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Working as an executive coach

About two years ago I was working as an executive coach with a chap on the Executive Committee of a FTSE Top 500 company. He was an early developer, demonstrating strong indications of potential leadership beyond his immediate technical skill-set, and his coaching was designed to help him reach the next level.

He had (pretty much) picked up the rudiments of right and wrong growing up in a middle class household in the suburbs of Florida, but was on the blurred side of clueless about ‘strategy’, which created a stumbling block as it was this which would benchmark the next phase in his career. He asked me what ‘strategy’ was, and the question mark hung not just at the end of his enquiry, but over my hourly coaching rate.

Good strategists tend to be able to anticipate beyond current boundaries whilst thinking critically and challenging current beliefs (of both others and themselves). They learn to shift course quickly, developing an ability to take a position even with incomplete information and in the face of diverse views.

Many of the skills listed in the previous paragraph require what is sometimes called ‘brain fitness’ (although not by any self-respecting neuro-scientist, who will stick with the term ‘neuroplasticity’). Either term refers to the brain’s ability to adapt and change throughout our life, which in itself is at odds with the brain’s fundamental need for sticking to habits and patterns. At a survival level our brain responds to and encourages us to create patterns; regular ways of doing things. This reduces uncertainty and saves energy. The energy saved can then be used to make the right decisions to ensure survival. Good strategists have the ability to see beyond this.

Most of us are not natural strategists and tend to follow patterns all the time when we work. After a surprisingly small period of time the way we conduct our job becomes a ‘regular action’. We get comfortable performing the routine; the role becomes predictable. Doing something different to the norm is the equivalent of telling the brain something is wrong. This activates the emotional centre, the amygdala, which controls our flight or fight response. Good strategists are better at the ‘fight’ half of that response.

Here evolutionary scientists weigh in with their views. In a hunter-gatherer society (which we are definitely not, as it involves a great deal more than lugging home a pepperoni pizza from Tesco Metro and plonking it on the kitchen table with an air of smug satisfaction) the things women do to gain investment from men are different to the things men do to gain sexual access to women.

Men can (in theory) undertake a number of ‘ventures’ over a lifetime, whereas evolution has enabled women to be better designed to spot deception, seek out wealth and status and spot signs of trustworthiness. All this adds up to women potentially being better strategists.

Both men and women have to work as hard on their brain fitness as they do to get into their shorts after a long, hard winter of comfort eating and drinking. Increasing the blood flow to the brain, by exercise and great food, has been and will be a regular feature of this blog. ‘Growing’ the active areas of the brain, intriguing and seducing it into thinking differently is not just fertile ground for strategists, but imperative for those of us who plan spending some of our more mature years off the sofa.

For those of you in the insolvency profession there is a ‘three sudokus a day’ period of opportunity with the advent of the first set of new Rules in a generation. How do you see this? A threat, a nuisance, an opportunity? Never heard of it before? Why ruin a perfectly good blog by mentioning ‘insolvency’?

We have noticed a stark variation in views as we talk to clients and prospects about training in 2016. A few have said to us that they are avoiding the Insolvency Rules 2016 at all costs and ‘why study for exams on the existing Rules when the new Rules are just around the corner?’. As a strategy this is, at best, ‘interesting’. By definition no Insolvency Practitioner on the planet has studied for and taken their insolvency exams using the new Rules.

Expecting your colleagues to take in the new Rules and study for their exams in the same period is equivalent to showing a person a video on space travel and then kicking them into Voyager, slamming the door shut and lighting the blue-touch paper. Ouch!!!

At Neil Taylor Insolvency the strategists have engineered a solution. We offer the opportunity to study for and sit insolvency exams under familiar, comforting existing Rules and then attend a comprehensive and complimentary ‘New Rules Conversion Course’ within a month or two of taking the exam, and before any results are published.

A qualification and an understanding of the new Rules? Sounds like a strategy your brain can cope with.

Posted: 25.09.2015
Tags:  blog

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