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Archive for August, 2012

About a year ago I wrote what I worried would come across as an overly indignant blog posting lambasting a conference on coaching organised and marketed by the CIPD (Chartered Institute for Professional Development). My beef back then was the conference had twisted the word coaching to re-spell the word “fad” in order to apply it to a never-changing and never-fulfilled underlying quest for a load of other fads such as “organisational performance”, “value” and the Holy Grail of “ROI”.

One year on and they haven’t removed me from their database so I am sent the blurb and invitation to spend up to £600 + VAT for a day listening to people talk (to slides, I suspect) all about “Proving Coaching’s value and its role in growing business performance”.

Should I give up in despair? Am I alone in finding sentences such as “Workplace coaching is proven to increase productivity, so in a time of cost cutting how do you ensure that it remains within your organisation’s budget?” not just glib but actually quite dangerous. Proven? There is no reference made to what proof there is of the Midas touch of organisational coaching, even though the next breath says “Demonstrating coaching’s ROI is key to embedding it into your organisation.”

I love coaching, I think it is a very valuable thing for people to be engaged in. I think the principles that lie behind the best coaching techniques are intentions toward a person that are honourable and beneficial. But at an individual level. When coaching is dangled in front of an organisation as the be-all-and-manipulate-all to “drive business success”, I get worried. This is made worse by the promise of this conference to offer “practical advice on utilising coaching methods to improve the performance of your organisation.”

My attitude to what goes on in a coaching session is that it cannot be dictated by the requirements of the senior management of a company to produce better profits, even if better profits is a legitimate aim of senior management. The temptation to interfere with or seek access to the topics between coach and coachee would, in that case, be justified because of their possible impact to ROI (however you would show that – which, of course, you can’t).

Oh well, this sounds a lot like last year’s rant, so one of us (CIPD or me) has not learnt a lesson, or is being naive. Plenty of people think you can measure ROI on learning and development projects, so I’m aware that my position is not unchallengeable. However, I can’t see how they can be viewed as realistic since they are measuring quantitatively and retrospectively something which exists qualitatively and as an emergent phenomenon.

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The party’s over, the orgy (of sport) is spent, the last Big Mac and fries served, and the athletes, crowds and hordes of the rather oddly named ‘Olympic Family’ have been sped back along the special lanes to wherever it was they came from. London 2012 is finished and we are all feeling a bit, well, bereft, actually. So here are my top eight and bottom three things from the Olympics…

1. The Olympic Park experience. We weren’t expecting the level of organisation and levels of welcome when we went to the Park to watch some handball in the Copper Box during the first week of the games (before the TeamGB medal surge feel-good factor had been invented). There were huge crowds, for sure, but virtually no queues and definitely no confusion. Information was everywhere (it was almost like being in Tokyo!). What’s more, Brits with smiles on their faces? That took some getting used to.

2. The Opening Ceremony. Thank you Danny Boyle and team, you did the impossible and directed a cast of thousands and our attention/feelings through a really good narrative, with just the right mix of ingredients to have something for everyone. The lack of story, point or class in the closing ceremony just showed how good the opening one was.

3. Lots of sporting highs, but my fave was the Jamaica 1-2-3 in the 4 x 100 relay final. Not just a world record, not just beating the USA into second place, but the laid back way that the quartet answered questions afterwards at the trackside. And Usain Bolt breaking away mid question (perhaps after his 200m win) to respect the national anthem being played for David Rudisha’s gold. And the Jess and Mo show, of course, which were inspirational performances. And special mention to Nicola Adams and Katarina Johnson-Thompson. Well, the list goes on…

4. Sports we don’t normally see that are much more than we thought they’d be. Handball (and I’m going to have to declare a soft spot here for the Norwegian women’s handball team – yes, all of them), taekwondo, dressage, modern pentathlon and volleyball were excellent. The BMX bike was – well, what was that all about?!? The same course over and over, the same riders over and over, race over in seconds, and medals all on the last race, which was a lottery! Hmmm, not convinced.

5. Clare Balding. Ian Thorpe. Michael Jordan.

6. The BBC Olympics website. Every venue, every event, on demand. Incredible.

7. All the athletes who weren’t there to win but to challenge themselves by taking part.

8. The Paralympics still to come! Inspiration times 10!

And my bottom three? The Closing Yawnomony (already pilloried) aside:

1. The Great Britain men’s football team. Why even have soccer as an Olympic sport at all? There’s already a world cup and regional competitions, and it’s now become the most overpaid (US men’s Basketball notwithstanding) sport in the world. When there were so many amazing performances going on everywhere else, I think no-one minded or cared when GB lost to, whoever they lost to… Whatever, etc… (I reserve the right to praise the women’s games, though, as they were actually much better to watch. More gutsy and committed). Ban football from the Olympics, I say.

2. Trying to write a Phd despite all seven points listed above, especially number 6.

3. Boris Johnson.

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