Category Archives for The Curious Choice Leader Podcast

What’s the best way for leaders to review 2020?

What's the best way for leaders to review 2020?

When you look back at 2020, what comes to mind for you?  It certainly hasn’t been the year any of us predicted, planned or even welcomed.  As we head towards the end of the year, naturally our thoughts turn to considering what next, we look to the new year with a renewed sense of hope even if we know everything is going to be just as uncertain as it is now and even knowing here is the UK we have Brexit adding to the mix as we all work out how that is going to work in practice.

But crappy though 2020 has been, it has given us many learning opportunities and there will be wins and things we can be proud of.

So since this is the last episode of The Curious Choice Leader Podcast for 2020, I thought it would be a good opportunity to get curious about reviewing the year, about how we can celebrate our achievements, capture our lessons and make choices about how we apply them to our working worlds going forward.

So are you ready?  Let’s get curious about 2020 and make some choices for the new year.

What made this year so different?

Like many of you I started this year with what I thought was a clear, ambitious but achievable plan for myself and my business.  It started well, KPI’s tracking in the right direction, diary filling up nicely and me feeling confident about it all. 

Then Covid, and almost overnight everything changed.  My diary emptied, my clients needs changed and like everyone else I went into that ice cream brain phase of change.  You know the initial panic where your brain freezes, your head hurts and all you can think about is survival.  I had a period of hyperactivity where I did all the things I could think of, followed by an inevitable slump and desire to curl up under a blanket and hope it all went away.

But like the world around me it was time to adapt.  As a change professional it was an interesting reminder of how it feels to have change happen around you and done to you, rather than being the one driving the changes.  I hope it is making me an even better manager of change as a result.

What did you learn this year?

We always have a choice about how we react to a situation and I have been fascinated by the choices leaders have been making, the upswing in people recognising how important empathy and trust are, the contrast between managers who trust their teams to deliver around their other very human commitments and those who have tried to snoopervise and micro manager their teams through this, how we have been able to learn more about our teams as in most cases we literally see them in different surroundings!

As we have all adapted we have had the chance to try new ways of leading and to learn about what works for us and our teams.  We may or may not have had any training this year to help us – but we certainly will have learned.  I challenge you to take some time and capture all the lessons you have learnt about yourself and about yourself as a leader.  I suspect that there will be many more than came to mind as you first heard that challenge.

Review against your plan and then list your achievementss, planned or not!

So what we have learned is one way to reflect on the past year, but how else can we get curious and really explore our year?  Well normally we would go back to our plan for the year and check how we did against it.  If you didn’t end up literally throwing your plan for this year away, I would still suggest doing this, depending on how you structured your plan you may well be closer to having achieved it than you expected.  Personally I keep my plan based around broad themes that are going to get me where I want to be, and then each quarter I assess where I am and set some specific targets for the quarter. 

I find this keeps me excited about the plan, yet focused on the specifics in the shorter term.  For me SMART Goals are the equivalent of the passion killing Bridget Jones big knickers.  I work best when I have the pull of an exciting dream that is going to make a big difference.  What that means in practical terms is that effectively I have a treasure map and it’s about moving towards the treasure, deciding where to visit along the way each quarter, rather than mapping out the whole route at the start of the plan.  Different levels of planning work for different people, and I suspect you will have some interesting observations about the best kind of planning for you, what works and doesn’t work for you and things you want to try with your planning going into 2021.

And talking of your plan, what have you achieved over the last year?  Was it what you expected?  Was it other things entirely?  What about outside work?  It would be very easy to dismiss 2020 as a year where you didn’t achieve but I would encourage you to really spend some time capturing all the things you did do, and when it’s combined with the next area I’m going to talk about it should boost your confidence and well being as well as help you make peace with 2020.

Celebrate your achievements

Every two weeks, I meet with a couple of fellow business owners so we can connect, support each other and cheer each other on.  We have a standing agenda and my absolute favourite part of it is where we share what we are proud of.  Yes the thought of this is uncomfortable, and I worry about it every time we meet, but it always leads to some amazing discussions and insights for us all.  It also gives us the chance to celebrate the wins that we have had that are meaningful to us even if we didn’t plan them. 

So what are you proud of having achieved this year?

Celebrating your wins and achievements, and those of your team, is really important.  If you haven’t been doing it on a regular basis through the year, now is the time.  The celebrations don’t have to be big material things, they can be little and important to the person receiving them.  Historically for me, as someone who works from home most of the time, they have been going out for coffee.  This year that hasn’t been an option a lot of the time so I have had to find new ways – and my growing collection of house plants reminds me each time I see them of things I’ve celebrated this year.  In fact I should probably get another one since I should celebrate having kept them all alive!  Oh and completing this series of the Podcast!

Even Better If

The next area I suggest you get curious about as part of your review of the year, is the things that you would like to do differently or improve for next year.  What is it you know you have managed but could be better and is ready for an upgrade!  Collecting these ideas is not committing to doing them right away, and when you come to review and reset for next year you may find that you don’t need to do them anymore. We can grow as leaders by working on our weaknesses or by playing on our strengths, we need to do a bit of both but if we only work on our weaknesses we miss our full potential and don’t enjoy what we are doing nearly as much!  It’s the same with putting our plans together, we can build on the good things and we can work to correct the less good things – and doing just one of the other isn’t going to be the best route.

Given the year that 2020 has been I personally am choosing not to spend time reflecting on the things that went wrong this year.  The root cause of so many of them were beyond my control, so I know it will make me feel bad and there won’t be any things I could do differently as a result.  Since the whole point of reviewing the year is to have a pool of data that I can do something about when I think about next year’s plan, it doesn’t seem worth it.

Review what's working for and with your team

As a leader the final area you need to build into your review is your team.  How are they doing?  What is working well for them in terms of your leadership?  What else needs to happen to maintain or boost their performance.  While it can be easy getting data on the outputs of your team’s performance it can be harder to get data to tell you what is driving that performance.  One of the companies I’m working with, TeamLytica has a great tool to help you with this and to support you with your planning for 2021 I’m offering a free review session using their report during December, please get in touch if you want the details.

The world of project management offers us some great insights into how to review how things went and if you want to dig deeper into this I recommend starting with Ken Burrells Book Learning Lessons from Projects – I will leave a link in the transcript for this episode which you can find on my website.

Take time to reflect

So once we have been curious and looked at everything that happened in the year, what we achieved, what we learned and how we celebrated, it’s time to reflect.

Pressing pause and spending some time reflecting on your review is for many people a valuable part of the process – but it’s one we often rush thought and so sometimes fail to benefit from.

When we sit with our findings for a while we allow our brains time to process them subconsciously, making any learnings deeper and allowing our brains to make connections between things we may not have seen at first.

I also find that allowing myself some reflection time means that more ideas surface and I get clearer about which insights are most important to me and need to be implemented first.

When you are working with a team, allowing this reflection time between a review and then planning the year ahead will ensure that everyone in your team is able to make the best possible contribution to the team.

Using your review

Once you have all had time to reflect on your review, it’s time to decide what you are going to take forward into your next plan.  Time to reset and restart.  Time to build leadership into your business planning.  We know uncertainty is going to be a big theme again next year, so we need to be really clear on what direction our plans are taking us, and to be ready and flexible about the exact route we are going to be taking.  
Communicating the plan, and the route, along with the thinking behind it is one of the key ways you create alignment in your team, performance is always stronger when you are pulling in the same direction.

From a leadership perspective, looking at the output of your review and deciding what you are going to continue doing, what you are going to do more of, what you are going to do less of or even stop and what you are going to improve on, will allow you to pick the things that are going to make the biggest impact.  It will also allow you to focus on the business delivery elements of the plan and make sure your leadership is supporting that without you becoming overwhelmed.

As leaders we need to really step into the role, set clear directions and create working environments full of trust, empathy and with room for our team to deliver greatly, whatever circumstances they find themselves in.  We need to implement everything we have learned this year about leading through change and uncertainty, we need to keep demonstrating what we expect from our teams, work with them to take our businesses where ever it is that we want to take them, despite whatever 2021 brings.

Summary & Taking Action

Its going to be an exciting and fun journey and The Curious Choice Leader Podcast will be back in the new year to share it with you.  As I reflect on the year, this podcast is one of the things I’m really proud of, I have learned so much doing it, and talking with leaders about the content in it, I’ve loved taking the time to reflect on what is going on around me and share insights with you all.  It’s been quite a year and I’m looking forward to some reflection time in December, and a chance to rest and come back refreshed and ready in the new year.  Enjoy the break and if you need them the previous episodes on leading change are all there for you to listen to.

So in this episode, we have looked at how you can review the year, looking at what you have learned, what you have achieved, how you did against the plan, what you are proud of and what you are celebrating.  We also looked at reviewing how you are doing as the leader of your team.  Then we talked about pausing to reflect on your findings before building them into your plans for 2021.

You can choose to make 2021 an amazing year, and your experiences this year will help you do that and be the best leader you can be.

The things I share in this podcast are based on my experience of over 30 years leading change and working with leaders who are making changes happen.  Some of it will be more relevant to you than others and it's up to you to decide what you are going to do with them. My hope is that you will find something you can take and apply. But that's up to you and it's exactly what being a Curious Choice Leader is all about, getting curious, building your understanding and then making some choices about what's best for you, your team and your business.

So the question I would like to leave you with is

What lessons are you taking from this year and how are you applying them to next year?

If you found this episode useful and thought-provoking I would love it if you subscribe and share it with others who you think would find it useful too. It would also be brilliant if you could leave a review where ever you listen to podcasts

If you would like to know more about my coaching and implementing these ideas please get in touch and let's talk about how you can become an even better leader, one curious choice at a time. Thank you for listening, and until the next time stay curious and I look forward to talking to you again soon.

How having Imposter Complex makes you a better leader

How Imposter Complex makes you a better leader

When things go wrong at work, maybe something the team messes up or someone in the team is being disruptive or not performing, I’ve seen many leaders start to question their own ability, and that can be a good thing - we are accountable for our teams, and we should always be looking for the lessons so we can improve. But sometimes this questioning goes too far and becomes an episode of Imposter Complex.

That’s not the only common time for Imposter Complex to strike - when we are asked to step up and lead a big piece of work, when that big opportunity appears, one of the things that can stop people grabbing it and start them questioning their own ability is Imposter Complex.

And interestingly, when we start a new job or take on that big project a few of months in, most leaders and managers have a wobble, wonder what on earth made them say they would take the role and if they are capable of delivering it. Thank you, Imposter Complex.

In a year where we have all been leading during rolling waves of change, almost all of us have been experiencing that wobble and wondering if we are capable to do what we need to for our teams.  Imposter Complex loves certainty and tries to protect us from change so has been having a ball this year!

When we do experience Imposter Complex, and there is a very high chance you will at some point, it won’t feel like it initially, but I believe, it’s a good thing.

 So are you ready to get curious about Imposter Complex and make some choices about how to make the most of it when it strikes?

Why is having an Imposter Complex episode a good thing?

Imposter Complex can be a mischievous and very determined thing. We all hear those nagging internal voices of self-doubt and fear sometimes, and when we are experiencing Imposter Complex, they both start shouting so loud that it can be hard to hear any of our other thoughts.  Imposter Complex is when those voices convince our brains that we are a fraud, and we are bound to get found out and found out fast.  When you are experiencing an episode of Imposter Complex you doubt your own abilities despite all the external proof of your capabilities, after all, you reason, that’s just another opportunities to get caught out, further to fall and more people to fall in front of!

So what if I was to tell you that experiencing Imposter Complex is a good thing and it is something that can help make you a great leader?

You may well be wondering how something that makes you feel so bad can be a good thing so let me explain.

Firstly, Imposter Complex only happens when something matters to you, so it shows you care about what you are doing – and that is a great thing!

More than that it helps us to stay curious and open to new information and without that we are never going to be great at what we do, be able to come up with new and better solutions or to adapt to our surroundings – all skills we always need as leaders and which this past year has reminded us are critical in all areas of our work.

Choose your response to Imposter Complex

It all comes down to how we respond when it strikes – are we going to avoid and abdicate and become a victim of it, letting it control what we do or are we going to get curious, inquisitive and learn what we can from it and use the opportunity for growth as a leader that Imposter Complex has hidden within it?

 All the great leaders I know and all the ones I have had the privilege of working with have at times experienced self doubt, that awareness that they may not know everything they need to know about a situation, their specialism or their skills.  

Take for example one senior leader I was working with who was putting together a big global conference.  He was a really great communicator in these situations in my experience, but he was really clear that he didn’t necessarily know everything he needed to know and he was open to more information as part of his managing his fear and his nerves about being in that kind of situation.  So he made sure he had as much practice time as everybody else and as much input from other people about his presentation. And it wasn’t just about him being humble.  It’s not just about being humble, it’s a genuine understanding that there is always more to learn, more to discover and to do to be the best we can be.  

That curiosity and that thirst for knowledge when coupled with a realistic assessment of where we are, being conscious of our incompetences is the springboard that keeps us moving upwards.  

The trick her is to not to loose sight of our competencies, all the things we do know when we are looking at all the things we don’t.  When we let that happen we can become tethered by the strong bind of Imposter Syndrome.  If we think of the things we do know about a situation we can use them as building blocks that show us what we need to get curious about and learn about next.

Make friends with your Imposter Complex

I find it helpful to think of Imposter Complex as an annoying friend, one who speaks up when I don’t need them to, but who may have spotted something important – you know the one who gives you some feedback that you don’t want to hear but when you think about it there is some truth in there! To remind me that I don’t have to believe everything this friend says I have given it a silly voice – it’s much harder to just accept what its saying when its talking like Donald Duck!

In making friends with Imposter Complex it has helped me to realise that it is motivated by a desire to protect us.  By stopping us from doing something it protects us from failure – after all if you don’t do something you can’t fail.  By getting us to question what we know it reminds us that there are things we don’t yet know and those things may be important and by making us feel isolated it protects us from other people telling us we have failed or are wrong.

Now while there is a logic to that, it’s not a logic that is going to allow us to be great or even effective leaders, so we need to learn to manage this friend constructively.

Managing our Imposter Complex Friend

So how can we do that?

The first step is to recognise that when Imposter Complex shows up there is an opportunity to pause, reflect and see what it is there to show you.  Once you have worked that out you can make some choices about incorporating what you have found or not.  So, get curious and ask yourself what is behind this episode of Imposter Complex, what is causing you to feel that way and what is this feedback trying to tell you.  It’s also worth questioning the validity of what this so-called friend is telling you – is their opinion based on facts or does the bulk of the evidence in fact point to your competence in an area.  What lessons can you learn from what this is telling you?

Now remembering that our Imposter Complex friend is trying to protect us from failure by stopping us taking action, we need to find a way to take some action.  If Imposter Complex has shown up around a big project or a new job, what are the first actions that we CAN take to get us moving in the right direction?  Breaking things down into smaller actionable steps and taking them one at a time can help you make great progress and build your confidence while quietening that nagging over protective friend.

In the same way Imposter Complex is trying to protect us by keeping us safe and where we are by not taking action, another of it’s motivations is to isolate us so we don’t fail in front of others.  What if you turned this around too and actively spent time around others who would support you and who may be going through the same thing?  We have so many things leaving us feeling isolated at the moment let’s not let Imposter Complex be another.  As a leader, as someone who is building something it is always OK to ask for help and to ask people for their perspectives on something.  Being curious about other people’s views means you can collaborate effectively and grow together, not feeling isolated.  As a leader fostering these ways of collaborating are part of how you build relationships and team performance. 

The other thing that our Imposter Complex friend is keen to do is to show us how little we know.  And being open to more learning, new ideas and different ways of thinking is brilliant, but we need to have a way of making sure we don’t loose sight of the things we do do well, of the evidence there is of our competence and of the difference we make.  One powerful way of doing this is to keep a books of wins, a journal of your accomplishments and positive feedback that you can look back over when you need a reminder.  This can be an actual book, a folder on your computer or in the cloud, what ever works best for you.  The very act of collecting them will help reinforce them in your mind so when you need the boost a quick look at your book of wins will make a big difference.

Getting help with our Imposter Complex

The other thing you can do when you are experiencing Imposter Complex is to get some coaching from someone who will help you explore these themes for yourself - avoid coaches who will focus on how they solved it for themselves or give you their special system for building confidence. If it’s imposter complex, or even a more general confidence issue, you already have the answers and you need a coach to help you piece together what is going to work for you.

The same is true for more general confidence issues, so make sure you get curious about what you need before paying for coaching. Find out about any coaches you are considering working with and check that they are going to work with you in such a way that you become reliant on them for your confidence - that’s not going to help you long term. I’ve worked with people who were feeling very vulnerable about their leadership thanks to Imposter Syndrome and who jumped at the first coach they found who promised them confidence and who at best got nothing from the experience and at worst were made to feel terrible about themselves and whose healthy imposter syndrome became a long term issue that impacted all areas of their life - so please choose your coach wisely. And in case you are wondering about those people, it took a few sessions, but they are now back on track.

To give you an example, this episode will have given you some insights into how I work on when someone comes to me with imposter complex, and the kind of areas we will explore. Often, we can get to the heart of the issue fast and people leave the session feeling ready to make a difference, with an action list and wondering why they were worried in the first place. When the issues are more deep seated or more complex it may take a couple of extra sessions, and I always suggest a follow up session towards the end of the persons action plan so they can capture what they have learned about managing those nagging voices of doubt ready for the next time they decide to show up.

If having listened to this episode you want to get more curious about Imposter Complex itself I can recommend checking out Tanya Geisler’s work.  I had the pleasure of chatting with her and found her insights and ideas really helpful.  She talks and writes about Imposter Complex at

Summary & Taking Action

So in this episode, we have looked at what Imposter Complex is, how it can strike any of us at any time and how we have a choice to make about how we respond.  Are we going to let it keep us where we are, become a victim or use it as a friendly reminder that there is something we need to get curious about, a chance to explore and understand ourselves and our situation better and a chance to make even better choices as we lead our way through the circumstances we find ourselves in?  We looked at how treating Imposter Complex as a difficult team member who cares but always sees the worst in a situation, we can find ways of managing it, of using it to help us think more deeply and learn and grow for our future.

The things I share in this podcast are based on my experience of over 30 years leading change and working with leaders who are making changes happen.  Some of it will be more relevant to you than others and it's up to you to decide what you are going to do with them. My hope is that you will find something you can take and apply. But that's up to you and it's exactly what being a Curious Choice Leader is all about, getting curious, building your understanding and then making some choices about what's best for you, your team and your business.

So the question I would like to leave you with is

What is your Imposter Complex trying to tell you?

If you found this episode useful and thought-provoking I would love it if you subscribe and share it with others who you think would find it useful too. It would also be brilliant if you could leave a review where ever you listen to podcasts

If you would like to know more about my coaching and implementing these ideas please get in touch and let's talk about how you can become an even better leader, one curious choice at a time. Thank you for listening, and until the next time stay curious and I look forward to talking to you again soon.

How leaders can use coaching skills to unlock performance

How can leaders use coaching skills to boost their team's performance?

As someone who has been using coaching in my work for about 30 years now you won't be surprised to hear I have a lot of thoughts on what coaching is and isn't, how it should be used and what it's really all about. It has been fascinating to see how people’s attitudes towards coaching has changed over that time, and how, as the impact coaching can have has become more widely recognised more and more people are talking about being coached or calling themselves a coach.  Indeed this over of the one word has become so prevalent that its all but meaningless, and ironically one of the key things that coaching is meant to do, provide clarity, has been lost.

So here is my perspective – being a coach and using coaching skills are not the same thing.  If you get nothing else from this episode, I hope you get an understanding of that distinction. Almost all of us can benefit from using some of the skills of coaching in our work, and as leaders we need to build these skills if we are going to unlock our performance and that of our teams.

We know that our technical skills alone are not enough to make us a success as a leader, and that we need to be great at working with, and through, others too.  The skills that coaches use to understand other people’s perspective, to open up peoples thinking to come up with better solutions, to support the decision making process are just 3 ways we can benefit from developing those skill for ourselves.

 So are you ready to get curious about why leaders need to grow  their ability to coach and make some choices about how you are going to do that?

Using Coaching Skills is a key part of leadership

Coaching is something that is part of every leaders role, and it can influence your approach, but awesome as it is, you need more that coaching skills to be a leader. 

Early on in my career I worked for a specialist manufacturing company who used machines and processes that were highly adapted to their needs.  When we found ourselves without a Manufacturing Manager for six months, the board knew it would probably take us at least that long to find someone with the specialist knowledge to run that operation.  Instead they asked me to take on the role, scary since I knew I didn’t know very much about how the machines and processes worked.  Instead I had to approach the role differently, use my lack of knowledge and my coaching skills to ask great questions, develop the team and get them to solve any problems with the processes.  My lack of technical knowledge made it easier for me not to get overinvolved in the technical solutions to problems and stay focused on prioritising what needed to get done.  

I was able to use coaching skills as a basis for this role and still make it all about ensuring we could supply our customers now and in the future.  I was also able to spend time leading and building the future vision for the department while empowering the team to keep the unit running efficiently.

For me this really allowed me to experience first hand how critical coaching skills are to leaders and how they are only part of the picture.

Coaching is all about unlocking potential and as leaders that is what we are looking to do - unlock the potential in our business and in our people.  By the end of my time running the manufacturing unit they were operating more efficiently, had less machine down time and the team were better able to manage their teams so when the Manufacturing Manager returned he was able to build on that foundation and not shoulder everything himself. 

As a leader your role as a coach is to unlock the potential in your team - it’s where you make sure they have the skills and knowledge they need and where you help them become able to make a great contribution.

The other roles leaders also need to play

As well as your role providing coaching, there are two other roles you need to fill as a leader. Leading and Managing.

Leading is all about setting direction, creating that compelling vision, creating the working environment and what it’s like to work round here, it’s the values we set and how we bring them to life, it’s engaging people and making sure the team are all pulling in the same direction.

Managing is about getting things done, it’s where the team and you deliver value and make your contribution, serve your clients, it’s the action area of your operations and where you deliver on your commitments.

Now these three areas are not separate, think of them as three circles which as a leader you bring together so part of each overlaps with each of the others like a Venn diagram.

Balancing Leading Coachng and Managing

As a leader when you can spend your time working where the three overlap you will be serving your team, your business and yourself well.

When for example you have a project or are leading change, reinforcing why the project is important and how it helps you get to your overall vision, then looking at how you are going to get that project done and how you can use the project to grow your teams ability and contribution is working in the overlap of the three circles and maximizing your impact.

Using Coaching Skills does not mean you have to become a coach

Building coaching into your approach like this does require some coaching skills, but it doesn’t mean you have to become a coach. 

Coaching is one of the tools that you have available to you.  If you were a gardener and you had a spade, it would be a tool you would reach for when you wanted to dig a hole, but you would not become a spade.  You would also not be the only person who could use a spade, a builder might as well, but if you both ended up calling yourselves spades the world would be very confusing for anyone wanting to know what you do.  It’s the same with coaching and why when you are looking for external coaching support or indeed considering becoming a coach, you need to be really clear what you are looking to achieve with it.  

I digress and you can find out more about the questions you should consider when you are looking for a coach in Episode 23, where I talked about how to choose the right style of coach for you.

Why do we as leaders need different coaching skills and styles?

So as leaders why do we need to have the tools to coach?

As our business and our people grow so does what we need to do to unlock that potential. The coaching skills we apply change and grown with that.  We all start by needing to learn how to do things - we need to be shown how to do things. Then we need to be taught more around our subjects and what we are doing - we need teaching for that

Then when our knowledge grows, we need to be helped to apply what we know - that’s where consultants and mentors are invaluable - we learn how to diagnose what is going on and how to fix it.

Finally, we get to the stage where we need someone to stretch our thinking, to challenge us and support us, to help us explore different angles and to generate and explore options, to make great choices.  That’s when as leaders we need to be able to coach our teams.

As leaders we need to think about which of these we are applying and when, it’s not a linear process, it can change with the situation and with the task.  Even a very experienced professional who has joined your team based on their expertise will need to be shown how things work in your business and in your team.  The skills you are going to need are very different as you transition between teaching how to do a task and stretching someone’s thinking.

Part of the art of being a leader is knowing when to use show and tell or teaching with your team, when to grow your teams knowledge, when to supplement it with consultancy and mentoring, when to develop those consultancy skills and specialisms and when to act as a coach.

So what’s going to enable you to do this?  Being curious about your team themselves, finding out all about them, taking the time to really invest in your relationships with them.  You are going to need to develop the skills and emotional intelligence to work with others effectively, to develop and use your listening skills, your skills at asking questions, your empathy and your awareness of the impact you are having on someone else. And above all else it’s going to take practice and accepting that there will be things you can learn and improve on, so get in the habit of reviewing and assessing your own performance and encouraging and accepting feedback.

Summary & Taking Action

None of this is easy, but developing these coaching skills is key to being an effective leader.  It’s not about being able to call yourself a coach, its about having the are tools that will allow you to unlock the potential in your team, in your relationships and in your business and therefore enable to you unlock your own potential as a leader.

The things I share in this podcast are based on my experience of over 30 years leading change and working with leaders who are making changes happen. Some of it will be more relevant to you than others and it's up to you to decide what you are going to do with them. My hope is that you will find something you can take and apply. But that's up to you and it's exactly what being a Curious Choice Leader is all about, getting curious, building your understanding and then making some choices about what's best for you, your team and your business.

So the questions I would like to leave you with are 

What aspect of your role would benefit most from you applying the skills coaches use?


What is the next step you need to take to make that happen?

If you found this episode useful and thought-provoking I would love it if you subscribe and share it with others who you think would find it useful too. It would also be brilliant if you could leave a review where ever you listen to podcasts

If you would like to know more about my coaching and implementing these ideas please get in touch and let's talk about how you can become an even better leader, one curious choice at a time. Thank you for listening, and until the next time stay curious and I look forward to talking to you again soon.

The best way for leaders to respond when everything suddenly changes

First Response: What's the best way for leaders to respond when everything changes suddenly?

There are many things 2020 has taught and reminded us! We have had so many opportunities to learn and build our skills as leaders that at times they have seemed as overwhelming as the circumstances we have been facing!  If you are listening to this episode in the week it’s published, you may well be feeling that again.  It’s the week that the UK, along with much of Europe, is entering a second set of lockdowns, and that’s against the backdrop of the US Elections.  Both of are adding to the uncertainty and pressure we are all feeling as human beings at the moment.

Rather than my planned episode I thought it might be helpful to press pause together for a moment and look at what our priorities are as leaders when we are faced with big and disruptive events.

So are you ready?  It’s time to get curious about our leadership priorities when everything around us is thrown up in the air so we can make choices which keep us leading effectively.

Leadership Priority 1 - Start with yourself

Just like when any change is announced when the world around us is thrown into chaos, we are going to experience a huge range of emotions, possibly all at the same time.  Our brains go into fight or flight more, and we may want to shut right down or we may find ourselves heading towards keeping really busy running round in circles.  The thing that is consistent is that our brains going into a kind of frozen almost paralysed state a bit like when we eat too much ice cream too fast, it hurts and we almost literally can’t think about anything other than remembering to breathe. 

When we are in this state our very first job is to get through it and be able to think again.  Press pause, breathe, walk, rest what ever works for you.  You need to do what it takes to look after yourself so that you can be in a position to help your team as soon as you can. 

Your team will take their lead from you, and how you react will influence how they react.  Showing them it’s OK to take a pause for themselves will remove some of the pressure on them.

If you want to know more about how people react to change check out this episode.

Leadership Priority 2 - Check in with your team

Once you are ready your next priority should be to check in with your team, see how they are doing and to make sure they know you are there for them. 

Make sure you listen to really understand their concerns and don’t discount what they are feeling or worried about just because its not the same as you or you think its not important or even real. The fact that they are thinking it and telling you means it real for them.  If you don’t have information to share with them that will allay those fears, acknowledge them, empathise and offer what reassurances you realistically can.

Taking this approach will make huge deposits in your relationship account with your team, it also gives you the information you need so you can work out what’s next.

Leadership Priority 3 - Working with your team

A common characteristic about situations like this is that we become very focused on what ever it is that has created the challenge and all the unknowns around it.  Most of the conversations I have been having this week are around what does the new lockdown here in the UK mean for our businesses and lots of worst-case scenario thinking and feelings of helplessness.  To move on from the initial panic and engage in what is happening we ask questions as we work it out, so as leaders we want to encourage that, but we want to avoid that feeling of helplessness. And we will come back to that in a moment.

If you and the team are spending time together you will need to remember that everyone may well be at a different stage of their journey to accepting what is happening around them.  In some cases, you are going to need to remind the team too, and you may even need to remind the team that it is OK to disagree about certain things! 

We know in the early stages of adapting to a change or when the team are understandably distracted by outside events that have a big impact on their life, we are going to see a dip in productivity.  Their focus is naturally going to be split and that impacts their productivity, so demanding results or even the normal performance levels right now is not going to get you them and is probably going to delay how soon you do.

Instead, as leaders our role is to help people move through this stage as smoothly and seamlessly as possible.

Leadership Priority 4 - Focus on what you can control

So what can we do to get the team focused and feeling less helpless in the face of what is going on around them?

In short, by focusing on the things we can control, and then the things we have some influence over rather than the things we are concerned about but can’t change.  For example with the latest lockdown we can’t control that it is happening and many businesses have been shut or asked to work from home again, but we can control how we as leaders and teams choose to react to that.  This time we have the advantage of having been here before, we can focus on doing more of the things that worked well for us last time and improving those that didn’t.  We can focus on the things we need to get done.

Interestingly when ever we take this approach of focusing on the things we can control we find over time the circle of things around us that we can control and influence grows, but when we focus on the things we are concerned about but can’t control, the scope of what we control gets smaller.

So working with your team to understand that they have a choice about how they react to things, are they going to abdicate that choice and become a victim of circumstance or are they going to get curious and make choices about the things they can control, will enable you to ease your team past the external distraction and pull together towards your goals.

If you want to find out more about what leaders need to do when leading change check out this episode

Summary & Taking Action

So in this episode we have covered the leadership first responses to an external crisis, starting with managing your own reactions, then empathetically checking in with your team.  We have talked about how you can start to move from the initial panic and distraction back to being productive by showing them that they have a choice in how they react and focusing them on the things they can control.

The things I share in this podcast are based on my experience of over 30 years leading change and working with leaders who are making changes happen.  Some of it will be more relevant to you than others and it's up to you to decide what you are going to do with them. My hope is that you will find something you can take and apply. But that's up to you and it's exactly what being a Curious Choice Leader is all about, getting curious, building your understanding and then making some choices about what's best for you, your team and your business

So the question I would like to leave you with is 

What things that are within your control are you going to focus on right now? 

If you found this episode useful and thought-provoking I would love it if you subscribe and share it with others who you think would find it useful too. It would also be brilliant if you could leave a review where ever you listen to podcasts

If you would like to know more about my coaching and implementing these ideas please get in touch and let's talk about how you can become an even better leader, one curious choice at a time. Thank you for listening, and until the next time stay curious and I look forward to talking to you again soon.

How to choose the right style of coach for you

How to choose the right style of coach for you

Have you ever wondered about how this Podcast got its name?

For me, whenever you step into a leadership role at any level there is an amount of uncertainty about the situation and about what specifically great leadership is going to look like for you as a leader for that team and that set of circumstances. And that uncertainty is a good thing, it creates the space for you to get inquisitive, to discover everything you can about the people you work with, about the company, about the industry, the businesses your company works with, everyone's specialisms and so much more - you get the idea! This curiosity keeps you learning, it allows trust to grow, it enables you to find the best and most engaging solutions to the challenges you and your team face. And those are just some of the reasons I consider curiosity a key value.

But amazing though the skills of curiosity are, they alone are not enough. What you do with what you discover is what matters. In every situation we have a choice about what we do, and once we understand that we are then able to make conscious choices about the things we find when we get curious. Making choices creates action and ultimately delivers results.

I believe that these two ideas underpin leadership and being the best leader you can be, they are the foundation that allows you to add the leadership theories and practices and styles that work for you.

And those two ideas also carry over into my coaching - They are how I approach doing what I do - I coach to make others shine and I do it by helping them get curious and then make choices. I work with them to look at what they know from different perspectives, to work out what they need to find out, what options they have and then to decide which option is best and what they are actually going to do.

So let's take a moment to get curious about coaching itself, so you can make some choices about what kind of coaching is right for you and when.

There are so many people calling themselves coaches, how do I choose?

With so much change going on around us both at work and in the world, in general, it's not surprising that more people are looking for answers and are looking for help with their work, their leadership and their business.

And there is no shortage of people offering to help them, advisors, consultants and coaches. Some days it feels like everyone you meet or see in your inbox, on LinkedIn, Instagram, Facebook and anywhere else you look is calling themselves a coach. And that's why we need to talk about coaching - what it is and what it inst!

And that's where it gets a bit confusing - you know they are not all offering the same thing in the same way, and what they are calling coaching and what they offer varies hugely. And some market themselves so that you think you can't possibly manage without them, playing on your fears and insecurities, narrowing down your thinking, belief and options. Some coaches are clearer than others about how they can help you.

So if you are looking for support in your business and are considering a coach how can you make sure you get the right kind of coach for you and your situation? 

We are going to take a look at two things I hope will help you, firstly how to get clear about what you are looking for from coaching and then secondly we are going to talk about the coaching continuum which is a way of understanding the different types of coaching.

What are you looking for in a coach?

I've always loved the quote from the Cheshire Cat in Lewis Carol's Alice in Wonderland, 'If you don't know where you are going any road will get you there' Finding the right coach for you can feel a bit like that too - if you don't know what you are looking for, how will you know when you find it?

So before you start looking for help in your business, especially coaching help you need to think about what you really want from coaching, so in the spirit of getting curious here are some questions to help you with that.

  1. What difference do you want the coaching to make?
  2. How much do you already know about the subject - are you looking for someone to fill in some knowledge gaps or are you looking for someone to help you apply what you already know to your current situation?
  3. What kind of person brings out the best in you?
  4. Are you looking for someone to take the problem away, to help you with it or to help you work out what you need to do?
  5. Are you looking to fix one very specific thing, to learn how to fix this and other similar problems or to apply what you already know?
  6. To what extent do you want to be challenged and what extent do you want to be supported?
  7. How will I know if this is the right person for me to work with and what questions do I need to ask them to work that out?

And if you are thinking that seems like a lot of thinking and I don't want to do that much work, you may well find that coaching is not the right option for you at the moment and you may be better off paying someone to come in and do the work that needs doing to solve the problem.

What is coaching?

Being coached is a very active process and the more you put into it the more you will get out, regardless of the type of coach you choose to work with. It's not turning up and offloading your problems to someone who is going to fix them, It's not just about fixing things that are broken, it's not just talking and it certainly isn't therapy. Being coached isn't remedial, it is about boosting performance.

So what is coaching? The definition I use is based on Sir John Whitmore's who popularised the GROW coaching model. For me, coaching is the art of unlocking someone's potential and facilitating their performance to maximise their success.

And that still leaves a lot of scope for different types of coaching and I promised you a way of understanding the different types of coaching available. So here we go!

The different styles of coaching

Now I want you to imagine a graph, on the left-hand side the axis is the lasting impact that coaching can have with the impact increasing the further up the axis you go. Along the bottom are the different styles of coaching. The styles have been broken into four groups to make them easier to talk about, but in reality, they blend from one to the next and it's a continuum that builds from left to right. The four groupings are from left to right, Show and Tell, then Teach and Advise, then Mentor and Consult and finally on the right-hand. end Coaching Expert. We will talk more about the characteristics of these in a moment, but here is a diagram to help you picture it.

The Impact of different coaching styles

The final piece of the graph is an exponential, so S-shaped, curve which starts a little way up the left-hand side and shoots upwards significantly somewhere in the Mentor and Consult section of the graph.

Below this line represents how much lasting impact you can expect each kind of coaching to have.

So let's look at each in turn.

The Show and Tell Style Coach

The Show and Tell type coaches will be saying things like I've done this, let me show you what I did. This type of coaching is right for you if you don't know anything about the subject, or you are just starting out with a company and you are looking for actionable tactical advice for a specific situation.

The Teach and Advise Style Coach

Moving along the continuum, we then have Teach and Advise. You will be able to spot those teaching and advising as they will be saying things like 'I've built some knowledge and some experience around this, let me teach you what I know. This type of coaching is right for you when you are looking to build your expertise in a specific area.

The Mentor and Consult Style Coach

The Mentor and Consult type coaches will be saying things like 'I've built considerable experience in this as you can see from my career history. I can diagnose your exact problem and suggest things that will help you resolve your issues.' This kind of coaching is right for you if you know about your subject and your situation and are looking to refine your knowledge and for hints and tips about applying what you know to your situation.

The Coaching Expert Style Coach

And finally, on the right-hand side, we have the Coaching Experts, If these people were not busy asking you lots of questions to help you work out what you are looking for, these people would be saying things like 'I have all the things the other three groups have plus the skills and techniques to help you work things out for yourself. They are experts in coaching, and may also be experts in particular topics. Working with this kind of coach is right for you when you are ready to take action, to make lasting changes happen, to be challenged to think differently while being supported as you do, when you are looking to stretch your perspective and apply what you know in new and different ways.

All of these fit within the definition of coaching being the art of unlocking someone's potential and facilitating their performance to maximize their success. The art is knowing which type of coaching to use when. If for example, a fire alarm is going off in an office you are visiting you don’t want a coaching expert to ask you if you notice anything different about the environment at the moment, what happened when you noticed something like that before, what options you have and which one you are going to pick. Instead, you want someone to use show and tell type coaching and get you out of the building immediately!

What changes with the different styles of coaching?

So what changes as you move from left to right on the continuum? Typically the amount of coaching experience that someone has grows from left to right, but there are some fundamental differences in the way they will work with you too. Understanding these five criteria will help you know what kind of coach is going to best meet the needs you identified when you answered the questions earlier.

The five criteria are:

  1. Who sets the agenda for the work you do together, towards the left of the graph at the show and tell end, the agenda will be set by the coach, and you will be setting the agenda more and more as you move to the right-hand end where you are working with a coaching expert.
  2. The same pattern is true for the second criteria, who is making the decisions about what actions you should take, the show and tell coaches will do this for you, while the coaching experts will facilitate you choosing the next best step and the decision will be yours.
  3. Those are both reflected in the third criteria, who does most of the talking during your sessions together, generally, the closer someone is to coaching expert, the less they will say, instead they will focus on listening and enabling you to articulate your thinking.
  4. The fourth criteria that changes as you move along the continuum is how prescriptive the process is. The closer your coach is to the show and tell end of coaching the more defined your work together will be and the less room there is for it to be personalised to your requirements or situation. The coaching expert on the other hand will have a huge array of tools and techniques that they can switch between depending on what you need and what is working for you in that moment.
  5. The fifth and final criteria that changes is how you will be able to apply what you are learning and working out with your coach. In show and tell coaching you will learn what to do in a specific set of circumstances, and how widely you can apply what you are learning grows as you move towards the coaching expert.

Interestingly price is not an indication of what type of coaching you are going to get - given that the impact of working with your coach grows exponentially as you move to working with a coaching expert, it might be logical to assume that you would pay more for it, but my observation is that very often that's not the case. I've seen people who are very firmly in the show and tell category of coaching and with very little experience charge thousands of pounds to be in a group programme of coaching while for those who are coaching experts coaching is a vocation and it is part of who they are, so probably shows up in every conversation you have with them.

These are the coaches who are demonstrating curiosity and helping you do the same, and working with they may well be not only cheaper than you think but also higher impact in terms of results both now and in the future than you think. I had a lovely catch up with an ex-client of mine recently - it has probably been 15 years or more since we last worked together and he reached out to let me know that the things he worked out and learned from our time together have supported him throughout his career and enabled him to now be the Group IT Director for a multinational engineering supplier.

Summary & Taking Action

So we have covered a lot in this episode, why being curious and making choices matters in leadership and how that shows up in coaching, and in the coaching I do . We have looked at the range of different things coaching is, form showing and telling, through teaching and advising, then onto Mentoring and Consulting and finally onto where it is all about Curiosity and Choice, coaching experts. And we have looked at how to work out which kind of coaching is right for you right now and how to tell the different types of coaching apart.

The things I share in this podcast are based on my experience. Some will be more relevant to you than others and it's up to you to decide what you are going to do with them. My hope is that you will find something you can take and apply. But that's up to you and it's exactly what being a Curious Choice Leader is all about, getting curious, building your understanding and then making some choices about what's best for you, your team and your business.

So the question I would like to leave you with is 

Which kind of coaching would benefit you most right now? 

If you found this episode useful and thought-provoking I would love it if you subscribe and share it with others who you think would find it useful too. It would also be brilliant if you could leave a review where ever you listen to podcasts

If you would like to know more about my coaching and implementing these ideas please get in touch and let's talk about how you can become an even better leader, one curious choice at a time. Thank you for listening, and until the next time stay curious and I look forward to talking to you again soon.

How to show you are trustworthy as a leader

How to show you are trustworthy as a leader

In the last episode, we talked about trust and how working environments with a high level of trust between people makes everything else is easier, so naturally, we want to cultivate more of it.

Trust is a living organic thing that grows between people, and despite what I commonly see talked about you can't manufacture it and you can't force someone else to trust you. Instead, we need to be trustworthy and that's based on four foundational cores - integrity, intent, capability and results.

We talked about those in the last episode so if you missed it or want a refresher you can always go back and listen again. In this episode, we are going to explore how you can bring those four foundational cores to life, the behaviours that demonstrate them as a leader and the ones that undermine them and can have a negative impact on the trust in your relationships.

So are you ready? It's time to get curious about the behaviours that make you trustworthy and make some choices about how you show others that they can trust you?

Why do we even need to talk about being trustworthy as a leader?

I think we all like think that we are trustworthy, very few of us set out to betray someone else's trust so this may seem like a strange topic to discuss. And if we were all perceived as being as trustworthy as we like to think we are cultivating high trust work environments would indeed not be a good subject for discussion.

Yet somewhere between the principle we set ourselves to be trustworthy and how trustworthy we are perceived to be something goes wrong.

And those things that go wrong are down to the things that we do to demonstrate those four foundational cores of being trustworthy. We can't control how someone else sees and interprets our behaviours but we absolutely have a choice about how we behave, the things we say and the things we do.

It is also worth saying that we are not going to get this right all the time - and probably the most useful way I have come across for thinking about trust is to think of it like a bank account. You can do things that make a deposit and you can do things that make withdrawals from this trust account. To get a dividend from having a high trust working environment we need to keep this account in credit and as far in credit as possible so if we accidentally make a withdrawal we don't go overdrawn and start to pay penalties and make everything we do harder. As a leader, we need to actively manage those trust bank accounts with each person in our team and with the team as a whole.

The idea of the four cores of being trustworthy comes from the book The Speed of Trust by Stephen MR Covey and Rebecca R Merrill and it's a book I recommend if you are looking to dig a little deeper into these concepts.

Demonstrating integrity as a leader

The first foundational core of trust is integrity, that is being honest and then standing by your principles even if there is a personal cost to you, it's doing what you say you will do when you say you will do it. The key behaviours here are being honest, telling the truth and keeping your word. As a leader, it is about being clear where you stand on issues and being open and genuine and transparent.

When your team knows what matters to you and what is and is not OK with you it's much easier for them to trust you and to perform well. It's the equivalent of them knowing what court they are playing a game on and avoids them say trying to play tennis on a football pitch.

Obviously, the opposite of these kinds of behaviours are telling lies, being deceptive and covering things up, but there is also a dangerous middle ground where you are trying to appear to be clear and transparent but in reality, you are spinning facts, positioning yourself, following a hidden agenda and withholding information. These behaviours all erode trust over time. I'm sure you can all think of a manager who has spun facts to you and then spun them differently to someone else, how bad that left you feeling and how you trusted them less as a result.

And as leaders, the watch out here is that this can happen over even seemingly little things like telling someone they are important and then taking a call in the middle of your conversation with them.

Acting with integrity as a leader also shows in how you hold yourself and others to account. How important are deadlines? How do you keep the commitments you make to the team? Obviously, we want to avoid breaking our promises so we need to make commitments with care, but we also need to avoid being evasive and only making vague commitments that can't be pinned down. We need to avoid playing the blame game and pointing fingers when things go wrong. When we do we make a huge withdrawal from the trust account not only of the person we are blaming but also from the rest of the team who will see what has happened.

So when things do go wrong, as they inevitably will, we need to make sure we don't sweep it under the carpet but that we tackle the issues. We need to admit if we have made a mistake, we need to apologise quickly, we need to put things right as fast as we can. As well as holding ourselves to account when things go wrong we need to do the same for the people in our team. We need to make it easy for them to tell us when mistakes happen, our reactions in that moment matter and will impact how likely anyone in the team is to talk to you about these kinds of things in the future.

Another way we show our integrity and make it easier for those around us to trust us is the way we talk about people. When we show our loyalty and talk highly of people, especially when they are not there, when we speak up for others who are not present and when we pass the credit to the person who deserves it, other people will be more confident in you. I remember one very senior leader I was doing some work for who when I was in the room was full of praise for what I was doing but who I later found out was taking the credit for himself in front of his boss, the CEO. I was very hurt, not because the recognition itself was important to me, but because I felt betrayed, and it certainly left me very wary of him in the future and less motivated to work with him.

Demonstrating your intent as a leader

The next foundational core is intent. What are your motives for doing what you do? If people believe your intentions are good they are more likely to trust you. We find it harder to trust say politicians whose intent we thing is self-centred and whose motives we think are about gaining power. That's also a dynamic we see play out in the workplace.

There are two elements we need to consider with intent - what our intent actually is and then how people perceive our intents and our leadership need to reflect that.

Firstly as leaders, we need to check in with ourselves about our intents. Why really are we doing the things we are doing. This is one of the many areas where applying our curiosity inwards is important with some good reflective practices. This can be as simple as just asking ourselves at the start of each meeting what our intent is in that meeting.

I also think it's a really important question to ask yourself when you are planning anything, by knowing what your intentions are as well as what you are going to deliver with this plan you can make sure you deliver the right things in the right way.

How someone perceives our intent is going to be personal to them, their beliefs, their values and their previous experiences. We can't change those but we can be very clear and very consistent about our intentions. We talked before about being transparent and clear, well stating and being clear about our intentions is important too and we can weave this into our day to day management practices for example when we delegate explaining why things need doing in a certain way and what we are trying to achieve by doing them. Being really clear about our expectations also helps people understand our intentions.

We also demonstrate our intent in how we treat people. Are you consistently respectful to everyone? Even those who can't help you? I know of more than one company who ask the receptionist to feedback on interview candidates for this very reason - if someone behaves differently with someone they perceive not to be part of the interview process this throws up red flags to the interview panel.

When we are looking to create a high trust environment one of the most powerful ways we can share that intent is to extend our trust to others first. It's very tempting, especially when someone is new or when lots is changing to micromanage or delegate without giving someone the authority to do things, but when we do this we are actually signalling that we don't trust them. Yes, our teams need our support and help, especially when something is new, but we can grow trust in those moments by how we extend trust through the delegation process while keeping just the right amount of control overall so someone can learn without things going catastrophically wrong.

Demonstrating our capability as leaders

The third foundational core is Capability. This is about having the skills and knowledge to do what you do, it's about using them and about keeping them up to date. We trust people who have the capabilities we need and use them appropriately.

This is an area where your skills as a curious choice maker are really going to come to the fore. When you ask great questions and listening to understand the answers, exploring your area of expertise and seek input from others about theirs, when your team see you working on developing your own skills and knowledge, not only will they do the same but they will also know you value learning and your know your stuff so are worth listening to.

This isn't about showing how expert you are by giving your opinion at every opportunity, it's about listening first and then building a shared understanding rather than listening to give your answer. It's about being able to continuously improve what you and your team do, not learning for learning sake, it's about learning and being curious, then making choices so you can get great results.

Demonstrating trustworthy results as a leader

Which leads us to the fourth core foundation, results.

As leaders, we will be more trusted when we have a track record of getting great results, when our reputation is one of getting things done well, on time, on budget and in the right way. We need to balance what we are promising with what we deliver, when we over-promising and under-deliver people's belief in our ability is dented. And when we under-promise in the first place we won't be trusted with bigger projects or roles since if we don't think we can why should they, even if our track record is one of over-delivering.

A big part of delivering results is creating the right environment for people to perform - creating that high trust environment in the first place. So bringing all the things we have talked about into play is part of delivering results.

Getting curious about the situation you and the team are in, confronting the reality of the situation and working on the right things, not avoiding the difficult parts, delegating authority as well as tasks and then being loyal to your team, making the decisions you need to make and being clear on your intent when you do, these are all going to help you build the high trust environment that you need to continually be building in order to be a high performing team.

Summary & Taking Action

So in this episode, we have looked at how what you do as a leader directly impacts the levels of trust in your team and with the people you work with. We have looked at how while you can't make someone trust you since that is their decision alone, you can show them that you are trustworthy, that is't OK to trust you. How you demonstrate the four foundational cores of trust, your integrity, your intent, your capability and your results matters. Done right trust grows and you are continually topping up the trust bank account you have with people, done wrong and that trust leaks out of the account eventually leaving you either overdrawn or totally bankrupt.

The things I share in this podcast are based on my experience. Some will be more relevant to you than others and it's up to you to decide what you are going to do with them. My hope, my intent, is that you will find something you can take and apply. But that's up to you and it's exactly what being a Curious Choice Leader is all about, getting curious, building your understanding and then making some choices about what's best for you, your team and your business.

So the question I would like to leave you with is 

What behaviour do you need to change to better show those around you that they can trust you?

I suggest you pick one at a time, get really good at it and then pick another to work on.

If you found this episode useful and thought-provoking I would love it if you subscribe and share it with others who you think would find it useful too. It would also be brilliant if you could leave a review where ever you listen to podcasts

If you would like to know more about implementing these ideas please get in touch and let's talk about how you can become an even better leader, one curious choice at a time. Thank you for listening, and until the next time stay curious and I look forward to talking to you again soon.

The problem with how we talk about trust in business

The problem with how we talk about trust

and increasing it in business

Let's talk about trust. It's one of those things that we intrinsically know if it's there or if it's not. We know that without trust we don't work effectively with others, we won't support our leaders and we won't willingly purchase things from people we don't trust.

So I probably shouldn't be surprised by the amount of information that is out there about trust.

But a lot of it worries me and as an advocate of growing high trust working environments, I wanted to understand why.

So I did what works best for me when I need to work things out, I got curious, I pondered it for a while, dug into my book collection, tuned into to what people were saying a bit more, drank coffee and walked the dog, always good for letting ideas brew nicely!

Are you ready? It's time to get curious about trust and make some choices about how we can develop trust in our working relationships.

What difference does trust make?

For many people trust is a bit of an abstract and loose concept, we know it's a good thing but it can be hard to explain what trust actually is. Ultimately it's about how believable we think someone is and effectively how much confidence you have in them.

The level of trust there is in our working relationships matters - it impacts everything from how we delegate, how we communicate, how we lead, how we work with customers and suppliers, the number and type of controls we have in our business, to how we get results and ultimately to how profitable our businesses are.

But how does that work? Well, the more confidence or trust you have in the person you are working with the quicker and easier it is to get things done. You are not going to spend as long checking what they have or have not done and communication is clearer and more effective when you trust the person you are talking to.

In the book 'The Speed Of Trust' Stephen R Covey and Rebecca Merrill share the idea of a trust dividend being applied in situations where trust is high and a trust tax being in force when trust is low. They give the example of the time it takes to clear airport security. After the terror attacks of 9/11 the time it takes to clear security significantly increased as trust declined thanks to the attacks. 

We see the trust dividends and taxes in operation all around us every day, when we work with people we trust we can work quickly to get good results with very little bureaucracy, we benefit from that dividend, but when we work with people we haven't worked with before or who have let us done in the past, everything is harder, we want more controls in place and we pay the tax for the lack of trust.

So what's the problem you have with trust?

Given that there is no doubting how important trust is, part of me is glad that so many people are talking about it and encouraging us to develop trust.

Where it starts to break down for me is how people are talking about it and how actually some of the ways they are talking about it and developing it are fundamentally floored.

That is what's been bothering me and which as a result of a conversation with Maggie at Small Business Boss about some of the things we were seeing, I came to think of as actually broken. 

In some of the examples we were discussing, the advice people were being given so they could 'manufacture trust to get people to buy things or do things' actually fundamentally erodes trust.

With all the uncertainty in the world at the moment, there is a kind of longing to have something or someone we can trust and to be living with more trust in our relationships both at home and at work. And when you are hearing that the thing you need to do is to manufacture trust to get more sales, to be a better leader or to work better with your stakeholders, so to secure your future you are going to listen.

You can't manufacture trust - it is impossible - let me explain why

But let's stay curious when we hear messages like this and question what we are hearing before we just accept it as fact and let's keep making conscious choices.

So some thoughts about trust and why some of the things we are being told about manufacturing trust actually erode it.

Firstly, you can't make someone trust you. If, and how much, they trust you is their decision, not yours. You can only create an environment that makes it possible for them to trust you, by extend trust and trusting them first and by making sure you behave in a way that is entirely trustworthy.

Secondly, you can't manufacture trust. Trust is a living organic thing, it ebbs and flows and it lives and breathes as part of every relationship you have. And living things can't be manufactured. You can't make eggs for example, well except for Creme Eggs and those may be delicious to eat but they never hatch. Yes, you can intensively farm to increase the quantity of eggs you get but when you do that the quality of the eggs you get goes down.

With trust, we need quality and not just quantity to sustain our relationships in the long term. It's a living thing that we are looking to grow by nurturing it and taking care of it.

Manufactured trust has no foundations - and we know what happens when you build something without foundations - it is likely to fall.

Talking about building trust feels a bit better to me - at least there is the implication of those foundations being present and it reminds us that it's a cumulative process. If you are looking to build trust (as all marketing gurus tell us to) remember that it needs to be built on strong foundations.

The Foundations of Trust

So what are the foundations of trust? For me, the best description comes from the Speed of Trust where Covey and Merrill describe what they call the Four Cores, Integrity, Intent, Capability and Results.

We need to model all four of these, demonstrating them as behaviours consistently for people to be able to trust us, leave any one of them out, even for a while and the roots of the trust you are growing will be damaged badly and the trust you are growing will be damaged too. As with anything you are growing being consistent in how you look after something is important - a plant won't do well if you give it a year's worth of water all at once, keeping the water level consistent in the soil works much better for the plant. It's the same for trust.


The first foundational core of trust is integrity, that is being honest and then standing by your principles even if there is a personal cost to you, it's doing what you say you will do when you say you will do it. In the book, they give the example of the tennis player Andy Roddick who was given a point when his opponents shot was called out. That point would have given him the match, but he told the umpire that the ball was good and the game continued. Roddick eventually lost the match but his integrity was very much intact. Longer-term that meant match officials knew they could trust his word on future line calls.

Integrity starts with the little things, do you keep your commitments to yourself, do you get up when you say you will, do you deliver work when you say you will, are you a person of your word? Each time you are, each commitment you keep, you are building your integrity.


The second foundational core is Intent. What are your motives for doing what you do? We are more likely to trust a charity whose motives are helping others than we are for example to trust a politician whose motive would seem to be power.

It's another reason I'm sceptical about the concept of manufacturing trust and using it as a sales tactic - if your motive for developing the trust is self-serving it totally erodes this foundational core. If the trust you have built is without this foundation it will fall away quickly which often leads to long term damage in the relationship. In a sales situation, this can be buyers regret at having given you their business, on a project it can be stakeholders and users feeling resentful towards what is being implemented and from a leadership perspective, it can lead to polarised factions in your team.

You can manage this foundation by checking your intentions before you act and sharing those intentions. When people understand your intent they are more forgiving should you act in a way they consider untrustworthy.


The third foundational core is Capability. This is about having the skills and knowledge to do what you do, it's about using them and about keeping them up to date. We trust people who have the capabilities we need and use them appropriately. You may have a friend who is an excellent chef and who is great with a knife. No matter how much you trust them when it comes to making a meal you are unlikely to trust them to perform surgery on you, even though they have those great knife skills you know they don't have the other capabilities a surgeon needs.

We maintain our capability levels through continual learning, by being curious, by reading, listening to podcasts and having great conversations with other knowledgable people. We also learn by using what we learn, by actually doing - that builds our own trust in our abilities as well as the trust of others.


The final foundational core is Results. We are much more likely to trust someone with a track record of getting results, that's why we need to look after the results we get when we work with people. That's why we see a lot of inflated performance and results claims on people's CV's, on LinkedIn, on people and company websites. However, if you do inflate claims in order to demonstrate results, you compromising on that first core, integrity, you are taking out two pillars of your foundation and suddenly being worthy of trust is looking very precarious and you are at serious risk of paying a tax for the lack of trust!

Summary & Taking Action

So in this episode, we have talked about how fundamental trust is to getting great business results. In high trust environments, we can make things happen quickly and with the minimal amount of process controls, we get a dividend in terms of business performance. However, when trust is low we pay the penalty, or rather an ongoing tax in terms of costs and motivation.

We talked about how this is leading to some people encouraging us to manufacture trust and why that simply isn't possible since we can't make people trust us and you can't manufacture something that is a living thing. We talked about how instead we need to make sure the foundations for being trustworthy are in place, how we need to focus on acting with integrity, making sure our intent is good and is clear, on building our capabilities and on getting genuine results. Demonstrating to others that it is OK to trust us, that we are trustworthy is all about how we behave and we will look at that in a bit more detail in the next episode.

The things I share in this podcast are based on my experience. Some will be more relevant to you than others and it's up to you to decide what you are going to do with them. My hope is that you will find something you can take and apply. But that's up to you and it's exactly what being a Curious Choice Leader is all about, getting curious, building your understanding and then making some choices about what's best for you, your team and your business.

So the question I would like to leave you with is 

What are you doing to build your strength in each of the four foundational cores of trust, integrity, intent, capability and results?

How to Combat Change Fatigue When You Are Leading Change

How to combat change fatigue

when you are leading change

Are you finding the amount of change you are dealing with exhausting? If you are you are not alone! Judging by the reactions I have seen, heard and personally felt to the current business environment and the rapidly changing government rules and guidelines, the onset change fatigue is definitely setting in.

Change fatigue is nothing new, especially to those who work in and around projects, but right now we are dealing with it not only in our work lives but also in our lives in general.

So what can we learn from our previous experiences of change fatigue to make coping easier? Are you ready to get curious and make some choices based on what you find?

What is Change Fatigue?

There is no doubting that too much change for too long is exhausting. When things change we become more conscious of how we do things, things that were automatic or semi-automatic now require thought and more energy to make them happen. We expend even more energy wondering how to do things, working out how to get things done and quite possibly worrying too. Add in a big dose of uncertainty both personally and economically and it's not surprising that we are all experiencing a degree of change fatigue.

But how does that change fatigue impact the people you work with, do you know the symptoms? They can be very broad from general despondency, to disengagement, stress and a prolonged drop in performance even when the dip that comes with the change curve has passed, but most often it starts as grumblings and moaning about what is happening.

It can impact individuals, whole projects, whole organisations and now it seems to be impacting society generally. It's clear to see when we get more government announcements but I've noticed that it's also there when anything new is mentioned. It can be a subtle eye roll, resigned look, a feeling of 'oh no another thing to think about', which ever symptoms you are seeing, they are certainly becoming more prevalent.

What can we do about Change Fatigue?

So what can we do about it? Change management offers us some ideas and solutions, and some of those can be applied relatively easily while others need some tweaking.

There are two underlying causes of Change Fatigue, too much change in too short a time, and how we lead change.

We can certainly control and change how we lead, but, as is the case at the moment, we can't always control how much change there is.

How can we control the amount of change we are experiencing?

The amount of change being imposed on us at the moment makes the classic advice for reducing change fatigue by reducing the amount of change and it's impact rather redundant.

That said while we have to deal with the changes being imposed on us by the government due to Covid and the changes to our trading environment with not only the economic impact of the pandemic and any government schemes which can help us but changes to legislation like IR35 and of course BREXIT which are all going to be on us before we know it, we can, however, choose how many other change initiatives we are introducing, others could be put on hold or stopped altogether.

We do have a choice about that.

A Change in Perspective

I also think it's time to remind ourselves and our teams that we have been dealing with what we called the VUCA world, the volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous world, for a long time now. As managers and leaders, we have been striving for continuous improvement for even longer, and what is that if not incremental changes for the better.

Maybe it's time to stop framing everything that is happening around us as abnormal and waiting for the level and amount of change to go down.

We are going to need to keep dealing with rapid change, just as we have since before the pandemic, the impact of new technologies and new players in our markets didn't start this spring. We knew how do deal with that. We need to keep adjusting our course and continually improving what we do, just as we always did. What we need to do now is do the two together.

 A change in our perspectives and helping our teams see things from an alternative view, setting that vision and demonstrating those working principles will help you and your team see this as a series of smaller but importantly linked things that become easier to manage and don't feel like as many changes, thus helping us reduce our change fatigue.

Prioritise the Changes

That bigger picture, organisational and societal view, finding and communicating connections between the different moving parts in your working world will also enable you and your team to prioritise the different changes that you are reacting to.

Not all the changes you need or want to make are equal, some are urgent as they impact how you serve your customers or clients, or the overall viability of the company, others fall into the nice to have category, and some will be somewhere in between. Knowing where what you are working on sits on this scale and having a shared view on that, allows you and the team to manage your energy and time effectively.

Prioritising your projects and putting them on a road map of changes helps people see how things fit together and how some of the items further down the road are ideas, places you might visit, projects that can and probably will change in scope and outputs by the time you get to them, but also that they are still important enough not to be forgotten. It allows you to make sure you are fixing the things that matter most first.

Long Term Direction

At the moment for most businesses, the planning horizon for detailed plans is relatively short as it should be when there is a lot of uncertainty, and since this uncertainty is likely to continue, knowing what direction you are heading longer term helps us make decisions that are in line with that longer-term direction.

As leaders, we need to keep reminding people about that long term direction. Often when I'm talking about this with my clients, they tell me they have told them, and that is great, but we need to keep reminding people. And if change fatigue has set in then its almost certainly time to talk about it some more. If you are feeling like you talk about nothing else you are probably nearly doing this enough.

Find ways to tie it into the other conversations you are having with your team, for example when they come to you with ideas ask them how it fits with the long term plan, things like that all help us all grow our understanding of the direction we are going.

How you lead change to reduce change fatigue

So the second area to look at when we are looking to reduce change fatigue is how we do what we do as leaders. We have touched on some of them already, and in general the better you get at leading change and applying the change leadership lessons you are learning along the way, the bigger impact you will have in terms of reducing change fatigue.

We have talked already about communicating the long term vision, where you and the team are going, your team values and what really matters, we have talked about linking all the changes to this long term vision and talking about it a lot.

Lead through to the end of each change

One thing I have noticed many managers and leaders do, is only to think they are managing change and only considering something a change until they personally have processed that change.

As leaders of change we often start our journey with that change much earlier than our team, so we tend to get to the point where we think it's all done before our team and sometimes before some people have even started. We need to make sure we are still thinking of changes as changes and supporting our team accordingly until the last person in the team has reached the finish line.

What happens if we don't do this is that we may experience just one or two changes at a time but our team are left facing a backlog of changes which are all getting to them at the same time, multiplying the fatigue they feel around change.

Listen to your team

Alongside that, it is important to listen to your team. How are they? What is concerning them? What do they think?

When your team feel really heard and understood, it helps them feel valued and involved. And when you know how important you are to the team and have helped design what you are all doing it is far less exhausting than when change is being done to you.

Listening to your team and involving them in the changes will help reduce change fatigue.

You can find out more about how to be a better listener here.

Having great and open conversations with them will also help you empathise and deepen the trust in your team.

Manage everyone's expectations

By talking and listening you can manage people's expectations on things like how much is going to change and how fast. You can also help them understand what is expected of them and what doing a great job means in practical terms for their role.

Talk about Change Fatigue

You can also help your team manage their levels of change fatigue by talking about it, helping them understand what is happening and sharing ideas for managing it.

What is working for one member of the team may work for you or for someone else in the team and knowing you are not the only one struggling with this can make a big difference.

We can also support our teams by noticing when they are not looking after their general well being, or maybe working too many hours, the better we are at managing our energy the better we perform and it's often easier for someone else to see when we are overdoing things than it is for us to see it ourselves. A quiet word, letting someone know you appreciate them and you have noticed they seem exhausted can make all the difference.

Summary & Taking Action

So in this episode, we have talked about change fatigue and what we as leaders can do to help manage it and the impact it is having on us and on our teams.

We talked about breaking it down and stopping thinking of the level of change as unusual, rather an extension of our continuous improvement work and our ability to deal with a rapidly changing world. We talked about the two ways to reduce change fatigue, reducing the amount of change at any one time and improving how we lead change, and some practical things you could do in both those areas right now.

The things I share in this podcast are based on my experience. Some will be more relevant to you than others and it's up to you to decide what you are going to do with them. My hope is that you will find something you can take and apply. But that's up to you and it's exactly what being a Curious Choice Leader is all about, getting curious, building your understanding and then making some choices about what's best for you, your team and your business.

So the question I would like to leave you with is 

What are you going to do today to reduce change fatigue for yourself and your team?

Leading Change – Working From Home and The People Points Game

Working from home and the people points game

I share my office space with a mad chocolate labrador called Lyra, well I call it my office but she thinks of it as her bedroom and either way she takes her job of sleeping very seriously. She can often be heard snoring and dreaming in the background of my calls. Her second favourite place to get some sleep is on the sofa, or it was. Until I was given a lovely new floor lamp.

She was very excited about its arrival, got involved with getting it out of the box and assembled, so far so good. The lamp now stands proudly in a corner near the sofa and for some reason that I don't understand, Lyra is convinced she can't jump onto the sofa anymore. It's just a small step up for her in reality, but she will sit and look at the sofa and cry. The only way she can get up there now is by taking a running jump from the other side of the room, which makes things interesting if you are already sat on the sofa! It's taking time, patience and some training treats to get her confident to get on the sofa again.

Cute though this story is, you may well be wondering why I'm telling you about a labrador and a lamp. Well, it reminded me that even when we know people in our teams well, when it comes to change they can still surprise us.

Here in the UK, we have had another wave of government-imposed restrictions announced this week, people are no longer being encouraged to go back to their offices and the advice to work from home where possible is likely to be in place for at least the next six months. So more changes for our teams to deal with both in their work lives and their home lives.

As leaders, we need to be open to the idea that people will surprise us with their reactions even when we know them well and be ready to support them accordingly. We have been given another chance to really strengthen and deepen our relationships with our teams and to find ways to set them up to get results working from home for an extended period of time.

So are you ready to get curious and make some choices about how you can set your team up for success as they work from home where they can?

How do you feel about working from home?

When you heard the news that working from home was being encouraged again, how did you feel?

Were you celebrating as you are more productive when you work from home, especially now your home is not a school as well? Are you glad that you don't have to face the commute and can control your own hours a bit more?

Or did your heart sink? You miss the office, the buzz of the people around you and the chance to get out and about? For some people, it's not that clear cut, but for many of us, we sit firmly on one side or the other.

As a leader, we have our own preferences to consider, as well as our teams and we also still need to ensure that our team is productive, when we can't see how they are and what they are doing. We may well be used to leading a team who were based in different offices, but now we find ourselves managing a team with as many different locations as there are people. The techniques we have used to run our multi-location teams are still going to work, all be it with some slight tweaks.

And since the initial lockdowns, you have probably worked out how to work as a team, and how to keep things going. Yes, there is room for improvement but there is even when we are all in one location.

So those practical things are not what we are going to talk about here now.

At the heart of this is our relationships with our teams, we need to keep developing and deepening those relationships. As Lyra demonstrated when the lamp arrived near her sofa, even when we think we know them well their reactions to changes, even ones we think are positive, can surprise us.

So, how are your team reacting to the latest government guidelines?

More changes for your team and what you can expect

I know for some of us this doesn't really represent much of a change in practical terms, many of us have been working from home throughout this period and maybe even longer.

But it will impact some people in your network and in your team's networks so there will be some change to manage and some more unexpected twists and turns in how to get things done.

You can expect to see people go through the phases of the Kubler Ross Change Curve, initially you are going to see some denial, some disbelief and certainly some confusion at the seeming gaps in logic between the different measures. As leaders, we want to move our teams forward from this unproductive negative state of mind as quickly as we can, even though it means we have to go through the next stages of change, the anger and frustration and then the depression which make up the messy middle bit of change. As we go through this productivity will dip in the short term as people process the changes. Then we will start to come out the other side and build back to productivity. Not everyone will go through this at the same speed or with the same intensity and you need to flex and adapt your approach to suit your team and the stage of change that they are at.

Hopefully, you have learned lessons about how to do this effectively from the last rounds of change, but if you are looking for hints and tips check out episodes 3 and 4 where I share lots of ideas about how to support your team on that journey.

What we need to do next as leaders of people working from home

As we become more confident in leading people back to productivity we can start looking at how we as a team can work at our best again. We absolutely need to look at our management and how we get things done - our systems and processes and how they need to change, we can look at how we measure what we do and again anything that needs to change there, and we can look at how we delegate and can pass work between ourselves and our stakeholders.

But there is something which we as leaders need to think about which sits underneath all that, our team energy levels.

We know change dips into our energy reserves and we need to look at how we can boost the energy levels back up. How we do what we do, will make a difference but looking at where our team members get their energy from can make a big difference too.

Earlier I asked you how you felt about working from home for an extended period, some of you will have felt a positive energy boost, some will have almost literally felt the energy drain out of you. You will see the same from your team.

There is no one right reaction, and as leaders, our job is to be aware of where our team sit on this scale and make sure we set the team up so everyone can flourish.

Energy Levels and the People Points Game

There is a strong correlation between people's reactions to how it feels to work at home and where they are on the Introversion Extroversion Scale used in psychometric assessments like the Myers Briggs. Especially when you dig into why they feel like they do. Here introversion does not mean shy and extroversion does not mean being loud in a crowd. It's about where you get your energy from, and if the source internal or external.

I've been watching the debates about how many meetings you need to have as a dispersed team and the prevalence of Zoom Fatigue with interest. People on all sides of the argument are convinced that they are right - and they are. The truth is what is right for one person isn't necessarily what's right for another. It comes down to where you get your energy from.

Let me explain.

I was talking to a friend and colleague of mine last week, she is very definitely an extrovert and gets her energy from being around other people. Her husband, on the other hand, is very definitely an introvert who finds spending too much time with people very draining. They have developed a great way of talking about this between themselves and with other people.

They are big gamers and for them, keeping their team energy good is a bit like a game quest where you have to make sure you collect the right number of people points to keep your battery working well. As the name suggests, you get people points from your interactions with people. Too many people points and your head literally feels like it will explode, too few and your mood, mental health and physical abilities drop.

On an individual level an introvert needs far fewer people points to function well than an extrovert. But what does that mean for a team?

Well, for them as a team they make sure they play the people points game as a team, he knows when she needs to go and collect people points and she knows when he needs to give some away. Together they can keep their combined people points at peak performance level for the game.

Your job as a leader is to help your team balance their people points and keep the overall energy and productivity in the team high. The people who are excited to be working from home may well need less people points than those who dread it. But don't make assumptions, someone who needs less people points may dread spending a lot of time in a busy house.

So check in with your team - how are they feeling about working from home again and why?

Summary & Taking Action

So in this episode, we have talked about how people's reactions to change can surprise you, even when you know them well, and how we need to remember that as we face another set of government regulations.

We talked about how we need to remember to actively manage and lead our teams through this change even if the impact may seem small on the surface and then we talked about managing our team's energy levels and making sure they have the right number of people points.

 The things I share in this podcast are based on my experience. Some will be more relevant to you than others and it's up to you to decide what you are going to do with them. My hope is that you will find something you can take and apply. But that's up to you and it's exactly what being a Curious Choice Leader is all about, getting curious, building your understanding and then making some choices about what's best for you, your team and your business.

So the question I would like to leave you with is

How are you and your team doing at the people points game?

The Top 9 Mistakes Leaders Make When Leading Change

The Top 9 Leadership Mistakes

People Make When They Are Leading Change

In all my years leading change and working with leaders who are leading change I have never seen a leader get it 100% right 100% of the time, some get pretty close, and have spent years and years honing this skill. There is a lot to do and to think about when we are leading change, every change initiative is different, each team has it's own dynamic and each individual impacted by the changes is exactly that, an individual, so we shouldn't be surprised.

That doesn't, however, mean we shouldn't be aiming to do an excellent job of leading change, instead, I think it gives us a chance to learn from others and make our own and different mistakes!

So, are you ready to get curious about the things that leaders often get wrong when they are leading change and make some choices about how to avoid those mistakes yourself?

A personal retrospective on what leaders get wrong when leading change

I've been having a number of conversations about project retrospectives and reflecting on some of the tools and techniques they use, and dipping back into Ken Burrell's book Learning Lessons from Projects, and decided to do a one-person retrospective on the where I have seen leaders go wrong when leading changes. 

And that was the first thing I had to get over was the negative associations that exist with deciding something is wrong. I know none of the managers I've worked with set out to get things wrong and all did their best and with the absolute best intentions. And I have to admit that I stalled at the thought of labelling their actions as wrong. It's also a belief of mine that there is no one right way to do things and different approaches can work, so who am I to judge?

However, over my 30 years of leading change and working with leaders leading change, I have seen things not work and there are however traps that I have seen many leaders falling into. And it's those I want to talk about in this episode. And yes I'm also going to share some thoughts on how to avoid those traps so you can take those great intentions and turn them into great leadership when it comes to leading thought change.

The traps that in my experience catch leaders and managers fall into one of three groups, Relationships, Communications or Prioritisation. Some traps are super sneaky and can come up in more than one of those categories too!

The Relationship Traps that cause leadership mistakes 

Let's start by looking at the relationship traps.

Our relationships and our team's performance are built on a foundation of trust. Our teams need to be able to trust us and we need to be able to trust them. When we don't have that trust everything is harder, people become less engaged in their work, they, and we spend lots of time checking up on each other, and performance suffers. And all that is before we put change into the mix. Building and demonstrating trust through our actions is something we always need to be doing as a leader and the first relationships trap that I see leaders falling into when they are leading change is not having built strong and trusting relationships before the change starts, and the second one is damaging those relationships as soon as it does. 

If you think of trust like a bank account you can make deposits in those relationships or you can make withdrawals. This is however a bank account with heavy penalties if you go overdrawn. When we demonstrate trust in our team and demonstrate that we are trustworthy we make deposits. However when we do something to undermine that trust, or which someone perceives as a lack of trust we make a withdrawal, even if our intentions were good or we didn't realise we were doing it.

One common thing I see managers doing during change is setting out to protect their team and that is a great intention. How they do that however can see them falling into a trap. If they shield their team from the truth, or are intentionally vague, that withholding of information will be noticed. Our teams know when we are acting differently, when something's not right and we are worried, and not knowing what or why becomes like the unknown monster under the bed when you were a kid, much bigger and scarier than it actually is, we have all seen Monsters Inc right? 

When we withhold information we make a huge withdrawal from our trust accounts with our teams.

The chances are that the people in your team are bright and intelligent people, after all that's why they are in your team. When you are leading change it's very easy to fall into the trap of treating them like children and working as if you are the parent. At the start of the change process, you probably do know more about what's happening than them, but instead of treating them like a child, telling them what to think and do and possibly slipping into micromanagement, what if you treated them like the capable adult they are? Instead of getting a belligerent teenage reaction and a difficult relationship to manage going forward, the chances are you will get considered opinions and support building back to productivity.

These traps can be avoided by building up your reserves of trust ahead of any changes, and by thinking about how you can put building and maintaining your relationships with your team at the heart of what you do during the change. 

The final relationship trap I see leaders falling into is making assumptions about how people in their team are going to react, what they are feeling or what they might do. Sometimes this is because they genuinely do know their team really well, sometimes it is because they are projecting their own concerns and questions onto the team and sometimes it's because they are so deeply unaware of their own impact on the team that they are actually applying a theory to those reactions and assuming its 100% correct. 

Whatever the motive and whatever lies behind it, those assumptions can lead to many many challenges. Almost every leader I have worked with on a change programme has by the end of the programme commented on how they were surprised by someone's reaction. It's going to happen and if we are making decisions based on our assumptions, we are going to get it wrong more often than we need to, cause ourselves a lot of unnecessary stress and damage our relationships with our team.

And this trap has a simple-sounding but harder to implement solution - it's best solved by practising your curiosity - by asking great questions and finding out what is going on for someone, listening with empathy, understanding their concerns and positive expectations, and then making your choices based on the facts you discover rather than your assumptions.

The Communication Traps that lead to leadership mistakes

Next up let's look at the Communication Traps, and these are plentiful.

Our words, said and unsaid, how we say them and how we live up to them all have an impact. And being unaware of that impact is probably one of the most common communication traps I've seen.

We need to remember that while we share a huge amount of commonality in language and how we communicate based on our shared experiences, everyone we talk to has different experiences, beliefs and values, different things they associate with a word, so we need to choose our words carefully and be ready to explain differently if required.

A classic variation on this trap - and one leaders can fall into at any time, not just when they are leading change - and that's saying one thing and doing another. We may have all done this and we have almost certainly had it done to us - for example when someone says their conversation with you is the most important thing and then promptly answers a call or email during that conversation. As well as being totally annoying, even less blatant examples than this send very mixed messages.

And it doesn't have to be our actions either, it can be in how we say what we say, there is a huge difference between I'm excited about this and I'm excited about this. It can be helpful to this of this as the music that accompanies the lyrics and the dance you are doing to it. Something doesn't add up when you see someone waltzing to a punk rock track about a puppy, we need to make sure our words, mood and actions all tell the same story.

Another communication trap I see leaders falling into, especially when they are part of a formal communication, maybe a cascade of communication or a big town hall type presentation, is not being clear what is expected of them. Maybe they are too scared to find out and they avoid it, or maybe they avoid it because they are worried about being asked something they don't know, or maybe they don't want to be the one sharing bad news. This isn't a time to get defensive about what you are communicating.

Communicating around change is uncomfortable and at times you will feel vulnerable. And in that vulnerability comes the way out of the trap - when you start asking questions, being curious about how others are doing things, what they are saying and what they are thinking, you will find a good way through for you and the people you are communicating to. Remember until it's two way it's not communicating it's just telling. And as a bonus when you take this approach you are making a deposit into that trust account we talked about.

Part of this is that I see leaders falling into is not asking for help when they need it. Not everyone is a natural communicator, not everyone has had any training on how to do this, not everyone has experienced this before. Balancing the message you have to give and sticking to the corporate line while customising it to be meaningful for your team takes experience and expertise.

As leaders of change, we often feel compelled to be strong and forget that our teams need us to be human. Asking for help should not be seen as a weakness, practising what you are going to say, how you are going to say it and getting feedback is a great idea, talking through what you are communicating with your boss or those leading the change to make sure you understand it can also really help.

The Prioritisation Traps and the mistakes leaders make with them

So those are the common Relationship and Communication Traps I see, let's take a look at the final category - Prioritisaltion Traps.

As leaders, we are busy even before it comes to leading change, so it's not really surprising that a trap I've seen many leaders fall into is not putting enough priority on the changes and leading them. Sometimes for years we have been drilling people on and rewarding them for achieving performance targets. What incentive is there for them to stop doing that and make time to lead the changes if they even recognise there is a need? 

As leaders of change it's important we explain why things are changing as well as what is changing and that we have open discussions about what the priorities are during change. Change takes time and resources, we need to make sure we know what is expected of us as we lead the change.

So once we have avoided the trap of not being aware of what our priorities need to be, as leaders we need to be mindful of the next trap - not making time for the priorities. We know for successful change to happen productivity will dip for a while, we need to build that into our plans and set clear and realistic expectations with our teams around it too rather than trying to cram everything into our already full agendas.

As a leader, you will have your preferred way of managing your priorities, make sure you have made adequate time for the changes and then add in some more to cover the fact we all tend to underestimate how much time and effort making change happen takes!

And the final prioritisation trap we are going to look at is having confusing change priorities. Almost universally every company I have worked for or with has been trying to do too many changes all at once. The trap that this makes for leaders is that it can appear that their change priorities are confusing and it's hard to know where to focus. If they focus on one more than another or there is too much hype about a particular change, how do people know what they really need to make happen?

There is a skill to bringing all those changes together in a unified and easy to understand way. We are looking to link all the changes to our company objectives and mission so people can see how they interact. That is something we spoke about in Episode 16, and if you want a refresher why not check it out after this episode!

Summary & Taking Action

So in this episode, we have talked about the 9 most common traps I see leaders of change falling into.

There are the Relationship Traps, not building strong relationships before a change programme starts, damaging the trust in those relationships while change is happening and making assumptions about how others are going to react. We talked about trust as a bank account, some ways to make deposits and how important it is to be curious, ask great questions and listen to the answers as ways to protect ourselves from those traps.

Staying Curious and listening is also one of the solutions to the Communications Traps we discussed. We need to make sure we are avoiding the three big traps here - not being aware of the impact of what we are communicating, our words how we say them and what we do being disjointed, and not being human, vulnerable or showing empathy when we are communicating.

Finally, we talked about the three Prioritiseation Traps of not being aware of the priority we need to put on this, not making time for leading the change and leading so many changes that the focus of each becomes blurred or even lost.

The things I share in this podcast are based on my experience. Some will be more relevant to you than others and it's up to you to decide what you are going to do with them. My hope is that you will find something you can take and apply. But that's up to you and it's exactly what being a Curious Choice Leader is all about, getting curious, building your understanding and then making some choices about what's best for you, your team and your business. 

So the question I would like to leave you with is 

Which traps are you in danger of falling into and how are you going to make sure you dont?

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