The LeadershipZone for better leadership

Get into the leadershipzone – practical tools and ideas you can use to improve your effectiveness as a leader or manager

Feeling Challenged? Call in the CIA

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I had a great conversation with a coaching client yesterday; he’s managed to achieve a senior role in his organisation, despite layoffs and strong competition. Of course he’s taken on a major challenge: an organisation that’s transforming itself in a high-risk environment, with low staff budgets.  We talked around a number of the issues and the conversation focused on what we call the ‘CIA’:

• What can you Control?
• What can you Influence?
• What do you need to Accept?

As leaders, we’d like to believe that everything’s in our control. The bad news is that we’re kidding nobody but ourselves, if this is something we really believe. The good news is that life becomes much easier when we look closely at the reality – and communicate to people around us – of what we really are able to control.

The reason this works so well is that it sets out the boundaries of our responsibilities for control and manages other peoples’ expectations, as well as our own.

Once we’re clear about what is within our control, we can shift our focus to what we can influence. This is where good relationships and bridge building come into our own. It’s important to identify who to influence, as well as the key messages we need to communicate.

Many managers and leaders use the ‘PEST’ or ‘PESTLE’ acronyms to analyse the situation and stakeholders around us:
• Political
• Economic
• Sociological
• Technological
• Legal
• Environmental

Once we’ve created a communications plan: prioritising who we need to influence (individuals and organisations) and what we need to get across, we typically feel much more in control.

And then, there are those situations over which we can have no influence or control. It may not be as dramatic as the Japanese earthquake and tsunami, which had a profound global impact; but that situation is a good example of the resilience of the Japanese people; their ability to prepare for situations and to respond afterwards. They could control the building regulations and ensure that skyscrapers could withstand the expected shocks; they rehearsed evacuation procedures – even with very young schoolchildren.

Accepting the reality of some situations is part of the recovery process: when we’ve looked it in the face and dealt with it, we can then move on to look for the bright spots: those things we can value and gain energy from in any situation.

In coaching, this may include re-connecting my clients with their vision, values and their authentic or ‘best’ selves. It could mean exploring the resources around them and building their innate resourcefulness.

Working out what’s already available to us provides energy and motivation; it also makes clear the resources we need to be successful, and helps us prioritise our actions.

I’m not usually a great fan of acronyms – and I’ve used two here. I hope that they come in useful when you’re next feeling challenged in the leadershipzone.


Author: Helen Caton Hughes

Leadership and Team Coach based on inspirational and practical tools. Works with leaders around the world; trains coaches to International Coach Federation standards. Passionate about finding best ways for leaders to inspire themselves and get the best from their teams

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