Coaching win for fe3 with 14-18 NOW

Coaching business win

fe3 has been awarded a coaching contract with the Imperial War Museum, working with the 14-18 NOW programme team.

14-18 NOW is the UK’s arts programme for the First World War centenary.

Working with arts and heritage partners from across the UK, the 14-18 NOW team is responsible for commissioning new artworks from leading contemporary artists, musicians, designers and performers, inspired by the First World War.

A choice of coaches

Karen Drury, Director of fe3 Limited, is working with Doreen Foster, formerly deputy director of Black Cultural Archives, Brixton, and previously Chief Executive, Bernie Grant Arts Centre, Tottenham. Karen commented:

“We’ve combined our expertise of career and development coaching to offer the 14-18 NOW team a choice of coaches as they begin to think about their next roles. We believe that Doreen’s significant experience in the world of the arts, and mine in career coaching will offer these talented and dedicated individuals a great springboard for their career development.”

The contract will last until September 2019.


Coaching contract win for fe3

A recent tender for a coaching programme has enabled fe3 to expand into the North of the country.  The company has been awarded a coaching contract with International Nuclear Services for senior executives and middle managers, scheduled to last for three years.

Time of growth

Director Karen Drury said:

“Obviously we’re delighted with this contract win, which will support the development of senior and middle management in a time of great growth for the nuclear industry.  It adds to our existing coaching work with Civil Service Learning and the College of Policing, plus our individual client work.”

Karen will be joined in the work by associate Charlie Phelps.

Is there a limit to creativity? An article for HR Zone

Creativity is a big thing in organisations – it influences, apparently, everything from individual productivity to product innovation, from financial performance to competitive edge.

It’s widely seen as a driver for growth and development, enabling companies to thrive in dynamic environments. Without it, technology companies in particular would be out of business in no time.

Academics and practitioners have been studying creativity since the mid-1950s in the guise of communication and problem solving. Creativity research has experienced a resurgence of late as the pace of technological development demands more new ideas, focusing mainly on Amabile et al’s 1996 definition of creativity as the generation of ‘novel and useful’ ideas.

But can everyone be creative?

Read the rest of the article here.

Remote workers – out of sight, out of mind? An article for HRZone


When remote working was introduced, it was hailed as a step forward in work-life balance. For many people, it is, enabling them to combine caring responsibilities and work more easily. Organisations saw it as a way to benefit employees as well as cutting costs.

Nortel estimates that they save $100,000 per employee they don’t have to relocate and some studies quote average real estate savings with full-time telework is $10,000/employee/year.

A mixed picture

However, research on the impact of remote working on employees is decidedly mixed. As well as the benefits, academics have identified issues from an increasing sense of isolation, to a fear of being passed over for promotion.

IBM, according to one respondent in a study, stands for ‘I’m By Myself’. People miss the sense of community, and the richness of collaboration.

Work intensification, where employees work harder and longer hours than office-based staff, has been noted as a by-product in numerous studies, even those that also found increases in job satisfaction for employees based at home. This will be exacerbated when working across time zones.

New issues – old solutions?

The issues of virtual teams are well-documented – top of the list comes communication and trust, common themes in the organisational and management literature­­­. The reasoning for communication issues is that if you can’t see the non-verbal cues in the communication, complete information has not been exchanged.

The potential risks with communication may account for findings in the literature about conflict in virtual teams; with less face to face interaction, not only is it more difficult to fix the issues, but they may stay hidden for longer.

And conflict itself may be a different thing. Being mad and frustrated with Fred in a video conference call might be different from being mad and frustrated with Fred when he’s right in front of you.

It’s not clear if this is properly understood by managers, and organisations may be trying to solve a new and different issue with old tools.

Unintended consequences

As organisations shrink their office space and set up workers to work elsewhere, they may not realise that distance may impact the relationship they have with their employees.

For example, a strong corporate culture may be more difficult to maintain. The development of culture comes primarily through social interaction between employee and other co-workers. This transmits shared beliefs, values and perceptions. Being remote may make it more difficult to learn ‘how things are done around here’.

Corporate culture seems also to place a lot of emphasis on the visible – dress, behavioural norms, symbols. These things are constrained for remote workers, who need to rely instead on the psychological, rather than the physical dimensions of their organisation.

Closely linked to culture is the concept of employee identity. This is associated with numerous organisational benefits such as organisational citizenship, intent to stay and supervisor satisfaction.

However, the level of employee identity, although flexible, is predicted by the extent of contact between the individual and the organisation, and the visibility of organisational membership, usually displayed through logos, building architecture, uniforms, rituals and ceremonies.

It’s easy to see that working remotely impacts the organisation’s ability to continue this connection.

Time for a new approach?

Some of the issues may be improved through training and better thinking. It would be interesting, for example, to see if organisations coach people on how to work remotely, explaining expectations (both employee and employer) and covering time management.

It would be equally interesting to see how many management training courses focus on the difference between leading remote workers and leading those based in the office. Not many, I imagine.

Here are a couple of key differences:

For remote workers, communication is generally all about the project – they miss the coffee-station/corridor/over lunch chats which will flavour their feelings about work and their employer, let alone spark new ideas. 

  • So, to fulfil that social and informal agenda, you may need to build in more time to communicate

Being apart from the physical organisation may create for remote workers a sense of having limited influence.

  • To counter this, ensure communication mechanisms can accommodate the voice of the remote worker, an important element of the employee-employer relationship. Remember – two-way does not automatically mean email!

For good or ill, it seems remote working is here to stay. Interestingly, the maximum benefits are gained when remote working is part time; meta studies indicate that a maximum of three days appears to create most productivity and worker satisfaction.

For those workers who don’t have that choice, it may be that organisations need to work harder at maintaining the connections.

After all, for a virtual worker, the costs of leaving an organisation they no longer see or feel seen by, will be fairly small.


This article was featured in HRZone on April 11 2017




Change – but the right change


I’m a Dilbert fan, primarily because among the often caustic comments, there’s always more than a grain of truth.

This one reminds me of my coaching practice.

Clients often come to me with the wrong idea about what they want to change. They’ve got an initial thought – it’s my time management, it’s my boss, it’s my job – but what I’ve found time and time again is that, deep down, this is not what they want to alter. What it is, is a presenting symptom.

The way I work drills down into what really should be different, which will make a long-term difference to the way they feel about themselves, about their role, their job.

For example, one client came to me recently saying that their CV wasn’t getting them the interviews they thought they deserved.

The CV issues were easily dealt with, but what was at the heart of the issue wasn’t whether to put a profile summary at the start of the document. What was at the heart of the change was the way in which the client felt about themselves after a disastrous experience when they were asked to do the impossible with no support. This ‘leaked’ into everything else, through the words on the page and doubtless into the way they spoke to new companies.

Working out what the change needs to be is at the heart of effective coaching.

It’s pointless spending time on something which won’t make a real and long-term difference. Often more than one coaching session is spent finding out what the client really wants to work on.

The second message is that if you want to achieve something different, you need to do it differently. Coaching is the most personal kind of change, and it requires effort to succeed.

While stopping everything you currently do might not be the answer, stopping some of the things you do will almost certainly be required. Part of the job of coaching is to be a cheerleader for the client’s success in doing this or to support them in making the changes.

But the key skill of the coach is to help people concentrate on the right things.


The taboo of discussing pay – a good thing or a bad thing?

As collaboration becomes ever-more essential in the workplace, some might consider the move towards greater openness inevitable.  But perhaps not on pay.

Just last year, a salesman at Lacoste in New York was fired for posting his wage slip on social media.

Discussing your pay been a taboo among many businesses for as long as I can remember, but I wonder as the workplace changes with the impact of Millennial workers and new technology, if such secrecy is called for.

We don’t have much to guide our thinking.  Academic research on the subject is remarkably scarce – well, it is secret – and it doesn’t seem to be a uniform phenomenon.  What research there is indicates that the well paid would rather keep their payslips close to their chests; the less well-paid appear to talk more openly about it – but possibly only to complain.

The research is not only contradictory but also fairly difficult to compare.  Studies look at perceptions and employee outcomes from pay secrecy, but they look at slightly different variables.  And therefore, they reach different conclusions.

Of course, at the coal face, business managers might have plenty of reasons to forbid employees to discuss salary or share it with others.   For a start, unless organisations have a highly rational process for setting pay bands and giving pay rises, transparency can lead to an awful lot of explaining.  This doesn’t even touch on employees’ own sense of betrayal and disgruntlement if they find a colleague is getting paid more than they are for ostensibly the same role.

Business might also argue that comparing salaries might also lead to a more competitive workplace.  More openness about salary levels could encourage new recruits to see the published salaries as a starting point for negotiation, thus increasing the salary bill as a whole every time a new employee arrives.

A key point about pay secrecy of course is the opportunity it gives for increasing pay inequality by the back door.  Confidentiality of pay enables companies to hide different ranges of salary for different nationalities and gender – it’s a moot point whether the current secrecy around salaries is contributing to the pay gap between men and women for the same job.

Of course, those in the public sector may point to published salary bands for senior civil servants as proof of their transparency; but The Fawcett Society’s recent review of women’s pay ( ) concludes that although the gap between men and women’s pay is smaller in the public sector (13.6% as opposed to 19.9% in the private sector) – it is still there.

In addition, if there’s no information about salaries, employees may make it up. And it is their perception, rather than the reality, of equity in their compensation that will impact their motivation.

Those who advocate that salaries are made public point out that although the empirical evidence collected by academics is scarce, it does indicate that pay secrecy is associated with low morale and employee dissatisfaction.  More recent and practical commentators (e.g. Pimlico Plumbers, ) believe that once salary information is out, people stop worrying about it as an issue.  Not knowing how your worth is valued in the organisation comparative to other colleagues creates uncertainty, and people are generally motivated to reduce uncertainty or the discomfort that arises from it.  So you can almost guarantee that employees who are uncertain about their relative pay (and relative worth to the company) will keep looking for information, spending energy on it that they might otherwise put into their work.

Also, does pay secrecy impact on the wider frame of organisational trust?  Once upon a time, employees might safely assume that organisations were making efforts in good faith to provide equitable compensation.  But media attention on the huge discrepancies between senior executive pay and the average, and a variety of corporate fraud scandals have significantly undermined trust in business.

Employees may not only be suspicious, but the lack of information about their relative pay may further undermine their trust in their employer.  Trust is essential to employee engagement and if engagement is at historically low levels in business, this might help to explain why.

It may be that pay secrecy is more about the inability of organisations to properly define the value produced by different jobs than it is about a need to keep compensation secret.   But haven’t organisations a duty to ensure that pay is equal and fair?  And doesn’t this mean an understanding about what value actually means?

Proponents of open compensation systems believe they encourage justifiable salary decisions and help employees understand why they earn what they do.   There are costs for organisations, of course.

These costs include a robust method of promotion and evaluation to ensure equitable decisions are made, more effective communication about the criteria for pay and merit awards, and the willingness to enter into real dialogue with employees about their worth and value to the organisation.

However, few organisations take this attitude to pay, which begs the question “Why?”