Twitterfail?

I have been using twitter since February and it has been great.

I had over 1600 followers and was the 7th most popular twitterer in Leeds.  It took a lot of time and effort – but the returns were there in as much as my network was considerably expanded both at the very local and international level.  I used twitter to network with a wide range of people who shared my passion for management, leadership, enterprise and entrepreneurship.  I had even found new clients through twitter recommendations!

But on July 22nd something strange happened.  All of my followers were ‘lost’ as was nearly everyone that I follow.

I logged a support request with Twitter which they immediately deemed closed without any communication or investigation that I could see.

As some of my followers got wind of what had happened they started to to put the word out and people slowly started to follow me again.  This was a wonderful and humbling response as many people really missed my presence in their networks.

Then, today, without explanation, Twitter suspended my account.  As far as I can see I have not transgressed any of their guidelines and I do not use any automated systems to refollow or direct message people.  Many creative, constructive and potentially commercially important conversations have been disrupted.

So beware if you are investing much time in Twitter.  I would hate the same thing to happen to you.

28th July Addendum

Had some help from @delbius who works for Twitter support.  Apparently my account was trashed by a ‘bug’.  It has now been reinstated and most of the people I follow have been restored.  However my network of followers has not – at least not yet.

Enterprise at its best—decoupled from self-interest?

Julia Middleton has written an interesting piece for the Institute of Directors.  She argues that we need to decouple ‘enterprise’ from ‘self interest’.

Julia contrasts the motivations of the bankers  – ‘primarily financial‘ with the interests of Narayana Murthy, Chair of Indian IT giants Infosys – primarily about a ‘wider social gain‘.

Julia suggests that ‘Bankers’ are primarily motivated by self interest, while Murthy was motivated by a wider social need that ‘transcended’ personal gain.

“Many people wondered why I wanted to take such a risk, to create, at that time in India, a company that would set a new standard of ethics in business. I had a good job, I was married, I had a small child, and I was brought up middle class. It was no easy decision. But all of us are driven by factors that transcend the hygiene factors: money and position. We all want to do something noble and make a difference to the context.”

Julia argues that this view of enterprise is “glorious and grand and is delivered the world over by people motivated not only by personal gain but also by the needs of their communities and countries. It is enterprise at its best—enterprise decoupled from self-interest.”

But Murthy was acting EXACTLY in his own self interest.  He was driven by factors that ‘transcended the hygiene factors’.  He was driven to do something ‘noble’.  He believes that everyone else is as well.  Presumably even bankers?

In my book, both enterprise and entrepreneurship are all about ‘self interest’ and ‘power’.  About taking decisions and actions that work for a self interest that has been properly understood and negotiated.  Not simply in terms of profit, but in terms of sustainability, and wider societal impact.  Some bankers seem to have managed this ‘proper negotiation  of self interest’ more effectively than others.  As indeed have some IT companies.

Perhaps Julia is arguing that good enterprise is ‘selfless’ rather than ‘selfish’?

I would argue that both of these are equally dangerous foundations on which to build an enterprise.  The middle ground of self interest, where my hopes and aspirations (to get rich, to save the whale, to reverse climate change, to do something noble) are properly and sustainably negotiated with the interests of others provides the only strong foundation for a sustainable, progressive and effective relationship.

I cannot be always giving (selfless) nor can I be always taking (selfish).

The point is not that we should decouple enterprise from self interest – but that we should work with people to ensure that their self interest is both rightly understood and properly negotiated with both the present and the future.  That personal perceptions of self interest remain dynamic and relevant (witness Bill Gates journey from techy to philanthropist – all the time pursuing his self interest).

Instead of urging people to put self interest to one side we should be urging them to put it ‘up front and centre stage’.  We should then help them to explore how their self interest ‘works’ with the self interests of others.  To understand how self interest is served by helping others.  How association, co-operation and mutuality work in pursuit of individual and collective self interests.

Because it is the mutual negotiation of self interests, and access to the power to pursue interests effectively, that provide the basic building blocks of civic society.

Enterprise Coaching is Being Broken

Broken
Broken

I get so frustrated when I see a 4 day enterprise coaching course being commissioned that pays little or no attention to what makes the role of the enterprise coach different from the business adviser.

I witnessed one recently, delivered by an Enterprise Agency (so they MUST know what they are talking about) that started with a half day on ‘Building  empathy and rapport’ (this should have been subtitled ‘Using psychological flannel to manipulate your client’) before going on for a full three days about ‘business planning’, ‘marketing’ and ‘finance’.  It even included a ‘very useful’ glossary of financial terms that every enterprise coach should know (things like profit, loss, break-even and cash flow).  Essentially it was a four day course of basic business advice re-branded ‘Enterprise Coaching’.  SFEDI accredited which is handy, except as far as I know SFEDI have yet to do develop any standards for Enterprise Coaches (which makes me wonder how they can accredit the course)!

  • The challenge facing the enterprise coach is NOT to provide business advice to people living in areas of deprivation.
  • It is NOT to help people who want to start a business to develop viable business plans.
  • It is not to sell them places on workshops or training programmes – even if this is what mis-guided funders incentivise them to do.

It IS to:

  • make connections in communities
  • become trusted
  • have structured conversations that help people to uncover their aspiration and to get back in touch with their potential,
  • help people assess their options and choices and make decisions that are most likely to help them make progress with their lives.
  • to engage with pre-contemplators and to help them contemplate.  It is to help contemplators to prepare for change and to ensure that they can access relevant, high quality and personalised specialist services.

Enterprise coaches develop people.

They unstick people.

They help people to grasp the possibility and practicalities of progress.

They help people to get in touch which their enteprising soul.

They build social capital, they put people in touch with fellow travellers and with sources of specialist support.

They work on shaping social contexts to make them more supportive of enteprise.

Some of the people they work with will go on to develop businesses.  Others will go back into education and skills, some will remain as before.

After a relationship with a skilled and powerful enterprise coach each one of them will have been challenged to think about what they want to get from life and how they are going to get it.

They may not have had ‘Break-even’ explained.

The concept of enterprise coaching is being broken.

It is being broken by bureaucrats who believe that the best way to increase start up rates is to put watered down business advisers into deprived communities to push self employment and entrepreneurship.

It is being broken because the enterprise industry is exploiting an opportunity to re-package ‘bog standard’ business advice under another name and sell it to unsuspecting and ill-informed regeneration commissioners.

It is being broken because Reality TV and the media at large insist on promoting the ‘Entrepreneurship Fairytale’ in which all that is needed is a good idea and few hours with a business adviser.

It is being broken because we lack a brave, positive and long term approach to developing more enterprising communities.

It is being broken because we are not seriously trying to engage the disengaged in making a better life.

Anyone ready for a change?

The Emotional Content of ‘Enterprise Support’

I am no fan of entrepreneurship based reality TV – however I do make an exception for Gerry Robinson’s Big Decision.  The basic premise of the programme is as nauseating as most – Sir Gerry Robinson, one of Britain’s most respected businessmen, comes to the rescue of several companies across the UK, armed with his personal cheque book. The ‘white knight’ rides in carrying all before him with his expertise and cash.

But the reality of the programme is somewhat different.  On occasion Gerry refuses to open his cheque book because he recognises that an injection of cash will actually prevent the management team from doing what has to be done.  And he seldom ‘diagnoses and prescribes’, preferring instead to use good questions to get the various members of the management team to face up to what they know has to be done – but have previously repressed.

It is also clear that any help that Gerry is able to offer is based on a real human connection.  There are tears, anger, fear and real affection and caring  as well.  And in my experience these emotions are always present whenever help is ‘non-trivial’.  Yet most business advisers tend to professionalise their relationships with clients.  They objectify both the company and the management team – viewing it as a black box to be fixed – rather than a very human system of passions and self interest in which they too need to participate.

Carl Rogers in On Becoming a Person had this to say:

It has gradually been driven home to me that I cannot be of help …by any means of any intellectual or training procedure.  No approach which relies upon knowledge, upon training, upon the acceptance of something that is taught, is of any use.  These approaches are so tempting and direct that I have, in the past, tried a great many of them.  It is possible to explain a person to himself, to prescribe steps that should lead him forward, to train him in knowledge about a more satisfying mode of life.  But such methods are, in my experience, futile and inconsequential.  The most they can accomplish is some temporary change, which soon disappears, leaving the individual more than ever convinced of their inadequacy.

The failure of any such approach through the intellect has forced me to recognise that change appears to come about through experience in a relationship.

If I can provide a certain type of relationship, the other person will discover within himself the capacity to use that relationship for growth, and change and personal development will occur.

Carl Rogers – On Becoming a Person

Although Rogers background was in psychotherapy his practical interests were in all kinds of helping relationship.  I don’t know if Gerry has ever read any Carl Rogers, or is a student of person centred helping relationships, but I am certain that he understands that it is his relationship with the people behind the company that matters most to his ability to help – not his expertise and cheque book.

It is his ability to build the relationship through openness, empathy, rapport and congruence that makes Gerry perhaps Britain’s most powerful company helper.

  • To what extent does your practice rely ‘upon knowledge, upon training, upon the acceptance of something that is taught’?
  • How could you make your practice more ‘relationship based’?
  • What risks might such progress entail?
  • What benefits might accrue?

Knowing ‘Bugger All’

I spent a very pleasant afternoon recently in the offices of New Start Magazine researching what makes for an inspirational or transformational relationship and I came across this wonderful quote:

In my ethnographic work, with a head full of American methodologies and theory, I thought I knew a bit about local government, urban and social policy and the theory of community and activism.  However, I knew as Betty was to tell me, “Bugger all!”.  All I knew was learned, abstract and distinct from reality.  Betty knew it from 60 years of lived experience.

Neil McInroy Chief Executive, CLES

This is why we need to have a process for community development that is not controlled by local government but by the lived experience of local people.

Helping – Are We More Confused Than Most?

Much of the training and development world is confused about the difference between coaching and mentoring, and a wide range of other ‘helping’ roles.  I would contend that the world of enterprise support and entrepreneurship is more confused than most.  We label different types of helping intervention carelessly and frequently bastardise and corrupt subtle, powerful and transformational learning relationships.  We deploy mentors and coaches who are poorly trained and frequently lack the right experience to help.  It may come as a horrible truth but a middle manager from a ‘blue chip’ does not necessarily make for a great mentor – especially if  they have not been trained.

And this matters because a good understanding of the type of helping relationship that you are trying to offer is essential to making it work well, to developing your professional practice and to helping the learner to develop a support team that covers all of the right bases.  How to choose and use a team of helpers is perhaps one of the most powerful things we can teach.  If we confuse the type of helping relationships that we provide we are unlikely to make them as effective as they could be – and more importantly we are unlikely to inculcate good learning habits.

So what are the helping roles that we get confused and how can we start the job of clarifying them and improving their efficacy?

Coach – a relationship usually characterised by frequent and intense sessions designed to help the learner to raise their awareness of the current situation, generate options, take decisions and act.  Frequently coaching will involve goal setting and clarification and the development of formal action plans.  Coaches are usually expert in the process of personal development rather than the ‘content’ of what has to be learned.  Successful coaching does depend to a high degree on rapport, personal ‘chemistry’ if you like, so to be most effective it is important that learners are able to choose their preferred coach.  Coaching relationships usually run for months and occasionally years.  However good coaches teach learners to coach themselves effectively and it should be rare for a coaching relationship to extend beyond 12-18 months without the nature of the relationship evolving significantly.

Mentor – A mentor is perceived by the learner to be a senior practitioner in a field that the learner has identified as critical to their own development.  Mentors usually have ‘been there, done that and got the T-shirt’.  This means that it is highly beneficial if the learner is able to identify and recruit mentors (they may have more than one) that they respect and are hungry to learn from.  Appointing mentors to learners unless done with immense care usually results in ineffective mentoring, and means that the learner is denied the opportunity to learn about how to identify, recruit and use mentors.  Mentoring relationships are usually characterised by less frequent but longer meetings (perhaps 2-3 a year).  Mentoring relationship are usually driven by the learner, who takes responsibility for scheduling meetings and developing the agenda.  Learning to chose and use mentors effectively is a relatively advanced skill and is one that shold be explicitly taught.  Similarly it helps tremendously if mentors have had some training in what it means to be  a mentor and to establish some of the boundaries and practices of effective mentoring.  However if learners are encouraged to source their own mentors then mentor training becomes difficult.  In these circumstances it is even more helpful if learners have been effectively trained in choosing and using mentors.  Good mentoring relationship often run over a number of years, if not decades.  However they often have a high failure rate.  Learners have to be prepared to kiss a few frogs in pursuit of a powerful mentor.

Peer – Many learners gain great benefits from peer learning processes where they explore problems and solutions with fellow learners.   Peer learning is characterised by enquiry, reflection and exchange of experiences.  Because there is no ‘expert’ in the relationship peer learning promotes independence and critical thinking.  Again peer learning processes can be significantly improved if those involved are given some basic training in what makes peer learning work.  Buddy systems are a form of peer learning. More advanced forms of peer learning can involve co-counselling, co-coaching and action learning.  Effective peer learning processes, that move beyond support into transformational learning, can be difficult to establish.  However once a learner knows how to use peer learning in their own professional and personal development it becomes a powerful and transformative force in their lives.

Adviser – an adviser typically brings expertise, experience and, if you are lucky, wisdom to bring to bear on a speciifc problem or opportunity.  Learners should be careful about using advisers to help identify problems and opportunities as they are likely to find something in their area of expertise rather than in the learners area of greatest need.  Some advisers will simply solve problems.  Others will teach you how to solve the problem when it crops up again in the future.  If the task is likely to recur then working with an adviser with a strong track record of supporting learning and independence matters.  If the issue is a ‘one off’ then this is much less of an issue.  The role of an adviser is usually short term and project based.

Broker – a good broker, an honest and value adding middleman is a rare beast.  They will help a learner to reflect on their situation and the change they need to bring about and then put together an action plan, including information on sourcing other ‘helpers’ that are required.  Independent, leaner centred brokers are few and far between.  Most brokers are actually tied into the delivery of specific policy goals and objectives of their funders and so learner again should be trained in how to choose and use brokerage services.  Beware the broker who brings government subsidies!  It is tempting to do something because you can get 60% off.  If the intervention is worthwhile, and is likely to have a good return on investment then you should do it.  If ROI is marginal then you should look for other opportunities.   Relationships with brokers are usually short term and very tightly focused on problem solving or the exploitation of opportunities.

Trainer – trainers usually teach specific skills, knowledge and processes.  Trainers are generally driven by a body of content that they wish to impart – a curriculum that they teach.  In general the process is about grafting on more knowledge and skill to an existing base of practice.  It is about gap filling.

Master – the tradition of ‘the master’ has been somewhat lost in modern times – apart from in the martial arts.  A master is a senior practitioner who takes on number of learners in a highly disciplined and structured learning environment.  Masters are usually careful about selecting learners – as they recognise that real learning requires commitment, discipline and passion.  Learning from a master is not an easy option – an any devotee of Kung Fu Panda will know.  Mastery of a skill or discipline usually involves months if not years of disciplined study.  The tradition of mastery involved learners (apprentices in this context) recognising what they really needed to learn and then sub,itting themselves to the discipline of their chosen master.  Masters were all powerful in deciding who they would teach and to be accepted as apprentice was indeed cause for celebration.

My contention is that as a profession we frequently mangle these different types of helping relationship.  We confuse our learners about them as much as we confuse ourselves and we significantly reduce the both effectiveness and the uptake of helping relationships as a result.  We tend to overemphasise the potential of the adviser and the broker (perhaps because these are most successful in terms of chasing outputs) and we significantly undermine the potential of mentoring, peer learning and coaching by failing to invest adequately in professional development and robust service design.

So let’s start to take pedagogy seriously.  Lets develop robust methods of education, and let’s find ways to put the learners in control of their own enterprise education.

Because that really will be a lesson worth learning.

Hunger for Inspiration

Our chief want is someone who will inspire us to be what we know we could be

Ralph Waldo Emerson

I think this offers us some powerful, but largely ignored, clues as to how we should design our enterprise development services.  We need to offer a service that helps people to seek, find and, crucially, act on their inspiration.

Their inspiration – not our policy goals.

Their inspiration – not ‘our’ desire to get ‘them’ off benefits or back into work.

Their inspiration – not our idea of ‘opportunities’ designed to meet employer demands.

Because the reality is that MOST enterprise development services are not designed to inspire.  They are designed to teach people how to commoditise themselves.  How to ‘fit in’ with the needs of the economy.

Take a good, honest look at your services.  Are they really designed to develop the users agenda – or to channel them into ours?

Perhaps this is why we are continually engaging ‘inspirational’ speakers in the false hope that we can somehow put back into our service a missing essence.  An essence that will always be missing until we change the assumptions around which our enteprise services are built.

The cornerstone of a service based on the hunger for inspiration would be a relationship in which users can be open and honest about their hopes and aspirations.  A relationship, not a workshop, or a series of workshops or advice.  A relationship.

A relationship that recognises that development takes time.  That it will feature highs and lows, lapses and relapses.

Because it is only in a relationship, characterised by compassion, competence, respect, belief, optimism, commitment and skill that people will be open and honest about their hopes and dreams and start to get in touch with what inspires them.  It is only in such a supportive relationship that people will really dare to dream and act.  It is I believe only through a relationship that people can really find inspiration and the resources for transformation.

  • So how would we market such a service?
  • Where would we find clients?
  • How would we pay for it?
  • Who would manage it?
  • What might we expect from it in terms of outputs and value for money?

But the big question that always gets asked here is about affordability.  A genuinely personalised service.  Delivered primarily through 121 conversations – isn’t that ridiculously expensive?  Well no its not.  The numbers stack up well in comparison to competing services.

The real challenge here is changing the mindset of service suppliers and commissioners.  Helping them to recognise that our communities are not full of the feckless and ignorant who need to be fixed.

They are full of people seeking inspiration and the power to act effectively on it.

Full of people who would love to become the kind of person that they know they could be.

As soon as we start designing our services around these assumptions we might get some much more positive results.

Interested?

PMN on Twitter

I have just set up a dedicated twitter account for PMN.  You can now follow me on twitter @PMNUK.

Check out the twitter stream at http://twitter.com/pmnuk

This account will be used to provide regular ideas, inspiration, reminders and nudges about effective progressive management.

I also tweet on @mikechitty – where the focus is more on my work in enteprise and education.

Hope this makes things better for you!

Mike Chity