaching is forward looking, and it needs you to be well set to drive that change. You’ll also tend to benefit from having some thoughts about how to shape that change before you start looking for Coaching.

Not everyone will benefit from Coaching, it depends very much on where they are in their lives. With the investment in time and effort required, reflecting on your current status will be extremely valuable before you seek out a Coach.

If  you are:

  1. Committed to change and positive growth
  2. Coming from a place of stability and are ready to challenge yourself
  3. Equipped with ideas for your goals

Then you may be excellently placed to seek out a Coach and benefit significantly from the relationship.

If you are thinking about Coaching, then I’m always available to help you work through your options, just get in touch!

Thinking, Fast and Slow

Daniel Kahneman’s Thinking, Fast and Slow is the starting point for anyone who wants to stop and really learn about how we think and make decisions. It’s an incredibly information rich book, it’s certainly not an easy read but it is most definitely a worth while one.

It collects decades of research into how we make decisions, how we consider risk and gain and how we use shortcuts that are sometimes great but can often be terrible.

It starts by discussing System 1 and System 2, two models of thought. System 1 is the hasty and instinctual prone to taking shortcuts and making lazy decisions. System 2 is the more rational, willing to spend effort to make important decisions. Kahneman discusses the differences between these two modes, and shows us when System 1 can make good decisions, and where it can fall down.

We then move on to thinking about Humans and Econs. Traditional economic theory suggests that people always make rational decisions. Kahneman shows us times we may not behave rationally, when we are Humans and not the Econs of rational theory.

Finally, he discusses the differences between the remembering self and experiencing self. In this approach, we see that people are often willing to experience greater overall discomfort if the end of it is more pleasant. We remember the end of the experience more clearly, or we recall the peaks more than the average. It’s a surprising insight.

The book is brilliantly researched, each insight is backed up with rock solid studies that are brilliantly footnoted. Every chapter covers one of these major insights, compressed down into less than a dozen pages. There are regular ‘Speaking of’ sections that give great short practical views into each of the complex topics.

Take the time to drink this book in. Don’t rush through it, but do rush to buy it!

 

Intro to CBT Approaches

I had a really great continuing professional development session last week with the British School of Coaching, spending a morning discussing CBT, getting a basic understanding of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, what it means and how you can consider it during a coaching session.

We talked about feelings, emotions, thoughts and actions, considering how they all might be linked together and talked about productively. There was a brilliant range of attendees, from those just starting on their coaching journey to some who had long term experience in CBT.

The sessions went into enough depth to give an interested practitioner enough information to understand how to go and learn more, whether that was the full CBT or some of the tools and approaches that can help you connect better to emotion in a coaching session.

Continuing professional development is a key part of your growth of a coach, and these types of focused taster sessions are a brilliant springboard to understanding future learning options.

 

Innovation is Tough

Building a culture of innovation is tough. It’s pretty easy to learn the ‘fail fast’ or ‘build-measure-learn’ mantras, but to really pull it together requires a deep understanding of these paradigms. You have to recognise a good failure as opposed to a bad. You need to be strong in defining experiments and how you react if you don’t get hoped for results. You really must have strong leadership at all levels.

The benefits of innovation are immense. You solve the right problems, you do it effectively and efficiently and you empower people to bring about massive positive change.

HBR’s recent article, The Hard Truth About Innovative Cultures, really drills down into the detail of this. It shows you what good and bad is, and how to recognise them. It’s an excellent read, well worth your time and the time of anyone attempting to embed this culture in their organisation.

It Doesn’t Have to Be Crazy at Work

Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson have just released their latest book, It Doesn’t Have to Be Crazy at Work. It’s a collection of micro essays on covering the authors’ thoughts of damaging or short term working practices.

It’s an incredibly quick read, each thought is presented over at most three pages, so it’s easy to rattle through them at speed. Most of them have examples of the described approach and benefits from Basecamp, the company they founded in 1999.

The basic premise is that you can find time to do important work by shutting out distractions, rather than pushing to be the most reactive, always on and always struggling to grow.

Not every piece of advice will be relevant to you, or possible for you to enact (some of the bigger benefits like a four day week can be hard to implement). However, some of them likely will be useful. Cutting down on chat software, setting sensible boundaries and other simple changes can make big differences to what you are able to accomplish, without it feeling crazy.

People rarely do great work while under unreasonable pressure or whilst constantly distracted. This is worth recognising, and this book is certainly a good quick intro to some of these thoughts.


I’m available for coaching opportunities in Central London. Leadership development, especially in a technical organisation or with anyone leading a digital or agile transformation. Connect on LinkedIn to kick-off a discussion.

Crucial Conversations

Vital Smarts’ Crucial Conversations is a classic book on the subject of communication. Its core message is that some conversations are far more important than others, that they may suddenly occur without warning and that if you aren’t prepared for this, it’ll often go badly.

It’s set out much as you may expect, opening up with the basic premise, running through how to recognise what a Crucial Conversation is and when you might be about to enter one. It runs through techniques to succeed, methods to deal with complex situations and finally works through how to secure actions and commitments at the end of a conversation.

The newer edition also covers a series of particularly difficult cases or types of behaviour, dealing with a large number of the possible objections along the lines of “Great ideas, but my specific case doesn’t fit because …”.

Altogether, it’s well written and simple to follow. If you’ve read a lot in this area, then you’ll find the ideas and approaches familiar, but that’s probably because newer books build on them or take them as a starting point.

If all you take away from the book is that some conversations are vital, and that if you can be aware of that then you’ll improve your overall communication and effectiveness. If you can go to the next level, and seek to improve how you build dialogue during those conversations, then you’ll really be taking the value from this writing.


I’m available for coaching opportunities in Central London. Leadership development, especially in a technical organisation or with anyone leading a digital or agile transformation. Connect on LinkedIn to kick-off a discussion.