“Discretion” is also described as “circumspection” or “the act of being discreet”. As clear as mud to most of us. Nevertheless, I am using this old saying and changing it slightly, to make a point in this article.
Much of my work is carried out in secret. 100% discretion guaranteed. Now, I am no MI5 agent. Nor do I encourage my clients to engage in underhand practices in any way. What I mean is that lots of my clients do not feel able to admit they are working with an executive coach. Many of my clients are lawyers and accountants – people to whom others turn for definitive advice. As I have noted in one of my earlier blogs, there is a widespread misconception “out there” that being coached means you NEED to be coached. Or, put another way, that you need to be fixed in some way. It’s a deficit model.
No-one can know
What this means in practise is that I often work under “NDAs” – Non-Disclosure Agreements. As I write, I have two in place covering my work with a financial organisation and an international charity.
This also means that, when I operate my leadership development networking product, the Future Leaders’ Breakfast® club, I am discreet. Unless our attendees are happy to be part of the LinkedIn and Facebook groups, or they choose to say they attend, I tend not to tell anyone they do. It’s not because they have asked me to keep it quiet. It is simply because I think it is nobody’s business if they do, as the song said.
What does discretion guaranteed actually mean?
It’s simple. The target market for Future Leaders Breakfast® club (FLB®s) is young people who are new to management positions.
Who actually attends? Lots of young people often trainees or newly-qualified professionals who are starting to have responsibility for other colleagues.
Who else actually attends? Managers, Associates, Partners, Directors. We’ve even had Equity Partners and a Chief Executive. People from public, private and voluntary sectors. People who all want to network in a fun new way. Probably, those same people all want to pick up some leadership hints and tips that they had not previously been taught.
And this is the point. How many people are actually taught how to manage and then to lead, as well as being taught how to be successful lawyers / bankers / surveyors / accountants? Very few. This is why we run the FLB®s. We provide a service which most business leaders daren’t admit they need!
What could this mean for YOU?
If you are already leading a team, but not 100% sure that you know what you’re doing, leadership-wise, FLB®s could be for you. Who’s going to know if you are actually learning something at the same time?
No one will know that you are actually learning things you didn’t already know, when you come along. Like I say, discretion guaranteed. So, FLB®s are a brilliant way to learn how to be an even better manager, and a better leader – discreetly. The beauty is that the networking acts as a smokescreen, keeping your lack of management knowledge tightly under wraps.
So, it would be really easy for you to come along to our networking events and pick up lots of handy hints. This would help you manage and lead your team for success … and no one will know you’re not just there for the networking. You win all ways.
Our FLB® mailing list is the best way to find out more. You’ll be first to know about our events as we open back up as the pandemic subsides. Come and join us to build your handy local connections … and make sure you are the best manager and leader you can be.
People have coined a lot of phrases as a result of Covid. “The Great Resignation” is the latest, but perhaps one of the most telling.
There appears to be a pattern of disenchanted employees leaving their jobs as a result of their lockdown experience (good or bad). This seems to be widespread across business in the Global North countries.
Some people have left their jobs because lockdown made them realise they could be happier and more productive working for themselves. Other people have left their jobs because they wanted a whole new way of life, having worked from home for so long. And then there are the people who would have happily stayed, had their boss not been such a problem. This last group are the ones on whom I am focusing in this article.
People leave bad bosses
This is a truism, yes. However, that grain of truth in the saying is a real problem when businesses are seeking to recover the global pandemic and its economic impact. There are simply too many bosses doing a bad job of managing and leading. This is actually driving talent out of businesses that haven’t spotted the problem, into the arms of more innovative, forward-thinking and self-aware organisations.
Organisations don’t become innovative and self-aware by themselves. Someone in a leadership role decides that is the way forward. In fact, it is often decided by someone with a real drive for excellence and success. That person will probably inspire, but they will definitely set a clear new vision and path, which others really want to follow.
This is massively important to me – it’s what my company does, coach and mentor leaders to introduce sustainable change for good. In addition, however, it is important to me as an individual. That’s why I set up the Future Leaders Breakfast® (FLB®) club back in 2017.
The club was formed specifically because I could see local businesses run by well-intentioned people who simply couldn’t manage properly, let alone lead. In fact, these people were often set up to fail, because they were trained to be superbly successful fee earners in their chosen profession … but no one had ever shown them how to manage a business.
Consequently, everything was about the fees and the income, instead of the major asset – the people who worked in the business. I saw poor communication around organisations, messaging to staff that really didn’t motivate, and poor acknowledgement of staff contributions and successes. Indeed, I even noticed a lack of basic “Hello”, “Please” and “Thank you”.
How FLB®s break the cycle
The aim of FLB®s is to create a fun way for more junior staff in organisations to learn how to break that cycle. We welcome businesses, charities, public sector. Essentially, anyone who is new to management is welcome. Actually, they don’t have to be junior, just self-aware enough to know they don’t know enough to do a good job as a leader. We have welcomed a range of senior leaders who were new in the role and wanted a way to network – and learn discreetly.
The club offers learning about the essentials of leadership and management, based on using me as the case study for each session, the “lab rat”. I refer to myself as “the lab rat” because the people who attend the FLB®s can test their learning on me as much as they like! Primarily, FLB®s are networking events. That’s why people come to them at the start. Then, they start to make new contacts. By coming back each month, those contacts get stronger. At the same time, their learning gets deeper and richer, as they acquire new skills and swap experiences with their fellow club members.
In addition to having a “lab rat” with a 30-year career to pick through, regulars at FLB®s will build a sound library of leadership theory. They will have a chance to explore a whole range of topics.
Here are a few we discuss:
- task-focused leadership
- situational leadership
- popular theories on leadership behaviour such as Covey and Maxwell
- motivational theories
- performance development
- time management and prioritisation
- successful management of hybrid teams
I could go on.
Despite what I think is a fascinating list of things to explore, FLB® attendees mostly come for the networking. They come for the peer group support and shared cohort experience. In truth, they come for laughs, checking in with peers and even brokering deals.
FLB®s offer all that. They bring together a great mix of people and business backgrounds. We encourage people to have 1:1s outside of FLB®s, to build their network. We’ve even seen business done at the networking tables, which was a nice bonus! Above all, they’re fun. The atmosphere is light-hearted, aiming to get people’s days off to the best start possible. We offer a simple breakfast as a starter too, as an additional reward for getting up and out early.
The Great Resignation didn’t start with us!
And the added benefit of attending FLB®s is that people learn how to be better leaders than some of their current employers. That can help them to progress up their firms to leadership positions where they can introduce real, positive change. It can also help them to realise that they are in the wrong organisation, the wrong discipline or even in the wrong industry completely! Luckily, for the big majority of our regulars, it’s led to promotions and clear communications with their line management.
While we won’t actively encourage anyone to be part of The Great Resignation, we will offer club members the chance to see leadership from an ethical angle, and to build their confidence to give it a try. Who knows where that could take them? Who knows where that could take YOU?
FLB®s are affordable, fun and easy to join. Please get in touch and give them a try. You’ll be so pleased you did … and so will your team.
Image: courtesy of tapanakorn via Canva
This month, I will be posting across all my platforms to (re)introduce you to the Future Leaders Breakfasts® or FLB® networking events due to reopen along the South Coast in the coming quarter. I thought it might help, to start at the very beginning … with our “why.”
Why Future Leaders Breakfasts?
How often have we worked with people who were brilliant at their professional discipline, (engineer, lawyer, surveyor, financier, etc…) but whose people skills were rubbish or totally lacking? There are people in leadership positions up and down the country who should not be there because they are utterly unsuitable for the role. Sadly, in the UK we still promote members based on professional efficacy, rather than whether people are effective managers and leaders. This means there are big gaps in leadership competency and, therefore, leadership and organisational performance.
At a local level, it has to be acknowledged there are some standout business leaders. Nevertheless, everyone knows at least one Partner in a professional firm who is either incompetent, unpleasant, or both. That isn’t OK. It’s bad for morale, it’s bad for productivity, and it’s bad for the local economy. I saw this problem and wanted to fix it. I was determined to find a way to offer accessible leadership development training for those starting out their leadership journey, to build a framework for ethical business in the area.
How to make this happen?
Cue a conversation with the innovative and far-thinking lead of the Business Development team at RSM Restructuring Advisory, Kat Cook. RSM were looking for a new BD activity, and I was looking to introduce this new basis for business development. The Future Leaders concept was born. Introduced as lunches, it seemed like a good idea until the Boat Show took up available parking and attendees’ firms’ Partners were unhappy about the junior staff needing to take time out of the middle of the day. Time for a rethink. Thanks to Kat, Charlotte and Richard from RSM, these monthly networking events moved to their Tollgate offices, at a new breakfast time, and Future Leaders Breakfast ® (FLB®) was born.
Since that time, these networking events have opened in Bournemouth and Chichester, as well as Southampton. All three FLBs have built a strong reputation for high quality networking, that offers something unique. Our monthly events have created a cohort of like-minded young professionals from Brighton to Poole. They all have found in FLB® innovative networking that really builds high calibre business relationships and leadership skills at the same time.
The immediate benefit for attendees is that they build an invaluable set of skills, supported by quality handouts which summarise the learning as a handy reference tool. Longer-term benefits come from the fact that they belong to a cohort, where shared learning has bred shared understanding and a deeper set of business relationships. There is also a wider benefit for the whole city/regional economy. We’re building a cohort of young professionals rising through the ranks across the key professions, all with shared contacts and great business relationships built on trust and integrity. This will lead to better business deals and better business leadership.
So what makes these networking events so unique? The FLB® formula is a simple but winning one. A low-cost, high value breakfast networking meeting, which sounds so far, so standard. The difference is that the meetings build a cohort of regular attendees, where leadership topics and theories are discussed in a fun environment. There’s personal learning, a simple breakfast, and some great networking with other professionals. Each session has a leadership development theme to the presentation and related table-top exercises and networking. In fact, we’re looking to introduce Institute of Leadership and Management certification to the events too. This will mean attendees can build their skills to accreditation level over breakfast.
There simply isn’t anything else on offer anywhere quite like it.
The target audience for these networking sessions is people starting out on the management ladder. They want to learn how to do it right by avoiding common pitfalls. They’ll also be free to explore how to use their new skills to create excellent client focus, healthy productivity, and a satisfying career. To date, we have welcomed young people from the professions in the main. However, we have also welcomed attendees from charities, public and government organisations, and local companies. The more, the merrier, and a wider mix enriches the networking (and the leadership insights) for everyone.
We’ve kept the FLB® family together since Covid hit. We ran online webinars monthly, in collaboration with Irwin Mitchell’s Chichester office. Unsurprisingly, a lot of the content we discussed focused on self-compassion, wellbeing, and effective teamwork. In the near future, we are hoping to re-open in the following sites:
- “FLB Bournemouth” with Pure Networking
- “FLB Chichester” with Irwin Mitchell
- “FLB Southampton” with BDBPitmans
- New “FLB Portsmouth”
- New “FLB New Forest”
- New “FLB Isle of Wight”
I remain incredibly grateful to those organisations that have had the foresight and thought leadership to back the FLB® project to date.
Future Leaders Breakfasts are re-opening – come and join us!
Hopefully, you have found it interesting to learn more about our networking events. You may be thinking that it could be of interest to some of your organisation’s new leaders. In fact, you may even be wondering how to come along and see for yourself.
We would love to welcome you to a face-to-face FLB® when they start back up. They may even start back in hybrid mode, for those who want to distance until things calm down. So if you would like to know more, please get in touch. Let’s work out which FLB® would be the best for you to visit, if you’re based between Brighton and Poole.
And if you’re not local to the South Coast, maybe your firm might be interested in collaborating with us to bring FLB® to your town?! We’re looking to grow and are always open to offers.
How well do you know yourself? We all like to think we know ourselves really well. We might also know a lot of our own strengths, foibles and development areas.
That might not actually be true. And that’s hard for some of us to face … others might actually know us better than we know ourselves.
Sometimes it might be our family – the ones we love (and who have to put up with the most from us!). Maybe it’s our friends – the ones we turn to for support and a good laugh. On other occasions, it might be our colleagues and co-workers. They probably actually see us for longer each day than our friends and family! That’s something to think about.
When you’re spending so much time with people, you’re bound to get on one another’s nerves from time to time. In fact, you may find that one of your co-workers “always” does something you’d rather they didn’t. What you may not know is that they may well think that you “always” do something irritating too. There are some uncomfortable truths that lurk beneath the surface in most workplaces. Those truths may just be perceptions. Perceptions can lay the foundation for misunderstandings. And if there’s misunderstandings, there may be miscommunication. Poor workplace communication is often at the root of low morale, poor motivation and ultimately poor productivity.
There is another way
To know yourself, and to know others around you, you could ask the people around you what they think of how you behave. They may well want the best for you and therefore be helpful with their feedback. They may also feel awkward about giving you feedback about things you do that you ought to either do better, do less, or indeed stop altogether!
Asking people what they think of you is a high-wire act, for you and them. It can put a toll on friendships in and out of work. It can also prey on your mind, if they give you things to think about but you don’t quite understand what they meant, or how it might affect them. And if it affects them in that way, does that mean EVERYONE around you thinks this? That could be really wonderful – or really awful, depending on the feedback.
There is a better way to know yourself.
How would it be if you could ask for objective feedback in a way that is anonymous, easy to do, and which explains the implications of the feedback to you. Sounds good, right? Well, that means you might like to consider taking a behavioural profile assessment.
There are a wide range out there on the market, but most of them focus on psychology-based descriptions of tendencies, preferences or “styles” as they are often known. Most are structured as some form of online questionnaire.
After the online questionnaire is completed, you should receive a report, generated by highly complex algorithms to match your answers against the preferences, tendencies or “styles” of the particular profiling tool you’re using. This report will give you feedback on how you are likely to behave in given situations. The report is likely to give you feedback on how others might see you, particularly if they have a different “style” from yours. What’s more, the report can give you priceless new insights into how you do what you do, and why others react to you as they do.
Following on from this, you might well think that, if everyone in your team had this profile, the level of mutual understanding and clarity of communication would skyrocket. And you might well be right. How might this be?
Well, for one thing, everyone having the same profiling assessment applied to them would give you all a common language with which to describe one another’s actions and behaviours. In addition, you would all have reports which offer an independent, objective lens through which to view yourselves. Finally, you would all have a way to understand the impact of your actions on one another.
The assessments I use
I use a range of profiling assessments. In other blogs I have explained why I use a needs analysis tool to improve team communication. However, sometimes, it is people’s personal style which is the stumbling block. That’s where I use:
These products are all different, highlighting different aspects of a person’s behaviours in work. Some focus on leadership specifically, some focus on key interactions. All of them are strengths-based, highlighting where people are strongest or more intense in their preferences, tendencies or “styles”.
Specifically, what questions would these products help you to answer? Well, they would help you understand or confirm your key strengths. That is always helpful, so you know how and when to deploy your resources to the best effect. No one has time to volunteer to do everything, including things they’re not great at doing, so maybe take this opportunity to focus your skillset on what you do best?
Next, these profiles could help you understand why you find some people easier to get along with in the workplace. Normally, there will be some who feel really on your “wavelength”. There will be some who make you wonder if you are speaking a foreign language when speaking to them, because they either don’t understand you or take offence at things that you simply don’t get.
There are lots of biases at play in the workplace (and in all human relationships); affinity bias is the source of the “he’s one of us” mentality that results in firms recruiting people in the image of the recruiter. This lack of diversity stifles innovation and, ultimately, productivity. So to avoid the inevitable biases at play in your workplace, using an objective assessment of people’s preferences and behaviours is a great way to introduce different points of view, whilst keeping a shared language in play all the while. It’s easy, cost-effective (particularly when compared with the cost of replacing disaffected leavers) and it really works. If it didn’t, I wouldn’t use profiling in my practice.
If you want to find out more …
Please get in touch. We can have a chat so you can explain precisely what your challenge is with your team (or maybe yourself). I can then offer you the profiling assessment which would best meet your needs in my professional opinion. You can access sample reports to get a feel for what you would be finding out. And you can be sure that nothing will be sold “at” you – everything my company provides to clients is necessary and appropriate.
I look forward to explaining all about these great leadership tools to you soon.
Image courtesy of Canva.
What are your people’s needs in work? Do you know? How do you know?
In this blog I explore the importance of having a motivated and engaged workforce. I also discuss how a superb diagnostic, which I use in my consultancy, can really help you understand the people in your organisation, to improve your leadership AND your bottom line.
People come to work to have their needs met. For some it is purely financial – they work to earn to live. For others, it can also be a social need – they value being part of a successful team, or joining in office banter, or somewhere to get them out of the house and into a different world. Actually, there are probably as many needs to be met in the everyday workplace as there are individuals. Added to that, some people’s needs (ie for a quiet office) may contradict the needs of others (for example, those that love lively office banter). That’s a lot for any leader to keep on top of, all day, every day.
Leadership theory, citing Herzberg, often calls these needs “hygiene factors”, or “motivational factors”. Some needs are crucial for survival (water, food, shelter …) and some are pretty crucial for sustained satisfaction (appreciation, emotional warmth, trust). It is important to understand what makes your people tick. After all, if you don’t, you cannot possibly expect them to give of their best for you and your organisation. Why should they? Their needs are not being met, despite coming into work every day. As a leader, you have a responsibility to address this.
What do leaders need to do about meeting needs in the workplace?
The first key point is that you need to understand that everyone’s needs are likely to be different, and that you can’t be expected to know them all. Additionally, you also have a responsibility to balance people’s needs with the needs of your organisation, and that’s a skill and a half. However, until you KNOW the needs you are dealing with, you are in fact hampering your own ability to succeed in leadership.
Sounds harsh? Let’s see …
Can you spot people in your organisation who display the following characteristics?
- Blaming others
- Complaining about the same things, repeatedly
- Leaving (or, more generally, high staff turnover)
- Tribalism (Us and Them culture)
- Being off-focus in their work
- Random sick leave
If any of these sounds familiar, it is odds-on that you have people whose needs are not being met.
Let’s be clear, unmet needs don’t mean you are a bad leader
What it IS suggesting, however, is that you may have gaps or blind spots when it comes to your leadership skillset. Nobody’s perfect, after all. It is the mark of a strong and competent leader to admit they have gaps … AND a plan to fix them. And this is the key.
This is the key because it is up to you to inspire and co-ordinate your people so that they get the best from themselves. That is a tall order, admittedly. It is, however, very doable once you know their needs in the workplace, and you meet them. Treat them the way they want and NEED to be treated, not how you think you would want to be treated. After all, you aren’t them and they aren’t you.
Nor is meeting individuals’ needs more important than the organisation’s needs
The employing organisation’s needs always have to have priority over an individual’s needs. This is important to keep the organisation solvent and on track with its core purpose. Nevertheless, successful organisations meet the collective need of the business case without neglecting the needs of individuals. In fact, they recognise that the drive and commitment that delivers against an organisation’s goals and targets come as a result of people’s needs being met. Staff are more motivated, happier and very often more productive..
So how can you get better at meeting people’s needs?
The most important first step is to find out what their workplace needs are. Then it’s important to find out, the extent to which your organisation is meeting those needs.
Here are some handy tips on how to go about this:
- It’s important that you ask everyone.
- A simple online survey is a great way to reach everyone.
- Make sure your survey is anonymous.
- Structure your survey so you can target specific areas (feedback, team spirit, handling performance etc etc)
- Have a baseline for your survey, to capture your “as is” and then after a period of time to measure progress
- Capture the feedback and share it with your teams
- Invite your teams to comment on how the organisation could meet their needs better
- Invite your teams to devise solutions
- Take action based on the feedback …
That’s quite a long list.
Luckily, help is at hand
An Even Better Place to Work (BP2W) is an online needs analysis and leadership support tool, which has as its entry point the amazing Satisfaction@Work diagnostic.
This is a high value, low cost solution which really works. By low cost, I mean about 11p per person per day for the Level 1 diagnostic for a whole year!
Recently I was hosting a webinar when one of my BP2W clients, who happened to be on the webinar, gave an unprompted testimonial for the product. He shared how the diagnostic had uncovered unmet needs right across his firm. He also shared how, thanks to BP2W, the firm had been able to take action to address this, resulting in greater team cohesion and sense of purpose. I was really pleased, because he was bearing witness to the power, value and impact of this simple tool.
BP2W meets the needs of busy workplaces.
BP2W has been used by small firms like my clients’, but one of the first to use it were Siemens and PepsiCo. It is widely used in the NHS in the UK too. The impressive support platform has the diagnostic, but also great team engagement tools, posters, videos … and backup support from your reseller (me!). The survey is thorough but really fast to complete online, the results are anonymised with care, and the results are presented in a way which doesn’t attack the leadership. It really is the win-win solution.
If this sounds like something your organisation could use, please get in touch. We can have a chat, I can give you a brief guided tour around the demonstration model online and you can see for yourself how easy, cost-effective and powerful it could be for you. Just think of the time, recruitment fees and general hassle it would save!