Posts Tagged ‘leadership’

It’s the relationship, stupid!

April 13, 2012 2 comments

With apologies for the bowdlerisation of the 1992 US Presidential campaign’s famous “It’s the economy, stupid!”

Working recently with a whole team of new people and in a culture that puts a huge store on relationships I was strongly reminded of the need to get the right balance of task, process and relationships.

What do I mean? well when you are up against a deadline it’s very easy to focus on task, task, task!  “We just need to get the job done”.

But I was reminded that sometimes you just need to sit back and think about what the people involved need to help them succeed.  Picture the scene……

As I sat in the umpteenth meeting room, all alone, waiting for everyone else to turn up, feeling impatient to get on, I started to see things in a different light ……… my facetious side thought “Just abandon all hope of getting this done quickly”, my insightful side reflected “Use this valuable thinking time to work out a better strategy” – then the two came together: to quote one of my favourite sayings ‘What’s the definition of madness?’  “Keep doing the same thing and expecting a different result”.

That’s when I remembered what I’d forgotten.

In any (business) endeavour you need to work on 3 aspects – task, process and relationships.  You need to focus on whatever the task may be and ensure it gets done – but to do that you also need process – a means of getting there, and people or relationships to get it done.  And you must be constantly reviewing and rebalancing these to get the best possible progress and outcomes.  Concentrate only on task and people will feel bruised, misunderstood, demotivated…. take care only of the people and nothing gets done.  Without some process you don’t have a way of achieving anything.

So I just sat back: one by one they came in…we chatted, we got to know each other.  We put everything on the table and talked it through.  In no time we were all throwing in ideas, feeding off each other’s creativity – having great fun, enjoying each other’s company – and most importantly, making decisions and agreeing a way forward.

That’s what makes business work….  How’s your balance?

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Photo: © javier brosch –

Best kept secret of transition from professional to leader

October 5, 2011 4 comments

“This is the hardest transition I’ve ever made” to quote a successful software developer after her first three months as a manager.  Why was that?  “Suddenly I’ve found I can’t do everything.  I’m bombarded by emails, requests for information…. I have to be selective about what I do”.

She shared this in a group coaching session I was running to help her and others recently promoted to address the big challenges in their new roles.Leadership tightrope

Although this was several years ago I still find this is one of the biggest shocks to new leaders.  Does it matter? – yes! because as a new leader you want to focus on the big challenges you really do need to get to grips with, not trying to walk a tightrope of something totally unrealistic and unattainable.

Why is it such a closely guarded secret?  Maybe:

  • None of us quite get over that guilty feeling of NOT doing everything?
  • Or feel we’ll lose credibility if we admit to this ‘weakness’?
  • There is still a tendency in many organisations to promote people because of their professional expertise rather than their leadership qualities or potential – this means that when you are promoted you think that’s why you got the job and you need to be even more professional and knowledgeable?
  • Little or no organisational support is provided to help with this transition?
  • It’s hard to break the  ‘habit of a lifetime’ of responding to all requests and demands?

So what’s the answer?

  • Other leaders and HR managers should share what they are looking for in a manager/leader in their organisation  – it’s not just a more glorified professional role – and may not be for everyone who’s great at their job.  One law firm I worked with had a clear framework which specified the responsibilities at each point on the career ladder from Solicitor to Partner
  • Setting yourself a vision and goals and prioritising around these – Stephen Covey’s matrix in The Seven Habits of Highly Successful People is one excellent way of doing this – prioritising around what’s important and/or urgent (or not!)
  • And one of my enduring themes – it’s about changing your beliefs and letting go ie the value you bring comes from a different source, no one can do this as well as you can so you’d better do it yourself……which brings me to…
  • Understanding how to delegate successfully

And that will be the theme of my next post – don’t worry it won’t be a list of ‘practical tips’ – it’s about what it REALLY takes to delegate successfully….As always I’ve got some real life examples to share with you of the positive benefits and also some dire consequences of NOT doing it well!

As ever, please share your views below.  I look forward to hearing what you think.

Photo: © Aliaksei Hintau –

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How do you sabotage yourself?

August 1, 2011 2 comments

The thing about sabotage of course is that it’s secret and stealthy, which means you don’t know it’s happening.  The same applies whether someone else is doing it to you or whether you are doing it to yourself!  sounds bizarre?  why would anyone sabotage themselves you may ask? well that is the difference I suppose, that at least it’s done with purpose if it’s done to someone or something else.  When you do it to yourself  it’s accidental and you don’t even realise – until a helpful coach draws your attention to it that is!

Here are a few self-sabotaging techniques I’ve seen work really well:

  • self-deprecating humour which tells everyone “I’m a joke” – then wonder why no one takes you seriouslysabotage or listens to your words of wisdom
  • starting presentations by apologising, for instance for how boring the subject is or how little time you’ve had to prepare – ie inviting your audience be bored by you or look for mistakes or anything that’s not quite as polished as it might be
  • focusing on what you don’t want to happen – like when you ride a bike and think “I mustn’t hit that kerb” – what do you do….?  Henry Ford, of Ford Motors fame,  said “whether you think you can or you think you can’t – you’re right”  (Not sure if that was before or after he said “you can have any colour you like as long as it’s black” :)) In other words if you think you can do something you’ll find a way, if you think you can’t do it you’ll also find ways to fail (consciously or unconsciously!)
  • failing to ‘Begin with the end in mind’[1] or to set yourself some BHAGs (Big Hairy Audacious Goals)[2] – a manager said to me only a few days ago that he needed to think through the steps before envisioning the outcome – but how can you plan what you’re going to do if you don’t know where you want to end up?!

I know these work, I’ve tried them myself!

So how to set yourself up for success rather than failure? here are some tips taking the examples above – and I know these work too, because I use them myself:

  • examine your sense of humour – it’s wonderful to have a GSOH but what DO you make jokes and quips about?  if it’s about yourself and not complimentary listen to what others are witty about and see what you can learn – you don’t want to lose your sense of humour, just refocus it
  • at presentations focus on your audience rather than on yourself – what are they going to gain from listening to you, how can you make it great for them?
  • focus your attention on what you want and what you are capable of, not the things that can go wrong or what you don’t want to happen
  • think about what you really want and envision it

More on envisioning for your success next time as this is such a powerful technique for achieving what you want.

In the meantime – how do you sabotage yourself? – or how have you stopped sabotaging yourself?  do post your thoughts below and let’s share our collective wisdom.  (What’s the worst that can happen?)  I really look forward to hearing from you.


[1] Stephen Covey: The Seven Habits of Highly Successful people

[2] James C Collins and Jerry I Porras: Built to Last

Photo © Sara Robinson –

Find your best self

July 11, 2011 2 comments

Like many of us maybe you know that you are different with some people or in certain situations and that they can bring out either the best or the worst in you – and quite likely you don’t really know why.  Or maybe you’ve not really noticed?  One manager I worked with was told by their boss that they were best with their team when they were relaxed – and was consequently instructed to ‘be relaxed’! – ever tried to be relaxed to order? anything that makes you more tense than being told to relax or more stressed or angry than when to told to keep calm!  The intention was good but the effect not as intended! so we set out to find that ‘relaxed self’……….

This is again something you can do on your own although it’s a lot easier to do with a coach or a trusted confidante – here are some tips/steps:

  • think about when and with whom you are at your best – it may be at your best overall or maybe a particular quality or behaviour that you want to find, as mentioned above.  To help you decide this think about when you FEEL your best and when you get the best response from others, or you can ask your confidanteGold star
  • then do the same with a situation/people you are not comfortable with
  • talk out loud about these situations – what’s the environment, who’s there, what are they like, what are you doing and saying, how are you interacting, what thoughts and feelings are triggered when you describe all this?  what do these people have in common with you – what’s important to them and you?
  • from this what conclusions can you draw about when you are and are not at your best – for instance, you may be fine working with people you regard as being of lower or similar status/position/education and overawed or intimidated by those you regard as higher;  many women find they are uncomfortable working with alpha males (not to mention many men as well!) but thrive with other women or less competitive/aggressive men.
  • that’s the easy bit – now what do you do about it?  well it really depends what you have discovered but here are a few ideas that I know work:
    • in the case of the manager mentioned above, although they were a very senior manager they felt they were ‘just Joe from the village’ and nothing special – I told them about ‘Imposter Syndrome’ and then they WERE able to relax knowing that they were not alone in feeling a fraud and afraid of being ‘found out’
    • or visualise yourself being successful in the relationship or situation – really imagine what you want to be like when you’ve finished the meeting or whatever – this has worked brilliantly for me, for instance when I had to run a second meeting with a group of managers where the first had been a disaster!  rather than running over and over what had gone wrong and worrying that it would do so again I focused on what I wanted it to be like.  A few meetings later they actually gave me a round of applause at the end!
    • or you can ‘map across’ ie analyse what you think, feel, do and say in your successful situations and aim to replicate those in other situations eg if you are good at presentations to peers but not to senior managers, what do you do in those successful scenarios?

So what are your tips for finding your best self? what’s worked for you? when are you at your best and worst? what would you like help/tips on?

Following on from the imposter syndrome – next time:  how do you sabotage yourself?

Picture: © JJ –

Being the best leader you can be

June 29, 2011 8 comments

As I sat down to write this post about ‘what you need to do to be the best leader you can be’ the words of a fellow coach came to mind – that many leaders think it’s about what they do; they don’t realise that it’s about who they are.  And I think that’s the key.  When you’re in a management or leadership position you are expected to produce results but you do that through your team and it’s who and how you are (your behaviours) that will motivate them to produce their very best work.  And why is it important to be able to engage your team and be a great leader? – well, the Macleod report Engaging for Success (2009) found that

–Highly engaged employees try 50% harder and perform 20% better
–Disengaged employees cost UK business a staggering £40 billion pa!
What a waste of  human potential as well as money, which is in short supply at the moment – you don’t need expensive computer systems, streamlined processes etc – you just need to make the most of the people you have!

How to be…..

thinking intensely

So one brilliant place to start is to think about people you have worked for, or are working for, who have really brought out the best in you – or even to think about those who have demotivated and constricted you because if you turn that on its head it will tell you how you do want to be. My first simple lessons in management style were when I was a student doing temporary jobs in my holidays – I quickly saw how I did and didn’t want to be: the manager who asked rather than told and always said please and thank you motivated me far more than the one who would never even say good morning as he passed my desk on the way to his office.  In fact I got quite obsessive about how rude he was and put a lot of my time and energy into that rather than the job! Another great manager for me was one who disagreed with a decision I had made and rather than just overturning it we sat down and talked about it, discussed other options and she left the final decision to me before helping me work through how I could change it while still maintaining face.

The best thing about finding role models in others is that you can ‘pick and mix’ – because no one is perfect! the manager I mention above also set very high standards and expectations which I know helped me to achieve things I never would have thought possible.  However, she also didn’t know when to stop pushing and sometimes the stress would become too much for myself and other colleagues and we felt unable to say ‘enough!’

So think about those around you with the qualities and behaviours you admire – observe who and how they are and talk to them about their management philosophy – especially to find out the values and beliefs which drive them.  And of course the beauty of this is that it’s something you can do all through your career as you face every new challenge – think about who would be a role model in how to handle it.

Another fantastic way I’ve found of being the most excellent leader you can be is to be your best self – so more on that next time….

In the meantime what has worked for you in becoming a great leader (or what hasn’t!)?  post your comments below

Photo © memo –

Top tip for influence and impact at meetings

There’s a huge clamour; people talking over each other or a succession of people making their points, arguing their case.  Or maybe it’s one long monologue after another.  Talk, talk, talk and not much listening but everyone thinks they’re doing a great job at this meeting because they have said a lot.   And there’s nothing that makes sense of it all and moves it towards a conclusion and decision.  Until…… there’s a calm and confident voice that hasn’t been heard so far that makes a few really pertinent points and brings everything together  – the hubbub subsides, there’s space for everyone to take stock and everything is refocused on the aim of the meeting.  This voice is the one that has authority and is soon recognised as such by the whole team.

How do I know? one of my coachees wanted to have more impact at meetings so I asked him who had the most authority at meetings he attended.  After a few moments thought he realised that it was the person who habitually said least but came in at a critical point with something that made a real difference.  By changing his behaviour he has now become recognised as the person who gets things done at meetings, increasing his authority and status both in meetings and in the leadership team as a whole.Influence and impact at meetings

So how do you do that?  In short:

  • sit back quietly and really listen
  • identify patterns and themes, points of common ground and difference and how your view fits
  • jot down key ideas
  • summarise, make your points succinctly and propose a way forward which takes account of all views expressed, not just your own

And of course always use this power with positive intentions!

What’s your top tip for making meetings fruitful and using them to enhance your influence and impact? please add your ideas to the comments below.

Next time: how are you infecting your team?