Category Archives: Coaching

Avoiding Workplace Bullying

Workplace bullying can occur in any work environment, from offices to shops, community organisations and government departments. Employers have a legal responsibility under Occupational Health and Safety and anti-discrimination law to provide a safe workplace and one which is free from verbal, physical, social or psychological abuse. Bullying can have serious effects on the health and safety of individuals, which in turn can result in a loss in productivity with legal ramifications for the employer.

So how do we avoid bullying in the workplace?

Every organisation should have policies which outline how people are to treat each other at work. Commonly called a ‘Code of Conduct’, the policy should be easily accessible to all staff and outline what is (and is not) appropriate behaviour. In addition, the actions that will be taken to deal with unacceptable behaviour should also be detailed in workplace policies, as well as internal grievance procedures.

Is there a better way to address bullying?

At the recent 22nd Labour Law Conference in Sydney, Jonathan Hamberger (Senior Deputy President of Fair Work Australia) told the audience he believes “the key to tackling bullying in the workplace lies with line managers”. This will only be effective if the manager has an appropriate level of authority to resolve these issues, combined with superior people management skills and interpersonal skills.

An effective line manager should have the following people management skills:

  • great communication skills
  • the ability to build relationships
  • willingness to take responsibility
  • being open and transparent in their actions

Through the use of external assessment tools in the hiring and/or promotion process, these skills can be identified and assist the decision making procedure. Being able to identify the behaviours you are after, is the first step to ensuring you have the right candidate for the role and who will suit your organisation. There are also many training opportunities for managers to develop anti-bullying strategies to cover obligations, responsibilities and leadership skills.

Managers can be held liable for acts of unlawful discrimination, harassment or bullying even if they were not directly involved in the actual incident. Managers not only need to protect their employees, but also themselves against future lawsuits!

When line managers have the opportunity to deal with bullying issues at a workplace level, the social and psychological costs (to both the victim and organisation) are reduced. Not to mention the financial costs. The formal channels will always exist, supported by the Fair Work Commission, as well as legal processes.

With more effective and skilled line managers, staff making claims of bullying and harassment can be a very rarely used last resort.

What are you doing in your organisation to avoid workplace bullying?

How can assessments assist low SES students?

This is a question we were asked recently. We are sharing what we found out so you can use it too.

Often students from low social economic status (SES) backgrounds may lack access to the types of career decision-making support that comes from growing up in a family where professional educations are taken for granted. If the students are first-in-family at tertiary studies, they often don’t have good role models to talk with and rely heavily on the university, TAFE or school careers advisers to inform them about what to expect from careers that require tertiary qualifications.

Why would you use psychometric assessments with low SES students?

  • In order to give them an accurate and timely awareness of their workplace preferences and personal strengths, so that they can fully capitalise on their abilities, skills and suitability to their careers so that they can be productive and financially independent as soon as possible.
  • The combination of assessments, career counselling and education allows low SES students to fully appreciate their most preferred career options at an early stage.
  • Providing accurate, objective assessment that matches them against the right career, at the beginning of their careers is the ultimate gateway to help them move out of their current SES grouping.

Why would you use Harrison Assessments in particular?

  • “The system is designed for all levels, including low income students.” Dr Dan Harrison, 3 September 2014.
  • There are no questions in the assessment that could be viewed as discriminating against low SES background.
  • Although we do not collect data for SES when using the questionnaire, data for other factors indicates there are no adverse impacts of the assessment. Harrison Assessments keep a close eye on any potential for adverse impacts in order to ensure EEO legislation compliance.
  • It has been used successfully with students of low SES background in a recent US case study.
  • If required, the questionnaire can be delivered via a ‘simplified English’ questionnaire and/or a pencil and paper test.
  • Harrison Assessments does not measure personality alone. The questions also relate to a person’s interests, preferred tasks and work environment, decision making, management styles, motivations and values, communication, leadership, interpersonal styles and workplace cultural fit.

With many thanks to Patricia Parish, Careers Education Consultant at University of Western Sydney, for her valuable insight in this area.

Do you have any experiences working with low SES background clients that you’d like to share?

We look forward to reading them below.

Why using Myers-Briggs at work Might Be a Terrible Idea (MBTI)

By Jesse E. Olsen, University of Melbourne and Peter Gahan, University of Melbourne The Conversation logo

The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) is the most popular personality test, boasting millions of test-takers each year. Developed in the 1940s by Isabel Briggs Myers and Katharine Briggs, the MBTI is based on the ideas of Carl Jung. Upon completion, test-takers are presented with one of sixteen personality types based on four dichotomies: extraversion-introversion (E-I), sensing-intuition (S-N, because “I” was already taken), thinking-feeling (T-F), and judging-perceiving (J-P).

Despite its general popularity, however, the Myers Briggs test is met with seemingly unanimous revulsion among academics (who are probably just sceptical INTPs). We (the authors) like to see ourselves as open-minded ENFPs, but alas, we must own up to our I and T tendencies. While we don’t necessarily meet the MBTI with revulsion, we’re far from impressed. Further, as management scholars, we have reservations about promoting the use of the MBTI in the workplace.

1. The MBTI to make any employment decision Is Definitely a Terrible Idea (IDTI).

Here, we are in full agreement with the test developers’ original intent. According to the Myers-Briggs Foundation:

It is unethical and in many cases illegal to require job applicants to take the Indicator if the results will be used to screen out applicants. The administrator should not counsel a person to, or away from, a particular career, personal relationship or activity based solely upon type information.

The MBTI is meant for developmental purposes, and the 16 types are meant only to emphasise uniqueness, rather than goodness or badness — a lot like a horoscope.

But importantly, research suggests that scores or personality types as measured by the MBTI do not relate to job performance. Employee selection tools should be chosen based on the degree to which they find good employees; the MBTI does not do this — a lot like palm reading or handwriting analysis.

Further, in using personality tests more generally, we have to understand that there are limitations to measuring self-reported personality even with the more reliable instruments, and that situational factors also play a very important role in determining our behaviour.

2. Using the MBTI as a reliable measure of personality Is Probably a Terrible Idea (IPTI).

MBTI results are based on self-reported preferences, which are forced into categories or types. The more reliable tests of self-reported personality — like the Big Five — measure aspects of the personality on more of a continuum, rather than as types.

When we measure many human characteristics — like height, weight, intelligence, and many personality traits – we tend to find that most people fall fairly close to the average and very few people fall at the extremes, forming what is known as a bell curve or normal distribution. What would happen if we choose to represent intelligence as an arbitrary dichotomy – “sophisticated-simple” (“S-I”, because they clearly can’t both be represented by “S”) — rather than as a continuous IQ score? If the average person (who sits around the middle of the distribution, near the arbitrary dividing line) took an intelligence test twice, they’d have a good chance of falling into a different category each time.

Here lies one of the big problems with the MBTI and the reason many people find their type changes when they take it multiple times. Most of us are about average on at least one of the four dimensions, which means that we probably teeter on the edge between two (or more) types. Answer one of the questions differently, and you might fall into a different personality type. This happens about 50% of the time, according to some reports, which should further emphasise the importance of not using the MBTI to make any important decisions.

3. Using the MBTI as a development tool Might Be a Terrible Idea (MBTI).

Using the MBTI in training and development can provide for some fun times at work. People like typologies, and going through the MBTI assessment and feedback process can provide an opportunity for self- and/or mutual understanding.

You may have reasons for spending around $35 per person on an unreliable and invalid test to further self-understanding or think about your career. (We won’t judge; we’re Ps, not Js.) However, we submit that there are plenty of equally unreliable and invalid tests available online for free, or that you might make your own, and that they might even be more fun than the MBTI. Your $35 could instead be directed to satisfying the world’s growing demand for creative ice bucket challenge videos.

So, in sum, the MBTI unreliably, invalidly, and perhaps even inappropriately assigns four-letter labels to test-takers. Of course, if this sounds like your idea of fun, go for it, but we’ll take our $35 to the local pub, for measurably more fun as we assign our own four-letter label to the MBTI.

The ConversationThe authors do not work for, consult to, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article. They also have no relevant affiliations.

This article was originally published on The Conversation.
Read the original article.

There’s more to personality than a test score

workplace training

By Luke Smillie, University of Melbourne The Conversation logo

Have you ever completed a personality test and felt dissatisfied with your scores? Maybe you’ve quibbled with the low score you received on extroversion – a personality trait reflecting outgoing and gregarious behaviour. Well, fine, you’re not a party animal, but when you are out with your friends you are lively, chatty and enthusiastic. Doesn’t that count for something?

For many people, the idea of a numerical “score” on a personality test seems simplistic. We can’t argue with the feedback from the bathroom scales, but personality is different to weight: it is a description of who we are – and we are complex, dynamic and changeable.

We are different around our friends compared to our romantic partners. We might even feel sure that aspects of our personality have changed at key points in our lives. Can a test score accurately describe any aspect of your personality?

The simple answer – as for many things in psychology – is yes…and no.

We are different people at different times

Personality tests offer broad, reasonably accurate descriptions of what a person is like. Test scores are relatively stable over time. How people describe themselves on a personality test is quite similar to how people who know them well describe them. Test scores also predict important outcomes in our life – from how long we spend at university to how long we spend on earth. So personality test scores do reflect something meaningful and enduring about us.

On the other hand, it is obvious our behaviours and experiences change across time and situations. Optimists experience moments of pessimism, and intellectuals sometimes watch mindless TV. Most people are quiet and reflective when reading a book, but not when attending a music festival. How can this variation be reconciled with a personality test score?

One answer to this comes from research conducted by Wake Forest University’s Professor William Fleeson. He has shown that our various behaviours and experiences form “distributions” of momentary states. While these states can vary dramatically from one moment to the next, over time they tend to cluster around some average level.

For example, you might sometimes behave in an outgoing and gregarious way (like an extrovert) and sometimes in a reserved and quiet way (like an introvert). Nevertheless, you will also tend to spend a majority of your time at one particular point along the continuum.

Consider it what we tend to do, not always do

According to Professor Fleeson, our score on a personality test is a brief summary of what we tend to do, not an absolute indicator of what we always do. A relatively low score on extroversion does not suggest that you are never gregarious and outgoing. Rather, it means that you behave this way relatively less often. And while our behaviour changes from moment to moment, our average levels of a particular behaviour are highly consistent over time.

Going back to the bathroom scales, we can therefore see that our score on a personality test is a bit more like our average weight for a particular year. (And like with personality, we might quibble that our average weight does not fully capture how we are at every point in time!)

If our score on a personality test is a summary of what we tend to do, can we change our personality simply by doing something else? For instance, does an introverted teacher who develops a highly extroverted presentation style, in effect, become more extroverted? This notion captures what Cambridge University’s Professor Brian Little calls “personal projects”.

The ‘me project’

Like projects in any other domain of our lives – to learn Spanish or renovate the kitchen – we often work on projects concerning our personality. We try to be kinder and more patient (“project agreeableness”). We push ourselves to try new things (“project openness”). These projects may often arise in response to new challenges in our lives. For instance, working at the University of Illinois, Professor Brent Roberts found that women who increased their participation in the workforce in young adulthood became more assertive and socially dominant over the following 10-15 years. Such changes may reflect deliberate efforts to survive and thrive in the workplace.

Similar to the idea of personal projects, people flex different aspects of their personality in accord with their current goals. When we want to engage others and hold their attention, we tend to act in a more extroverted way.

Acting in an extroverted way might also help elevate our positive mood levels. Personality psychologists have long known that extroverts typically feel more upbeat than introverts. Recent research from a number of teams around the world, including the University of Melbourne’s Personality Processes Lab, shows these benefits of being extroverted can be reaped simply by acting extroverted. Surprisingly, the boosts in positive mood caused by acting extroverted are just as strong for introverts: quieter, more reserved people enjoy being talkative and enthusiastic too.

Of course, there are limits to how easily we can change. Professor Little suggests an introvert can act extroverted for a short time, but will later need to recharge. Some aspects of our personality are resistant to change. More sensitive, anxious individuals probably get tired of people telling them to stop worrying about things (as if this were a simple choice). Change is possible, but various factors have a stabilising effect on our personality – such as our genetic make-up, which we can’t change. As a result, personal projects can be life-long endeavours requiring constant tinkering.

What we can say with confidence is that personality is a more complex and versatile phenomenon than is reflected in a personality test score. These scores seem like very rough descriptions of what we are like, because in many respects they are. They provide a brief sketch of what we are like overall, on average. They do not capture everything that we are, or everything we might become.

Luke Smillie does not work for, consult to, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has no relevant affiliations.

This article was originally published on The Conversation.
Read the original article.

Why are you doing that?

In an aside in a recent webinar, Tim Paige from LeadPages mentioned he has a sticker on his monitor that says ‘Why are you doing that?’. Couldn’t we all use that question?

‘Start with Why’ is the name of a book by Simon Sinek and it has become a catch-phrase in business and management circles. Sinek has been lauded for making us think about our purpose and how we communicate it to those around us.

What if we applied this thinking to the little things we do all day long?

Here are a few examples where asking ‘Why are you doing that?’ might result in some very different behaviours:

  • checking emails every few minutes
  • calling a meeting that isn’t really necessary
  • doing ‘busy work’ to avoid doing the important things
  • copying people onto emails who don’t need to receive them
  • inviting people to a meeting when they don’t need to be there
  • sending messages without a clear purpose or desired outcome
  • straying onto social media when you know you should be working
  • chasing after the latest shiny object, new program or productivity tool
  • avoiding the difficult conversation, the risky decision, the growth opportunity

It’s easy to think of a long list for yourself, I’m sure! Then there’s only one more question to ask yourself:

How would my results be different if I made a habit of asking myself…

‘Why are you doing that?’

 

3 steps to creating your own monster

trust

Have you noticed how many businesses seem to have a ‘problem child’ among their staff? Often this toxicity in the office has built up very gradually until one day you find your very own monster is taking up more and more of your time and creating frustration for the rest of the team.

It all seemed fine before, so what went wrong?

We’ve noticed three factors contribute to creating the monster:

1. Hire in a hurry

You wouldn’t have hired this person if you knew they would turn out like this, would you?

So what could you have done differently to ensure you knew more about them, and how they’d fit in, before you made that decision? What was missing in your recruitment process?

What will you do next time?

2. Leave them to it

Whenever you hire, it’s because you need someone to do the work. Once they’re on board, it’s easy to believe that given they met your selection criteria they should be able to just get on with the job, right?

Wrong! If you haven’t told them clearly and consistently what you expect in terms of work performance and behaviour, how can you expect them to know?

Even experienced employees have come from a different environment with different unwritten rules. It’s harder still for younger staff to discern what the rules are in your workplace.

3. Ignore bad behaviour

This would have to be the most common reason we see for monsters at work and many managers delay addressing bad behaviour until damage has already been done. It’s understandable that in the daily pressure of getting things done you find it easier to ignore the problem.

If you wait until other staff complain, it may already be too late.  If you don’t take immediate action when an issue is brought to your attention you risk doing more long-term damage.

We’d all prefer not to have to deal with monsters at work

By hiring well and setting standards you may avoid having to do so.

If a monster does emerge, our advice is don’t ever wait until you’re in a crisis to talk to them about their poor conduct. The pressure could lead to you both behaving in ways you’ll regret later.

 

Brainstorming for one

Brainstorming is probably my favourite way of getting out of a rut and generating new ideas. It’s a key tool for leadership development in any setting.

But what do you do if you’re stuck on something and calling a meeting is neither appropriate or convenient?

One answer is to write exhaustive lists using brainstorming rules – suspend judgement and focus on quantity. ‘Brainstorming for one’, I call it.

What follows is an example of how you could use this technique to crack a common problem.

When we need to hire, we often get stuck on defining what we want in a new hire. Often, we play safe by sticking to what we’ve done in the past even when the business has changed over time.

The new way

1. Start writing lists including –

        • Everything the person will have to do to do this job well now
        • Everything they need to know before they start
        • Everything you want them to be while they work for you
        • Everything you are going to measure to assess their performance
        • All the ways this job will appeal to the right person

2. Keep adding to the lists (without judging or editing) until you can’t think of anything more

3. Keep your lists going for at least 24 hours. Your subconscious mind will generate further ideas while you’re doing other things, even sleeping!

4. When the ideas stop flowing, it’s finally time to edit:

  • Get rid of anything that’s unrealistic, such as ‘will bring me coffee without being asked’
  • Look for patterns. Items that appear several times on your lists must be important to you

5. Combine your lists to define both the role you are filling (your job description) and the person you want to fill it – which in turn gives you your recruitment method, ad wording and selection process.

What do you think?  Could this work for you?

I’d love to hear your experiences of using ‘brainstorming for one’.

3 steps to building a better business case

career help

Are you required to apply for money for initiatives you wish to implement or purchases you wish to make?

When you are putting forward a case for funding for a project, it’s easy to slip into thinking the numbers are all that matter. Yes, the price is important, but it never tells the full story.

You can easily improve your chances of gaining support for your project by demonstrating you can answer some fundamental questions.  Here are the questions we suggest our prospective Career Navigator clients need to be able to answer before they even start talking about the money:

1. What are you hoping to gain by using this product or service, or completing this project?

How will this purchase or project benefit your organisation and/or your clients? For example, you may expect it to help you supply higher quality client services, or to serve your clients more efficiently. Can you clearly and precisely articulate the benefits so they can be easily understood by people who are not experts in your field?

2. How will you know when that outcome has been achieved?

Detail exactly how you will measure if your project has been a success. For example, suitable metrics may be the number of new clients served, time spent with clients, client feedback ratings, time saved and costs cut. Of course to be able to make a comparison, you will need data for your current situation, before the purchase and/or implementation.

3. Is there anything else you need to know?

You need to feel confident you are making the right choice so if there’s anything at all that is unclear, seek more clarification and/or evidence as to why this proposal should be supported. Examples of further information may be white papers, case studies, benchmark or validity data, or opportunities to speak to existing users.

Being prepared in this way – while also paying attention to the financial viability of all options – supercharges your credibility as a business-minded partner in the decision-making process.

Then it’s time to talk about how to make your dream a reality.

What do you think?  Would you follow these steps for better results?

Share your thoughts, suggestions and feedback below.

[Thanks, Rachel Bourke, for providing the inspiration for this article!]

Using Harrison Assessments to develop staff

workplace training

In our experience, a well-planned combination of tools and activities gives the best outcomes when coaching and training employees.

Here’s an example where Harrison Assessments was used as part of an integrated approach to staff development.

How could you use an integrated approach to staff development in your organisation?

Get it done!

Despite being a coach myself and understanding the value of accountability, I am also probably as bad as anyone else at keeping myself accountable.

Despite every tool available to me, sometimes the keeping track just seems to take up too much time – time I want to spend moving on to the next week, project, client…

If this sounds like you, too, here’s a quick checklist to use to keep yourself aligned to your goals. Fill it in every Friday afternoon to keep you focused.

  1. Top 3 tasks to be completed next week to bring me closer to my goals.
  2. Top 3 tasks I completed this week (including the goal(s) they relate to)
  3. Who I met this week (include current, prospective and past clients; centres of influence; staff; alliance partners)

Use a quick ‘check in’ like this and I guarantee you will make progress. Read it and don’t act on it, I guarantee you will find it hard to keep yourself – or anyone else – accountable.

Let me know how you go!

Even your best friend won’t tell you…

new employees

Complain to a colleague about an empoyee and they might tell you to just get rid of the person. You’re less likely to hear that you might get better performance by your staff if you give them more coaching, recognition or opportunities.

In traditional ‘command and control’ management, the assumption was that a staff member should do as they’re told and just get on with the job. If they couldn’t do that, they should be moved on.

The workplace has changed but remnants of this thinking remain.

With a more highly educated, skilled and mobile workforce, old styles of management are no longer viable, no matter how much we might believe life was simpler back then.

Using fear to motivate staff is not sustainable.

Those who continue to apply this model are short-changing their business and their staff. Here’s why:

  • Companies that build a great culture by promoting well-being, treating staff with respect, providing coaching and modelling honesty and integrity have high sustainable staff engagement. These companies had an average operating margin of 27.4%.*
  • Those that rely on traditional motivation, such as bonuses, had an operating margin of 14.3%.*
  • Where staff were not engaged or motivated, the operating margin averaged 9.9%.*
  • Companies with high levels of staff engagement posted returns 22% higher than the stock market average.^
  • Companies with disengaged employees had returns 28% below average.^
  • The top three drivers of engagement were career opportunities, recognition at work and brand alignment.^
  • With only one third of employees, out of 32,000 surveyed, saying they are highly engaged,* finding a way to treat staff better is a huge, hidden source of competitive advantage.

What can you do to increase employee engagement, motivation and retention?

Your friends might not tell you, but we will! Or you could ask your staff…

*Towers Watson 2012, ^AON Hewitt 2010

Where’s all this leadership leading us?

We had leadership programs running constantly, but when a decision had to be made everyone stepped back and waited for someone else to make a move.

Evidence of crises of leadership fill our news feeds daily. Yet leadership development, coaching, books and seminars are a growth industry.

With all this education, why aren’t we getting better decision making from our leaders?

The opening comment was made to me by a former executive of a major bank. I have no doubt the situation is the same in most big institutions.

This is what I think is happening:

  1. Lack of personal direction   Instead of being guided by an internal compass aligned to corporate goals, quasi-leaders’ values are conflicted.
  2. Lack of personal consequences   Apart from a few noticeable exceptions, quasi-leaders get away with bad decisions, or no decisions, many walking away richer.
  3. Fear   When the going gets tough, quasi-leaders look to the past instead of the future.

Instead, we should expect the following from our leaders – and be selecting, training and supporting them accordingly:

  1. Values   – that produce decisions that serve the company and the community.
  2. Accountability   – acceptance of the responsibilities of being a leader.
  3. Courage   – to make the difficult choices.

What do you think?  What would you change?

 

"The last couple of years at batyr has seen incredible growth and the Balance at Work team has supported us along the way. They have helped us improve leadership skills across the team by helping us source and manage mentors, and even engaging as mentors themselves. As a young and fresh CEO Susan has also supported me personally with genuine feedback and fearless advice to achieve great things. "
By Sam Refshauge, CEO, batyr
"We used the Harrison Assessment tools followed by a debrief with Susan, for career development with staff, which then allowed us to work with Susan to create a customised 360 degree review process. Susan has a wealth of knowledge and is able to offer suggestions and solutions for our company. She is always ready to get involved and takes the time to show her clients the capability of Harrison Assessments. "
By Jessica Hill, Head of People and Culture, Choice
"Balance at Work are the ideal external partners for us as they completely get what we are trying achieve in the People and Culture space. Their flexibility and responsiveness to our needs has seen the entire 360 approach being a complete success. The online tool and the follow up coaching sessions have been game changers for our business. The buzz in the organisation is outstanding. Love it! Thanks again for being such a great support crew on this key project."
By Chris Bulmer, National GM Learning and Development, ISS Australia
"We use Harrison Assessments with our clients to support their recruitment processes. We especially value the comprehensive customisable features that allow us to ensure the best possible fit within a company, team and position. Balance at Work is always one phone call away. We appreciate their valuable input and their coaching solutions have also given great support to our clients."
By Benoit Ribe, HR Solutions Manager, Polyglot Group
"The leadership team at Insurance Advisernet engaged Susan from Balance at Work to run our leadership development survey and learning sessions. Susan was very professional in delivering the team and individual strengths and opportunities for growth. Susan's approach was very "non corporate" in style which was refreshing to see. I can't recommend Balance at Work more highly to lead, employee and team development sessions."
By Shaun Stanfield, Managing Director, Insurance Advisernet

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