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Leadership fundamentals: success in a nutshell

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When I start working with new clients, I sometimes get the opportunity for an initial burst of intensive coaching.  We talk through issues in sometimes microscopic detail each week and then move to fortnightly or monthly sessions.  The shifts that occur and the results that can happen by working this way are sometimes sensational, sometimes smooth yet powerful.

I’m fascinated by what it takes to transform organisations and the role of coaching in transformative learning – where we shift from problem/solution thinking to behaviours that have far-reaching impacts.

Yesterday’s client seemed to combine the sensational with the far-reaching: some stunning results and great insights into how to make life more successful and easier going forward, for himself and his team.

Here’s my take on ‘success in a nutshell’:

  • Achieve: we achieve something we’ve been working at – in line with our vision or bigger objective/goal – that’s been worth the effort
  • Learn: we’ve done more than just deliver; we’ve learned something that will make life easier in the future
  • Enjoy: there’s been something satisfying, fulfilling or enjoyable about the success
  • Stretch: some element of the success has required a stretch – whether mental or physical.  We’ve been willing to further in our attitude, and we’ve been willing to commit more effort to the achievement
  • Habit: there’s something we can take away and turn into a regular habit, without making too many demands on our limited willpower resources

This is a ‘virtuous circle’ – a success wheel, rather than a linear progression –
Yes, it means we start all over again with the next challenge, but that’s part of the fun.

The other element that is worth highlighting, was the team nature of the success and the classic challenge of a leader overcoming the fear of looking foolish in the eyes of  his team members. 

A particular part of this client’s challenge was to review previously-documented steps in a process, something he assumed the others all knew.  By having the courage to confess his ignorance, he found that his team were only confident about 50% of the processes; the rest caused debate and highlighted some pre-existing confusion.

  • While we don’t like to hear that what we thought was crystal clear on paper doesn’t translate into the real world, the good news is that remedial steps can now be taken.
  • Even better, my client created allies in the team by being willing to risk looking foolish.  In taking this risk he’s actually become a hero in his team’s eyes, because he’s sorting out a long-standing issue for everyone’s benefit.

Transformational learning benefits the individual, the team and the organisation.  It takes emotional intelligence; it takes a willingness to be open about the challenges and be willing to share and learn.  It takes celebrating success and learning from failure – such that we can build better habits for the future.  Leadership is about that personal willingness to stretch and building a great team spirit.


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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