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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Vision: the framework for great leadership

Running one of our Ignite courses last week in leadership and coaching skills, I was struck by just how much power leaders have, regardless of their position in the hierarchy.  And it’s all down to one thing: vision.

The reason vision is so important is because it’s such a powerful tool.These carvings frame the doorway

It’s the difference between rich and poor.  Success and failure.  Or worse, stagnation.  It’s so easy to keep doing the same old things when you don’t know where you’re going.  It’s a completely different, richer and more dynamic, picture when you have a vision. 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 4 & 5: your ‘Project Control’ room

One of my coaching clients took me to see his new pride and joy: a gleaming control room to monitor every inch of a regional railway.  The flashing lights, overhead computers and intensely focused engineers was a joy to behold: it brought out my ‘inner control freak’ in a big way.  It also reminded me of being privileged to be shown around an Air Traffic Control centre one evening, when Concorde passed through the airspace just before entering it reached the speed that creates a ‘sonic boom’ over the Atlantic Ocean.

These control rooms had three key purposes: to oversee activities within certain geographical areas, ensure the smooth running of activities within those areas and optimise the safety of the people working in them.  When we’re drowning under a sea of paper and a range of complex priorities, having space to set them out improves working conditions. 

I’m not going all ‘feng shui’ and New Age here; being able to define the zone within which your leadership takes place is one fundamental requirement of your leadership.  It will lead to better definitions of  your vision, mission and values – because it’s clear what’s in scope and what’s out.

A dedicated ‘Project Control Room’  where the WHOLE project can be laid out and left out – visually or physically, has a range of valuable uses.  People can see what’s happening and –

  • Progress can be monitored
  • Visitors can be briefed and ideas presented
  • Issues and challenges can be debated
  • It improves communications and decision-making
  • Delegation and decisions are easier

It doesn’t have to be just transport systems that use control rooms; complex IT systems or projects, hospital services, projects that rely on a number of people across technologies or departments.  Imagine walking into a hospital and seeing the flow of patients out of the Emergency Waiting Room into treatment areas; reducing bottlenecks and saving lives.

Having a control room within which to keep track of these key purposes is an undoubted luxury, but when I saw the Network Control Room, it brought home to me how valuable this space would be to other leaders.

Control rooms don’t have to take up physical space: they can be shared on the internet, reside on flip chart paper or similar temporary methods.  I’ve just bought some rolls of reusable magic flipcharts which stick to any wall.  I’m going to use it to map out my next book, laying it out at eye level around the room I’m using in Italy to achieve the best flow for my ideas.  My plan is then to capture the final version on the computer, roll up the charts, bring them back and re-use them.

By providing technologies which allow your team to map out their ideas, they can share and debate them with colleagues – whether in person, or via a host of modern telecommunications channels.

What has this to do with leadership?  By providing our people with the tools they need to do their job we’re delivering on the fundamentals of engagement: people trust us more when we provide what they need to be successful.  they’re better equipped, both in practical terms and emotionally, to deliver on their role.


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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.