The Four Global Leadership Challenges

The recent International Leadership Association (ILA) conference in Brussels really was stimulating.  It was great to be in the company of people – and organisations – who understand the magnitude and importance of better leadership development.

My contribution was a chapter in the ILA’s latest book – Breaking the Zero Sum Game: Transforming Societies Through Inclusive Leadership – and talking to people about our ‘leadership routemap’ as a way of supporting peoples’ engagement in their leadership development.

One of the keynote speakers, General Petraeus, summarised the four global disruptive challenges we face as:

  • Energy
  • IT
  • Manufacturing
  • Life Sciences

Leading an action learning set yesterday, for experienced managers, I challenged them to think about the personal and organisational culture changes impacted by this disruption.

One member retold a situation involving 3D printers and how that’s transforming their organisation.  We looked at the ‘what’, ‘how’ and ‘who’ factors, even exploring the implications for this business’s suppliers.

What came through most clearly is the enhanced role these changes bring for technical experts.  Often people who’ve operated happily in their own field, are now expected to step forward into leadership across the organisation.

We explored the difference between project management (the ‘what’ and the ‘how’) and the impacts on people (the ‘who’) and what that means for leadership.

  • Leaders need to feel confident in ‘biting the bullet’ and making decisions; having the courage to make change based on evidence, not gut feel.
  • Team members need to feel involved in decisions and believe that their contribution is recognised and valued
  • Their talent needs to be harnessed – easy to do when managers blend coaching and leadership with management

Technical experts are particularly hard to retain if they don’t feel recognised.  They also need support to develop their leadership skills, not just their technical strengths.

We develop confident leaders and support managers to bring out the best in technical experts.

The coaching approach enables smart managers to bring out the best in people – to lead with presence whilst empowering others.  Managers who run teams this way get more done, feel more confident and achieve higher engagement scores. When true leaders learn how to develop their team, people really feel they have buy-in.  They are better able to contribute directly; to deliver in the best possible way.

There’s a proven way to get team members behind the manager, the vision and the mission, at the same time as coming up with their own ways to achieve it. Our accredited training has supported the development of some of the world’s greatest business leaders in organisations like Shell, BT, Network Rail, the NHS and many more around the world. It’s proven in the classroom and in practice. I see the dramatic improvements our coaching approach makes across organisations, measurable and visible on the bottom line.

People come for the process, but stay because they are engaged by the nuances of blending leadership, coaching and management.

The evidence for our successful approach comes from client organisations, from independent bodies like Gallup, and from academic institutions. It works at all levels of an organisation, in all industries and countries. And believe me, I’m not sensationalising here – leadership coaching rather than just ‘managing’ is globally effective – because though cultures differ, human nature doesn’t.

And in disruptive times, when leaders need to feel competent and confident, our flexible approach is a great fit.

The first step in this transformation is by learning tried and tested leadership coaching methods to put this approach into practice effectively. We run a course called Ignite, which lasts for 2 days. The next one is available in the UK on 27th/28th of November this year, or 29th/30th January 2018.

You can try us out by booking a place on our public courses, or bringing our approach in-house for 6 people or more.

If you have a duty to manage others or indeed, oversee those who manage, Ignite makes life easier.  Your managers will boost staff engagement, get results and shape a cohesive team, with fewer conflicts and lower churn.

If you’d like to know more, just call or email to speak to arrange a conversation.

Class sizes are limited to protect the learning experience of each person, so if you’d like to be on November or January’s course, you’ll need to book soon, or show interest today by contacting us direct.

Disruptive leader

Who’s A Disruptive Leader?

As a child, I was the nuisance one in the middle.  Always asking “why?”  Trust me when I say that it doesn’t win you friends.  Teachers think you’re disrupting the class and challenging their authority.  And I’m sure I wore my parents out.

So it was a surprise and a delight to me when I got to university as a mature student.  They wanted me to analyse, argue and challenge.

In my leadership development career I also discovered that, throughout history, it’s the ‘outsiders’ who change paradigms.

It wasn’t the candle-makers who developed the electric light bulb.  Henry Ford was a farmer’s boy who adapted assembly line technology to create the first mass produced automobile.  And while Kodak staff had developed digital ideas, the market impetus came from elsewhere.  If organisations have processes that work ‘well-enough’, chances are they will make incremental improvements but not introduce radical change.

After all, it’s too disruptive.  Right?

Today we have a term for these people: disruptors; and the good news is, it’s now a compliment.

Listening to General David Petraeus at a leadership conference recently, he mentioned four revolutions in the global economy:

  1. IT
  2. Energy
  3. Manufacturing
  4. Life Sciences

So if you’re working in one of these sectors, the chances are you’re working alongside ‘disruptive’ people.  And if you don’t lead them well, the chances are even higher that they’ll leave.

I was interviewed about my thoughts on disruptive entrepreneurs recently for an article in The Guardian Small Business Network and these are often the people who have left a corporation behind to start up their disruptive venture.

Of course, I totally understand that someone has to deliver ‘business as usual’.  And this comes to the heart of the matter.  If that is someone’s strength, then help them deliver today’s operational needs to the optimum.

But if it’s not their strength.  If someone has the strategic capability, the design vision, or the creativity to innovate, then either find ways to harness that energy or watch them move on.

And every member of the supervisory, management or leadership team needs to understand how to recognise these strengths and how to harness them.

Here’s four tips for leading your disruptors:

  1. Accept them for who they are
    We use the metaphor of filling a jar with pebbles – you may have a few big rocks to start with, but then there are still gaps. So you use a different size pebble.  And then sand.  And if you really want to ‘fill’ the jar, add water. Different skills, strengths, talents and cultures are all part of who we are and what we contribute to the workplace.  Monochrome is an art form, not a practical way of running today’s workplaces.
  2. Listen to them
    Find out what drives, inspires or motivates all your people; not just your disruptors.
  3. Help them devise their career plan
    So that you and they can see themselves still productively contributing to your organisation in the years ahead.
  4. Observe where and how they are most creative and productive.
    Find ways to optimise peoples’ creativity and productivity – in ways that support delivery today, and innovation tomorrow.
  5. Create working environments for disruptors
    Some companies provide ‘personal project time’, so that ideas can be worked on without the day-to-day interruptions. Others provide creative working environments – where groups can innovate and critique new ideas.

At the Forton Group we help leaders to think differently, build their communication and coaching skills, and lead people more effectively.  From the bottom to the top of the organisations, we believe there’s a wealth of untapped leadership talent, ready to be unlocked in your organisation, to the benefit of your bottom line.  They may be the stabilisers, or the disruptors and it’s the leaders job to support their success today, to bring more success to the organisation tomorrow.

If you’d like to know more, contact me at helen.caton@thefortongroup.com.

Leadership Development and training

The New Era of Abundant Leadership

In the fifteen years I’ve coached and developed leadership programmes I feel like I’ve seen it all. Those tired clichés of ‘here’s this unique thing I did; here’s a cute story. Follow my ten steps and magically you’ll be a leader too…’ Colleagues jokingly call it ‘leadership by lion taming’. I call it unrealistic.

There’s no magic bullet to better leadership. It’s a consistent high-level application of leadership behaviours. It’s about applying emotional intelligence to oneself and with others. It’s about flexing to the situation’s needs; not expecting the situation to bend to a single leadership style. It’s about delivering the kind of leadership needed right now, whatever the challenge.

And that’s why I developed the Leadership Routemap

It works just like the Tube or Metro maps. You find out where you need to go. You work out you’re going to get there. You work with leadership experts to strengthen your talents, address your development areas and coach you to your successful destination.

Let’s look at those high-performance behaviours for a moment. Developed by a research team at Princeton under Prof. Harold Schroder, they fall into four clusters: Thinking; Involving; Inspiring; Achieving

Let’s look at those high-performance behaviours for a moment. Developed by a research team at Princeton under Prof. Harold Schroder, they fall into four clusters: Thinking; Involving; Inspiring; Achieving. That’s pretty neat. They’re things we can all do. We can all get better at.

So what is it about ‘leadership’ that people make so darn difficult? It’s because we have a particular image of who a leader is, that gets in our own way.

  • Women tell me “I’m not a leader” yet they’re running multi-million projects involving hundreds of people.
  • People look to ageing white men as their leadership role models; when what they really admire is power, money or status.
  • People who talk about leaders as ‘heroes’ because they’ve fallen for the Hollywood myth.

It’s time for an era of abundant leadership. Where people at different levels in the organisation step up and take responsibility: men and women. Where the whole team succeeds. Where everyone’s contribution and effort is valued.

Where the secret to leadership development is to support people to do it for themselves. To get consistently better at the behaviours that make a real difference. Without telling them what to do. 

It’s time to let the real leaders emerge. So they fail and try again? They fall over and pick themselves up. So they make an idiot of themselves in front of the team? The combination of learning and persistence are powerful tools in the hands of a leader.

It’s time for the ‘Coaching for Leadership Behaviours’ programme. A blend of ELearning and Live-Learning for experienced coaches looking to build their skills.

Ours was the first – and still the best – leadership coaching programme to be accredited by the International Coach Federation. People love our learning environment. And where better than the relaxed environment of an Italian Summer School to experience it in? Because it doesn’t have to be hard or difficult. We’re deliberately making this a rich, fun, interactive experience – where you get to bring your wisdom and coaching skills to bring out the best in the leaders you coach.

It’s time to let the real leaders emerge. You can be a part of it. Sign up for the Coaching for Leadership Behaviours programme.

Our inaugural programme happens on the 9th/10th September 2017 in Umbria, Italy. Find out more at info@thefortongroup.com Be part of the new era of abundant leadership.

Leadership Development and training

How Cognitive Bias gets in the way of your career aspirations

I’m speaking at a Women in Logistics event this week to launch a study which my company, The Forton Group, supports. The idea is to explore how we can help businesses make career transitions easier for women and minorities without having to be “Bolshie” in this traditionally male-dominated sector.

I love the word ‘Bolshie’. It’s got enough humour to neutralise that whole ‘bossy woman’ thing. Because that’s how people have responded in the past – particularly in male-dominated work environments – to intelligent and ambitious women and minorities.

I’ll be talking about subconscious bias – what this is – how we believe it gets in women’s way of stepping up. I’ll also be helping participants to identify signs of bias and what to do about it. I’m looking forward to hearing peoples’ stories and experiences; capturing ideas on what works and what gets in the way.

What’s the theory?

There are three ideas behind the study:

1.   It’s more important to have a behavioural or performance focus in the workplace and then weave in the diversity and inclusion agenda. This means recognising and valuing skills, contribution, outcomes an impacts, over and above our bias and judgements towards someone’s gender, race, religion or culture. The reason behind this is that, paradoxically, when we focus on peoples’ strengths and what they actually deliver, diversity and inclusion levels rise. When we focus on the D&I agenda it increases bias against those ideas.

2.   Bias is about ‘judgement and non-judgement’.  High performance should be about How people notice and judge people by their actions. Yet their personality or our perception of their attitude, beliefs or intentions get judged too. Being seen to be ‘Bolshie’ is simply someone’s judgement on another’s actions – the way they speak or their body language – not what they deliver.

3.   It’s vital to identify the signs of bias. Self-awareness is key; when we see how we are all impacted by conscious and unconscious bias and have tips and techniques for dealing with our biases, then things can change. Trying to change others is a fool’s errand. “Being the change” – as Gandhi said – is the first step.

So what is ‘bias’?

I’ve been reading articles about cognitive bias for years now. And following the Wikipedia article that tracked the increasing number of common biases. When it got to 72 types, I realised – as did many colleagues in the learning and development field – that a simpler approach to the topic was needed.

This is my definition:

“Bias is a quick response, mixed with judgement about a person. It’s caused by information overload and snap judgements. It is over-simplification, and making stuff up, about someone.”

It was great to find that others shared my desire for simplicity. I’m indebted to Buster Benson (https://medium.com/thinking-is-hard Twitter: @Buster) for sharing his ‘Cognitive Bias’ cheat sheet, which I’ve drawn on. Again, put simply, Buster puts cognitive bias into four quadrants which I summarise as:

  1. The desire to simplify
  2. The desire to make stuff up
  3. The desire to take snap judgements
  4. The feeling of information overload

We simplify because we’re in a hurry. We look for pattern matches. People who fit ‘our pattern’ are friends. Therefore anyone who doesn’t fit our pattern isn’t our friend. Therefore, they must be a threat.

Notice how the pattern match takes us almost instantly to snap judgements, and to making stuff up about someone. When we feel like our brains are in information overload, this is what happens

What works to neutralize bias?

Play a different inner game

Although I’m saying that, at work, we should be judged on our behaviours and performance – not our personality, gender, colour or culture – what needs to shift is on the inside. Fundamentally, we need to reduce brain overload. Seek clarity. Give ourselves enough time to make better decisions.

Here’s some tips – notice how –

  • You judge yourself or others
  • Self-judgement holds you back: fear of looking stupid, or standing out are common.
  • Self-judgement gets transferred to others. What you judge yourself for, you’ll judge others by.

One way to shift your thinking is to look for the positive behaviour. How can you support yourself? How can you support others?

Choose presence over absence. Fears, uncertainty, jealousy, anger are all absences that leave us feeling without control. They fill a dark vacuum where clarity and presence should be.

Three steps

Every-day feedback is invaluable. Not the end of the week. Or the six-monthly or annual appraisal. Every day you meet a colleague or member of the team; ask for, and offer, feedback. It won’t always be accepted, by the way…

At the Forton Group we teach a method of giving and receiving feedback in our classes that supports higher performance and delivery levels, and helps people feel supported; especially in those all-important appraisal conversations.

Other things we can do to support peoples’ self-esteem is to remind them (and ourselves) about their track record. Keep a note of your successes; sharpen up your CV to remind you of your achievements.

Coaching and mentoring are invaluable workplace tools for reducing bias and improving performance. They can be transformational in peoples’ lives too. I recently created the Coaching and the Leadership Routemap™, so that every organisation can benefit from a better coaching/mentoring programme. Find out more at www.thefortongroup.com

Next Steps

The ideas set out here are tentative theories. The findings from the Women in Logistics event will form part of our study – the next step of which is to undertake a wider online survey. Our purpose is to uncover ‘how to’ steps for others, and to make these easier for others to walk along. The bigger context is diversity and inclusion: gender issues specifically, yet we do expect to touch on issues like culture, race, sexuality and age too.

If you’re interested in taking part – contact me via LinkedIn or at helen.caton@thefortongroup.com

talent development mindset

If everyone’s talented, what do you do?

 

I managed to catch an interesting programme on Radio 4 last week on the topic of ‘Talent’.  If you’re in the UK, you can catch it here.  It’s well worth 30 minutes of your time.

Like the presenter, I love the talent development projects we get involved in.  We get to work with a great mix of enthusiastic and committed people.  Highly intelligent.  Highly motivated.

And then they bump up against the filtering mechanisms and outright biases that get littered in their way, like tacks on the road to success.

Whether it’s a burst tyre, or simply a burst ego, their personal mindset can help them overcome most obstacles.

  • For some people these are the normal setbacks and challenges of life, where mistakes are genuinely seen as ways to learn and grow
  • It’s also becoming clearer that peoples’ inner values and emotional intelligence create tenacity, determination and resilience.
  • Then there’s the qualities that get the job done – the grit, hard work, sticking at it and building skill.

So great.  Mindset is important.

But how do you discern the best talent for the people, project or programme leadership roles?

The notion of ‘War for Talent’ results from a scarcity mindset, fuelled by people who profit from the churn in recruitment.  It over-values some people, and writes off others.  Both routes add to the expense of talent development

And there’s another hidden obstacle.  People of the generation that’s worked hard to pass exam hurdles all their lives, are more likely to be biased against the ‘lifelong learning’ mentality.

The good news is that intelligence is improving – as education becomes better and more widespread.

Educators know that people, young and old, in empowering environments, do better than those where no-one believes in them.

  • If we had a parent and a teacher who believed in us, we were doubly fortunate. Either one is better than none.
  • Today, our bosses and the workplace classroom tutors, facilitators and coaches are the teacher/parent substitutes.

The good news is that workplace learning challenges really add value – measurable in IQ and EQ – in our work lifetimes.

So what is the best way to develop talent?

I know that you have a development mindset.  Otherwise you wouldn’t be reading this.  But that development mentality needs to run through your organisation like a stick of rock.

So it’s not enough for the HR or L&D department to identify people with talent.  Their line managers need to believe in them too.

The solution is to develop everyone.  Give everyone challenging things to do and see whether – and how -they succeed.

Just, not only for leadership and management roles.

Everyone can have a Personal Development Plan, and every leader and manager can have the role of developing their people.

The secret is to identify what potential people have, rather than identifying solely for leadership potential.

Some of your people may have a preference for technical excellence alone.  In which case, don’t give them people or projects to organise or lead.

Others may have more general, project management potential.  Great.  Because getting the day to day done is vital.

And some people may just have those crucial leadership qualities that organisations need to succeed beyond the day to day.

Of course, it does require that your organisation stops demanding everyone has to reach the same elevated section of your behavioural or competency framework, and lets people follow the direction that their talent profile points them towards.

In this way you don’t waste the talented resources you do have – you utilise them to their optimum.  Because when you do that, chances are you’ll be tapping into their discretionary effort.  Because they’ll want to take on the challenges that best suit their talents.

And you’ll get better results.

If you want to nurture your team’s talent 2017, just get in touch.

 

New Years Resolutions

Your guide to New Year’s Resolutions success!

Love them or loathe them – what you need to know about New Year Resolutions

It’s a great party ice-breaker – “What’s your New Year Resolution?” – but how many of your good intentions actually turn into reality?

We’re celebrating 15 years of leadership development and coaching at the Forton Group and this issue comes up every year, without fail.

Because people do want to succeed.  They do want to be happier, healthier, more fulfilled at work, and in relationships that work.

To turn that dream into reality – here’s what you need to know:

  1. Resolve is a finite resource, so tap into your values too.
    Keep your resolve for those make or break moments, like: “no thanks I won’t have another”, or “yes, I will get up now and go for a run”.
    Don’t expect your resolve to have any power at all when you are hungry, thirsty, tired or stressed.  In those moments, simply be kind to yourself.
    There’s something more powerful and enduring than resolve, and it’s your values.  Knowing what’s important about your resolution – why you are doing it – will stand you in good stead as you step towards your goals.
  2. Timing is everything.
    Find out what time of day you’re at your best, and do your highest-value work, or resolution-requiring effort, then.  Don’t go food shopping when you’re tired or hungry (notice the theme here?).
    Exercise at the time of day that gives you energy.  Meditate, pray or do yoga when you feel the most benefit.
  3. Making your life easier is not a crime.
    Where you can automate your life, or create systems that support your goals, do it.
    Whether that’s setting up an automatic transfer into your savings account for your holiday fund, or having a stock of cholesterol-lowering drinks in the fridge; or identifying the best cigarette substitute for your health.
    Invest your time in setting up these systems, so that you don’t have to think twice about taking the actions you need.  If it’s easy to do, you’ll be using less of your valuable resolve.
  4. It’s about what you don’t have around you, as much as what you do have.
    If there’s no chocolate in the house, you won’t eat it.  Which of course, does beg the question about what to do with those well-meaning gifts from friends and family.
    My personal plan is to gift these boxes to the local food bank.  Remove temptation and bring pleasure to others, at the same time.
  5. It’s about who you have around you.
    Many blogs on New Year Resolutions will tell you to socialise your goals.  Which is why we chat about them at parties, of course.
    My extra advice is ‘pick your buddies carefully’.  If you’re trying to go smoke-free, then your smoking or vaping friends aren’t necessarily your best supporters.
    Of course they want the best for you; yet you need to have the best people – for you – to give you the smoke-free support you need.
  6. It’s about breaking your goals down into easy steps.
    Unless you were given a magic wand for Christmas (and I’d check the small print in the guarantee if I were you), there’s no instant solutions.
    If your goals were that easy, you’d have achieved them long ago.
    Break each goal down into easy steps.  Use coloured pens, or sticky notes; anything to make this a fun activity.
  7. Write it down.
    Now you’ve had a think about your goals, write the steps down and answer these questions:

    1. What’s the first thing you need to do?
    2. What’s the easiest thing you do next?
    3. What’s the most challenging thing about your goal?

For this last point, spend time finding ways to overcome the challenges.

  1. Rewrite your goals as positives.
    Many people say “I’m not going to….(have another cigarette, eat that chocolate)”.
    Unfortunately, by repeating this you’re imprinting the idea even further into your mind.
    So state your goal as a positive: “I’m going smoke-free this week.”
  2. Know your triggers.
    So many of our clients are triggered by stressful situations to fall back on their undesirable behaviours.
    Whether it’s salty snacks with a drink before dinner; reaching for a cigarette after a stressful meeting; or falling onto the sofa after the children have gone to bed.
    Knowing what triggers you is an important step to cutting it out.
  3. Make it a habit.
    Going smoke free this week is an example of a great step, positively stated. And this week, and this week.
    Yes, there may be side-effects, which is why it’s important to know your triggers
    And yes, this is where your resolve is needed – or perhaps a lower-risk substitute to support you through your trigger points.

Do what it takes to support your new habit.

  1. Falling off the wagon.
    It happens to us all. I have met people with an iron will and determination to achieve their goals.  Yet most of us are all-too-human.
    A single step backwards isn’t failure; it’s just a slip.
    When we pick ourselves up, forgive ourselves and remind ourselves of what’s important about the goals, will help us to move forward in the direction we really want to go.
  2. This is about you.
    This is your life; each moment is precious and no one can live it for you.
    I know how trite this can sound, but when we combine ownership and control of our own choices, with the support and encouragement of those who care for us, wonderful things can happen.
    Those dreams can, and do, become a reality.

And if you need extra support in achieving your goals, a coach can really help make that extra difference.  Whether it’s a work ambition, or a personal goal, you can achieve your New Year Resolution.

Here at Forton we have coaches around the world, on tap in multiple languages to help you achieve your goals.

From all our colleagues, we wish you a happy holiday season and here’s to making 2017 your best year ever.

The potential and limitations of leadership development

The Potential and Limitations of Leadership Development

It’s good to pause and reflect on the year’s achievements.  2016 has been dubbed the ‘post-truth’ era and this is one trend that we at the Forton Group feel completely out of step with.  Our focus this year has been on what’s been proven to work in the field of leadership development.

Evidence-based development has never been more vital.  Every hour we spend investing in people needs to be underpinned by a rationale.  Not just because of the time and money wasted; but because leaders and managers need to believe in the steps they are asked to take.

Here are our top-four evidence-based leadership development areas:

  1. The Schroder high-performance behaviours; 12 behaviours in four clusters or themes.  Do more of these and you’ll improve your results.
  2. The Goleman emotional intelligence model: practice these four steps and relationships will improve in all areas of your life.
  3. Coaching skills and coach-like leadership: four basic skills to improve individual and team performance; five effective steps, underpinned by leadership principles and an appreciation of the complexity of today’s work context. Coaching gets peoples’ buy-in; use it to improve engagement and make change happen more smoothly.
  4. Above all, support skills practice.  If your leadership development programme doesn’t have a coaching element, an action learning element and a strategic project element, then quite simply, you’re wasting time, money and effort.

Of course, leadership development methods do have their limitations.  They’re not a ‘one size fits all’ activity.

Yes, you can read about the theoretical framework behind each of the models above.  You can even register for our online learning and watch or listen to the material.  But to retain, and then to apply learning, we need an emotional connection to it.

This emotional connection comes through live interaction and learning.  Whether that’s live distance learning – by phone or internet – or in-person learning, doesn’t matter.  It’s the connection to the content that matters.

We can all read about building empathy and its importance, but it takes the experience of getting in touch with the feeling to make it real.  As one of our students once joked, “You’re making me feel empathy for this person!”

And even live-learning has its limitations.  Whatever the debate about retention of learning, nothing is truly retained until it has been practiced and turned into a habit.

One reason we practice ‘real play, not role play’ in our live learning is that we’ve heard too many students tell us that what they acted out in other training programmes was not what they’d practice in the real world.   We bring the real world into the classroom – and then continue that real world application support after the live-learning experience.

This turns theory into practice and practice into a habit of emotionally-intelligent, high performing leadership behaviour.

And why are the coaching skills so important?

Driving capacity for coaching into the organisation, rather than having it sit at the top layer like icing on a cake, means that everyone builds their internal capacity for excellence.

One-to-one coaching reaches a few people – typically high performance and senior people – and good work is achieved there.  Yet introducing coaching skills programmes into the belly of the organisation changes the whole culture – one conversation at a time.

In 2017 we celebrate our 15th year of leadership development, and look forward to working with clients including the UN and the NHS; we’ll be working with HR business partners, finance experts, engineers and technical leaders, as well as sales managers and their teams.

And, as we leave 2016 and it’s ‘post-truth’ world behind, we’re delighted to have received an award from CV Magazine for HR & Training.   I’ll skip the full acceptance speech and just say ‘thank you’ to our clients and partners for nominating us.  We appreciate it.

If you need to see tangible improvements in your leadership and culture in 2017, just get in touch.

Leadership

We’re off to see the Wizard

Leadership“A more collegial style of leadership is too often characterised as a weakness.”

 

 

This was a quote from Archie Brown, author of ‘The Myth of the Strong Leader’, reported in the Guardian newspaper last week, because it’s a book on Bill Gates’s reading list.

Bob Hughes and I interviewed the author a while back – you can listen to it here, and read the book review too.

What struck me at the time was how we get seduced by charismatic leaders.  The celebrities; the sportspeople; the men and women in positions of authority.

All of these people can be leaders; absolutely.  The potential is there.  But there’s a difference between falling for the charisma and really displaying leadership qualities and behaviours.

Over the years we’ve interviewed people who’ve climbed Everest, coached top sportspeople and sailed around the world.  The key difference we’ve noticed is between those who focus on their own achievements – great as they are – and the power of being one of the team.

Tracey Edwards MBE, for example, told us that her role of Captain in the Whitbread Round-the-world race in the first women-only crew – was ‘accidental’.  There were far more experienced people in the crew than her.  She is, of course, being modest.  Her engaging leadership style and the way she respects the technical abilities of her crew are second to none.

Tracey is a great motivational speaker too.  But that’s often the only thing some celebrities have going for them – the ability to look and sound good.

Today we live in the ‘plasticine’ era – we’ve all got feet of clay.  And the media are happy to expose our shortcomings.  Especially when we stand up for something, and raise our heads above the media parapet.

As leaders we can be flexible in our approaches, but our values and authenticity need to shine through.

But don’t mistake this collegiate approach with weak leadership.  Whether it’s a more collegial, a more coach-like, or more inclusive approach to leadership, engaging leadership draws on the power of the whole team – not one individual.

And it’s why a systematic approach to leadership development matters.  Building leadership on a foundation of consistently-observed behaviours that evoke high performance in the people around us is essential.

Leadership qualities build on our emotional intelligence too.  Which is why the Forton leadership programme combines emotionally-intelligent leadership styles and competencies, along with the high-performing behaviours.

So whether you need to develop your technical leaders to be more engaging, your sales-force to be more effective, or your managers to get their best out of your people –  and you want tangibly better leadership – get in touch. You’ll find us at +44 (0) 345 077 2980 option 1, or email info@thefortongroup.com.

Leading highly technical teams

Leading highly technical teams

I’ll never forget the presentation delivered by the IT Developer who wanted to share every single piece of her brilliance with the rest of the room.  She lost me after 5 minutes – and I was her boss.  The rest of the room had long given up the will to live by the end of the 30 minute slot.

It’s a common challenge that IT project managers and their customers come to us with increasing regularity: how to lead and develop technical experts.

Leadership is an ever-changing landscape because every situation is different.  And so are human beings.  Yet we need to find ways to lead all kinds of people successfully.

There are common threads however.

  • The IT expert who wants to be acknowledged for their brilliance
  • Introverts who find it hard to pick up the phone
  • Details people who wonder why their five page email doesn’t get a reply

And then there’s the team dynamics.  Often teams are seen as fixed for the life of a project and this can damage the ability of the team to deliver.  The person you need the most to meet your programme deadlines might also be the most disruptive member of the team.

If someone with a highly theoretical mindset is expected to shift roles and be at the forefront of delivery, it can be a recipe for disaster.

And where does ‘leadership’ fit into all this?

Leaders need to have a practical understanding of the different leadership skills required of them.  They need emotionally-intelligent competences.  Not just so that they don’t get frustrated when the IT expert wants to show off their brilliance in the middle of a meeting – but so that they can support and develop that individual to use their skills well.

Leaders need to have a flexible mindset.  Confident in their judgement, so that, if team changes need to be made for the good of the project, the rationale is clearly conveyed.

The Forton Group was built to support people from technical backgrounds to be better leaders.  We’ve worked with scientists, IT and FinTech experts, engineers, medics and more.

What’s common to all these people is a consistent approach to leadership development that they can get their heads around – and apply in the workplace – today.

One that acknowledges their technical leadership and expertise, but helps them develop their relationship and people skills to best effect.

Once we understand, as leaders ourselves, that how we behave, how we model leadership and how we support others to develop – as successful members of the team – has a practical and immediate impact – change becomes much simpler.

Of course, some of them want more letters after their name –which is why we’ve developed a post-graduate level 7 programme in strategic leadership and management.  Others just want to understand the foundations and find ways to apply their leadership skills

So whether you need a taster, a 2 day-workshop or a year-long programme to develop your technical leaders, and you want tangibly better leadership, get in touch.  You’ll find us at +44 (0) 345 077 2980 option 1, or email info@thefortongroup.com.

Leader Development is more than chess

Leadership Development – more than a chess game

I’m not a great chess-player, yet I did enjoy reading about the world championships in New York recently, and of course it got me thinking about leadership development

A ‘game of chess’ is more than a game.   As well as the political intrigue, the public pronouncements on the fitness of the players – which sound like a more genteel version of a pre-fight boxing bout – there are the celebrities and the hangers-on; the rivalries and the red-carpet receptions.

The big difference between the games of today and the cold war matches is that fans can follow on their smartphones – if they don’t have the time or funds to watch the matches live.

And what’s this to do with leadership?

Players talk about their opponents ‘resilience’; their ‘adaptability’ or ‘flair for creativity’.  There’s more than one match at stake.  They represent the wit and intelligence of their countries.

Like the chess grandmasters, it’s vital that leaders know and understand each and every one of their people.  What they are capable of.  What their strengths are.

By the way, they don’t seem to have a term for female ‘grandmasters’ yet.  But there’s as many women in the world top ten as on Boards in the FTSE 350 (20%).

It can sound dispassionate to describe moving people around like on a chessboard – yet it is vital that everyone is in the best role for their skills and strengths – at just the right time.

In today’s uncertainty and pace of change, it makes a huge difference to know that you have the right people in the team, ready to flex and shift as situations demand.

Yet, too often, we’re still working in more rigid ways.

Someone gets a job title and that becomes a fixed part of their mindset.  They become less task-focused and more status-aware.  Something a team member was willing to contribute to, now becomes ‘beneath them’ – and I’m not talking about making the tea here.

It matters even more when rewards such as pay rises and promotions are less available.  Job title and relative position – “I am a Knight and you are a Pawn” take on heightened importance.  And it never pays to underestimate the pawns…

So helping people stay in a flexible mindset by developing their leadership skills and behaviours is a vital solution.

This isn’t about position.

Today’s leadership development is about evidenced-based competencies; consistent application, flexed to the situation leaders face in the moment.  It’s about stepping up and taking responsibility – wherever we are in the pecking order.

What’s so powerful about the new leadership development is that it’s emotionally-fulfilling too.  Leaders grow and develop their own skills and have the satisfaction of seeing their teams becoming more empowered and delivering better performance too.

So if your job is to improve the performance of your people and teams – whatever the challenge – start thinking like a grandmaster.

And if you want tangibly better leadership, get in touch. You’ll find us at +44 (0) 345 077 2980 option 1, or email info@thefortongroup.com