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Career Perspectives

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A coaching client approaches you with the following question: “’I'm thinking of changing my career and starting my own business, but my wife is worried. What can I do?” As his coach, what would you suggest? Zahava Starak, LCI Master Coach, answers…
As a coach faced with this question I would not be surprised if you took a deep breath before answering as you will need to approach this subject from two perspectives. You will be looking at the client’s stated desire to change careers and you will also be looking at the marital relationship and the role that the client’s partner plays in any final decision. In fact at this stage it might be advisable to ask the client a few questions to determine the stability of the marriage so as to validate your ability to work with this client.
If your client’s answers indicate that the marriage is strong and is merely needing some guidance in weathering a potential life cycle then you are on familiar territory and can proceed. However, if you feel that the marriage is shaky and that this talk of a career change may end this relationship, then your ethical responsibility is to refer the client to a relationship counsellor.
Once your competency to handle this situation is established you can explain to your client that you are certainly able to work with them in taking steps towards attaining their career goals, but it is recommended that their partner also be present for some of the coaching sessions as it will be beneficial for the client to have the support of their partner in the career decision they are hoping to make.
Let us take a case perspective in exploring this question. The client is David, a man in his early forties who has been employed as a sales rep for an IT firm for most of his working life. For the last five years he has been studying part time to become an IT technician so as to branch out and work on repairing and installing computer programs.
He now has his qualifications and has been looking for work and has not been able to find anything that excites him. He has therefore decided that he wants to quit his job and start his own business, and perhaps buy a franchise. Penny, David’s wife, is concerned that David will not be able to take the ups and downs of working for himself. She is also concerned that David will not be able to make enough money to pay his contribution to the household expenses. Penny works three days a week as an accountant. They have three teenage boys aged 14, 16 and 18.
Penny and David present as a solid couple. They have worked well together as a team to buy their house and to raise the children. Up until now they have easily agreed on any major decisions. Penny is more than happy to work with David to find a solution that works for both of them.
The angle you (the coach) can take with this couple is to encourage them to look at this challenge as an opportunity to enrich their relationship and move unto a new stage. Before attempting to work their problem you can explore their values and visions and see how in sync they are in these two areas. David and Penny can be presented with a list of values that they can take home and individually address and then discuss together.
Values are the base upon which we build our belief systems and when we live and work with people who share the same values we are better able to deal with the obstacles that life presents. As a result of this exercise it is evident that David and Penny share similar values. High on both their lists are family, commitment and loyalty. Penny also highly values stability. These values have anchored them as a couple and the other values that they share such as excitement, adventure and fun have enabled them to share many good times.
When asked to discuss their vision – both Penny and David have little to say. They have not really thought past paying off the family home and seeing the three boys through high school. They however can see the benefit of having a vision as a couple as well as their own personal vision which blends in and may complement the bigger picture. You can now spend some time with David and Penny asking them various questions to help them gain a focus on where their relationship is heading.
Questions are adapted to address the relationship such as: What do you want this relationship to look like? What do you see for yourself in this relationship in the future? Is what you are doing helping you attain what you want for yourself in this relationship? This process can be quite involved as you will be addressing all facets of David and Penny’s life together and separately. Areas to be covered include: their finances; social life; fitness and wellness; family; and inevitably career.
By answering these questions and then by encouraging David and Penny to complete a collage (in which they both sit down and on a large piece of paper paste pictures of how they want their relationship and their own individual lives to look like), the couple will be more focused on where they are heading. They will then be able to discuss how David’s personal vision to own an IT repair franchise can fit in with the relationship’s bigger picture.
Penny with her financial expertise may be able to realistically explore the viability of owning a business and if the proposition is viable she and David could work out a time table as to when David could quit his full time job and start the business. David could consider taking a small business course in the meantime which could alleviate some of Penny’s concerns.
At this stage Penny and David are working together on taking the first steps to actualise David’s vision – as it is now established that it fits in with the bigger picture of the relationship. You now can start working with David and perhaps even Penny on how to make David’s dream a reality. Some of the groundwork has already been covered by the work that this couple did earlier. It is still a good idea to clarify David’s goals, review their feasibility by perhaps implementing a benefit and drawback grid and then look at the options available and the way forward.
David and Penny’s relationship has been enhanced by this coaching experience and they have visualised a future that they both want and can both work towards together.
Author: Zahava Starak

An Insight into Group Development

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A group is a collection of individuals whose association is founded on commonalities of interest, norms and values. Membership in the group may be by chance, by choice or by circumstances. In this article, we provide you with an insight into Tuckman’s 5 group development stages.
Assumptions of Group Development
There are four major assumptions underpinning all models of group development. The first assumption is that groups develop in regular and observable patterns allowing for predictions of future group behaviour. Understanding the group’s developmental status may inform group facilitators/moderators about the maturity of the group member’s interaction, while clarifying the path needing to be taken to encourage greater levels of growth and development as a group for members to benefit.
The second assumption asserts that the same developmental features of the group will be evident across all groups that develop in a normative fashion. For example, most models assume that conflict emerges in the second stage of group development so this is to be expected in any group taken when emersed in the second stage of group development. However, while a general assumption, it is also understood that there is variation to this standard norm.
For example, conflict may also emerge in the later stages of group development after sufficient safety and trust have been established due to differences of opinion or other as a consequence of any number of mitigating variables (Bernard, Burlingame, Flores, Greene et al., 2008).
The third assumption is that later stages of group development are dependent on the successful negotiation of earlier stages. However, it is also important to note that development in certain groups may not always be graduated, whereby they may not follow a normal progression through proposed stages.
The fourth assumption of most models is that over time groups will manifest increased interactional complexity, but may also on occasion revert back to earlier stages of development (Bernard, Burlingame, Flores, Greene et al., 2008).
Group Developmental Stages
The most popular model of group development is from Tuckman (1965). This model suggests that group development occurs in five stages. These stages are titled: forming, storming, norming, performing and adjourning. Each of these stages are explained in more detail below
Stage 1 – Forming
In the Forming stage, personal relations are characterised by dependence. Group members rely on safe, patterned behaviour and look to the group leader for guidance and direction. Dependency on the group leader is high while the group member’s focus will primarily be on issues of dependency and inclusion.
The members may also be experiencing anxiety, ambivalence and uncertainty about the group. This is because group members have a desire for acceptance by the group and a need to know that the group is safe. Group members will set about gathering impressions and data about the similarities and differences among members of the group and start forming preferences for future sub grouping.
The common behaviour at this stage of the group seems to be to keep things simple and to avoid controversy. Serious topics and feelings are generally avoided although members may engage in tentative self disclosure and sharing. The major task at this stage is concerned with orientating members to the tasks and each other. So discussion will often centre around defining the scope of the task, how to approach it, and similar concerns.
The role of the facilitator at this stage is to be educative and clarify the group’s purpose and the facilitator’s role and to offer guidance for the operation of the group and member participation. Strategically the leader allows for regulation of interpersonal distance but invites trust while assisting each member to identify personal goals and identify commonalities between each other (Bernard, Burlingame, Flores, Greene et al., 2008).
To grow from this stage to the next, each member must relinquish the comfort of non-threatening topics and instead, risk the possibility of conflict (Bernard, Burlingame, Flores, Greene et al., 2008).
Stage 2 – Storming
The next stage, storming, is characterised by competition and conflict in the personal relations being developed between group members and the group leader. As the group members attempt to organise for the task, conflict inevitably result. Individuals have to bend their feelings, ideas, attitudes, and beliefs to suit those of the group organisation. This requires a process of listening to and understanding differences between members.
Because of “fear of exposure” or “fear of failure,” there will usually be an increased desire for structural clarification and commitment. Questions will arise about who is going to be responsible for what, what the rules are, what the reward system is, and what is the criteria for evaluation. These reflect conflicts over leadership, structure, power, and authority.
There may be wide swings in members’ behaviour based on emerging issues of competition and hostilities. Because of the discomfort generated during this stage, some members may remain completely silent while others attempt to dominate. Many theories of group development hold that these types of conflicts and tensions over authority and status are essential for the emergence of genuine cohesion and cooperation. In order to progress to the next stage, group members must move from a “testing and proving” mentality to a problem-solving mentality.
The facilitator’s role at this stage is to reaffirm the group’s purpose and members’ common goals. Group rules and expectations are reinfused and the leader encourages group cohesion and interpersonal learning among the members. The facilitator elicits the expression of negative affect and assists members to identify and resolve conflict.
Behaviour that is incongruent with the group’s goals is confronted if necessary. The leader should avoid labelling individuals in terms of specific roles or rigidly identifying with members subgroups.   The most important trait in helping groups to move on to the next stage seems to be in each member’s ability to listen and understand, accept and respect the multifaceted nature of varying personalities and perspectives within the group (Bernard, Burlingame, Flores, Greene et al., 2008).
Stage 3 – Norming
In Tuckman’s norming stage, interpersonal relations are characterised by cohesion. This is because group members have reached a consensus of group dynamics and norms that allows for both the commonalities and unique individual qualities of each group member. As such, group members are engaged in active acknowledgment of all members’ contributions, in community building and maintenance of group norms, and in solving any group issues that arise.
Members are also more willing to change their preconceived ideas or opinions on the basis of facts presented by other members, and they actively ask questions of one another creating friction and conflict. Leadership is shared, and cliques dissolve. When members begin to know and identify with one another, the level of trust in their personal relationships contributes to the development of group cohesion. It is during this stage of development (assuming the group gets this far) that people begin to experience a sense of group belonging and a feeling of relief as a result of resolving interpersonal conflicts.
The major task of stage three is the information flow between group members. Information flow is where they share feelings and ideas, solicit and give feedback to one another, and explore actions related to the task, all in the context of demonstrated trust between group members. As a consequence, creativity is high. Interactions are characterised by openness and sharing of information on both a personal and task level. Members feel good about being part of an effective group.
At this stage, the group facilitator’s interventions aim to maintain a balance between support and confrontation. The primary role is to facilitate the working process around feedback, promoting insight and encouraging problem solving in an ongoing manner. A derailment of the group process during this stage may suggest that the group members are revisiting a previous developmental issue (Bernard, Burlingame, Flores, Greene et al., 2008).
Stage 4 – Performing
The performing stage is not always reached by all groups. If group members are able to evolve to stage four, their capacity, range, and depth of personal interaction expands to a constructive and vibrant interdependence. In this stage, people can work independently, in subgroups, or as a total unit with equal facility. Their roles and authorities dynamically adjust to the changing needs of the group and individuals at the time.
Stage four is marked by interdependence in personal relationships, acceptance of individual differences and problem solving in the realm of task functions. It is at this stage the group should be most productive. Individual members have become self-assuring, and the need for group approval is in the past. All members feel accepted and an authentic sense of belonging so they do not have to focus time and energy on to these needs anymore.
Members are both highly task oriented and highly people oriented. There is unity, group identity is complete, group morale is high, and group loyalty is intense as the group has reached maturity. The task function becomes genuine problem solving, leading toward optimal solutions and optimum group development. There is support for experimentation in solving problems and an emphasis on achievement.
The overall goal is productivity through problem solving and work. At this stage of performing, the group facilitator focuses more on letting the group run itself whereby the leader focuses mainly on facilitating member to member empathy and assist the members to acknowledge and amplify individual differences (Bernard, Burlingame, Flores, Greene et al., 2008).
Stage 5 – Adjourning/Termination
Tuckman’s final stage, adjourning, involves the termination of task behaviours and disengagement from the group relationships. A planned conclusion usually includes recognition of participation and achievements and an opportunity for members to say personal goodbyes.
Concluding a group can create some apprehension or a minor crisis. With ending in sight, the group may experience upheaval, sadness, anxiety and anger. The termination of the group is a regressive movement from giving up control to giving up inclusion in the group. The members may experience the ending as a profound relationship loss especially if the group has become a significant source of emotional support.
Defensive efforts of denial will alternate with periods of productive work. The most effective interventions at this stage are those that facilitate task termination and the disengagement process. The role of the group leader at this stage is to assist members to express their feelings about adjourning the group process while also attending to any unfinished business prior to the conclusion of the group.
The group facilitator may also facilitate a systematic review and evaluation of the group progress and encourage planning for a post group period. The leader must also facilitate opportunities for group members to express proper goodbyes (Bernard, Burlingame, Flores, Greene et al., 2008).
References: Bernard, H., Burlingame, G., Flores, P., Greene, L., Joyce, A. et al., (2008). Clinical practice guidelines for group psychotherapy. International Journal of Group Psychotherapy, 58, 455-542

How to Commit to a Goal

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Here’s a brief story about why we all sometimes get distracted from the most important goals in our lives. Perhaps you recognise it?
You are thinking about changing your job because your boss is a pain and you’re stagnating. As the weeks pass you think about how good it would feel to work for an organisation that really valued you. You think this might be a good goal to commit to but…
Work is busy at the moment, the money is OK and your home-life is also packed. And don’t even mention the economy. When do you have time to update your CV and start exploring the options?
Apart from anything else you’ve been thinking about learning a musical instrument. With the lessons and hours of practice there wouldn’t be any time for interviews.
A few months pass. You forget about changing your job and start to fantasise about learning the piano. Wouldn’t it be wonderful after a hard day’s work to immerse yourself in music?
Unfortunately everyday life intervenes again and you do little more than search online for the price of electric pianos. Then you wonder if what your life needs is… and so on.
After six months you come back full circle to changing your job, still without having made a real start towards any of these goals.
Written like this, with six months compressed into a few paragraphs, it’s obvious the problem is a lack of goal commitment; although in reality, with everyday life to cope with, the pattern can be more difficult to spot.
One major reason we don’t achieve our life’s goals is a lack of commitment. This article describes psychology experiments that suggest how we can encourage ourselves to commit to beneficial goals that could change our lives.
Click here to access the full article…
Author: Jeremy Dean
Source: (PsyBlog)

Five Tips for a Perfect Work/Life Balance

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By Steve Sisgold 

Boy have we gotten busy with work. Our reasons range from economic necessity to expressing our inner voice’s mission to having a creative inspiration inside that just needs to be manifested NOW. Either way, with the ability to access our computers 24/7 many of us at times forget to balance our work time with our personal time for exercise, family time, spiritual practices, relaxation and plain fun.

Of course when a project that excites us or sparks our life’s mission includes exercise, creative or physical pleasure then we get to combine it all, but many folks are sharing that their family, body or community is getting neglected due to the scale weighing too heavily on work and not enough on other aspects of life and our soft addictions don’t allow us to put down our cell phones or iPads and stay off our laptops.

I suggest to balance your work/life by changing your life from one of default to being proactive by design.  Here’s 5 tips to help you do that.

1.) Take some dedicated time to examine your work/life scale. Make an appointment with you as the CEO of your life to make a plan to balance the work/life scale.

2.) List what is important to you. Keep your health, family and friends, and social causes, etc in mind when you consider your commitments and make a conscious, intentional choice about what you can give yourself over to and get behind it 100%.

3.) Make a list of what you want to do in key areas of your life. From health, career, relationships, relaxation, fun, to personal growth, put what you want in your calendar first. Having your priorities and desires clearly mapped out in this way greatly assists you to stay on track and move in the direction of what you really want.

4.) Keep your word with yourself. This is essential. This is key to give you a rock-solid foundation from which to create the balanced work/life you desire.

5.) Listen to your body. Instead of taking action by default, you follow your plan and make choices that register in your body that are aligned with your desires. If your body says “no,” to a busy project, listen. Your body when it lines up with your perfect work/life plan becomes a reliable barometer that can remind you to make choices in every moment that will give you the life you desire and deserve.

Source: Psychology Today