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


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Leadership: the hidden failure

Do you ever wonder why, despite your best efforts, certain negative behaviours persist in your organisation?  Leaders may feel like they’re doing their best, but their leadership style may actually be inviting failure, not guarding against it.

It’s why people

  • lack motivation
  • don’t step up and take responsibility
  • whose potential is high, deliver performance that remains frustratingly low

It’s why low-retention figures are costing your organisation significant amounts of unnecessary time and money

We’re privileged to work closely with leaders 1-1, and in small, exclusive and confidential groups.  We get close to the issues they face, day to day.

And sometimes recurring patterns emerge and demand our attention. Continue reading


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Emotionally-Intelligent Leadership Challenge Number 6

Challenge #6: Senior Leaders need to pay attention to emotional intelligence

To build better emotional intelligence in leaders, we need senior people to appreciate EI competences.  This requires their attention, and willingness to invest time & money, in these invisible competences.

It’s not enough for one part of the system (say, HR, OD or L&D) to try and super-impose new ways of working on another part of the system.

Yes, the budget may lay in one of those departments.  But it’s a bit like assuming that the responsibility for health and safety lies in the H&S department.  Yes, we need knowledgeable professionals and specialists – but the basics need to be undertaken by everyone. Continue reading


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Emotionally-Intelligent Leadership Challenge Number 4

Challenge #4: investing in emotional intelligence takes emotional intelligence

So, you’ve decided to take a whole-systems approach to leadership development.  You’re planning to get leaders and teams to take time out to review what’s working – and why it’s working – as well and getting people to recognise their own and each others’ emotions to sort out what’s getting in the way of success.

Then you take your ideas to the board.   And that’s when you meet the ‘Hierarchy of No’. Continue reading


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Leadership – on stage without a script

Last week we managed to get a day out of the office – for an event we’ve been looking forward to for months.  We met  comedian Neil Mullarkey several months ago at the ICF Global Coaching Conference.  He offered us the chance to see how we could integrate our brand of leadership coaching and development with improv comedy.  As we went through the day, the analogy of a leader being ‘on stage without a script’ became strikingly obvious. Continue reading


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Leadership – How to Improve your IQ (Inspiration Quotient)

I’m currently working on a project to improve a global organisation’s communications.  Supporting better – and more effective -leadership.  My strategy has been to move away from a ‘policing’ role towards something more positive.  I was seeking inspiration this morning and then it hit me: we need to raise the inspiration to information ratio.  Talking it through with my husband and business partner Bob, we created the terms ‘Inspiration Quotient’ and the ‘Inspiration to Information Index’.

Your Inspiration Quotient

Sponsored Cyclist ex-nurse Barry (source: tprf.org)

Sponsored cyclist ex-nurse Barry (source: tprf.org)

The toughest gig I’ve ever delivered was to a group of leaders in the health profession.  Just before a major reorganisation. They were not happy.  And I was their “inspirational speaker”.  No pressure then…

What I wanted them to experience was their own inspiration quotient.  Being in touch with what inspires us at home, or at work is vital.

I showed them pictures of nurses around the world giving up their time to fundraise and bring food, clean water and eye-care to the poorest parts of the planet.  Pictures of happy, well-fed children, getting a good education as a result of these people’s’ dedication.

niger_girl_at_blackboardThe reaction?  Stoney faces in the audience.  I wasn’t getting through.  “Ah well… at least they weren’t heckling… “ the ex-BBC event MC reassured me: “..they’re a tough audience.”

My personal inspiration quotient includes pictures of my family and a stunning calendar with a different floral picture for every day of the year.  I  have a window to look out on the world from my office. I can wave to passers-by.  I also have a sense of inspiration from within – based on the meditation I do when time permits – and a sense of gratitude for how good my life is.

Yes, I know how this sounds.  Your inspiration might be very different – sports, the arts, volunteering, walking the dog.  Whatever works for you is great.

St. John Eye Hospital, Jerusalem

St. John Eye Hospital, Jerusalem (stjohneyehospital.org)

So what does this have to do with leadership communications?

The ‘Inspiration to Information Index’ is about conveying more than information.  If leadership is about motivating people into action, then we need to find the words – and the emotions – to generate that action.

Inspiration communicates emotion.  It expresses the purpose for action – why we are doing what we’re doing.  Why it’s important.  Why it’s urgent.

Inspiration communicates vision.  And it matters that we as leaders act and speak congruently.  It’s amazing how quickly people spot a fake.

The praise to criticism ratio

A key leadership task is to acknowledge the effort, results and learning in the team.  Much more often than you think.  To many more people than you think.

When you achieve a  praise to criticism ratio of 6:1 people believe that you’re being even-handed.

And I just know that many of you will read this and think something along the lines of “I can’t even remember the last time my boss praised me…”

That’s how bad it is at the moment.

Why does this matter?

I bet you’ve attended communications courses and learned something along the lines of “communications is two-way – you have to listen twice as much as you talk.”

That was 20th century teaching.

In the 21st century, communication is multi-directional and multi-channel.  Think of Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.  Or YouTube – the world’s most-used search engine.  Or the smartphones in your team’s pockets – with built-in high quality cameras.

Smile please

Smile please

If your staff aren’t happy they have a circle of influence of 250 people that they’ll tell – in detail and with illustrations – about what’s wrong. And who’s to blame (that’s you by the way…)

And despite the economic climate, your best people still have ambition.  And they do have career choices.

When you communicate your own passion for what you’re committed to, it rubs off on others.

My recommendation is that you apply these three easy steps regularly:

  1. Get in touch with your inspiration sources – and use them to nurture your own sense of purpose
  2. Look out for what’s working and start acknowledging the people who make effort, get results or share learning in your team
  3. Raise your Inspiration to Information ratio by communicating your passion for what you do and why you do it

So phrases like the ‘Inspiration to Information Index’ and ‘Inspiration Quotient’ are simply fancy ways for getting in touch with your inspiration and expressing it.  People need more positive emotions in their lives – at work as well as at home.  And leaders are the people who can get it out there.  So put a smile on your own face and you’ll be amazed at the difference in the people around  you – through your better leadership and inspirational communications.


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Leadership & Boss Taming How four easy listening steps benefit you

When I worked in a global banking and insurance organisation, someone told me I had the Cassandra Complex.  No, not the European electro-goth-industrial band, but the inability to convince others of the validity of my arguments; named after a character in Greek mythology.  So in the last 15 years I’ve spent a lot of time working out how to best influence others.  If I had a penny for everyone who said “my boss just doesn’t listen” I’d be writing this from my yacht moored by the Mediterranean Sea.   The phrase that would also pay for the penthouse in the harbour is “my boss talks too much.”  These phrases create frustration as they dis-empower us and reduce our emotional resilience.  So how can you benefit from listening to your boss and be more successful at boss taming, as well as improve your leadership? Continue reading


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Leadership Fundamentals: leadership principles….

I spent a three days last week with a small group of leaders from around the UK, exploring their vision, values and authenticity and developing their coaching skills.  It was refreshing and energising to have some interesting, sometimes challenging, debates.  Those kinds of conversation help me look at my fundamental approach to leadership with new eyes.

does leadership require an inner compass?

So here’s my view of 21st century leadership principles:

  • Leadership is self-awareness: find a meaningful reason or inspiration for what you do, including exploring & living your personal and professional values
  • Leadership is influence, not control: seek to influence and work as a partner
  • Leadership is relationship: connect with others in an emotionally intelligent way and deliver on the commitments you make to others
  • Leadership is showing respect: acknowledge and trust the skills, talents and strengths that your colleagues bring, including the people who work in the wider team
  • Leadership is presence: be fully present and focused on what you’re doing, when you’re doing it (no sitting at the computer during 1-1s etc.)
  • Leadership is delivering on the Vision: see, describe and communicate your vision; be prepared for ‘course correction’ and motivate your people to get to the goal; don’t allow yourself to be side-tracked from what’s important and be ready to refocus others

Leadership Communications are different from other types of communications; leaders need to communicate through relationship – and they need to earn the right to communicate in that way.  Communications activities include 1-1 and 1-many relationships, in person and through the full range of communications channels available to you

Finally, here are some leadership myths:

  • Being the leader is not the same as having ‘power’, leadership is about stepping up, taking responsibility and being accountable
  • We can’t ‘manage’ people in the same way we manage systems and processes – we lead them and they choose to follow – or not
  • It’s not always about having to be ‘right’, nor is it about getting everyone to agree with you, or like you
  • Forget the old adage that ‘communications is a 2-way activity’ – it’s a myth.  Communications is a factorial (many to many) activity; once a message is out, people choose how they react to it and who they share it with – and that’s never been easier in a digital age.

    gossip or 'networking'?

Yes, it’s easy to sit here and pontificate about leadership and harder to apply our vision and values amongst the demands of the workplace – but perhaps that sums up what authentic leadership is all about: having a strong foundation that sees us through the challenges. 

I wish you a good week – before you go, please take a minute to share your thoughts with this week’s leadership poll.