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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Emotionally-Intelligent Leadership Challenge Number 8

Challenge #8: people are better motivated by positive emotions, but leaders prefer to motivate with the negative

Negative drivers, such as ‘burning platforms speeches’, or ‘carrot and stick’ methods are poor motivators – but seem easy and immediate.

According to Goleman “We’re better motivated by positive emotions: it feels more meaningful and the urge to act lasts longer.” Continue reading


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Leadership and true team engagement

Is it just me, or is there really a growing rift between leaders and their people?  I’d be happy to be proven wrong, because one of my values is that leaders get to know, understand and, most importantly, apply the wealth of knowledge that exists today about leadership.  Take ‘engagement’ as a case in point.  Have we made it too complex? Continue reading


Leadership – mixing it up

People used to say “you shouldn’t mix business with pleasure”.  I’m not sure if that was ever good advice, but it’s certainly not true in today’s world.

I’ve spent the last week in Italy mixing up so many things.  It was hugely productive – and, I believe, helped us build some great relationships even further.

And now I’m back in the office, I’ve had an opportunity to reflect, briefly, on the experience.

We flew out – from a pretty warm and sunny UK – into Rome in a heatwave.  The wall of heat hit us as we stepped off the plane.  So much that Bob (husband, business partner, employee engagement guru) asked if he could stay on board and fly back with them… Continue reading

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Has Leadership Development Lost its Way?

As organisations emerge from down-sizing and cut-backs, a new voice of confidence is entering the conversations we have with HR professionals about their plans to develop their top talent and future leaders.

Alongside that buoyancy is a quieter expression of concern.  Call it a nagging doubt.

People are asking – “Are we really

  • Developing the leaders we need for the future?
  • Challenging the prevailing culture and making the changes we need?
  • Selecting and developing the right people – in the right way?”

Is your organisation at risk of repeating the mistakes of the past?

Too often I hear HR professionals say that they know what needs doing, it’s just that someone’s stopping them from achieving what needs to happen.

There’s evidence that organisations are still creating old-fashioned leaders who are poor role models; topping hierarchies that are poor business models; using selection methods and tools that are poor development models.

My intention is not to undermine your careful plans.  It’s just to offer a quick reality check that your plans do align with your organisation’s most pressing needs.

What are the four big dangers?

1.Failing to recognise that today’s environment is uniquely complex and rapidly-changing

  • The solution to complexity is not more complexity
  • It’s about preparing people for the challenges of simplicity and flexibility
  • It’s about dealing with ambiguity and new paradigms

The best change is embedded when the people are fully engaged, passionate about, new and better ways of doing things.  Employee engagement is the win-win of change.

2.    Sheep dipping people in out-of-date training with the illusion of saving money

  • You can achieve more meaningful change – more quickly and more sustainably by selecting leaders who can deal with this new complexity
  • Developing these people in more focused ways
  • Leader-created learning environments for their people

3. Confusing short-term high performance with sustainable leadership

  • Yes, great leaders have a track record of delivery but we need today’s leaders to involve and inspire others too
  • Solution? Equip them with tools that create an environment of confidence, possibility and creativity

4. Expecting to develop “well-rounded leaders”

This is the biggest illusion in the leadership development business – and it’s costing millions.

  • You may have bought into well-researched academic ‘leadership competency models’ – with the best of intentions
  • Solution? Leaders need well-rounded teams, full of sharp people.  Optimising team strengths, not just individual ones.

The truth is, an individual only needs two, three or maximum four strategic leadership strengths


  • Because really, their role only needs this much
  • Because they’re part of a wider team, who should also be bringing their best to the table.

Expecting too much of your people means your organisation will miss out on the strengths they do bring.  You’ll miss out on the chance to really build on their potential and you’ll miss out on the chance to leverage those strengths for the team’s and the organisation’s benefit.

Here’s a checklist you might find useful

  • Align your future leaders with the organisation’s needs
  • Develop your people’s skills to focus on strategic solutions
  • Embed successful ways of fully engaging people in positive change
  • Develop future leaders to bring their strengths to the table
  • Enable them to bring out the best in their colleagues and direct reports
  • Support people to think, involve and inspire each other  – not just act

Think you’ve heard it all before?

As part of my role, I measure the results, outcomes and benefits of what our team achieves.  We’ve got the ROI evidence to show that we can –

  • Save your organisation significant time, money and pain
  • Embed leadership behaviours that people will use in practical situations
  • Improve your staff, customer and supplier relationships

Am I being too provocative?  What do you think?   Has leadership development lost it’s way – or is your organisation fully-equipped to engage and develop your people?  My passion is supporting leaders to feel well-resourced and confident to deliver – so I’d love to hear your success stories too.

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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


Why leadership coaching has outgrown GROW

    We had a great time last week working with business leaders, international consultants and HR professionals in developing their coaching skills.  Before people come on our workshops, the most common thing they ask is something like “I’ve already done some coach training – what’s so different about leadership coaching?”  The easy answer is “come and try it and find out” but there’s a longer answer too – something around the complexity of leadership, the impact leaders have, the need to engage effectively with, and deliver results through, others – for starters.

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.