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12 useful coaching questions based on the FIRO-B

Checkers Dessert Menu on Vinyl 3 by FredMikeRuby via FlickrPersonality questionnaires then and now

Almost a century ago, In the early flurrie of personality testing, it seems we were drawn to models that sorted us into types and then subdivided types with a secondary, intuitively appealing question such as what do we do under pressure, or what do we show and what do we want.

These days, we tend to describe personality along 5 lines.  We are regarded as having more-or-less extraversion, emotionality, openess, conscientiousness and agreeability.   We simply measure you on each and draw a ‘profile’ which we then reconstruct into a story you can understand.

Here is a version of the ‘Big Five’ from You Just Get Me.  As ever, long to fill out but with a cool interface.

Old Tests and Corporate Coaching

The older tests might be a lot clumsier in their formulation, and almost impossible to use in scientific models and investigations, but they are a lot easier for lay people to grasp and intuit.  We are also slow to change our ways and they are found in training rooms across the corporate world.

One very popular test is the Firo B.  We are measured on the extent to which we ask for or demand inclusion, control and affection and the extent to which we secretly want the same.  Some people, for example, will be inclusive to others but don’t  want a lot of inclusion themselves.  Others are the opposite.  They don’t include anyone but want to be included.  And so it is with control and affection too.

12 Coaching Questions

As a coaching tool, the FIRO-B leads to some good coaching questions that people find useful in understanding their style and preferences and how other people might experience them.

Preferences about inclusivity

If they are very including, they  can ask themselves whether they give others enough space?

If they are not including in their style and mannerism, do they ensure that everyone gets an equal chance to participate?

If they like to be included, they can ask themselves whether they expect others to seek their input unprompted and whether they take the trouble to ask for the input of others?

If they  don’t like to be included, do they meet with their team often enough to satisfy their needs?

Preferences for control

If I talk a lot about having everything organized and under control, do I also talk a lot about my ideas at the expense of the ideas of others?

If I am dismissive or disinterested in order and control, can I let people who like to be organized have their heads and set priorties?

If I have a strong need to be organized, do I regularly test whether it matters if a plan or arrangement is flexible or ambiguous?

I f I have a deep dislike for any order or organization, is it simply a personal need for independence or is there a real problem that should concern every one else too?

Preference for affection

If I am generally a very affectionate and expressive person, could I intrude less on others?

If I generally don’t welcome displays of affection and emotion, would it be possible to support and encourage others more

If I have a strong need for attention and interaction with others, am I too dependent on feedback on my work?

If I have little need for attention and interaction with others, does my emotional distance prevent me from being seen as supportive?

Use these questions at home!

Yes, do.  But don’t over-reflect.  The idea in coaching is to find something you can do that will bring greated comfort and effectiveness for both you and your colleagues.


Are you out of touch with the blooming of your life?

And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom

Anais Nin

I wonder when that time comes?

We fret when we are not blooming

I think we always know when the blooming is about to happen just as surely as some days we wake up and know we will tear through the to do list. But we can’t bloom all the time and when we aren’t blooming, we fret.

  • Some times we are anxious to flower before our time. We are not really ready to bloom. We are just anxious that we will miss the summer. We want reassurance like a child needs to know how many nights to Christmas.

Our sense of timing has gone missing. I am sure we could get it back with a few moments quiet contemplation or a five minutes of genuine listening to a friend’s distress.

  • Other times we are reluctant to bloom and we miss the summer. Sometimes we are not paying attention or we are trying to blackmail the world.

Maybe we need to “go out” and get in touch with the world to see if we notice the seasons changing. Maybe our friend needs a brief of fresh air or a change of scenery.

  • Other times we need to blossom but the weather is foul and we don’t want our fine petals to be cast into the wind.  We fret because we also know that there is no time other than now. “Conduct you blooming in the noise and crack of the whirlwind.” says Gwendolyn Brooks.

Maybe we stopping through vanity. Yes, we will be ragged and have no idea where our petals will fly. Maybe they will just lie unnoticed.

But it is time to bloom. And we can’t remain in a tight bud out of vanity.  It is time to burst into flower.

We always know when we are about to bloom

We will know when we are going to bloom anyway. Though we may have no applause.

No need to be vain. Bloom.

Autumn will come soon and we will be in another season of our lives.

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7 steps to network yourself into business opportunity

Network our way through the recession?

There is a funny video about Linkedin going the rounds that I found from @jackiecameron1.

Unemployed people sign up to Linkedin in a desert of jobs. Everyone is networked, but to each other, to no one has a job.

What use is networking if there are no employers in the group?

Networking is not hitching a ride!

What is very apparent in the rather delightful (and accurate) spoof  is that no one is doing anything.  Everyone is trying to hitch ride on everyone else!

Who in that network is trying to make anything happen? Who is inviting other people to help, even for free?

Networking out of a desert of jobs

To take the metaphor of the desert further, if anyone got the group organized to look for water, they might find some!

Why doesn’t anyone start some useful activity?

The simple answer is that no one there trusts anyone else. If they did, they would invite them to do something!

How do we begin to organize that group?

Here are 7 steps for organizing a group who seem to be out of ideas, out of resources and who don’t know each other well.

A  Show Confidence in Your People

#1 Begin!

#2 Be active.

Do something! Sit down and make a sandcastle! See who helps.

B Help Your People Gain Confidence in Each Other

#3 Change the sandcastle so that people are helping each other.

Move your position so that you are handing sand to the person building. When another person joins in, move to the the end of the line.

#4 Move the line slowly in the direction that seems most promising.

At the same time, get people to sing so that they become more aware that they are a group.

Keep your attention on the sandcastle by-the-way!  People are only going to be bothered with the sand castle if you are!

C Work with People Who Trust the Group

#5 Position a reliable person at the end of the line while you start a new line.

Make sure the person at the end of a line knows to sing out if they see anything unusual on the horizon.

D Bring Information About Opportunities Into the Group

#6 When someone sees something unusual on the horizon, don’t create a stampede.

Move the whole bicycle wheel, by changing the direction that the sand moves. Move the sandcastle builder to the other end and reverse the direction of sand. In an orderly way, move the other spokes. Keep it playful!

E We Are All In This Together

#7 Continue and continue!

You might decide to abandon your group and go it alone.  Yes, it might be slow moving the group along and it might feel as if the group is slowing you up.  But aren’t your chances of finding water higher in an organized group looking out for each other?

It is easier to think straight when things are really bad

It sometimes feel that deserts are too much to cope with.  I am also going to tell you that deserts are better than abandoned farm land. You are lucky. Yes, you are!

Let’s imagine, you simply find yourself in a abandoned but essentially sound farm.  You don’t start building a useless sandcastle. You do something useful.  You start to plough the land and plant seeds.  The difficulty is that you have now fixed your group to that field.  You will be unable to move slowly across the horizon to a better place.  In modern parlance, your solution is not scalable!

That’s why I like the idea of deserts.  We are willing to abandon sandcastles and rebuild them elsewhere.

When you chose your seed project, build something, anything, where we can see results and where we can all help! Keep the projects short and sweet so that people can see results and move them as we spot other things on the horizon.

Experiments in extreme living

What I want you to do is to build something with the resources under your feet.  And invite someone else to join in.

When the person joins in, give them a prime spot and support them.  Invite another person.  Keep building.

That’s is the challenge. That is the task!

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Gloom-and-doom is catchy! Ask 3 questions to find a positive spot in the recession

An example of a social network diagram.
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Back on February 6, when it was snowing, I made a list of 5 “recession speeds”.  In February, people were angry but not really doing anything constructive about restructuring their businesses.

  1. I am lucky. My business is OK.  People need us no matter what.
  2. This crisis is outrageous.  I take every opportunity to tell decision-makers.
  3. I have cut out all luxuries.  I’ll see this through by keeping my head down.
  4. I’ll wait and see.  I am optimistic that everything will work out all right.
  5. I am systematically reviewing my business looking for new opportunities and new alliances.

Mid-October, 8 months on, people are much clearer about how the recession will effect them.  At least, that uncertainty has resolved.

But few people seem to have any idea how to restructure.  They are just “hanging-in” or “working harder”.  The odd firm is booming but is not quite clear why!

Social networks affect on our attitude to the recession

In February, I also asked 3 questions about our social networks.

I want to ask these questions again because in the last 8 months, the media have publicized the network effects of happiness.  We all now know that we are more likely to be happy or sad, fat or slim, if our friends are.

And if our friends’ friends are -even if we don’t know them!

How much is your attitude to the recession affected by your friends?

  • Who are the 3 people on whom you most depend?
  • What is their recession speed?
  • How much does your recession speed help them, and how much does their recession speed help you?

I know I am positive because the business associates on whom I depend most are thriving.  Others are being resolute.  And I can avoid negative people with relative ease.

I’d love to know you situation and if these questions help you clarify any of your plans?

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10 questions I ask about a venture’s readiness to win

Fast Break

There is nothing I relish more than a “fast break”. I love the way that we can turn a rebound into a few deft passes and race the opposition to a slam dunk.

Carpe diem ! Sieze the day!

Can you take the Fast Break when it comes?

The conditions are right. The rewards are there.

Are we organized to dispatch our fast break specialist, take that rebound and pass it down the court, with ball and fast break specialist arriving together – right foot down, left down, into the air, done! 2 points?

Are we organized?

Well, there are the permanent spectators in life.  There are some who have a go, but don’t really get it.

And there are some who understand the game.  They get ready in advance.  They practice with others.  And when the opportunity breaks, they are running immediately, moving at speed in coordination with their prepared team, and they score. Sweet!

What are you ready for?

1.  What is the equivalent of the ball and the equivalent of the basket in your business?  2. What do you win by putting the ball in the basket?

And when you can tell me that, tell me this.

  • 3.  Who is working with you? 4.  And who must you outpace to pull this off?
  • 5.  What is the signal that sends the fast-break specialist off?  6.  Who is taking the ball off the back-board?  7.  Who is the play-maker (mid-fielder) in the middle?
  • 8.  When do you train together?  9.  When do you celebrate your wins?   10.  How long will you play together?

10 questions . . . oh, but do remember this is a game.   When we are straining too hard, to get this done, it is time for a coffee break to think again.

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Let’s bring the light back to our eyes

Picture of a {{MultiLink|Daffodil}} ({{BioLink...
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Until today, I’ve always asked people about ‘flow’, activities which we love so much that we lose track of time.  Every one knows what these are, of course, because we run late and get into trouble!

You should try asking people! It usually takes no more than 5 minutes to get a young person’s eyes to light up with delight as they recall what they love doing.

But then ask how they will make a living and their eyes dull over as they contemplate what worries them most.

How can we find the place where our deep gladness and the world’s hunger meets?

In days gone by, to find that place, we used to join an organization. The transitions between the stages of our lives where quite abrupt. We went to school where we knew people. Then we went to university and college where we started again. Then we did the same when we went to work.

With each change, we could trust the organization to provide the place where our own passions and the world’s needs met.

That’s no longer the case. Our careers have become less a set of “steps in a staircase” and more a trumpet shape as we take our deep gladness and expand it like a daffodil in bloom to ever widening interaction with the world.

I used to think I was quite innovative about honing in so quickly and easily on our experience of flow – the activities that bring the light to our eyes – our deep gladness.

I’m glad I do that. But it is not enough.

I also have to ask

  • Who did you talk to today?
  • What did you do or say that gave you immense pleasure and that was also appreciated by the other person?

It’s around this frontier that we can build a portfolio for a successful career.

Can young people tell me about the place where their deep gladness and the world’s hunger meets?

I must ask them.  What will be the points of recognition?  What is the equivalent of losing track of time?  What body language tells us that we have found this place?

Can anyone help me?

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Can I give you some feedback?

An irritated face at my door

Some one came in to my office and said to me: can I give you some feedback?  Yes, of course I said.  Sit down.  Would you like a cup of tea?

My interlocutor had though, absolutely no intention of giving me feedback about anything.

Feedback is not about me

Feedback means the distance between where we are and the goal we want to achieve.  And preferably, contains information that allows us to steer towards the goal.

If my interlocutor had such information, they should not have been keeping it to themselves.  That would be poor team play indeed.  And if they really had feedback about our joint goals, why would this be cause for embarrassment?

Oh, you have a complaint?

Of course, my interlocutor really wants to make a complaint.  They feel annoyed or irritated with me about something.  And as these are rather hostile emotions, they feel embarrassed.

No one likes to feel embarrassed, so they’ve become indignant and righteous instead.

Am I feeling playful?

Now if I were in a mischievious mood, I could let them sweat.  But as I wasn’t, I thought I would let them off the hook of their own anger.  Grab a chair, have a cup of tea, and tell me all about it.

Anger is such difficult emotion

It can be so difficult to give up anger.  Anger is to do with status.  Someone has ‘dissed us’ and we want our status restored.  So often we want nothing else.  Just an apology, an acknowledgment, and a sense that we are appreciated.

But it is too embarrassing to begin the conversation – you dissed me – so we dress up our anguish in other terms.

So feedback was just a request for an apology?

Of course, sometimes there is more to someone’s complaint than anger.  And we can address whatever specific issues arise.

But most times, the redress and correction is easily done.  What’s really wanted is for status to be restored.

How was that cup of tea?  Do you feel better?

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Celebrating my supporters

It’s barely daylight

Today, my mobile phone woke me rudely “It is time to get up: it is 5.30”.  Groan.  Another commute.  Another day.

But I didn’t get up.  I’ve stopped doing that.

I don’t want to stagger through life making someone else’s dreams come true.  I want to make my own dreams come true!

Ah, dreams  . .

Is it possible?  For dreams to be not dreams?

Perhaps not in the blink of an eye.  And certainly not if I panic when I look at the gap between where I am now and where I want to be.

But I can ask myself this question:

Who would like to support me in my quest?  Who would take the greatest of pleasure in helping me along the way?

I smile.  And I hope you do too!


The first steps together?

Ideas whose time has come

I had an email today from someone I worked with a long time ago.  It was interesting.  Though we have barely been in touch, many of us who worked together ten years’ ago have pursued similar interests in different corners of the globe.

Great minds think alike?

The loneliness of the corporation executive

I don’t think my old friend reads my blog, but we were thinking alike yesterday too.

Yesterday, I wrote:

What do we trust each other absolutely and entirely to do?

His brief note on Facebook said that he feels optimistic about the future of the world economy but depressed by the ‘ostriches’ around him

Are we agreed?

There is plenty of opportunity.  Our task is to find the ‘sweet spots’ where people feel they can take the first step together?


Sing and dance to the music of the recession!

Denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance & the financial crisis

Over the last one -and-a-quarter years, since the run on Northern Rock, I’ve been making a concerted effort to understand the credit crunch, the financial crisis and the recession.  The nature of understanding big, bad events is that we are so busy trying to understand them that we have little time to reflect.

Typically, we follow a five stage process.

  • First, we deny the crisis either saying “I’m OK – it doesn’t affect me” or conversely ranting “This can’t be happening.”
  • Then we move on to anger, when we are quite clear we are not to blame and that someone else such as politicians and bankers should be punished for getting us in to our mess.
  • When we are a bit further along, we work out what will stay the same in our lives and what we can can cut out.
  • The next stage is to resign ourselves to our mess dragging on for twenty years or so,  and we are actually secretly relieved because if the mess is that big, there is nothing you and I, ordinary Joe citizen, can do about it.
  • And eventually we begin to dig beneath the surface of the crisis and, in this case, set about upgrading our financial know-how and skills.

Where are you?  And where are the people around you?

My job as a psychologist

I have a page where I store good, accessible explanations of how we got into the financial crisis and I will expand it to include the financial know-how that you and I should have.

Being a psychologist though, I think it is my job to bring to your attention key psychological ideas that equip you for understanding the recession and the ways we react to it.

  • The first psychological idea in this post is described in the at the beginning.  We often respond to bad news in five rough stages of denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance.  We go through these stages when we hear of the sudden death of a loved one.  And we are going through similar stages as we get our heads around the idea that our financial system has been subject to a the equivalent of a major earthquake.
  • The second psychological idea in this post is that objective knowledge matters.  Positive psychology emphasizes that our attitude to a problem makes a big difference.  It does, and I will return to that in other posts.   But objective information matters too.  It is foolish to pretend that a large box isn’t heavy.  We are much better off when we understand the principle of levers.  We do need to take charge of our education about the financial system.  We clearly did not understand it well enough to play our role as informed voters, wise buyers and sellers of stocks and shares, and savvy consumers of mortgages and credit cards.
  • The third psychological idea is the one I wanted to highlight today because I think it will be key to the mental housekeeping required to come to terms with the recession.

In the west, we have a weird idea that time is linear

Of course, we ‘know’ that yesterday was before today and today comes before tomorrow.  Unfortunately our separation of time into yesterday, today and tomorrow, has some peculiar side effects.   This works in two ways.

  • In good times, we spend like mad and rack up debt.   We take ‘Carpe Diem‘ or ‘seize the day’ far too far.   Tomorrow features insufficiently in our thinking about today, and when tomorrow comes, we are in a mess.
  • Equally, in bad times, we look ahead, see a diminished tomorrow, and we feel dejected.  In short, we bring tomorrow far too much into today.

This inability to act appropriately in time is an inability to ‘give unto Ceasar’ or to accept that ‘for everything there is a season’.  The net effect is that we enjoy life a lot less.  We also rack up unhealthy deficits and one day we wake up very disappointed with our lives and where we have taken ourselves.

And then we are into the five stage process I described at the outset. This cannot be happening. It is not my fault.  OK, I will compromise.  Oh, this is impossible.  And then ultimately: OK, I’d better get on and understand this.

Are you acquainted with philosopher Alan Watts?

At the end of this post is a video presentation, about 3 minutes long, that accompanies the late English philosopher, Alan Watts, talking about the way we confuse time.

He begins “you get into kindegarten, then you get into first grade  .  .   .”  And ends, life “was a musical thing and you were supposed to dance or sing while the music was being played”.

Do watch it!

I grew up in a competitive culture so this resonated with me.  I have long protested that we should let 3 year olds be 3, and 18 years olds be 18.  Preparing for the next year is part of a 3 year old’s experience but it is not all of their task.  And being 3 should never be dreary.  Nor should being 84!

Recessions are simply part of life

Like preparing for a test or examination, they are there to be enjoyed (!) along with all the other activities that come at the same stage.

It takes time to work through the five stages of our reaction to bad news.  And we work through at different paces.  So we need to be patient with ourselves and each other.  But we also do need to resolve not to become stuck at any stage.

We may be in for a long and difficult time in this financial crisis.  What I am suggesting is that we sing and dance to the music nonetheless!

Come with me!

Here is the link to this great presentation accompanying Alan Watts.  Do enjoy it and have a good weekend!  There is a season for everything!

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