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Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Positive Leadership: Developing the Right Behaviours

Get it right on the inside and you will get it right on the outside. That’s good advice that is rarely followed by today’s leaders. Instead there seems to be a focus on just getting it right on the outside. This can work, but it’s probably leaving your followers feeling a little empty at best—or distrusting at worst.

When leaders focus only on their behaviours and outside appearances, they are presenting a thin veneer of leadership that can work for a short while, but which eventually breaks down—especially under pressure.
Wondering how you can get it right on the inside instead of working so hard to act in a prescribed way on the outside? Here are some ways to get started. These are based on answers to such questions as, “Who was your best boss?” and “What made them so special?”

See people as assets to develop instead of liabilities to manage. Good leadership begins with a fundamental belief in people and the value that they can bring to a company. Where do you stand on this? Do you focus on people’s strengths and how to maximize them, or do you tend to focus on weaknesses and how to correct them? How does that impact your leadership behaviours?

Assume the best. People have good days and bad days. They make mistakes, exhibit poor judgment, and sometimes let you down. How do you react to these situations? What is the story that you are telling yourself about their actions? Are you assuming they had good intentions and just fell short, or does this just go to show that you were right about them all along? Your resulting leadership behaviour will be very different depending on your mindset.

See yourself as a leader instead of as an evaluator. Part of leadership is matching skill sets to the overall goals of the organisation. The ability to discern talent and apply it effectively is an important quality. But don’t make that the sole focus of your leadership. Instead, go beyond getting the right people in the right positions and actively work to help them succeed in their roles. See their success as a partnership between you and them. When people sense that you are on their side, helping them to succeed, they act and perform very differently than if they feel that you are primarily judging and evaluating them.

Beliefs and attitudes drive your behaviours. In today’s open and connected world, you have to be genuine and authentic. Leaders who get it right on the inside naturally display genuine behaviours on the outside that people respond to. Take a look at your leadership beliefs. Work on the inside first.


Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Positive Leadership: Admitting Your Mistakes

One key to successful innovation often goes overlooked: the ability to admit when you're wrong. As a leader, owning your mistakes is your greatest opportunity to learn and grow. Admitting fault in the right way can make your company stronger and your employees much more comfortable with failure. That freedom allows for greater creativity and quicker solutions when people make mistakes.

Practice these five tips to help you own your mistakes in a way that strengthens your company:

1. Take ownership.

As the leader, you are responsible for what goes on at your company, so you need to own the problem and the solution. Never make excuses. That doesn't strike confidence in a leader.

Commend employees who take ownership of their mistakes as well. By showing respect and support for them, you create a culture that addresses mistakes without blame. Taking responsibility when things don't work is more conducive to growth.

2. Be sincere.
When you deliver an apology, your audience will be looking for signs of a canned or stiff delivery, and they'll take them as signs that you don't mean what you're saying. To win them over, simply be yourself. That honesty -- in your words and your delivery -- will show that you actually mean it.

3. Show what you've learned.

A good apology explains what happened and why. Start with why you made your original decision and the logic that led to that choice. Next, explain what you learned about why it didn't work and how that new information will inform how you move forward. If you haven't worked out the lesson yet, then you're not ready to deliver the apology.

With any mistake, no matter how small, there is a way to prevent it from happening again. Even if the mistake was simple -- like not thinking through an idea -- you can improve your thought process so it doesn't happen next time. Sharing your lessons will also show your employees how to think about mistakes and move forward.

4. Make proactive changes.

Talk is cheap, so people need to see that you will actually follow through. When you outline your plan for change, mention a step you've already taken toward those ends; the more specific the better. For example, you might mention a new process you initiated to improve communication or a new approach you're taking in product development. As long as you can explain how you're rectifying what went wrong and own it, then you'll come across as a person in a position of strength.

5. End on a high note.

When you talk about a mistake, acknowledge anyone who might have been harmed in the process. Sometimes, the harm is overt, like in the case of BP's oil spill, but often it's more subtle, as when employees invest hope and time in a project that fails. If anyone has been harmed, show empathy, but always bring it back to what you learned and how you plan to use this experience as an opportunity to grow. You want to end with a message of hope in every situation.


Monday, July 29, 2013

Positive Leadership: The Benefits of Having a Business Coach

As leaders we all need confidants. We need someone we can go to outside our organisation and outside of our regular sphere of influence to get unbiased feedback and opinions. There are a lot of people you can go to for wisdom and advice, but with an ICF coach you will always feel like the coach’s ideas and feedback are genuinely unbiased. The only thing the coach cares about is your success. As a result, your coach will become a very trusted confidant.

For further information on our coaching services please contact graham.watson@positiveleadership.co.uk


Friday, July 26, 2013

Positive Leadership: Handling a Turnaround

When a company is in crisis— facing bankruptcy or a disruptive competitor— it needs to act fast. 

But it’s also important to stop and speak with the people who are doing the day-to-day work of moving the organisation in a new direction. 

Here’s how to use conversation to help orchestrate a successful turnaround:

Talk straight. Be honest and authentic, especially when it comes to sharing bad news or addressing difficult topics.

Make talk happen. Stressful times can cause people to keep to themselves. Promote interactivity and encourage debate. Forego one-way communication channels (like memos) and choose mediums that allow for back-and-forth discussion instead.

Let everyone talk. Include people at all levels in the conversation. This will increase engagement among those who must carry out the turnaround work.


Thursday, July 25, 2013

Positive Leadership: Being the Best You Can Possibly Be

Imagine being the best you could possibly be!

How often have you seen the line “creating an environment where staff can achieve their full potential”? It’s a great aspiration, that’s for sure, but what does it really mean and can it ever be possible? Well, we are all born with an innate capacity to learn, a sort of learning instinct, a playful spirit of enquiry and curiosity about who we are and how the world works, and this should never be underestimated, but as we progress through life blocks and barriers arise which limit and obscure the potential that lies within us. We are bruised by often brutal experiences in both work and education and we start to limit ourselves and the service we offer others in ways that are both conscious and unconscious.

So, how can we start to win this inner game? Back in 1975 Timothy Gallwey in his wonderful book The Inner Game of Tennis put forward in the form of an equation the simple but fascinating proposition that


This proposition challenges us to change our focus and our thinking. Rather than trying to push performance or naval-gaze at potential, it invites us instead to focus on the interference that inhibits the former and blocks the latter. Remove the interference and the other two can flow together. This can be a personal quest, a valuable piece of self-discovery, but it can also be the basis for an approach to leadership: liberating leadership which aims to set potential free by focussing on interference and which uses empathy, compassion and passion to move towards a more fully engaged workplace and learning environment.

There are four fundamental types of interference that block personal performance:

Low inspiration,
Self-limiting beliefs,
Deficit relationships,
Pain language.

Let us look briefly at each of these and share some ideas about how to win the inner game and the role of the liberating leader.

1. Low inspiration:  How often are we actively inspired? Inspired in a way that gives us life, fresh energy, enthusiasm, vigour and positivity? Inspired in a way that enables us to inspire others, perhaps? It can be a rare thing and certainly a quality of being that is hard to summon at will. Well, maybe Andy Murray’s historic success at SW19 in June was an example of collective inspiration. The FTSE 100 share index went up 1.1% the very next day after his Wimbledon Championship victory – as it always does after a great sporting success ( the ‘bulls’ have their day…). So, here are some steps you can take to combat low inspiration:

Find things that actively inspire you,
Visit them frequently,
Carry them with you all day long.

Developing a scrapbook of inspiration has never been easier with pictures, video clips, music and articles available to everyone on the internet. Start building your inspiration scrapbook today!

A liberating leader will look to tune-in to the things which inspire individuals, teams and even organisations. They will also openly share the things which inspire them.  In their approach to business planning and achieving change they will focus heavily on the inspiration that lies behind the initiative. They know that we are inspired by a dream not a plan and will look to make the ‘dream’ or vision a clear part of their dialogue around goals and performance.

2. Self-limiting beliefs: The beliefs we are looking at here are the things we tell ourselves about ourselves, our inner dialogue about what we can and cannot do and crucially what we are good at and what we are bad at. We all have a combination of supporting beliefs, based on our core values and successes, and limiting beliefs stemming from the outcomes and consequences we have experienced and also importantly the messages, often much repeated, given to us by significant players in our lives (parents, teachers, bosses, friends, partners, the media, community leaders, and so on).

Winning the inner game involves raising self-awareness regarding these limiting beliefs and challenging their origins, basis and validity. It involves challenging the troll under the bridge that says to our potential ‘you cannot cross’. This is not “you’ll believe a man can fly”-type stuff. For example, no matter how strong my beliefs it would clearly be a delusion to think that in my middle-years I could ever become an astronaut. These are beliefs about things within the sphere of the individual’s reality.

Stemming from a steadfast faith in human potential a liberating leader will work with individuals to raise awareness of self-limiting beliefs and release potential through coaching, great feedback, developing relationships and demonstrating personal commitment.

3. Deficit relationships:  Avoiding or transforming deficit relationships is a key way of keeping the flow of potential going. They seem friendly enough, these corridor conversations or chats over coffee, but they actually latch onto your negativity, double the feeling and take you lower. The catharsis is false, as the emotions are intensified rather than purged. These relationships are often cynical, deflating and uncaring. There is no winner, just a sharing of interference that makes doing challenging work/study more onerous than ever.

A liberating leader will look to set the tone in terms of creating relationships based on empathy, compassion and passion. These relationships are energising, inspiring and fulfilling and go beyond the difficulties of today. They are based on trust, respect, warmth and a desire to understand the emotional needs of others.

4. Pain language: The language we use, the language we choose to use, has a powerful impact on how we feel about ourselves and our performance. Our outer dialogue has a very strong influence over our inner dialogue and can become a source of interference. Pain language like I can’t… I have to… and it’s never going to happen… feeds through into our thoughts, beliefs and even values. They can create or reinforce self-limiting beliefs. Monitoring this dialogue, this choice of explanatory style, and moving from pain to power language will have a transformative effect. Moving from “I can’t” to “I choose not to” or from “I have to” to “I want to” is both empowering and enriching. It links demonstrably with the other three points covered so far.

A liberating leader will aim to lead with a narrative and a way of interacting that is all about power language. She or he will set out to model power language for colleagues in all directions, not just the immediate team, and will develop relationships on this basis.

So, just imagine…  Imagine these four transformations:

From low inspiration to carrying inspiration with you,
From self-limiting beliefs to empowering beliefs,
From deficit relationships to liberating relationships,
From pain to power language.

Imagine the interference this would reduce and imagine the potential it would release, and imagine working with a liberating leader committed to these principles.

When working with staff a liberating leader knows –

That we are inspired by a dream not a plan,
The importance of removing interference so that people can thrive, and
The value of creating organisations that people enjoy.


Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Positive Leadership: Belief


Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Positive Leadership: Becoming More Global

Most companies recognise the benefit of having leaders with international experience, but few offer the developmental opportunities to gain it. It’s up to you to take responsibility for improving your cross-cultural awareness.

Here’s how:

Strengthen relationships. Cultivate the contacts and friends you already have across national and cultural boundaries. Offer to assist them with something; what follows may help give you insight into unfamiliar environments.

Start locally. Social media has opened up new opportunities to connect from home. LinkedIn’s network statistics function, for instance, shows you the geographic reach of your network and where it’s growing fastest. Reach out to people in regions you want to learn more about.

Go. International travel is vitally important. When working abroad, make sure you leave the hotel — and stay an extra day or two to visit museums or attend cultural events.


Monday, July 22, 2013

Positive Leadership: Confidence

Confidence isn’t something you either have or you don’t. It’s a dynamic emotion that, like a physical muscle, needs exercise to grow stronger. 

Here are two ways to build and maintain it:

1. Take inventory of your past. It’s easy to doubt yourself and your abilities. But if you look at your track record, the chances are that your successes outweigh your failures. And, more importantly, you likely survived your missteps and gleaned lessons along the way.

2. Focus on strengths. Most leaders are very strong in a few competencies, average in the majority, and weak in a few. Concentrate on leveraging what you’re best at. Then, manage your average and weak areas so they don’t detract from your effectiveness.


Friday, July 19, 2013

Positive Leadership: Resilience is the New Normal

'The difference between winners and a losers how they handle losing.

That's a key finding from my ongoing research on great companies and effective leaders: no one can completely avoid troubles and potential pitfalls are everywhere, so the real skill is the resilience to climb out of the hole and bounce back.

Volatile times bring disruptions, interruptions, and setbacks, even for the most successful among us. 

Companies at the top of the heap still have times when they are blindsided by a competing product and must play catch-up. Sports teams that win regularly are often behind during the game. Writers can face dozens of rejections before finding a publisher that puts them on the map. Some successful politicians get caught with their pants down (so to speak) and still go on to lead, although such self-inflicted wounds are harder to heal.

Resilience is the ability to recover from fumbles or outright mistakes and bounce back. But flexibility alone is not enough. You have to learning from your errors. Those with resilience build on the cornerstones of confidence — accountability (taking responsibility and showing remorse), collaboration (supporting others in reaching a common goal), and initiative (focusing on positive steps and improvements). As outlined in my book Confidence, these factors underpin the resilience of people, teams, and organizations that can stumble but resume winning.

For anyone who wants to get beyond adversity or start over rather than give up, America is the Land of Second Chances. According to Jon Huntsman, former US Ambassador to China, getting back on our feet is an American strength widely admired in China. And everywhere, rapid recovery from natural disasters is increasingly a key to a robust economy. Entrepreneurs and innovators must be willing to fail and try again. The point isn't to learn to fail; it is to learn to bounce back.

Some stumbles are due to circumstances outside of most people's control, including weather events and geopolitical shocks. But while people might not control the larger problem, they control their reactions to it — whether to give up or find a new path. Recession in Europe is an example. I have spoken recently to European audiences at public conferences and within companies about cultivating resilience in their businesses even when markets are shrinking, so that they hold their own as recession continues and are well-positioned for recovery. A German machinery company showed resilience by growing its service contracts when demand for machines slowed, and it mobilized employees to find new service possibilities. An Italian cosmetics firm grabbed talent from job-shedding multinationals and increased its international marketing tied to both health and fashion; new sales followed. In both companies, like others described in my book SuperCorp, such initiatives were made possible by a strong sense of purpose that drew members together and motivated them to take responsibility to help the companies survive and thrive. Employees were resilient because they cared, and that made the companies resilient.

Complacency, arrogance, and greed crowd out resilience. Humility and a noble purpose fuel it. Those with an authentic desire to serve, not just narcissism about wanting to be at the top, are willing to settle for less as an investment in better things later. Raymond Barre, former Premier of France, after being defeated for re-election at the national level, ran for a lesser office as Mayor of Lyon and became a hero of his region. That's the strategy Eliot Spitzer is taking by running for a lesser city office after having been governor of a state. He showed remorse quickly when scandal surfaced and then re-entered the public conversation talking about the issues, increasing his comeback prospects.

Some observers say it is harder for women to stage comebacks. Still, consider Martha Stewart. She served prison time for insider trading rather graciously, showing remorse, and that graciousness restored much of her fan base afterward. In a more positive vein, Hillary Clinton was not a sore loser to President Obama in 2008 (though some of her followers were) and accepted his offer to become his Secretary of State. She's now perhaps even better-positioned for a 2016 Presidential run. In the long term, graciousness beats sour grapes.

Resilience draws from strength of character, from a core set of values that motivate efforts to overcome the setback and resume walking the path to success. It involves self-control and willingness to acknowledge one’s own role in defeat. Resilience also thrives on a sense of community — the desire to pick oneself up because of an obligation to others and because of support from others who want the same thing. Resilience is manifested in actions — a new contribution, a small win, a goal that takes attention off of the past and creates excitement about the future.

Potential troubles lurk around every corner, whether they stem from unexpected environmental jolts or individual flaws and mistakes. Whatever the source, what matters is how we deal with them. When surprises are the new normal, resilience is the new skill.'


Thursday, July 18, 2013

Positive Leadership: Family


Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Positive Leadership: Take a Long Lunch

There’s a simple, old-fashioned practice that can make work more effective, engaging, and fun — long lunches. 

The idea of a leisurely lunch chatting with colleagues or clients might seem like something out of another era, but it has a place in modern office life too. Eating slowly has documented health benefits and having unplanned time with colleagues can help you forge deeper connections. Instead of scarfing down a sandwich at your desk or grabbing something on the go, make time for a longer lunch break. Even if you do it just once or twice a week, it can create stronger relationships with co-workers, and make you healthier and more productive.


Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Positive Leadership: Women Leaders

A new study is further proof that the double bind female leaders face is more pervasive than we thought - 


Monday, July 15, 2013

Positive Leadership: Culture


Friday, July 12, 2013

Positive Leadership: The Job of a Leader

Leaders “do” people.

You take care of the people.

The people take care of the service.
The service takes care of the customer.
The customer takes care of the profit.
The profit takes care of the re-investment.
The re-investment takes care of the re-invention.
The re-invention takes care of the future.

And at every step, the only measure is EXCELLENCE.

(Thanks to Tom Peters for this timely reminder!)


Thursday, July 11, 2013

Positive Leadership: Dare to be Unforgettable!

From: http://rochellemoulton.com/the-be-unforgettable-manifesto/

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Positive Leadership: Crisis Leadership

In this presentation, Harvard Business School historian Nancy Koehn explores two examples of effective leadership in moments of great turbulence: Abraham Lincoln's presidency during the Civil War and Antarctic explorer Ernest Shackleton's leadership when his ship, the Endurance, became stuck in the ice in 1915 to 1916. 

From these powerful stories, Koehn draws together several key lessons about individual leadership and its impact. She concludes by applying these insights to our own volatile, high-stakes moment today.


Tuesday, July 09, 2013

Positive Leadership: Why We Will Rely on Robots

MIT professor Rodney Brooks studies and engineers robot intelligence, looking for the holy grail of robotics: the AGI, or artificial general intelligence. For decades, we've been building robots to do highly specific tasks -- welding, riveting, delivering interoffice mail -- but what we all want, really, is a robot that can figure things out on its own, the way we humans do.

 Brooks realised that a top-down approach -- just building the biggest brain possible and teaching it everything we could think of -- would never work. What would work is a robot who learns like we do, by trial and error, and with many separate parts that learn separate jobs. The thesis of his work which was captured in Fast, Cheap and Out of Control,went on to become the title of the great Errol Morris documentary.

A founder of iRobot, makers of the Roomba vacuum, Brooks now heads Rethink Robotics, whose mission is to apply advanced robotic intelligence to manufacturing and physical labor. Its first robot: the versatile Baxter. Brooks is affiliated with CSAIL, MIT's Computers Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory.


Monday, July 08, 2013

Positive Leadership: Congratulations Andy Murray!

Congratulations to Andy Murray - handling the weight of expectations of a whole nation - a true performance under pressure. Murray has shown that with dedication and great teamwork, allied to the resilience and learning which comes from past disappointments, any goal can be achieved. In defeat, Novak Djokovic demonstrated real sportsmanship and he is to be applauded for that. Hopefully, we Scots will not have to wait another 117 years for a Men's Singles champion at Wimbledon! 


Positive Leadership: The Qualities of an Effective Coach

No Ego: A great coach gets out of the way and allows the coachee to own the content.

Credible: A great coach doesn’t necessarily have to be the subject expert, but does need to have suitable experience to ‘walk the talk’.

Empathy: A great coach understands the coachee and identifies with their background, their personal preferences and learning style, their personal/ professional context, their needs, wants and aspirations.

Process: A great coach understands, operates and takes ownership for a coaching process that is open, fair and consistent.


Friday, July 05, 2013

Positive Leadership: Confidence and Winning


Thursday, July 04, 2013

Positive Leadership: A Happy July 4th to all our American Friends!


Wednesday, July 03, 2013

Positive Leadership: Firms of Endearment

In  his book, “Firms of Endearment: How World-ClassCompanies Profit from Passion and Purpose”,  Professor Raj Sisodia of Bentley University, compiled a list of companies that pay and treat employees significantly above average; provide high value and service to customers; do not squeeze suppliers for the lowest possible prices; invest significantly in their local communities; minimise their environmental impact; and do not cite as a primary goal “maximising shareholder returns.”

Over the 15 year period, 1996 to 2011, the “Firms of Endearment” companies outperformed the Standard & Poor’s 500-stock index by 
10.5 to 1. They returned a cumulative 21%, while Jim Collins’s “Good to Great” companies earned an annualised return of just 7% during the same period, barely outpacing the broader market.

Here is the inescapable conclusion: When a company truly seeks to take care of all its constituencies, it serves not just the collective good, but also its own long-term best interest.


Tuesday, July 02, 2013

Positive Leadership: Passion and Emotion

Passion and emotion are related but not the same.

Emotion alone can be detrimental to performance. Emotion that is the result of passion for a job well done is performance fuel. If you are playing with passion emotion will follow. Emotion without true passion is shallow.

Regardless of your specific form of performance (e.g., business, sport, art or life) do you have a team with the characteristics of an Olympic champion? If not, create one!


Monday, July 01, 2013

Positive Leadership: Do One Thing Better Today

Many individuals, teams and organisations have tasted excellence periodically. It goes down well on the palate, doesn't it? Like the perfectly aged Bordeaux, the perfectly executed recipe, the perfect balance of flavours in a great meal. But consistently delivering superior results over time is another story. It requires process, discipline and focus. It requires energy, effort and persistence. It requires daily attention.

A technique we have found helpful with performers to deliver sustainable excellence is to focus on one thing every day to improve from the day before. It could be personal, professional or relational. It doesn't have to be monumental every day.

Why does this process work?

Confidence is the result of an accumulation of success experiences. By doing one thing better each day you consistently experience (and expect) success.  Each day builds upon the last.

Improving every day creates focus. How many times have you wound up at the end of a day wondering what you truly accomplished? By committing to daily improvement you organise your thoughts, energy and effort.

Continuous improvement becomes a habit, not a cliché. 

When you commit to daily improvement, development opportunities are expected and welcomed. You look forward to development feedback rather than dreading it and reacting defensively.

Sustainable excellence is not rocket science. It is the result of establishing an effective system and having the discipline to follow it. Getting better each day establishes the mindset. What are you going to improve today?