Training & coaching reviews

Time to face old grey panther test

Age: Realising the benefits of an age diverse workforce
Produced by: The Employers’ Forum on Age in association with Skill Boosters
Format: DVD and VHS pack with trainer’s notes and self-study guide
Price: £995 for either VHS or DVD, or £1,095 for both
From: BDP Media Group

From 1 October, UK employers have had to comply with the new anti-age discrimination laws.

But judging by the flurry of activity and panic over the past few weeks, very few organisations are totally confident that they have the right plans in place.

They would do well then to watch this excellent package from Skill Boosters, produced in association with the Employers’ Forum on Age. It carries the perfect balance of case study material, cautionary dramatisations, and well-presented information.

A key factor in fighting the prejudice surrounding age is to overturn stereotypes. This package does so very well by opening with an action sequence. Most audiences will instantly get the message that ageism is short-sighted when they see two 60-year-old winch-men from the coastguard helicopter rescue team retrieving people from the sea in a force 9 storm.

‘It’s only a number’ is the consistent theme throughout the film, as over-50s from a variety of employers are interviewed and prove that they make a valuable contribution.

This package should also be praised for its comprehensive view of age-related issues. The producers have been careful to include unobtrusive examples of younger people and the expertise they can share. It covers every aspect of the employment process from recruitment through to training.

It focuses on how to ensure older people are sent on any training courses – coverage which is lacking in other age-related training packs. It also shows the benefits of removing the retirement age.

The producers have given balanced coverage of harassment and respect. The snippets of drama are well used here, as we see the impact of misjudged comments at a workmate’s birthday party.

Given that – in a couple of years – 40% of the workforce will be aged 45 or over, I think this training package would be a very worthwhile investment. And not just because of the new age discrimination legislation, but also because of demographic change.

Its expert comment and excellent suggestions for running training sessions should ensure a long shelf-life.

Relevance? Five out of five stars
Interactivity? Four out of five stars
Value for money? Five out of five stars

Coaching and applying the 10% rule

Little Goals, Big Results: Achieve 100% results with the 10% approach
Author: Eileen Mulligan
Price: £9.99
Publisher: Piatkus
ISBN: 0-7499-2546-9

Elsewhere we have looked at whether life coaching has a place at work. But author Eileen Mulligan has already bridged both these divides in her professional life as she has worked as a business consultant and a life coach.

This book similarly manages to straddle both worlds. It didn’t have instant appeal for me, as I find chapter headings such as ‘How to have a charmed life’ quite preposterous. However, to use one of Mulligan’s analogies, I was ultimately proved 90% wrong.

Most age groups would be able to glean some benefit from the 10% rule, which is about using 10% of every hour of the day to make the right choice or set an achievable goal. So, to use the simplest example from the book, instead of grabbing a coffee out of habit in the early morning panic, Mulligan advises applying the 10% approach and spending five or six minutes thinking about making a better start to the day, and so eating a healthy breakfast.

What has this got to do with the world of work? Well, hidden among the motherhood and apple-pie sentiments are some excellent chapters on establishing personal values and career goals.

This book is not a panacea and will not act as a DIY guide to being an effective coach. But reading it could prompt some fresh thinking on how to deal with other people’s blocks and limiting beliefs.

I’m not suggesting readers plagiarise Mulligan’s book, but rather study her tone and nifty approach to making problems manageable. This could be transferred to coaching others, or when devising courses for managers who lack motivational skills.

Useful? Four out of five stars
Well-written? Four out of five stars
Value for money? Four out of five stars

The great and the good give their best

Excellence in Coaching: The Industry Guide
Editor: Jonathan Passmore
Price: £24.95
Publisher: Kogan Page
ISBN 0-7494-4637-4

This book aims to bring together a range of the best writing on coaching. It sets itself apart from some of the proliferation of books on the subject by aiming to boost the reputation of the industry as a whole – and its clients – “rather than maintaining the protective self-interest that has characterised much of the business in the past”, says the foreword.

As such, it is to be commended, particularly as the editor and contributors have not received any payment for their efforts. Their intention “is to make a genuine contribution to the industry as a whole, one that transcends personal gain.”

As the reader might expect from a gallery of reputable figures such as professor Cary Cooper, Philippe Rosinski and Sir John Whitmore, the standard of writing and breadth of subjects is superb.

For example, Cooper illustrates how coaching can help to manage and prevent stress. Rosinski tackles inter-cultural coaching and does it very thoroughly and without generalisations.

There are also excellent chapters by Allard de Jong and Peter Hawkins on the subjects of coaching ethics and coaching supervision respectively. These are the big issues. They are amply illustrated and explained with scenarios that tackle difficult topics such as what to do when a coaching relationship goes off the rails. Only one chapter lets the side down: ‘NLP Coaching’. This chapter’s author, well-known neuro-linguistic programming trainer Ian McDermott, talks through the NLP ways of thinking. But, I’m afraid, it left me cold. The whole chapter felt like the obvious dressed up in opaque language that only NLP acolytes could comprehend. However, there are many such followers, so I’ll leave it at that.

On a more positive note, the editor has taken his task seriously and executed it professionally. The information is well-presented and each chapter is broken down into 10 key questions.

Anyone who invests in this book will not feel cheated.

Useful? Fiveout of five stars
Well-written? Four out of five stars
Value for money? Four out of five stars

Ma Ma, but we’re all leaders now

The Living Leader: Become the leader you want to be
Author: Penny Ferguson
Price: £9.99
Publisher: Infinite Ideas
ISBN: 1-904902-89-8

It is becoming harder to discover fresh thinking on the leadership debate. As this decade trundles on, we know that we don’t want any more of the great war-horse breed of leaders. Instead, we should all be prepared to become leaders when appropriate (to make a project successful) and then step back into the shadows.

I’m not really sure if this new audience is the target for Penny Ferguson’s book, but it should be.

Ferguson, who created the Personal Leadership Programme, is keen to stress good leadership behaviours, including understanding, listening and encouraging , rather than explaining, telling and showing.

I really wanted to like this book, particularly as the author has overcome tragic loss and dreadful personal circumstances, but I never got beyond the motivational messages. These messages are fairly sound and of general interest, but are they saying anything new? For example, is there anyone left who hasn’t read a dozen times “that a great leader also develops others?”

Ferguson is apparently well-known as a motivational speaker. The book zips along in a friendly tone so I imagine that she is very good at this. But it ultimately falls victim to its sweeping generalities and choice of strange black and white photographs.

Useful? Three out of five stars
Well-written? Four out of five stars
Value for money? Three out of five stars

The man with x-ray eyes

Tales from the Top: 10 vital questions every leader and manager must answer to stay on top of the game
Author: Graham Alexander
Price: £12.99
From: Piatkus
ISBN 0-7499-2647-3

Graham Alexander is an experienced executive coach, and it shows. He presents a forthright and lively book, which is like a personal coaching session with someone with x-ray vision of the soul.

Alexander uses the book to identify the key issues that leaders face and provides the 10 questions that every leader has to answer to stay on top.

The clever angle to the book is that it remains readable and slightly cheeky, without compromising the reader’s intelligence or credibility. I imagine that senior people would enjoy being challenged by Alexander’s tough questions.

He is not afraid to punctuate the text with gimmicks such as the ‘Wake-up call’ and ‘The million-dollar question’. The former states “how you see yourself is irrelevant”, while the latter asks “where are you out of touch with reality?”

I thought the book was terrific and full of truisms that steered clear of triteness.

Plenty of leaders would benefit from asking themselves “who pays your salary?” and “do your people know who you are?”

Alexander could well provoke even the most self-satisfied sloth into action.

Useful? Five out of five stars
Well-written? Five out of five stars
Value for money? Five out of five stars

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