1. The King’s Speech: The first executive coach?

    May 26, 2011 by
    Vivian Vella , a Cranfield MBA visiting professor, explains why the movie The King’s Speech is a great example of executive coaching in action.


    A script of the interview follows the video.

    Steve Macaulay
    The film The King’s Speech has attracted a lot of attention. Now, it did so at Cranfield  too, but for different reasons probably from most people. Lionel Logue, the speech therapist, in our eyes, looks to be the first executive coach and we thought it worthwhile asking somebody that knows about executive coaching to explore this further. Vivian Vella, you have got a lot of experience of executive coaching, can you see parallels?

    Vivian Vella
    Absolutely – a brilliant film. There were two main parallels for me. And I think the first thing that really shows up in that the relationship is key between the coach and the coachee, in terms of the coach creating a safe environment where leaders – and in the film’s case, the King, a very high leader – where it can be quite lonely at the top. And to be able to have a space where a little bit of vulnerability can be shown, so that some things can be addressed in a safe and challenging, a supportive and challenge environment that is provided by a coach.

    Steve Macaulay
    Now I noticed that one of the things the King did was to rebel a bit and that Lionel tackled him on this and there was really quite an emotional moment during the film.

    Vivian Vella
    Absolutely, and that brings me on to the second point really. I think what that relationship and the coaching process shows, is there are two different types of coaching; there is developmental and transformational. The developmental part is the skills and techniques that are absolutely appropriate to learn and to develop strengths and to do things differently, to exercise the metaphorical muscle that isn’t used as much. And of course, in the film it was very literal in terms of using muscles that you didn’t use. So that is absolutely valid. And there is a transformational piece and I think it was in that relationship where there was a bit of rupture and the King got connected to something very different – a very different place in him. I think he got connected to his anger actually and passion and when he came back he was absolutely ready to do the real work because it is not easy necessarily. And that was a transformational piece; it transformed their relationship and the real work could be done at that point to lead to success.

    Steve Macaulay
    Now executive coaching seems to have become, almost from nowhere really, something that has become very popular in the business world – why do you think that is?

    Vivian Vella
    I think it is something about pace, actually. We live in a frenetic world and leaders and managers go from one place to the next and increasing demands are made on them and I think a coaching process supports their learning and gives them an opportunity to have a reflective space, actually. Evidence has shown, in terms of studies – it is up here on our website – around formal learning, it’s about 10% effective and it has its place. Twenty percent of effective learning is done through others and I think programmes encompass both of those elements, experiential programmes. And the 70% piece in terms of effective learning is on the job learning and I think the coaching process really offers that. Because when you set up an initial contract with a coachee you have certain goals and objectives that you want to achieve. Those might have come out of some 360 or psychometric profiling – in The King’s Speech there was a very definite speech that had to be done and delivered correctly. But the on the job piece is that you have these very special conversations that address what is absolutely relevant at the time for the coachee in service of achieving those ultimate goals. So it is not a linear process necessarily, although ultimately you want to see a visible difference in the business, but you address what is key for the coachee at that time. And I think that is what makes the relationship very special, in terms of having this place to be able to do this and have those sorts of conversations .I think Peter Hawkins refers to the coaching conversation and he is Chair of the Bath Consultancy Group and has written about coaching ,mentoring and consulting and he calls it ‘a robust dialogue born of fearless compassion’ which I think really sums it up; and you don’t often get that sort of quality in a conversation in service of helping somebody’s learning.

    Steve Macaulay
    So is that what makes it special – you have got some goals to aim for and you have got this fearlessness about tackling issues that maybe wouldn’t get tackled otherwise?

    Vivian Vella
    Absolutely; in a trusted environment and that is key. So that you have the relationship there and there is a lot of learning actually within the relations and I think we saw that in the film as well. Because what goes on in the coaching relationship will be observed because it can actually be reflecting what goes on outside. So your experience of the coachee will be in part how they are experienced back in the business. And a coach can make those observations, which can be really useful learning for the individual.

    Steve Macaulay
    One of the things that I noticed in the film was that over time the King started to say well I don’t need to see you so often now, to Lionel; is this the sort of thing that you would expect or is a bit of lifelong relationship?
    Vivian Vella
    I think that is really appropriate actually and it comes to working with an ethical code. I think that normal practice would be to contract at the beginning, with the coachee, what it is that you are there to address in terms of their learning, how many sessions you would want to initially contract with so that there is a checkpoint that could be re-contracted at any point, but that you have some boundaries around that. And of course, the main focus of supporting the coachee in their learning is that they become independent learners so that they don’t foster a co-dependency in that relationship and that is another reason it is important for the supervisor to check that that is not happening.

    Steve Macaulay
    So there is more to this coaching than meets the eye, but I think what you have done is give us some very useful pointers there. Thank you very much, Vivian.

    Vivian’s contact details are shown here.

  2. Is Leadership Your Strength?

    November 14, 2010 by

    John Baldoni [1] an internationally recognised leadership consultant, coach, speaker, and author asks some probing questions concerning leadership:

    • Do people come to you with their problems? If people feel comfortable to raise issues with you then you have created an atmosphere of cooperation. It has been said that “if people are not coming to you with their problems, you have a problem”
    • Do people see you as one who deals with tough issues or one who avoids them? If you stand up for what needs doing and the people who do it, no matter how tough the situation, you are someone to follow. If you seek to avoid conflict, confrontation, or big problems, then leadership is not your strength.
    • Do people see you in the workplace? When you visit people in the workplace you honour them, and you also expose yourself to their working conditions, the problems they face, and the potential opportunities for development.
    • Do you learn from what you hear? Listening is a commitment to others. Open yourself to the ideas that you hear. Listen to both the problems and the opportunities.
    • Do people view me as one who takes the blame and shares the credit?  Alabama football coach Bear Bryant put it this way when he said:
    • "If anything goes bad, I did it. If anything goes semi-good, then we did it. If anything goes really good, then you did it. That's all it takes to get people to win football games."

    Leadership is really not about you. It is about how you put others into position where they can succeed. Leadership involves making decisions about what to do and why. Reflecting on your performance as a leader is in itself an act of leadership.

    [1] R11013 Baldoni, J., (2010), What Does the Organization Need Me to Do?, The Journal for Quality and Participation, Vol 33, Iss 1, pp 10-14, Association for Quality and Participation, Cincinnati

    Neil Crawford

    Members may read the full article which provides further advice about employee job satisfaction here

  3. Do you have a “Million Dollar Mindset”?

    September 25, 2010 by

    At the annual convention of The National Speakers Association, in Orlando, FL., one session was restricted to speakers whose gross income exceeded one million dollars (would you like to be part of that group?). A summary of the characteristics of those attending was shared in a separate break-out session.  All of the million dollar mindset characteristics are important and of course collectively they are extremely powerful. These characteristics have been developed into a self-assessment which is posted in the members’ area of the BPIR.com website.  

    The self–assessment will help you to gauge the intensity with which you are striving to achieve your goals.

    For each statement below assess your attitude or motivation using the following intensity / effectiveness scale.

    Click here to download the self assessment.


    • The higher your score the closer you are to developing a million dollar mindset
    • Areas ranked as “1” or “0” should be looked at carefully. Perhaps you need to enlist the help of others to help fill in the weak areas or to provide training.

    For the full self-assessment join the BPIR.com . We have over 60 different self-assessment tools to assess your processes, systems and functional areas.

    Neil Crawford

  4. Is Your CEO Worth His Pay?

    August 16, 2010 by
    Due to public pressure on Wall Street CEOs to lower top management compensation and following Obama’s administration plans to order large cuts in executive compensation at companies that have received federal bailout funds many executives received a $500,000 pay cap and others received a very large pay cut, for example in 2008 Jamie Dimon, the CEO of JPMorgan, made over $35 million but in 2009 he made “only” $1.3 million.

    Does this mean that the CEOs were over-valued or in other words they were not worth it? This    would indeed be the opinion of most people.  However, this may not be correct according to a new research done by Dr. Candie Chang, a senior finance lecturer in the School of Economics and Finance at Massey University

    Chief executives are worth their pay

    Dr Chang Candie

    New research suggests the whopping pay packets of many chief executives may not only be justified but vital to ensure business success.

    An analysis of share market responses to chief executives leaving their jobs shows if the company has been performing better than competitors the market reacts more negatively to the news of the chief's departure in anticipation of shareholder wealth loss.

    Dr Candie Chang, a senior finance lecturer in the School of Economics and Finance, says her research indicates that a good chief executive officer is worth his or her high salary, bonuses and stock options, despite the somewhat jaundiced public view of high profile excesses revealed during the company collapses of recent years.

    Dr Chang's research paper, called CEO Ability, Pay, and Firm Performance, is due to be published in the United States journal Management Science this year. She studied 298 chief executive departures in the United States in the decade from 1992. She says her findings suggest that the stock market associates better prior performance and higher pay with a more capable chief executive. Not only that, but the higher the pay of the departing chief executive compared to other executives in the company, the more negative the stock price reaction.

    “The recent financial crisis and the storm over the pay of executives in financial firms have brought the questions of whether chief executives meaningfully add value to the companies they manage, and whether their pay reflects ability or power, into sharp focus,” Dr Chang says.

    “Collectively, our results provide strong support for the notion that firm value and performance are not simply outcomes of the firm’s core competency, product markets, or luck. Chief executive talent matters and is rewarded internally and recognised by external markets.”

    She also studied where chief executives end up when they leave their companies and found two extremes. The first was that many do not have management positions within three years but at the other end, several move up to bigger firms or better paying jobs.

    “We find that chief executive officers are more likely to 'move up' when the market reacts more negatively to their departure,” Dr Chang says. “The results suggest that the managerial labour market associates higher pay and better prior performance with higher chief executive ability and rewards them accordingly.”

    Firms that lost a highly paid chief executive suffered a slump in performance after the departure if the prior performance had been good and the stock market reacted negatively to the departure.