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Leading by Standing Back

The fireworks school of leading and delegating: light blue touch-paper AND STAND WELL BACK

As I write this, it’s coming around to fireworks season here.

It’s been a little while since I lit any real explosive-based fireworks of my own, but I’m reminded of the safety label:

Light blue touch-paper and stand well back

The “… stand well back” bit is sticking in my mind at the moment, because it’s such a great metaphor for leading and delegating.

Readers of this website will know I’m a big fan of the type of leadership and delegation that inspires people – in a firework sense, the type that lights them up. Or, even better, that helps them to light themselves up.

What is often overlooked, perhaps especially by enthusiastic leaders who are good at creating the lighting-up part, is the “… stand well back” bit.

But this standing well back and watching what happens when you’ve inspired someone or helped them to light themselves up is quite possibly the most important part. This is when people get to learn by and for themselves just what they’re capable of. I’d go so far as to say that you can’t really delegate properly, if you’re not doing the stand well back part.


In a firework, the potential energy of its chemicals only fulfils its purpose when it takes to the sky. For the people you are leading, this is when they start to become all that they can be. Like a firework, part of this is unpredictable. You don’t really know how well people will do. You can’t entirely tell if they’ll blaze a trail, just phizzle-out or explode in your face.

But people are even better than fireworks. If they fail, they’ll try again. If they light up the sky, they can do it again and again. And when they do, they’ll never forget who stood back far enough to make that possible.


As usual, please leave me a comment if they’re still open below, or tweet me @NickRobCoach. What’s the leadership or delegation challenge for you, in knowing when and how to stand well back?


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Leading Comes LAST

First you listen, then you learn, then you help, and then you can LEAD

Click the picture above and then right-click or hold to download your copy.

I love this principle, which I first learned only recently.

It comes from this article in The Atlantic, and is my paraphrasing of a quote from former US Defence Secretary James Mattis, summarising George Washington’s leadership approach.

As usual, please leave me a comment if they’re still open below, or tweet me @NickRobCoach. What’s your current leadership challenge?


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Leadership, Role-modelling and Behaviour

Leaders cannot NOT be role-models – so be the right kind

I know I keep banging on about this, but Behaviour is such an important thing for leaders to get right.

If you have any kind of authority, responsibility, power or even visibility in your organisation, other people will base their own Behaviour on yours.

This applies whether or not you’re formally called a ‘leader’ or ‘manager’ or whatever. You cannot not be a role-model; so be the right kind.

If you want to know who in your organisation sets the standard for how things are done and what’s the right way to Behave with each other – take a look in the mirror. If you find yourself complaining or worrying about some aspect of the culture in your business, the person looking back at you from that mirror is the one who sets the tone.


People sometimes ask me, “Well, what do you even mean by ‘Behaviour’?”

The answer is simple – everything you do and everything you say.


What makes things tough for leaders and anybody who wants to manage their own Behaviour, is that what you say and do on the outside is actually the end result of a long chain of stuff that happens inside our heads and bodies – and which is often largely unconscious.

To make a start in managing your own Behaviour I recommend two simple actions:

  • First, as you interact with others, be very clear about what outcome you want to achieve. Behaviour without Intention is not managed. Remember:

You cannot hit a target which is not there

  • Second, have some kind of ‘Reflective’ practice. The best way is to keep a diary or journal where you can reflect on your day and set your intentions for the next.

You know yourself mostly by your thoughts. Everyone else in the world knows you only by your actions. Remember this when you feel misunderstood. You have to do or say something for others to know how you feel.

James Clear

As usual, please leave me a comment if they’re still open below, or tweet me @NickRobCoach.

What aspects of being a role-model, or of Behaviour at work are important to you?


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One Page Leadership

What should leaders actually *do*?
The whole of Leadership on one page, free download, no sign-ups.

Click the picture above and then right-click and select ‘Save as…’ to download your copy.

Inspired by some work a client organisation was doing this week, I wanted to get the whole of my mental leadership checklist to fit on one page.

These are the factors I’ll typically run through when I’m coaching someone in a leadership role and want to help make sure they’re covering all the bases that their role demands.

It’s useful for newly-appointed leaders and well-established leaders who want to keep their approach fresh.

This is not the only way of thinking about leadership, but if you include all of these aspects, you can’t go too far wrong.

(This simple structure can also be especially useful in situations where people don’t already think of themselves as “leaders”, even when they’re responsible for and reliant on the work of several other people.)

As usual, please leave me a comment if they’re still open below, or tweet me @NickRobCoach.

  • What aspects of your own leadership do you like to regularly check on
  • What advice would you give to other people who aren’t sure about their leadership?

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Intuition and Persuasion

Having the guts to persuade other people to trust your intuition

I’ve heard it said that intuition is the result of our brains unconsciously processing thousands of bits of data. There’s good research to support this view and it makes sense when you think about how much of our daily actions we do on autopilot. For example, driving your regular route to work, without having to consciously think too much about directions and turns and traffic.

Others have written that intuition comes from combining years of experience with having a finger on the pulse of what’s actually happening now.

I read recently that the kilometres of neurones and nerve connections in our intestines are about the same size as the brain of a cat – an animal we admire for its cunning and fast-reactions. Maybe that’s reason enough to “trust your gut”!

There can’t be many good leaders around nowadays who don’t make an effort to tap into their own intuition, or at least to listen to what their gut is telling them.

But what can be much harder, is getting other people to trust your intuition.

This is something which comes up in my coaching with leaders and their teams fairly often. How do you get other people to trust your intuition? Especially as we’re increasingly in the kind of working world which stresses the use of metrics and which says things like: “What gets measured, gets managed”. In that situation, how do you justify a vague feeling that something important has been missed? How do you persuade people that your sense that everything is not quite right should be listened to?

For now, there’s one aspect of this that is really worth focusing on, which is about not waiting for permission to speak your intuition, and then doing so in a way that makes it acceptable.

The language you use is very important. This is especially useful in board meetings and other group situations (particularly if you’ve just spent an hour pouring over detailed financials and performance reports). You have to use the language of intuition, and know that it’s OK to do so. You can say things like the following, and know that they are perfectly acceptable, for the reasons discussed above:

  • “My gut is telling me X.”
  • “I don’t know quite where it’s coming from, but my intuition is that …”
  • “I’ve got a hard-to-define sense that we also need to consider Y.”

Leaders need to speak their intuition in a way that has impact, otherwise they’re ignoring the full range of their brain’s processing power and failing to use their experience.

As usual, please leave me a comment if they’re still open below, or tweet me @NickRobCoach. When and how do you speak your own intuition?


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Paradoxes

Courage follows fear – and four other important things that happen the wrong way around

Is it just me who sometimes wishes that each of these things would work the other way around for a change?

Courage follows Fear

You don’t usually get the courageous feeling until after you’ve done the scary thing, although the time that you might most want it is before.

Vitality comes from expending Energy

If you want to be more energetic, you’ve got to be regularly spending your energy on something sensible, not saving it.

Leadership follows Followership

Commitment, involvement, collaboration, ego-management, and credibility are all things best learnt first without the added need to lead.

Faith comes before Trust

If you want to be able to trust people, you’ve first got to give them the chance to be trusted – and that takes a leap of faith.

Wisdom comes after Experience

If you’re anything like me, then you need to fall flat on your face quite a lot before understanding how stuff really works. And even then, I still learn more and am surprised by how things actually turn out compared to how I thought they would.


As usual, please leave me a comment if they’re still open below, or tweet me @NickRobCoach. What other things seem to paradoxically happen the wrong way around?


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Leading from the Light Side

One change that makes all the difference to your leadership, management and personal fulfilment

Please click the image above and then right-click to download or save your copy.

One great way to really up your game, as a leader, a manager or personally, is to regularly check-out which side you’re coming from. Is your motivation coming from the Dark Side, or the Light Side? The Dark Side isn’t bad – it can be useful in the short-term and in some circumstances. But it rarely gets people what they really want. The trick is to become conscious of our Dark Side motivations and use them to initiate a change of approach. Then we can actively choose a Light Side motivation for something that we really want to achieve.


As usual, please add a comment below if they’re still open, or tweet me @nickrobcoach – how do you make sure you’re not leading from the Dark Side?


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Seven Essential Leadership Tools

If you’re a visual person, you’ll love this. My seven most essential leadership tools – but can you name all seven?

Each of the images in the set above represents one of my most essential leadership tools. But I haven’t named them. The challenge, should you choose to accept it, is to correctly identify each of the seven leadership tools using only the image and your own brilliant perception.


As usual, please add a comment below if they’re still open, or tweet me @nickrobcoach – how many of the seven essential leadership tools could you name; what would you add or change?


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Assumptions Afternoon

The assumptions and the mind-reading are still rampant at work. Co-designing is the answer – if you’re brave enough

It’s been a while since I heard anybody do that old joke about Assume making an Ass out of U and Me. And yet still it goes on.

I’m still seeing people in meetings without a clear purpose. Still coaching people whose leaders haven’t talked about expectations. Still working with teams who haven’t figured out how they can best get on together.

For goodness sake people, stop it!

Trust yourselves enough to co-design your desired outcomes together. Talk together about what’s needed. Ask what’s expected of you. And make sure you help others be clear about what you expect of them. Have a conversation with your teammates about how you all work together. Plan collaboratively.

Do. Not. Assume.


As usual, please leave me a comment if they’re still open below, or tweet me @NickRobCoach. What drives you mad about the assumptions people make? What are your top tips for being more collaborative about what’s expected?


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Motivation for Leaders

Why my favourite go-to motivational quote still has three fatal flaws; and what leaders should do about them

This quote from Theodore Roosevelt has long been a favourite of mine for helping to motivate myself and others:

Do what you can,

Where you are,

With what you have.

– You can click and then alt-click the image above to download a copy for yourself –

Anytime I’m stuck or feeling powerless, or can’t see the route through the forest for looking at all the trees, this quote gets me unstuck and into purposeful action.

But it still has three hidden weaknesses.

Leaders who want to use this kind of thing to help other people feel motivated need to be aware of these flaws and to take extra steps to combat them.

It’s really worth doing this, especially if you’re the kind of leader who:

  1. Naturally likes to be around empowered people and to help others to raise their game; or
  2. Occasionally finds yourself wondering why other people don’t take the initiative more, or don’t work as hard as you do.

Each of the flaws I’m talking about are right there in that first line:

“Do what you can

And this is why…

1) People aren’t always aware of just what they can do, both in terms of what they have ‘permission’ to do, and in terms of their own capabilities.

2) People don’t always believe that what they can do will actually lead to the outcome that’s needed. To take a really basic example, even though someone ‘can’ make 20 sales calls today, do they truly believe that those calls will lead to the extra business they’ve been asked to generate? If not, they won’t be motivated.

3) People don’t always know in advance if the outcome that their actions might lead to is actually an outcome that they really want. It’s not so much about them not wanting to achieve a specific outcome, but more that they just don’t really, consciously know if they do want it! I believe that this hidden flaw derails more attempts to motivate people than almost anything else.


So as well as using that brilliant quote from Teddy R, leaders who want to motivate people should also be doing these four things as well:

1a) Always give the permissions up front. This is basic delegation skills. If you’re asking or expecting someone to do something, what permissions do they have or need? What resources can they access? What approaches, methods or ways of doing it can they use or not use?

1b) Help people to assess and grow their own capabilities. Which means you really do need to encourage and show people how to learn and adapt.

2. Break the unconscious rule that people make for themselves about taking action and needing to get the correct result. Help them to be more like a scientist. Any action will lead to ‘a’ result. Get people to be curious about selecting from a range of possible actions. Have them observe the results like a scientist doing an experiment. What worked, what didn’t get the expected result, what would you try next time?

3. This is perhaps the most significant one for leaders to be doing. Encourage people to live in the future a little. This outcome that you want them to help achieve – what will that be like? What will it mean for them when it’s been achieved? How will it change or affect their day-to-day experience?

This important part of motivating people is the equivalent of getting them to try on some new clothes in the mirror before they know whether or not they want them.


As usual, please leave me a comment if they’re still open below, or tweet me @NickRobCoach What do you think of that Roosevelt quote? Does it help you motivate yourself and others? What also works for you?


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