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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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

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Three ways to prepare for more successful leadership

Last week I spent watching the Olympics and it was great to have tickets to see the Rowing and Equestrian Events live. The pundits tell us how much time athletes spend preparing each day for just this moment, and I have been reflecting on how different it is for leaders and managers.  How much time do we give to prepare for success?  So I thought it might be worth looking at practical techniques used by elite athletes, that we can all apply and achieve more successful leadership.

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Leadership fundamentals: success in a nutshell

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.

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LeadershipZone fundamentals: integrity, communications & motivation

When staff believe that their bosses have integrity and communicate well with them, they are more highly motivated and employee engagement scores are higher.   This blog looks at the changes needed when recruiting and developing leaders and the one thing that will make the biggest difference in peoples’ perceptions of their leaders – the appraisal conversation.

Why are engagement scores important?  Let’s take the example of hospitals: if hospital staff engagement with their organisation drops, mortality rates increase.  It’s in all our interests to be sure that hospital staff are well-motivated and engaged with their  work. 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.3: personal space

When I worked in the City of London in the late ’80s, I used to spend some of my lunch hours wandering the ancient streets.  You can walk into medieval churches, cross Roman walls and marvel at the Tower of London, just a few minutes walk from our busy offices.  I’m not saying I was a loner or a saint, many days were also spent with colleagues in wine bars and restaurants, sampling the range of delights on offer – but it was a pleasure to have time to myself to ‘switch off’ temporarily from the demands of the job.

Iconic buildings for London's 2012 Olympics

I can remember people staring upwards as the glass and steel Lloyds’ Building rose in the City.  Today there’s the whole Olympic site to see rising out of the rubble of derelict waste land in East London – and I bet every City has similar sights.

Today the phrase ‘Lunch Hour’ itself is seen as a medieval concept.  Yet having personal space in the middle of the working day is vital for our brains as well as our bodies.  Eating at our desks is neither hygienic nor attractive; and don’t get me started about the greasy smell of fast food!  If you’ve ever sat working while someone else is diving into their BigMcNuggetMac, you’ll know exactly what I mean.

I’m fascinated by the activities that people  do, when their mid-day break has been reduced and they become less engaged with their work.  The time taken out of the working day to deal with shopping, online entertainment and planning leisure activities; it can also be measured in workforce engagement surveys.  People with this attitude believe it’s their right to do this in worktime, because their personal space has been taken away and this impacts directly on the bottom line of your organisation.

There’s some interesting current work on what’s called the ‘positivity ratio’.  The author, Dr. Maynard Brusman cites research work studying the characteristics of high-performing business teams:  “If a team is highly connected, its members will maintain a positivity/negativity ratio above 3:1.”

Other research into peoples’ priorities show that health, relationships, and work come out as top.  Taking a break and eating lunch in a social environment contributes to all three.  So providing personal space – physical and in terms of time – for people to get away from the workzone is a vital leadership responsibility: especially if we want our people to be successful in their roles, and bring engagement, buzz and commitment back into the workplace.

Professionals in human resources talk about the ‘social contract’ that exists between employee and employer.  This is also an emotional contract, and if our staff don’t believe that it’s a fair exchange of effort and reward, they’ll find the most creative ways to rebalance the books.

When I work with teams to improve their performance, I ask them to rate themselves on three key measures on a 0-10 scale:

  • Positivity: how positive am I about the work I’m doing?
  • Productivity: how effective am I?
  • Credibility: how credible am I, within and outside this team?

If you want an easy way to test your team’s overall engagement quickly, I challenge you to ask these three questions.  And, to increase productivity and effectiveness and re-engage your team, I urge you to give them physical and personal space to take a break during the day.


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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.