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 – 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:

Sponsored cyclist ex-nurse Barry (source:

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 (

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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Leadership – perfect intentions in an imperfect world

Preparing for a leadership coaching master class is always an exciting challenge and this week is no exception.  The topic is ethics and I’m taking the theme of how we can deliver on our perfect intentions in this imperfect world.  For me, ethics are a key component in our growth and progress as leaders and coaches.

I want to explore how we can deliver to our best and maintain our moral integrity.  Really understanding what it is to be a better leader, or a more professional coach.  My intention is to start a conversation – so please do add your own thoughts at the end of this post.

My first point of reference is always our clients.  Without exception they’re under pressure to deliver – but the impact is unique and different for each.  So how do we balance the need to deliver on performance with the obligations that professional and social ethics demand?  Continue reading

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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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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.

Continue reading

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Social Responsibility and the Leader

I’ve just come out of a strategy meeting with our global team and consolidated a number of conversations I’ve been having recently with our business partners, and leadership coaches, from around the world.

Corporate Social Responsibility is described as the third element of the ‘triple bottom line’: corporate profitability; the people element and the environmental (or ‘planet’) account.  The third of these three ‘P’s was first created by a British environmentalist, John Elkington, in the mid-1990’s and the argument goes that only by taking into account these three elements is the full ‘cost’ (by which he meant more than just the financial element) of doing business. 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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Leadership and emotional intelligence – on the sportsfield

I’m not particularly sporty and I don’t follow rugby, but I have trained rugby players in coaching skills and seen them apply those tools to their playing and coaching on the field.  I’m also very inspired by seeing the people of New Zealand rising above the huge challenge of having survived two major earthquakes in the last year and for the event to go ahead at all.  Congratulations to everyone who put so much into making that happen.

One of our clients has been saving all year to spend her time travelling to New Zealand – just in time to see England get knocked out…  Perhaps for all these reason I have been enthralled by the semi-finals of the Rugby World Cup.

For those of you who don’t follow rugby, it’s a very physical game, similar to, but with none of the protection used in the game of American Football. It inspires deep passions and fierce debate in the post-match analysis (that is, for UK fans at least, most often in the pub).

Eighteen minutes into the semi-final game between Wales and France, the Welsh Captain, Sam Warburton, was sent off for an illegal tackle on an opponent.  Despite this catastrophic loss, Wales managed to hold out against France, only losing by 1 point.

So what happened?  Perhaps by the time you read this, a replay will be available on YouTube – but here’s my synopsis:

The players reacted from the primeval part of their brain – sometimes known as the ‘lizard’ or ‘reptilian’ brain (technical term: basal ganglia). This means that emotional responses are very simple:

  1. “Will it kill me?”
  2. “Will I kill it?
  3. If the answer to the above is ‘no’, then “Can I mate with it“?

So the tackle that led to the sending off was a primeval response to a perceived threat.  I’m not trying to imply malicious intent or that the player really wanted to ‘kill’ the other – simply that his brain was reacting at a very fundamental level.

In his post-match interview, the Welsh Captain then showed another part of his brain – the ‘mammalian brain’ (‘limbic system’) – where his response seemed genuinely remorseful.  Warburton had a very positive previous disciplinary record, accepted his punishment well (a 3-match ban) and shifted to supporting his team to succeed in the ‘play-offs’ that he will miss.

It was good to note that Warburton was able to express his emotions: “disappointment” and still able to motivate his team to move forward and succeed without him.

And for me that was the greatest triumph of the Welsh team in defeat.  They did everything in their power to limit their opponents’ greater strength and did well to keep the score so close (9-8 to France).  This shows great resilience in the face of a catastrophe – something unexpected and probably unplanned.  You could argue that ‘Plan A’ was to win the match with the full team; ‘Plan B’ was that the remaining players gave their all – which they did.

By contrast, the New Zealand team, who are noted for ‘choking’ – that is, failing to hold together as a team, losing their emotional resilience – managed to win decisively against their arch-rivals, Australia.  We’re used to noticing individual body language: I would argue that there’s such a thing as ‘team body language’ – where the whole team are working as one great organism.

I find rugby very hard to watch – but I love watching the hakas: the pre-match intimidation ritual – they just make me smile.  It’s totally about connecting with that primitive part of the brain: you don’t need to understand what’s being said here to understand the meaning –

So what’s this got to do with the rest of us sitting in our offices, trying to survive in today’s economy?

  • We need to lead, inspire and motivate the people who work with and for us
  • Nothing every goes exactly to plan:  airline pilots call this ‘course correction’.  The aim is to achieve the vision: real life may get in the way and we need to keep on-vision, having corrected our course
  • We need to know that everyone, from time to time, reacts at a primeval level under pressure – and makes mistakes
  • Our teams need to be empowered to succeed without the leader being present
  • We need to recover quickly from mistakes – apologise sincerely, take our ‘punishment’, put things right and then move on
  • Being in touch with, and expressing how we feel is the mark of an authentic leader

Identifying potential trigger points and having a plan to avoid falling into the pit of the reptilian brain’s reactions is vital.  Typical triggers are

  • Situations – e.g. meetings, lack of sleep, too many plates spinning
  • People – e.g. relationships
  • Time – e.g. late nights, early mornings
  • The unexpected

Creating a learning environment and inspiring people to keep moving on towards the vision is the role of the emotionally-intelligent leader.  Noticing when and where these are most likely to occur, and having a ‘Plan B’ can mitigate many situations.  The New Zealand Rugby Team are the favourites to win the final – but watch the team body language, my prediction is that whoever has the greater will win.  If New Zealand maintain that – together with their team spirit, leadership and resilience they will win.