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 & Difficult Conversations– seven qualities that flip the 80:20 switch

This issue of ‘difficult’ conversations certainly stirred up a hot debate in an Ignite workshop we ran last week.  What I love about our clients is that they’re the kind of people to discuss things rigorously.  Whether they agree or disagree, they’re always willing to give our recommendations a try.  That’s a real leadership quality.  In this blog I focus on seven leadership qualities that will make your life easier.  Give them a try.  They’ll also switch your team towards positive delivery, development and greater solidarity Continue reading


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The Good, the Bad & the Ugly of Leadership – Boss Taming part 2

On Sunday I posted part one of this blog – ‘Good Boss, Co-Create’ – now we begin to get into a little less comfortable area of leadership – so let’s see what we might do….

The Bad Boss – Check for Checks and Balances

I’ve got those Spaghetti Westerns cowboys in mind.  A rough figure in a poncho.  Sombrero tipped off his head, half-covering the rifle slung across his back.  Liable to pull it into action at any minute.  Or fire off from one of the pistols at his hips.cowboy

This is a sharp-shooting leader of my acquaintance.  Oh, and he’s a she.  Busy building her own career with the politicos and external stakeholders, she’s driving her posse from one poorly-thought-through project to another.  Continue reading


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Leadership – on stage without a script

Last week we managed to get a day out of the office – for an event we’ve been looking forward to for months.  We met  comedian Neil Mullarkey several months ago at the ICF Global Coaching Conference.  He offered us the chance to see how we could integrate our brand of leadership coaching and development with improv comedy.  As we went through the day, the analogy of a leader being ‘on stage without a script’ became strikingly obvious. Continue reading


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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: tprf.org)

Sponsored cyclist ex-nurse Barry (source: tprf.org)

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 (stjohneyehospital.org)

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