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Become a Natural Born Leader!

Natural born leaders. This month I met one.

It’s like he had leadership in his bones. You know the type; they might not even manage many people, but you can tell they have the X factor.

They don’t come along that often but when they do, I’m always left pondering the same thing.

Is leadership innate and can it be learned by others?

It might be that some qualities lend themselves to leadership: charisma, empathy, and high self-confidence. My client came across well, but he didn’t have these qualities at extreme levels.

So, what was he actually doing that seemed to make a difference?

Here is what I notice about his leadership behaviours:

  • He has a clear idea of the type of leader he wants to be and the difference he’s trying to make
  • He prioritises the right things – I haven’t chased him to get back to me once
  • He doesn’t shy away from straight talking – people know where they stand with him
  • He welcomes feedback – he wanted to hear how he was perceived
  • He is humble and realises others know more than him in many areas
  • He wants to be a leader and manager – and isn’t trying to just shoehorn it around the ‘day job’
  • He’s a good listener but isn’t trying to win a popularity contest

Turning these insights into something useful

✔ Score yourself out of 5 against each of these areas

✔ Identify where you are currently strong. Can you bring this into more areas of your life and work?

✔ Which areas would bring you the biggest impact if you were to work on them?

✔ Identify 2 things you can do this week that will help you develop to become an even stronger leader.

I can help you

You are more likely to commit to this experiment if you tell someone. So, reply to this e-mail with what you plan to try out. And if I have any suggestions of how you might dial it up I’ll let you know!

“20% of my diary is now white space”

This was a quote from my client when I spoke to him yesterday.

But last month when he shared his diary with me it was a car crash.  So how did he do it?

❌Last month:

His team would double book any meetings showing as tentative so they could grab the space if he declined. Our coaching session was booked in his lunch break. His diary was a free-for-all and all the space got gobbled up. Priority meetings were being double booked.

And most importantly – there was zero thinking time.

✅This week:

He has white space in 20% of his diary. And that includes blocking out time for strategic thinking.

What did he do?

👉We looked at what was driving this behaviour. Saying yes when it should a different answer, a desire to micromanage for control, not prioritising the right things, fear of upsetting people.

👉Addressed poor diary management – booked a weekly slot to review meetings and accept or decline immediately.

👉Reviewed all his meetings and gave them a rating based on if he needed to be responsible, when he just needed to be informed, and when he could delegate all responsibility.

👉Shared with his team what he was trying to change, what he was trying to achieve, what was in it for them, and how he wanted to work on it as a team.

👉Scheduled an hour for lunch every day.

👉Blocked out thinking time.

👉Identified stakeholders who could help support him sustaining this change – told them what he is trying to achieve and asked for their feedback and suggestions.

Stopping the overwhelm doesn’t have one simple answer but making a change can be mindblowing.

How is your diary looking?

I can read your mind 🔮

What colour comes to mind when I say Coca-Cola?

I’m guessing some of you just thought the word red.

And it’s not because I’m Derren Brown – you’ve had connections light up in your brain because coca cola has spent gazillions on advertising.

I‘ve been listening to Dan Cable, a professor at London Business school, talk about the brain phenomenon called spreading activation. He wondered if you could light up specific parts of your brain when you think about yourself and create improved performance.

And guess what? You can.

One experiment took 246 leaders who were taking part in a 10-day business simulation and asked them to invite several key people in their life to describe a memory of when they’d seen this leader be at their ‘best-self’. You know those moments – you’re working to your strengths and really bringing it home. You’re in flow. You’re having an impact.

Half the group were given the best-self memories to read at the start of the simulation and the other half at the end.

Would this make a difference to their performance?

✔ The group that read about themselves BEFORE the simulation performed significantly better in the team effectiveness scores.

How amazing is that? Just recognising times when you were at your best can make it easier to be that person more often.

⭐ You can apply this research yourself.

Daydreaming on your commute? Tune into a memory of when you were really nailing it. Activate that part of your brain often enough and the research shows that you can become that person more often. I’m experimenting with this technique myself.

👍 This morning I tuned into how I prioritised the right things last half term – I took my daughter and her friend shopping and sat in the cafe and nailed the bits I’ve been avoiding on my to-do list. 😊

When have you been at your best self recently?

5 signs you’re micro-managing. And what to do instead.

Nobody admits on their LinkedIn profile to being an over-controlling micro-manager and there’s only a small percentage of (misguided) managers who actively choose this style.

But the reality is that that it’s incredibly easy for all of us to veer into micro-management if we begin to see lacklustre results, missed deadlines and projects being mismanaged.

You might be anxious to get results, so you dive into the detail and try to drive the work with your direct reports.

Have you started doing these 5 things?

1.      Increasing deadline reminders

2.      Getting more (and more) explicit in your instructions

3.      Picking up work that’s being left

4.      Giving proposals the once over (again)

5.      Joining your team leaders on their weekly huddles

You might feel you’re being helpful and showing what good looks like.

But you’re probably exhausted from doing your job AND theirs – plus it’s likely your team are feeling controlled and micro-managed.

So, what should you do instead?

Step 1

Leadership experts Heifetz and Linsky describe moving ‘from the dance floor to the balcony’.  Which means staying connected to the action with your team (on the dance floor) as well as having a clear focus on how effectively they are working (which you can only see from the balcony).

While you’re on the balcony, aim to get curious:

·        Look at the bigger picture – how does the company strategy align with             the teams?

·        How clear is everyone on the team goals?

·        What does a typical team meeting look like?

·        What gets in the way of deadlines?

·        How are your team collaborating with others?

Think about what’s coming over the future horizon for the company and the team. And what your customers think of the team.

Step 2

Gather your team and invite them to answer all these questions. Share your observations but prioritise listening to their views and ideas.

Step 3

Make a plan with your team. Talk about outcomes and accountability – don’t be the one driving the plan.

If you complete these steps, you’ll find less of a pull towards micro-managing.

But:

It will take time and needs repeating.

You’ll struggle to get the balance right between the dancefloor and the balcony.

And everyone will complain they’re busy, busy.

But micro-managing will lead to staff attrition and burn out, and eventually this new approach will drive ownership and improved results.

So, which will it be? 👀

When Behaviour Change Doesn’t (appear to) Work

Imagine two people in your team, let’s call them Frank and Lucy. Frank is a serial interrupter and knows he needs to button it and listen better. And Lucy blurts out solutions instead of taking a coaching approach with her team.

They tell you about their plan to improve over the next 6 months.

The difference between Frank and Lucy is this:

  • Lucy has regular catch ups with you, asking for feedback and ideas on how she can get better at coaching her team.
  • Frank doesn’t mention it again.

Who do you think will have most improved their behaviours by the end of the year?

I bet you picked Lucy.

I’d have to agree – but why?

You might think Lucy is more dedicated because she’s engaging with you on how to improve. You probably think Frank has forgotten all about it, and actually, didn’t Frank interrupt you just last week in an important meeting with a client?

The thing is, Lucy has probably made mistakes over the last 6 months, but she’s asked you to point this out to her for a course correction. Plus, you were looking for times she actively coached her team so you could give her positive feedback.

Frank has been a lone ranger and hasn’t benefited from this feedback loop. Plus you’ve forgotten many of the times Frank didn’t interrupt you so it’s more difficult to assess his improvement. But the minute Frank interrupts you mid-flow, you silently curse him and think a leopard can’t change its spots.

There are two lessons in here.

First, your perception of someone’s performance is very much coloured by what you see. Sometimes we need to be alert to Frank and all the other quiet improvers amongst us.

And second, Frank will find it easier to improve (and for people to recognise the change) if he gets feedback and suggestions for improvement. So next time someone in your team tells you they want to change a behaviour, gently encourage them to do the following:

  • Identify a handful of people who will be impacted by their new behaviour
  • Share with the group the behaviour they’re attempting to stop or start
  • Every month have a 10 minute catch up to ask for feedback and suggestions about how they can improve

If they try this for 6 months, I bet you’ll both be surprised by what impact they have and what they achieve.

You might even try it yourself. Just sayin’.

Prioritise THIS to create a High Performing Team

A couple of weeks ago I was sat with my daughter in a café garden as she drank her Green Grom smoothie (don’t ask), when a Robin hopped onto her table. He fearlessly ate her croissant crumbs, before finding another unsuspecting tourist to bother.  He’d decided that she was unlikely to be a bird-eating predator and so it was worth risking hopping onto the table next to her.

But what has a daring Robin got to do with team performance? Well, he was prioritising trust over fear – so had an advantage over more cautious birds.

Which is what us humans have evolved to do too – and although we may get ripped off by the odd banking scam, it normally works out OK. We tend to cooperate for the betterment of ourselves and the wider group.

Leaders and teams that play to this and establish environments where trust is the norm will see people letting their guard down to collaborate towards a shared goal.

👎 Defensiveness and low trust = each person for themselves.

Openness to experiment and high trust = teams that collaborate for better results

Culture guru Gustavo Rosetti has the idea to have a ‘mistakes policy’. “Having clear rules of engagement removes the fear of being punished. Be explicit that nothing will happen.”

And trust develops as relationships build. So, at your next team meeting ask everyone to share something new they learned or discovered in the previous week – you’ll be surprised what conversations this sparks.

What other ways can you channel your Robin and increase trust in your team?

And if you’re struggling for ideas, hit reply and I’ll give you another 2 more trust building suggestions to experiment with!

What Matters More to Your Workforce than Money

Let’s get one thing clear: money won’t matter to your workforce IF you’re paying market rates.

I’m going to assume you’ve got that one covered.

So, what’s going to motivate them more than a pay increase?

Research in the Economist shows that your ‘workplace culture matters more to those who work in (or quit from) your business than almost anything else – including wages.’

It also reports that company culture is ‘very hard to fathom from the outside’.

So it’s both hugely important and can feel a bit intangible. Great!

Several years ago, I met a CEO who talked a LOT about their Values – I have to admit I was quite impressed. But then he dumped one of his senior execs in a way that couldn’t be described as ‘showing integrity’ or ‘putting people first’. 🤦‍♀️

So (looking from the outside) you can’t just rely on reading the company values.

Think of it like this instead: Your behaviours are your values in action.

Try asking yourself these questions to challenge how you THINK you behave:

⭐ What’s rewarded and what’s punished?

Are you inadvertently rewarding long hours, keeping the status quo, and discouraging diversity or challenge? Or have you considered proactively inviting feedback, challenging views and innovation?

⭐ What do meetings look like?

Be honest. Is the agenda a bit of a free for all, do meetings start late and overrun? Or do they generate great ideas and people value them?

⭐ How do you make decisions?

Have you ‘empowered’ your people? Does that mean you’ve told them they need to start making decisions and now you’re sitting on your hands and hoping for the best?  Or have you ensured they have the competence, clarity and control over the decisions you expecting them to make?

Start small

If you care about your company culture, it’s probably in an OK state already – so you don’t need to overhaul everything by this time next Thursday.

Focus on these behaviours and see what impact it has.

And if you don’t know where to start, let’s have a chat and I can give you a few more ideas on what to try.

Can you ever be TOO keen or TOO helpful?

 

I was 21, I’d started working in a corporate and was super keen to impress my boss. But in my first few months she took me aside and told me I was stepping on people’s toes by being ‘too helpful’ and that maybe I should focus on my own job before putting my hand up so quickly.

I was gobsmacked. And 24 years later I can remember exactly how that meeting made me feel.

Devastated.

My manager had the capacity to develop my emotional intelligence, and instead, she crushed my spirit. When I finally left the company, I thanked her for the bouquet of flowers but inside I hadn’t forgiven her.

When I first thought about this e-mail, I was going to make it about how careless comments can knock someone’s confidence to the ground. But that’s blinking obvious, isn’t it?

What this story is really about is my manager. Let’s call her Jenny.

Had Jenny received any training on delivering feedback. What was the feedback culture within the business? Had she ever had coaching? Was she good technically but not very emotionally intelligent herself?

How can we expect our managers to have great, emotionally intelligent conversations if we don’t first share with them how it’s done? In my experience, lots of people are missing the mark and it’s not for the want of trying.

It all starts with building trust.

Imagine if Jenny had spent time looking for times she’d seen me doing things particularly well. And then fed back her observations.

What about if she’d then asked ME for feedback? Maybe asking how I’d found the onboarding process.

When it came to finally talking about how I could better respond to enquiries that came into the team, it’s likely I’d have been much more receptive to her suggestions.

How can you start role modelling good feedback habits, so your super-keen new starters develop into the next generation of emotionally mature leaders?