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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Simpler Leadership – playing with infographics

In a recent blog I wrote about investing time to make life easier and how impressed I was by the Lexi infographics for the London Paralympics.  It didn’t take long for the complexity of the different classifications to make sense thanks to the systematic and simple explanations given and infographics used.  I was even more impressed when I heard it took a team two years to deliver the Lexi system, led by Paralympic gold medal winning athlete, Giles Long.  This is leadership at its best – really taking the communication challenge seriously, and investing time to get your message across clearly.  I was so impressed I’ve been reading whatever I can on infographics to understand this art.

Here’s something I put together today, in preparation for a business-building teleclass I’ll be running at the weekend for people either starting out or growing a business.

I used a trial software called piktochart – and it took about 90 minutes.  If you’re interested in the teleclass – just click on the image for more details


“Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.”  Steve Jobs

It may feel like infographics are the responsibility of the design team, or the art department – but I believe that leaders have a responsibility to invest in communicating their messages simply and clearly.  As well as getting hooked on infographics, I’m also keen to find more great quotes about simplicity.  I’ve put a couple on the home page of the LeadershipZone website too – so if you come across a great quote on simplicity, please do let me know.  …and that piece of advice about using audio?  I’ll be piloting that on this blog in the coming weeks….


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Boss Taming on the UN International Peace Day

21st September is the UN International Peace Day and I was fortunate last year to be at a European Parliament conference where a number of organisations pledged to undertake peace initiatives.   I met a range of people from different countries and institutions all focused on this theme.  Jeremy Gilley, the Founder of the Peace One Day movement was there and there were discussions about education, eliminating domestic violence, using ceasefire as opportunities for health initiatives, and reducing conflict, amongst many other ideas.  It might come as no surprise, however, that Boss Taming wasn’t on the agenda, as most of the people there were leaders in their organisations.

<iframe width=”560″ height=”315″ src=”; frameborder=”0″ allowfullscreen> Continue reading

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Leadership & Boss Taming How four easy listening steps benefit you

When I worked in a global banking and insurance organisation, someone told me I had the Cassandra Complex.  No, not the European electro-goth-industrial band, but the inability to convince others of the validity of my arguments; named after a character in Greek mythology.  So in the last 15 years I’ve spent a lot of time working out how to best influence others.  If I had a penny for everyone who said “my boss just doesn’t listen” I’d be writing this from my yacht moored by the Mediterranean Sea.   The phrase that would also pay for the penthouse in the harbour is “my boss talks too much.”  These phrases create frustration as they dis-empower us and reduce our emotional resilience.  So how can you benefit from listening to your boss and be more successful at boss taming, as well as improve your leadership? 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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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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The Virtual Leader: making the most of conference calls

We’ve all done it: finished our emails while the CEO is delivering his ‘all-hands’ call or texted colleagues and groaned about how boring this is. Conference calls, are seen as an easy, low cost way to ‘communicate’ with large numbers of people; yet the truth is, they are more likely to become a breeding ground for cynicism or disengagement, if done badly.

Investing in global calls can be enormously rewarding – but there are particular techniques to being successful.  I love the sense of reaching out across the world; remembering colleagues I worked with, or clients I’ve worked for and the places I’ve visited as a result.

Whether it’s one to one or one to many, you get what you give on telephone calls.  They take an investment in energy – just like any other major presentation.

Here’s my top ten tips and some suggested reading, for getting the most from conference calls.

1. Make it Visual; Make it Personal:

  • Before the meeting, circulate pictures of team members next to their agenda items, job titles/departments, so everyone knows what each other looks like when they come online
  • Meet your audience in person whenever possible – and connect with them on a personal level – maintaining that connection in calls.

2. Preparation (it’s everything!)

  • Prepare key messages; make them memorable
  • Edit ruthlessly: cut the waffle and junk the jargon
  • rehearse your messages; get feedback – especially on your timekeeping

3. Focus on your online presence

  • What’s the essential you?
  • Find a  metaphor or analogy for the ‘real you’)
  • Be that person on the calls

4 Invest time engaging with people on a personal level

  • At the beginning  of the call when people are joining – make one or two feel welcome, while the others are arriving
  • At the end of the calls invite one or two people to tell you one thing they’re taking away from the meeting

5. Invite people to be focused and engaged

  • You are looking for commitment to the meeting
  • Not doing other emails, taking calls on mobiles, etc., etc.,
  • Everyone needs to step up to the responsibility of making the meeting successful

6.  Who are you being as the meeting leader or keynote speaker?

  • What leadership strength are you bringing to the calls?
  • What engages you about this topic?
  • If you’re not engaged, chances are the audience aren’t either!

7. Not everyone’s first language is the same as yours

  • People may speak the same language, in theory, but culture and different interpretations may blur your messages
  • Slow down your speech
  • Pronounce each word more distinctly

8. Check for understanding

  • Invite feedback and engage people at the same time; some questions to ask might be:
  •  “Am I making sense?”
  •  “Does anyone have a different perspective?”
  • “Does this make sense in your country/territory/division/department?”
  • “Does anyone want to comment on that?”
  • “What questions might you have?

9.  Adapt to your audience’s Learning & Communications styles

  • We’re all different but there are some common themes – some of us are more ‘auditory’, others more tactile, some people make sense by writing things down
  • Most of us are visual – so use commonly-understood images to paint a ‘word picture’
  • Get your audience to write specific points down
  • Ask someone to feed back what they’ve just heard
  • Use variety to engage everyone

10. Combine the rational with the emotional

  • Use rational/logical (information) and emotional engagement – in one message; it engages both sides of the brain and engages your whole audience

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