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Why coaching works


Some people baulk at the cost of coaching but, when you consider the value of coaching when compared to other forms of training, it suddenly becomes an investment worth making.  Why does coaching work?

  • It’s a one-to-one exercise where all the attention and focus is on you.  You get to decide what you want to achieve and what specific topics you want to discuss at each session.
  • You get to think aloud and talk through issues with an expert who will guide you through the problem-solving process.  No one is judging you and there are no interruptions or distractions for the duration of your session.
  • You get an opportunity to try out new ideas or behaviours in a supportive environment.  Rehearse a presentation or a difficult conversation and get some professional feedback and constructive suggestions for improvement.
  • You can measure your progress.  Any good coach will talk to you about what you want to achieve by the end of the programme and how success will be measured.  People assume that the benefits of coaching or training can’t be measured –  they can!

Choose your coach wisely.  They should be someone with real business experience as well as coaching experience.  And you should feel entirely comfortable with them – ask for a trial session before you commit.  With the right coach you will quickly recognise the benefits of coaching – it’s a small investment for a significant return.

JPA Master Class Series

The JPA Masterclass Series has ended for this year.




You don’t have to be an extrovert or the life and soul of the party to have personal impact. But any leader will tell you that success in business requires a high level of confidence, polish and professionalism. This personal impact Master Class will give you the skills and techniques you need to present yourself in a positive way and to become a confident networker. Delivered by Jeanette Purcell, international leadership specialist and experienced public speaker, the course is practical and fun. Jeanette’s promise is that you will leave the Master Class with a range of tools and ideas that can be applied immediately and will make a positive difference to the way you work.

Who should attend?

This Master Class is for managers and senior partners working in large or small organisations, consultants and anyone who needs to promote themselves externally or internally. If you network, talk to clients or simply need to make a more positive impact with people, you will benefit from this Master Class.

What does it cover?

  • Understanding the power of networking and the benefits of building better business connections.
  • Myth-busting. Overcoming obstacles and challenging common perceptions of networkingskills
  • Maximising your personal impact. Walking and talking with confidence.
  • Presenting yourself in a powerful, memorable and positive way
  • Networking ‘know-how’. The tools and techniques that help you to build better networks.


“My objective is to persuade people that the investment they make in developing their networks will result in tangible rewards and benefiits. I have delivered this Master Class to a range of international audiences and the feedback is overwhelmingly positive. I think what people appreciate is the practical nature of the course and my ability to make networking an exciting prospect rather than a daunting chore. As one delegate said recently: ‘You were inspirational. I have already put what I have learnt into practice and it worked!”



What will I gain as a result of attending the Master Class?

  • A new level of self-awareness about what makes you unique and interesting to others
  • The ability to present yourself in a powerful and memorable way
  • New techniques for communicating and interacting effectively
  • The confidence to network and build successful business relationships
  • A plan for applying what you have learnt and achieving a sustainable improvement


What will I take away?

Training that lasts – A plan that will enable you to apply all that you’ve learned on an ongoing basis…

A Senior Manager for a multi-national firm attended the Master Class in 2013 and applied their new networking skills to address the fall out from a UK-wide restructuring exercise. Internal networks and a mentoring initiative was established to rebuild critical business connections, re-energise staff and support information exchange between business units. These initiatives resulted in significant improvements in efficiency, better communication and higher levels of staff engagement across the company.

FREE 15 minute 1 to 1 follow up coaching session.


How much does it cost?

The Master Class fee is £235 per delegate payable at the time of booking.

The fee is all inclusive and covers all materials and refreshments including a three course buffet lunch.


Multiple Bookings Discount

Where multiple bookings are made the discounted fee of £195 per delegate will apply regardless of when the booking is made.


Where is the Master Class being held?

The Grand Connaught Rooms, 61-65 Great Queen St, London WC2B 5DA. The venue is easily accessible and close to all London transport links. The nearest tube is Holborn which is served by the Central and Piccadilly lines.

Click here to book your tickets


Coming up in JPA’s Master Class Series

Effective communication
– anyone, anytime, anywhere
8 July 2014

5 essential leadership lessons
16 September 2014

Working effectively with Trustees
4 November 2014


JPA Master Class Policy

JPA accepts firm bookings through the JPA website – in making such bookings clients accept our bookings and cancellation policy.

Provisional bookings may be made but must be confirmed at least 30 days before the course date or else they will be considered a firm booking and will be subject to our standard booking and cancellation policy.

Confirmed bookings may be cancelled up to 21 days from the course start date without any penalty. Cancellation within 21 days of the course start date will mean that the full fee is payable for the course and there will be no refund. We will however consider transferring your place to another course date if a suitable course and place is available.

Name substitutions can be made at any time before the course without penalty.

Only one discount can be used per booking.

JPA does not store credit card details nor do we share customer details with any 3rd parties.

JPA reserves the right to cancel a course if insufficient bookings have been received. Delegates will be offered an alternative date or a full refund of the course fee. We reserve the right to make changes to the programme and the right to refuse any booking.





How to manage the pain of change


While working on a major change management project I have been thinking about the nature of change and what it takes to manage the process successfully. It strikes me that many businesses struggle with an apparent tension between the desire to define their organisation’s strategy and structure for the foreseeable future, and the recognition that their world is in a constant state of flux. Of course the harsh reality is that, while the long term vision can remain constant, a company’s strategy must be flexible and capable of modification to reflect ever-changing internal and external environments.

The issues that arise in any change project are as much to do with people as process. Leading transformation successfully involves a deep understanding of people and their behaviour, knowing what is likely to motivate people to do things differently, why they resist change and how to communicate effectively throughout the process. It also involves identifying the people who are going to help you in your mission (the ‘change champions’) and those who are likely to generate conflict and hostility. The process nearly always involves taking some tough decisions about people and are likely to lead to difficult conversations with those who cannot cope with the transformation or the planned future. These people issues are probably the most difficult for any leader to manage successfully. What can we do to help people through change?

The process works best if your team works in an environment that enables change. In such a setting they are more likely to respond positively to the change you want to make. To create a ‘change-ready’ environment consider the following:

• Regularly set the expectation that things will change and continue to change

• Explicitly encourage and recognise behaviours that support or enable change

• Support continuous innovation and improvement in working practices

• Give your team familiarity with change. Involve them in change projects

• Establish a culture that values flexibility and encourages flexible ways of working . In this way people are less inclined to feel they own a job or have various entitlements that might hold up the change process.

Change projects may be large scale but never forget that change happens at the individual level. You can’t necessarily deal with everyone individually but certain steps should be taken to consider how your people will fit into the new scenario. Consider the following questions for each person affected by the change:

• Do they understand the change and what it means for their role?

• Are they capable of working in the new set up? Who needs coaching or training?

• Are they willing to work in the new set up

• Are they motivated to work differently without reverting to the old ways of working

As the saying goes “We change our behaviour when the pain of staying the same becomes greater than the pain of changing.” Pain is an inevitable aspect of change. But however uncomfortable or difficult it may be, you must be able to manage change successfully. Change is not an occasional event but an ongoing part of every manager’s job.


Andy Murray – feel the love!

Andy Murray

I’m sure I wasn’t the only person to shed a tear at the sight of Andy Murray lifting the Wimbledon trophy above his head on Sunday. It was a fantastic, hard-won and emotional victory. Reflecting on Andy Murray’s progress over the last few years I realised that emotion has played a major part in his development as a player and has contributed to the remarkable increase in his fan-base. Success is often helped by having a loyal and strong following – in sport as well as in business – and it is important to understand that emotion is a key factor in both contexts.

Three years ago Andy Murray was a difficult character to like. He had a fan-base but had not earned a great deal of support from the general public. He was criticised for being moody and stony-faced – someone who was so focussed on his sport that he was a ‘closed-book’ to observers. That all changed last year when, on losing the Wimbledon final to Roger Federer, Murray found it hard to speak through his tears of disappointment. These were not carefully planned tears, put on for PR purposes, but genuine sobs that he tried so hard to fight back. It was this display of emotion that won him support and affection from a wider audience. What people saw on that day was a human being with emotions and feelings like everyone else. Here was a man who, in that emotional interview, showed the world how badly he wanted to win and how deeply he felt his failure. And by displaying that emotion, albeit not in a calculated way, Andy Murray won the hearts of people who, from then on, would follow him more closely and with more commitment than before.

In the business context we can see that sometimes it is necessary for followers to see the human side of their leader. The tough, macho style of leadership is becoming a thing of the past. People give their commitment and loyalty to those who are capable of displaying emotion now and again. No one wants a leader who sobs at every set-back or who flies into a rage when things don’t go as planned. But neither are we attracted to those whose steely determination to succeed makes them unapproachable, insensitive and detached. We need some kind of human connection with leaders before we are ready to make an emotional commitment to them in return. And it is the leader who is prepared to show some passion and sensitivity who is likely to win that level of commitment.

I cried for Andy Murray because I had witnessed his own tears a year ago. Like so many other people I supported him because I knew just how important winning was to him. That emotional connection with those who we follow is as important in business as it is in sport. Well done Andy, and feel the love!


Women in the Board Room

(Firs published 9 March 2011)

Last month the UK Employers’ Federation, the CBI, called for more proactive steps to redress the gender imbalance in Board Rooms.  A report from Cranfield University had found that only 12.5% of Board positions in the UK are held by females and that there had been little change in this proportion over recent years.   To its credit, the CBI argued that, with women accounting for half the population and making up just under half of the workforce, their continuing under representation at Board level was unacceptable.  Indeed, there is strong evidence to suggest that companies with more diverse Boards tend to perform better than others.  Instinctively we can appreciate how a more diverse top team, involving different perspectives, attitudes and experiences is likely to make for better, more robust, decision-making.

But the CBI’s proposal, that UK listed companies should be required to achieve internally set targets for female Board participation, is too simplistic a response to a complex issue.   Enforcement through legislation only aggravates the ‘political correctness gone mad’ lobby – who would argue that, in bending over backwards for women, we end up with female executives who achieve their senior positions not through merit, but solely because of their gender.   In fact targets and quotas for achieving diversity at the top may redress the gender imbalance but such measures are unlikely to change attitudes or workplace practices that lead to inequality in the first place.  The reality is that there are many reasons why women are in the minority at the top and each reason requires a particular and different response.

As Chief Executive of the Association of MBAs I became particularly interested in understanding why there were so few women MBA students.   Women account for between just 25-30% of students taking MBA courses anywhere in the world and this figure hasn’t changed much in the last 10 years.  My investigations and research into the issue failed to establish a single explanation for the low number of women MBAs.   But there is evidence to support a fascinating range of possible causes:

  • MBA students tend to be in their late 20s and early 30s – this is not an ideal time for women to commit to such a demanding and rigorous course as many are likely to be having or considering having children at this age;
  • There is a continuing perception that the MBA environment is competitive, macho and hard-nosed – concerned primarily with big city finance and number crunching.   Although this perception no longer reflects the reality,  many women are put off by this impression of MBA study and the business school environment;
  • It appears that, when it comes to sponsoring staff to undertake MBA study, employers tend to favour male employees over females.  Prejudice may be at play here but there are other factors including the way in which women view their own self-development and their apparent lack of assertiveness (relative to men) when it comes to seeking support for their advancement at work;
  • There are very few high profile female role models at the top –  in business or in business schools – thus reinforcing the perception that women have no place or little chance of success in leadership or at an executive level in business.

I could go on.  There are further issues relating to the lack of confidence that some women have in their own ability and potential.   The point is that the many and varied reasons behind the low number of women MBAs  also tell us something about the under representation of women in the  Board Room.

Telling employers to simply appoint more women Board members is not the answer.   Helping employers to recognise the skills women bring to business and their value in the workplace; working with companies to improve the recruitment, development and support given to female employees, is likely to be a better solution in the long run.

Why diversity targets won’t help the Big Four

The spotlight appears to be on the big four accountancy firms as they struggle to address the lack of diversity in their partnerships.  The domination of white men from elite universities continues in these firms with Ernst and Young, for example, reporting that just 17% of its 549 partners are women.  Clearly the people occupying senior positions in these companies ought to more closely reflect the diversity of its client organisations and society as a whole – it makes good business sense quite apart from being seen as a progressive and fair employer.  Yet the pressure to address current imbalances at the top suggests that some firms are placing more priority on the achievement  of  diversity targets than on the quality of their partners or the inherent causes of male-dominated workplaces.

Ernst and Young has announced that, within 3 years, at least a tenth of its new partners will be black or from other ethnic minorities.  It has also pledged to make at least 30 per cent of its new partner appointments women in the same time frame.  Such ambitions might be impressive but are surely misguided.  Where are these senior women and ethnic minority partners going to come from?   We know that most women entering management roles in the city tend to leave in their thirties or fail to achieve promotion to senior levels.   Maternity breaks and child care responsibilities and are part of the explanation for this but there is also evidence that corporate culture discourages women from aspiring to senior management roles.  Being a partner means long hours and the high stress involved makes it difficult for women to cope with the demands of work and family.  On top of this, the male-dominated, performance-driven culture is off-putting to many highly capable young women.

Any company that is serious about achieving diversity at the top needs a long term talent management strategy.  The aim should be to ensure that the firm’s organisational culture and policies reflect a genuine desire to engage, develop, support and promote talent – wherever it comes from.  The desire to achieve diversity at senior levels in business should be welcomed, but the problem cannot be resolved overnight.  A slavish and superficial focus on targets alone suggests that the top firms are paying lip service to what is a complex and more deep-seated issue.

How to make a million jobs

This week I was delighted to support and sponsor the launch of a provocative and insightful book – “How to make a million jobs” by Colin Crooks.  You can order a copy here. Colin is a social entrepreneur who, in his book, challenges all of us to think differently about unemployment and its causes.  His solutions are radical but not unrealistic and are based on Colin’s experiences as well as persuasive, independent evidence.

As a leadership specialist, working with corporates, professional associations and universities, it is not immediately clear why I should decide to sponsor such a book.

The main reason is that I share with the book’s author a concern about people and their development.  I also believe in the capacity for people to change their attitude and behaviour and to learn new skills.

The book is full of real stories about people, young and old, who had given up all hope of finding work.  They were poorly educated, lacked confidence and had few social or employability skills.  When these people were offered an opportunity to work and when this was accompanied by some support and encouragement they responded positively.  Many went on to better jobs and have not looked back.

The book, and my own experience, demonstrates this: that when people at work are supported and developed in the right way they tend to be good employees.  They become committed, engaged, interested and keen to learn.   They gain in confidence and in ambition.   Of course there are always exceptions.  But, in general, we know this simple statement of cause and effect to be true.

The problem is that so many employers do not have the commitment or the capability to provide the support required.  The challenge for government, policy makers and anyone with an interest in this area, is to change the attitude of employers.   We need to be better at getting employers to truly appreciate and realise the business benefits of developing their people. Then we need employers to be better at motivating, supporting and engaging their staff.  Employers should be asking whether they and their managers are managing people effectively and providing good role models to all staff.

The people in Colin’s book were fortunate to be taken on by a good employer with good people management skills.  Sadly that’s not true of all employers, and many people entering a new job do not get the support and development they need.

Developing people and changing their behaviour requires patience, and this isn’t easy in the current climate where many companies are driven by an obsession with short term results.  But understanding that link: between managing people effectively and building a successful business is fundamental to good leadership.  It informs everything I do and it is at the heart of Colin Crooks’ book.

The value of an MBA

There was an interesting discussion on Radio 4 this morning about the value of an MBA and whether MBA study was worth the investment.   Josh Kaufman, author of ‘The Personal MBA’ argued that successful businesses are built on a few basic principles and that the greatest entrepreneurs learnt by experience, not in the classroom.

These views – that you can’t teach good leadership and that the MBA has little value – have been around for a long time.  Business schools do a good job of defending their position by highlighting the scope and rigour of the MBA and its importance in terms of career progression and earning power.  Still the debate rolls on.

It is well known that I have my criticisms of the MBA and have long argued for a fundamental review of the qualification (see my article in the FT on 16 April 2012).  However, despite its faults I still believe that MBA study is worth the investment (see my presentation to the City of London Business Library

So while I welcome the ongoing discussion about the MBA’s future and sympathise with some of the critics of the qualification, I take issue with the argument that is has no value.  In particular I do not accept the claim that you only learn how to do business by experience.

First most people’s experiences in business are limited to a single industry, sector and job role.  Granted, we learn a great deal from experience, but there is no guarantee that our experiences will cover all aspects of business and management.  The MBA fills those gaps in our work experience, giving us access to knowledge and skills that we wouldn’t acquire just by being ‘out there’ in business.

Second, learning by experience is only really effective if we reflect on that experience, analyse it and use it to inform our actions and behaviours in the future.  MBA study provides the environment, specialist support and structure for such reflection – encouraging students to share and discuss their experiences so that experience becomes the basis for further learning and improvement.

Let’s have an honest debate about the MBA and its future.  But let’s not pretend that experience is all you need in business.   It’s the depth of experience and what you do with it that counts.

Why 360 degree feedback works

One of the most valuable attributes a leader or anyone in a management role can have is self awareness.  With a deep and accurate understanding of yourself;  your strengths, weaknesses, habits and preferences, you have the basis for becoming a great leader.  Not only can you make the most of your strengths and address your failings, but you can also build a team around you that fills the gaps in your own skill set.  For instance, I am aware of my tendency to get excited about new projects and my desire to get going as soon as the idea finds general support.   I tend to overlook the detail at this stage and can overlook potential risks.  As a Chief Executive I made sure that my top team included someone I trusted to always consider the detail and to keep my enthusiasm in check if necessary.

But self knowledge can be difficult to acquire – we are often blind to our own personality traits and don’t see what others see in us only too clearly.  That’s why it is important to get feedback from people you work with in a carefully managed and anonymous way.  I use 360 degree feedback quite regularly with senior managers and teams and I have seen how the results can change behaviour and improve performance.   The feedback gives you better self knowledge and shows you how you are perceived by others.   Such rich information not only forms a great basis for self development but also provides a tool for measuring improvement (by repeating the same feedback exercise in, say, 6-12 months time).

360 degree feedback involves the identification of a group of people who you work with whose opinions you value and trust.  Normally the number of people chosen will be between 6-12.  The selected group should include a good cross section of work contacts (for instance a mix of peers, managers, juniors, external clients, board members etc).   Ideally you should avoid choosing only the people you like or who you know like you, but you should be confident that the feedback you receive will be constructive and helpful.

The feedback questionnaire can be designed to give general feedback on a number of management issues.  Alternatively it can be specific, focused on giving some in depth feedback on an issue where the aim is to build new skills (e.g. effective communication).  An independent expert should develop the questionnaire ensuring the questions are valid, clear and fair.  All questionnaires are completed anonymously and returned for analysis by the independent expert who then presents the results to the people concerned in a professional  and constructive way.  Of course, the results might be surprising or even upsetting and so this stage must be handled sensitively.  However, it is often the case that people recognise the need for improvement when presented with the evidence.  They are also pleasantly surprised at positive feedback which they hadn’t expected.

There are a range of costly and sophisticated business tools used to help improve self knowledge and our understanding of the people we work with.   I prefer 360 degree feedback above all of these.  It’s simple, relevant and cost effective.  Most importantly, it works.

Bradley Wiggins – lessons in teamwork

I enjoy a bit of sedentary cycling and have been known to jump on a Boris Bike.  But I have never really taken much interest in cycling as a sport.  Until now.   It has been difficult to escape the excitement surrounding Bradley Wiggins and his Tour de France victory.  When I began to understand more about how the race was one I realised that the real story was not so much about Bradley Wiggins but more about Team Sky.   We can learn a lot from this extraordinary team and its achievement.  And the lessons are just as important to business as they are to sport.

What I hadn’t realised (apologies to cycling enthusiasts who know all this) is that Bradley’s win did not come out of nowhere.  It was part of a masterful and finely executed plan in which each member of Team Sky played a crucial part.  What is most striking about the story is that any member of the team could (in theory) have been the winner.  But the plan was to achieve a win for the team by supporting Bradley’s progress through the course, employing tactics to boost his performance at every stage, thereby ensuring his success overall.  In other words the team were united behind a common cause which took precedence over any individual egos and aspirations.

Read any account of Team Sky’s performance and you begin to understand the very specific role that each member played throughout the race.  Bradley was the team leader who put in years of relentless hard work and stuck rigidly to his belief in winning.  Bradley had to acknowledge his weaknesses (he is apparently not the strongest climber) in order to get support from others in the team where he needed it.  Chris Froome, coming second overall, was prepared  to stand in if Bradley faltered.  He is a better climber than Bradley and could have sought more glory in the race.  But that was not part of the plan and so he held back when necessary. Christian Knees, a former champion, stayed at the front during the early stages to control any possible contenders to Bradley.  He helped Bradley by keeping him out of the wind for long stretches, allowing him to save his energy for the later crucial stages in the race.

This is impressive team work.  The vision to win was truly shared by all; the plan for achieving the goal was meticulously crafted and carefully executed;  and everyone involved understood their role in the process.  Wouldn’t it be great if more senior management teams followed this example?  In business, teams so often fail because individual members struggle to unite behind the common goal.  And yet executive teams in particular have a crucial responsibility to the organisation to deliver results collectively.  There is no room for personal glory or for defending your own territory regardless of the common cause.   Organisations which fail to address the ‘silo’ mentality are highly unlikely to succeed in the long run.

We should of course congratulate Bradley Wiggins for his win.  But we should also acknowledge the part each team member played in achieving this victory.  Their performance required a level of discipline and self sacrifice that few teams can muster.

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