Preparing to succeed

Some sunkissed, sun-lounger moments over the last few weeks will doubtless have been spent thinking about the start of the final third of 2019 and how to prepare best for a strong finish to the year. What better time to share with you a summary of the key insights provided by Olympian and Paralympian coach, Keith Antoine, when he was a guest on the Success iD podcast sharing his views on the importance of preparation.

The business case for preparation

There’s a difference between preparation and catering for eventualities. People think they have to prepare for what’s going to happen, which is different to preparing for what may happen. Here’s where I am, here’s where I want to go, I will lay the ground as I want the ground to go, yet life has a tendency to mess that up. This can lead people either to feeling, “What’s the point in preparing as you can’t guarantee how it’s going to go?” or over preparing, which can be unhelpfully constraining. You need to look down the road, see the journey, predict what might happen, then prepare yourself for those things that may occur. Being prepared for unpredictability gives you flexibility. A practical way to deal with reality.

Flexibility in planning is key

Expect a plan not to go to plan. Break a goal into small sections – it’s more practical to get from A to B then think about what route the journey make take from B to C, rather than A – Z from the get go.

For example, if you were aiming for success at the next Olympics: Then track back, to where you would be in an ideal world, at each separate staging post, ie each championship along the way or the end of each season. Ideally. Not setting these in stone. The stepping stones will ultimately just be fond memories, or not so fond if you get beaten along the way…but that’s okay, as at that point in the journey you were working on these as building blocks for your ultimate success i.e. gold medal at the next Olympics.

So, for leaders, you need to hold on to both the macro and the micro – the end state and where you are now. Leaders have pressures of hitting targets by year end, etc, as that’s what they’ll be judged on, just like heading for the Olympics. It can seem conflicting to take care of today in the rush for tomorrow but you absolutely have to deal with today in the context of tomorrow. People get wrapped up in the busy and judge output as success, but can’t join that up with future goals. That’s normal.

In big complex organisations it can be harder to make those adjustments when people are looking to you but the principle is the same. The world of business is moving so fast now, it is likely that a fixed path will not be relevant by the time you reach the destination. A good leader needs to have the ability to say “you know this plan we had, we need to change it as everything we can see in the environment is telling us the world has changed so what’s the point of keeping to our plan when it won’t apply anymore.”

Coach Keith and I unpicking preparation as a topic.

Connection between preparation and creativity

Some feel that too much preparation stifles the spark of creativity. However, without a foundation of preparation, a core, a central theme, how can you channel creativity effectively? Keith enjoys the creative challenge of working with Paralympians – no two bodies are alike. Working with Richard Whitehead, the double gold medal winning 200m sprinter, preparation/research/understanding of the facts enabled him to innovatively overcome technical issues Richard was having with his prosthetic legs on the bend of the track, to achieve a faster performance and the ultimate success.

In a business context example, prepared key notes for a speaking event are your backbone, but presenting is more than reading something out. You need to read your audience and engage with them and adapt to them.

Preparation is actually freeing, not constraining, both in sport and in leadership. It liberates us as long as it’s servicing the end. For example, Keith’s detailed notes of each training session enable him to deviate from the plan due to unforeseen circumstances like injury or sickness, as he knows exactly the position they need to come back to. If you resist spending more time on building the right foundations, the building won’t be able to fight the vagaries of the actual or the organisational elements, many of which are unforeseeable.

The relationship between preparation and experience

Leaders with many years’ experience, should be able to prep more effectively, faster. They can more quickly work out what should/may happen, at the same time as accepting it’s not absolute and it’s not infallible.

Experience is a wonderful thing as long as it doesn’t stop you looking around and constantly monitoring what’s happening in the here-and-now. New concepts are popping up all the time and experience allows you to determine whether you should pay attention to it or not. A coach may say “This is the latest thing, we need to use this…” Great, take a look at it, however, just because it’s new doesn’t mean it’s better. Experience will help you make those judgements. But you need to be open to looking at it, not just pay lip service. You may have 20 years’ experience doing something one way but a new way looks better. It doesn’t make that 20 years wrong. It was probably fit for purpose then. Value the experience but don’t get locked in to the experience.

Biggest ‘bang for buck’ takeaway for this topic of Preparation for Success

What really makes preparation work is trusting yourself. It’s very easy to get locked into preparation because you’re trying to justify what you’re doing to others, and it’s very easy to concentrate on creativity because you want to validate others’ ideas, but at some point the decision has to be made about what direction you take and you have to trust in yourself, your beliefs, your system, as that’s what drives everything else. It’s easy to get lost in the system and the organisation.

There’s a place for all of that but the most effective way is to trust in yourself whilst being open to other influences. If you’re comfortable with yourself and trust yourself, you’ll be in the best position to work effectively.

To listen to the original broadcast of Preparation as Success with Keith Antoine, please subscribe to the Success iD podcast on Spotify, Stitcher or iTunes.

Are you destined to become a great leader?

It seems to me that as we look around politics and business life, there is a real dearth of great leadership.

What do I mean by great leadership? Let me clarify.

In my view a ‘great’ leader should not be confused with either a famous (or infamous) leader. Leaders can achieve notoriety for all the right, but also many of the wrong, reasons.  Leaders can achieve success through manipulation, threats, bullying and exclusion. To me, the truly great leader positively influences a group. They maximise human, financial and environmental capital, and then motivate those they lead to achieve great things.

A great leader does their job to the highest personal and ethical standards. In doing so, they gain the utmost respect from their peers and team, whether on the factory floor, running a scout troop or even leading a country.

Why do we need great leaders?

Great leaders are important to:

  •  Your team: The effectiveness of the majority is either positively or negatively impacted by their leaders. Research demonstrates that most people need, indeed want, to be led. Many have no desire to lead other people. That’s fine. But leaders of character will expect this broader group of people to lead themselves effectively, even if they (understandably) do not want to lead others. While there is some debate around whether a person would leave a job because of their leader, we know the experience of having a great leader and mentor in early years development, often stays with people throughout their entire career. And always remember that future great leaders may be members of your own team!
  • Your organisation: According to The Business Management Report, 2017: “Employees who are happy and feel in control are 57% more likely to be engaged and 53% more likely to be productive.” Failing to recognise that most people are not interested or courageous enough to step up and lead, is the single greatest mistake of the organisations that I have worked with over the last twenty years. Where they think about people at all, organisations still subscribe to the idea that, “people are our most valuable asset”. They’re not. Leaders of character are your organisation’s most valuable asset!

So, do you have what it takes?

It’s my assertion that anyone can be a great leader. Some may have more challenges to face along the way, but being a great leader is accessible to all.

But to be a great leader requires you to look deeply at your ‘self’.

If you aspire to lead at any level, you need to take time to analyse your current skill set, embrace fully the idea of being a leader and commit to continually developing your ‘self’ to become the best leader you can be.

What areas should you focus on?

In our book, Leader iD, David Pilbeam and I codified four years of research into five key human characteristics of highly developed leaders:

  • Discovery – You have a deep spirit and love of learning. You look for better ways of doing things, and shamelessly take ideas from one context and apply them to your own.
  • Determination – Leadership can be tough. You are going to need huge reserves of resilience, energy and courage to lead effectively when times are challenging – which they most certainly will be.
  • Perspective – Developmental psychology suggests that the more perspectives a person can hold indicates their levels of intellectual/emotional/cognitive/personal Challenge yourself to look at things from a different point of view.
  • Balance – Are you able to hold things in balance? Can you really challenge your team while also providing support? Can you manage speed and reflection? The need for both action and consideration?
  • Compassion – Your ability to be genuinely empathetic and supportive with those you lead.

Take action to become a great leader now

I believe that while we are all born with a range of abilities, the five characteristics above can be developed by anyone. But only if you build on your strengths, recognise and accept areas of improvement, and take time to work on those areas so they also become your strengths.

Practising your leadership is essential. Initially on yourself, then with your team. Work at leadership all the time. Reflect on success and failures. Why did you achieve the result you did? How could you have reached a different outcome. And don’t be afraid to ask for feedback, from peers, colleagues and your team.

In my experience, there are no shortcuts, to becoming a great leader. It is a lifelong commitment. But it is one that is within your grasp, if you’re prepared to focus on and develop your leadership ‘self’.

Dr Glenn P Wallis, Executive and Leadership Coach

This article first appeared on The Royal Society of Arts online blog 12 September 2018

Leader iD, written by David Pilbeam and Glenn Wallis is published by Pearson UK, Business Book of the Month in W H Smith Travel outlets August 2018 and is available to purchase at all good bookstores and online.

 

Why Leader iD is more than just a book

As experienced qualified coaches, David Pilbeam and I have always shared a vision to create affordable development tools for ambitious leaders in the early stages of their careers.

Leader iD, published this month by Pearson, and currently WH Smith Travel Business Book of the Month, is one such example. It’s filled with tools and advice, and is based on our experiences of coaching and developing successful leaders.

Anyone who buys Leader iD, can also take a FREE online Diagnostic Assessment  to assess their leadership profile and development needs.

Completion of the assessment results in a confidential Personalised Profile Report identifying each leader’s strengths and areas for improvement. That’s a great way to get the best from the book.

But the book is only half the story…

The Leader iD Development Programme

For those leaders who want to really invest in their development, we created an innovative Online Leader iD Development Programme.

It’s presented in practical modules and includes 45 podcasts, nine videos and a comprehensive Workbook with hundreds of questions, and a ‘deep-dive’ exercise to make the learning stick.

You could view the programme as a tailored roadmap for professional growth. It’s ideal for new and aspiring leaders and costs just £99 for individuals. That feels like a small price to pay for being the best leader you can be!

Could this be a solution for your leadership team?

At a time when L&D budgets are under pressure, it strikes us that we could also offer the Leader iD Online Development Programme to corporate customers (with a volume discount, of course)!

If you’re interested in a low-cost, easy access and comprehensive development programme for your future leaders, feel free to give me a call on +44 (0) 20 3858 7337 to learn more.

 

Dr Glenn P Wallis, The Leadership Coach

Leader iD, published by Pearson, is currently WH Smith Travel Business Book of the Month and is also available to purchase at all good bookstores and online.

©Glenn P Wallis Ltd

 

Coaching vs. Mentoring the C-Suite Executive’s Dilemma

There is a misconception that top senior executives and business leaders no longer require a leadership coach, rather an adviser (mentor) who has been in the role successfully in the past.

We, at Glenn P Wallis, believe that this is an assertion built on erroneous thinking. Each C-Suite Executive is very different to the next. It assumes that a mentor’s experience will be of more benefit at a different time and potentially in very different circumstances.

So that does beg the question – how many ex-C-Suite Executives are forward thinking qualified coaches with a commitment to CPD?

The areas of development that the C-Suite Executive requires, will determine the success of the support they receive. A former CEO may be a brilliant mentor, but would they know how to coach effectively? Would they possess the skillset to spot and explore such areas as:

  • faulty thinking
  • personal bias
  • self-limiting beliefs
  • values conflict
  • projection
  • transference
  • counter-transference?

It’s unlikely, unless they have sufficient development in the skills of coaching.

At Glenn P Wallis, it is our firm belief that highly advanced coaching skills, coupled with being a former CEO, would make for the best coaching solution. However, omit the former and you are left with high quality advice that may or may not be fit for purpose. Omit the latter, and what remains is high quality coaching.

In our experience, high quality coaching trumps high quality advice for long-term career success. Because as the old saying goes: give a person a fish and they can feed themselves for a day, or teach them to fish and they can feed themselves forever.

Glenn P Wallis

Coaching for Leaders and Executives

Click here for further information about Coaching for Leaders and Executives or Contact us

©Glenn P Wallis Ltd

3 ways leadership subtlety can improve your pace

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Senior leaders in today’s workplace are required to work quickly. Almost all the time. The expectation is that executives make often quite complex decisions, rapidly. Everyone has to iterate innovation at speed. Many senior leaders I am asked to work with are approaching exhaustion at the relentless pace of work. The challenge here is that the rate of change is not likely to slow down very much any time soon. So how can leaders learn to cope better in this lighting-fast environment? One way to achieve greater capability to work at this pace, is to develop leadership subtlety. In this post, we’ll explore what I mean by leadership subtlety; how it can improve your pace and how to develop the kind of nuance that the very best leaders demonstrate.

What is leadership subtlety?

For the purposes of this article, ‘leadership subtlety’ refers to leaders developing the capacity to respond to situations and to other people, in the widest range of ways. This flexibility of styles is a mark of mature leadership. Mature leadership is not a function of time in the role. There are plenty of examples of very new leaders who have the range of approaches available to them, that engages their team and ensures delivery of great performance. For the sake of balance, leaders who have been in post for a long time but lack the subtlety of leadership approach, are legion.
Leadership subtlety is the direct result of a developed leader. The human being that is the leader, has high levels of awareness, sophisticated worldviews that allow them to be comfortable with paradox, accept the views of others, even when (especially when) they do not accord with those of the leader. Leadership subtlety enables many views and truths to be held together.

What are the three ways leadership subtlety improves pace?

1. Leaders who display the sort of sophisticated thinking and action that we are talking about here, are more likely to focus on the job of leading because they don’t need to be operational. They are clear on their role. They avoid working at a level that is inappropriate to the job they have. This ‘role discipline’ provides greater impact and value across the organisation. Leaders focusing on leadership avoid getting wrapped up in the operational parts of their function. Not easy but vital.
2. Leadership subtlety is accessible to leaders who have a lower ego-need. Such leaders do not need to be the centre of attention, they encourage the ‘best people for the job’ to take control. Leaders who have lower ego needs tend to trust others more. Their ability to retain an idea of the ‘big picture’ allows them to remain more open to ideas and avoid the ‘my way or the highway’ trap so many leaders can fall into.
3. Linked to the previous point, a highly nuanced approach to leadership allows leaders to be more comfortable with glorious failures. Brave attempts that do not produce the desired results, are not an assault on the identity of the leader. Nor are such lacks of success a prompt for criticising the originators of the idea and plan. In such subtlety of leadership approach lies the germ of risk taking, innovation, rapid iteration, agile work. Why? Because people led by such leaders are not scared to make a decision, try something out or just crack on.

Develop yourself to develop your leadership

Developing your ‘Self’ as a human being enables you to live a more fulfilled life but also allows you to lead much more effectively. Your ability to align your actions to your values and your role, improves markedly. Encouraging the creativity and uniqueness of others, maximises the resources of those you lead. Remaining squarely in your leadership role supports high performance and confidence in others too. You working on you, will aid your ability to succeed as a leader in these fast-paced times.
Dr Glenn P Wallis is the Director of Wallis Partnership Ltd a specialised leadership consultancy. When your organisation is ready to make effective leadership a business imperative, you can contact us here we would be delighted to hear from you.

Stretch don’t snap

StretchHigh performers like to be stretched. Indeed they will push themselves, if you as their leader are not providing sufficient opportunity for them to learn, aim high and ultimately hit it out of the ball-park. There are several areas to be mindful of with these driven types however and it is to those ‘Red Flags’ that this post will now turn.

Coasting

If, as a leader, you fail to provide frequent chances for high performers to engage deeply in their work and to be challenged by it on an almost daily basis, they will get bored. That’s not a possibility, it’s a given. Where we are asked to work within our comfort-zone all the time, disengagement will naturally follow as sure as Q2 follows Q1. High performers live to learn and contribute in a way that has meaning for them. Sure, some may do it for reasons of ego or the accompanying reward but in my experience of working with hundreds of these high performers, most seem to do it for the reward that comes from the achievement itself, rather than just some extraneous recognition.

Burn-out

As a senior leader, when you look around your team and know that there is someone whom you trust deeply to deliver excellent work under often quite tight deadlines, the likelihood is that they become your ‘go-to’ person. Often. Usually, too often. Due to the fact that these high performers want the stretch and love the challenge, they are often not the best at saying ‘no’ to the extra workload you put their way. Before they (and you) know it, they can be overly relied upon and in deep danger of burn-out. That is the worst of outcomes for them and for you.

Lead differently
  1. Challenges for leaders when leading this kind of high performer are several, including your own ego and self-confidence, which may lead to you squashing the opportunities for this person in fear of the fact that they might out-shine you. My advice? Make your aim to be out-shone by members of your team. Regularly. Your ability to develop such key people is an important indicator of what a great leader you are, not the opposite.
  2. Rather than over-use the superstars, provide a greater stretch for those in your team who are not at that level yet. Ensure that these ‘nearly-theres’ are pushed and challenged, so that they can add more value to the work of your team. There is more capacity and potential in these people that is being left on the table, than there is from you and your current high performer, both of who (Hint! Hint!) are working very close to their maximum most of the time.
  3. Recognise that you and those in your team, work best under conditions of stretch. Whilst you or the context, may mean you mis-judge that from time to time, remember that moderate challenge helps focus the effort and makes sustainable high performance a much likelier outcome.

Dr Glenn P Wallis runs a boutique leadership consultancy, where he and his team help organisations perform better through developing higher quality senior leaders. If you want to discuss how you can raise the strength of your leadership bench then you can contact Glenn here.