Mastering the Challenge of the Scary Specialist

The scariest person I ever worked for was a former UK table-tennis champion, then my regional GM.

She had a habit of giving you the hair-drier treatment at the same time as eating a crusty cheese roll. And I was struggling with a new appointment to an under-performing division.

We both knew what needed to be done. But the problem for me was how far and how fast that could happen. Not far or fast enough I realised, in between dodging the crumbs!

Nowadays I really like working with scary specialists like her.
🚀 Why NOT focus on being competent and driven and delivering the best that you can.

🛑 But what I also know now that I didn’t know back then, is that the hair-dryer approach isn’t always the best way of GETTING to that high-delivery place.

And there can also be a lot of collateral damage around a scary specialist. Good people won’t tolerate feeling threatened, belittled or locked-out for long – and will leave. Leading to a spiral of declining performance.

❓Who is or was the scariest person that you ever worked with?

❓And what should you do if you’ve got a scary specialist in your organisation?

Collateral damage is happening and performance isn’t improving. You might be tiptoeing around their threats while being told, “Go away; I’ll sort it!”

Focus on these three points:

  1. Sometimes, leaders of a scary specialist might find that their skills and competences are so essential that you need to ensure they only ever have the best people and the slickest of support functions around them.
  2. But more often, leaders will need to also become a little scarier themselves in this situation. To demand that this person develop new ways of managing – or else.
  3. Use their desire for competence to help. Demand that they develop skills which can also take their people from zero to 100. Not just manage well with an already high-functioning team.

If you’re working alongside or below a scary specialist, it can be an interesting experience! In my next article, I’ll look at issues around defending boundaries, raising your own game, and not becoming isolated in the process.

📚 For more insights into dealing with a scary specialist, please check out my book, The 9 Types of Difficult People. See the links below or in the sidebar.

And in the meantime – keep dodging those crumbs!

Resistance is Futile – Four Lessons from the Borg for Leaders on Great Organisational Change

Leadership has got way too soft and it’s time to challenge that. And make resistance to change futile!

 It’s time to challenge the soft, human-centric leadership models that have come to dominate the corporate world. And make resistance to change futile!

This iconic line from Star Trek’s Borg isn’t just for sci-fi fans like me; it offers a radical perspective on leadership and organisational change.

Are you brave enough to consider that the Borg, often vilified as the epitome of oppressive conformity, might just have it right?

Here are four lessons all leaders could learn from the Borg on how to do great organisational change:

🔵 Collective Conformity instead of Emphasis on Individuality

Traditional wisdom tells us to celebrate individual strengths. But what if, like the Borg, we focused on collective goals? A united team can often navigate change more effectively than a group of individual stars.

How to Do It: Align team objectives with organisational goals and encourage collaboration over competition. Regular team meetings can help synchronise efforts and ensure everyone is contributing to the collective objective.

🔵 Centralised Command instead of Democratic Leadership

Democratic leadership is praised, but it can slow down decision-making. The Borg’s centralised command ensures quick, decisive action, a crucial advantage during organisational shifts.

How to Do It: Streamline decision-making processes and clearly define roles and responsibilities. A centralised communication channel can help disseminate decisions quickly and efficiently.

🔵 Rational Efficiency instead of Emotional Intelligence

Emotional intelligence is vital, but it can sometimes cloud judgment. The Borg’s rational, efficiency-driven approach eliminates emotional bias, making for more effective change management.

How to Do It: Use data-driven metrics to evaluate the impact of changes and make adjustments accordingly. Encourage team members to focus on outcomes rather than emotional attachments to previous ways of working.

🔵 Unified Obedience instead of Employee Autonomy

Autonomy is empowering, but during significant changes, a unified approach may be more effective. Like the Borg, consider the value of a team moving in lockstep toward a common goal.

How to Do It: Establish clear guidelines and expectations, and ensure everyone is on the same page through regular communication. Use team-building exercises to foster a sense of unity and shared purpose.

Embrace the Opportunity!
Are you ready to assimilate these Borg-like qualities into your leadership style?

Share your thoughts and let’s start a conversation on redefining effective leadership during organisational change!

Overcoming the Barriers to Personal Growth

Our marketing director said I was aggressive and pushy.

It was a big slap in the face – mostly because I knew it was true, but thought I’d hidden it by being ‘nice’.

Once I got over the shock, it became one of the best bits of feedback I’ve ever had, starting a great period of personal growth.

But lots of barriers can get in the way of personal growth. Which is a shame, because all the important developments in our professional lives are built on it. It can be a practical, useful way to achieve what we want. Whether that’s a big promotion, more balance so that tasks and working relationships are easier and not such a slog, or the delivery of a significant project.

Here’s how to overcome the barriers to personal growth:

  • Seek Feedback
    It’s painful, but other people can sometimes see things that we can’t see or won’t acknowledge;
  • Look for Incongruence
    If you feel different on the inside to how you think you ‘ought’ to be on the outside, that’s a clue to what your personal growth might need to focus on;
  • Clear Outcomes
    Personal growth should be a useful, practical thing. What is it that you want to achieve?
  • Experiment
    Growth comes from trying out new ways of being; learning from what works and what doesn’t. Experiment with how you do and say things.

The key to overcoming the barriers to personal growth is to risk being vulnerable in order to discover something helpful.

How about you? What personal growth are you looking for - and what barriers are you finding? Click To Tweet
A first-aid backpack on the ground in a forest setting with mountains in the distance. Used as a metaphor for applying the principles of Dr ABC to managing high-pressure decisions at work

The Dr ABC of Managing High-Pressure Decisions – an Emergency Response Guide

A while ago in preparation for some volunteering, I took one of the best training courses I’ve ever experienced, the Outdoor First Aid course at the UK’s national outdoor centre at Plas y Brenin.

Amongst other things, we learnt the Dr ABCDE structure of first aid.

And during a recent coaching session we used that structure to help manage a seriously high-pressure decision that my client was facing.

First, here’s a reminder of my notes from that course:


  • Danger: Ensure safety for yourself, bystanders, and the casualty from further harm.
  • Response: Check if the casualty is responsive or unconscious.
  • Airway: Check if the casualty’s airway is open and clear.
  • Breathing: Monitor if they are breathing normally.
  • Circulation: Look for signs of life such as pulse, movement, or coughing.
  • Disability: Check again for unconsciousness, possibly caused by a neurological injury or condition (e.g. check pupil response).
  • Exposure: Expose and examine them for other hidden injuries, and ensure they are not getting cold.

If you need to manage a high-pressure decision at work, here’s my first-aid guide, using the principles of Dr ABC and applying them to great leadership:

D – Danger – assess first before acting:

  • Assess the situation and potential risks before taking action.

R – Responsiveness – ask others for their response, seek allies and advice:

  • Seek input, feedback, and advice from others to gather different perspectives and insights.

A – Airways – open up your choices about how to deal with the high-pressure situation:

  • Explore a wide range of options and possibilities before narrowing down choices.

B – Breathing – monitor the progress and vitality of the decision-making process:

  • Continuously assess the progress, outcomes, and indicators of the decision to ensure it is on the right track.

C – Circulation – take decisive action and stay committed to the chosen course:

  • Follow through with the decision, implement it effectively, and dedicate the necessary resources and effort to make a significant impact.

D – Disability – evaluate the potential drawbacks and unintended consequences of the decision:

  • Assess and monitor the potential negative effects or limitations of the decision, and be prepared to address them proactively. Learn from what’s happening.

E – Exposure – identify hidden risks and protect against unfavourable external influences:

  • Be aware of potential risks or obstacles that may not be immediately apparent, and take measures to mitigate or avoid them. Protect the decision-making process from unfavourable external factors.

What else comes up for you, when you’re faced with managing a high-pressure decision at work? What do you need to take into account?

How do you manage high-pressure decisions and what can we learn from a first-aid approach? Click To Tweet

Building Strong Relationships in Remote Teams

Embrace the remote work revolution! Dive into my guide to building strong relationships within your remote team

However much some people would like it to not be the case we are now in the wake of the remote work revolution – it’s happened.

And with it, building strong relationships within teams has become a real concern for some leaders. The importance of getting these relationships right, in terms of people’s personal fulfilment and the wider organisational success can’t be overstated. They have a big impact.

The Silver Lining of Remote Work

Remote work comes with a clear set of advantages. The flexibility, reduced commute time, and improved work-life balance are just a few of the logistical benefits. But beyond that, it also offers unique opportunities for building relationships.

Navigating the Challenges

However, it’s not without its challenges. Lack of face-to-face interaction, communication barriers, and feelings of isolation can make relationship-building difficult.

Strengthening Bonds over Distance

Interestingly, remote work can enhance certain aspects of relationship-building. Increased autonomy, diverse communication channels, and opportunities for quiet reflection can all contribute to stronger bonds.

Harnessing the Power of Collaborative Tools

Remote work also encourages the use of collaborative tools. These tools not only aid in task coordination but also offer other advantages like real-time collaboration and document sharing.

Translating Face-to-Face Experiences

Drawing on face-to-face experiences can be a useful thing to remember to do in a remote setting. Even if ‘remote’ is now your default, we do all have experience of being face to face and we can draw on what makes that work well – and what doesn’t – and apply at least some of those lessons to our remote working. Regular communication and respecting personal boundaries are just a couple of ways we could incorporate those experiences. Maybe there’s other lessons for you too?

Building Relationships: A Practical Approach

Here are some practical tips for building strong relationships:

  • Open and clear communication: Over-communicate rather than leave room for misunderstandings. Set expectations, provide feedback, and address issues promptly.
  • Recognition of individual contributions: Boost morale and foster a sense of belonging by recognising and appreciating individual contributions. A shout-out in a team meeting or a personal thank you note can go a long way.
  • Fostering a supportive culture: Encourage team members to share their ideas and concerns. Address them appropriately to create a comfortable and motivating environment.
  • Leaders giving attention to people: Understand the strengths and weaknesses of your team members and provide necessary support. Regular one-on-one check-ins can be a great way to achieve this.

Regarding team-building activities, remember they may not be for everyone. Alternatives such as one-on-one check-ins or team discussions can be just as effective.

Leaders: The Cornerstone of Strong Relationships

Leaders play a pivotal role in fostering strong relationships. Embodying the ethos of “Leaders eat last”, they can create an environment where everyone feels valued and connected.

The Journey Ahead

Building strong relationships in remote teams is both a challenge and an opportunity. It’s a journey that requires patience, effort, and a willingness to adapt. But the rewards – increasing both personal fulfilment and organisational success – are well worth it.

So, if you’re ready to embrace the remote work revolution and build stronger relationships within your team, what the next step on that journey for you?

Tweet me @NickRobCoach to share your thoughts and experiences.

3 Handy Ways to Avoid Doing Great Delegation (Part 1/3)

This is the first of three short posts with some handy tips for avoiding the dangers of doing half-way decent delegation – and of being seen as vaguely competent and therefore deserving of yet more responsibility, stress and leadership burden at work!

TIP 1️⃣: Never start by describing the OUTCOME that you want to achieve.
🧭 This tip is almost too easy; starting with the Outcome is surely just a backwards way of doing things and risks having way too much clarity and direction. Better to get going with the first step that comes to mind and only then figure out where you’re going, and why, along the way. People will thank you for not overloading them with this kind of focus. 🗺

TIP 2️⃣: Always tell people HOW they should do the thing you’re delegating to them.
🔬 This is where a lot of managers go wrong, by imagining that people might have their own way of doing things. Or even, that they might come up with a better way than you had thought of. That kind of thinking is just ridiculous! It’s much safer – and offers much more scope for subsequent micro-managing – if you treat people like robots and tell them EXACTLY how you would do the thing you’re delegating to them, if only you had time to do everything. 🤖

TIP 3️⃣: Don’t offer SUPPORT or set out a process for check-ins and coaching along the way.
⛑ If they need support, what’s the point of delegating in the first place – might as well have done it yourself! If only you had the time; or the effort. Anyway, whatever, the kind of structured check-ins and coaching that supports somebody as they try a task for the first time, or learn to stretch themselves, is soooo demanding of your attention. It is boring. Please people, just go away and get on with the thing I told (sorry, asked) you to do, in the way I said to do it. Just tell me when it’s done. Whenever that is; did we agree a deadline; I forget … 🏖

If any of this strikes a chord, please check out my possibly helpful ebooklet on Amazon:


Trust, Responsibility and Accountability

I find I’m a little annoyed at the state of top public leadership here in the UK currently. Recently a senior politician has resigned, but only very reluctantly and not for the incompetence that they should actually have been sacked for long ago. It is so frustrating.

But the people I know in leadership positions in the workplace, aren’t like those politicians. Whether they’re in the public or the private sectors, the real leaders I know are Trustworthy, Responsible and Accountable.

Some questions for you:

  • Are you feeling the same about things at the moment – because maybe it’s just me?
  • What are your thoughts on what those qualities in the title of this post actually mean?
  • Are those qualities so difficult to grasp that it’s not possible to live up to them?

Maybe I’m too simplistic. But I do like things to be plain and understandable. If I was to define those qualities in the form of an easy to answer question, here’s what I think they mean:

Trustworthy – to me this means asking ourselves, “Did I actually do what I said I would do?”

Over time, you can build up a picture of who someone is on the basis of what they actually do. We are after all defined by our actions  – and they speak so much louder than words!

Responsible – to me this means asking ourselves, “Did I do the right thing?”

There’s an element of moral obligation for me in being responsible. It’s not just about being the person in charge – anybody can and should choose to take action and not ignore what needs to be done. And in so choosing, to choose to do the right thing.

Accountable – to me this means asking ourselves, “Am I willing to openly justify what I did?”

Accountable is often used as a synonym for responsible, but they’re not the same, as the definition above shows.

So leaders should:

  1. Do what they said they would
  2. Do the right things
  3. Be willing to openly justify what they did.

Measured against those definitions, how well do the leaders you know, at work and elsewhere measure up?

And how does your own leadership do against those?

Either leave a comment below if they’re still open at the time of reading, or tweet me @nickrobcoach.

Leaders should: • Do what they said they would; • Do the right things; • Be willing to openly justify what they did. Do you agree? Click To Tweet





Checklist for leading one on one meetings

This is the second in a series for people who want to use one-on-one meetings as a great tool for leading the efforts of their team members

A structured but flexible one-to-one meetings approach is probably the best way you’ll find for managing and motivating the work of your individual team members. But sometimes it isn’t easy to know how to go about doing that effectively, or to make sure that it will get the results you’d want – such as switched-on and fulfilled team members and tasks that get done well and on time.

If you right-click the image above and then select “Save as…” you can download your own copy of the checklist.

Life as a manager can often be very busy and quite complicated, so if that’s the case for you – use this checklist as a way of getting started, in this order:

  1. Take stock of which items on the checklist you already have in place or already know the answers to?
  2. Once you’ve done that, which is the most straightforward item on the checklist for you to work on next?

If you need more information, you can read the rest of the tips when published here. They’re essentially a summary of my short ebooklet.

Or go ahead and grab your copy from Amazon here – free to Kindle Unlimited members or otherwise £1.99

I wrote that short ebooklet when, in the space of a fortnight, three separate coaching clients mentioned that they were struggling a little with running their one-to-one meetings with their individual team members. It’s easy to cover those kinds of issues in a coaching session, but it seemed to me that it would make better use of my clients’ time in our sessions if I could also just give them some simple guidance to take away and use as and when they wanted. I hope that the booklet has been useful – it’s been slowly working its way up the independent management books charts anyway. The next in the series will cover Delegation.

What’s essential for you, when running your own one-on-one sessions with your team members? Either leave a comment below if they’re still open at the time of reading, or tweet me @nickrobcoach.

Download a free copy of this useful checklist for running great one-on-one meetings with your team members. No sign-ups etc required #leadership #management. Click To Tweet




Don’t talk about Doom and Gloom – Act!

Why it’s so tricky to talk about problems and risks in a way that people will listen to. And how it might actually be better to just take guerrilla leadership actions instead!

Please leave a comment below if they’re still open at the time of reading, or tweet me @nickrobcoach

What’s been your experience of trying to talk to people about risks and problems and things that could go wrong?

Don't talk about doom and Gloom - take guerrilla leadership actions instead! Click To Tweet


The Antidote for too much Snippiness at Work is more Self-Compassion

I’ve noticed there’s a lot more snippiness at work at the moment than is good. People losing their temper and sounding-off; others fault-finding and blaming when there really isn’t any need. I’ve seen it in a couple of board-meetings and in some team-working just over the last few weeks.

Given the circumstances right now, it’s understandable that people might be more stressed than usual and end-up taking it out on others. The answer is to take better care of ourselves first.

Fortunately, I’ve also noticed that there’s much more awareness of how this kind of behaviour in a group or team setting is ‘sub-optimal’ than there was, say ten years ago.

Lots of really useful concepts have made their way into our everyday language:

Things like “Hangry” – a portmanteau of hungry and angry, where someone’s hunger is making them increasingly upset, irritable or even angry.

I’ve even heard people use the HALT acronym – derived from addiction recovery, it reminds people to take a moment (HALT) and ask if they are feeling Hungry, Angry, Lonely, or Tired. It seems simple enough, but when those basic needs are not met, people can be susceptible to destructive behaviours.

The importance of this kind of stuff, in terms of doing well at work, can’t be overstated. Years of co-operation can be written-off with a badly-timed and unfair outburst. Credibility as a competent manager can be lost by a poorly-judged public criticism. Trying to get stuff done when you don’t have a good relationship with the people you depend on is non-starter.

I use my own modified (and backwards) version of the Emotional Intelligence model to help unpick and re-wire how we behave at work. In simple terms, it looks like this:

Leading < Relating < Self-Management < Self-Awareness

If you want to lead well (which is basically, getting stuff done with the co-operation of others), then you need to be aware of how other people are feeling and doing, and manage your relationship with them. And you can’t do that without being aware of how you yourself are doing and then effectively managing your own behaviours.

Start with that Self-Awareness step:

  • Are you Hangry?
  • Do you need to HALT?
  • Are your anxieties taking over?
  • If you were able to be more compassionate with yourself, what would you do?

Let me know what you’re noticing about our self-management these days please?

Either leave a comment below if they’re still open at the time of reading, or tweet me @nickrobcoach.

We're more stressed-out than usual now and might take it out on others at work. The answer is to take better care of ourselves first. Click To Tweet