Leadership Lessons of Gareth Southgate, Past the Waistcoat

Leadership Lessons of Gareth Southgate, Past the Waistcoat

Who’s a great leader? This is a question I’m often asked by random people when I say I’m a leadership coach and author. One recent example I cite is Gareth Southgate, the manager of the England national football (soccer) team. England’s advancement to the final of the Euro 2020/1 played last month brought his leadership to the forefront, their loss taught us more. He’s famous for wearing waistcoats on the sidelines, and his leadership is more than what you see on the surface.

Emotional Intelligence in Leadership

Leadership is the ability to excite others to perform towards a wanted vision or objective. Emotional intelligence is the capacity to be aware of, control, and express one’s emotions, and be aware and able to manage the emotions of others thereby handling interpersonal relationships judiciously and empathetically. Combine the two and it’s about behaving in a way that has you understanding what motivates others to influence them to achieve the necessary performance.

Emotional Intelligence and Leadership – Gareth Southgate

I could write pages and pages about Gareth Southgate’s leadership. He exhibits so many qualities of a conscious or emotionally intelligent leader. Here are 4 key attributes and an example of behaviours he’s done that illustrate those traits.

Leadership Lessons

Here are just a few of the many leadership lessons from Gareth:

Vulnerable and transparent. For those who don’t know, Gareth Southgate missed a penalty kick himself as a player that sent England out of Euro 1996. This probably ‘forced’ vulnerability on him. Few leaders ‘fail’ so publicly. He has acknowledged the criticism directed at him of being ‘too soft’ to win. He has actually spoken openly about it which might feel contrary to the defensiveness many of us might feel about judgements of us. He said, “I was not ruthless enough to be a top player. Some people will say I have that problem to be a top manager, that’s an area I need to keep developing…I ask myself ‘What are we prepared to sacrifice to win?’ It’s a big question” for leaders. By sharing his development area he’s taken power away from his detractors, shows his players everyone has something to work on and can access his empathy. Being vulnerable as a leader allows others to risk, be brave, push themselves outside their comfort zone – all necessary for success.

Empowering the team players, not his team. As he said in a recent interview with Mercedes F1 boss, Toto Wolff, “We can’t kick the ball for them. On the pitch they have to make their own decisions, react to the momentum of the game, help each other. If everything is controlled by a ‘Svengali on the side’, how are they going to be able to react in the moment that really matter for winning in the way we want them to?” He talks about responsibility being with the players, about preparing them to react in the way that promotes winning. He talks of trusting the players, giving them increasing levels of responsibility so they grow, developing them as people not just players, like “we do with our children.” If you listen to him speak, he rarely says ‘I’ when speaking of the team, the players and the accomplishments, it’s usually WE.

Taking responsibility thereby having peoples’ backs. The one place I’ve heard Gareth say ‘I’ is when he takes responsibility for mistakes. He does not blame others. After the final game, which ended in missed goals during a shootout by some young English players, some commentators blamed the players who missed scoring for having volunteered when they didn’t deliver the result. Gareth quickly said he had chosen which players would be in the shootout, he explained his rationale for choosing them and saying he had faith in them. He takes responsibility for his decisions, allowing his players to deal with their own grief rather than having to deal with the media reaction as well. When players trust their manager, they are willing to do more, their self-belief grows and we know that positivity motivates and leads to better performance versus fear which breeds doubt, caution, inaction and mistakes. He took responsibility in 1996 and he took responsibility now for his decisions and actions.

Reflection and recovery. In the interviews the morning after the final, Gareth was asked ‘What Next?’ He answered, “I don’t think now is an appropriate time to think about anything… to lead your country in these tournaments takes its toll and I need a break now”. He said it was time to reflect and rest. Rarely do you hear a leader talk of needing a break and a rest. He understands that the leader’s well-being plays a strong part in success. A leader is like an athlete, their mind and body need to be kept in optimal condition to produce the desired results. Exercise, energy, and rest are key to sustaining success. Additionally, he is very reflective on his decisions and behaviours, not just reflecting on the win or loss. This demonstrates a growth mindset which is proven to deliver improvements, learnings and innovation.

Gareth Southgate’s leadership has earned him respect from his team members and with many fans. Additionally, he’s led the England team to better results than they’ve had in the past. And he’s increased the sale of waistcoats!

Which of these leadership skills matters most to you?
When have you experienced such emotionally intelligent leadership?
Who do you celebrate as an inspiring leader?

Book a complimentary coaching session with me here to explore your leadership, and how to motivate and inspire others.

Coaching Client Cath’s Confidence Success Story

Coaching Client Cath’s Confidence Success Story

Cath* is a returning client. Lucky me. I first coached her years ago as she was wanting to get a more senior role. She didn’t get the promotion in her organization while we worked together. She did get the higher role in another organization afterwards due to her perseverance and increasing confidence in interviewing.

Her Situation

She is the director of a quasi-NGO reporting to a board or panel of overseers. She had issues being clear in setting expectations and giving negative performance feedback so the panel authorized coaching for her. Like many people I work with, she struggled with having what most people call “difficult conversations.” Many people worry about giving “negative” feedback to others for fear of doing it wrong, hurting someone, making a mistake and facing emotions from the recipient that the leader couldn’t/didn’t want to handle.

Her Work

The coaching focused on three areas: her leadership style, her confidence and her focus.

1. Leadership Style:

• What is leadership? This seems like an obvious question and it’s the question I always start with no matter the coaching topic. Defining the topic is key to clarity. My definition of leadership is about motivating and empowering people to achieve your desired outcome.

• What is her leadership style? Most coachees struggle with this question as they find it hard to articulate. How do you motivate people, set direction and implement palns?

• What leaders does she admire? It’s always helpful to identify people that do what you want to do well. Observing others is a great way to learn what works well and what doesn’t.

2. Confidence:

• What is confidence? Clarifying the definition again.

• Remember a time you felt really confident, personally or professionally. Where do you feel that confident feeling in your body? Once you know what confidence feels like in your body you can recreate it when you need it.

• I challenged her to notice when she is or does good things and write them down. Specifically, everyday write down (yes, writing by hand to embed it) 3 things about yourself for which you are proud. This builds the confidence muscle just as reps in the gym build strong muscles.

3. Focus:

• What was her focus as a leader? Her focus was on her direct reports and how to engaged and empower them.

• Where did she want to start? She choose to start with being clearer with her direct reports in terms of her expectations about the work and how they do the work.

What did she need to do that? She needed training as she didn’t know how to give feedback. She hadn’t seen good role models of this. She hadn’t been trained on this despite holding a senior position. I gave her a copy of my book, Soft Skills HARD RESULTS, which explains how to give positive and construction feedback. This is a template that Cath used a lot for giving feedback using the COIN model, here. We role-played specific scenarios. She practiced with her staff between the coaching sessions, noticed the impact, tried again, all the time persevering through the discomfort.

Her Result

Near the end of the coaching, Cath informed me that her bosses might want some feedback from me about her progress. This is something as a coach I don’t do. The coachee’s progress is assessed by the coachee and the organization with me sometimes facilitating that discussion. What happens in the coaching is confidential. I would only say something if the coachee didn’t show up to the sessions, I was worried that they might be of harm to themselves or someone else or were engaging in something illegal.

She had her performance review in front of the board and my input was not required.

The performance of the organization over the last year (exceeding financial targets), the results of the external reviews (surpassing expectations) and how she was in her interactions with them (a confident leader) was a testament to her progress.

As one of them said, “How you are is all the evidence we need of the coaching working.”


Want your boss to rave about your performance?

Do difficult conversations worry you?

Do you want to feel more comfortable giving feedback?

Use this great template that Cath uses a lot for giving feedback, here, or get in touch to arrange your complimentary coaching session here. 


*name and identifying details have been changed to preserve client confidentiality

Photo by Anna Shvets from Pexels

Anne Taylor Directions Coaching

Directions Coaching Case Study – Coaching an Assertive and Intuitive-Driven Leader

Executive Coaching – Background

Anne Taylor worked with Jim* from a leading global consumer goods company to improve his leadership presence specifically around:

  • Imposing himself and being assertive when verbally communicating with senior management to influence and drive issues.
  • Being a more intuitive-driven thought leader rather than just a technical leader.

About Jim – A Senior Technical Leader

Jim is a scientist working in a demanding technical innovation role in Europe, the youngest among a small group of specialist peers. With his seniority and the heightened focus on his area of innovation, the organization wanted to support him to share his point of view more, adapting to their perspective, to convince and influence senior leaders to his course of action. He was great at connecting one-to-one and needed to extend this to group meetings and presentations. He also needed to be less technical in adapting his message to other senior audiences.

Executive Coaching Programme and Process

Jim engaged in a 12-month coaching programme with monthly sessions virtually. This allowed enough time between sessions to practice new behaviours and mindsets without going too long to lose momentum and not process the learnings.

Before the coaching, I held stakeholder interviews where I interviewed his boss, another senior leader, his peers and a couple of direct reports. This was to understand how he was perceived by others. Specifically, I needed to determine what they thought his strengths and weaknesses were, what might be the obstacles to his effectiveness, and where they think he should focus his development.

At the beginning of the coaching, we did a self-assessment on a scale of 1 to 10 for his two coaching goals, where 1 is ineffective and 10 is highly effective continuously.

During the coaching we worked on:

  • Defining his values and then how to understand others’ values to create connections and find commonalities.
  • Increasing his confidence beyond just his technical expertise.
  • Interrogating some of his beliefs, assumptions and language (especially towards himself).
  • Broadening his communication style to appeal to different audiences when needed.
  • Honing his interpersonal communication skills of giving feedback, being curious, and situation sensing.
  • Motivating and inspiring his team more through empowerment.

The result was positive feedback from the organization of his presence and impact, a promotion three-quarters of the way through the coaching and an increase of 166% of his assertive goal and 75% increase on his intuitive-driven leader goal.

In Jim’s and HR’s Words

“I feel more confident. I am proud of having grown as a leader in a short period of time. I have demonstrated my agility and my ability to try new things and adapt to a new environment. I now talk about what I believe rather than just what I know.”

From his HR business partner: “I have observed changes in Jim and find they are all related to a more ‘strengthened backbone.’ Jim is more challenging when he believes the leadership team doesn’t do the right thing. For example, he questioned why certain subjects were reviewed since he doesn’t see the added value. The colleagues were reluctant to change it (nobody wanted to move out of the comfort zone) but he insisted strongly on his point of view and seemed almost ‘aggressive’ (in a positive way). That was new! I can also see that his presence has become stronger. He is inherently a more introverted person but has demonstrated the past weeks/months that he can become more visible. Overall, I see a good development from coaching with Anne and I am confident he will succeed even more.”

This HR business partner has since referred me to another person in the organization based on the success.

Why I Loved this Executive Coaching Work

Working with an individual that is successful in his field and passionate about people is always enjoyable, and Jim’s journey to confidently owning his abilities and trusting his intuition has been an honour. Jim has a very empathetic nature and an awareness of other people’s feelings and situation (social awareness in emotional intelligence language) that was being side-lined at work due to the technical nature of his training and work. By leveraging this innate ability combined with his intelligence he’s an inspiration of a successful, emotionally intelligent leader.

Executive Coaching London – So What?

Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, I worked virtually by phone and video from London and them being in North America, Europe, Asia and as far as Australia thereby being more efficient for my clients and being able to work together despite the distance. My clients tell me I have extensive experience in creating trust and safety despite the distance and technology.

Where could you benefit from developing your leadership impact and presence more?

Book a complimentary coaching session with me here to explore how you can increase your leadership effectiveness.

* Name has been changed to protect confidentiality

Corporate Coaching and the Coaching Triangle

Corporate Coaching and the Coaching Triangle

A recent client highlighted the opportunity and issues of The Coaching Triangle. The triangle is the relationship between the client, the organization and the coach. When coaching in an organization the company hires a coach, usually after the client has had a chemistry session to ensure they and the coach can work well together, for a specific coaching goal or objective.

The opportunity is that the client gets personal coaching to help them develop and grow. The issue is that sometimes the client is not aligned (or worse yet, not aware) of the organization’s objective for the coaching.

My client was not really sure of the coaching goal. The coaching had been offered to help him improve a relationship with someone in head office which was light compared to what I had been told. I had to explain to the client the broader goal for the coaching that his boss had shared with me. The broader goal was that he needed to balance HOW he got things done, not just focussing on WHAT got done. This was with many people in the organization not just those in head office.

The organization didn’t want to explain the goal to the client (a symptom of why there are issues) which raises more systems’ coaching opportunities – which is a whole other area.

Once the client heard the goal, he disagreed with it. He believed, with the exception of the one person in head office, he received very positive feedback on communication, teamwork and engagement. He could provide evidence of such on a recent project.

Part of the coaching then becomes helping the client understand the goal – whether that’s how to talk to their manager or HR, whether we do a 3-way meeting of me, the client and the organization, whether they seek input from others through 360 or other tool. If the client doesn’t accept the goal it then becomes coaching around accepting the goal regardless, what success looks like with or without buy-in to the goal or working on what they feel they want and see if that has an impact that’s acceptable to the organization.

What triangle are you operating within that would be improved with a discussion?

Stay tuned for how this develops.

No Obligation Phone Call

No Obligation Phone Call

A former client contacted me last month to ask about hiring me for coaching support. He is a contractor working in an interim position and was struggling with his ability to impact the organization in the way he wanted and in the way they had hired him to do.

This situation he was working in was quite different to what was communicated when he was brought on board – the budget was not within his department but held by an executive in another division, there was only one direct report on the “team”, and a senior leader in the organization openly criticized my client’s area of responsibility.

After many months of trying to make a difference my client wanted support in figuring out what to do, and contacted me for coaching advice. I replied that I was more than happy to have a discussion to see what coaching was needed and what commitment that would be, as I provide a no obligation phone call to offer advice to all potential clients. Given it was December and we had different holidays schedules I emailed some preparation work in advance of our discussion which we agreed would be in the New Year. The preparation work included thinking about the goals for the coaching, for his work this year, for the organization with which he was contracted and for himself as a person.

Before our discussion I received the preparation work – it clearly identified all the goals and in doing so had in fact answered some of the questions he had. I then asked a few more questions about those goals relative to his values (which I knew from working with him previously and which had come through his initial contacting email in his frustration with the situation).

A couple of days before our call I received another email stating clearly what he wanted for himself relative to the contract position and the steps he wanted to discuss to get there. Our call lasted 45 minutes during which we talked about how he’d feel executing what he had written to me, what the steps were to get it, brainstormed potential consequences and hence alternative actions, reviewed timing and secured commitment to himself. The last 5 minutes I spent saying I didn’t think an on-going coaching program was necessary. He was surprised at first and realized he didn’t need anything more than what he had already done in preparation for this discussion and with what he had just refined on the phone. Done.

In terms of my business some could argue this was a bad process as I “emailed” myself out of work. And I’m ok with that; my focus is on getting people to be aware of themselves and make conscious choices, equipping themselves to continue to live that way. I may not have “made any money” – I didn’t charge as we had agreed just to have a no-obligation discussion and it was a former client – and I’m sure karma will kick in somewhere down the line.

He’s in the process of executing his plan and is convinced it is the right thing for him, and he has some new potential work that is more aligned to his values.

What would you have greater clarity about if you spent some time just thinking about what you wanted more of in your job, business or life?

Vice President in IT

Vice President in IT

Coached Vice President in IT organization for 6 months to productively and efficiently lead his unit through a massive restructuring. Resulted in him being able to balance the firefighting required with so many changes and being a visionary, inspiring leader for his team. He continues to advance within the company.

Anne Taylor is a successful Canadian life and executive coach in London, practising at Directions Coaching. For a chat about coaching, please call Anne Taylor on 02031516830.

Female Executive

Female Executive

Coached female high potential manager for 8 months to support this leader to increase her ability to influence others within a matrix organization and improve her personal networking skills across the business. Resulted in a lateral move that later led to a promotion to the management committee of an ‘entrepreneurial’ high profile unit.

Anne Taylor is a successful Canadian life and executive coach in London, practising at Directions Coaching. For a chat about coaching, please call Anne Taylor on 02031516830.