THURSDAY THOUGHTS! – What Drives Leadership Success?

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I’ve had the great privilege of being able to spend 2 days away with a leadership team this week.  The body is brand new and this is the very first opportunity they have created to get together and learn more about each other in their most important task of delivering great things for their local community.

Individually, each were leaders in their field, but the past couple of days required a shared vision and agreement on what were their 5 most pressing priorities, from a very complex and crowded landscape.  They are doing things which have never been asked of them before – truly scary territory!

It was a big ask.  Only those who have ever been involved in similar levels of federations could possibly understand the gravity of what we were asking.  But they did it!  A combination of remarkable thinking, sharing, compromising and open mindedness created new sorts of leaders from them all this week.  Leaders with a clear focus, renewed energy, and tapped enthusiasm for making things better for their local population.

It has left me feeling humble to have been part of helping create this fine body of folk, and as ever, reflective as to how we got to this position.  I think we have taken 5 key steps in the past 2 years:

1.         Learn from mistakes:

There were many years of experience in the room this week and the brain power being brought to the fore, to make more complex calculations and conclusions than any calculator or computer could muster, displayed the many journeys of personal development undertaken to date.  Some had come a long way, others had just begun (whether they knew it or not!)

To be a good leader, you have to take calculated risks, and you will most certainly make mistakes along the way.  But can you admit to them and learn from them, and most importantly, not repeat them?

“Success comes from good decisions.  Good decisions come from experience.  Experience comes from making bad decisions”

2.         Lead by example:

The old adage of “do as I say, not as I do” doesn’t cut the mustard in today’s fast moving business world.   You have to hold yourself accountable before holding others to account.  If you want to be a leader, people notice what you do, what you say, how you behave and someone will want to aspire to be you – so it matters!

“Do what has to be done. Do it when it has to be done.  Do it as well as you can.  Do it this way all of the time.”

3.         Put others needs first:

Compassion and empathy are extremely important to quality leadership.  It is absolutely impossible to be selfish and be an effective leader at the same time.  If it doesn’t come naturally, then practice and practice and practice until it becomes learned behaviour.

“No one cares how much you know, until they know how much you care!”

 4.         Have confidence:

Confidence comes from a simple ABC.  A for attitude; B for behaviour; C for competence.  The magic mix of all three produces a simple scenario of others having confidence in you.  You have complete control over all three, and all three are visible to everyone around you.  So beware!

Given that a simple ABC is all anyone asks of you, why do so many think they know it already?  A true leader ALWAYS invests time and effort in sharpening their own ABC.  It is easy to spot those who do not: there is usually a degree of arrogance, cockiness and above all, a distinct lack of insight in how others are seeing them.  Perfect specimen of rose tinted spectacle wearer.

“Don’t ever take a shot you aren’t totally confident you are going to make.”

5.         Set a high standard:

If you truly do everything to the best of your ability, then you can expect it from those you lead.  If you are always on time, always work hard, and always put your heart and soul into what’s necessary, then you can expect colleagues to do the same.  A good leader will motivate those around them, without even knowing it.  It will be second nature to them because they actually see it as their day job!   So set the bar high and lead them to it.

“It is a funny thing about life; if you refuse to accept anything but the best, you often get it!”

 These are just some of the reflections I’ve had about this particular group.  The future is looking rosy for them.  Continuing to display these traits will dictate their ongoing success.



Mentorship &Me – Part 16 – Peggy Edwards – What is it you really need?

imageAnother great mentoring session recently, based around a specific piece of work. I thought I would try and draw the strings of my development together by focusing on a paper I need to take to my Board. The aim of this was to see if I had improved in presenting information and arguments (which has always been clear in my mind) to others.

It was, as always, a very useful exercise, the fundamental idea soon became clear that a refocus around a more suitable model for stakeholder engagement, would produce more of my desired outcome. So, now I have an even greater idea and paper to present as a result of working through the real issues in play.

However, the new challenge now is; how can I achieve that again without taking a whole day (and a few muffins) out of the office to bounce ideas around and polish the final product? We rarely have the luxury of that sort of time and contact with another in a normal working day. So my ‘tool kit’ going forward? To ask myself “What is it I really need to achieve with the idea” and ‘really’ being the core. Say it as it is, instead of trying to put a fancy wrap around the ‘it’ and use too many words. Read it out loud…….you think I would have got that lesson ingrained by now.

THURSDAY THOUGHTS! – When did you last lose your voice?

mouthyHave you lost your voice recently and if so, what did you learn from the experience?  Strange question? Well, it probably forced a luxury called listening into your day if nothing else.

The fact of the matter is, today, the normal business meeting seems to be a place where there is a constant race taking place to say something.  It’s the short period of time to get all your points over before anyone else does, there are instances of people trampling over each other and rushing to cover as many points as they can before the next loudest voice hogs valuable vocal space.  We’ve all been in meetings where there have been constant interruptions before one or another colleague can finish their piece.

So you see, losing your voice can be an absolute blessing in disguise, as you are forced to listen instead of speaking.  Listening is an absolute art and all the greatest leaders are masters of it. Bernie Ferrari, Dean of the John Hopkins Business School has gone on the record in saying:

“The difference between great and mediocre leaders is the ability to listen.”

So, when did you last give your own “inner voice” an airing?  Steve Jobs, of Apple, often talked of the power of your “inner voice.”  He warned against being drowned out by the results of other peoples thinking, having the courage to not let the noise of others opinions drown out your own intuition.

Effective communication requires lots of focus and its been proven that better decisions are taken when you are truly listening.  It’s a matter of perfecting the 80/20 rule  and it  has very little to do with what you have to say and EVERYTHING to do with what people say about you following various interactions.  So, the sooner you lose your voice the better and grasp the opportunity to become the talking point of the next meeting for the right reasons – for being the listener in the room.  Listening has been proven to:

  • capture and maintain attention;
  • be more engaging;
  • demonstrate high degrees of psychological value; and
  • create meaningful interactions as a result.

Therefore, a period of planned loss-of-your-voice could be well overdue.  Do some active listening soon and let me know how it went.  Without the pressure of always thinking about the next witty interjection, or spotting the next goal scoring opportunity, you’d be surprised how much more you will bring away from your meeting.

THURSDAY THOUGHTS! – Are you a productive leader?

good-bossDo you hold some colleagues in awe simply because they always seem to have the time to do things you want to do, but never get around to doing yourself? Do you wonder how they find the time?  Are you spending a lot of time apologising for not having done something you promised you would?

The simple fact is, the total amount of time available in the workplace is the same for us all. Some people just use it more effectively and productively thats all.  If you are one of those who always seem to be chasing their tail, then a good starting point is to analyse the amount of time you spend in meetings, what you do in those meetings, and who you are having those meetings with.  So,

“Are you a productive leader?”

Start off by reviewing your diary.  I used to call my diary my jail until I mastered how to manage my meeting commitment.  If you feel as if you don’t have enough time to do the things you really feel you should be doing, you can bet your bottom dollar that your staff feel that you don’t spend enough time with them, or your stakeholders feel you are remote, or your membership feel talked at rather than involved.  So now’s the time to put that right.

What would you do with 5 hours extra a week?  Does that sound like a huge amount?  It’s only a redistribution of one hour per day in fact and Are You A Productive Leader will help you find that time – so whats stopping you?  Get stuck in and do it the easy way, a tried and tested way.  You owe it to yourself and to those you work with to become better at that which you are employed to do.

As ever, try it and share your experience, your time is as valuable as everyone else’s so get a grip of it sooner rather than later.

Pick yourself up, dust yourself off, start all over again


It’s all about what you learn from mistakes isn’t it? These few didn’t do too badly! What they had was self belief and resilience in dealing with others perceptions of them.

Not everyone will see your passion. Not everyone will value your contribution. But you must believe in your own worth and realise your dream. Nobody will do it for you!

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