Episode 1 – Transcript

James

Hi, and thank you for tuning into The Colour Works podcast. My name is James Hampton and I’ll be your host for today’s show. I’m the development director of The Colour Works and specialise in designing, delivering and supporting our team with bespoke solutions based on a client’s needs.

In this episode, we are going to be exploring coaching and feedback, the impact it has on relationships and the benefits of embedding a coaching culture. To do this, I’m being joined by Ian Price who has been working in businesses ranging from well known high street brands, international blue-chip organisations to start-ups.

For over thirty years Ian has developed a reputation for building successful teams who have established new businesses or turn around companies facing serious challenges both in the private and very public sectors. Ian now has his own consultancy and is a respected chair in the Vistage global leadership network.Ian believes that the success of a business rests on the strength of its people. This philosophy has guided his career with outstanding success.

Welcome Ian, and thank you for taking the time to join us on this podcast.

Ian

You’re welcome, James.

James

To start us off, Ian, can you tell us a bit about the Vistage Global Network and your role within it?

Ian

So, the Vistage Global Network has been established since the fifties and now comprises of about 23,000 members worldwide and is a learning organisation designed for business leaders. It’s a confidential, safe space where people have the opportunity to really unlock the potential of themselves and their businesses. I chair a local group titled the South Downs and Solent group where we have 15 members who together learn, share their experiences and potentially have the opportunity to see themselves grow and their businesses develop.

James

Fascinating. Could you just talk to us about how one of those meetings might run?

Ian

So, a Vistage meeting is a day-long meeting, we hold it once a month, and it comprises really of 2 parts. One is normally a workshop with a world-class speaker, and the other one is what we call ‘The Board You’d Love To Afford’. The speaker workshop may involve a speaker on a hard edge business topic, perhaps marketing or raising finance, as well as perhaps those softer issues more about personal wellbeing, or mindfulness or something like that. ‘The Board You’d Love To Afford’ is tapping into the knowledge, skill, experience, and expertise of all the members in tackling perhaps a challenge, opportunity or dilemma. It’s getting people out of their own thinking and giving them an opportunity to learn from others.

James

I love that by the way, ‘The Board You’d Love To Afford’. The guess of Vistage is that there is a collection of incredibly, incredibly experienced and knowledgeable individuals who come to the forum to help unpick various issues that they might be facing.

Ian

Indeed.

James

Wonderful, wonderful. You obviously haven’t just walked into this role, Ian, you’ve had an incredibly impressive track record of building and selling businesses, could you give us a run down and an overview of where it all started for you?

Ian

Yeah, sure. It’s very touching of you to say that it’s a very impressive career, it’s just been a life for me. For me, having graduated from university, I went into a graduate program part of the Kingfisher Organisation and started running Woolworths Stores back in the early eighties where I guess that’s where I first cut my teeth on learning how to manage teams, work with people as well as delivering a great retail experience. I then went on to spend time in the betting and gaming world, originally as an area manager for William Hill and eventually rising up and running a large number of retail outlets with William Hill and a senior position in operations. Again, it’s just learning about people more than anything else as well as certainly learning about risk and risk management and really understanding the basics of business.

I then spent a bit of time working out in Gibraltar with Victor Chandler, which was kind of a start-up even though it was a well established family business. It was about taking it online and giving it a real global presence. I learned a lot about me, and new experiences. Came back to the UK, launched the Paddy Power brand in the UK, establishing its retail business, which again was learning how important it was to develop trust with your customers. But that really was a phenomenal task of building a team from scratch, bringing all the talents and capabilities required to take a business from absolute start-up to establishing it and establishing that brand on the high street.

James

Had you received any formal training on how to build a team? Or did you literally just jump in headfirst and muddle your way through?

Ian

It is safe to say there was a lot of muddling through, yes in some of the places that I worked there was interesting training opportunities and development but I think that hands on experience working with people day to day is proved to be where I have learned the most and is the great teaching environment for me.

James

Wonderful, wonderful. You mentioned that your passion became identifying and nurturing top talent, which became almost the foundation of your success throughout your career. Can you describe the most common attributes you looked for when building that talent?

Ian

Sure! Energy, enthusiasm, curiosity. I don’t think that as a team member or a participant in a team it really works unless you’ve got those things. I think that kind of appreciation of others is fundamental.

James

It’s interesting you say that (appreciation of others) it seems there is an increasing desire for organisations to embed that appreciation of one another, linking into employee engagement, wellbeing, that sense of belonging. Has that formed part of your career moving focus and building these businesses?

Ian

Yeah, I guess it has, I think it is important that people have to feel what they are doing is important and they have got a sense of purpose and they enjoy working with the people around them. If that is not there, I don’t think the team spirit develops.

James

I agree. That comes from the appreciation of the diversity of behaviors. So what is your approach when spotting this talent, and identifying this talent. What is your main developmental approach to these individuals?

Ian

In terms of the developmental approach, it’s giving people the opportunity to be the best version of themselves. Giving them the opportunity to take on challenges and I guess it comes from this personal, very strong drive that says ‘there’s nothing that I’m not capable of doing’ and giving people the opportunity to demonstrate and prove that.

James

I do get a huge essence of that authenticity from you today. Is that something that has always been with you? Or is that something that has grown or that you’ve developed?

Ian

I think what has developed has my appreciation and language around this but I think that it has pretty much always been there. It’s a strong ambition, it’s a strong drive, but that desire to see people succeed, for them to be successful and live up to their potential has always been there, yes.

James

Wonderful. Feedback is quite a sensitive thing but obviously essential because how we see ourselves versus how others might see us can differ somewhat, and feedback can have quite a bad rep in organisations when done badly. You’ve obviously spent some time giving feedback not just in your Vistage forum but in the businesses and the development of talent. Do you have a particular style or methodology behind delivering that feedback?

Ian

I think you’re right that it’s important, I think you’re right, it can be done badly, I think I’ve probably learned to deliver feedback badly than I have specifically about delivering that well. I think it’s important when delivering feedback on the outcomes, it’s not about the individual, it’s not about the person, it’s about perhaps the things they have done or not done, and focusing on getting a positive outcome and something that people can learn from.

James

I’ve got the sense that at some point in your career, you have received feedback, and not in the best of manners?

Ian

Yeah, It’s safe to say I have worked with some very interesting people who, let’s say, their style of delivery perhaps was not of this age, but they are very direct, very forceful, very aggressive and sometimes very antagonistic. You learn a lot under those circumstances, and I guess for me it’s been learning ‘that’s not how I’m going to do it’. I wouldn’t wish people to have the same experiences necessarily that I’ve hadl. So you learn from that, and you recognise there are some inappropriate styles for delivering feedback.

James

Fascinating, fascinating, learning by the mistakes of others is a powerful methodology if we can be objective in those situations. So, I’d like to talk more about you being a Vistage chair, because you obviously spend a lot of time coaching business leaders. When was the first time you were exposed to the coaching framework?

Ian

I guess that goes back to early days in sport, I was an athlete, and I worked with coaches to improve my performance as an athlete. So, it has always been part of who I am and what I have done, but in terms of formalising, that has come much later in my career, and become much more important in the role that I have now. A number of people in my career have said I was a good coach; that probably was a much more untrained and untutored approach, but my fundamentals have always been ‘what would you do?’ and ‘how would you do that?’ rather than me necessarily saying ‘this is how it should be done’, so I guess there has always been an innate coaching, but its only lately that it’s become more sophisticated and professional, I would say.

James

Wonderful. And that first opportunity of you having the executive or performance coaching in a business environment, how did that impact upon you, your relationships and your leadership style?

Ian

Ah! That’s an amazing question. So I guess to understand a little of how I got into this was by working in a consulting role in a number of businesses. And I found myself talking to business leaders about the challenges they faced in businesses, and potentially offering them solutions. That became one of the ways people would ask me the questions, you know ‘how would I do it?’. Of course, it is very easy in a leadership role to solve the problem, provide a solution. Tell them what needs to be done. The evolution from that into being a coach, is recognising the people you work with have got the answers, though they may not know it, they may not understand it. It’s a much more satisfying position to encourage people to find those solutions. My metaphor is leading people down a corridor that people didn’t know existed, recognising that there are doors they may not have wished to open, or even known there, and getting them to realise there are other opportunities that they were not aware to the challenge or the dilemma they might be facing.

James

Brilliant. That leads me to a really interesting questions, which I think it’s quite pertinent to the purists of coaching that are out there, in the sense of that pure coaching conversation is guiding a conversation so that the individual establishes the issue themselves without the coach establishes the solution to an issue themselves without any specific direction from a coach, which would be mentoring if we were to just give them the answer. What’s your thoughts, as a very experienced business leader, of giving the answer in a coaching conversation?

Ian

For a while, I have taken the view that one works with another, particularly business leaders on a spectrum, on a spectrum. Where on one end of the spectrum, there is pure coaching where it is absolutely about facilitation where it is about getting the individual to find their own path, and at the other end is teaching is teaching, and somewhere in between is mentoring, where it is purely giving the answer, giving the direction, and I think for me that it is very situationally driven. So there are those people that need teaching, perhaps they need mentoring. Many other circumstances are that they need that coaching and facilitation to find the right answers for them. I certainly don’t have all the right answers, I am not an expert in those fields, so it makes more sense for people that are the experts, to understand what might be the right opportunity for them.

James

Brilliant, brilliant. Well, it leads us to also to this theory of mentoring and coaching, and the sustainable value that sits between the two methodologies. Why do you think coaching works so much more sustainably than just mentoring or teaching?

Ian

I think because it creates the opportunity for people to expand almost exponentially. If you’re going to come along in the role of mentor, there are limits to that, and the limits to that tend to be your knowledge and understanding as a mentor. Whereas a coach, the ability to step back, to look at things objectively and ask a very pertinent question at an appropriate time has got hugely scalable value. So i think coaching in that respect, is a much more satisfying and I think a much more valuable role to play than that of a mentor.

James

Wonderful, wonderful. It’s a fascinating scenario to be in isn’t it, when you land that one question that ignites the fire within the individual. You can almost see the torch, shine from the back of the brain through the retina, when it lights up, when it’s actually found and discovered the answer for themselves.

Ian

The ‘a-ha’ moment, the lightbulb moment, is absolutely what many coaches, and certainly I am looking for and enjoy the most in those experiences.

James

Wonderful. So you said authentically, coaching; it’s something that is within your DNA, something you have been known to do very naturally as cited by others. And obviously there are those that are the natural coach. DO you believe it is a teachable skill?

Ian

Yes, I do. I think it’s a set of skills. I think it comes from a place of curiosity, I think it comes from a place of interest, and I think if people have got that or that is developed, teaching some of the skills perhaps in parting some of the basic models one can use in a coaching scenario are eminently teachable, yes.

James

Great. I know that one of my main challenges in a coaching situation is learning when to shut up and wait, from an extrovert’s perspective, waiting past that point of discomfort, until that individual’s established their own way forward. From your perspective, what sort of skills or competencies make a great coach?

Ian

As I have suggested, I think curiosity, I think interest, I think you’re right, patience, that ability to be present, that ability to really focus on what you’re seeing, hearing and feeling coming from your coachee are some of the really important things for a great coach.

James

How about questions? Questions are quite an important part of the coaching process, and I’m always fascinated by coaches as to their killer question. That one question, that sits in the backpack, waiting to be delivered, that might just shake things up or shake a thought pattern. Do you have a go-to killer question?

Ian

Do I have a go-to question? I think if there is a question that I rely on heavily, it’s ‘what else?’.

James

Can you tell us a little bit more about that and why you might position that question?

Ian

So I think that ‘what else’ is important for me and for us all because it extends the thinking. It opens up the thinking, it perhaps challenges a little. So if someone has been thinking about something and you want to break their state or break their pattern of thinking, simply asking that and ‘what else’ just makes people realise there is perhaps something else to think about, realise or be aware of. It does come with a certain economy of effort.

James

It’s interesting, because what you are doing is hacking the brain right now, we get stuck in these cycles and thought patterns, which is why we do habitual behaviour and think in a habitual way. And that pre-frontal cortex, that clever stuff, the executive lounge, is hard wired for a yes or no, and it’s pretty lazy in it’s functions and doesn’t want to change. But that question, what else, is just pushing that boundary and making that neural-pathways forge new ways of looking at things and realising things. Fascinating question.

Ian

Absolutely, absolutely.

James

Do you have a particular process that makes up a coaching conversation?

Ian

Yeah, I guess so, there is some of the fundamentals, some of the easy stuff; the grown model, so understanding what the goal of the individual is, trying to understand what their current reality is, what the opportunity and options might be and what next. So, that’s hard imprinted for me in terms of structuring the conversation, but of course, you are dealing with individuals so it is always a very dynamic set of circumstances. But, it’s a great starting point. And it’s a good structure to any coaching conversation.

James

It’s a really interesting model isn’t it, learning how to formulate that conversation, and its almost a skill for life, I feel, and a communication style at that point, rather than just siloed into one of those coaching situations.

Ian

Absolutely.

James

Coaching can be quite exhausting, because you give it your all. It takes intense focus to be there, to listen, and to hear what’s not really being said. How do you restore your energy after a coaching session before another one?

Ian

I absolutely recognise there is an intensity required, there is a requirement to be present to be able to understand and appreciate what is going on in the coaching situation, but actually it produces energy. That recognition of the lightbulb moment that I talked about earlier, the fact that people we are unlocking those doors, unlocking that opportunity, unlocking that potential, create that energy in its own right. It’s a very satisfying set of circumstances for me. That is a very energising situation for me. Yeah, I think it’s important to take some downtime after a coaching session to sit back, reflect and prepare for whatever comes next.

James

You’re obviously hugely energised by seeing others achieve and seeing others see things in a different light or a different way, is there a particular case study or a coaching subject that you could share that has been a success? Anonymously obviously, because you are bound by your coaching confidentiality.

Ian

I think there is any number of coaching conversations that I have had, and I think in general terms i would comment on those when you would absolutely see the mindset change. Where someone might recognise that they have had a relationship with an individual, and it has not exactly been the most satisfying, to do a second chair exercise with those individuals which I have done on a number of occasions. Simply get them to sit in a different position and get them to play out the character of the person whom they are not having a great relationship with, has boomed very fruitful. Just to get them to have a different perspective, get them to almost talk in the voice of the person they are perhaps in conflict with, has proved very, very valuable. And that has transformed a number of relationships with people that I have coached.

James

That’s a really interesting process, and very Eriksonian, taking me back to my days in therapy, but a really powerful way to break cycles of understanding to see how others might actually see things, incredibly powerful, incredibly powerful. So we’ve talked a lot about your past, your experience, and the actual one to one style of coaching conversations. So what sort of impact coaching can have when embedding a culture?

Ian

I think it can have a huge impact. I think if you’re talking about developing a culture, then for me that comes from everybody associated with that community, organisation or business. Therefore, it’s about getting everybody to be involved with that and increasingly, I have talked to and worked with organisations where they are becoming self-organising. And to do that, it’s about the talent, it’s about the empowerment of those people. That can really only come from a coaching culture where people feel that they can come forward with their ideas, their solutions. That has to be led by people who are prepared to allow that, that kind of coaching, and recognizing they don’t have all the answers, but individuals within the organisation can, and can make that contribution and can make a difference. It’s hugely important in developing the ‘right kind of cultures’ that empower people and unlock that potential.

James

Brilliant, brilliant. And how would an organisation start that process?

Ian

I think it starts with the leadership of the organisation and the importance of leaders within the organisation developing that habit that says ‘what do you think?’. So, rather than being the problem-solvers and reacting to their writing reflex that they do just ask the question ‘what do you think?’ or ‘how would you do this?’ and I think that starts as a small thing and then begins eventually to grow across an organisation. And I think if you foster that, and allow that culture to develop, that’s how it will begin to grow.

James

Wonderful. And what would be your recommendation for somebody who would be searching for a coach?

Ian

Ask questions of others! Get the recommendations. Ask those people who perhaps you respect, look to those organisations who are strong in this area, like The Colour Works- find out where they can help in terms of developing that coaching skill. And no doubt, if you want to develop that coaching ability- find a coach. GO to those organisations like Vistage for example, and take it from there.

James

Brilliant. Thank you Ian, this has been very insightful and I feel like I have had a coaching session myself just being in your presence. If any of our listeners would like to contact you, how would they go about contacting you, your consultancy or becoming a Vistage member?

Ian

Sure, so becoming a Vistage member is really easy, just go to Vistage.co.uk or if you want to get in contact with me, at ian.price@vistagechair.co.uk .

James

Wonderful. Well, I’d like to thank you very much for your time Ian, and thank you for tuning and listening. If you’d like to get in touch with coaching and feedback through The Colour Works lens, please go to thecolourworks.com and click on the solutions tab on the homepage. Tune in to our next podcast where we will be talking to our next guest, about purposed values and behaviors.

Click here for more information about how The Colour Works can help you provide coaching and feedback solutions, alternatively, head to our Solutions page or feel free to get in contact.