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.

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

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 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

Leadership Development: Shiny New Gadgets

I’m a big fan of gadgets.  Technology.  Software.  In fact anything that cuts down on life’s complexity and enables me to focus.  What I won’t do is throw out perfectly useful tools; or bet the house on an untested scheme.

In terms of the ‘influence curve’, which separates the innovators from the early adopters, I sway between these options.  And I’m definitely on the ‘safe’ side of the chasm when it comes to budgets, cashflow and P&L.

Which is why I look to the evidence.  To the tried and trusted.  Especially when it comes to leadership development.

Having experienced the wrong end of the personality profiling fads, I look for what works.  Not the latest shiny gadget.  So when clients ask for the latest thinking.  I point to Aristotle (died 322 BCE).

 “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit”

This attitude is vital when we develop strategic leaders.  Which is why we apply a consistent high-performance behaviours (HPB) framework, that people can easily understand and apply.

Strategic leaders stand out by doing five things well – they –

  • Behave in leader-like ways consistently
  • Systematically apply what works
  • Are ready to be bold and root out what doesn’t work
  • Develop others

And, perhaps most importantly of all, they –

  • Understand the importance of being strategic

Yes we stretch and challenge leaders.  But we don’t offer shiny new ways to do that.  Their world is stretching and challenging enough.  It’s complex and uncertain.

We help leaders do more of what they’re good at – consistently and systematicallyDiscard out-of-date ways of working.  Be more flexible.  More agile.  More responsive.

Help them draw on the strengths of others around them.  Especially those energetic, better educated, full-of-creative-ideas people that lesser leaders would feel threatened by.

The good news is that, by developing strategic leaders in this way, two main benefits emerge:

  • They’re building bench strength and leadership capacity in the organisation
  • They’re making their own lives less stressful as a result

I interviewed a regional manager who spent 3 days every week travelling to see his direct reports, dotted around the south of England.  Much of this time was spent on the road.  Little was spent with his people.  And when he was there, he was distracted by other demands on his time.  The phone.  The emails.  The instant messaging.

Our programme helped him recognise the waste for what it was.  And he did four things as a result – he –

  • Cut down the number of trips he made
  • Made them shorter
  • Committed to really being with his direct reports when he was there in person with them. No emails.  No phone calls.  Just eyeball to eyeball.
  • Got proficient at that most hated of time and money-saving gadgets: the conference call.

He didn’t just decide to host these calls, he explored the best ways to be effective.  He encouraged everyone to contribute; to share insights; and to stay engaged while listening to others.

He told me how he benefited personally by being more office-centred, and how his home life improved too.  The team felt more engaged with him, and took a lot of the day-to-day challenges off his back.

He didn’t put a financial figure on it, but the organisational savings were clear to him.

The most effective leadership development enables people to be more effective as a result of their own insights.  Unpredictable?  Probably.  Effective? Definitely.  At Forton we deliver the practical support leaders and managers need to apply these skills, consistently.

In ways we can’t predict, you’ll benefit from more effective and productive teams, and higher employee engagement scores too.

At Forton we change cultures and support leadership development from bite-sized to week-long events.  And we can show you how to demonstrate return on your investment (ROI).

To experience this for yourself pick up the phone.  You’ll find us at +44 (0) 845 077 2980 option 1, or email info@thefortongroup.com.

 

Leadership Development – Silver Bullets Only Kill Werewolves

It’s human nature to want to keep our relationships simple.  Yet it’s a key leadership task to keep on top of the complex interplay of different relationships.  Put simply: our team members, colleagues, bosses and the wider stakeholder network.  It’s no wonder people find it difficult.

And of course, all this focus on others means that we neglect our own needs in this complex mix.

One solution is to analyse these groups and assess them by their power, influence or interest in your work.  A neat process, but one which doesn’t take human factors into account.

And it’s often in those that things can go horribly wrong.  Misunderstandings, lack of acknowledgement or recognition for good work, resentment of others.

Here at Forton, we regularly get asked to design workshops and programmes that help leaders and managers with ‘problem staff’: those ‘difficult conversations’, performance management; or customer relationships.

People typically ask us something like “What can I say when….?”

At the heart of these requests is the desire to have a single solution; a silver bullet.  But silver bullets only kill werewolves; sorting out relationships requires a more human approach.

Too often, when we go into organisations with these kinds of issues, we find that the basics for better relationships – at all levels – aren’t in place.

Here are three steps that you can put into place and share today:

Step 1: Make sure managers are putting their own needs first, so that they’re better able to deal with others’ needs too.

An insurance client told us a fascinating statistic recently: dentists who work fewer days each week earn more money.  This is because they have better relationships with their patients; plus they make better clinical and business decisions too.

If that’s what we need from our leaders and managers, investing in smarter working – not longer hours – is the easiest and first solution.

Step 2: Ensure that managers and leaders know about the need to give regular acknowledgements of their team’s good work. 

People need a higher ratio of praise to criticism than managers typically think.  The Gottman Ratio is 6:1 for organisations (5:1 for personal relationships if you want to improve that area of your life).

Step 3: When it’s criticism that’s required, use a consistent feedback model that works – both for the giver, and the receiver of feedback. 

The best way to give (and receive) feedback is to make it future-focused around what success looks like.  Most people look backwards and focus on what went wrong and who’s to blame.

The other step you can take, is to give your leaders and managers some perspective – and distance from the day-to-day – by investing in a leadership development workshop.

At Forton we change cultures and support leadership development through bite-sized, half-day and week-long events.

Whichever behavioural framework you use in your organisation, our programmes will align with your goals.  And if you need to demonstrate return on investment (ROI) evidence, we can show you how.

To experience lasting performance improvements in your organisation, try us out.  Attend our next open leadership Ignite event – on 5/6 December in the heart of England. 

Or bring this workshop in-house with 6 people or more.

Pick up the phone at +44 (0) 845 077 2980 option 1, or email info@thefortongroup.com.

 

Coach training for experienced coaches: the Forton difference

If, like me, you’re an experienced coach working with executives and leaders in corporate settings, you may be wondering why you need to invest in specific leadership coaching training. Of course, you may be about to renew your credentials, which is a great reason to do this!

Here at The Forton Group, we provide a wide range of flexible ways of getting the CCEUs and supervision hours you require for ICF renewal.

But what’s different about leadership coaching, why should you add it to your kitbag and why The Forton Group? Continue reading

Where do the best ideas come from?

We are fortunate to live in a lovely village in the heart of England, close to the centre of the UK motor industry. Not so much a mass-manufacturing area these days, instead there are specialist ‘advanced engineering’ firms.  They support projects like the Formula 1 teams in nearby Silverstone.  Our neighbours in the village include several engineers, some retired.

There’s an admirable perfectionism about these people, though it makes for a very competitive environment sometimes. They also demonstrate very well the notion of transferable skills. Continue reading

The best leaders have a hinterland

“Hinterland?”  You’re probably wondering what on earth I’m talking about. Denis Healey, a retired politician from the UK, and his wife Edna, first used the word about Margaret Thatcher. Their view was that she lacked a real connection with people because she had no interests outside of politics.

Denis and Edna firmly believed that people had to have a breadth and depth of knowledge on other matters, be that sport, religion, art, culture or learning – Denis was a keen photographer. Continue reading

What can leaders learn from dogs barking at a postal carrier?

I had the great pleasure of running one of our Leadership Coaching Programs in Toronto last month.  Sunshine; great location; good company – what more could I want?

I was staying with our friends and colleagues, Cyndi and Ross, who have two delightful Golden Labradors. This has to be one of the friendliest breeds of dog. They love being around people, and are very enthusiastic and expressive. Continue reading