Category Archives: Mentoring

The Theory behind Mental Models & Mastery

There’s no playbook for business, leadership and life. There’s no single archetype to embody. The journey to mastery that I help take my coaching clients on is a journey of unfolding and becoming in accordance with their own morals, values, principles, beliefs and experience.

But how can you speed up that journey? As a coach, how can I work with someone who already has a good level of business experience and help them accelerate the rate at which they become an even better executive?

It turns out the authors of a fascinating book called Accelerated Expertise: Training for High Proficency in a Complex World were asking themselves similar questions and forging a theory, on behalf of the US Department of Defense.

The DoD was trying to wrap its head around the changing nature of warfare. They recognised that speed in acquiring the knowledge and skills to perform tasks is crucial, “yet it ordinarily takes many years to achieve high proficiency in countless jobs and professions in government, business, industry, and throughout the private sector”. Wouldn’t there be great advantages if regimens of training could be established that could accelerate the achievement of high levels of proficiency?

The Theory behind Models & Mastery

Business is not warfare but the military serves as a helpful metaphor, and there is a universal applicability of the book’s core theories and ideas as they relate to the acceleration of executive proficiency. It asks questions that will sound familiar to any business executive, like “How can we train for adaptivity and the need to cope with the ever-changing workplace and changing and challenging activities?” and “How can we train for resilience in the face of increasing complexity and unexpected events stretching resources and capabilities?”

It doesn’t matter whether you are in the military, or a startup founder, CEO or other executive or professional, there’s a theoretical underpinning that supports anyone’s journey to mastery. By understanding it, we can seek to speed it up.

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The Mental Models Paradox

Ever since word of Charlie Munger’s worldly wisdom built upon a latticework of mental models got out, people have become obsessed with what mental models they can use to make them smarter. If we take these mental models and conceptual frameworks and run our reality through them, then we’ll become better thinkers, make better decisions (and investments), and achieve Munger-level wisdom (and wealth). Or will we?

Here’s the paradox:  

Good mental models, and other conceptual frameworks, make us smarter but only up to a point, after which they can actually constrain our thinking.

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A Deliberately Developmental Experiment

When the founders at Future Arc approached me to develop a business-wide coaching programme, they were clear they wanted to do something different. It felt right that a disruptive company that puts talent development at the heart of its organisation should embrace a new approach to developing its people. Fascinated by how we can build organisations and develop individuals for the future, and already drawing on Robert Kegan and colleagues’ work on adult development in my coaching practice, I introduced them to the concept of the Deliberately Developmental Organization (DDO).

A DDO is organized around the deceptively simple but radical conviction that organizations will best prosper when they are deeply aligned with people’s strongest motive, which is to grow. Deep alignment, it turns out, requires something more than making “a big commitment to our people’s growth,” admirable as that may be, even when such a commitment is followed up with significant investments in people’s ongoing learning on the job. It means something more than consigning “people development” to punctuated moments outside the flow of day-to-day work, such as standapart trainings, high-potential leadership development programs, executive coaching, corporate universities, or once-a-year retreats. Deep alignment with people’s motive to grow means fashioning an organizational culture in which support to people’s ongoing development is woven into the daily fabric of working life, visible in the company’s regular operations, day to-day routines, and conversations.

The Deliberately Developmental Organization
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Learning to think for yourself (aka. the problem with ‘how to’ advice)

Advice is everywhere, everyone has an opinion. It’s what to do with it that’s hard. If we really want to become our best selves, then we should stop listening to what everyone else tells us and start learning to think for ourselves. Let’s explore what that means, including the problem with “how to” advice and the benefits of becoming an independent thinker in a complex world.

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How Women Rise: Break the 12 Habits Holding You Back – Summary

How Women Rise: Break the 12 Habits Holding You Back identifies 12 habits that commonly hold women leaders back as they endeavour to rise to the top of their chosen career. The book concludes with a practical section on how to put identified changes in habits in to action. This article provides a summary of the 12 habits that the authors, Sally Helgesen and Marshall Goldsmith, identify and adds some powerful questions you can ask yourself to unpack your own habits and unleash your full leadership potential.

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Why entrepreneurs need a coach, mentor & therapist

Like any high-performing individual, leaders need to wrap a professional support team around them if they are to give themselves the best chance of success. That team must be trustworthy, objective, and acting always in the leader’s best interests. This post unpacks the difference between a coach, mentor and therapist and explains why, together, they can make up a such a cohesive support team.

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Trillion Dollar Coach – Summary

Trillion Dollar Coach: The Leadership Handbook of Silicon Valley’s Bill Campbell is a book about a man who helped build some of America’s greatest companies, including Apple and Google. A former college football player and coach, Bill didn’t enter the business world until he was thirty nine. Moving quickly though through executive roles, he went on to coach the likes of Steve Jobs, Larry Page, Eric Schmidt, Ben Horowitz and Bill Gurley, to name just a few. He passed away in 2016, leaving a legacy of growing companies, successful people and an enormous amount of respect. The book is essential reading for any manager or leader operating in a fast-moving, high growth business.

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12 of the best executive coaching books

Are you a manager or leader who wants to develop your coaching skills? Maybe you’re already a coach who wants to continue to develop personally and professionally? Here’s my list of books about executive coaching that have most influenced me.

More about me: I spent ten years at Deloitte Consulting and as a civil servant at HM Treasury. I moved into the technology sector in 2013 and became an executive coach shortly after. I work with founders, CEOs & executives in high-growth technology businesses & the investment industry.

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2 powerful ways to get better at coaching your employees

The Coaching Habit: Say Less, Ask More & Change the Way You Lead Forever is one of the best books I’ve read for managers and leaders who want to use a coach approach with their employees but don’t have the time or inclination for formal training. It’s short on theory but long on practical tools and techniques that are a shot to the heart of great coaching.

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What is the difference between coaching & mentoring?

The words coaching and mentoring are often used interchangeably, though there are in fact important differences. In his book Coaching for Performance the late Sir John Whitmore, explains what the difference between coaching and mentoring is. Whitmore is the founder of the coaching movement in the UK. The book is widely considered to be the industry gold standard for performance based coaching.

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