Coaching and Mentoring for ALS Teachers in the ALS Teachers’ Summit 2018

Last November 22, 2018, I had the wonderful opportunity of being one of the resource persons for the first ever ALS Teachers’ Summit 2018 sponsored by the Cebuana Lhullier Foundation, Inc. (CFLI) in partnership with the Department of Education (DepEd).  The partnership was established by CFLI in 2013 with the DepEd.  CFLI adopts local government units and public schools to make ALS available in their area.

“ALS” stands for Alternative Learning System (ALS) and is a parallel education system that is an option for those who do not or cannot have access to the Philippine formal education system.  ALS provides Academic, Livelihood, Spiritual and Social Education to former out-of-school youth and adults in the elementary and secondary levels.  Mobile ALS Teachers provide the alternative education and, at the secondary level, this is aimed at preparing youth and adults to take and pass the Junior High School and Senior High School equivalency tests, respectively.  Equipped with the knowledge and skills at said equivalency levels, test passers are helped to become more job-ready.

First ALS Teachers’ Summit 2018 Sponsored by Cebuana Lhuiller Foundation, Inc. in partnership with the Department of Education

Back to the summit, the overall intention of the summit was to provide ALS Teachers more opportunities for personal and professional development.  One day during the 2-day summit was devoted to helping them learn more about Coaching and Mentoring skills for ALS teachers and how they can use these to help youth and adults develop their full potential.  The role of teachers as coaches and mentors was explored and a coaching and mentoring approaches and skills were discussed.

We started with differentiating several helping modalities as these are often confused with one another.  The most succinct points that sums up the difference that I’ve found so far are the following.  In a nutshell…

  • Coaching is about generative change and enabling self actualization
  • Mentoring is about guiding from experience
  • Consulting is about giving advice and expertise
  • Training is about teaching and drilling in new skills
  • Counseling and therapy is about remedial change, i.e., solving problems, healing hurts, resolving traumas and building up ego-strength so the person gets up to average and becomes “okay“
    (L. Michael Hall, Ph.D.)

The GROW/TGROW Performance Coaching Model (John Whitmore) and the Narrative Coaching Model (Dr. David Drake) were introduced and discussed.  GROW/TGROW stands for Goals, Reality, Options, Way Forward, and T stands for Topic. GROW/TGROW is an approach for guiding a coaching conversation and may be used to guide a mentoring conversation as well.  Narrative Coaching “is a mindful, experiential, and holistic approach that helps people shift their stories about themselves, others, and life itself to create new possibilities and new results.

We live our lives according to the stories we tell ourselves and the stories that others tell about us.” (John M. Winslade and Gerald D. Monk, 2007.)

One insight during the interactions with ALS teachers is that more felt that the Narrative Coaching approach can support them more in helping out-of-school youth and adults, who typically come from disadvantaged backgrounds, to re-author the stories of their lives to develop and strengthen their positive self-esteem and self-confidence.  The stories we tell about ourselves and the stories that others tell about us are very powerful indeed, and often the impact they have on our thinking, feelings, choices and actions, remain blind spots for many who are clueless about their influence.

For example, an illiterate 15 year old youth may not have the motivation nor confidence to learn how to read and how to do simple math, believing that these are beyond his abilities. Such a limiting self-belief may continue to be perpetuated with his self talk and stories about himself that learning is beyond him and that he does not have what it takes to learn.  Stories about the times he tried but just did not learn are those that are most salient in his mind.  Others in his life may have the same beliefs about him expressed as stories about his lack of ability, motivation, and so on. Such stories also being most salient in their minds.  The vicious cycle continues and he has given up on himself.

With the help of an ALS teacher using a Narrative approach, he can explore areas where he may have higher self confidence, demonstrated the ability to learn, how these came to be, and how these may be resources for him to tap in learning how to read and do simple math.  Exploring events and interactions in his life which showed that he does have abilities for learning and many other skills, helps him create new stories about himself as a person with abilities that he may not have realized until this time.  The process goes on to “thicken the plot” of his new story that he is able and helps him to make new choices, including applying himself to his studies.  Enlisting the support of others in his family and environment are critical as well if creating new stories and making them stick.

The focus of coaching and mentoring is always supporting the “client” (a.k.a., “person coached” or “coachee” and/or “mentee” or “protege”) in achieving the outcomes that s/he has for herself/ himself.  Helping clients in discovering, exploring and realizing their fuller potential is what coaching and mentoring is about.  Coaching is about helping someone to learn instead of teaching them. Mentoring, on the other hand, may include advising and teaching someone by the mentor sharing their experiences.

Opening the ALS Teachers’ Summit 2018 are Pebbles Muñiz, Manager and Program Head for Education Education and Special Projects Department and Jonathan Batangan, Executive Director of Cebuana Lhuillier Foundation, Inc.
Vicky Mandap, Resource Person on Well-Being and Self-Care, Betty Narvaez, Training Manager, PJ Lhuillier, Inc., Maricar Testa, Resource Person for Coaching and Mentoring, and Jonathan Batangan, Executive Director of Cebuana Lhuiller Foundation, Inc.

To learn more about Cebuana Lhuillier Foundation, Inc. and its advocacy on education and the Alternative Learning System (ALS), visit the Cebuana Lhuillier Alternative Learning System website at http://cebuanalhuillierals.com/.

To learn more about the Alternative Learning System (ALS) in the Department of Education (DepEd), visit DepEd web page on ALS at http://www.deped.gov.ph/k-to-12/inclusive-education/alternative-learning-system/.

Mentoring in Hack4PH

It’s been way over a decade since we in Accenture Philippines, then Andersen Consulting Philippines, started advocating for eGovernment.  Singapore and Malaysia  were more aggressive in following the lead of developed countries in launching initiatives and projects to use technology to make government more citizen-centered and the provision of services more convenient and cost-effective.

Finally, with the government portal and Hack4PH initiatives led by the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT), eGovt in the Philippines may just gain traction.  No doubt, eGovernment may still be a long way off.  Nevertheless, taking more steps now in harnessing the creativity of our young millennials, and partnering them with investors to power up tech start-ups, can move the Philippines forward.

It was great to have a bit of opportunity to mentor some of the participants/ groups about possible business models for the sustainability of their initial ideas/concepts on eGovt service offerings using the platform and tools proposed by the DICT for the government portal. Excited to learn more about which groups were selected during their pitch today and demonstration of working prototypes.

Hack4PH is an initiative of the National government Portal (gov.ph), in partnership with the Asian Institute of Management (AIM) and the Asian Development Bank (ADB).

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At that time, way back when, Accenture had already pioneered and established knowhow in Knowledge Management to enable its consultants to contribute knowledge capital from client work, as well as to support its consultants in designing, developing and executing more innovative solutions for its clients.

The Accenture Government Market Unit Knowledge Management organization supporting the government consulting practice globally was set up in Accenture Philippines as part of the firm’s strategy.  It’s role was to review and repackage knowledge capital contributed by consultants from the field to make these more useful and easily retrievable to help consultants create even better solutions.

To learn more about Hack4PH, click on this link: Hack4PH: The 1st Philippine e-Government Innovation Challenge.

Hoping to Make a Positive Difference by Teaching in Development Management Programs

These past few weeks have been truly inspiring and heartwarming given more opportunities to teach and facilitate programs at the Asian Institute of Management’s Zuellig School of Development Management (ZSDM). Teaching also brings with it many opportunities for informal coaching and mentoring. Teaching in AIM’s Development Management Programs is a small way of making a difference in the lives of Filipino Development Managers who are at the front line of initiatives, programs and projects aimed at addressing gaps and bridging social, economic, educational and other divides in the communities we live in.  

In the Leadership for Project Management for Development, Philippine Air Force (PAF) personnel were keenly interested in learning to improve their project management skills to bear on the implementation of PAF’s Strategic Plan “Plan Velocity Portfolio of Strategic Initiatives.”  We don’t usually think about our military, or at least I don’t, and it was encouraging to learn that they care a lot about protecting our country and  have strategies and plans to improve our air force. The Philippines’ being an archipelago, the air force is an important resource to quickly reach areas that are not easily reached by land or water specially in times of a disaster and when help must be quickly provided to affected communities.

Leadership in Project Management for Development Managers, Philippine Air Force
Zuellig School of Development Management, Asian Institute of Management

In the 17th Leadership and Management of Change for Development Managers, Bridging Leadership Framework, we had very young teachers from Teach for the Philippines, a non-profit organization “…that works to provide all Filipino children with access to relevant and excellent education.”  Their passion for making a positive difference and strong advocacy for providing quality education for the Filipino youth was very inspiring.

While the “Bridging Leadership” projects varied from improving access to feeding programs, providing better sex education to youth in communities where this is still taboo, or providing quality information about how to avoid HIV and extend assistance to its victims, they all shared the goal of improving the lives of children and youth affected.  Listening to their ongoing or planned social change projects to bridge social divides in their schools and communities gives us hope that we have many young talented leaders who have a strong public service calling.  

We had some participants from businesses as well, and one of the “Bridging Leadership” projects a learning team wanted to address was how to help the Badjaos who have been dislocated from their homes by the sea and relocated to Pampanga.  While help was being given by the local government, apparently many Badjaos were dropping out, thus the need to look more closely into what might be better approaches and services to help them live a quality life with dignity in locations that are foreign to their roots.

17th Leadership and Management of Change for Development Managers
Zuellig School of Development Management, Asian Institute of Management

In the 2nd Leadership in Project Management for Development Managers, we have our leaders from local government units, non-profit organizations, and businesses.  Designing development projects aimed at providing quality services to the public and getting these sufficiently funded require well thought out designs using the logical framework approach and problem tree analysis among other tools, whether these involve completing a new stretch of roads to connect an island like Tawi-Tawi from end-to-end, addressing environmental issues like perennial flooding due to rains and high tides coupled with land subsidence in Macabebe, Pampanga and neighboring provinces, municipalities and towns, or continuing improvement in rehabilitation facilities and programs for youth offenders in post-siege Zamboanga.

2nd Leadership in Project Management for Development Managers
Zuellig School of Development Management, Asian Institute of Management

More power to everyone on their journeys of lifelong learning for better results and outcomes in their development projects!

The Stories of Our Lives

A new journey that I started in 2018 was to learn more about Narrative Coaching. Taking the 6-month live virtual Enhanced Narrative Coach Practicioner Program of Dr. David Drake helped me realize that the stories we have and tell about ourselves, and those that others tell about us, are very powerful influences in our lives.

When the stories are “problem saturated,” transforming them into positive stories can make a huge difference in who we become and how things turn out. The origins of Narrative Coaching, as well as Narrative Counseling, spring from Narrative Therapy. Lucky for us who are keenly interested in learning more about Narrative approaches, tools and techniques, so that we can use these in helping others discover and achieve more of their potential, there are many resources available. One is the Dulwich Centre, Australia, that offers a free introductory course on Narrative Therapy.

One resource in the Centre that can help us realize the power of stories is the TED talk by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie about “The Danger of a Single Story.” One key point is that there is never a single story about a place or a person, and to the extent that we blindly swallow and repeat single problem saturated stories, without ever questioning them, and without digging deeper and wider to learn about different perspectives and alternative realities, we perpetuate misunderstanding. Worse, we may be ignorantly and unfairly destroying others.

There are many stories we create about places, about ourselves, others, and just about anything. In the context of narrative practice, “stories consists of events, linked in sequence, across time, according to a plot” (Alice Morgan, 2000. What is narrative therapy?: An easy-to-read introduction (Gecko 2000) First Edition Edition.)

The power that we have over our stories is that we can re-story, that is, we can choose to create new stories that open new possibilities that can lead to a better future instead of staying stuck in destructive stories. As one colleague put it, “you are not your story.” A story is just a story, and we can break free from bad ones and pivot to new ones.

In the context of family, a lesson for parents is that you must carefully choose the stories you tell about your children, for the seeds of growth or destruction are nascent in such stories. Start with a negative plot line and highlight only negative events over and over, and the pattern will surely lead to a downward spiral. Instead, look for alternative positive plot lines, enrich these plots with positive events, and you have taken control over creating a brighter future.

This one TED Talk can make a difference for us and for others if we let the key messages sink in and stop mindlessly, or worse, maliciously repeating problem saturated stories that may just be based on mistaken assumptions to begin with.

We may have all been at the receiving end of single stories, as well as perpetrators of such stories. If we own that we are part of the problem, then we can begin to choose to take a different and constructive course of action.

Any change takes an open mind, an open heart, and an open will, to borrow from Otto Scharmer’s Theory U.

So, what are your stories about yourself and about others? What would be more positive stories instead?

How to Make the Most of Your Coaching Sessions

Your company has engaged a professional coach for its leaders and high potentials and you are one of them.  How do you make the most of this investment in your personal and professional growth?  Here are a few tips to consider:

  • In the context of your job role and career in the organization, reflect on your strengths and areas for development based on past and present,  formal and informal feedback, from your superiors, peers, and direct reports.  Identify possible developmental goals you may want to be coached on by your professional coach.
  • Talk to your executive sponsors about what they see as your strengths and areas for development that they would like you to be coached on, Take note of where your and their perspectives may be similar or different. Ask questions to better understand the perspective of your executive sponsor and share your own views as well.  Ask about what specifically they would like to see change and improve as outcomes of coaching.
  • If the company invested in a 360 feedback survey as an input to your receiving coaching, learn as much as you can about the tool and what feedback were given to you by the people you selected to be your 360 respondents. Keep an open mind and receive all feedback as the gifts that they are, both positive and negative.  You may not agree with the feedback, nevertheless, that is how you show up to the 360 survey respondents.
  • Remember that our intentions do not always manifest in ways that others perceive them. Sometimes, if not often, there may be disconnects between our intentions and the perceptions people have about us and our actions.  Areas where there are huge disconnects between our self perceptions and that of others are helpful places to start our reflection on how come there are these gaps and what actions we can take, things we can do differently (e.g., start, stop, continue doing), to bridge these gaps.
  • Identify the initial top three priorities you need and would like to be coached on by your professional coach and build agreement with your executive sponsors about these.  If it’s too soon to have specific goals at the start of the coaching, that’s fine. The initial coaching sessions can focus on deepening your awareness and understanding of the situation you are in and what makes sense to work on with your coach.
  • Between coaching sessions, be sure to work on whatever assignment or actions you agreed to do with your coach, and learn what you can from these.  No excuses.  Being a more self-motivated and self-directed adult learner, you take responsibility for yourself. Keep a learning journal to write your questions, perceptions, ideas and insights that can help you move forward with your intentions and goals.

We are all always learning, and brain research shows that we continue to rewire our brains through neuroplasticity and nuerogenesis even as we grow more experienced and older.  (Bergland, Christopher, Psychology Today, 2018) (Bergland, Christopher, Psychology Today, 2017)

KPIs and Alignment of IT Systems

This follow-up piece to the previous one is way overdue. No matter how well thought out the KPIs you have chosen are, and how well cascaded the overall company objectives and KPIs are to each group/department, if the company IT Systems are not aligned as well, then it would be difficult to monitor actual performance and give feedback to those accountable for the results committed.

Part of the rationale for KPIs is to enable those accountable to focus on the few most important results that need to be achieved, and to clarify up front how success will be measured.  If information on the measurement of results are important, IT Systems must be implemented to facilitate the timely measurement and reporting of such measures of success.  Who was it that said, what gets measured gets done?

But what if top management don’t put money where their mouth is and the various departments, IT included, are not given the support they need to enable measurement as part of the day-to-day business operations?  There will be little reliable measures of actual performance to help those accountable assess their progress and take corrective actions to realign their work.

You might think that IT Systems alignment is obvious and that top management would know better to give the support to enable the whole organization to get regular and reliable performance feedback on KPIs through automated information systems. Unfortunately, this is not always the case, perhaps specially with some family businesses and small and medium enterprises (SMEs).

It’s challenging enough for managers and executives to maintain high performance without having themselves and their team members also handle the manual collection and reporting of results, or lack of it. The moral of the story is for top management to have the wisdom and discipline to require and support the alignment of IT Systems to report on KPIs.

And, if the company is starting from very little in this area, one way to move forward is to prioritize and create a road map for change.  Typically, a phased approach is necessary to align IT Systems.

What’s key is to plan and then implement the road map for IT Systems alignment, instead of wasting the efforts on defining and cascading objectives and KPIs throughout the company without automated, reliable, and timely measures of performance.

Managing Business Performance Using Objectives, Key Result Areas, Key Performance Indicators and Targets

One of the critical competencies for managers and supervisors is managing the business performance of their departments/sections/units.  More often than not, this is one area where coaching and mentoring is much needed.

One basic approach that can go a long way is to learn more about and apply the use of SMART Objectives, Key Result Areas, Key Performance Indicators, and Targets.  While attending workshops are helpful, reading available materials and books are effective ways to learn as well.  Even more effective is to try out the few KPIs that are most relevant in terms of aligning a department’s objectives with the overall strategic objectives and strategies of the company.

Simply put, a Key Performance Indicator (KPI) is a measure of how well something, an objective, is achieved and gives valuable feedback on whether performance is on track or not so that the manager and team can take appropriate action to get back on track.

Not having clearly defined KPIs is like driving without a clear destination and directions to guide you.  Don’t leave results and outcomes to chance.  Plan the work and then work the plan.  Always have measures and get top management sign off.

Here are some useful resources to get you started on your journey of learning by doing and experimentation.

Here’s an article if you would like to discover more resources on KPIs:   Finding the Right KPIs – 5 KPI Libraries That Are Key to Your Performance.

If the subject of KPIs excites you, there are many resources to study and learn from, and help you equip yourself and your team with the knowledge and skills to effectively plan, execute, monitor and control, and realign business performance.