Thursday, 26 October 2017

Swipe Your Boss - Right?

Imagine that you find yourself single tomorrow, and after a brief period of leaving the dishes to pile up and wearing stale underwear, you decide to go back on the 'dating scene'. Imagine that you get with the times and go for an online dating adventure.

Imagine writing your profile. You describe yourself optimistically yet somewhat honestly. You describe your ideal match as honest, reliable, open, caring, supportive, fun, a good listener and so on. All the qualities that you think are important. You might even call these 'values', which they're not. More on that later.

You see a profile that you like the look of, and you 'swipe right'. You get chatting, find a few things in common, and nervously arrange to meet for a drink.

It's the big night, and you're waiting in the bar that they suggested. They walk in. They look like their photo. Big sigh of relief. They smile, say hello. All good so far. They order the drinks, choosing for you. You think that's a bit presumptuous, but you give them the benefit of the doubt. They tell you all about themselves, and as you try to get a word in edgeways, they interrupt to tell you what they want, what they're looking for and all the areas in which they excel. They tell you how important their job is, what a great car they've got, how they bought their apartment for cash from their last sales bonus. You start to glance towards the door, your heart sinking with every pompous, self-important word. They tell you what they want from you, and they glare at you disapprovingly with every objection that you raise. They dismiss your suggestions out of hand and, at the end of the evening, tell you that you were not really up to scratch, but they're prepared to give you a second chance.

Do you agree to a second date?

If you have any shred of self-respect left, you say "no, thanks". And yet, some people say yes, because they are afraid that's the best they can do. They are afraid to keep looking.

When it comes to one of your most important relationships, the relationship that you have with your employer, many people endure such a second date. And a third. And a fourth. Day. After day. After day.


Every choice that we make is a compromise. While I'm writing this, I'm not finishing the other work that I'm supposed to be doing. While you're reading this, you're not making that phone call.

Going to work is a free choice, but for many people, it's not a fair choice. Many people get into a relationship with a less-than-ideal employer because they need to pay the bills and take care of their family. They put their own needs, hopes and dreams second. That might seem like a bearable compromise in the short term, but in the long term it causes stress, and stress causes a while variety of illnesses. A huge number of employees today, in jobs all over the world, and companies like yours, a compromising on one of their most important relationships because they are putting the needs of others before their own.

I'm sure we've all been in relationships because of convenience, or because we thought we weren't worth any better, or because we were afraid to leave. We've all compromised on what we wanted, because we thought that what we needed was more important. Our wants can wait, but our needs demand to be met.

For many people, going into a job where they're undervalued and undermined is like having that second date, day after day. Knowing full well what to expect and doing it anyway, believing that they don't have another choice.

You probably can't imagine yourself entering into a relationship on such terms. You also probably can't imagine treating someone that way. Yet managers do, every day, in organisations just like yours.

I mentioned earlier that qualities such as honesty and caring aren't values, and when leaders create organisational values such as honesty and customer focus, those words aren't values either - they are wants, and wants are things that you don't have.

Your corporate values are words that describe how your employees want to feel, and want to be treated, and aren't. When you're holding your focus groups and consulting with your consultants, no-one mentions air and water as values. We take those things for granted. If you're lucky enough to be in a loving, caring, supportive relationship, you wouldn't say that love and care and support are important, because you already have them, and they become 'givens'. You don't ask for what you've already got.

So, I leave you with two ideas.

Firstly, treat your employees, colleagues and clients as if they really have a free choice about that second date.

Secondly, stop compromising. You can have all the things that are important to you. The first thing you have to do is ask for them.


Peter Freeth is a very lucky consultant, talent expert, author and maker of countless questionable choices, all of which he seems to have survived. Having learnt enough lessons for now, he's taking a short break from compromising.

Friday, 13 October 2017

Be Your Own Coach

OK, I admit it. The headline is misleading. You can't coach yourself. It's not possible. You can't see yourself, you see, so you can't give yourself feedback. You might think that you can motivate yourself, or guide yourself, but you can't. What you're actually doing is simulating someone else, but let's not get into that now. Let's talk about how you can use your existing network to replace or supplement the role of a coach.

Why does coaching work?

Fundamentally, coaching works because it is:

  • Neutral
  • Challenging
  • Scheduled

Yes, you heard me right. Coaching does not work because of some fancy psychodynamic twaddle. It does not work because the coach has some amazing insight into your character. It does not work because the coach uses a fabulous psychometric tool that reveals your true self.

You already know yourself, you already know your true self and you already have the insights you need, but if they're not convenient for you, you will lie about them, even to yourself. Fortunately, everyone else sees right through you, they're just too polite to say anything, or they're using your self-deception to take advantage of you. But let's not go into that right now.

So coaching works for those three reasons above. Let me expand on those, and show you how you can replicate those 'dimensions' with your existing friends, family and colleagues.


A good coach knows that there is no good or bad, just cause and effect. If a client tells me they have made a mistake or done something bad, I have to ask why they're telling me in such a loaded way. Are they trying to get me to give them sympathy? Or absolve them of their sin? They will be unsuccessful because I don't care. Stuff happens as a result of other stuff happening and when stuff happens it causes other stuff to happen. And so the great cycle of life continues. People react to each other, and people react to circumstances, and that's how we get through life, so get over yourself. What's more important is what have you learned from it, and how will you use that learning to do something different next time?


A good coach tells you what you need to hear, not what you want to hear. If you want sympathy, or absolution, or a soft touch, you're not getting it from me. You can get that from most of your friends and colleagues, and where does that leave you? Right where you are, feeling sorry for yourself. If you're complaining about your situation at work, then I'll ask why you created it in the first place. If you're complaining that no-one listens to you, I'll ask if you ever say anything worth hearing. And if you're being hard on yourself unnecessarily, I'll ask you to give yourself a bit of credit once in a while. What you want, fundamentally, is to maintain the status quo, so you will tend to seek out relationships that maintain your current course. If you want to change that course, you need challenge. And let's not forget, you wouldn't be seeking coaching if you didn't want to change course. On the other hand, whilst you might want to make changes, that's often easier said than done, partly because you can't see yourself, so you can't see all the changes that you need to make in the right perspective. So challenge is vital, even though that doesn't have to be scary or disruptive.


If you wait until you need to talk, it’s too late. You might already talk to your friends and colleagues when you have a problem, but it's too late. The problem exists because you created it. You didn't learn your lesson last time, you didn't reflect and learn and you didn't change your approach, and the same problem keeps happening over and over, with different people and in different places. If you adopt a reactive approach to coaching, your focus will always be remedial, on finding a temporary fix for the current problem only. And the pattern will repeat itself. What you need is to talk to your coach because it's time to talk to your coach. That scheduled conversation forces you to step back and reflect on what you've been doing, and enables you to plan your strategy, and that enables you to make changes. The timing of coaching sessions is often more important than the content of them, because if you're committed to the process, you will prepare for a session, and will have actions to implement afterwards, which extends the reach of the process of change into your daily routine.

How to replicate the coaching relationship

  1. Think of 2 or 3 people who you know, who know you, and who you trust.
  2. Ask those people if you can have regular conversations with them, where you talk about what's going on in your life and work, and they give you honest feedback on what you're missing, what you've ignored or what you may have distorted, and where they suggest some actions for you that are relevant to the changes you want to make.
  3. Set a series of regular discussions with them in your diary.
  4. Keep track of those discussions and measure the results that you achieve.
  5. Get on with it!

A person doesn't have to be an amazing coach, or even a coach at all, in order to provide you with neutral, valuable feedback. You simply have to commit to accepting their feedback, no matter how much you don't like it. The worse it feels to hear the feedback, the better you can feel about the fact that at least one person cares enough about you to tell you what everyone else knows but is hiding from you.

What if you think you're so self aware that you don't need a coach? Trust me. You are not self-aware. Not even one little bit. You don't even know there's spinach in your teeth.


Peter Freeth is an executive coach, working with global businesses to develop their future leaders. He also wrote a super little book called Coaching Excellence which has all of this good stuff in it, and more.

Matt Hatson says, "A straightforward, no holds barred guide to the steps to coaching mastery. As well as boiling down the real keys to an effective coaching session, it also explores the behaviours that coaches sometimes have that hold them back from making a real difference. A powerful read from start to finish, and a book that I'm revisiting constantly to help refine my skills and push through the fear, whoever's fear it happens to be."

Greg Schweitzer says, "This is literally one of the best books I have ever read about coaching! Peter Freeth gets it. His fresh insight and creative approach come with a deep profundity and clarity that demystifies the process of coaching. His insight into the proper place and use of models, listening deeply and linguistic representation provide an uncomplicated depth to be the best coach possible. Thank you!"

Wednesday, 11 October 2017

You Are The News

I'm writing this as yet another sexual harassment scandal hits the headlines, this time featuring Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein. A string of actresses have joined the voices casting allegations that Weinstein was not interested in their acting ability, after all.

Not so long ago, the 'casting couch' was the audition room for a Hollywood career. Today, it's called sexual harassment, and the women involved have changed from being called derogatory terms implying low morals to being called victims.

What has changed in that time, do you think? Does social media make us all news creators, so that these stories are impossible for the mainstream media to continue to suppress?

You can't say 'society's attitudes have changed' because there is no society, only individuals, and if individuals don't talk to each other and share experiences, there can be no change.

During the terrorist attacks in London in 2005, police immediately sealed all the roads in the areas affected. The 'establishment' journalists couldn't get anywhere near, so the news was created by office workers, filming on their mobile phones and giving commentaries to news agencies. The journalists hated it. These people had no training! They hadn't worked their way up from tea boy at the Weatherfield Gazette! How dare they! Yes, they had no formal journalism training, but they had something far more important - immediacy. They were there, they were the eyes and ears of the world.

The rise of the connected society, from the emergence of personal websites and blogs through to today's 24 hour interactive social media, has made us all journalists. Sure, no-one wants to know what you're having for lunch, or what you're wearing, or what your latest hair style is. But a lot of what you experience is interesting, at least to your friends, and once in a while, you'll find yourself in the right place at the right time to witness, and relate, something big, something that affects us all.

Scandals like those we've recently seen involving Hollywood producers, celebrities, sports clubs, politicians, local authorities and even the church are always the tip of the iceberg. The victims don't speak out through fear, either of the public humiliation, or because they would lose the privileges bestowed upon them. As The Human League sang, "Don't forget, I put you where you are now, and I can put you back again".

Through our unprecedented access to the new media, we are all newsmakers.

Go ahead, tell your story. Someone, somewhere is watching, and to them, it's the most important thing they've heard all day.


Peter Freeth is a consultant, coach and writer who is still waiting for his 15 minutes - unless he has already had it?