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 Priorities – the people or performance?

I had one of those ‘I have a dream’ moments last week: I want managers and leaders to have more supportive conversations with their staff.  But I know that people tend to compartmentalise – people OR performance?

I had this lightbulb moment as we were driving to the country house hotel in the heart of England where we run our coaching skills courses.  A drive is a great way to explore and discuss ideas.

Why more supportive conversations?  The benefits are huge – both for achieving high performance and maintaining it.  leadership conversations 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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Top ten leadership lessons from the summer of sport

For us Londoners, it’s been an amazing summer of sporting achievement.  Whether you remember the Queen apparently leaping from a helicopter, David Beckham racing up the Thames with the Olympic torch, or any one of the remarkable athletic achievements, I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did.  Some of the most profound lessons in leadership, for me, came from the Paralympic games.

There’s so much to learn from the courage, commitment and athleticism of the Olympic and Paralympic athletes, and here are the leadership qualities I saw.  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.


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LeadershipZone fundamentals: creating the emotional tone

A client was describing to me the challenging week she was having; the feelings of overwhelm and the need to focus on the important priorities.  Familiar territory for many leaders in today’s demanding environment; with fewer resources to hand and more on our plates.

What was of particular interest to me was the emotional zone in which she found herself and how that was the key underlying issue that needed addressing.  The challenge was being sucked in by people around her who were actively seeding negative emotions.

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Leadership & Economic Stimulus

The beauty of writing a blog is that the author can turn their attention to a range of relevant topics.  My focus this week is ‘leadership and economic stimulus’.  Why?  Because as I follow a number of discussions on economic situations around the world I’m reminded how closely it’s linked to our personal self-confidence.

People with money are holding onto it; they’re not spending it, rather they are spending time and effort looking for safe havens.  Whether that’s Switzerland (who have responded decisively to dissuade people from this approach), or major banks (some of which are charging ‘negative interest’ to reflect the cost of this).  A ‘safe haven’ is just a way of saying “I don’t feel confident enough to invest at the moment”.

searching for that elusive 'safe haven'

So Economic Stimulus needs Confidence

There’s so much we can do, as leaders, when we do feel confident.  We all know what it feels like to be ‘in the zone’: dynamic, energetic and full of that ‘can do’ feeling.  We see more possibilities and our brains are more creative.  Brain scientists would say that this is because more of the oxygen in our system is going to the brain – rather than being diverted to our legs (flight), our arms and hands (fight), or to our hearts (when we grieve and mourn).

There are steps we can take to generate economic confidence, and rather than offering out-of-context solustions, I invite you to consider these two questions:

  • What stimulus does your business or organisation need from other businesses/organisations?
  • What will you/your organisation do to stimulate the economy in turn?  Whether at a local, national or international level.

The LeadershipZone – a place of dynamic possibility

So in the LeadershipZone we need to be in a place of dynamic possibility and lead our people and teams towards success and achievement.  Does this feel like a tall order?  When there’s so much to be done before the end of the day, week or month – it  can appear to be so.  My challenge to anyone reading this is to step back and start looking the bigger picture:

  • What’s your strategic vision for what you’re aiming towards?

The steps on the way maybe detailed and complex, but if we – and our people –  aren’t feeling motivated and clear about where we’re going, then nothing’s going to happen.

The converse is also true, sometimes we do, and achieve, a lot – but no-one is stopping to look at the steps we’re taking towards success.  Here’s five things you can do to support yourself and others see the results of the effort they’re putting in:

  1. Notice and express the qualities of the people around you.  For example, if you notice a way of doing something that brings results, mention it publicly – and mention the quality you see in the person that resulted in that achievement too.
  2. Look at your own experience, skills and strengths, and really get to know these factors in your team members.  These are what will get you through the challenges ahead.
  3. Set up mentoring/buddy schemes – so that you and your colleagues have someone who’s open to hearing about the challenges and providing relevant advice.  I’m currently supporting a mentoring scheme for professional women working in logistics in the UK (with links across the world).  It’s amazing how generous people are in offering support to others as they climb the career ladder.  People loved being asked to be mentors – as long as their time and professionalism is respected
  4. Here’s a great website where you and  your people can be reminded to list and reflect on their daily achievements: http://www.idonethis.com
  5. Talking these achievements over with a colleague, boss or buddy can really inspire and motivate you and your people

Remember the rules of the LeadershipZone: get yourself inspired and motivated first, so that you can better inspire, motivate and above all lead your team to success.