Category Archives: Leadership

How to work on Behavioural Change in Leadership Positions

Here is a follow up to one of the leadership programme sessions we’ve run (currently with the second cohort of 20 for a global IT company) and applicable to the whole programme if you think about the aim of creating long term behavioural change, particularly for leaders in new positions.

Think in terms of actions – or even tiny habits (see the talk) – that you might need to start applying to your work (and life maybe!) to ensure that you are creating change in yourself – we recommend taking this to your coaching if you are receiving it. If you need Leadership Coaching then get in touch!

(also note an introduction to the word ‘automaticity’ and tweeting your weight…..if that’s the kind of thing you’re into!)

Management vs Leadership

Leaders - Lao Tzu

I’ve been doing a lot more research on the above subject recently, it’s been fascinating.

In all the coaching work I do with managers and leaders we nearly always have a very specific conversation about the difference between these two words.  A good leader needs to be able to manage, AND lead. To succeed as Lao Tzu describes takes a combination of both. But how do you do it?

I’ve tried to help by pointing at various books (Good to Great by Jim Collins for example) which in a previous blog I’ve described – the Level 5 Leader – in order to help define what leadership is all about. There’s also this great Ted Talk by Rosalinde Torres about what makes a great leader.

She points to 3 key features of leaders:

Great leaders are not head-down. They see around corners, shaping their future, not just reacting to it.

Great leaders understand that having a more diverse network is a source of pattern identification at greater levels and also of solutions, because you have people that are thinking differently than you are. This allows them to do the above.

Great leaders dare to be different. They don’t just talk about risk-taking, they actually do it. And one of the leaders shared with her the fact that the most impactful development comes when you are able to build the emotional stamina to withstand people telling you that your new idea is naïve or reckless or just plain stupid.
Understanding these, she says, will determine your effectiveness as a 21st-century leader.

However I’ve found that these two are a still just little wide of the mark for those leaders or managers who are trying to make a difference in their day to day work. What we find in our sessions is the need for a framework they can use to identify the DIFFERENCE – i.e. when they’re doing it ‘right’. That is, when to lead or when to manage, and something to help them decide when they should use the different styles. By clearly laying out the difference between the two, the choice to Lead or to Manage is made easier.

I found an answer with an old master, John Kotter. In this excellent article he describes the differences so precisely and with such clarity I believe it is a MUST READ for all current and aspiring leaders: .

I’ve summarised the thoughts into one diagram – take a look here and download it if you want, a number of my coachees have it laminated and taped up in their office!

How does this work for you in your day to day management vs leadership challenge?

New Leaders and Managers – some tips for those first 30 days.

A great article here from Jeanne DeWitt, a former director at Google. One of the scariest and most daunting career moments for anyone in business is the move into a senior position. Like bringing a baby home for the first time you feel you haven’t been taught what to do – sometimes you feel you’re making it up as you go along, having to trust your instincts!
At Spring several of our collaborative team have extensive experience in not only making the change themselves  but also coaching new managers and leaders as they make the transition – and I mean into leadership not having a baby! Corine Hines, Nick Shaw, Ann Sherington and Geraldine McCullagh – all of them can help, and of course so can I. However, just to get you started is a great article from Jeanne.

In the first 30 days good leaders:


‘Be as open and transparent about what you’re thinking as quickly as possible’

Ask questions:

‘I make a rule that about 50 percent of the words coming out of my mouth should end with a question mark’’

Figure out what people really want to do:

‘Meet with all of your direct reports for at least an hour within your first week. Ask them about what they really enjoy doing and what they aspire to be doing’

Get their hands dirty.

‘Spend time doing the work that your team actually does. Not only does this help establish you as someone who leads by example, but you also learn first-hand about all of the different challenges that people experience every day’

Are decisive.

‘Once you have a good lay of the land, explicitly lay out your vision and then plan to start moving toward it’
Check out the whole article yourself – some really sound advice. Share your experiences with us if you like, or make contact to see what we might be able to do to help.

Planning and Plans, Goals and Achieving Them

“When it is obvious that the goals cannot be reached, don’t adjust the goals, adjust the action steps.” – Confucius

Wise words indeed.

I find that being flexible with business plans is essential, designing in the opportunity to adjust and recalibrate. Too many times businesses put together a detailed plan with a lot of interrelated actions, which, once one or two have gone pear shaped, all others seem to follow. This is very demotivating for the team and can quickly lead to abandonment of the whole plan, and an increasing disenchantment with whole process of planning too. There’s no need for this, it’s crucial that a business finds a way to plan, and then a way to implement that plan. If being flexible along the way achieves this then so be it.

I’ve found that looking no further out than 3 quarters works well, with a review each month of simple summaries of the activities -‘investigate and develop a plan for the installation of a CRM system’. If these activities fall behind then just move to them to next quarter (obviously try to get them back on track but if you can’t then hey, stuff happens…). In my experience this has proven to be the most satisfactory way to plan and then to actually get things done over the long term. There’s no need to beat oneself up, the idea is to set some goals, plan to achieve them and then actually do so! Holding rigidly to a plan at all costs often achieves very little in the end. In essence it is the act of planning, which is an ongoing process, that really produces results. To quote Eisenhower:

”In preparing for battle I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable”

How are you developing your goals and plans at the moment – and how much flexibility are you building in to the process? Don’t be scared to plan for flexibility too.

Plan, keep planning, and plan to keep planning…..

My Kind Of Graffiti

Business Graffiti – I like lists, top tips and wisdoms that sometimes help you do your job, often with some hidden gem that somehow rings a bell and makes sense (see my Leadership Musts and Shoulds too). Problem is always how to present them. Now I know that this is not graffiti but hey it gets the message across!

In this world of ‘work smarter not harder’, ‘removing  suboptimising’, ‘cross functional deployment’ and generally blinding business-speak, it is nice to come across a list that is down to earth and simply suggests ‘How to Work Better’, with practical, and frankly doable things that just make sense….don’t need to say much more!

How many out of the 10 are you doing today or will try to do tomorrow?

(and yes the little bit of OCD in me did spot the Say It Simple – *Simply…).


aand SMILE!


The Most Effective Leadership Characteristics

I’ve always been a little obsessed with Leadership. If you’ve been there and had to lead people it can become an obsession – working out that magic formula that will guarantee results (to get it done), and improve your ability to lead those people effectively time after time.

The first challenge is defining it – my own personal favourite is:

‘The ability to inspire followship’

I feel that succinctly says it all…

You will see on the blog a few other posts on the characteristics too (see my obsession!). One that has been well put, from a favourite book of mine called Good To Great by Jim Collins (, is the concept of a Level 5 Leader. There are two characteristics that define those leaders who make it to the top of their companies, and what is more, lead their companies to success – Humility and Fierce Resolve.

Level 4 – Effective Leader

‘Catalyzes commitment to and vigorous pursuit of a clear and compelling vision; stimulates the group to high performance standards’.

But a Level 5 – (Chief) Executive

‘Builds enduring greatness through a paradoxical combination of personal humility plus professional will’.

The book is well worth a read, some very US based examples but the concepts and messages are very clear and something all leaders and potentially great leaders can learn from. Take a look here for more on this.

So a question for you – What are you doing to move from Level 4 to 5?

Innovation and Wild Ideas

And talking of innovation…..well, it’s right at the heart of any business isn’t it? Needing to come up with new ways of pleasing your customers, new ways of providing your services, and even, obviously, new products.

When you’re the boss it’s a hell of a pressure to be the one who always thinks of the new stuff – spotting the problems and then finding the solutions, listening hard to customers to get those essential insights that will keep you one step ahead. You often feel you’re the only one who’s doing it! Solution – you need to leverage the people and teams in your organisation to do the spotting for you – set up some way of capturing ‘ideas from the front line’ – and do reward the spotting, even if you don’t (or can’t) do something with the information. The key is to get more eyes and ears out there and to encourage it as the culture of your business. Ideas are good. Make it a theme for the month…

Another way is to seek out and cultivate the ‘wild ideas’ people – there’s always one somewhere in your organisation. You know – the one who (when finally asked) says ‘I’ve been thinking we ought to try…..’ And sometimes it really is wild, but for every five or six crazy ones there is usually one that has some legs and can be modified, or used as is, to take the business forward. Seek them out and have a talk, you never know…Ideas are good.

And if you want an example of a wild ideas guy take a look here.

Scott really does have some wild ones…… let me know which ones you think are goers!

#innovation #wildideas #ideasaregood

Doing Less, Leading More – the type of leadership that get things done

Here’s a great article on a key theme – doing and leading. I think it asks some really valuable questions about something that is quite close to my heart, and in actual fact at the top of the page right here on the blog. Take a look:

The key distinction and insight I believe is that to do less and lead more you have to be able to get things done through and with, people. There is no point in being a good leader, in fact you are not being a good leader if things are not being achieved, getting done…. The question is how.

Are you getting it done by doing it yourself, or by doing through other people, by leading them? An interesting and perennial problem we’ve all grappled with. The instinct to roll up ones sleeves and crack on and do it yourself and be the pacesetter, is very strong, but ultimately that is not leadership.

As the article says………‘the softer skill sets, the real leadership, the ability to work with others and through others, to execute, that is still in very scarce supply.” Learning how to do this and to embed it into the culture of the organisation is the challenge.

Leadership and The Art of Persuasion


Most people only know about rhetoric when it is ’empty’ – could you, hand on heart, say what it actually was? Until I read a book just recently I didn’t quite understand how important the mastery of this could be for leaders and managers too (and I don’t mean the mastery of empty rhetoric!). The book, ‘You Talkin’ to Me – Rhetoric from Aristotle to Obama’ by Sam Leith, is a fantastically good read . It helps you to understand the basics and more importantly what you can do to get better. A fundemental skill reqiured for good leadership too.

Rhetoric – the art of persuasion: the attempt by one human being to influence another in words. Simple isn’t it. And isn’t that something that every single day we have to do, in almost every part of what we do as leaders or managers of teams? We don’t work in businesses where people simply follow orders. We have instructions and requests, and things that we want to have happen to get things done, but almost all of the time our conversations with people involve some sort of persuasion.

Would you mind….? How about if….? I know how you might be feeling about this as I’ve been there, but..;What you need to do is not only talk the talk, but walk the talk…. We all have our styles and methods, some good, some (very) bad! The book is great in describing what exactly is going on when we use these words and phrases, with the terms and names, if you want to learn them (- I didn’t), and by doing so can teach you loads.

Example: ‘Friends, Romans, Countrymen, lend me your ears…’ – an appeal to Ethos – ‘I am like you, we (friends), are together and you should really listen to me…..’ If you only learn about Ethos, Logos and Pathos you will be well on your way!

With famous speeches from Churchill, Obama and many others, as well as lesser known examples, Sam Leith takes you through the whole thing. I highly recommend it as almost essential reading for leaders and managers who need to persuade people, and those like me who, from time to time have to get up and speak to bigger groups or teams……Isn’t that all of us though?

(P.S. Have I persuaded you?!)

Leaders have ‘the ability to inspire followship’ #1

The start of a sequence of definitions I picked up about the key features and characteristics of great leaders. With the key wisdom that Leadership is ‘the ability to inspire followship’.

Leaders MUST

Develop and Communicate a Rallying Vision

  1. Make it simple, clear, understandable
  2. Inspire others by selling one’s ideas
  3. Be driven by customer needs
  4. Project self confidence
  5. Show commitment
  6. Focus on the long term
  7. Develop a ‘road map’ for achievement

Be a Strategic Thinker

  1. Understand customer expectations
  2. Utilise experience and intelligence to make good judgements
  3. Anticipate the future and spot ‘paradigm shifts’
  4. Work comfortably at the conceptual level
  5. Balance short and long term business goals
  6. Understand corporate and unit strategies and goals
  7. Be willing to make trade offs
  8. Know your competition’s strategies, strengths and weaknesses
  9. Capture reliable information from a variety of sources