Steady progress

Pursuing goals can be challenging (c) R Dennison October 2013

Pursuing goals can be challenging (c) R Dennison October 2013

Last week I was waiting for a train across London just after a heavy rain shower.  Although the rain wasn’t falling the platform was alive with thirsty slugs and snails.  I was struck by the determination those molluscs were showing, as they headed to where ever they were going.  Despite the obstacles in their way they kept moving toward their goals.  They covered a fair bit of ground too, in the short space of time I spent watching them.

I think there is an analogue between that image and the coaching process.  I can think of a couple of clients whom I coached over a year where progress was steady, and purposeful rather than explosive.  Their sense of accomplishment resulted in taking actions which gave them a buzz of achievement.  Depending on the client sometimes significant coaching outcomes are most noticeable by standing back and looking at the bigger picture.

So, for one person their valuable outcome was an insight: changing their working pattern was actually their way of opening the door to a significant career change.  For the other client their major learning involved a point of clarity: structuring their time effectively – rather than going off in different directions at once – meant that there would be more time to take small, but significant, steps.  Those steps led them to make inroads on their key milestones.

Bottom line: the terrain may be difficult; the distance to travel may be great;  life planning or time management maybe challenging, but gradual progress is possible.  However close to the ground you are.

Each One Teach One

Plan B aka Ben Drew

Plan B aka Ben Drew (Photo credit: Beacon Radio)

If you achieve your life’s ambition (through hard work) you might choose to sit back and enjoy the trappings of success, once you earn them.  Kudos to Ben Drew (aka the musician / film maker Plan B) for choosing to do more than count his cash but to support others, so they too can become successful.

His charitable trust Each One Teach One – – has developed out of an idea previously explored in a TED presentation.   It has two stated aims, to:

  • Fund inspiring projects to help young  people to build their skills and in turn improve their lives.
  • Link up youth provision to strengthen the sector and help the journey make more sense to young people.

The coverage in the Guardian newspaper explains the trust will operate in East London initially and aims to provide disadvantaged 14 to 25 year olds with a ‘University of alternative learning’.  It will also provide the support, mentoring and counselling that they may have missed out on due to their family, community, or academic situations.

I think this is an inspiring idea.  There are plenty of young people who are motivated to do something with their lives, but who have not enough confidence to articulate their goals or make life plans.  The EOTO model could provide the extra support they need to answer the 3 basic goal setting questions:

  1. What is it that I want to achieve in my life?
  2. When do I want this experience this achievement?
  3. What is my first step to start heading in that direction?

Will this model solve all of the problems of disadvantaged youths in society?  Is Mr Drew right on all counts?  Probably not, but an effort like EOTO could make a significant difference to those motivated to engage with it and keep pushing forward.

Those who scoff at efforts to change will still be wasting their time hanging around in their communities – or getting into trouble and caught up in the criminal justice system.  Who knows, even those youths may come to realise they too can set goals and change their situation, if they want to.



Starting. Stopping. Starting Again.

You have within you, right now, everything you...

You have within you, right now, everything you need to deal with whatever the world can throw at you. -Brian Tracy (Photo credit: deeplifequotes)

It is easy to start making progress and feeling good about achieving modest changes, then stop to admire the view.  Starting again and keeping going is a harder challenge.  Outstanding results are probably the product of a commitment to keeping going with a determination to achieve higher standards.


I was thinking about differing levels of commitment the other day as I came across the notes I wrote nine months ago on a client I worked with last summer.


My client was a woman considering career change options that would improve her work / life balance and allow her to grow as a person.  After two constructive sessions I was looking forward to a third discussion about what steps she was prepared to take to incrementally progress toward her goals.  From what the client said at the end of the second session she too was motivated to do more work next time.


However, for reasons unknown, my client wasn’t ready for that conversation.  In fact she wasn’t ready for any further contact.  I didn’t hear from her at the appointed time, or subsequently either time I offered her an alternate date for a fresh session.  Her silence was eloquent in itself.


I hope, when the time is right for her, she will find a supportive helper with whose assistance she can move forward.


I contrast that level of commitment to self-development to a seemingly narrow comment about succeeding in the music industry which the song-writer Cathy Dennis made recently.  Ms Dennis was addressing a music industry writers group, Basca, and The Institute of Contemporary Music in London.  On reflection her comment actually has a universal applicability I think.  Speaking about the inspiration necessary to get started and to keep going in the music world (and create hits for Kylie, the Sugababes, and Katy Perry along the way) she said:


‘If you believe in yourself you have to be prepared to knuckle down and put in the hours and really commit to what you want to do…[decision makers] told me I wasn’t right, I wasn’t good enough – and that was great for me because every time that happens you realise you are going to have to take control and do it for yourself’.


Perhaps it is easier to strive to attain outstanding results in a field which you are driven to operate within.  If you are trying out different options – to see which one fits – it might be harder to acknowledge things are not working out.  It must be daunting to hold your hand up and say, can I try something else, this isn’t working for me?.


So for me one of the three essentials on the client’s side of the coaching relationship (along with Clarity and Commitment) is Honesty.  You can only begin to take steps toward getting what you want – it seems to me – if you are clear about your goal (in true Brian Tracy fashion); committed to attaining it; and honest with yourself about how important it is to you.


‘What Do We Want…?’

English: Lord Nat Wei, Government Adviser for ...

English: Lord Nat Wei, Government Adviser for Big Society (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I have been volunteering, in different contexts, for more than a decade.  I do that to change the neighbourhood I live in, for the better.

Back in the old days making change happen used to involve pressing the state for action: ‘What do we want [fill in the blank]…When do we want it? Now!’

Times have changed and the state has aspirations to enable outcomes through the Big SocietyPower is in the being placed in the hands of communities, which notionally makes it easier for change to come about from the grass roots.

Now that the pressure on peoples’ discretionary time is great, and available resources are few, volunteering is a challenging activity.  I think having a clear volunteering goal is probably going to help one’s focus on delivery.

For instance this year I know that my voluntary actions are going to entail:

– working with others to ensure my apartment building is cleaner, safer and better maintained

– collaborating with residents to allocate charity funding to local projects in a fair and timely way

– chairing a diverse group of community stakeholders to influence policing priorities

– helping other volunteers to develop their capacity to produce event better results

Having clarity over those  areas means I can channel my energies accordingly.  I think the more narrowly defined one’s goal – as long as it is realistic – then the easier it is to attain.

On a national scale I really like the simplicity of the goal reached by one successful Welsh volunteer body.  Knowing that you are going to protect an area of rainforest ‘the size of Wales’ puts everything nicely into perspective.

I am pretty glad though that I am not devoting time to the role of school governor.  Those post holders seem to be receiving criticism over the quality of their outputs from Sir Michael Wilshaw, who is head of the school inspection body Ofsted.

From what I remember of contacts with governors they are not glory seekers, just people dedicated to improving the standards at the local schools they work with.  How demoralising Sir Michael’s criticisms must seem.  Hopefully governor numbers won’t decline as a result of the feedback.  Difficult to see how that Big Society outcome can prosper in a negative climate.

There May Be Trouble Ahead – Post Script

Map of Summer Olympics locations. Countries th...

Map of Summer Olympics locations. Countries that have hosted one Summer Olympics are shaded green, while countries that have hosted two or more are shaded blue. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In an earlier post I speculated that there might be Trouble Ahead as a result of the 11th hour pre-Olympic security staffing problem.


It turns out the long term impact of the problem is being quantified by the key players.


For the armed services – drafted in at the last minute to help ensure the Games were successful – there will be knock-on effects for many months to come.


As Wing Commander Peter Daulby, military Chief Planner, commented to the Guardian:


“It will take two years to recover from [Olympic deployment], to get back to normal, to get everything back into kilter. You can’t expect [personnel deployed] to go back to normal routine very easily”


For the original security contractor – G4S – the impact of achieving a reported 83% deployment of their original staffing goal will be financial.  The Guardian reports a 60% fall in half year profits and reputational knock in the longer term.


As their Chief Executive, Nick Buckles, said in a recent interview:


“…his appearance before the home affairs select committee shortly before the Games, where he was forced to admit that the Olympics process had been a “shambles”, was difficult but necessary”


Although the Games themselves were rightly praised as a major success, the secuirty contractor’s experience seems to illustrates the principle that; ordinary efforts probably could not have produced the extraordinary planning outcome the Olympics call for.