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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What we’ve learned about leaders in 2012 – plus a new year offer

I love getting customer feedback.  I’ve just been reading what delegates said about a coaching conference where my colleagues Bob and Cyndi presented.  Good feedback is valuable and constructive – this is how we get to learn and grow.  And because leadership is an ever-moving journey, we need to keep on learning.  Keep reading and there’s a new year’s offer for you to keep on learning too.

Here’s what we’ve learned from you in 2012:

  • Our customers want to be better leaders and managers
  • They want to improve their communication skills
  • Some people want to feel more secure in their job
  • Others want to get a promotion; get a bonus or a pay rise

You tell us that you don’t just want to be coached to be more effective, or a better communicator. Great leaders want their team to succeed too – and many of you want to learn to apply coaching skills successfully for that reason.

People feel the need to get more things done – personally and through their colleagues and teams – but feel challenged by so many tasks and targets. People want to feel they can provide for their family – and have the better things in life – homes, cars, holidays and fun with family or friends.  Enjoy watching or playing their favourite sport.

Many of you are also sports coaches – volunteering at the weekends to coach your kids’ football or rugby teams.  Some  clients are rowing and athletics coaches at national level too.  Whatever the level you’re coaching at- we’ve  heard some great success stories.Olympic Rings

Some of you want to get a better job somewhere else.  Or just feel  like you’re in a better place by the year end.  Yet for many of you it feels like everything’s speeding up – when it should be winding down for the holidays.

2012 has been a great year to salute coaching as a profession –in the sports arena – or in the board room. It’s a way of learning that enables people to succeed.

What we do is support leaders is to take out what gets in the way –

  • The tricky relationships – getting people off our back – or improving our empathy
  • Overcoming the feeling of overwhelm or the reluctance to delegate
  • The desire to promote our pet project, or ourselves – or the desire to fade from the limelight

We do this both by coaching people – AND by giving them the coaching tools to be better, more coach-like  leaders themselves.

Our prediction for 2013 – you can get it off to a good start

Here’s your new year offer – to take advantage of one of the remaining spaces on our January 8/9 Ignite leadership coaching skills programme, discounted by 25% to £600 plus VAT. This is a 2 day residential course in the heart of the English countryside, close to Milton Keynes.

Our coaching skills programme is great for boosting confidence and performance, especially in new and emerging leaders.

If you’re not UK-based – here’s our international schedule for the first quarter 2013 – firstly the North American Dates for your diary,  and the Asia-Pacific Dates.  You can contact our North American partner, Cyndi, here, or Tony, our Australasia partner.

And the business case?  It provides a great return on investment and effort for retaining top talent and for motivating individuals and teams.

Wherever you are, and whatever you choose to do, we wish you a restful break and a great start to 2013


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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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Do Not Disturb: Successful leaders hit the pause button

Leaders spend a lot of their time, doing and directing – often focusing on what they’ve got to deliver and how they’re going to achieve that.  What we don’t do enough of – and I include myself in this – is simply stop for a moment and hit the pause button.  I know the benefits are huge – I get clarity and become better at making choices and decisions.  Sometimes I need to pause for longer; for example, when we review our business building plans.  At those times I prefer to set aside a couple of hours to really get thinking about what works and where we need to focus our business.  We call the short version putting on the ‘pause button’, and the longer version requires us to hang our ‘do not disturb’ sign on the door.

Do Not Disturb

Continue reading


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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.


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LeadershipZone Fundamental No.1: Focus

In my last blog I set out 5 fundamentals for creating the Zone in which leadership happens and your team can deliver.

Being in the LeadershipZone is primarily about being focused and the role of the leader is to create an environment in which your team can focus and achieve.

Why is focus important?

Leaders are busy people: with so much going on it’s easy to get distracted by the multi-media messages being pushed our way.  Setting a clear focus on priorities and seeing the competition between priorities is an important ‘must-do’ for a leader.

Once we know what our priorities are – whether that’s day to day,or whatever timescale we’re setting – it’s so much easier to deliver.  As a result, people know what the vision is: they know what success looks like – because it’s been clearly set out.  ‘Vision’ isn’t motherhood and apple pie, it’s a clearly set out picture of the direction and purpose for the team, department or organisation.  It can be a single, specific target, or it can be a longer term challenge.  Either way, focus helps keep everyoneon target.

Communications are vital to help keep focus.  As well as communicating key messages, the leader needs to understand what keeps his or her people in the zone.  ‘Focus’ means different things to each of us, because of our different workstyles, communications and learning styles.

My number 1 recommendation is that the whole team are able to focus on the task in hand: this may mean agreeing –

  1. Set times when people can work in silence
  2. Places where they can go to concentrate on a task
  3. ‘Do Not Disturb’ indicators

It’s also important to remember that, while the overall challenge may remain the same, there is often a need for ‘course correction’.  Our flightpath may change as we travel towards our goal andso the leader is regularly questioning whether we are on the path needed for goal attainment – and shifting the flightpath as needed.

Wherever you're heading, be prepared to adjust your flightpath

The LeadershipZone isn’t just created, it’s maintained by leaders and refreshed regularly.  Focus is a vital tool for this.


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Five Fundamentals for creating your LeadershipZone

Following on from last week’s blog about ‘responsibility’, I’ve been reflecting on what this really means for leaders.  My vision is that LeadershipZone tools pro-actively support leaders to lead, achieve and succeed – by which I mean:

  • Lead: fully take on board your responsibilities, for what you do, how you do it and who you are as a leader.  This also means taking responsibility for communicating well, motivating and developing your people. These last three are not optional extras, by the way.
  • Achieve: together the team accomplishes its goals, such that every project, programme and initiative is attained at a reasonable pace.
  • Succeed: everyone thriving on the challenge they face, taking individual responsibility for their goals,  such that every member receives recognition for their contribution and works in an environment of success and celebration.

My organisation, The Forton Group, has a definition of leadership which is that individuals are personally successful; they enable success in their teams and their organisations, as well as appreciating their wider leadership impact on society.

This week’s theme is about creating that ‘zone’: the environment in which leaders can enable their people to thrive and be successful.  And if you’re a leadership or executive coach – you can use these tools to bring out the best in your clients.

There’s a theory gaining pace that willpower is a finite resource: the more we’ve drained our energy and determination in one field, the less is available for others.  For people who need to exercise more, expecting them to be restrained with the chocolate bars or high-sugar drinks afterwards is asking for too much: they’ve already used up their willpower.

Similarly the role of the leader is to make create the environment for success and make it as easy as possible for team members to be successful and achieve their objectives.

So how do we make it easier for people to succeed?

Here’s five fundamentals; starting with the physical environment, beyond the desk/chair/computer/phone basics (which all need to be in tip-top condition).  Create an environment where

  1. The team can focus on the task in hand: this may mean agreeing –
    1. Set times when they work in silence
    2.  Places where they can go to concentrate on a task
    3. Flags or other ‘Do Not Disturb’ indicators
  2. By contrast, does your team have times and places where they can actively interact – share ideas, chat and chill out?
  3. Do team members have a place – away from their desk – where they can eat and drink?
  4. Create a dedicated ‘Project Control Room’ or similar space, where the WHOLE project can be laid out and left out – visually or physically – and progress monitored.
  5. Finally, enable access to technologies which allow them to map out their ideas, share and debate these with colleagues.  This might be
  • Whiteboards or flipcharts
  • Digital technologies for virtual sharing
  • Or good old fashioned pen, paper and sticky tape…

Now I can hear people out there talking about slashed budgets and no spare money for expensive extras.  My challenge to you is to be resourceful and find ways of achieving what you and your team need to be successful – without adding to the bottomline.  Who says a ‘project control room’ has to be an office at high-end rates for example?  Many silicone valley projects were born and raised in peoples’ garages.  I look forward to hearing what you, or your clients have done to create the fundamentals of a LeadershipZone.