Tag Archives: Emotional intelligence

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.

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

Leadership under pressure

Five steps to leading under pressure

One of the reasons I love talking with younger people about leadership is that they’re very transparent about their expectations.  While we’re busy devising development programmes, setting learning goals and more, they’re focused on the nitty gritty of job titles, office size and company car potential.

I love that pragmatic nature, and I’m always amused by how we expect our careers to flow smoothly in an ever-upward direction, when reality shows that our lives stutter from one missed opportunity to the totally-unexpected open doors.

Designing programmes is all about that flow of the development journey, and yet a recent conversation had me thinking about all the steps that can be missed because they don’t ‘count’ in typical leadership programme design.

Step 1: Talking about leadership

The way people – young and old – talk about leadership is a clear indicator of the gaps between expectation and reality.  If our potential leaders are stuck in the ‘leader as hero’ paradigm; or have outdated assumptions about gender, age or cultural diversity, we need to shift the conversation.

Listening is vital, so that the shifts needed are clear, and can be woven into programme design.

Step 2: Seeing past symbolic leadership

It’s not just expectations about having your name on the door; a better cubicle in the office, or a fancy title.  These ambitions are natural side-effects to having career goals.  The key here is to ensure that people coming to your leadership development programmes can recognise them for what they are: symbolic gestures to indicate a level of accountability and responsibility.  A reward for the challenges they will face.

Expecting to give someone a new job title; a different position on the organisation chart and a rise is not enough, on its own.

However, working more closely with your compensations and benefits team as part of the leadership development programme helps put these elements in a leadership context, rather than making them the focus.

Step Three: Knowing what ‘leadership skills’ are

Programme participants need to know and understand the behavioural expectations you have of them as leaders.

To appreciate ‘self-leadership’ as a precursor to leading others.  How some behaviour levels can derail success, and some have transformational impacts.

And how ‘leadership’ isn’t just about performance, but about evoking inspiration, motivation, and being a role model for others.

  • About giving and receiving feedback for continuous improvement.
  • About attitudes towards accountability and responsibility, and using that intrinsic motivation to drive our behaviours.
  • About emotional intelligence and its role in evoking empathy, maintaining good humour and being resilient in the face of challenge.

Oh, and talking about failure.  And avoiding perfectionism.  How we don’t need every single competence at the highest level; just good enough for the job we’re in right now.  And having a ‘development mindset’.

Step Four: Practicing leadership behaviours

All the theory; all the models; all the ideas in the world aren’t going to make better leaders.  It’s one thing to have understanding of a subject, it’s quite another to see when, where, and how to put leadership skills into practice.

Our leadership development programmes are as much a place to practice those skills, based on the real issues that our participants bring, as they are to explore, discuss and debrief on the theory.

High on interaction, every activity is designed to have an immediate, tangible benefit.  An opportunity to give and receive feedback, and a chance to debrief on how it can be applied back in the participants’ real world.

Step Five: Delivering leadership under pressure

So few of the situations leaders find themselves in these days are predictable.  It’s become the new definition of leadership.  The predictable has been automated; or can be delegated to, and managed by, the team.

And unpredictability brings pressure.  Raised voices; uncertainty; fear.  And this is why the best leadership development programmes extend into delivery support.  Because whatever gets rehearsed in the classroom, you can bet that it’ll be different on the front line.

We provide group action learning for participants, so that they can debrief and learn from each other’s real world issues.  What works; what doesn’t work.  Tips and tricks for success.

Long gone are the days when learning was about memorising facts and regurgitating them on paper.  No ‘looking over someone’s shoulder’.  Keeping your ideas to yourself in case someone ‘stole’ them and took the credit.

Today’s leadership development is all about collaboration; ideas sharing and celebrating success.  But every step has to be in place for better leadership to be a reality.

And, while people ask us to tailor our programmes to their organisation – which we’re very happy to do – we also remind them that their biggest resource is their people, who will automatically tailor the content to get the most out of their development.

You’ll benefit from better leadership, 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.

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

Football management and leadership behaviours

I’ve been interested recently in the fortunes of a UK football (soccer to our North American readers) team and their manager. Now, I enjoy watching football, and I follow a particular team – Manchester City – however, I can’t be a true fan, because I don’t indulge in the hatred of their traditional rivals. I’m quite geographical in my allegiance, so I’d rather a team from Manchester beat one from London or indeed any northern team succeeded over a southern team. 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

Our Man in Panama

I’ve just finished a week of working in Panama.  We’ve been running career development workshops for an international charity. It’s a fascinating country, whose recent history is dominated by the canal.  It’s a visionary project, still a vital lifeline for trade, operating 24 hours a day. The city is the headquarters for many charities.

I’d set off with a few pre-conceptions about what the people would be like.  They came from across South America, a continent I’ve never visited. I suspect that subconsciously, I was looking for proof to reinforce my stereotypes. I began to think about how often we do this, at many times in our life. Continue reading