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

EQ Leadership Formula Model

What can the dinosaur extinction teach us? Read here.

I’m always fascinated to hear what CEOs have to say about leadership – when they pull back the curtain and reveal their thoughts and feelings, what’s going on behind the scenes for them.

Mark Schneider, CEO of Nestlé, the world’s largest food and beverage company, talked of dinosaurs!

Asked how different he is as CEO compared with 30 years ago when he was studying finance and accounting at university he says: “Hopefully that version of me is now quite different— and not only in that timeframe, but also between now and 2017 when I took on this role. Being able to take in new situations and reimagine and reinvent yourself, to me, is part of life. The alternative is ossification, and that’s not a good thing. It didn’t help the dinosaurs, and it doesn’t help us.

I’m in the process of reimagining myself. I’ve accepted I’m a writer (an award-winning business book helps 😉). I am not a video presenter, I don’t like doing videos and I’m pushing myself to embrace that for an upcoming event I’m doing with @Sue Belton. It’s having me stretch myself with practical things such as smile more, pause, don’t talk to fast, look at the camera, and remember you’re co-presenting. It’s having me challenge my beliefs and work through my preferences for static, quiet activities.

Reinventing, and at least reimaging, one’s self is fundamental to the Self-Awareness portion of Emotional Intelligence. It starts with knowing yourself and your emotions. Understanding yourself will help you know the aspects of yourself that serve you and those that don’t. The ones that aren’t serving you anymore might point to a risk of ossification.

The key tip to doing this is booking time with yourself regularly. This is called leadership reflection time. In this time ask yourself some of the following questions:

• What’s needed from me now? This might be related to a specific situation or individual or in your role.
• What feedback have a received recently?
• What feedback should I seek out?
• When did a have a strong emotional response? What
• What skills, qualities or characteristics are my strengths that I can leverage even more?
• Given where I want to go as a leader, where do I need to stretch or grow?

Want to avoid extinction?

Have you found yourself stuck in your ways?

What changes or new situations are you facing?

If you or your people are avoiding Difficult Conversations join us on our FREE Masterclass “How to have Difficult Conversations in the Workplace.” Reserve your spot NOW here

What’s the Problem? You’re not Discussing the Problem!

What’s the Problem? You’re not Discussing the Problem!

Are you putting off having a difficult conversation?

Have you avoided talking to someone because you were scared to do it or afraid of their reaction?

Has someone complained to you about another person, instead of talking to the person directly?

You’re not alone.

80% of people are shying away from at least 1 difficult conversation at work according to a poll from VitalSmarts¹. If you read that statistic and thinks that can’t be right, here’s another research result. According to Inc.², 7 in 10 employees are avoiding difficult conversations with their boss, colleagues, and direct reports. Other studies show similar results, the clear majority of people avoid having conversations with other people. I sidestepped these talks in my corporate life sometimes, it felt too awkward to face things head on. My coaching clients often label these “Difficult Conversations.” Funnily, when we label them difficult, they often become difficult, even if just in our minds.

What’s the definition of a difficult conversation? It’s a conversation where differences appear to exist between the people; needs, wants, expectations or opinions might differ; emotions are heightened; or there’s a fear of emotions coming into the situation. They are difficult because of the emotional element.

The problem goes further than just avoiding having the “difficult” conversation; people go to extreme lengths to avoid it! That same VitalSmarts’ research reported people waste time and energy to dodge those conversations, to the point of quitting their jobs!

Instead of having that difficult conversation, people will:

• Avoid the other person at all costs (50%)
• Dance around the scary topic whenever they speak to the person in question (37%)
• Consider quitting their job or taking a different job (37%)
• Quit their job (11%)

HRMorning³ reported of an online poll that found 85% of people have problems dealing with a problem in the workplace immediately. What they did instead of dealing with the problem was:

• ‘ruminate’ about the issue (61%)
• complain to co-workers about it (41%)
• feel angry (34%)
• do extra/unnecessary work to avoid dealing with the issue (32%)
• avoid the person involved (29%)
• ‘talk around’ the topic (24%)
• feel sorry for themselves (20%), and
• drop hints to the individual involved (20%).

None of these things are productive, in fact they are counter-productive, negatively affecting productivity.

If people are avoiding the other person or dancing around topics, how productive is this in the workplace? Collaboration and interaction are needed in most jobs to deliver the required business results. If someone is avoiding another person because of a difference in opinion or expectation, is the business getting the best results? Are people contributing their best ideas and coming up with the best solutions? The answer most certainly is NO. If people are quitting their jobs to avoid these conversations, what’s the cost in recruitment fees alone? There must be a better way.

Good news – there is a better way. Stay tuned.

¹ Reported in Crucial Learning by Brittney Maxfield October 2019
² Inc. Most People Handle Difficult Situations by Ignoring Them — and the Fallout Isn’t Pretty by Michael Schneider August 2018, research by workplace resource start-up Bravely.
³ HRMorning: The hidden cost of delaying those ‘difficult conversations’ by Tim Gould 2010

Photo by Yan Krukov

What do you want to do with your one wild & precious life?

What do you want to do with your one wild & precious life?

I was reminded recently of this line from the poem, The Summer Day, by Mary Oliver. We do only have one wild and precious life, which is a big lesson from the last 2 years (don’t worry this isn’t article about the pandemic).

Think back to a time that you amazed yourself. When you surprised yourself with something you could do or something you achieved. Pause here because I’m sure there’s at least one thing, and probably lots of things, where you’ve gone outside your comfort zone or what you thought you were capable of. It might be something you trained or prepared for, it might be something that happened spontaneously. I invite you to stop reading and reflect please – a moment for which you are proud of yourself.

It might be running a race, having given birth (a friend’s contemplating this as her due date looms ever nearer), landed your dream job, created works of art, gone open water swimming in winter (that’s on my weekend’s agenda, crikey) or solved a Wordle in only two tries (I think first try is just a fluke).

For me it’s having written and published my book! I’m acknowledging it because it’s the two-year anniversary of its launch. My how time flies. More time will fly by, what do you want to create for your wild and precious time?

I didn’t set out to write a book. I took a 10-day book proposal writing challenge offered by a book coach to see if my idea for a book had any merit. After 10-days my completed proposal excited me, ignited the possibility of a book, motivated me to think “what if?” The book coach, a brilliant marketer as well, offered me a discounted book writing boot-camp course. I took that and never turned back. In some ways I just followed her process which lead me to the professionally edited, first draft of a book, my book.

Two years later I am an award-winning published author, gobsmacked to write that. I don’t say it to brag. I say it as evidence you too can do something you didn’t plan on or think you could. The next two years are going to pass regardless of whether you create something wild and precious or not, so what if?

Do you ever imagine what if?

Are you wondering is this it or what’s next?

What’s one thing you’d dare to dream of for yourself?

Book a complimentary coaching session with me here to explore how to help set yourself up for greater success and satisfaction next year.

Setting Annual Goals? How To and Why It’s Important.

Annual Goal Setting? How To and Why It’s Important

Executives and managers are talking about annual objectives for next year. I’m working with a leadership team on their kick-off for the year – aligning behind the strategy, goal setting, and identifying tactics to achieve those goals. I’ll also be working with my business partner on our goals for next year – both as individuals and as business partners. We’ve been defining our vision and annual objectives together for years now.

This exercise is appropriate for work or life goals, for organizations or individuals.

Why Is Goal Setting Important?

You might be wondering what all the fuss is about in terms of annual objective setting. Why should you bother? Here are a few reasons why having goals and objectives is important:

• Gives us something to measure performance and success against,

• Creates accountability within ourselves and externally if necessary,

• Helps organize time and resources in a consistent direction,

• Focuses all involved towards a specific area,

• Provides motivation and a sense of achievement,

• Triggers new behaviours,

• Grows confidence as we progress towards them, not just when we achieve them,

• Promotes positive mental health.

Year End Review

If you didn’t read my previous blog about conducting a year end review, do that step first by clicking here, Annual Goals? Step #1 is Conducting a Year End Review. It’s hard to decide where you are heading if you don’t know where you are currently!

How to Set Annual Goals

These initial questions are different than your typical business projection exercise or creating a list of ‘to-dos’ (there are less creative questions/more direct at the end 😉). The idea is to envision success and then work backwards to identify what needs to be done to achieve it. This is how most organizations do their vision to goals process. Be specific about your goals – think about how you will measure your achievement of them as well as what they are.

• Imagine it is January 2023 (yes, one year further in the future). Reflect back on the past year, what would make you proud to have accomplished? Think of all aspects of work and life. This focuses on the DOING of the year, what you do and what you accomplish.

• From that vantage point of January 2023, looking back on an incredibly fulfilling and successful year. Feeling that pride and satisfaction, write a letter telling the story of how you made it happen. Write it as though your accomplishments were in the past, avoiding statements like “I will” or ‘I intend”. Get as specific as possible including your insights, ‘ahas’ (learnings), and milestones. Who did you become? How do you feel? Make it as exciting and vivid as possible. This focuses on how you are BEING during the year, how you feel and engage, how you want to BE to achieve what you want to achieve.

• What work goals do you want to accomplish? What are your boss’ goals and hence which cascade down to your area of responsibility?

• What are your financial goals for the year? How much do you want to make? What effort is required to do that? What investment or retirement or spending priorities do you have for the year?

• What relationships at work and personally do you want to create or foster?

• How do you want to feel physically, emotionally, spiritually?

• What aspects of your health are important to continue or improve?

• What personal qualities do you want to lean into more?

• What are you willing to give up to achieve your goals? Rarely do people look at ‘subtraction’ when they consider a change and it’s often a necessity. In today’s life you’re already busy with lots to do so don’t think about just adding more on. Think about how you can simplify. And what you give up might need to be a belief or mindset?

My goals for next year will be defined specifically on 7th January when I do our annual goal setting/’way of being’ exercise with my business partner. Some on my list to be fleshed out will be:

• Getting my award-winning book out to more people as the stories about how it’s helped people are so satisfying for me, win-win (number and ways of doing that tbd in January),

• Delivering our EQ Leadership Training to more companies (specific # tbd with my partner),

• Having even more fun and laughter in my life,

• Continuing my walking challenges, with one being more of a long-distance, multiple days walk in the countryside,

• Keeping up my French language lessons to hit 800 consecutive day learning streak.

If time and money were no object, what would your goals be for 2022?

What support would help you to achieve it, or some initial part of it?

What small step could you take towards that goal?

Book a complimentary coaching session with me here to explore how to help set yourself up for greater success and satisfaction next year.


Photo by cottonbro from Pexels

Annual Goals? Step #1 is Conducting a Year End Review.

Annual Goals? Step #1 is Conducting a Year End Review

It must be that time of year – as numerous clients have brought it to our coaching sessions – annual objective setting, defining strategies and goals for next year. It’s great to have goals; organizations need objectives to measure performance and success. Goals help both individuals and business focus in a specific area, provide motivation and a sense of achievement. Psychologically goals trigger new behaviours, can focus the mind and life, provide motivation, grow confidence and are good for our mental health.

Before defining next year’s goals however, it’s best to reflect on last year. This reflection is good for a personal end of year review or an organizational end of year review.

Year End Review

Looking back on the prior year is necessary before creating next year’s objectives. It’s hard to get to a destination if you don’t know where you are starting from. Additionally, it will increase your motivation, provide context for the next year, and result in learnings to take forward. As John Dewey, the famous American philosopher, psychologist, educational reformer said:

‘We do not learn from the experience.

We learn from reflecting on the experience.’

The mere act of going through something does not create learning, fulfilment or growth. It’s through the act of reflecting on it, making meaning from it that allows us to feel satisfied, to learn, to grow and to understand all the ins and outs of that experience. It’s as if you try to go through a circus fun house blindfolded. You’ll have an experience, it just won’t be that fun or engaging with no lessons learned other than don’t do it blindfolded again.

Best Year End Review Examples/Questions

Answer each question in as much or as little detail as it serves you to do. Start by looking at your KPIs (key performance indicators), or metrics. Look at your diary to remind you what happened chronologically. Review your photos to remind you of your experiences. Pull out last year’s goal sheet. If you don’t have one, then do this exercise and the exercise from my next blog to have one for next year. Your child has a report card, shouldn’t you?

• What were your goals for the year? Celebrate those you achieved (builds motivation). What were the lessons from those you didn’t (creates learning and self-compassion)?

• What were your highlights from the year? Your biggest wins or achievements, the discoveries, milestones, adventures, joys, fun, celebrations, and/or opportunities that you want to remember. What are you most proud of?

• What were the qualities or resources that helped you towards those highlights?

• What were the challenges, issues, frustrations and disappointments this year? What are the lessons from those? What do you need to let go of or forgive yourself for in those?

• What were the qualities or resources that helped you overcome those challenges?

• What have I learned this past year? About yourself, your team, the business, competition, the client, the organization? Some prompts might be: “I realized how much I care about…”, “I now believe…”, “I understand why…”

• What new or existing relationships did you foster or develop?

• A legacy or purpose type question: How specifically did you make a difference in the/your world this past year?

• If you want to engage the right-side of your brain (creative not logical): If the last year was a chapter in the book of your life, what would you call it? What image or metaphor would you use for last year?

Personal Year End Review

All of the above questions apply to individuals as well as businesses and organizations. We have KPIs or metrics in our personal lives – income, weight, work/life balance, happiness, stress level, # friends, # holidays, etc.

Think about your all aspects of your life – authenticity, career, family, friends, significant other(s), health and wellness, purpose/contribution, financial, spiritual, fun, passion, physical space.
You can also do this exercise as a family (or team) reflecting on the achievements and learnings of the group as well as each individual.

What would you celebrate from the last year?

What did you learn in the last year – about yourself, leadership, life, business?

What does this reflection prompt for you about next year?

Book a complimentary coaching session with me here to explore how to help set yourself up for greater success and satisfaction next year.

Photo by Marko Klaric from Pexels

Show, Don’t Tell - top skill you learned at 5 years old!

Show, Don’t Tell. The top presentation skill you learned in nursery school but have probably forgotten. How to use it effectively now.

Want to ensure people understand what you’re communicating?

Worried about presenting especially virtually?

Want to know what you learned in nursery/kindergarten that would help your presentation skills?

How to Improve Presentation Skills

Whether virtual or face-to-face presentations, the secret is exactly what every 5-year-old learns in kindergarten or nursery school. Remember Show and Tell? You show something – an object – and tell people about it. I brought my older brother into class once as my ‘object’ and told my teacher and classmates about him. Others brought pets, souvenirs from holidays, a favourite toy.
We showed something and talked about it. The children were engaged, asked questions, fun and enjoyment ensued often. We’ve lost this as adults, especially in a business or organizational context.

How often do you go online or into a boardroom and someone shows you a 20-page PowerPoint presentation full of words, graphs, charts, data? I went to one recently on empathy and it started with the definition of empathy – a great start honestly – except the presenter talked from the moment the slide appeared to the time they clicked to the next. What do I focus on? Reading the text? Listening to the speech? Overload!

Words are words whether they are on paper or verbal. Humans can’t process simultaneous auditory (verbal/spoken) and visual presentation. I’ll repeat that – sharing both written and spoken information at the same time overloads the listener, it’s too much info to take in at the same time. Many people think that if they show the words and say them, it positively reinforces the message.

It’s the opposite.

The Rationale for Good Presentations Skills

Research shows the seeing visual text and listening to audio text at the same time – words on a screen while the presenter is talking – “increases the cognitive load, rather than lessening it.” (Citing the Kalyuga Study, one research example).

Talking and showing text at the same time is called the Redundancy Effect. It overburdens the brain’s working memory by having to focus on two things rather than just one so has a negative impact on understanding.

It’s suggested by researchers including John Sweller and Kimberly Leslie that it would be better for people to close their eyes to the visual stimuli and just focus on listening to the audio in terms of learning or comprehension. Imagine though closing your eyes in a meeting or presentation, people would accuse you of sleeping or failing to pay attention.

They contend that it would be easier for students to learn the differences between herbivores and carnivores by closing their eyes and only listening to the teacher. But students who close their eyes during a lecture are likely to called out for “failing to pay attention.”

Tips for Effective Online Communication

There are many simple tips to effective online communication or virtual presentation skills:

• Use a relevant picture or visual rather than text if you’re going to speak over it, a picture helps people visualize your message, so it complements your words.

• Limit the amount of information on each slide. It’s not about the number of slides in your presentation, it’s about the amount of information on each slide.

• Use a variety of tools to keep people engaged not just PowerPoint. Use polls, music, the chat, breakout rooms, storytelling, and ask questions to involve others.

• Encourage people to stand up or move around, not just sit glued to the screen.

• Tell people to manage their volume especially if you speak loudly. The audience can forget they control the volume of the speaker and can complain after the fact.

• Be energetic and animated as you want to convey passion through the size of a screen.

• Fluctuate your volume, tone and pace of speaking as that helps people stay engaged, monotony can be dull.

• A leader’s presentation should tell a story with an opening, the detail and a conclusion.

Leadership Lessons for Good Presentations

As a presenter the onus is on you to communicate well, it’s not on the audience or recipients to create the understanding.

• Learn what you do well in terms of presenting and where you can improve. Leadership requires reflection and growth mindset to innovate and improve. This holds true for your presentation and communication too.

• Leaders provide vision and context for information – ensure you communicate the bigger purpose or strategic link for your material.

• Ask a thought-provoking question that has the audience reflect, potentially with regards to action you want them to take based on the presentation topic or about the impact of the presentation on their responsibilities.

What impact do your presentations or general communication have on the audience?

What could you do differently to ensure your message is understood?

Book a complimentary coaching session with me here to explore how to help yourself improve your communication to motivate and influence others better.

Photo by Ono Kosuki from Pexels

Leadership is BUILDING Capability NOT BEING the Capability

Good Leadership is About BUILDING Capability NOT BEING the Capability

What is leadership? I’m asked this question often and the term is explained in many of the London Business School programmes on which I coach.

Leadership is about exciting others to higher levels of performance,
to get others to do what they need to do and ideally
to get them to go the extra mile in what they do.

The last day of a leadership development programme on which I coached has participants draw an image of what their current leadership is and an image 2 years from now of what their future leadership vision is. Who do they want to become as a leader? One participant articulated his growth edge beautifully:

I want to BUILD capability of others and NOT BE the capability.

This is so true for so many leaders. They get promoted because they are good at what they do and when they are promoted they no longer do what they are good at, instead they are expected to lead others doing what they used to do. A CFO (chief financial officer) no longer does spreadsheets and accounts, a CFO leads others to do that work. THE CFO’s role becomes influencing others to do their jobs well.

When’s the last time you excited someone to outperform you?

Can you say you’ve been excited by others to go the extra mile?

How confident are you that your team’s capability is what you’d want it to be, consistently?

What is a Leadership Role?

Any role can be a leadership role. This might be controversial, and I truly believe it. Any role requires leadership. So often when people hear the word leader they think of the person at the top of an organization, the one who is so often out front. This is often the public leader or the one featured in the media. Yet there are so many more leaders that are needed to supply any product or service.

The Co-Active Training Institute has a model of leadership ® with 5 dimensions of leadership.

Leader in Front – this is the person on the stage, and a ubiquitous example would be Steve Jobs of Apple, he was clearly the leader in front at the various product launches. This can also be the leader of a meeting, running the agenda. This is the person that engages and activates others, not necessarily the one with all the answers.

Leader in the Field – this often arises opportunistically. It’s when someone is just part of a group or gathering and they sense that leadership is required, they step in and lead. Often, it’s instinctive for them such as when there’s an emergency and someone just takes charge.

Leader Beside – this is the type of leadership that happens in business partnerships or in a marriage. My business partner, Sue, and I both lead our EQ Leadership Training business. We both co-deliver our training, side by side, for our participants. From a business perspective, she often does the marketing and client relations and I do programme design, financials and business acumen. This is collaborative, open and mutual.

Leader Behind – These are all the unsung heroes that make things happen behind the scenes. They see and sense what is going and serve in a way to bring something to fruition.

Leader Within – This is the foundation for all other leadership styles. This is about leading oneself. It’s about knowing oneself and having agency and self-determination. Think of anything you’ve had to get done, it starts with motivating yourself to perform. It’s about being yourself and acting in pursuit of your goals and dreams and in accordance with your values.

By the mere fact we are responsible for all our actions and reactions, we are all leaders and can step into any of the other 4 leadership dimensions when we sense it’s needs and choose to do so. This model shows how agile leadership can be, how non-hierarchical or role-dependent it is.

What is Effective Leadership?

Effective leadership requires self-awareness and conscious choice which are the first two cornerstones of emotional intelligence (EQ). Effective leadership of others starts with leader within, leading one’s own self. Then leadership requires building the capability in others, so they can perform at their highest potential.

1. Have a goal, dream, or objective. What’s the reason you are doing what you are doing? Know where you want to go. For companies that’s often having a vision or mission statement. For someone running a meeting it means having an objective for the meeting and knowing the outcome you’d like to achieve.

2. Choose the impact you want to have in a given situation. How do you want others to feel? How can you contribute to that experience? I often ask people “what impression do you want to have” in a meeting or situation. Not in terms of putting on a performance, rather in terms of what qualities, skills or attributes do you want to demonstrate. How do you want to come across that’s genuine for you?

3. Know what excites others. If leadership is about exciting others, then you need to know what motivates or excites the people you are wanting to influence. Some people are motivated by money, status, group affiliation. Others by personal development, not working alone, power, autonomy, recognition, stress avoidance, or structure. How do you position things to others in ways that honour their motivational preferences?

4. Find “right”. When trying to motivate someone, find the things they do right and ensure you acknowledge them. Learn a feedback model that can build confidence by acknowledging what people do well and that builds competence by helping them to improve where necessary. The COIN model here is a good one with examples to both positive/appreciative feedback and constructive/developmental.

5. Be overt and transparent. When you are building someone’s capability, tell them that’s what you are doing rather than doing it by stealth. Position their growth opportunity as just that, an opportunity to develop and potentially advance (if that’s of interest to them). Make it aspirational. And share your experience of when you had to learn this same thing to normalize it and remove any negative judgement.

Leadership is about exciting people to perform, consistently and to as high a standard as necessary. That means leading yourself, and any number of other people as required. The opportunities might be obvious of when you need to lead (a meeting, your team’s performance) and there will be other times when you choose to lead from the field or behind. Be intentional about when you are the capable one and when you are needing others to be capable.

What might be possible if you could excite and lead others to do more?

Do you want to improve your leadership?

Book a complimentary coaching session with me here to explore your leadership, and how to help build others’ capabilities.

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A Good Customer Experience Suggests Evidence of Good Leadership

A Good Customer Experience Suggests Evidence of Good Leadership

When’s the last time you had a standout customer experience?

Can you say you’ve had a personable on-line shopping experience recently?

How confident are you that your team’s service is what you’d want it to be, consistently?

Read on to find ideas for improving interactions in your workplace – whether customer service or inner-office. Two recent experiences I had with the same company suggests they have a customer-oriented culture and emotional intelligence leadership.

I drink tea, historically lots of it, morning, noon and night. About 4 years ago I started drinking decaffeinated tea as the caffeine was causing problems with my system (not sleep thankfully). I did taste-test comparisons, I researched what methodology they used to decaffeinate the tea and of course considered cost and availability. My favourite became Brew Tea Co – an English company founded in 2012 by @Aideen and @Phil.

Customer Experience

Being a loyal customer, I have a regular subscription where my loose tea arrives automatically. Last month I adjusted my delivery to arrive sooner, unfortunately the transaction wasn’t possible, “said it couldn’t be processed with my card details.” I hadn’t changed the card so didn’t know what the problem was. I emailed them and got a prompt and empathetic reply from “Team Awesome.” Yup, that’s their email name. Sets the bar high, predisposes recipients potentially to that experience and can be risky.

Emotional Intelligence and Leadership

My various interactions with this company were consistently personable, that indicates that there is something in the culture or ‘organizational system’ creating the consistency.

1. Immediate Empathy to My Problem. The first line was an apology, saying they were sorry. At this point we had no idea if the issue was of their making or mine. Right off the bat they said sorry I was having a problem and asked how they could help.

2. Prompt, Positive, Passionate. I figured out that problem was caused by my bank suspecting fraud, nothing to do with Brew Team Co at all. I proceed to do the online transaction and they reached out to me and confirmed it had gone through this time. They followed me through the transaction because, yes, they wanted my business and knew I wanted their tea.

3. Knowing When Enough is Enough. Part of having good customer service is to know when it’s enough and when it’s too much. I have a regular subscription for tea delivery and they rarely email me, which is a good thing. They know people are deluged with stuff and they keep it to what is necessary.

4. Pre-Emptive Communication. My last interaction with them was an email offering me a discount on my next order as they had had a processing problem on their end and hadn’t gotten the recent orders out within the timeframe indicated (24 hours). I had no idea there was a delay, I would not have noticed a one-day delivery lag, and I’m a regular subscriber. They proactively communicated a potential delay and offered me a discount knowing I’m a somewhat guaranteed customer.

Leadership Lessons

Leadership is not a role or a position – everyone in any position can be a leader. The front-line staff of any organization need to be leaders:

• They need to lead themselves. An example, when a customer complains, is frustrated, maybe yells, a customer service rep needs to remain calm, listen, empathize with the customer. This takes a lot of self-management, to not take the criticism personally, to not get defensive, to engage in a way that diffuses the situation.

• They need to lead the customer experience as they are the “experts” in the product or service and in the process the company uses and ideally the most knowledgeable about what their customers need.

The definition of ‘experience’ is an event or occurrence which leaves an impression on someone. Impressions happen when we are touched by something or someone; they are made by influencing emotions. To create experiences for customers or colleagues in the workplace, employees need to be aware and able to manage emotions.

Brew Tea Co has made an impression on me – I trust them, I feel valued, like they care about having my business, and I enjoy their product immensely.

How confident are you about managing emotions?

Do you want to improve the ‘experiences’ your organization creates?

Book a complimentary coaching session with me here to explore your leadership, and how to help your people create great interpersonal experiences.

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: A Tangible Example of Emotional Intelligence in Real Life

A Tangible Example of Emotional Intelligence in Real Life

Wondering what cricket can tell you about improving team performance?
Want to understand how “emotional intelligence” actually works in IRL?
Need actually phrases and tactics of how to “DO” emotional intelligence?

If you hate sports or don’t understand cricket, read on. There are leadership lessons for you to learn, even from bad examples of emotional intelligence on a sports field.

Last month the England Cricket Team played a Test match with India over 5 days. Spoiler alert, England were posed to win going into the final day until 1 hour of behaviour over 7 hours of play derailed them resulting in a draw. This isn’t just me saying it, Derek Pringle, sports journalist, summed it up as “England were puerile and it totally ruined their chances.” FYI for non-native English speakers, puerile means childish or immature. You could call some of their behaviour childish and I would say they were not operating with emotional intelligence. This is commonplace in many sports teams, organizations, businesses and even families.

Emotional Intelligence and Leadership

On that last day of play, the captain, Joe Root, had a poor showing at bat just after tea (gotta love a sport with a tea break I say). What I’m going to say is speculation as I wasn’t there and don’t know Joe Root. My speculation is based on what I’ve seen and heard over decades of organizational experience.

I assume he was disappointed in his batting performance. The team might have been frustrated they weren’t further ahead. They might have been anxious or worrying that Root’s at bat didn’t edge them close enough. There could have been some lingering resentment from the previous day when the Indian bowler (the person throwing the ball) bounced the ball in such a way to hit an England batter a few times. After that, England’s bowlers appeared to lose composure or forget their strengths or choose to change tactics and target the Indian batter’s head, hitting his helmet twice. Reactions were emotive across and between both teams. Please note there are many possibilities to what might have been going on in peoples’ heads and hearts – I name a few hear to illustrate. This illustrates the importance of recognizing that lots might be going on, and you probably don’t know for sure, so get curious, but I’m jumping ahead.

Leadership Lessons:

RESILIENCE – Increased resilience would have helped England during this last day of play. Resilience means the ability to bounce back after disappointment or step backs. The speed of being able to bounce back can be a game changer (literally for England’s Root).

How to be more resilient – Be self-aware enough to know what might trigger or derail you. What things (people, situations) throw you off your stride? An example for me is if two people in a group training I’m providing start talking among themselves, that CAN derail me, make me more concerned about what they are talking about, then what I’m doing with the rest of the group. Because I know that, it rarely knocks me off my game. Knowing what might upset you beforehand helps you see it before or just as it’s happening, to then be able to tell yourself “oh, I’m being triggered”. Beforehand, decide how you want to “be” in those situations and then in those moments choose what you’ve predefined. A post-it note on your monitor to remind you of how you want to be is helpful.

REACTIONS – Humans react to things, full stop. As much as we say business is rational, emotions are present all the time, even in offices and in virtual settings. Employers want the emotions of loyalty, commitment, positivity, excitement, gratitude, and many more. Employers and most humans don’t want the “negative” emotions of disappointment, unhappiness, overwhelm, anger, frustration, resentment or sadness. We can’t have it both ways.

How to handle reactions or emotions – Just as we can be triggered or derailed by situations and people, other people can be too. And they can also be triggered by what we do or say potentially. Best way to handle both our own and others’ emotions is to breath. When there’s time you can get curious by asking what are you feeling? What’s going on for you? I sense you might be frustrated, what’s happening? Naming an emotion can often diffuse it or at least clarify it for further exploration – much more productive than avoiding it as the person will still feel it. If there’s not time, such as on a cricket pitch mid-game, help point people to who they are when they are being their best and/or to what the goal is. For the cricketers it might have been for Root to: remind the bowlers of their what they had done well yesterday (“probing a good line and length to take advantage of cloud cover and an uneven pitch” according to Pringle); or what their strengths are; or that the goal/winning is in sight, they need to put aside any frustrations and be smart about how they play this to win (and then give them specific behaviours); or give them a positive mindset to hold (that was maybe discussed in training) such as “we are better than arguing on the pitch, let’s be the winning team we can be by playing how we can play”; or maybe set out an aspiration which could be asking “what would Ben Stokes expect or want for us now in order to win?” (Stokes is a star England cricketer who is on a break for mental health attention).

STEPPING UP – Yes, the captain of the sports team is the captain. The manager of a group at work is the manager. And a leader can be anyone who is present – both literally and emotionally (in the meeting, focused the moment/being present). By definition, a leader is someone who sees what needs to be done and rallies people towards that vision or goal. There could be a number of leaders in any situation, the leader is the one who sees what shift needs to happen to perform better and influences others towards it. Leadership is not a title, it’s the fact of having followers, people who choose to follow your direction hence leaders giving big direction (company vision or department goals) and leaders giving “small” direction (what’s needed right now, in an interaction, to get the most of out people in a way that’s mutually satisfying to achieve the task at hand).

How to be a leader, no matter your position – If there’s tension, anyone in the room can say “I sense we might need a break, how about we reconvene in 10 minutes after a breath of fresh air or glass of water?” Alternately, really courageous leadership would be pointing out the tension and getting curious about what’s happening for people. To do this type of courageous leadership requires trust amongst the team. Anyone can make any of the suggestions listed in the above ‘How to handle reactions or emotions.’ Any of the England team could have stepped in and said, “what do we need to do right now to win this?” Leaders often don’t have all the answers, they often have the best questions to unleash peoples’ potential to deal with the issue at hand.

In the case of this Test match and many meetings I’ve been involved in and heard about, keeping one’s head is paramount. That’s emotional intelligence. It doesn’t mean denying an emotion or feeling, it means knowing and managing yourself and your responses so that you can be aware of others’ feelings and manage your interaction with them to achieve the desired result. A captain exhibiting emotional intelligence would have recognized he was disappointed in himself for few runs; realized his bowlers were not using the tactics that had been successful up-to-now (maybe because of frustration or anger); rallied his team at any number of points in this 90-minute time span to focus them on their strengths, who they are when they are at their best and point them to the goal of winning.

Which of these leadership lessons matters most to you?

When have you seen such emotionally intelligent leadership? In sports or business?

Book a complimentary coaching session with me here to explore your leadership, and how to help yourself and others keep your head in the game to win.

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