Which Leadership Styles during the time of Coronavirus?

Leadership Styles During the Time of Coronavirus

Leadership and which leadership style to use can be a challenge on a good day. Add in a global pandemic like coronavirus, and deciding on which leadership style will be the most effective can be overwhelming. I believe that there is no one style that’s right for a given leader, rather it’s a breadth of approaches that one makes uniquely their own.

It’s also an interesting topic in advance of the presidential election in the USA as global political leaders often give us lessons in good and bad leadership.

Here are some outlines to help choose which leadership styles to use during the time of Coronavirus.


There are so many different styles of leadership based on a variety of models from many experts. Here’s a short summary of five styles that have stood the test of time. I’ll address five more, less well known and emerging leadership styles, in an upcoming article.

Transformational Leadership – from the 1978 book titled Leadership by American political scientist James MacGregor Burns, this style of leadership is often referred to in change management situations. The leader works side by side with their team to transform the individuals into leaders while working to identify, develop and execute a significant change in an organization. Nelson Mandela has been called a transformational leader.

Situational Leadership – this is more of a model developed by Paul Hersey and Ken Blanchard in 1982 rather than a style. It’s a 2×2 model about choosing the approach best suited for the recipient depending on how much direction and support they need. For example, when the team member needs little support and direction because they are highly competent and committed you can delegate tasks, they need little instruction and involvement from you. Compared to someone newer, or less competent, needing more coaching instead.

Servant Leadership – this is the opposite of authoritative or autocratic. Researcher Robert K. Greenleaf created the expression in the 70’s. It’s exactly as it says on the tin – serving your followers; the leader focuses on the well-being and growth of their team members, putting the employee’s needs first to develop them to their highest potential. It’s all about empathy, listening, stewardship, persuasion, awareness, communication and development.

Transactional Leadership – this style was first discussed in the late 40’s by Max Weber and is more akin to management rather than leadership and still important to have in your toolbox to use when appropriate. This is about supervision, compliance, use of rewards and punishment and performance. This style might be necessary when handling a performance management issue to ensure clarity, authority, aligned expectations, monitoring and legal compliance if performance does not improve.

Authentic Leadership – coined by Harvard Business School Professor, Bill George, in his 2003 book of the same name. The key is an authentic leader’s self-awareness and interaction with others. It’s the epitome of lead by example or walk your talk. The five main characteristics of an authentic leader according to George are: purpose-led, strong values about the right thing to do, trusting relationships, self-discipline, act on their values and all with passion for what they are trying to achieve. Authentic is not about being and doing whatever you want ‘because that’s just me regardless of the impact on others. I just wanted to say that because I’ve heard people use authenticity as an excuse for negatively impacting others. As a leader you are responsible for your impact.

Consistent Aspects Across Leadership Styles

1. Leadership is necessary in pursuit of something, a goal or objective hence why it’s important for leaders to have a clear vision of what they want to achieve. This vision can be for the results the organisation is pursuing and also for how you want your team to work together. Once you have a clear vision in your mind repeatedly communicate that vision for people to know and follow.

2. Understand team members as individuals. Different people have different motivations for working (money, power, relationship, learning, etc), different preferences (task-oriented vs people-oriented, rationale vs emotional) and react to things differently. Knowing as much as you can about the key individuals you work with helps you be more effective by adjusting your approach to them. More on this below.

3. Breadth of range is important to deal with different people, needs and situations. If there’s a fire in the building you need to be transactional or autocratic and yell “FIRE, GET OUT.” An emergency like that is not a time to be consultative, empowering or visionary. At London Business School we use the expression being yourself with more skill. Knowing different approaches when dealing with people allows you to effectively handle more situations than just ‘one-size-fits-all.’

4. Being self-aware in all ways – your motivators, your tendencies, your impact on others and your triggers (in terms of when you react rather than respond). By knowing how you operate you can self-manage to make conscious choices about your interactions in the moment.

5. Sensing what is going on with someone or with the situation, thereby being able to assess how best to engage them or respond. If you go to an employee to ask them to do a task, sense what’s going on for them. Are they occupied in another task? Have they just had an argument? Are they fully present to you and your inquiry? By sensing what’s going on for them you can adjust how you ask them to do the task. This way you can ensure they hear your request, understand it and align expectations with you.

6. Strive to develop people to be the best versions of themselves. Leaders have followers. Great leaders have followers that they develop into great leaders. Know the strengths and ambitions of someone so you can work together for them to develop themselves to achieve their ambition.

7. Listen, ask questions, seek to understand first. These skills are part of the other 6 things I’ve listed here and important enough to name separately. Develop the skill of deep listening – minimizing your own perspective and view and really hear what’s said and not said to learn their perspective. Ask open, curious questions (often starting with WHAT) to fully understand what the other person is saying, rather than filtering their words through your perspective. This can eliminate assumptions and misunderstandings saving rework and time in the long run.

Your leadership style is often an amalgamation from learning and experience. How you interact with others will determine how well you influence, motivate and inspire others. As the first chapter in my book states ‘IT STARTS WITH YOU’ as you are the one reading this article and you are the only person you can change. Hopefully the ideas above have helped you consider aspects of your own leadership. I’ll share 5 more recent, emerging leadership styles next week.

What aspects of your leadership would be worthwhile to explore?

Book a COMPLIMENTARY coaching session with me here to get support during an unusual time. Many successful (and famous) leaders have professionals to help them perform to the best of their ability – be like them.

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Motivate Your Team for Superior Results and Engagement

How to Motivate Your Team and Yourself

A leader’s job is to motivate people to greater levels of performance. Leaders excite, influence, engage, stimulate, inspire and encourage others to do the work to the necessary quality standard to achieve the organisation’s goals. The higher a leader is in the organization the more their job is motivating others to achieve and less doing the actual hands-on work. A CFO rarely completes the spreadsheet of financials, they motivate those in their teams to do this and so much more. Here’s how to motivate your team and yourself for superior results and engagement.

How Do You Motivate Your Team?

There are actually two sides to that question: motivating them and NOT demotivating them. Frederick Herzberg, a clinical psychologist, is one of the earliest to research and articulate motivational theory and management. He found that there were certain factors that can demotivate people and other, separate factors that can motivate them. He called the demotivating ones HYGIENE factors and the others, MOTIVATORS.

The hygiene factors do not motivate people however, if there are not adequately addressed they can demotivate people. The motivators will motivate people to be more satisfied and potentially happier at work. In many situations, you might not have control over the hygiene factors of someone you work with especially with all the uncertainty now. And you can still use the motivators to drive satisfaction.


How to Motivate Your Team

The simplified answer is to address hygiene factors, so any demotivating circumstances are addressed and focus on the motivators. The ideal is high satisfaction on both hygiene and motivators. If you can’t address the hygiene factors, then fully focus on the motivators.

Hygiene Factors

1. Benchmark your company policies and practices around pay, benefits, working conditions and titles versus the marketplace. This will highlight if there are major discrepancies versus competitive firms that might contribute to demotivation. Especially with coronavirus, how are the needs of employees being meet for health and working environment? Do they have flexibility in their location and set-up given their personal circumstances? Do they have what they need to work? For example, do they have the correct equipment at home? Check employee forums, engagement surveys and water-cooler gossip to assess the level of satisfaction with hygiene factors.

2. Assess the company culture honestly in terms of interpersonal relationship issues. Are there complaints of bullying or discrimination? What is the company performance on inclusivity? How much does the culture support and respect individuals? Be honest in assessing what type of culture exists in the organization and how things feel for those on the front lines.

3. Role-model trust with conscious, servant or inclusive leadership. Role model trust, set clear expectations, be intentional with accountability and responsibility so that employees feel valued and are treated as adults. Show you trust – take a risk and show vulnerability. Risk making a mistake or getting it wrong. Acknowledge when you don’t know something. Give your time, support or resources to “competing” initiatives. Be generous to others verbally, publicly and even use the words “I trust you” when warranted. Give others the benefit of the doubt.


4. Listen – really listen to people. As Stephen Covey said decades ago, “seek first to understand, then to be understood.” Many people listen to respond thereby they often stop actively listening as they start to formulate their response. In my coach training listening was one of the first things we were taught. How to listen at many levels – to what the other person says, and doesn’t say, to their body language and energy, to your own intuition about their feelings. Don’t listen for listening sake, listen to learn, adapt and understand. You will learn a lot about someone when you really listen. Also, listen as people do change over time as their circumstances change so what motivates them might change too.

5. Get curious. Pause your own thoughts and potentially your defence mechanisms to understand someone else’s perspective. Ask questions to understand. Encourage others to be curious too. When people feel you are really interested in them and their work they feel recognized and seen. You’ll also hear what matters to them, what growth they’d like, what new responsibilities might interest them.

6. Give positive and constructive feedback to grow people. Use an easy structure like COIN (click here for a template) for both types of feedback. This allows it to be clear and quick. Give feedback on behaviours as people can more easily change behaviours then change who they are. Give 5-6 pieces of positive feedback for every negative. Yes, really that much positive, research proves it, positive is motivating. When you give real, balanced feedback (over time) people feel valued because you’ve taken the time to help them grown and develop.

7. Learn what motivates the individuals with whom you work. What excites them about their work? Every person is motivated by different things. There’s an assessment developed by John Hunt called the Work Interest Schedule¹ that puts forward 10 things that motivate people and each of us has a different mix or priority among these 10. They include: money, avoiding stress and/or risk, job structure, relationships/not working alone, recognition, power, autonomy and personal growth. Figure out which matter to the individuals you work with and position work in that context.

8. Recognize effort and achievement. This can be public or private, partly depending on the individual and the situation. You’ll need to use your judgment to what is best. If you say ‘good job’ at least say ‘you did a great job’ so they take it personally. Recognition comes in many forms, beyond money and promotion. Say it to them, say it to others in front of them, send an email, mail a card, send a gift, have a senior person reach out to tell them they’ve done good work, offer them resources like a coach or mentor as a reward.

9. Expose people to projects, tasks and situations that challenge and stretch them. This could mean having a junior person attend a senior meeting. Ensure they have the skills, background and your support to be able to meet the challenge. You’d hate to set them up to fail. When you give them the challenge be clear it’s a challenge and that you believe in them, be specific about why you believe they can do it.

10. Create alignment between their purpose and meaning and the company’s purpose or mission. To do this ask them, start a conversation. What attracted them to this type of work and your organization? What matters to them in their lives and with their work? Share what the bridge is for you between what matters to you in life and work – this might necessitate some thought on your part first.

Remind yourself every day that your job as a leader is to excite and motivate others to perform to the best of their abilities. You can’t be successful unless your team is successful. Motivated people are more satisfied and often go the extra mile. The same is true of you. When you’re motivated you’re more satisfied so think that these ways of motivating others also apply to yourself. When you notice your energy or motivation flagging, think of these 10 ways to motivate yourself.

What could you do to motivate your team more/differently that would help them perform even better?

Book a COMPLIMENTARY coaching session with me here to learn how to motivate others better.


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Productive & Efficient at Work: Ideas to Increase Both.

How to Be More Productive and Efficient at Work

Productivity and efficiency improvements are important at any time and especially when working from home, as we need greater boundaries between work and home. By knowing you’re doing the best you can to be as productive as possible gives you permission to stop work at the end of the day and rejuvenate.

To build on last week’s article about being more efficient with email (How to Be More Productive & Efficient with Email at Work), this week we’ll broaden the focus.

Working More Hours Isn’t Better

Most successful people tell me they have more work than time; they respond by working longer hours. Most are acknowledging that the implication of the pandemic is now a marathon rather than a sprint. Which means more hours are unsustainable and might not be effective anyway.

Research from Stanford University, by economics professor John Pencavel, found that productivity declined drastically if one worked more than 50 hours per week. In fact, if one worked upwards of 70 hours per week s/he would achieve only what they would have working just 55 hours. It’s not about working longer, it’s about working smarter as they say.


How to Be More Productive at Work


1. Set max 3-5 priorities for the day. An endless to-do list is overwhelming, discouraging and distracting thereby diluting your efforts. Ideally set these priorities at the end of the day before so you can hit the ground running when you get into work the next morning. Celebrate when you complete each task, that motivates you to keep up your progress.

2. Book time with yourself to do those key priorities. Literally put time in your calendar to think and do the work you need/want to do. Other people and their priorities will push into your calendar if you don’t claim the time first. Schedule your working times for when you are at your best. I wrote most of my book from 3-6:30pm in coffee shops, an odd time and it was the most productive time and location for me after trying various alternatives.

3. Do one thing at a time. Multi-tasking between two things requiring mental focus (checking social media and reading notes, conversations and emails) has been proven to take longer than doing just 1 thing to completion.

4. Take breaks. This might seem counter-intuitive to getting things done and studies show taking frequent small breaks increases productivity, focus and creativity. The recommendation is a 5-min walk every hour. Ideally get outside, move, stretch. Checking social media is not a break as that requires continued mental resources. Productivity is about managing your time and your energy. Time without energy is not productive.

5. When you are finishing a task, identify the next step or action that needs to be done and note it down. This means you have an identified starting point when you return to work on that task making it quicker for you to get back into it.


How to Be More Efficient


1. Create routines out of repetitive tasks (if you can’t automate or get rid of them). Thinking takes energy. When we execute a routine, our brains use less energy and things can be done faster. Obama and Zuckerberg are said to wear the same thing most days, so they have one less decision that must be made that day.

2. Question what you are doing. What are the things you do workwise that no longer serve the organization and its goals? What are the things your team does that are no longer value-added? What would others question you about in terms of how you spend your time? This questioning is to identify the “work” that takes your time away from more important things. Also, what are you doing that your team, or another person could be doing? This points you to what you can delegate to free you up for things that only you can do.

3. Focus on the important not the urgent. The 80/20 rule or Pareto Principle says 80% of results come from 20% of things/effort, so identify the 20% and work on that. What are your key priorities for the year and the quarter – what work actually moves these priorities forward?

4. Create a ‘Parking Lot’ list when you’re focused. When doing group training I create a ‘Parking Lot’ flip chart. Its where I capture ideas that come up from the participants through the day that are important and unrelated to the training at hand. This way the idea is noted while keeping the training on-track. Have a blank page beside you to note thoughts that might be important and that are distracting you from the work at hand (not phone as that has more distractions on it). Afterwards you can decide what of the list makes it onto your agenda.

5. Change your language – to others and yourself. This means saying NO to others sometimes if you tend to take on too much, keeping you from your key priorities. Tips for how to do that from an interview I gave are here. Notice your self-talk. Do you say (out loud or in your head) that you’re so busy, have so much to do, can’t get it all done, are pulled in so many directions? If so, change your language to support yourself such as, “I am focusing on this right now,” “I have 2 key priorities to do.” This limits the chatter that takes you off task, to conserve your mental and verbal energy.

6. Accept that some tasks will be hard, frustrating, boring and STAY. STAY is part of the leadership model I use from the Co-Active training institute. We are adults, we are at choice, we are lucky to have work that hopefully we enjoy for the most part. And sometimes there will be things that are hard, frustrating, boring – focus and do them anyway. Just as you’d tell a child who must complete a chore or difficult school work. Focus on it, take a quick break every hour to move it towards completion.


Longer-term Ideas to Increase Productivity


1. Do an activity log to determine your time wasters and bad habits. For a few weeks, notice how you spend your time. Notice what distracts you. Notice your bad work habits. Do you flit between things, pick up a file you need to review 5x in the day without actually opening it and working on it? Do you let people interrupt often? Do you seek out others as distraction? Be honest about your time management. Note your time wasters so you can rectify them. Also, notice your good habits so you can leverage them more.

2. Notice any repeated frustrations you have with a process or person. When you are repeatedly frustrated with something or someone get to the root cause of it and improve the situation. If it’s a monthly report that seems to always have issues, investigate the issues to rectify them.

3. Improve your communication skills. A lot of time is wasted due to poor communication. Examples are not setting clear expectations, having misunderstandings that then need to be sorted, not listening well due to multitasking, and avoiding difficult conversations. By improving your communication skills especially as you rise in the organization you’re being a role model and creating a culture that fosters greater productivity.

4. Rejuvenate yourself on an on-going basis. Tired, stressed employees don’t contribute their best. Take time off, turn off notifications, don’t look at email, have a change of scenery. What energizes you? What motivates you? Studies show more ah-ha moments come for people who take timeout. Being out in nature, physical activity, a different environment and less technology are all suggested for improving one’s productivity and contribution.

5. Celebrate yourself and your accomplishments. I don’t mean this in an arrogant, boastful way. Rather in an appreciative, conscious way. By celebrating (or at a minimum, acknowledging yourself) you motivate yourself and reinforce your strengths to apply to the work at hand. Also, if you enjoy your work, it should be enjoyable most of the time and celebrating yourself will remind you of the enjoyment.

All and any one of these ideas will aid you in being more productive at work, studies bear this out. Adopt 1 or 2 of them initially and notice the impact. Also, remind yourself how to have fun at work while staying productive. One way is to SMILE while working – research shows smiling signals to the parasympathetic nervous system to remain calm, helping you focus.

What leadership improvements would you and your team benefit from to be more productive and efficient at work?

If you’re like me and many of my clients, you can improve your productivity and efficiency. I challenge you to book a FREE coaching session with me here to identify the opportunities for improvement and enjoyment.


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Productive & Efficient at Work. Tips for Email.

How to be More Productive & Efficient at Work with Email

A quick way to be more productive and efficient at work is to have a strategy for dealing with your emails. Few job descriptions or role responsibilities include “answer emails” yet most people complain about full inboxes and being behind on answering them. People have email fatigue at work – they are tired of the endless receipt and need to answer.

First, let’s lay the foundation with some terminology before outlining the strategies and tips.

How to be More Productive at Work

Let’s start with what productivity means. Productivity is the ratio or rate of doing work in a given period of time. ‘How productive were you today’ in the context of an office is quite subjective, it’s your own assessment of how much you got done today usually relative to your never-ending to-do list. In a manufacturing environment it’s more measurable – how many units were manufactured in a certain period. Whether for office work or manufacturing most employers and leaders want productivity to be as high as possible. A productivity focus drives doing more in the same period. So, to be more productive, do the work faster.

How to be More Efficient at Work – What does this Mean?

Efficiency is the use of time and energy in a way that is not wasteful. This word begs the question what is wasteful? This notion implies that any idle time or energy not channelled toward a task is wasteful. Ironically, many people get their best ideas and are more creative when they aren’t chained to a desk or laser-focused on the task at hand for long periods of time. And there are often wasteful moments in multitasking which is explained in the tips below.

How to be More Effective at Work Means What?

Effectiveness is about doing the right things or more of the things that matter. This is the terminology I feel leaders could reflect on more. The focus here is on the results and not the time it took to get those results. An executive coaching client once said to me that his focus was doing what only he could do, the rest being delegated or stopped.

Email Best Practices at Work When Sending Emails

Almost everyone I coach complains of too many emails and we are all guilty of feeding into it by sending emails and replying to emails, it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. Hence why we will start with the emails you generate.

  1. Communicate better. Send better emails. Write clearly and concisely. Keep it short to make it easy to read and long enough to be clear. If it needs to be long, what’s driving that? Items such as, purpose of email, succinct background, rationale/recommendation/issue, next steps, call to action are useful to include as appropriate. Ensure the subject line is clear. Have clear actions and deadlines in the email if not the subject line.
  2. Think before you send an email. Does the subject warrant a phone call, a meeting, an IM or an email? What’s the purpose of the email? Often people send emails to get a task or issue out of their exclusive domain and into other peoples’ spaces in order to advance it to some degree. Other times they are sent to check on progress. If this is the case, try a project management tool designed for that purpose.
  3. Be clear with the TO and CC fields. Include the fewest recipients as possible. Ideally have one person as the main TO receiver to be clear of who needs to do what.
  4. Be vocal about sending fewer and better emails. Be vocal about cutting down on email to create a culture change in your team, if not organization. Everyone would welcome the notion of fewer emails.
  5. Use email tools that allow scheduling, follow up flags, creating response templates for repetitive responses. Tools allow you to use the technology rather than be a slave to it. Ask your IT contact about what tools your company supports.
  6. Send fewer emails as that will have you get fewer replies back. Be a role model for the change you want to see in the world as Gandhi said.
  7. Avoid sending an email if you anticipate someone will be upset by it. Pick up the phone instead.

Managing Emails at Work that You Receive

Some of these suggestions will feel uncomfortable. That’s because there are psychological factors at play:

  • FOMO – Fear Of Missing Out if you don’t see an email immediately or first,
  • We are trained to respond to the ‘ping’ of notifications,
  • Needing to be or seen to be ‘always reachable’ in case of ‘emergency,’
  • Being an overachiever, perfectionist or driven to do everything possible.
  1. Close your email down when working on key projects and when meeting others. Research shows multitasking at work is inefficient. It’s fine to multitask when washing the car and listening to a podcast as different mental resources are used. At work, jumping between tasks requiring thought is inefficient, it is essentially stop/start and you lose flow, it takes you longer to get into focus when you flit between things. Continually hearing the ping of emails arriving can create anxiety and cause the stress hormone, cortisol, to be released thereby clouding the prefrontal cortex of your brain where your rational thinking happens.
  2. Only check email at specific times in a day so that answering emails fits amidst the bigger priorities. Checking emails 3-4 times a day should be enough. Allocate your time to your team, your strategic thinking, your key projects BEFORE dedicating time to reviewing email. When you’re checking email, focus on the email, don’t multitask with your phone or papers. Don’t check emails first thing in the morning, do some thinking or work on a key task before being drawn into reviewing emails.
  3. Analyse the emails you receive to identify opportunities for reducing them. For example, you can identify if there is one person who consistently sends most of them or one topic by sorting your inbox based on sender and subject (the same person sending many emails might imply unclear responsibilities), how many people are on the to and cc lines (may imply covering their butt, lack of clear decision making or laziness), if the email was printed would it be the thickness of a book (might imply emails being used in place of productive discussion), are you copied on many emails from your team (might imply they don’t feel full ownership, don’t understand your involvement or can’t get your input otherwise).
  4. Set guidelines with your team for when and how emails should be sent. What is the purpose of email in your team or organization? Set expectations for when you want to be copied or not. Additionally, talk about whether emails should be sent outside of traditional work hours and if they are, set the expectation of when you will respond.
  5. Set up “rules” in your email settings to sort them into sub-inboxes to handle them more efficiently. For example, emails you are copied on can go into a sub-folder for reading only.
  6. Inform others that if they need you urgently, to call. This manages peoples’ expectations of getting hold of you and alleviates any fears you have of being unreachable when you close your email.
  7. Unsubscribe to unread blogs, articles, newsletters. You haven’t read them now, you won’t in the future. At least set up a separate folder for BLOGS and set a rule to allocate blogs to that folder.
  8. Deal with an email if when reading it, it’s taken you longer than 2-3 minutes to read as you’ve already invested the time in it. If you read the email and don’t deal with it, you’ll have to reread it at another time creating repetition. It also eliminates any anxiety about that email between subsequent reads. Some people say only touch an email once – delete it, delegate it, respond to it, schedule it for a specific time to work on it.
  9. Apply the 80/20 Rule. Focus on the 20% of emails that will lead to 80% of the results. This is true for most work, not just emails.
  10. Delete emails that have lingered in your inbox. The adage goes that if it’s important and you’ve deleted it someone will chase you down.

You will always have more work to do then there are hours in the day, at least that’s my experience working with successful, ambitious people. The key is how many hours do you want to work for the success and satisfaction you want. Given that number of hours, what do you want to be focused on in that time? What is the high value work that only you can do? Most emails fall outside of that criteria so treat them appropriately.

What improvements would you and your team benefit from with regards to improving communication and setting expectations to reduce time lost to emails?

Book a complimentary coaching session with me here to assess your leadership and address what might be impeding greater success.

The topic of efficiency and effectiveness will continue next week when we look beyond just emails.


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Accountability & Responsibility: How Leaders Can Benefit from Both

Accountability vs. Responsibility in Leadership

Accountability and responsibility are often used interchangeably in daily conversations. In organizations and businesses, the confusion between these two words can have significant consequences – things might not get done, issues might explode and at an extreme justice might not be served. This blog explains Accountability & Responsibility, how leaders can benefit from both.

Responsibility in Leadership

Let’s start with RESPONSIBILITY. People are responsible for tasks, processes and executing a role. Hence why most job descriptions list responsibilities related to the job. People are responsible before doing the work as well as when they are doing it and responsible for what they did once it’s done.
Ideally employees assume their responsibilities rather than being assigned their responsibilities. People TAKE responsibility for something – our tasks, a response, an action.
Responsibilities can be shared between people. An obvious example is staff in a retail shop. Every retail employee has the task of serving customers while some are responsible for taking payment and some for stocking merchandise. Every task needs at least one person who is responsible for it. And an individual usually has many tasks for which they are responsible.

Accountability in Leadership

ACCOUNTABILITY is when an individual has to answer to another or to someone in authority. You are accountable for something when you have an obligation to update, justify or explain a given result or task to an individual or body beyond yourself.

People are HELD accountable for an outcome or result. Accountability becomes particularly important after something has been done, a situation has occurred. The accountable person is the one who people will look to for an explanation or status of the situation. The accountable person has a duty to give an account to others.
Unlike responsibility, accountability can’t be shared. The buck stops with the ONE person who is accountable.

Examples of Accountability and Responsibility in Leadership

A simple example is illustrated by my friend and her 8-year-old son. He is accountable for vacuuming/hoovering the hallway daily for his pocket money/allowance (they have a shedding dog). He is accountable to his mother for getting it done and has to explain to her why it isn’t done or not done to a satisfactory standard. If my friend did the vacuuming herself, she would be responsible for it as she has no one to answer to about whether or how it’s done.

My friend above is a financial analyst. She is responsible for providing updated costs on a quarterly basis to her boss for one aspect of a particular project. Her colleague is responsible for providing revenue figures to the same boss for the project. The boss is accountable to the Chief Financial Officer for the overall project financial reporting. The boss monitors the results, raises the alarm if the numbers are off-track and deals with the consequences if the reporting is late or inaccurate.

How to Distinguish Between Responsibility and Accountability in Leadership

The key to distinguishing between accountability and responsibility comes down to communication. Here are some ideas on how to:

  1. Use the words responsible and accountable when discussing tasks and setting expectations. Be clear if someone will have to answer questions and deal with the (negative) consequences of the work to others in authority.
  2. Define who is responsible and accountable for the different tasks and projects within your team. There is a project management acronym, RACI, which stands for Responsible, Accountable, Consulted, and Informed. It says each project and process should be broken into tasks with the letters R, A, C, I assigned to the different elements. Each task can only have 1 person accountable for it. As an aside, consulted means who needs to be consulted while working on the task and informed means who needs to be informed about any resulting decisions.
  3. Ensure those who are responsible take the responsibility rather than you assigning it. This means discussing responsibilities with an employee in a way that empowers and engages them to take on the tasks. Some tips to do this: give the context of how this work fits into the bigger picture/company mission; explain why they are the right person for the job; describe what success looks like; ask them what the work means to them, what more they need to know to take it on, what their plan is to approach it, what obstacles they foresee.
  4. Be prepared to be vulnerable when you’re accountable for a project. By being accountable you are taking ownership for the results, which if something goes wrong, means you have the duty to explain those results and face the consequences. It might mean admitting a mistake, overturning a decision and making amends to improve the situation. This is often where politicians fail – in their accountability – being vulnerable and admitting mistakes.


We are all responsible for what we do and how we do it. When working we take responsibility for our work and the quality standard we deliver. When we’re in a leadership position it usual goes the step further to accountability for the deliverables of your team. The key for those who are accountable is to stand up and share information and answer questions especially when things go wrong.


What leadership improvements would you and your team benefit from with regards to clarity between accountability and responsibility?


Book a complimentary coaching session with me here to assess your leadership and address what might be impeding greater success.


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How to Demonstrate Inclusive Leadership Across the Workplace

Inclusive Leadership: Strategies for Effective Leadership During Times of Crisis

How do you focus on strategies for effective, inclusive leadership during times of crisis? By choice. And the Black Lives Matter movement, gender gap, and under-representation of people of colour and women in leadership positions is part of the crisis. Many leaders realize diversity and inclusion must be fostered and in fact will help deal with the societal inequity, the pandemic and this new normal.

Inclusive Leadership – What is it?

Inclusive leadership is a leadership that focuses on inclusion, diversity and having the “differences” present and participating in the situation. It ensures all people are represented and treated respectfully and all people feel valued and belonging. Leadership that is inclusive of all disparities or dissimilarities is what is needed. These differences can span national origin, industry background, gender, race, sexuality, age, education, neuro-diversity, introversion/extroversion and thinking preferences.

What could you do to be that leader that brings those less-heard voices and underrepresented people to the forefront?

Benefits of Inclusive Leadership

Diversity is important for many reasons. Beyond just the fairness and justice of equality for all, the bottom-line benefit for organizations is financial. Numerous studies from the Boston Consulting Group and McKinsey to the World Economic Forum document that diversity leads to innovation and greater financial performance, often double-digit improvements in fact.

Every organization has innovation in its mission or vision or as a key strategy. Now most organizations need innovative ideas to deal with the unprecedented situation in which we all find ourselves. Diversity prompts innovation because different perspectives are present and hence we think differently. We question our assumptions. Challenging our assumptions opens ideas and solutions to potential thinking that wasn’t apparent from one’s insular perspective.

Strategies for Inclusion Leadership

The key to productive diversity is for it to be well-managed. Diversity that is poorly managed does not have the same positive returns. Here are some strategies for better inclusive leadership:

    1. Commit to being inclusive and be vocal about it. Make it a priority. If looking to hire someone new ask to see diverse candidates. Ask HR or your recruiters why diverse candidates aren’t being put forward if that’s the case. Require your leadership team or other leaders to mentor and promote underrepresented employees. Call out racism and sexism when you hear it and when you might say it. Be courageous in noticing it and naming it.
    2. Create psychological safety for people to participate. Psychological safety is present when someone is not afraid of a negative consequence (to their image or career) for who they are. Create safety by being engaged with your people, ask them questions and listen to the answer; have their backs especially when they take a risk; give them credit and appropriate visibility; condemn gossip and talking behind peoples’ backs; eradicate blame; give and ask for feedback; be self-aware and require others to be the same; build trust through being impeccable with your word; include others in decision making; explain why things are happening the way they are or why they are not happening; communicate openly, honestly and frequently.
    3. Be aware of your biases and blind spots and those of the organization. Look at your track record of hiring and promoting people. With whom have you historically surrounded yourself? Are they people just like you? How inclusive is the organization? Get the numbers on genders, POC, less-able-bodied, education institutions etc at all levels in the organization. What are the types of people the organization has fired or managed out? The numbers don’t lie. Ask people who are different from you about your biases and blind spots. Make it safe for them to tell you. Reflect for yourself on your thoughts when a woman asks for time off for a sick child versus a man (or do men ever ask?) or when you see a CV with the name Mohammed versus Michael versus Michelle.
    4. Invite all voices into the discussion. This is both a micro and macro strategy. On a micro level when you have a meeting ensure every person speaks. Encourage those who are reluctant. At this time of uncertainty, it’s good to periodically check in with everyone at the beginning of the meeting to get people talking and sharing to create a sense of all being in it together and to highlight how this situation is different for different people. On a macro level, bring different voices than usual into projects or discussions in order to challenge assumptions and provide different perspectives.
    5. Ensure equal access with remote working. Confirm all employees have tech and infrastructure to work at home if that’s continuing. Use closed captioning on virtual meetings and reiterate points in the chat box for those hard of hearing, or those that might need to be listening for a baby or child at that time, send info in advance of meetings so introverts and neuro-diverse individuals can process the information to prepare and therefore fully contribute.
    6. Be compassionate. Recognize and acknowledge that everyone handles things differently whether that’s with the pandemic, home life or work challenges. People are affected by things differently especially with all this uncertainty.
    7. Be humble. You don’t have all the answers, you might make mistakes, others might have better ideas and solutions. Your role as a leader is to unleash the potential in others to move towards the desired goal or outcome. Let others unleash their potential, don’t be precious about from where the next great idea or advancement comes.
    8. Be curious. Be curious with others to understand their differences, their differing opinions and ideas relative to the work. Don’t just stop at the superficial, delve deeper asking “what is it about that that is important?” Or “Tell me more” or “Help me understand what’s behind that”. Like a new puppy let loose in a playground, leave no stone unturned.
    9. Be vulnerable. Especially in an on-going crisis, acknowledge your challenges and vulnerabilities (those that are acceptable within your job; an accountant can’t say they are bad with numbers). Share the challenges of juggling work and home. This allows others to be vulnerable too and creates safety.

Consciously have diversity of people as a focus within your organization and strive to manage them well (if not exceptionally) to leverage each of them for the solid contribution they can make to each other, the organization and the goals.

What inclusion leadership improvements would you and your organization benefit from?

Book a complimentary coaching session with me here to assess your leadership and address what might be impeding greater success.



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Working with a diverse team means understanding how to lead across generations. Here are a few leadership strategies to effectively lead across age generations.

How to Lead Across Generations

Now more than ever leaders and managers are having to lead across different generational groups. COVID-19 is showing two different trends among Baby Boomers: some being forced to retire due to organizational constraints and others staying in the workforce due to the poor economy and not able to financially retire. This means that many organizations have 4 generations of workers; a real breadth of ages, attitudes and experiences for leaders to manage and draw on.

Leading Across Generations

One of the best leadership styles for leading across generations is servant leadership. That means putting the needs of other people first over yourself; serving others in the pursuit of goals rather than using power to achieve.

Leading Across Borders and Generations – The How-To of Servant Leadership

Interestingly, the aspects of servant leadership that can help you lead better across generations can also help you lead better across borders such as, in multi-cultural organizations.

    1. Be self-aware about your beliefs, the stereotypes or biases you hold about the various generations. We all have some form of preconceptions towards others so reflect on what you might believe about Baby Boomers, Generation X, Millennials or Gen Z. Encourage your employees to be self-aware as well.
    2. Understand people as individuals rather than making assumptions about them or buying into generalizations based on age or generation. Everyone is unique. In your team, what are each person’s values, motivations, needs and working styles?
    3. Notice your impact on others and be intentional about what impact you want to make. Consider each individual and situation, what behaviour on your part would best serve this moment? This also means leading by example. As Gandhi said, “be the change you want to see in the world”.
    4. Listen. Everyone wants to feel valued and respected regardless of which generation they fall into. The biggest way to have your team feel valued is to really listen to what they say, and don’t say. Listen for the words and the emotion. Say phrases such as “what I think I heard you say is….” which shows you are trying to understand them and their ideas.
    5. Embrace differences and leverage them for the best outcome. Research shows that well-managed diversity improves organizational performance. Diversity makes us think better as an organization; we question our assumptions thereby coming to more innovate and well-rounded solutions. People of different ages, backgrounds, education, races, genders, and generations bring diversity by definition. Value those differences by creating space for everyone to contribute.
    6. Create an environment that allows people to perform at their best. What does each individual need to be their best selves? What are the strengths of each team member and how do you foster there use more? The first step in this is asking people what brings out their best and what are their strengths. The key is for both you and them to consciously know. Too often organizations focus on weaknesses, gaps or development areas rather than having people use more of their strengths more often. Share among the team who is great at what.
    7. Be courageous and vulnerable. You won’t get it right all the time when managing individuals. Sometimes you’ll have a bad day, sometimes others will have a bad day. Be courageous to continue trying new behaviours and saying new things. It takes vulnerability to try new things and risk making a mistake or looking foolish.
    8. Give constructive feedback consistently and ask for feedback about yourself. Constructive feedback is positive feedback (what they do well that you’d like them to continue doing) and developmental (what you’d like them to do differently for improved effectiveness). Research shows that high performing organizations give 4-6 pieces of positive feedback for every 1 piece of developmental. Leaders give constant feedback throughout the organization and they accept feedback, solicit it in fact about themselves.
    9. Create trust or psychological safety amongst members in the team. Many of the previous behaviours such as listening, self-awareness and understanding others will help build this safety and trust. Additionally, have your employees’ backs, if they fail or make a mistake, support them and strive for learning. Give them opportunities to shine. Banish blame. Promote positivity, openly squelch negativity. Involve the team in the bigger picture and in key decisions so they are engaged.
    10. Coach team members rather than problem solving for them. Coaching helps people figure out their own solutions to issues. The leader needs to listen, ask questions, suspend making assumptions, refrain from giving them ‘what you think the answer is.’ It might take more time initially which will pay off in the long-run as it breeds inner resourcefulness in staff.

Leading Across Generations Training

You can probably find some training for leading across generations and my belief is that most of the elements that make leaders successful at managing across generations are the same elements that make leaders successful in managing people, as individuals are unique. Practice the 10 behaviours and approaches above to improve your effectiveness with any team. Encourage the team members to talk to each other, share ideas, leverage their unique strengths and value the differences rather than disparage the differences.

If you are lucky enough to have multiple generations working in your organization, leverage each of them for the solid contribution they can make to each other, the organization and its goals.

What cross-generational leadership improvements would you and your organization benefit from?

Book a complimentary coaching session with me here to assess your leadership and address what might be impeding greater success.


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Man Making a Mistake - COmmon Leadership Mistakes

5 Most Common Leadership Mistakes & How to Avoid Them

No leader likes admitting they make mistakes, let alone making the mistake – and this is often the best way to learn. By reflecting on what we’ve done, and what made it be a mistake, is the best way to determine what to do differently next time to have a more positive effect.

Biggest Leadership Mistake

The biggest leadership mistake I see the most across my executive and middle management coaching clients is FAILURE TO GIVE FEEDBACK. There is a reluctance to give both positive and ‘negative’ feedback. Yes, leaders don’t even tell their people what they do well.

The reasons leaders fail to provide feedback are numerous: don’t know how; takes too much time; it’s obvious workers should know already; to side-step perceived confrontation; to circumvent demotivating the employee; don’t notice the good things; raises employee’s expectations for a raise or promotion; to avoid the employee being hurt or feeling bad; many of which stem from the leader’s fear (of doing it wrong, making a mistake, someone crying, anger, looking foolish).


1. Learn a model for giving feedback such as the COIN model by Anna Carroll here. This easy 4-step structure can be used for giving both positive and ‘negative’ feedback (of note, positive and developmental feedback should both be constructive). Practice with the positive first, practice at home or when out and about (eg. with wait staff). For more tips check this article out

2. Have a visual reminder to look for what employees do well. Research says financially successful companies give positive feedback 5–6 times for every 1 piece of negative feedback given¹. Few leaders do it this frequently. A reminder might be having a post-it note on your wall to remind you to find the positives.

3. Deal with your own fears. Maybe you can’t be with compliments like one of my clients. Do the self-reflection work to learn how to be with your good qualities so you can help others be with theirs. Maybe you’re afraid of the employee crying or yelling. Do the self-reflection work to be comfortable with emotions. And, if you use a model and practice it often, the chance of any outburst is low. People are usually grateful you value them enough to take the time.

Common Leadership Mistake My Clients Commit

The next mistake I see clients commit is NOT BEING CLEAR ABOUT GOALS AND EXPECTATIONS. Leaders give context, leaders define a vision and what success looks like.
The reasons leaders are unclear are: they assume everyone knows the context and what success looks like; they feel it’s obvious what a ‘good job’ is; they don’t want to demotivate people by micro-managing; they don’t believe they have time; employees should know. Leaders think employees should know what good is except leaders often can’t define it to me when I ask. They don’t spend time thinking about what success for the goal or task is and therefore wouldn’t know what to tell employees if they were asked.


1. Before assigning a task or giving an employee a goal, be clear what ‘good’ or successful completion means. Think beyond deadline and budget. Think about what the employee should be doing in terms of behaviour, what are the parameter s of the project, what’s important about this work relative to the company’s purpose. Share those thoughts with the employee.

2. Take responsibility for the employee understanding the message, not expecting the employee to ask for clarity. Ask “what request have you heard from me?”. “what’s your understanding of the successful conclusion of this work?” “what more can I share to make you confident in fulfilling the expectation I’ve outlined?”

3. Notice your assumptions when defining goals and setting expectations. Put yourself in your employee’s shoes at that moment you are talking to them: they are not in your head nor have they just come from the meeting you attended nor read the email to which you are referring. Don’t assume anything, they probably have their head in a totally different project than the thing on your mind.

A Leadership Mistake to Avoid

In the hundreds of 360° reports I’ve reviewed with managers the majority of direct reports say that their managers do NOT DELEGATE ENOUGH. Yes, the very people that would end up doing the work are asking for it.
Leaders don’t delegate because they think no one will do it as well as them; worried they will overload their staff; they think it’s faster to do it themselves; others won’t do it their way/the right way; worried they’ll lose control or power and nervous they’ll be outdone by your team.


1. Identify what’s stopping you from delegating. Be honest with yourself. Once you know what prevents you from delegating, change your mindset to start delegating. See my article on creating a new behaviour here.

2. Ensure you have the right people in the right positions with the right skills. Make sure you delegate the specific jobs to the appropriate team member – someone with the skills and motivation. When you do their development plans include projects and work that you can delegate to them to grow their abilities. Detail what updates you want on the progress of the work and when you’d want those updates.

3. Tell your team to hold you accountable to delegating the work they should be doing. This includes you not being copied on emails they should be handling for the delegated work. It’s about you letting go and them being empowered.

Client Admitting His Mistake in Leadership

Clients I coach want feedback from their manager and staff to know where to focus. Very often the client already knows their development area. Two recent clients admitted their mistake of NOT MAKING TIME FOR YOUR TEAM. That means making time to do some of the other mistakes listed above (give feedback, set clear expectations, delegate) and also to develop their teams, have conversations about professional growth and career.

The main reason this doesn’t happen is time; prioritizing other things, usually the work which is short term. If you don’t invest in your people they will stagnate, burn out or go elsewhere.


1.Make time to think about each individual. What are their needs and aspirations? Pull out last year’s performance review if you don’t know where to start. Where do you think their talents could take them in the organization?

2. Book time to meet with your people beyond just performance reviews. Plan that time in your schedule before all the other stuff takes up your time. You need to be planning your big priorities ahead other peoples’ priorities for you. If you haven’t done this before then the first conversation is listening to their needs and aspirations to check if your thinking was accurate. Get curious about differences, their beliefs about themselves, what they want.

3. Identify work and profile opportunities that would help them grow into their potential. This could be work you do or meetings you attend (see delegation above). Again, meet with them to discuss, listen for their emotional reaction as well as their thoughts – excitement and nervousness can be too sides of the same coin.

Last Common Leadership and Management Mistake

BEING TOO FRIENDLY. A recent client, Sally, recognized herself in the leadership discussion about needing a balance between being close and being distance with colleagues. Everyone wants an approachable boss, you want people to trust you so they share concerns and issues with you and you have to have some distance from your team when the tough decisions need to be made.
Reasons leaders are too friendly is that as humans we want to be liked; means they are relatable; leaders assume that being liked and friendly will motivate people to do what’s needed. Wouldn’t you rather be respected?

1. Notice if you are better at being close to people or if you are better at being distant with people you lead. If you are too close, practice pulling away, verbally not sharing as much about yourself, asking about others, not hanging around informally too much with your team. If you’re too distant, think of a couple of stories about yourself that make you interesting and relatable, share those. Being close isn’t about disclosing inappropriately.

2. Leadership is contextual, so you need to assess each situation to determine the appropriate level of interaction and disclosure with others. For example, if an individual is often not meeting expectations, prepare a simple message about that and what you expect to be different after the conversation. Keep the discussion work-related, factual, be clear with your message.

3. Think of leaders you respect. They can be people you know, people in the public eye, fictional leaders. What has them be respected? What could you learn from how they lead? Think of the best boss you had and the worst. What can you learn from the best and avoid of the worst? Practice some of these ideas you’ve identified.

Most of the mistakes are about what leaders don’t do so one broad rule of thumb to avoid making mistakes might be to try things, to act, to pro-actively do something different in a given situation. As Mark Twain said, “…you’ll be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did.”

What leadership mistakes might you want to learn from?

Book a complimentary coaching session with me here to assess your leadership and address what might be impeding greater success.


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How to coach, coaching skills

How to Coach Employees | Coaching Skills for Managers

Telling is a useful skill to have as a leader, telling people what to do and how to do it. You have years of experience, you’ve seen lots of issues and been in numerous complex situations. You have lots to share. There are many people in your organization who want your contribution to assist them with their responsibilities.

And sometimes telling is detrimental. It creates dependency, it’s slower in the long run if you always must tell, as you don’t enable someone to think for themselves, and it limits diversity of ideas as it’s always your thoughts you are perpetuating.

Coaching on the other hand builds independent and diverse thinking. It is a skill, a set of tools and a mindset. What I’m presenting here is coaching as a skill and set of tools. This will not make you a certified coach; this will assist you in using coaching skills as an option in your toolbox of leadership skills.

Benefits of Coaching

  • People learn to think their way through a situation, enabling them, making them less reliant on you.
  • People bring their ideas and thoughts to the situation which might result in new, unique solutions and more creativity and diversity of thinking.
  • It’s less work for you in the long run as you train them to figure it out (make them more independent and empower them when it is done well).
  • You don’t have to know everything all the time (which might be a blow to your ego).
  • People feel valued and heard and often are more engaged as they are genuinely asked to explore their ideas.
  • You develop leaders, grow greater talent, thereby growing the organization’s capability (and it just might be more fulfilling for you).

How to Coach an Employee

Coaching is the creation of a reflective space for the employee to figure out their own solutions and ideas in relation to a topic. This is done by the coach (or leader in your case) listening in a deep and non-judgemental way and asking open (sometimes powerful) questions that help the employee discover ideas and possibilities in themselves.

Coaching can be 10 minutes, 30 minutes, an hour or longer – depending on the situation, topic, what they want out of it and the time you have.

  • Listening is the starting point for great communication including coaching. Through my coach training with Co-Active Training Institute (CTI), I learned there were three levels to listening¹.

Level 1Internal Listening/ Focused on self: Your focus is on yourself, your thoughts, feelings, issues. When someone mentions a topic you immediately go to your thoughts, feelings and opinions on that topic. It’s about your internal narrative or conversation.

Level 2Focused Listening on the other: Your focus is on what the other person is saying in a laser-like fashion, as though you’re under the ‘cone of silence’ in the old Get Smart TV program. When someone mentions a topic, you want to know that person’s thoughts, feelings and opinions about the topic. You have little awareness of the outside world.

Level 3Focused on the whole or Global Listening: Your focus is on everything, the space, what’s going on inside you and with the other person, what’s going on energetically. This is where intuition or gut-feel might come in; the action, inaction and interaction.

  • Questioning is the second important factor to good coaching; it’s about being curious, so the employee gets curious. Formulate your questions based on what the employee says; use their actual words to formulate questions that help them delve deeper to greater understanding. Use open questions (which can’t be answered with ‘yes’ and ‘no’). Keep the questions short (as this focuses the thinking and doesn’t confuse things). Ask “so what?” after almost any question to get the employee to keep thinking or go deeper.
  • The GROW model is a widespread coaching framework (Goal, Reality, Options, Way Forward), first published by John Whitmore in his book Coaching for Performance in 1992. When clients have practised this they are struck by how often they just want to tell the person the/their answer; how they have so many ideas going through their own head they find it hard paying attention to what the other person is saying; how often they ask closed and leading questions; and how they want to speed up the process, even if the person is not ready. Some have been amazed at how often the coachee generated tremendous value from the exercise even if the coach had no idea what was being talked about!

Coaching for Employees – Use the GROW Coaching Model

When an employee approaches you asking what they should do about something they are working on rather than you telling them, try this approach. The following are the 4 steps in GROW, the explanation of each step and examples of actual questions you can ask to your employee in each step.

GOAL – What’s the goal?

This is to help define what, in fact, the problem or issue is. What’s the objective? What are you trying to achieve or accomplish? This can take a few minutes or quite a while, depending on what clarity the employee already has.

  • What is it you would like to discuss?
  • What would you like to achieve?
  • What do you want to get from this discussion?
  • What would you need to happen for you to walk away feeling that this time was well spent?
  • What do you want to be different? What outcome do you want?
  • What would you like to happen that is not happening now?
  • Can we do that in the time we have available?
  • Will that be of real value to you?

REALITY – What’s the current reality or situation?

It’s valuable to explore this area so the employee is very clear what is going on. This could highlight assumptions they have and gaps in knowledge – about the situation or themselves!

  • What is happening at the moment?
  • How do you know that this is accurate?
  • When does this happen?
  • How often does this happen?
  • What effect does this have?
  • How can you verify that this is so?
  • What have you or others done previously about this?
  • What other factors are relevant?
  • Who else is involved?
  • What is their perception of the situation?
  • What have you tried so far? What did you learn?

OPTIONS – What are the possible options?

This is where you want them to brainstorm about alternatives. Continue having them generate ideas until they’ve reasonably exhausted the options.

  • What could you do to change the situation?
  • What alternatives are there to that approach?
  • Tell me what possibilities for action you see.
  • What approach/actions have been used in similar circumstances?
  • Who might be able to help?
  • What are the benefits of that option? What might the problems be?
  • Which options are of interest to you?
  • Would you like suggestions from me?
  • Would you like to choose an option to act on?

WILL DO OR WAY FORWARD – What’s going to happen? What will you do? What’s your way forward?

This is the time to have the employee define next steps and create accountability. What will they do? When? How will they ensure success?

  • What are the next steps?
  • When will you take them?
  • What might get in the way?
  • Do you need to log the steps in your diary?
  • What support do you need?
  • How will you enlist that support?
  • How will you know you are making progress?
  • What else needs to be done?

How to Coach Employees – The Don’ts

  • Don’t necessarily try to complete all four steps at one time.
  • Don’t just focus on O and W, spend time in G and R, as so often people skim over these and later find out they were solving the wrong problem!
  • Don’t work so hard. Let the employee do the work. For example, using their actual words in your questions, pausing and being in silence so they can figure it out.
  • Don’t use closed questions. Use open questions that ideally start with WHAT, at least initially (WHY makes people defend what they just said, HOW focuses on doing and you might be jumping to a solution before clarifying the true problem).
  • Don’t use assumptive questions – a question that comes from an assumption you’re making. For example: “What makes you uncomfortable about this?” Only ask this if they’ve told you they are uncomfortable, not if you’ve assumed they are. Ask them: “What are you feeling about this?”
  • Don’t ask leading questions – where you include possible ideas or solutions to lead the person in a certain direction. For example: “What are your plans to cut costs, reduce headcount, cancel a shift, or limit travel?” Notice you’re leading them down a path, probably the typical path you would be pursuing.
  • Don’t answer when someone says, “I don’t know.” This is an easy way out for an employee especially if you’ve always just given the answer in the past. Either be silent to let them think or ask something like “if you did know, what would you say/do?” or “if some part of you knew, what would it say?” or “what would an expert on this say?” This line of questioning helps people find their resourcefulness within.

Coaching Employees – Top Tips:

  • Use a compassionate and curious tone of voice rather than making it an interrogation.
  • Acknowledge them through the process, noting what they do well and how they are being during the journey (e.g. “You’re open. You’re reflective. You’re creative. You’re courageous for trying something new and unknown”).
  • Encourage the employee at the end of the process with their identified actions, e.g. “Those are some good actions you’ve identified. Go for it. You’ll be great at that” (be more specific, related to the actual action).
  • Champion them, stand up for their potential and value, especially when they aren’t feeling it, by saying what you see when they are at their best.
  • Silence is good, it means someone is thinking and isn’t that what you pay people for?
  • Practise, even if it’s just asking one question, before you jump in with the solution.

What aspects of your leadership would benefit with a coaching style of leadership?

Book a complimentary coaching session with me here to assess your coaching leadership style and to experience the benefits of being coached first-hand.

¹ Witworth, Laura and Karen Kinsey-House, Henry Kinsey-House, Phillip Sandahl. Co-Active Coaching. Davies-Black Publishing. P34-40, 2007

Remote Work - Person Working Remotely

9 Remote Work Best Practices to Succeed in Communication and Work

Remote work is here to stay in some form or another. The coronavirus pandemic necessitated urgent work-from-home (WFH) for as many jobs as possible thus redefining the way individuals and teams communicate and work together. To make it successful you have to be very intentional about how you lead and manage for the performance and wellbeing of you, your employees and the organization.

Remote Working Benefits

The biggest benefit of remote working historically was the time saved from the lack of commute and the ability to focus without distractions. Many employees would work remotely to have thinking time in comfortable clothing. The lack of commute contributed to better work/life balance and had green benefits.

Remote Work Productivity

Pre-pandemic research showed that remote working is more productive with a +13% productivity increase (or almost an extra day per week) and 50% decrease in employee-quit rates. There is uncertainty from this same expert, Nicholas Bloom, on whether those benefits will be reaped now with coronavirus due to the distractions from children as there has been little childcare, lack of in-office time and the absence of choice about work from home (WFH).

Before coronavirus many organizations had a very restrictive remote work policy. Managers often feared that employees would work much less at home due to children, laziness, or doing personal things instead.

Remote Workers’ Worries

Antidotally I’ve heard quite a few worries about remote work from home:

  • My boss doesn’t keep in touch or know what’s going on for me
  • Loneliness for those living alone (more severe during lockdown)
  • Missing out on overhearing information in an office
  • Having to figure things out on their own as previously they could learn by observing or overhearing or asking someone easily
  • Lack of social interaction and fun, little frivolity
  • Feeling anxious of making a mistake or wasting time given little direct, detail-oriented supervision

Remote Work Best Practices

1. Set expectations clearly upfront and re-visit them periodically. Be clear what the rules of engagement are about working hours (number and when), peoples’ availability, how communication will work such as when you’re most likely to be available in a day and week and how to connect if there’s something urgent (eg. text or instant message in emergency). How should information be shared. Talk it all through so everyone is on the same page. Talk about how emails will be acknowledged so people don’t wonder if they’ve been ‘heard.’ Make the implicit explicit – this bridges the distance and lack of physicality.

2. Communicate regularly, frequently and proactively. Set up regular team video meetings as well as 1:1 check-ins. Some organizations do quick daily morning team meetings to highlight the priorities and focus the team enthusiastically. It’s also a good way to share knowledge periodically to compensate for what is often overheard in an open plan office. 1:1 discussions can happen every week, or two, varying the platform for variety and effectiveness (people are using audio calls so individuals aren’t under the ‘camera’ all the time).

3. Have social connection in addition to working relationship. One company in London does an internal pub quiz with each department split into teams and taking 15 minutes or so a week virtually together to complete that week’s quiz (no internet cheating), with an overall ranking board updated each week. Another has set-up on-line video game sessions for his team (with rules of engagement agreed beforehand). Another has done pizza lunches, having pizzas delivered at the same time to each participant’s home. Or sent care packages to be opened during the meeting.

4. Create a sense of team and belonging. Conduct intentional team building and bonding exercises. Ask “what do you appreciate about being part of this team?” and then break the team into pairs to discuss. Have each pair share an idea back in the larger group either through on-line chat or verbally. Celebrate milestones achieved and if things aren’t achieved yet, celebrate the process and efforts along the way.

5. Establish a work from home policy. Formalize the policy about what is acceptable and what is not in terms of remote work. This would include: who is eligible to work from home and when, equipment and space requirements and whether the company or individual are responsible for those, health and safety parameters and procedures if there is an accident, company information and data protection necessities, stipulate how employees should treat WFH days, whether and how work performance will be monitored. Ensure the policy is a group effort of HR, business units and governance/legal.

6. Ensure governance/legal aspects are covered. In addition to what is in the WFH policy above ensure someone is championing the legal and governance aspects. For example, how is confidentiality being ensured remotely. Clients have coaching sessions with me with family members in the background. This is not ideal, and it is their choice; your customers or clients may not want family members to be in earshot and worse, it might be unethical or a data breach depending on the industry.

7. Be a secure base for your employees. This means that employees can try new things knowing their boss has their back, that if they ‘fail’ you will look for the learning rather than blaming. You do this by listening, by appreciating what they do well and how they do it, and by understanding and acknowledging their situation. Ask for feedback if you’re not getting it spontaneously – this means what you could stop/start/continue. Good leaders also self-manage so staff can see someone acknowledging difficulty and displaying optimism and encouragement. Staff judge how to react to a given situation by looking at their leaders. A secure base is about creating a bond with them, just as you’d do with your kids (if you have any).

8. Grow your people. In 1:1’s coach occasionally to create a reflective space for them to find their own answers. Ask them what their career ambitions are, where they think they need to grow and develop and then how they’d go about achieving that. Also, give feedback – always constructive – whether it’s articulating what they do well and being constructive about what they could do better. Nip any issues in the bud, don’t wait until the performance review. Remote working doesn’t stop development or career opportunities.

9. The foundation to remote work is TRUST. In the absence of information or communication, where there is a void and you are uncertain about what’s going on, choose TRUST and ask your team to do the same with you and each other. Psychologists say that when there is a “lack of mutual knowledge,” people will not give other the benefit of the doubt. This is a heightened issue in WFH. When you don’t know a colleague is having a bad day because you don’t see their stressed face in the office or overhear a difficult call with their partner, your empathy or compassion decreases when you receive a curt email from them. You get curt and then it becomes a vicious downward circle. Make it a virtuous circle by trusting their intention is positive even if their words or actions might not be in a specific moment.

Remote Work Tools

There are a variety of tools to optimize remote working. The technical tools will be provided by IT in your organization or you have been required to use by your customers and clients. The management tools are based on skilful emotional intelligence techniques and current leadership thinking. These tools are for yourself or to use with your teams for healthy productivity.

Set up multiple communication streams. Use phone, email, video conferencing, instant messaging so the appropriate platform is available of any interaction. IT is an even more important partner in the organization to be forward-looking and solution oriented.

  • Have a proper working space. This means ideally an area dedicated to work only so there are clear boundaries between personal and professional. Minimize or eliminate distractions. Have a chair that provides proper skeletal support. Position the computer ergonomically.
  • Take breaks. Have lunch away from your desk. Go outside for fresh air. Pair up with a colleague to have a virtual coffee or lunch break together, as you might have done in the office.
  • Follow a schedule consistently. This creates routine and further differentiates personal and professional. Have a to-do list or use a project management system if multiple people would benefit from having access to each other’s status.
  • Wear work-type attire. Don’t work in what you would lounge at home in, so you feel different at work versus relaxing. I’ve often said to clients having phone interviews before the pandemic to wear their work outfit, including shoes, and stand up for the call. This creates a productive, professional attitude within yourself that can be sensed across the phone line. Physiology affects psychology.

What aspects of your leadership would help your team’s effectiveness while working remotely?

Book a complimentary coaching session with me here to assess your leadership and your team’s performance with remote working.