Category Archives for Leadership

Leading in Uncertain Times. How the role changes

The changing role of leadership in uncertain times

In times of uncertainty, great leadership is more important than ever.
Planning for the unknown is important, but focusing on known factors can help you keep delivering great results when leading in uncertain times. 

It's often said that the only certainties in life are death and taxes. But to that list you can add the certainty of uncertainty. Change is inevitable (and necessary) but we do seem to be facing more than our fair share in the past few years – and leading in uncertain times can be challenging, whether due to political turmoil or environmental factors.

Your team will look to you to lead them through the uncertainty, and this can really put your leadership skills to the test, so knowing where to focus your energies can really help when leading in uncertain times.

Great leaders play six critical roles, which are:

  1. Shape an exciting aspirational vision that engages people and challenges people to unite around it;
  2. Translate that vision into a clear strategy and action plan;
  3. Attract, develop and reward the best people to make that strategy happen;
  4. Review performance and results relentlessly;
  5. Model what is expected of others;
  6. Establish a working environment where people are empowered, innovation and learning are valued and information is freely shared.

Read more about the Six Roles of Leadership

These six roles remain important when leading in uncertain times; what changes is your focus within each of the roles. Let’s take a look at how you can adjust the role of leadership in uncertain times. 

1. Shape an exciting aspirational vision

When everything outside the business seems to be unclear or constantly changing, it can seem particularly challenging to shape an exciting vision, but doing so gives people a point of certainty, something to keep working towards.

But if your vision is based on a clear client/customer need, then it may not change that much. If this is the case, your job is to reassure people, continue to share the vision and ensure your teams both understand it and remain excited about it.

If uncertain times mean a change in vision is necessary, you will need to you engage the people you work with in building a new vision which everyone wants to work towards.

2.  Translate that vision into action

When leading in uncertain times, changing constraints on the way you operate mean you may have to adapt the way you bring your vision to life.

However, it’s important to balance planning and delivering as you don’t want to become paralysed by continual planning. The greater the uncertainty, the greater the temptation can be to plan around every possible scenario, resulting in over-investment in plans for things that will never happen.

The role of leadership in uncertain times is to balance the level of risk you face with the amount of time and effort invested in scenario planning… while at all times maintaining a focus on continuing to deliver your products and services.

It’s important to remember that much of your business will remain unchanged, and focusing on that can help your team stay motivated and continue to deliver.

Even when faced with a great deal of unknowns, there is still much that you can be sure of, and it can be useful to make a list of what you do and don’t know, as this can really help bring this into focus.

3. Attract and develop the best people

Uncertainty in the workplace can unsettle people, especially if they don’t know what is being done to address it.

As well as keeping your focus – and being consistent in the first two roles above can help here – it is important to maintain your values and show your appreciation for your team members… not just for what they do, but also for who they are. Trust in your team is vital so avoid challenging that trust, for example by adding in lots of new controls.

Uncertainty doesn’t just present challenges; it can be used to create development opportunities; what projects can you involve people in that will stretch them and give them new experience while you build your plans and navigate the uncertainty?

4. Review and focus on the results

When leading in uncertain times, keeping an eye on a rapidly changing environment, it can be very easy to lose focus on work you are doing now and the results you are currently getting. 

It can be tempting to focus on future unknowns but it is just as important not to neglect your focus on getting great results now, as this is fundamental to your business survival.

The Plan - Do - Review cycle is now more important than ever. In periods of uncertainty, shortening the time for each cycle will make you and your team as agile as possible... ready to adapt to changes in the marketplace as they happen.

Customer service is always important, so listening to their perspectives and insights will allow you to continue to meet their requirements as the environment changes around them. You can see this as an opportunity to strengthen customer relationships and future-proof your business.

5. Model what you want to see from others

You’ve heard the saying “what you do speaks louder than what you say” – and how you personally act during these uncertain times will be reflected by your team’s actions, too. If you are seen to panic, this fear will spread, despite any verbal assurances you may give.

Build trust by ensuring your actions are consistent with the messages you are sharing with your team and ensure your decisions are based on the values you outlined in your vision and strategy.

6. Establish a working environment where people are empowered

Keep the team focused on what they can be doing and what they can influence right now rather than all the unknowns. Sharing the Covey Circles on Influence and Circles of Concern Model can really help.

When focusing on the next steps of the business, ensure people have the tools and information they need to move forward.

Take the ‘no regrets’ decisions and encourage the team to do the same. These are the decisions which need making whatever happens; things like ensuring the data in your databases is clean, and things that help you know your team, customers and suppliers better, such as keeping your contracts up-to-date.

At all times, it is important to keep the team anchored in the values you share, while keeping the working environment fun and somewhere people want to be. This means ensuring you celebrate your successes.

Support for you

In the same way that you are supporting your team, make sure you have the support you need, too. 

One way you can find support is by networking with others who face the same uncertainties.

It is also important to make sure you are looking after yourself physically. You know the drill: eating properly, drinking enough water and getting enough sleep, exercising and, of course, taking time to relax and have fun.

Investing in your leadership development can help, too. A Leadership Coach can help you focus your development on what you need right now, ensure you develop your skills in your particular situation, and apply what you are learning as you lead in uncertain times.

​With help, and by maintaining your focus on known factors, while balancing this with planning for an unknown future, you will have the confidence to steer your way through the uncertainty, developing your leadership skills along the way

If you would like to talk to Bekka about developing your leadership skills or a particular leadership situation you are facing, book a consult call

Roles of Leadership What Leaders do

What are the 6 Roles Good Leaders Need to play?

What makes a good leader?
No matter how big your team – even if you are working in a team of one – developing these six roles of leadership can boost your success. 

Few of us set out to become leaders when we launch our careers but, somehow, that’s where we have found ourselves. Whether we are leading a team of people, running a project or simply form our own team of one, we all work with others to make things happen – and, for that reason, we are fulfilling the roles of leadership. 

Let’s think a bit more about what leaders do. I often read advice for leaders, saying we should be “strategic” or should “inspire”; I don’t know about you but, when I’m sitting here at my desk, I’m not quite sure how to become inspiring!  

To me, being a leader means becoming adept at a wide range of leadership skills, which will prepare us for making all kinds of decisions in the face of new and potentially tricky situations.  

I’ve summed these up as The Six Roles of Leadership, which are: Shape, Translate, Attract, Review, Model, Establish. Yes, to make them easier to remember, they spell out STAR ME©

1. SHAPE an exciting aspirational vision that engages and challenges people to unite around it.

We all work best when we have a clear purpose for our work and one of the roles of leadership is to shape and develop that vision in a way people understand, which excites them into wanting to be part of making it happen. This is your Big Bang (Big Bold Audacious Noble Goal)... it’s what you stand for and why people should care. If you work in a team of one, you are going to shape your vision around your purpose, your reason why and the needs of your ideal clients. When working in a corporation or for someone else, you shape it around what you and your teams need to contribute to the overall business. 

The core of your vision stays the same but how you explain and share it evolves as you move towards it.

2.  TRANSLATE that vision into a well-defined strategy, give clarity on what to do and what not to do.

What leaders do next is translate that vision into a strategy, then help people develop detailed plans to achieve it. It’s not about micromanaging everything, it’s about setting parameters for people to work within so they can use their skills to make the strategy happen and bring the vision to life.

3. ATTRACT and develop the best people to make that strategy happen, reward and develop a great team, your valued workforce.

Even when you are a team of one, other people – suppliers, clients, your professional network, family and friends – make it possible for you to do your work. It can be helpful to think of all of these people as part of your team, as they all help you deliver your strategy, so having the right people doing the right things is key. How you work with them will define how effective you all are; one of the roles of leadership is not just to attract the best people for your team but to manage, motivate, develop, reward and show your appreciation for them.

4. REVIEW and relentlessly focus on the results from the strategy.  Celebrate the successes and learn from everything as you repeatedly plan, do and review.

You have the vision, the strategy and the right team in place but, unless you review regularly and focus on getting results from the strategy, how will you know if you are going to be successful? What leaders do is review regularly, looking at what is working, what is getting results and what is not, what you have learned and what you need to change, and to respond to the things happening around you and your business.  

Another thing that leaders do is to catch people doing things right and celebrate successes, which, in turn, will help you attract and develop great people and motivate everyone. You are the person who makes sure the ‘plan - do - review’ cycle happens consistently everywhere in your working world.

5. MODEL what you want to see from others, show how to lead and be your own leader. Know yourself, welcome feedback and keep developing. Manage the appropriate balance in your life. 

You’ve probably heard the expression ‘actions speak louder than words’. Well, as a leader, this is especially true. People notice what leaders do and how they do it, so it’s up to you to show people what you expect to see from them. If people hear you say that keeping commitments matter but you don’t practise what you preach, you will find they don’t keep their commitments to you or your customers either.  

Equally, your team will notice how you manage your work-life balance, how you avoid becoming overwhelmed and keep time for other things that are important to you. It’s up to you to manage that balance and not fall into the trap of focusing on work at the expense of everything else.

Developing yourself as a leader starts with knowing yourself, developing self-awareness and understanding the impact you have on others. Listen to other people’s feedback, evaluate it and then take appropriate action.  

6. ESTABLISH a working environment where people are empowered, where innovation and learning are valued, where ideas and information are freely shared.

As a leader, you have the chance to create your dream work environment, whether physical or virtual. It needs to allow people to add value and to feel valued. Think about your attitude to your people, how you show respect and appreciation and how you make sure they know what is expected of them.

One of the most important roles of leadership is to motivate your team to take ownership of their roles and deliver the results expected. It’s also about how you encourage people to share ideas and information, how you react when they do, and how you show people that learning matters.

With these clear definitions of what leaders do, your next step is to work on developing these Six Roles of Leadership, so you are well on your way to STAR ME© success, no matter where you work – in a large corporation, a team of one or somewhere in between.

How good are you at dealing with change at work?

How good are you at dealing with change at work?

Dealing with change at work is something we all have to face but we’re not all as accomplished at this as we like to boast on our CVs. Try my simple challenge to see how well you adapt to change, then consider how this can applied to your working life.

It has become somewhat of an interview and CV cliché to say we are great at leading, managing and dealing with change at work. Given that the only certainty in business seems to be change, it supports our careers and our businesses to have this seemingly essential skill set. 

My experiences of working with teams before, during and immediately after major changes (both positive and negative) suggest, however, that we all process change differently, and that many of us are not as good at dealing with change at work as we like to think.

A seemingly simple challenge ...

If you think you find change easy, try wearing your watch on the other wrist for a week, or putting your coffee cup the other side of your desk.  These are small and insignificant changes, I am sure you will agree. But, assuming you don’t do what most people do and resist this change, it will feel very strange at first. When want to know the time, you will look at the wrong wrist. Then, when you reach for your coffee, it won’t be where you expect – and be careful not to spill it (don’t ask how I know to issue that warning!). But gradually, as the week progresses, you will get used to the changes and they will simply become the way things are. 

As you try this little experiment, I encourage you to notice how it feels and to be very honest with yourself. What were your emotional reactions? Did you find yourself forgetting about the change or getting confused about what you should do?  How did you become used to the new reality?

How did it go?

If I were to ask a group of you to share your experiences of this experiment, there would be a huge range of reactions, all experienced at a different pace. 

The same is true as we apply this to our business worlds, which gives leaders an interesting set of challenges.

As leaders of change, project managers and people who are dealing with change at work, being really honest with yourself about how you are coping with the changes you are facing, and noticing how you feel, will provide valuable insights to help not just yourself but the people around you move through the changes productively.

I challenge you to try making one small insignificant change to your daily routine and notice how it goes, then make a note of what you learned about yourself and how you cope with change.  These lessons can then be applied to dealing with change at work.

If you are managing projects or leading a change I would also encourage you to share this challenge with your team; the discussions that follow will give you some very valuable insights that you can then use as leaders and in designing the programme.  

This is just one exercise Bekka uses when working with leaders and teams to set up their projects and change programmes for success.  If you are looking to implement lasting changes at work, or have an important project you are kicking off, book a free consultation call to discuss how Bekka’s change and project expertise can help you.

Encourage others and start an appreciation revolution in the workplace

How the story of a Pianist could start an appreciation revolution in the workplace.

A heartwarmingtale of a kind-hearted pianist has led me to call for an appreciation revolution.  Instead of leaving the morale-boosting to those in management, if everybody begins to encourage others at work, we can all be part of something amazing.

Recently I was fortunate enough to hear a story which got me thinking about how we encourage others at work. Traditionally, we tend to think of workplace encouragement as a leader’s responsibility but it’s something we all can do as we go about our day-to-day work. And, in doing so, we can change how our colleagues feel about themselves, the company and the work they are doing.

Let me share the story. Are you sitting comfortably? Then I’ll begin...

Once upon a time, a family took their young music-loving daughter to a concert given by a world-famous pianist. When they arrived, they got chatting and their daughter wandered off.  

As the audience sat down, the family could not find their daughter anywhere but, when the curtain rose, there she was on the stage, sitting at the piano, playing Twinkle Twinkle Little Star with just one finger.

The audience watched with interest as the famous pianist they had come to see appeared on stage. He watched for a while but no-one was sure what would happen next. The little girl’s parents wondered if they should collect her; the stage manager appeared and asked the pianist if he should take the girl off the stage.

Everyone watched as the pianist sat next to the girl. He started to offer words of encouragement and then began playing alongside her, adding to her performance. What an amazing experience it was for that little girl – and you can imagine the love the audience had for the pianist.

The Pianist Effect

We never know for sure the impact we have when we encourage others at work, but we certainly know how it feels to be on the receiving end of the Pianist Effect. A compliment, some encouraging words, a simple act of kindness like a door being held open for us, an unexpected gift, being listened to… these all help us know we are appreciated and can totally turn our day around. 

Like me, you may even be able to trace many of your accomplishments back, at least in part, to the boost you received from some kind words freely given. As I thought more about the little girl’s story, I remembered who my pianist was. He was a wonderful manager who showed his belief in my abilities by giving me some amazing opportunities. He guided me to achieve things I never believed possible. He was challenging and demanding and always encouraging and supportive. I loved working with him and am incredibly grateful for the generosity and kindness he showed me, as well as the personal and career growth I experienced while working with him. 

He then went on to totally change the course of my career with a thank you note – a small act which was so typical of him. He thanked me for all I had taught him. My mind was blown; I thought it was him who had been teaching me. This was a final and lasting lesson from the person who had allowed me to discover the true power of coaching and had shown me I could add value through dialogue and with my thoughts and ideas.

It would be all too easy to unknowingly be that stage manager and take someone away from something they love, but I am striving to be more of a pianist and I am inviting you to join me on that journey. If one small act of encouragement can make someone’s day, imagine the effect of several! How amazing would it be if to encourage others at work became the norm?

As we strive to be a pianist, sometimes we will play alone, sometimes in an orchestra but we know that our act of encouragement will always hit the right note as we show our appreciation for those in our working world. Let’s keep a kind and encouraging tune in our hearts and minds. Let’s play our tune quietly all the time – and then really dial up the volume when we are with those who seem to be in a negative place. 

Who are you going to encourage today?  What kindness can you show? How will you show your appreciation for people at work?

We can do this!  Let's start an appreciation revolution ...

If you would like to know more about creating the Pianist Effect and making it work for yourself or your team so you become a Valued Workforce, book a free consultation call with Bekka

Should I Outsource?

Should I outsource?
How to do more work that  makes you happy.

As a small business owner, you probably feel you have to do everything yourself. But if you’re overwhelmed with time-consuming tasks you don’t enjoy, it could be time to ask yourself:  “Should I outsource?”

Sitting enjoying a coffee and catch-up with a friend and fellow business owner, I was surprised to see this normally bubbly and energetic lady physically slump in her chair as soon as we started talking about work. 

I know she loves what she does and is really good at it.  Further enquiry uncovered that she was busy being caught up in admin rather than spending time on the things her business delivers with such excellence.

Her situation resonated with me – and I wonder if it does for you, too.  We start our businesses to do more of the things we love but, paradoxically, we find ourselves consumed by the many other tasks involved in running a company.

If, for example, you are a web designer or an artisan maker, you probably started your business to spend time designing and making rather than finding new customers. As a photographer you probably intended to spend most of your time taking photos, not doing your accounts... I could go on but I suspect you get my drift!

The impact of doing those tasks which steal our happy was evident when talking to my friend, who was clearly affected both physically and emotionally. And this can damage the very core of our businesses because absolutely key to our success is the passion and energy we find when we are doing the things we love.

As small business owners, it is very tempting to think we have to do everything ourselves, but is that our only option? Could we be asking ourselves: “Should I outsource?” Is there a way to do more of what makes us happy?

The answer is yes, we do have an option which will allow us to focus on doing more of what we love. In some ways, making that happen is easy but, like many things, it may not seem that way at first.  

We can delegate and outsource. However, when discussing this with small business owners, there are three common objections I hear; three ‘buts’…

BUT... no-one else can do it as well as me

You may well not want to hear this but, unless you are a leading expert in all areas of business, this quite simply is not true.  

As the proud owner of a business you have built from nothing, it is understandable you might feel that way and, yes, there probably are some things that only you can do – but what about the rest? Why invest time in learning about tax laws, for example, when you could work with a specialist and get better results in a fraction of the time? Why slave over an administration task you find difficult when you could draw on the skills of someone who loves doing that very thing? 

BUT... they wouldn’t understand my business

This may be true when you first meet the people you are going to get to support you – but you can change that. As a bonus, in the process of explaining and discussing your business, you will almost certainly come up with new ideas and ways of doing things better. The combination of their specialist insights and your knowledge of the business can be very powerful indeed.

BUT... I can’t afford to do that 

Again, I would challenge this assumption. What happens if you flip it on its head? Can you really afford not to?  You are a valuable resource and your time is best spent on the things which add the most value to your business – whether that is your time creating or your time with clients.  

Don’t sell yourself short. If you could make £500 an hour when you are with a client, it could be worth investing in three hours of childcare to enable you to do that. Whatever your business, there are likely to be tasks which make you ask yourself: “Should I outsource?” For example, you might want to pay someone to do your social media or website updates so you can focus your energies on making your products.  If you absolutely can’t find the cash when you are starting out, how about an exchange of skills?  This works particularly well for service businesses – how about exchanging a haircut or a house clean for some bookkeeping?

So - Should you outsource?  

Swiftly moving on, while trying desperately to avoid talking about kicking those ‘buts’ in the butt (and nearly succeeding), once you have decided to outsource, you just need to decide which tasks to delegate. The key question to ask yourself here is “What is it that only I can do in my business?” 

This is time to put your ego to one side and answer honestly as these are the core things you should never trust to somebody else. Personally, I would not delegate my coaching hours, but cleaning my coaching space – with pleasure!

You may find yourself left with a long list of things which make you ask “should I outsource?” and your next challenge is to work out which ones you could outsource. My top tip is to start with the things you dread doing. These are the tasks which steal your happy the most; they drain you and take more of your time than they really should.  

Yes, you need to find the time to make the outsourcing happen and, yes, you need to make sure you find the right people to delegate to with the right and mutually beneficial arrangements in place. But the renewed focus and passion, the renewed balance, and the overall financial benefits will soon kick in.

I encourage you to look at those things that steal your happy, that keep you away from the things that only you can do and ask yourself “who could do them better?”.  

Outsourcing your least favourite tasks often involves working with a virtual team, which can change the way you work. Book a free consult call to see how Bekka’s coaching and consultancy can help Set You Up for Outsourcing success