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 Development – five lessons from politics

It felt a privilege to be on a call last night with a political leadership specialist. I thought it was going to be one of those dry, academic, conversations. It turned out to be truly inspiring.

Prof. Archie Brown, has written a book on political leadership (review here). It’s peppered with anecdotes and the great names of 20th century politics – like De Gaulle, Brandt, Thatcher and Gorbachev.  He was interviewed by Bob Hughes, PCC, as our Leadership Book Club author of the month.  Now, I know that even using the word ‘politics’ can be a turn-off. Stick with me –this will support your own leadership development work – I promise. Our conversation drew useful parallels between political leadership and organizational leadership. Continue reading


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Leadership Development: 3 ways to escape the Hawthorne Effect

At its heart, leadership development is very simple – we want people to learn some leadership principles, practice them in a safe environment, and put them to work. So what gets in the way? Why does it feel so hard sometimes? I’ve been supporting a client as she’s been travelling the world, working with her team of trainers and coaches to do just that. My role is a sounding board, while she is at the ‘coalface’.

Her efforts went into delivery quality. We deliver Masterclasses and Supervision support for her coaches. And we update trainers in the latest learning and facilitation methods for groups and teams through a blend of methods. All of which produced good results and happier participants.  But how long do they last?  And do they escape the Hawthorne Effect? Continue reading

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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 development: it’s not all about the individual leader

I’d be interested to know if you share my concerns about leadership development.  Much as I’m fascinated by the topic, and by the very real need to develop the leaders of today and tomorrow, my concern is that leaders think it’s all about them.

What their personality profiles tell them.

What their personal preferences are.

Over the years I’ve heard about ‘plants’ and ‘shapers’.  Tuckman’s theory.  Quality Circles and self-directed teams.  I love them all.  They’re ways of looking at the world that challenge our thinking and help improve team success.

But have you found that sometimes leaders – and future leaders – think it’s all about them?   Continue reading

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8 elements that ground leadership learning and create more effective leaders

August is always a busy time for leadership development.  While many people are away, some clients want to think through their ideas about how to create more effective leaders, and

  • Find new ways to influence the board
  • Have a bigger impact on the organisation’s leadership culture
  • Ultimately, have more effective leaders working successfully in the organisation

Because the phone isn’t ringing all day and people aren’t constantly being interrupted, there’s more thinking time.

Time for discussion and exploration.

We often get called in just to facilitate a discussion around leadership development. Supporting L&D Managers to reflect and refocus. Continue reading

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Developing Emotionally-Intelligent Leaders – Learning the lessons

Writing 10 blogs on emotional intelligence over the Christmas break, I was intrigued to see which of these would have current relevance to work in the new year.

One topic stands out for me:Developing Emotional Intelligence Continue reading

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Accelerated Learning – Why we use Fuzzy Sticks in our Classrooms

leadership development using accelerated learning

Bird on a Wire made from fuzzy sticks. Click here to see our fuzzy stick picture gallery

You can see the bafflement on peoples’ faces sometimes.  They walk into our classrooms at the start of one of our leadership development programmes and there, on the desks are brightly coloured pens, ‘fuzzy sticks’ (called pipe cleaners when I was young) and pompoms.

I remember one ex-army officer making loud disapproving noises – he didn’t like the idea of making the desk untidy – but that was before he created a perfect model of the Forth Road Bridge.

Why do we use these?

A lot of attention is paid to how people learn.  The study of neuroscience and ‘brain friendly learning’ is all the rage.  We call it ‘accelerated learning’ because we see how the environment we create in the classroom helps speed up peoples’ learning.

Accelerated learning is multi-sensory.  To learn best, people need to engage all of their senses: eyes, ears, hands, and feet – not just their brains.  We also know that learners aren’t focused 100% of the time.

I observe our course participants disengaging from time to time – not because they’re not interested in the topics we cover – but because it’s not physically possible to be full-on, all the time.  Nor is it possible, when you have a group of people in the room – to have breaks that suit everyone.

Our workshop participants are already using their eyes, and ears in the discussions and practical skills exercises we use.  They use their feet when we get them to move around the room.  So this aspect of accelerated learning is a creative way to use their hands, when they’re not taking notes or jotting their ideas down on paper.

Accelerated learning shifts us to the creative side of our brains.  It’s also giving our logical brains a break from full-on focus, without leaving the room.  We see people pick up a coloured pen and start doodling.  This keeps their brain working, in a pleasant way.

We see people start to twist the fuzzy sticks into different shapes and then start weaving in the pompoms to create the desired effect.  Then, when they’re ready, they put down their work and re-engage with the discussions.

It’s a key principle of adult learning environments that they are safe places in which to learn.  The last thing our senior leaders need is to feel stupid, or that it’s unsafe to speak up and challenge the prevailing view.  We want people to explore and challenge our thinking – because that’s what leaders need to be able to do back it the workplace.  Equally, their peers need to feel that their views are respected – even when not everyone agrees with them.

So fuzzy sticks, pens and pompoms are part of this safe environment.  It also helps in creating community as people start working their designs together.  If one person creates an animal out of the materials in front of them, someone else might build a shelter.

This is not to say that the serious content of the classroom isn’t happening.  It’s just that we build ‘serious play’ in to the learning process.  We help people to recognise that downtime is as important as the content and that it’s not ‘wrong’ to want to switch off from time to time.

So the next time you want to inject some creativity into your meeting – or need a way to keep attention high over a sustained period of time – try a few fuzzy sticks – and see what a difference accelerated learning makes.