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You’ve empowered your team : so why isn’t it working?


You’re hip with the leadership trends.

You’ve told your team they’re empowered to make decisions and should no longer seek your approval.

Yes! This is what anyone who knows anything and leadership is talking about these days.

Keep reading to find out why it isn’t working yet 👇

We’ve got roadworks on the High Street so have an unusual scenario; the Zebra Crossing is being temporarily controlled by traffic lights 🚦


Yesterday, I waited to cross. It was red for me but green for the approaching cars.

But as I waited patiently, all the cars stopped. And I felt compelled to cross because I felt like I was holding up the traffic!

The cars had a green light so their instruction was this: you shouldn’t give way to pedestrians on the Zebra crossing.

But they simply couldn’t ignore all their years of driving experience, which said:

“You must give way to pedestrians, even the ignorant ones who cross suddenly with no warning and don’t say thanks.”


Let’s move this scenario to your workplace.

You’ve told your team they need to start feeling more empowered – you’ve seen this work brilliantly in books and on YouTube and you want your team to succeed.

You want them to develop critical thinking by being more responsible for decision making.

You want them to feel empowered. Brilliant! (say hello to that stress free holiday to Lake Como)

So, you share your enthusiasm, and the awesome YouTube video and then you high five everyone as they leave the meeting room. 🙌


But, what if what your team heard was this?:

“You know how previously you checked in with me on key decisions, and I’ve happily given you the benefit of my advice? And you know how you’ve cc’d me in on e-mails because they were about a project I’m still involved with?

Well, I now want YOU to make decisions and feel Empowered with a capital E.”

Remember the car driver. Well, the team’s red light might be their combined experience of working with you pre-empowerment, and how things tend to work around here.

And the green light is the brand-new instruction. The one where nobody is sure of the implications and what it actually means in practice.

All is not lost – you just need to talk to your team and you’re likely be able to turn that red light, to a much happier green.

Here are some ideas from the master of empowerment and Author of Bestselling book Turn the Ship Around!, David Marquet:


✅ Check in with them about having more authority and making more decisions – are they up for it?

Talk about what decisions could move to the team – decide on some experiments

Make sure there is competence and clarity to back up the shift in decision making. Do people need training? Are they clear on the purpose and outcomes needed?

Talk about reasonable steps towards them fully making decisions: things like: “explore options,” “recommend alternatives,” or “come up with a plan,” or “do what you think is best.”

Talk about what happens in a crisis. Remembering that reverting to command and control won’t give people a chance to perform under pressure.

✅ And finally, don’t make hierarchy the enemy. Instead, use hierarchy in a way that places greater obligation on those higher up to take care of their teams, and greater responsibility to ensure those below them have the tools they need, in the form of technical competence and organisational clarity, to be successful when making decisions.


If you’ve tried to move more decisions into your team – and it hasn’t been as successful as you’d like – it’s the kind of thing that I have loads of experience in.

Fewer excuses and more solutions with this technique


I once thought the idea of managing up sounded manipulative and was only needed if a manager is completely incompetent. But after working with 100s of leaders I know this isn’t true.

Done correctly and with these techniques it can make for a really productive working relationship.

Let’s breakdown what it means to get it right.


#1 Offer solutions, not problems

It can be tempting to go straight to the issue.

🚫 “We never have 121s, and when we do we get stuck in the weeds.”

✅ “Can I schedule us regular 121s so I can update you on what I’ve been doing with my team. I can suggest an agenda to get us started if you like.”

This shows you’re proactive and solution-oriented. Unfortunately, many managers haven’t got the first idea about what should happen during a 121 – so help them out.


#2 Make requests, not complaints

You feel burnout creeping on. Try to make a request before it goes too far.

🚫 “I can’t keep doing this. I’m exhausted.”

✅ ”Now we’ve got that deadline behind us I’d like to take a few days off to reset. Are these dates any good?”

This shows you’re self-aware and looking after your mental health before there is a potential avoidable problem.


#3 Keep your boss in the loop

🚫 I hate being micro-managed. Maybe if I work from home I’ll be able to just get stuff done.

✅ ”Let’s agree how I’ll update you on my progress. I want to make sure you don’t feel in the dark and like you need to check in more than is useful to either of us.”

Agree to an update cadence for each project you’re working ahead of time. It might be daily or weekly depending on the project’s scope. This will prevent the risk of being micromanaged.


#4 Invite feedback

🚫 “I’m sure she’ll let me know if things aren’t great.”

✅ ”I’d value your feedback on how I’m doing on this project. I’ve been working on improving how I chair the weekly meetings. It would be great to hear what you think whenever you’re in them.”

If you’re worth your salt, you will want to be getting more feedback. The truth is your manager probably dreads it because they only know the feedback/shit sandwich technique. Ask for feedback on something specific – and role model how to do it well by sharing positive feedback with them.


Here’s a model to share with your boss:

What?  I came away from our recent 121 feeling positive and clear about what you need from the team.

So What? It meant I could look at who is in what role and make some important decisions about resourcing.

No What? I’d like us to include team structure on our next 121 agenda.


And if you’re the boss.

Maybe you’re wondering what it’s like to be managed by you. 😬  This is a great first step.

Next step is to ask your team for specific feedback and consider this:


How can I make it easier for my team to manage up? 

What I got all wrong about psychological safety


Hands up, at first, I got the concept of psychological safety all wrong.

And I (sort of) blame my parents. 👩‍🦳👩‍🦲

I grew up with the mantra ‘don’t put your head above the parapet’. Taking risks was not encouraged. Who wants to risk looking foolish?

Not me, thanks very much.

So, when I first heard about the concept of psychological safety, I thought it was about making sure everyone felt comfortable.

When I started coaching teams, I wanted people to feel at ease, so they’d contribute.

And it seemed to be OK for a bit.

But then I noticed elephants in the room that nobody dare mention. 🐘

At the time, I worked with my husband Steve, and I noticed I disagreed with him all the time and that was OK.

I’d offer up ideas that were occasionally half-baked, give difficult feedback, get stubborn about things I felt passionate about, and gave way when I was wrong. And Steve did the same.

It didn’t feel comfortable – but it did feel safe. And it produced some great results.

Here is where I was getting it all wrong:

It turns out that safety is not the same as comfort and if they get confused the results can be pretty unhelpful.

Your job as a leader is protect your team from harm:

✅ Make sure you’ve got the right people in the team, and that you effectively manage any brilliant jerks.

It’s not about protecting your team from discomfort:

❌ Don’t keep stepping in to prop up the team targets instead of having the difficult accountability conversation (which will help the team grow).

I built psychological safety with Steve by accident.

“The more you face ‘cognitive friction’, the better you get at not taking other people’s pushback and different ideas personally.”

When I applied this thinking to teams, it meant the trust I was building in teams had a purpose. And led to some uncomfortable but meaningful conversations, and ultimately team growth.

Warning ⚠️

You can push it too far.

Ironically if everyone felt safe to say EXACTLY what they want this reduces psychological safety. 🤬

So, when it comes to feedback, keep it constructive. When you’re starting out you might even want to try Feed Forward – where you focus on the suggestions for development.

Are your team too darn comfortable for their own good?

Or are they keeping quiet for fear of the consequences?

You might want to share this e-mail with them and start a conversation about what it means to feel safe in your team.

Top tip: start the chats in pairs so people feel safe right from the start

I bet you get pulled into this kind of destructive, competitive thinking


I’ve taken my teen daughter and her friend camping (in the rain), and I don’t really know how the camper works plus I have significant parking anxiety.

Did I mention the rain? ⛈️

I went for an early morning swim feeling much impressed with myself and aiming to stay for an hour of meditative front crawl.

Then I noticed another person in the pool.

Could I swim faster than them?

When I was consistently half a length ahead, I noticed I was out of breath and tense, so I let it go.

Back to meditation. 🏊‍♀️

Then I started counting my strokes and trying to reduce them. Dammit, tense again.

Back to meditation (with gritted teeth) and I was only 20 minutes in.

I wondered how long the other person was going to swim for. I couldn’t get out before them.

I got into my stride (or is that stroke) and started to relax. .🏊‍♀️

But I had half an eye on her. Why wasn’t she finishing? Couldn’t she tell I was worrying about whether there’d be any pastries left in the campsite shop?

Then I just stopped.

I’d swum for 45 minutes and enjoyed about 7 of them.

This type of competitive thinking isn’t healthy for me– making comparisons with other people is just destructive most of the time.

But I need competition to motivate myself sometimes.

So I’ve come up with a different measure for tomorrow’s swim that’s nothing to do with clock-watching or comparisons.

I’m going to set a distance and swim it however long it takes.

Being competitive is part of my success – so I’m trying hard to be kind to myself.

If you’re interested in better leadership, creating high performance habits and being the best version of yourself I bet you’ve fallen into this trap too.

Here’s what I do when I notice it happening: 

  • Change the measures  – like in the example above
  • Consider what actions the future version of myself wants me to take (rather than obsessing about an award winning author 🤦‍♀️or leadership guru)
  • Remember the mantra ‘stop comparing your insides to their outsides’
  • Collaborate – a team will normally out perform an individual

And if this kind of thinking never happens to you – let me know your secret and I will share it with this community so we can all benefit!

What I value (slightly) more than financial freedom


You’ve asked your team to list their key priorities.

Someone’s written up Increase Sales and Improve Customer Service 🥱.

So, it’s important to be selling more stuff without hacking people off.

No sh*t Sherlock.

It struck me recently, as I was halfway through the new Wham documentary (always a George Michael fan, never really saw the point of Andrew Ridgely) why it’s so tricky to make this kind of exercise particularly useful.

First, let’s start with Andrew Ridgely.

He started out as the powerhouse of Wham. He co-wrote songs, created their look and was the confident go-getter. But after George Michael found his mojo, Andrew became just the pretty sidekick.

In the documentary, Andrew said he was touring the world, spending cash and being famous – what’s not to like?

I realised I would NOT feel the same about that situation. Nothing could compensate for the misery of not contributing creatively and being recognised as making an impact.

That’s when it hit me.

I value making an impact even over financial freedom.

Both are important but instead of just identifying them I’d prioritised them.

Now I have crucial information that can guide my decision making.

For example, I won’t sign up to deliver someone else’s material even if they were paying me over the odds. Not being in control would reduce my ability to have impact and I might turn into Andrew Ridgely (without the world-wide fame and big hair).

So, next time you come up with a list of things that all seem important to your team, force yourselves to pair them up and create ‘even over’ statements.

This will probably create much debate – but I bet you’ll find that significantly more useful than just a dreary list of team priorities.

And if you want a referee facilitator to help you make sense of the session, just press reply and we can chat about how that might work.

This team is more impressive than a Formula 1 pit crew (and they smile continuously) Would I lie to you?


You’re on a flight.

You’re absentmindedly watching the safety briefing.

And you’re also wondering how the cabin crew would cope if a massive hole were torn in the fuselage.

Dammit, that’s just me isn’t it.

Don’t get me wrong, I love a flight – and yes I also have carbon footprint guilt – but there’s one part of the whole process that fascinates me.

The airline cabin crew.

Specifically, watching them serve food and drink to over 200 (mostly awkward bastard) passengers. They’re more impressive than a Formula 1 pit crew (in my humble opinion) who are arguably a highly coordinated group of specialist individuals.

Cabin crew have to navigate an ever changing scenario as an interdependent team – plus it involves the general public.

Which we all know means gritting their teeth and smiling in the face of someone complaining about their tea being too hot.

And not only are they serving you food and drinks, they might just be keeping you alive one day – remember the gaping hole in the fuselage? Oh, you were trying to forget, sorry.

The Cabin Crew Test

I would argue that if a cabin crew are not high performing, then us holiday makers are all screwed (so to speak). So, how would your team compare to a mighty cabin crew?

I believe they have the following attributes in abundance. Score your own team out of 5 for each bullet:

  • We’re clear on our purpose and the shared endeavour
  • We listen well – to customers, the team, the changing environment
  • We agree on the best way to work together
  • We reflect on how we’re doing as a team
  • No one is afraid to speak up and give feedback
  • Our processes are effective
  • Our roles and responsibilities are clear

I’m going to bet you a pot of Yum-Me Penne Arrabbiata (right from the EasyJet inflight menu, I know, right), that you scored low on at least 2 of these bullets.

I am yet to sit with a team that isn’t a little inconsistent in one or more of these areas (apart from maybe my time at Mayden – my new Podcast episode about this coming up soon!)

What to do?

  • Invite your team to score themselves
  • Chat about the scores
  • What came out top, low or was inconsistent?
  • Which areas would give you the biggest impact if you were to work on them?
  • Agree to try a few experiments to see what happens
  • Work on them
  • Review how it’s going

Doing this will feel good because you’ll get more stuff done.

Plus it’s more likely to be the right stuff that will bring results.

And if you want your team to truly take off (see what i did there?) just hit reply and we can chat.

Just stop being a coach then. He said to my stroppy little face.


“Just stop being a coach then.”

That’s not what I’d been expecting from Steve. My then partner, now husband, who was himself a coach.

Let me take you back to 2013.

Pharrell Williams’ wretched song Happy was at number 1.

And I was transitioning from being an employed coach to starting my own business following the redundancies of me and my whole team. Cue, I’m not good enough-itis.

I was wallowing in the depths of my imposter syndrome and Steve was trying all sorts of tactics to help me.

This was a typical conversation.

“Look at the results you’ve had with leaders.”

“What if I can’t repeat them?”

“What’s the worst that could happen?”

“I can’t make my business work and I’ll have to get a job at B & Q.”

“Have you seen how many middle aged, mostly men, there are calling themselves coaches when all they’re doing is churning out the same old advice?”

“That doesn’t mean I’ll make it work.”

I had all the answers.

It was at the end of one of these wallowfests that Steve said the immortal line:

Just stop being a coach then.

It silenced me. And in that silence, I had to think. REALLY think. Being a coach was part of my identity and I loved it.

That night I listed all the ways I could bridge the gap between feeling like an OK coach and being an awesome coach.

The next day I researched ways I could build on my coaching accreditation. That was the start of my journey into more coaching qualifications, group supervision, mentoring and mastery workshops. And it’s never ended.

What Steve did that night was knock the ball back at me so hard that I had to take ownership of my decisions and cut the crap. He stopped rescuing me and it drove me into action.

What’s your approach when members of your team are seemingly stuck?

Do you attempt to relieve someone from the pain of their challenges?

I bet you mean well, but is there a danger you’re robbing them of the responsibility and ownership of THEIR problem?

I have to ask myself this question virtually every time I talk to my teenage daughter 😊

It’s wild when I reflect back on where I was a decade ago, since then I’ve:

– partnered with countless leaders and C Suite execs to transform themselves and their teams

– help change the workplace cultures within anything from a bespoke playground manufacturers to a multi-national corporation.

-and I recorded another episode of my brand new podcast this morning (watch this space for the launch!)

There are so many exciting things going on in my business these days.

It all feels a world away from those anxious days of 2013.

So if you or someone in your team is also suffering from feeling stuck and you need to change the story and the outcome, hit reply and we can schedule a chat!

1 simple conversation to quadruple engagement in their first week


Just overheard a plumber talking to one of his guys. I’m in a café just in case you’re wondering.

It sounded great at first.

“We’re a team and we’re here for you, if one of us fails we all fail.”

Nice. Then he went on a bit longer.

“Here’s what to do if you’re not sure about something….. This is my ethos about running a business…”

And a bit longer still

“Blah, blah, blah.” (sorry I stopped listening at this point)”

I’m sure he meant well and was one of the good guys. But it was a one directional mini lecture. His employee was staring at the table like a teenager who’d just been caught vaping.

Imagine if he’d approached it more like this:

So tell me about other places you’ve worked. What was great? Anything drive you nuts? What happened if you weren’t sure about something?

What happened when someone made a mistake? How was it handled?

How have you found things here since you started? I really value your perspective.

This is what we aim for…

What do you hope to achieve over the next 6 months?

What else could we do to support you?

Can you see how drastically different that is?

One simple conversation could tick many important boxes:

Employee Engagement ✅
Commitment ✅
Productivity ✅
Ownership ✅
Learning ✅

Some leaders are in love with the sound of their own voice (not you obviously) and others just don’t have a clue how to start asking more powerful questions.

If this describes you, I can recommend an excellent book or two, or I could help you become a leader that gets better results.

Either way, hit reply and we can schedule a chat


P.s. I made up the quadruple thing- I bet it’s more than that. Feel free to try it and let me know what you think the multiplier should be.

Tiny ways you can create leaders not followers


Don’t you just hate it when someone slips into conversation how nice the sunrise was when they left the gym that morning? Or they make that achy muscles noise when they drop into a chair.


Hate them.


So anyway, I was totally at my gym class at 6.10am this morning! I’m not even going to be subtle about it (but in a tick I’ll segway to a leadership technique my PT does without thinking).


I’m on week 3 of a small group weights class and I’m awesome.


OK, I’m actually pretty weak. I’m not fitness shy but could I lift more than the bar (without any flipping weights) in week 1?




Week 2 and the PT put on tiny weights! Would I have pushed myself this hard alone? No way.


He could see my potential where I can only see weakness (note: leadership segway in progress).


Week 3 and he said:  ‘What weight do you think you can lift?’


He is giving me autonomy – I had to use my brain and think for myself. Keep my PT in mind when you consider your role as a leader.

You are there to create more thoughtful leaders – not passengers or followers.


This week, consider how you can:


  • reach for great questions instead of dishing out instructions.
  • rethink the praise. Less is more. Be specific, not gushy.
  • set your expectations high. And don’t cancel the check ins.


All sounds great but you’re too busy to even tie your own shoelaces?


You’re going to love my Leaders Guide to Increasing Your Impact, Influence & Free Time. 

Succession planning done right: lessons from my client

I recently worked with a senior team who were not only busy, but they were overwhelmed in the day-to-day firefighting.

Burn out was on the horizon and they all knew it.

The tactic they would have used when I first started working with them: run faster and harder.

Since working on their team effectiveness, they are now: running a different race.

They recognised the problem, so we scheduled an offsite. This is what they achieved:

1.      They redesigned their leadership structure.

2.      They created or redesigned several roles.

3.      They recruited for their successors.

4.      They are investing in coaching and mentoring to integrate them into the executive team.

While this approach may not be feasible for all businesses, there are key takeaways to be learned.

⭐ Having open and forward-looking conversations to identify potential successors is crucial. This team recognised their vulnerability and took action to balance responsibilities.

⭐ Coach and mentor your high potentials – rather than selecting their favourites or longest serving people. Using data to determine the right fit for the role is essential.

⭐ The Exec team were comfortable with letting go of control and allowing for change. While it may be uncomfortable, it is necessary to embrace new dynamics and ways of doing things.

Consider what steps you are taking to ensure a successful succession plan. And how can you identify potential successors and actively prepare them for leadership roles?

I hope this has given you some valuable insights into the importance of proactive succession planning and investing in your high-potential employees.

If you’d like to discuss how I can help you develop your high potentials, please don’t hesitate to reach out.