Leadership Lessons from Ted Lasso

Leadership Lessons from Ted Lasso

Have you heard of Ted Lasso?

Have you seen it?

I’ve been late to the party and am up-to-date after quite a binge this last couple of weeks.

For those that don’t know, Ted Lasso is an Apple TV comedy/drama of an American football coach hired to manage a British soccer team. He doesn’t know the sport, the rules, or much about the culture.

What he lacks in the hard facts he more than makes up for it in the soft skills.

Ted Lasso is an example of positive, conscious leadership, a leader with emotional intelligence (EQ), that’s equally applicable in business organizations as it is on the football/soccer pitch.

He plays an upbeat, positive, outgoing American rah-rah stereotype.

The stereotype aside, there are loads of leadership lessons anyone can use starting immediately.

Let’s start with a definition first.

What is Emotional Intelligence?

EQ (or EI) is, according to the English Oxford Living Dictionary, “the capacity to be aware of, control, and express one’s emotions, and to handle interpersonal relationships judiciously and empathetically”. The concept was popularized in the 1996 book Emotional intelligence by Daniel Goleman.

It’s the overarching term to describe four concepts: the ability to know one’s emotions, manage one’s emotions, understand the emotions of other people, and manage relationships with others.

Building Psychological Safety

What is exemplary about Ted Lasso is his understanding and creation of psychological safety for his team and the colleagues with whom he works.

Psychological safety is the shared belief of being safe within a team/system, in this case a soccer team, where you know you can risk and dare and be vulnerable without fear of negative repercussions.

The psychological safety amongst a team is most important for the interpersonal risks inherent in a team – risk associated with expressing ideas, asking questions, admitting mistakes and speaking up.

Tips for building psychological safety that Ted exhibits are:

  • Learning people’s names and using them;
  • Asking people questions that have them reveal more of themselves than usual. For example, what’s your favourite book? What’s the first gig you ever attended? Favourite gig?
  • Sharing aspects of himself, some of which don’t paint him in the best light possible or show some of his vulnerabilities;
  • Articulating clearly his intentions about what he’s trying to do when appropriate;
  • Focusing on improvement, learning from mistakes, and belief.

Finding Right

This is a concept I learned during my training to become a facilitator and team coach. It’s something I see Ted Lasso doing very often.

Finding right is about finding something positive in whatever someone else says or does. Sounds extreme. It’s not about agreeing when you don’t agree. It’s about finding something positive in what they said, how they said it or who they are being during it.

Ted often asks for input from others both for new ideas and to get them on board to his way of thinking. When he gets an answer that’s not correct or not what he’s looking for he’ll say something like “that’s a great idea, just not the one I’m looking for” or “I appreciate you weighing in” or “love you jumping in but nope, that’s not it.” All said with eye contact, softness in is face, and a light tone.

I’d suggest to the writers for Ted not to use the word BUT in these sentences. When ‘but’ is used in a sentence in our minds it often negates everything that comes before it. Instead use ‘and’ as ‘and’ infers both sides of the sentence have merit or equal weight. Notice the buts, try and.

Clarifying a Vision and How to Get There

Leaders share both context and content; they own the context more so than the workers; if leaders aren’t mentioning the vision few other people are talking about it. Simon Sinek talks about explaining the WHY to people, before getting into the WHAT; before them doing what you want them to do, they need to understand why they are doing it.

In season 3 (that’s series 3 in the UK) Ted changes tactics for how the team should play (trying not to spoil anything 😉). In making this change, he had his assistant coach explain the history and origins of the strategy. This helped the team understand from where this change was coming and the merits of the tactics.

Ted then went on to explain how they’d use these tactics in their team. The vision and path were made clear with the rationale for why he felt it was right. Very helpful as a means of getting people onboard for a change.

By the way, this tactic has its basis in a question that’s useful for all of us to consider – What does this situation need? It’s a good question for each of us to reflect on in at any given moment. What does this situation need of me at this moment?

Being Open and Vulnerable

This is the scariest for many leaders, heck, for many people in general.

Ted’s vulnerability has unfolded over the course of the 2.5 seasons. He was open with aspects of himself such as favourite books, gigs, movies, about his moustache, his previous work – very factual things. He was less open emotionally initially. As he created emotional safety for the team and colleagues he started to reveal more about himself.

Ted was also forced to be open near the end of season 2 when something about Ted’s mental health made headlines in the news. When asked about it at a press conference Ted was typical Ted, using the opportunity to raise awareness for mental health in sports in a positive way. Ted later apologized to his team for not having told them personally, and for them to have found out through the media. He says sorry sincerely and when meaningful, more often than many leaders might find comfortable.

The key is to know when to be open and when to stay at a distance. An easy example of this is that leaders would do well to join their team for a drink after a team away day and to ensure the leader leaves before the majority have left so that the team can relax and bond without the leader.

In Summary

Slight spoiler alert about end of season 3. A great summary of Ted’s leadership effect is summarized by Trent Crimm, a writer shadowing the team, who says the following a meaningful game where the team played like a team:

“You haven’t switched tactics in a week, you’ve done this over 3 seasons, slowly but surely building a club-wide culture of trust and support through 1000’s of imperceptible moments all leading to their inevitable conclusion”

What leadership lessons would you share?

What makes you positive and upbeat?

What aspects of leadership would help you?

Book a complimentary coaching session with me here to explore how you could develop your emotional intelligence further to motivate and inspire your teams to achieve.

Why Empathy, more aptly People Skills, Delivers Business Results

Does empathy deliver business results?

Would you like to improve productivity whilst having people be happier?

Are emotions that important at work?

A client asked, “why does empathy delivery results?” My first thought was that it doesn’t. And then after reflecting on the discussion I thought it would be good to share the rationale of why it doesn’t, on its own, and what does.

Meaning of Empathy

Empathy means the capacity to understand or feel what another person is experiencing from within their frame of reference, that is, the capacity to place oneself in another’s position as defined by Wikipedia which I think is a full definition.

Empathy is helpful in leadership, when building and interacting with others and is just one tiny part of Emotional Intelligence that will deliver business results. Empathy is great when a team member tells you their partner has cancer (we all know the feeling of fear and sadness of illness). Empathy is not helpful when you are making someone redundant, compassion and respect are better, so you keep your emotional stability as they will understandably feel sad and scared. My article on emotions at work explains more about this.

Empathy does build trust and helps leaders understand what others might be thinking and feeling. This helps a leader understand how someone might react in different situations, what their needs and motives might be. Empathy is the bridge between human interactions.

Emotional Intelligence and Leadership

Emotional Intelligence or EI is defined by the English Oxford Living Dictionary as: “the capacity to be aware of, control, and express one’s emotions, and to handle interpersonal relationships judiciously and empathetically”. In leadership terms, it is the skill of building productive and fulfilling relationships authentically. The concept was popularized in the 1996 book Emotional Intelligence by Daniel Goleman¹.

Many organizations capture this concept in performance reviews as: a person’s degree of self-awareness; or HOW they do their job (versus WHAT they do); or their people skills or soft skills. Skilful emotional intelligence (EI) by a leader does deliver results.

Proof about Emotions and Leadership

What’s the proof that good EI in leadership is necessary to achieve business outcomes? Here is the answer from business, academia, sociology, neurology and financially:

1. The Consortium for Research on Emotional Intelligence in Organizations (yes, there is such a body) highlights 19 studies over the last 3 decades from different companies and organizations (American Express and L’Oréal to name two) and 9 research and academic studies from the last 9 years all identifying how EI delivers results².

2. Leadership is about relationships; it’s about unleashing the potential of your team by motivating and inspiring them to do the work to deliver the results. Leadership is also about removing barriers which often involves influencing others or resolving conflict. Relationships are about interacting with people, people are human beings not human doings so understanding and adeptness with regards to emotions is key. Additionally, most people leave a job because of their manager, not because of the organization³. That means the relationship (intellectually and emotionally) with the manager is pivotal.

3. Brain evolution and structure dictates that all the information from our 5 senses enters our brain through the brain stem and hits the limbic part of our brain first which is the place of emotions and feelings before reaching the neocortex near our forehead which is the place of rational thought. The emotional part of our brain is stimulated first with any piece of information before the executive functioning or reasoning part of our brain! Hence, emotions are always ‘present’ first when we take in stimuli – often the stimuli at work isn’t overly provoking so we don’t notice the emotional part, or we suppress it, or we have high EI to manage our own emotions and influence others’ emotions much more consciously.

4. Humans are herd animals or more politely, social creatures from a sociology point of view. We thrive in well-coordinated groups (hence some of the complications of WFH or hybrid working). Employees want to feel as if they belong to the work group. As such, skilful leadership fosters this feeling of belonging and inclusion.

5. Company investment in measuring employee engagement is huge! This isn’t about employee happiness or satisfaction. Forbes describes employee engagement as the emotional commitment the employee has to the organization and its goals4. An effective leader builds that emotional commitment through understanding and managing their own emotions and recognizing emotions in others and handing relationships and interactions with others. Thereby, having employees bring their heads, hands and hearts to their work.

6. There is a financial cost to poor people skills in terms of lost productivity. FACT. Imagine you have a manager who is in an open-plan office criticizing one of their team for a few minutes. How long do you think that employee is demotivated or unproductive? How long do you think the others in the office are unproductive (trying to console the berated employee or criticizing the manager’s actions)? Imagine the manager does this often. The cost is thousands of pounds over time. The incidences of berating managers are few for my clients. The incidences of empathetic and inspiring managers are few too. The big opportunity to positively increase productivity is the managers who simply do nothing about engaging or inspiring because they don’t know what to do.

7. Although people skills don’t have a line on the P&L, they do impact each line – salespeople have to have good relationship-building skills to generate sustainable income, customer service needs good people skills to resolve issues and protect reputation, employees who feel valued and are engaged are less likely to quit, saving recruitment costs and less likely to demand extreme compensation (assuming their basic need is met), purchasers with high EI skills relative to their suppliers can result in discounts, advantageous payment terms, and quicker exposure to new initiatives.

The facts in favour of EI at work are strong. The emotional response to EI at work is often concern, worry, and stress. One more thing that needs to be done. How will I find the time to do all this while also getting the work done?

What would help you figure out EI at work while getting stuff done?

Where could you benefit from more empathy and emotional intelligence?

What would help you be more motivating and inspiring?

Book a complimentary coaching session with me here to explore how you could develop your emotional intelligence further to motivate and inspire your teams to achieve.


¹ Emotional Intelligence by Daniel Goleman (London: Bloomsbury Publishing 1996)
² http://eiconsortium.org/
4 https://www.forbes.com/sites/kevinkruse/2012/06/22/employee-engagement-what-and-why/#794d90357f37

Spring is Emerging. An Activity to Unearth More of YOU

Wanting a better life – whatever better means to you?

Wondering how you could be happier or more effective?

Want to be a more conscious leader?

If any of those are remotely enticing here’s a simple and profound exercise.  This exercise is so important I’ve included it in Part 1 of my book, Soft Skills HARD RESULTS, about knowing yourself.

Spring is a time of renewal, emergence, and new growth.  What better time to have new growth for yourself as a leader and person.

The Activity to Learn

Personal and Professional Identity Narrative

This activity can be done in one sitting or easily over time as it fits into your schedule and it’s the latter I recommend.  PPIN stands for a Personal and Professional Identity Narrative. Jack Wood, International Institute for Management Development (IMD) Professor and Jungian Analyst, uses this exercise with MBAs and Executives for some of their greatest learning from their programs (a bold claim considering they are paying tens of thousands of euros). The PPIN is your life story – where you have come from, where you are right now and the general trajectory of where you are headed or where you think you might be headed. He says, “if you take the PPIN seriously, the process of reflecting and writing about your life – the sources of your identity and the objectives that you embrace – can help you better understand the deeper currents and patterns in your life and their continued influence”1.

2 Simple Steps for the PPIN Activity

Step 1 involves writing about the significant events in your life. Just start. This is just a collection of small stories, like chapters or simply paragraphs. You’ll want to cover your childhood (not just the facts but also your sense of what it was like growing up), school experiences, work and career (it’s not a CV/resumé though), relationships (parental, romantic, friends), what have been the highlights, the low points, the regrets (of what you’ve done or haven’t done), the times of greatest learning and when things have felt effortless. Don’t worry about whether it makes sense, is well written or in a logical format. This is only for you to read and analyse. Include examples, rich descriptions (not PowerPoint or bullet points) and your feelings and emotional reactions to the events and people.

I did the first draft of my PPIN in a week and ended up with over 10 typed pages, single spaced. Remember, I like to write and am a good typist, so I don’t want to intimidate you. A couple of months later, it was more than 20 pages. Jack Wood suggests 5–10 pages for the first draft and 10–15 pages for the complete narrative. If done exhaustively it can take a while, so at worst, it’s a legacy for your children (although it might be too revealing if done with no fear of it being seen). I’d encourage you to do more than what makes you comfortable; it’s at the edges of our comfort zones where we learn the most and feel energized.

Step 2 is the analysis of what you’ve written. The informative part happens during the reflection. This might be while you are writing it or once it’s written; when the patterns and themes in your life emerge (or appear once you observe your story on paper at a distance). What have you noticed about what you’ve created in your life? What’s been easy? What’s been hard? What has impacted you from one situation to another situation? What did you conclude about yourself or the way life works from the various events in your life? Where does it point you to in terms of further personal development? What patterns are influencing you?

Last year I took an introductory course on Transactional Analysis (TA).  TA is a psychoanalytic theory used in various ways, such as in therapy or coaching.  Its basis is that many of the ways we think, feel and behave today are established very early in life and therefore reflect aspects of parent, child and adult.  Some of these are very helpful and some are quite reactionary.  The PPIN exercise will help you determine some of these helpful and less helpful tendencies potentially.

For example, the PPIN exercise helped me understand why I adjusted so quickly when I moved from Canada to Switzerland; as a kid I had moved to a new city every five years due to my father’s career. Prior to the first move my parents asked an education specialist for advice on moving young children. He told my parents to move my brother and me a month or two before the end of the school year as that would allow us to make friends in the new place before being let off school for the summer. That way we’d know other kids in the neighbourhood with whom to play. This meant that at the new school I was put into established classes with groups of children who had been together for months and, as the newbie, I was required to integrate. I remembered one situation in Grade 3 (so I was about 9 years old) where I was escorted into the classroom by a school secretary after the kids had already started their day. The room was a mixed group of both Grade 3s and 4s and I was stood at the front of the class and asked to introduce myself. I did this on more than one occasion. Hence when I arrived in Switzerland, I just threw myself in, introducing myself to strangers. The PPIN helped me recognise this pattern; understand that aspect of myself and become more conscious of using the skill when it served me (such as when I moved to England on my own and starting my coaching career).

Dynamic Learning About Yourself Now

Write a few paragraphs or pages about your current situation now – your thoughts, your feelings, what bothers you, what pleases you, what have you observed in others or society and what’s your reaction to that?  How was it for you last year compared to now? Write about your experience of your current reality.  This is called free-flow writing, just writing what comes up for you in your mind, heart and gut; follow the flow without censoring or critiquing.

Reflect on what you’ve written:

  • What reactions and behaviours are you having now that you recognize in your historical stories? What is the continuing pattern?
  • What situations or perspectives from your past are hindering you now?
  • What situations or tendencies from your previous stories could you leverage to help you in current times?


I said at the beginning this was a simple exercise.  It is, just write your life story in chunks over time and reflect on the patterns and learning.  I didn’t say it would be easy. Contact me here for a complimentary session to understand more about your learnings from this exercise or for any avoidance you feel about doing such as exercise.

1 Wood, Jack Denfeld. ‘The Personal and Professional Identity Narrative (PPIN).’ Print.

When to Ask vs When to Tell as a Leader.

When to Ask vs When to Tell as a Leader.

Thinking your leadership style is a one-trick pony?

Feedback says you need to be the opposite of what you are?

Notice you default to a usual leadership response? Solve? Decide? Ask?

You’re not alone.

A small coaching group I’m working with were sharing the feedback in their 360 reports. One leader said he needed to change his leadership. He needed to be decisive, not collaborate as his development areas were about being too inclusive, slow, vague and not decisive enough.

I disagree.

A leader needs to be able to TELL, for example if there’s a fire in the building you need to loudly tell people to leave swiftly. A leader needs to COLLABORATE when working on cross-functional issues. A leader needs to DECIDE when the financial risk is within their remit. A leader needs to DELEGATE when it’s within the remit of their team member.
Situational leadership is not about changing yourself in my opinion. It’s about broadening yourself. It’s about having more skills and behaviours to increase your effectiveness as a leader rather than one size fits all. In doing so you also develop the people with whom you work. Win-Win.

My analogy is that of a tool box. If all you have is a hammer, you’ll deal with everything as if it were a nail. A hammer won’t help when you want to fell a tree or open an oyster. The more tools in your tool box the more situations you can address effectively with better results.

What is Situational Leadership?

Literally It’s a 2×2 model first developed by Ken Blanchard and Paul Hersey in 1969!
Conceptually it’s about a leader adjusting their leadership style or behaviour to a unique situation and hence to the specific people in that situation.
Practically it’s about leaders assessing the individual with whom they are interacting and what their needs are for completing the task at hand. In the model this is called “Readiness,” how ready is the individual to do the work asked of them both in terms of skills and motivation (intellectual and emotionally). And then the leader adapting their style to how ready the individual is. it’s the degree of directive vs supportive behaviour on the part of the leader. The relationship is often leader/follower and can also extend to leader/stakeholder so don’t just think this is for hierarchical relationships.

It’s about managers or leaders adapting their leadership style to the situation and people involved; matching their leadership behaviours to the needs of the individual to maximize their performance.

Situational Leadership Example

You notice one of your direct reports does great presentations on their team’s projects in meetings but the employees in your direct report’s team do the actual powerpoint presentations and project work and never present. You’re thinking there’s a lost opportunity for that leader to develop their team members by having them present in the meetings. What do you do relative to your direct report?

It depends. It depends on the readiness of that direct report. Are they able to develop others? Are they confident in doing that? Do they even see the opportunity? Are they uncertain? How supportive do you need to be of them given where they are?

Most leaders are paid to solve problems and would just jump in with recommendations of what that direct report should do. Situational Leadership says pause, assess where the situation is on the model and then act accordingly.

What are the Leadership Styles in Situation Leadership?

There are 4 styles outlined in the model depending on (1) your behaviour in relationship with an individual and (2) what’s needed for the individual relative to the task that needs to be done (what’s their ability and willingness to do that task).

1. Delegating – this is a great choice when the individual is capable and willing to take on the task. The leader delegates to the individual who just gets on with it with minimal involvement from the leader – the employee is competent, motivated and empowered to do the task.

2. Supporting – sometimes called Participating. The employee is competent in the work to be done and resistant for some reason. That resistance can be conscious or unconscious. The leaders must participate and support the ‘follower.’ Detailed instructions of how to do it are not required, rather it’s about the person’s motivation or confidence. The leader focuses on the relationship and the person themselves rather than the task in this style.

3. Coaching –The leader must focus on both task and relationship. There are probably practical things that the individual must think through about the task and coaching helps immensely with this. If motivation is the blocker then coaching can help to unearth the emotions. Sometimes this is called selling as it’s leader-driven.

4. Directing or Telling – clear instructions must be given by the leader. The follower is often motivated yet not competent on the task. A common scenario for this is a new employee who doesn’t know the processes yet so required clear and detailed direction.

How to Decide Which Situational Leadership Style to Adopt?

There are some fundamental beliefs or assumptions implicit to me in this model. They are:

• Every situation is different or unique, to varying degrees.
• Leaders can choose their behaviour.
• Different people require different thinkg to perform and excel.
• Task and relationship focus are equally important to getting things done.

Because Situational Leadership is about consciously choosing your behaviour as a leader it requires self-awareness and social-awareness. That means your behavioural default tendencies and preferences. Like my client in the small group, he tends to listen, ask, ponder things with others. Good in some situations we know. What are yours? Social-awareness is about knowing the other person – what’s going on for them? what might they need?

The leader needs to assess the situation especially considering the readiness of the ‘follower’ – both intellectually (skills competence) and emotionally (motivation). Obviously, this implies there is time and it’s not an emergency like a fire.

Discuss with the other person what their level of readiness is for a task or project – how is their competency in terms of skills and abilities? How is there motivation and empowerment? What support do they need from you to do the job at hand well?

Consciously choose where you are on the model. What style and hence behaviours will you exhibit?

Check in on how it’s going between the two of you. As the relationship and task progresses your style and their readiness changes, this is a journey rather than a static model. Treat it as such.

If nothing else, embrace the concept that different situations and people might require different leadership behaviours from you.

What would help you practice the 4 leadership styles from Situational Leadership?

What tools would make your tool box more useful?

What’s your development goal to increase your effectiveness?

Book a COMPLIMENTARY coaching session with me here for some thinking about your leadership effectiveness and what you might need more of from your team.

Be Intentional About 2023: Create Your Future

Be Intentional About 2023: Create Your Future

With 2022 behind us and the lengthening of daylight each day, my positivity says things can only get better. Now is the time to think and dream about 2023. What would you like to intentionally create for yourself this year? By thinking about what you want to create in your life this year and how you want to BE as you do those things, it just might be the hope you need to get through these darker months.

Now there are people out there that say they don’t want to plan; they want to accept what comes along spontaneously. If they plan they think they’ll take the fun out of life or miss what comes along. Why not have both? Think what you want in your life and be open to the serendipity that comes along.

Just like a company has a vision and strategic plan, or at least successful companies, you as an individual would do well to have a vision and strategic plan for your life. This isn’t about making New Year’s resolutions, those don’t work. This is simply about thinking about what you want and being intentional about having more of that in your life.

The photo here is my business partner, Sue, and I doing our reflection, lessons learned and creation this year at a very nice spa hotel. That’s how much we are committed to this exercise, as we’ve done it every year for probably over a decade.

Lessons Learned

In last month’s article I suggested reflecting on 2022 which you can reread here The self-reflection was to capture the successes, achievements and celebrations and release the failures, disappointments and regrets. From those reflections of the past year, what are the lessons you’ve learned?

What matters to you?

What do you want more of in your life? Less of?

If you could have a do-over of something within your control this past year, what would you do differently?

Think baby steps, what are some qualities you’d want more in your daily life (humour, fun, depth, lightness, purpose, consciousness)?

Even if you don’t do the reflection exercise you can still do this next step…

Create Your Future

With everything you’ve learned from 2022 now create a captivating vision for 2023. Think about the following questions. As you think about 2023 also think about how you want to feel. What would excite you about the year? It’s not just what you want to achieve, it’s also about how you want to feel and be.

What do you want in the year ahead? Think of all aspects of your life – family, work, personal, financial, health, fun, spiritual, relationships, etc.

What are you tolerating that you’d like to change in the next year?

What would you add more regularly to your life for more enjoyment, fun or fulfilment?

What is something you’d do this year if you didn’t care what people thought of it/you?

If this year was a chapter in the book of your life, what would this next chapter be called/what would its title be?

Things I’ve been thinking of for this year are: more joy, laughter, singing, delivering a new leadership program with a colleague, gratitude and lightness.

Capturing Your Vision – Vision Board or Something Else?

Now that you’ve thought of the various aspects you’d like, you have an idea of the overall theme (from your chapter title) and some qualities or characteristics you’d like to experience more, it’s time to pull them all together.

There are a few options for how to do this however, first why do this? Because we know that by engaging the creative part of your brain there’s more chance of following through than just relying on willpower.

1. Make a vision board – this is the most popular suggestion although this doesn’t appeal to everyone. Find images (from the internet, canva, pintrest, magazines, draw) of the things you’ve just identified and put them together (on a poster, on-line). It’s essentially a collage, so you have a visual reminder of your aspirations for the year. This is what I chose to do this year, as there were pictures of me from the year that were ‘what I want more of’ this year so I’ve included them.

2. Write a list – so you can refer to it periodically through the year to plan your intentions into your schedule.

3. Pick some music that represents your theme and qualities – play it often. A friend of mine has chosen “I’m Coming Out” as her song, I’m still looking for mine. Any suggestions around fun, release or letting go would be very much appreciated.

4. Draw yourself a picture – this is what I’ve done for many years prior to 2023. I draw images and words for the coming year and at the end a central image usually emerges that I then photograph as my phone wallpaper.

There’s no right or wrong way to capture your visioning, do what appeals to you most or create your own idea and let me know what that is. Once captured, plan how you can work towards including those new aspects into your life, in small incremental steps.

2023 will pass (if you’re lucky; the alternative is sad and not pleasant) like every other year. To have an idea of how you want it to be better or different than 2022 requires visioning and then action. Take the time to dream, it doesn’t have to be long or all at one time. Then live the vision through reminders, action and inspiration. And enjoy whatever else comes along the way!

I’d love to hear about your theme, vision, images and ideas if you’d like to share them with me or how you felt trying this exercise.

Book a COMPLIMENTARY coaching session with me here for some guided visioning time – and some practical tips for how to achieve that vision. What would make you more effective and fulfilled at work and personally?

Self Reflection of 2022 to Capture Your Lessons Learned

A Time for Self Reflection

Hard to believe we are at the beginning of another year.

I find the more experienced 😉 I get, the faster time flies!

This time of year signals something to me beyond just the holidays. It’s the time for Completion and Creation. What is that you ask? Great question!

Every year around the holidays my friend/business partner sit together and spend a day reviewing the year just ended (completion) and settings goals and intentions for the coming year (creation). We’ve been doing it for years. Us working together was prompted out of one of these such sessions years ago.

I do this review for all aspects of my life – personal and professional. Just as many companies do an annual Business Review, you can do the same for your personal life. It’s super helpful for both!

Step #1 – COMPLETING 2022

Here are questions to help you review the year. Research studies show it’s best to actually write down your answers and not just ‘think’ about them to garner the most learning, enjoyment and release from the exercise.

1. What accomplishments are you most proud of from 2022?

2. What are your top joys, celebrations, highlights and milestones from the year?

3. What challenges or hurdles did you overcome in 2022?

4. What relationships did you develop (new or existing)?

5. What difference did you make in 2022? In the world, the community, for others.

6. What did you learn this year?

7. As a coach I have to ask, how have you grown in 2022?

8. If this year was a chapter in the book of your life, what was it called?

Spend time over the next few weeks, dipping in and out of these questions, as different things will come to you over time. It’s also fun to ask others you’re gathered with this holiday for their reflections on the various questions for themselves.

Book a call here to discuss what this review has highlighted for you or your organisation and how I might help.

More Resources?

If you’d like more food for thought on this process you can check out previous blogs I’ve done over the years about completion:

One on Self-Reflection here or more prompts on the year-end review here.

Stay tuned for Step #2 – Creating 2023 in the next blog.

What Admiral the Stallion can Teach You About Leadership

What Admiral the Stallion can Teach You About Leadership

A wet, cold, cloudy day in an English field learning leadership lessons from horses.

Sounds fun 😉 It was!

I am part of a leadership development group that met 5 years ago and every year we reunite to connect, engage and grow ourselves as leaders. This year with the help of Jude Jennison, and her herd, we learned lots.

Back to the horses. To be clear, we were beside the horses, not on top of them. Said another way, we didn’t ride the horses. And the reason for that was fascinating…


When you ride a horse, you sit on top of the horse, with reins in your hands usually. There is an element of control the rider has over the horse for their own safety, so it’s the rider that decides for the most part. This means power and control are with the rider. If the rider didn’t have reins, and gave all the power to the horse, that’s an imbalance too.

By being with the horses, beside the horses, the power is equal. It’s pure, collaborative leadership as equals, not about command and control. The horses are free to engage; it comes down to how we show up or not, and whether and not they engage.

From that day, these are some more learnings from Callie, Tiffin, Admiral, Mr Blue and Jack.

Relatability fosters Connection

This lesson comes from Admiral, a proud, majestic stallion, who sadly is no longer with us, mere weeks later ☹ We were introduced to Admiral with an explanation of his background which included some structural health issues.

I could relate being someone with joint and bone issues. I was amazed that I felt connection to a horse based on some shared circumstances. As others in the group talked about which horses they were drawn to many of them identified the link was shared commonalities.

It’s why people in positions of power are told to share something about themselves that other “normal” people can relate to, to create relatability.


Behavioural and energetic alignment are key to authenticity. We were told to approach a horse and interact. When I approached with trepidation, worried I’d infringe too much on Mr Blue’s space too quickly, he cast a quick gaze at me then continued chomping on the grass, disinterested in me entirely. I physically approached, and my energy was worried, hesitant, reluctant.

We regrouped and were invited to approach a horse and openly shed a fear, something that was blocking us in the moment. I spoke my trepidation on infringing, of doing it wrong and said to let it go. As I spoke my fear, held the intention of connecting to Admiral and opened my heart to be with him, he paused and raised his head, I stroked his long neck and he stood with me. My energy matched my intention and my behaviours.

Leading can be lonely

In the afternoon we did a team exercise. The task was to traverse the field as a group with three of the horses as part of our group (the horses were loosely on leads for this exercise). The humans positioned themselves at front, middle and back with the first horse right behind the lone ‘leader’ flanked by a few humans. The other horses and humans were to follow.

I was the leader for one exercise and as I slowly walked forward, yelling back to the group where we were going I quickly felt isolated and alone. I didn’t know what was going on behind me. I couldn’t hear if the horses were coming along with us or not. I tried to look yet my view of the group was blocked by that first flank of beings.

I asked what was going on. I heard the 2nd flank yell back behind them asking what was going on. They couldn’t hear from the people behind them. It was never clear until I saw a photo Jude took afterwards, showing that we were proceeding as a group in the direction I was walking, I just didn’t know it, and everyone was struggling to know what was going on in the chain – it’s lonely at the top, and maybe not just at the top…

Be Empathetic. Every Position is Hard

We did two team exercises, one in which I lead and one in which I was in the middle of the line-up. I found both positions hard, as did others when we debriefed. Everyone struggled to know what was going on in any of the other parts of the line-up.

Everyone can find their positions challenging, communication between the positions can be challenging. And communication within an organization is essential for people to feel connected, to belong, to understand the vision, the progress and to be able to contribute in the best possible way.

In short, regular communication across the organization is required for success.

What learnings do you have from interacting with animals?

What leadership quality is your strength?

Who is your role model for leadership?

Book a complimentary coaching session with me here to explore how to help you motivate, influence and inspire your people.

Lessons Learned from the Pandemic

Lessons Learned from the Pandemic

COVID-19 seems so last year, what can a learn about it now?

I’m sick of the pandemic and don’t want to read more about it.

Well, remember the expression credited to Spanish philosopher George Santayana, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it”.

Read what three senior human resources (HR) leaders in global organizations have shared in the last year about their learnings from COVID – Thoughts and lessons we’d be prudent to remember to reap some good out of the pandemic.

Taboo no more – Mental Health at Work

HR has long been an advocate for people in their organizations, striving to ensure that employees are equipped, developed and supported to be the engine that drives the business.

The pandemic “opened up space to put the topics of mental health, wellbeing, and having a 3600 understanding of an employee on the table among all employees with a care-taking role in the organization” according to Mauricio Pordomingo, Vice President Talent at PepsiCo Europe

The lesson here is that all facets of an individual’s life affect their performance at work. We’ve knowing this intellectually for years and the last two years have required direct discussions about home situations, work/life balance, health, and family circumstances. On an obvious level, we’ve been in our colleagues’ homes through video calls, seeing a side of them we hadn’t necessarily seen previously. The result being the necessity for specific conversations with the employee and their people leaders to identify and enact tangible solutions for their situations and experience.

How do we keep these hot or difficult topics of mental health and wellbeing open in a respectful and supportive manner?

“There’s a need to give employees space to share their emotions, talk about how they feel, and provide varying levels of support and care as needed” according to Washington Munetsi, HR Director Operations Nestlé

For PepsiCo, they helped make mental health more mainstream and break the societal taboo by featuring mental health in their Lays Christmas advertising campaign to consumers.
See last week’s blog about the Feelings Wheel to understand more about emotions, here.

Vulnerability and Leadership

Past experience became useless at the onset of lockdowns. Leaders felt and might have appeared more vulnerable as they didn’t have the answers nor much relevant experience to rely on.

“We didn’t have a play book for handling a pandemic and the negative impact it would have on peoples’ situations” Christopher Kirkpatrick, Vice President Human Resources Adidas Canada

This uncertainty and fear required people leaders to step into spaces with which they weren’t necessarily comfortable. It required and still does require agility, curiosity and empathy when dealing with others.

As Chris says,

“It forced breaking walls down, creating a space for true dialogue, forcing everyone into who they actually are by being exposed – [Leaders had to say] I’m here to listen and to ultimately grow you once I understand better.”

Adidas Canada broke down these walls with (i) monthly templated touch points to check in with employee’s wellbeing and to keep engagement during a difficult time; (ii) quarterly cross-departmental “ask me anything” sessions; and (iii) matching people for 10,000 virtual coffees.

True Accessibility and Inclusivity

Many of the articles I write, and read for that matter, focus on workplace environments that are predominately offices. The vast majority of workers actually don’t work in offices. My background at Nestlé and P&G Inc remind me of the 100,000’s of employees who are desk-free, working in factories, trucks and other non-desk situations.
Working from home, restrictions on business travel and key workers only physically present in a workplace allowed for true accessibility. Companies were forced to create new and different connections to desk-free employees.

“Desk-free employees were given direct connections to the systems within our factory environment. This resulted within record time in more streamlined operations and full inclusion. The workload shifted from paperwork to more digitalization” said Washington, Munetsi

What were your learnings from the last 931 days?

Which ideas and concepts from this article would be helpful for you to explore further for your organization?

What might be helpful for you and your team to have greater success, resilience and satisfaction?

Book a complimentary coaching session with me here to explore how to help you motivate, influence and inspire your people.

Want to know the Real Basis for Emotional Intelligence?

Want to know the Real Basis for Emotional Intelligence?

Want more engagement with your team?

Been told you could be more empathetic?

Wondering what Emotional Intelligence even is?

If you know what emotional intelligence is skip the first sections and jump to the tool and tips.

What is Emotional Intelligence?

EI (or EQ) is the overarching term to describe four concepts: the ability to know one’s emotions, manage one’s emotions, understand the emotions of other people, and manage relationships with others. As the English Oxford Living Dictionary defines it: “the capacity to be aware of, control, and express one’s emotions, and to handle interpersonal relationships judiciously and empathetically”. The concept was popularized in the 1996 book Emotional intelligence by Daniel Goleman, still a great reference to this day.

What is Emotional Intelligence in Leadership?

EQ in Leadership is about knowing and managing one’s self enough to influence, motivate, connect and inspire others. It’s the soft skills or people skills needed to interact with others.
Some clients have asked “isn’t this manipulation?” The Oxford English Dictionary says manipulate is: “handle or control (a tool, mechanism, information, etc.) in a skilful manner. Control or influence (a person or situation) cleverly.” So, yes, it is manipulation. And, so what? If you get what you want while being yourself AND the other person is treated well, with full permission to say ‘yes’ or ‘no’, and has their needs met, what does it matter? The issue is the intention behind the interaction; if it’s to influence for good reasons, then OK; if it’s to influence for unscrupulous, evil, bad reasons, then it’s not OK.

The Foundation for EQ is….

Emotions. The clue was in the title – EMOTIONal intelligence.

Humans are emotional beings. The part of our brain that deals with emotions (limbic) is the first port of call for all nerve endings entering our brain through our spinal cord. Nerve impulses hit the “emotion” part before getting to the prefrontal cortex where reason and executive function happens.

Feelings in the Workplace

People say that business isn’t personal, that it’s rational and fact-based. And emotions are present at work every day.

Organizations want and even foster emotions at work – emotions such as: calm, optimistic, positive, engaged, energetic, confident, trusting, passionate, enthusiastic to name just a few.

Yes, that list is a list of emotions that companies have in mind when hiring, when considering promotions, wanting in and for their people.

So Why Are Emotions Denied by Many in the Workplace?

I believe it’s because of FEAR (which is a feeling). Many of us aren’t taught about emotions or feelings either from our upbringing or our schooling. When we aren’t comfortable with something, it’s hard to be with it. We don’t know what to do when someone expresses an emotion.
A coaching client of mine was beside himself when a direct report cried in their 1:1. He wanted the crying to stop. He was so uncomfortable with it he lost the idea that a direct report was feeling so bad that she was in tears. Once we reviewed the feelings wheel and the content in this article he felt better able to handle it the next time. He revisited the situation with the direct report and helped her learn what was behind the emotion. Interestingly, he found out the tears where frustration and anger at a colleague stonewalling a key project. He never imagined this was the issue.

How to Use Emotions at Work

Emotions are data. Just as sales, staff turnover, and market research are all data. The data needs to be analysed to become information that you can then action. Say your company is below the sales target this month. You analyse the data to determine what’s causing the low sales number until you identify the root cause, so you can find the appropriate solution and act on it.

And emotions are the same. They tell you something. The emotions we think of as “positive” are emotions we feel when our needs are being met. The emotions we think of as “negative” are emotions we feel when our needs are not being met.

Same for other people. When someone is engaged and attentive, a need of theirs is being met (they are intellectually stimulated, hopeful about an idea, or being valued for example). When someone is frustrated, a need of there is not being met (they are not getting the answer they want, or fast enough for example).

Practical Tips for Emotions at Work

  • Get yourself a ‘feelings wheel’ like the one in this article to use to accurately name or label the feelings/internal emotions you are feeling. Of note, feeling dismissed, feeling undervalued, feeling attacked, feeling excluded are not feelings. They are thoughts. They are judgments or evaluations or opinions. Focus on the feeling itself, that’s where the data is. The judgement is not necessarily accurate and it’s most probably not helpful. This is the work of Nonviolent Communication by Marshall Rosenberg if you want to learn more.
  • Reflect on what your emotions are at various times while working. What is the information in that emotion? If it’s ‘positive’ your needs or wants are being met – what are those needs? If it’s ‘negative’ your needs or wants are not being met – what are those needs? The more comfortable you are with your emotions the more comfortable you can be with others’ emotions.
  • If you have unmet needs, what are all the possible ways of getting those needs met? How do you want to proceed to get those needs met? Or recognize that need doesn’t have to be met?Ask others what they are feeling. Help them identify the real feeling they have rather than their judgement. Help them see their needs – whether met or unmet for their self-awareness. Other people always have emotions, they are there whether you ask about them or not. Better to ask and have them out (good or bad) so they can be enjoyed or released.


What are you feeling after reading this article?

What might your people be feeling in their lives? In their interaction with you?

What might be helpful for you and your team to have greater success, agility, resilience and satisfaction?

Book a complimentary coaching session with me here to explore how to help you motivate, influence and inspire your people.

Wellbeing Versus Workload? Doesn’t have to be One or the Other.

Too much to do not enough time? I’m feeling this as I write because I’m trying to get everything done before taking time off work for vacation/annual leave. I’m not the only one. A recent UK-wide study by YouGov found ¾ of ALL UK adults have felt so stressed at times in the last year that they felt overwhelmed or unable to cope¹. Another study conducted by leading UK universities found 2/3 of people working in health and social care are overwhelmed and at risk of burnout². Research in the USA found similar results across a multitude of industries and professions.

In the past week alone 12,100 google searches have been conducted in the UK for the word OVERWHELM. Add in all the variations of overwhelmed, overwhelmed at work, feeling stressed and overwhelmed, burnout and it’s 10’s of thousands pf people researching it and those are just the people who taking the time and have the headspace to google it.

One of my clients has a team working in Ukraine. Yes, they are still working there 2 months after the start of the war. The day before our coaching session my client was handling the disruption in work caused by the shelling in the area where most of his team were situated while making sure his team was safe, their families were safe, and arranging if anyone now wanted to leave while managing his stress, fears and work requirements. Gratefully I’m not dealing with life and death as many of my clients are at this time.

Importance of Wellbeing at Work

The above stats underline the requirement for organizations to focus on health and wellbeing in the workplace. Decades ago wellbeing in the workplace was about gym membership benefits, health insurance, medication plans etc. A company was deemed to be progressive if the benefits extended to onsite gyms and benefit coverage for massages. It was all about health in terms of physical health. Later wellbeing extended to employee assistance programs to address some of the mental and emotional things that people face.
Now it’s about body, mind and soul – holistic wellbeing to not just cope or avoid burnout but to enjoy, contribute, be fulfilled in the way that’s best for the individual. It’s about supporting people to be authentically themselves (diversity, equality and inclusion is an aspect of this) and to be resilient to the scale and pace of change in today’s world. It’s dealing with people as full human beings and not just their head and hands who do tasks at work.

Leadership Challenge

For some in leadership positions this evolution and the current reality are obvious, and for others it’s a difficult transition. Some just want people to come into work, get the work done well and go home. There’s a discomfort around “understanding peoples’ needs and feelings,” making sure others are feeling ‘ok,’ being mindful in how work is delegated rather than just assigning tasks. This challenge can be met with better emotional intelligence (EQ). Knowing yourself and then knowing others, so you can manage the interaction to be win-win.

Wellbeing + Workload – Not a trade-off

The people are the key to getting the work done; an organization can’t succeed without productive people and for sustained productivity, people need to be healthy and well (holistically across head, heart and hands).

People + Wellbeing = Productivity

The biggest thing is to be in dialogue about this exact thing – how do we achieve our goals while looking after ourselves and others? It’s not a question of prioritizing one over the other. It’s about working in a ‘healthy’ way within a wellbeing culture. A leader’s thoughts need to be oriented around “I want you to be yourself, I can’t do it without you, your total wellbeing is key. What does that mean and how do we facilitate it?”

Tips for Working in a Wellbeing Manner

1. Be Courageous – have the courage to have the conversation about the work needs and human needs. In fact, courage is needed for each of the following tips. Courage is not the absence of fear, it’s feeling the fear and proceeding despite it. This requires self-management in emotional intelligence terms – feeling it and speaking up anyway.

2. Acknowledge Emotions– Stress is present in the workplace; the issue is to what degree? Behavioural science tells us that some amount of stress is needed to perform, it creates the energy to follow through and act, it motivates. When it’s too much it becomes counterproductive. Talk about how people are feeling sometimes. The feelings are there (‘positive’ and ‘negative’) whether we talk about them or not. Having people share their emotions can alleviate the pressure or in the case of ‘positive’ emotions make the environment better.

3. Simplify – Challenge what work really needs to be done. Are we focusing on the right things to make a difference and be successful? Question old processes, practices or expectations? This takes courage especially during change – it often feels safer to continue doing what has always been done. Are there new, faster, more efficient ways of doing some of the work? Ask because you might not know, and others might. This is vulnerable and hence takes courage as there’s a fear of saying ‘I don’t know’ in an organization and being judged poorly for it. This also included reducing the reliance on the volume of emails people send, and the amount of inefficient and needless meetings – complaints from pretty much everyone!

4. Learn how to say no or ‘set boundaries’ – what do you do when you’re being asked to do too much at work or you just have too much work to do? You talk about it in a respectful, professional, transparent manner. Tell people that consequences of taking on another task or project so choices or priorities can be clear. This touches on all 4 quadrants of the EQ model – self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, and social management.

5. Foster individual resilience – promote self-awareness, reframe failure or mistakes to learnings, adopt a growth mindset, be connected to others for support and perspective, watch when your stress moves from optimal to overload, talk to others about how you feel. As part of resilience, healthy lifestyle routines are mandatory such as: eat healthy food, create good sleep habits, exercise regularly, avoid or limit alcohol, sugar, and excessive screen time, undertake regular health checks, practice some sort of mindfulness and relaxation, be in nature, have friends/family around you and enjoy some fun.

6. Ensure the practical wellbeing fundamentals are in place – ensure fair pay and benefit structures; environmental aspects such as accessible, good food onsite, physical spaces are ergonomic, legal/reasonable working hours are enforced, fitness in supported, employee assistance programs are robust and known, career development is cultivated, employees have a voice through some forum.

7. Be a values and purpose led leader (if not organizations) – be open and engaged in two-way conversation, behave in accordance with the company values and mission, encourage and role model a good personal/professional balance, create autonomy for people to do what they do, belonging and connection. Humans are social creatures and since we spend most of our waking hours at work this connection needs to be authentic and positive.

What one thing in this list could deliver the biggest improvement in your wellbeing?

What’s the leadership challenge you’re facing?

What support could you have to help your own productivity and resilience?

Book a complimentary coaching session with me here to explore how to you can optimize your wellbeing and workload and/or that of your people.

¹ https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/news/stressed-nation-74-uk-overwhelmed-or-unable-cope-some-point-past-year

² https://www.ulster.ac.uk/news/2022/may/uk-wide-study-shows-health-and-social-care-workforce-working-longer-hours-with-two-thirds-feeling-overwhelmed-and-at-risk-of-burnout