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Archive for January, 2009

Businesswoman named “Katherine the Great” and “Superwoman” by the British Press tells Davos world leaders to invest in people and use Coaching.

“The human dynamic in any organisation defines it. Culture is not created by technology, powerpoint presentations or numbers on a spreadsheet. It is our people that create the long-lasting and sustainable threads that will continue to be woven throughout our organisational histories. Periods such as these will be defined by the leadership that is displayed. In essence, when the going gets tough, the fundamental difference between the right sort of leadership and the wrong sort will be exacerbated.

It will be a courageous leader who continues to focus on the investment in human capital during the coming months. Of all leadership traits, courage is one of the most vital, it differentiates leaders from followers. It will be ever more important to make the right decisions. In order for companies to gain true competitive advantage, they will need to attract, retain and develop the right people. Regardless of role or title, we owe it to all our people to enable them to maximise their performance potential.

It will take a courageous leader in these troubled and uncertain times, to take the long-term view and continue to develop their people. It is perhaps too easy to focus on the short-term and for many, this is exactly what they will be doing. However, it is precisely at moments such as this that leaders should be seeking to fulfil the potential of the people who they lead”.

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To head off into the weekend I thought I would share this note that I just received from a client I have been coaching for a little over a year:

One day, there was a blind man sitting on the steps of a building with a hat by his feet and a sign that read: ‘I am blind, please help.’

A Coach was walking by and stopped to observe. He saw that the blind man had only a few coins in his hat. He dropped in more coins and, asked for permission to change the sign, the Coach then took the sign and rewrote it.

He returned the sign to the blind man and left. That afternoon the Coach returned to the blind man and noticed that his hat was full of bills and coins.

The blind man recognized his footsteps and asked if it was he who had rewritten his sign and wanted to know what he had written on it.

The Coach responded: “Nothing that was not true. I just wrote the message a little differently.” He smiled and went on his way.

The new sign read: “Today is Spring and I cannot see it”.

Sometimes we need to change our thinking. If we always do what we’ve always done, we’ll always get what we’ve always got.

“Be the Change”

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Oganisations expect a great deal from their Executive Leaders. For starters, they ask them to acquire a long list of more or less traditional business skills in finance, cost control, resource allocation, product development, marketing manufacturing, technology, and a dozen other areas. They also demand that they master the management arts – strategy, motivation, persuasion, negotiation, writing, speaking, presenting, listening. In addition they ask them to take responsibility for organisational success, make a great deal of profit and share it generously. They also require them to demonstrate the qualities that define leadership, integrity and character – things like vision, fortitude, passion, sensitivity, commitment, insight, intelligence, ethical standards, charisma, resilience, courage, tenacity even humility. Finally, they insist that they should be friends, mentors or guardians, perpetually alert to all stakeholders best interests.

In other words they have to have the skills of St. Peter, Peter The Great and Houdini.

Consequently Executives wrestle daily with a host of open-ended challenges; how to admit that they don’t know something without losing face, how to balance short-term tactics with longer-term strategy, how to base sound decisions on inadequate data, how to achieve over-demanding targets whilst nurturing and developing people, how to find and retain talented staff, how to motivate people to do more with less, how to win and retain people’s trust, how to keep continuous processes fresh and sustainable, how to be a role model when they don’t feel like it, how to achieve a sensible work/life balance, whether to manage or lead or do both ……and so on.

Unfortunately the climate in most organisations encourages ‘closed’ behaviour where admitting to, what some consider to be, inadequacies is considered naïve and career limiting – and that’s exactly why Executive Coaches are needed.

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It is difficult to pin down the qualities needed for leading people and
organizations. Among the most common we hear about these days are integrity, mental toughness, a sense of vision, an ability to listen, to see the
big picture, to analyze concisely, to spot talent and to get the best out of
others. We read too about humility, empathy and self-knowledge.

Putting a finite term on Leadership is not possible – there is no one size fits all.What is true isthe life of a leader is full of paradoxes. The better you are in solving and living with these paradoxes the better you are as a leader:-

  1. Be near and take distance.
  2. Lead action and remain in the background
  3. Trust people and control them
  4. Be patient and determined
  5. Be a visionary and a doer
  6. Try to get commitment and decide alone
  7. Act and reflect
  8. Be self-confident and humble

In the words of Peter Drucker, one of the world’s most prolific writers on leadership, ‘it is not simply about doing things right, but about “doing the right thing’.

But the responsibilities of leadership, whether leading a small team, a
large corporate or a main board at group level, can weigh heavily when you
are facing them alone. We all seek to do the right thing and sometimes we
need help, particularly when our career journey is facing big change.

There has probably never been a time in corporate history when the demands of executive leadership have been so onerous, or when the image of the super-leaders has appeared so fragile.

There may be some individuals out there who are so brimming with confidence, so self-assured, so certain of the directions they need to take every single day that they can face the world alone. If so, I have yet to meet one of these. Much more common today in companies is the highly qualified, technically skilled, analytically sound executive who, in spite of all these exceptional qualities, is still in need of guidance.

This helps to explain why coaching has grown so much.

Coaching impacts on the whole of an individual’s life, with the clear outcome of increased effectiveness at work. It is unashamedly holistic. The more an individual sees different aspects of their life slotting in well together, the more effective they will be in their work situation.

Coaching is not a soft option. It is not cosy chats with no purpose. Coaching
is about focused conversations in which the individual feels both strongly
supported and effectively challenged and stretched. The individual being coached will both be exhausted and invigorated by the process. The long-term result will be a strong sense of purpose, a clarity about aspirations and a set of pragmatic and focused next steps.

Want to find out more – then submit a comment or send me a mail at colin.udelewis (at) mindtram (dot) com

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One book I recommend time and time again – in fact I have bought so many as I always end up providing clients a copy, is “How Life Imitates Chess” by Garry Kasparov.

Here’s a handful of great quotes from the book – this should help you understand why I think it is relevant to Leaders:

“The key to success – it’s not enough to work hard and to study late into the night. You must also become intimately aware of the methods you use to make decisions” and….

“Self-awareness is essential to being able to combine your knowledge, experience and talent to reach your full potential” – I love that and its absolutely true, without self-awareness it will be very difficult to reach your potential – this is a key area of my coaching progra.

“A CEO must combine analysis and research with creative thinking to lead his company effectively” and “No matter how sure you are with your conclusions you must back it up with analysis”.

And here he is on goal setting and planning “what is critical is to find our own paths to reach our peaks, to develop our talent, improve our skills and to seek out and conquer challenges we need to push us to the highest levels. And to do all this we first need a plan”

and on teams, structure and processes…..”ordered systems lose less energy than chaotic systems. If our pieces work together they can better transform one advantage into another without losing quality”.

And finally “results are the feedback from the quality of our decisions”.

If you have not read this great book I encourage you to go and do so – all my clients quote from it and have learnt from it – now its your turn…

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All leaders and all companies talk about the importance of communication.

So why do so many companies struggle to do it well? If you have any doubt, just ask your employees. Effective communication is common sense but not common practice. The explanation for this is twofold. Either leaders don’t actually know how to effectively communicate, or they don’t really believe in its effectiveness and therefore don’t do it.

During feedback meetings on leadership development I’ve never heard employees complain about getting too much good information from their manager. Employees have an insatiable desire for information, which is why I tell leaders that they need to communicate, as clearly and as often as possible.

When and how you disclose information to employees is at the root of making progress toward your top objectives, because communication is the glue that holds the company together. The better you communicate, the more trust you will create, which leads to increased commitment, action, and ultimately results.

Communication also means being direct and forthright with people in every conversation, letting them know where they stand, what’s needed from them, and when it is needed. Often good leaders can become great leaders by reshaping the way they talk.

Communication builds one of the most essential traits that all leaders must have – Trust.

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The benefits of setting goals

This is the first post on a series about the importance of Goal setting. We’re familiar with strategic plans, business plans, holiday plans, performance management plans, crisis management plans, and so forth. Yet advice on how to get ahead personally often goes unheeded – that’s advice on goal setting.

I hear a good deal of ambivalence and even scepticism expressed about goal planning activities: “Why have a plan when everything can change tomorrow?” or “Why have a plan when I might change my mind? When I operate best on gut instinct?”

The savvy person, however, knows that today’s white-water living conditions make a compelling case for effective personal planning skills. You need to be able to focus, but more important, you need to have a focus. “If you chase two rabbits, you will not catch either one,” a Russian proverb points out. (more…)

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