Barbara Ellington, Public Affairs Editor
His name was synonymous with the Courts furniture brand in Jamaica in the '80s and '90s. In his semi-retirement years, Richard Coe has embarked on a new career. He is helping corporate entities around the world through leadership coaching, team and organisational development, business analysis and strategic planning, as well as employee engagement and motivation.
Born in London, he first came to Jamaica as a volunteer teacher of agriculture. He later spent 30 years in business in the United Kingdom, the Caribbean, and South East Asia. But Coe returned to school in 2005 upon his 'retirement' and graduated with a Master's Degree in Consulting and Coaching in Change from Oxford University and Hautes Études Commerciales de Paris.
On a recent trip to Jamaica, Coe told The Gleaner that he came here at the invitation of a number of organisations that were desirous of understanding his concepts.
Following those initial consultations, Coe will return in January-February next year to work with the companies. His method uses Appreciative Inquiry (AI), helping companies to find and liberate the hidden talents in their organisations.
"My work now involves energising organisations to go to a better place instead of focusing on the negatives," Coe explained. He added that by aligning their strengths so that their weaknesses become unimportant, people stand out and leaders emerge. "They discover the best of what is inside and all aspects of the organisation are explored to make them better," Coe said.
Acting as a mediator between two parties in commercial and workplace disputes, Coe also offers alternatives to expensive and uncertain litigation or arbitration.
But given Jamaica's autocratic management style, does Coe hold out much hope for positive response to what he has to offer? He agreed that, historically, the style of management was autocratic and like a military model. Appreciative Inquiry might not work especially in family-owned companies. "Some of these companies have excellent leaders but the owners don't feel that the average person has a lot to offer," Coe said.
positive about the future
A naturalised Jamaican, Coe understands the culture. As a consultant/mediator/coach, and given the fact that AI is gaining more acceptance in the world, plus his success rate to date, he is positive about the future. After initial scepticism/cynicism, he thinks local management personnel will lose their fear of loss of control and allow their teams to take charge of their own future. This attitude is necessary as companies face an increasingly challenging economy in which there are severe staff cuts to survive.
Using a farming analogy, he sums up the process thus: "If you trim a tree too heavily, it dies." He advises companies not to see their competitors as the enemy. "Instead, consult with your team to see how they can be more productive, less selfish, less judgmental, and more outward looking," he advises.
Words of Advice
1. Management should examine its talent pool, find workers' strengths and plan how they can grow together.
2. Find the lights and let them glow.
3. Don't find answers that you communicate downwards in the form of commands.
4. Strength-based changes in organisations are more successful and sustainable when they engage the people who have to make them.
5. Status is important to everyone.
6. People want to be autonomous.
7. Don't micromanage.
8. Peer-group relationships are important and can trigger positive and negative reactions.
9. Fairness is important, people don't thrive if they think things are unfair. Unfairness demotivates.
10. Honour the attributes in people's brains and you will get them to work.
Richard Coe OBE, is a civil, family and commercial mediator. Contact him at:email@example.com or call:01144590718351 or 011447956074602 or visit his website:www.coemediation.com. firstname.lastname@example.org