I truly believe in the value of engaging team members through asking not telling. It is a great way to engage people in strategy, increase autonomy and drive individual accountability.
There is a misconception, firstly some people think it is fluffy and others think it is the only way to engage people.
As a sports coach there is difference between coaching and ‘bench coaching’. Sometimes you have to be direct with your people, they need to know when they are not behaving appropriately and when they are not delivering.
Ice hockey coaches have the luxury of providing regular feedback throughout a game due to its unique unlimited substitution. It’s also a pressure situation that requires action. There is little time for conversations.
A coach may say:
“I noticed you came out of our end slowly with the puck, which put pressure on the player receiving your pass, resulting in a turnover and a shot on our goal, we agreed before the game we will move the puck quickly out of our zone, next time you’re out there I need you to get your head up quickly and move the puck with speed to your player, got that?”….”Yes Coach”.
That is direct feedback and it will only work if the coach has credibility with the player.
Often the feedback is the only time coaches speak to their players and wonder why players don’t implement what they ask. You got to have to have the conversations outside of the game, show that you genuinely care about them as people and not just as players. Find out about their aspirations, their dreams and their concerns.
The keywords in the feedback above are “we agreed”. This is key; you have to agree the desired outcome and coach on the outcome. I see managers in business try to control the process and not allowing their people to learn from their mistakes. Often it is the manager who fears failure and as consequence stifles the development of others.
Don’t be afraid to give direct feedback to your people…but make sure you’re having regular coaching conversations outside the ‘game’ this is how you build credibility and the feedback will be well received and most importantly acted upon.
Who will you coach or give feedback to today?
England will have a base style, but they will have to adapt to the situation - Eddie Jones England Rugby Head Coach
The new England Rugby Coach made the above comment in a BBC interview at the weekend.
It is a valid point. Great sports teams adapt to the environment, they are able to flex, experiment, fail fast and learn quickly. The business world is no exception.
‘Agile’ is the new buzzword. Team agility is essential in today’s business world. The pace of change is fast.
Ten years ago I was helping teams plan their 18 month - 3 year plan, 1-3 years ago it was their 12-18 month plan, now we are creating 60 - 100-day projects.
Eddie Jones has also stressed in the Guardian that teams need two things to win: Technical ability and cohesion. He wants to focus on the latter.
Cohesion comes from having a clear purpose. A team with purpose will be more agile, but setting a goal on winning the Rugby World Cup is not a purpose, it needs to be bigger than that, it needs to be bigger than the players.
A few things Jones must consider:
Ask, don’t tell – Jones has a direct leadership style, he should consider engaging the entire squad in defining the team purpose, vision and behaviours.
Create leaders not followers – Jones has admitted that a fundamental part of his role is to create succession. This shouldn’t be limited to management. He’ll need leadership to step up and influence change on the field too.
Culture – What has worked with previous national teams may not work with the England team. You can’t force one culture onto another.
The new coach is absolutely right, teams must adapt, but in England’s case it may also be Eddie Jones who needs to adapt. Only time will tell.
It’s that time of year when the phone rings with enquiries from business leaders who want help identifying the team vision and setting the strategy for following year. This is the most exciting line of wok for me, but can also be met with frustration.
Often my client’s objective is to create a vision that gets laminated and plastered around the office wall.
This will not drive change or better performance.
A vision is not a strategy. Great teams are dedicated to a higher purpose; they want to do something big, bold and meaningful in the world, they are dedicated to something bigger than themselves.
The question is not “what do we want to achieve?” but rather “How do we want to look, act and feel in 12 months time?”
More importantly how do your customers, stakeholders and clients want to look, act and feel, and how will vision and strategy make that happen?
Then you will drive innovation and serve a higher purpose.
We’re here to put a dent in the universe. Otherwise, why else even be here? Steve Jobs
Follow your purpose and the results will follow you.
Feeling inspired by Japan’s performance in the Rugby World Cup on Saturday, it got me thinking about risk and how one team can play with absolute intent and freedom and another team play it safe. Did South Africa play it safe expecting to dominate Japan?
Think about the brands that played it safe expecting to dominate their market, such as Kodak, Blackberry, Woolworths to name a few. Is there a Team Japan in your industry who you are underestimating?
Think back to when you have played it safe, what real value did it bring you?
When I was Head Coach for Team GB Inline Hockey we needed a change of direction. Previously we’d lacked commitment in our offensive attacks. As a team we agreed we needed to throw off some of that caution if we were to achieve our goal of playing in top 8 of the World Championships.
Did our change of tact work? Let’s just say our mantra was ‘Playing Safe is Risky’.
As a leader are you playing safe?
A fear of public speaking has been found to be a more pressing concern than death, according to a ranking of society’s most pervasive fears.
Whether you’re a coach giving a half-time speech or a CEO sharing your vision of a better future, words have the power to shift mind-sets.
The clearer you can articulate your own personal story the more compelling you will be. I have witnessed leaders build trust, improve team dynamics and inspire change simply by sharing their story.
If you’re looking to inspire change in your organisation, set the vision for your team or describe what you truly believe in, here some tips:
The hardest challenge leaders face today is inspiring others to change their behaviour and actually start doing things differently.
Whether you’re a coach giving a half-time speech or a CEO sharing your vision of a better future, words have the power to shift mind-sets.
The clearer you can articulate your own personal story the more compelling you will be. Sharing your story will build trust and also help you discover what’s most important to you.
Let people know who you are
If you’re looking to inspire change in your organisation, set the vision for your team or describe what you truly believe in, start by gathering the stories that shape you. #TellYourStory
Are you looking to improve your own leadership capability, perhaps you’ve got some feedback that has got you thinking about your behaviour?
We all know change is difficult and to change others can seem nearly impossible.
Sport coaches have this problem all the time; athletes will agree to one thing and then do something entirely different out on the field. The same happens in business and it is very frustrating!
Most people get change at an intellectual level but to really enact change people need to make an emotional connection to it and uncover what their unconscious barriers to change are.
Are you having real coaching conversations with your people helping them to unlock their potential…or are you just skimming the surface outlining what you both already know expecting a different result?
If you don’t address barriers you may not even be aware of, no embedded habits get changed and your team will not operate at its full potential.
Is it time to Flip The Switch?
‘Stay in the zone’ is often used in sports, but the concept of managing thoughts, feeling and emotions is essential for the workplace.
You can’t be a leader who withdraws from a situation and neither can you be a leader who fly’s off the handle and any given time.
Your level of mental toughness and agility will define you as a leader and your potential to succeed in your career. You can choose to focus on the negative or the positive; you can get stressed about things beyond your control or you can focus on the things that you can influence.
The fear of failure can be a barrier to achieving what you want or it can be an opportunity to learn and improve. These choices will have a direct impact on your performance and well-being.
For the most part you are in the zone, the challenge is staying there.
There a number of areas where leaders get the mist, such as presenting, having difficult conversations and decision making are among many the challenge is not letting internal thoughts or external factors to allow you to become derailed...
The key is to think proactively about the stuff that gets you out of the zone.
Tips for managing the mist:
For more details on this approach click here
If you want to create a high performing team...
START WITH PURPOSE
A team with purpose knows why it exists in the organisation and has clear expectations. Everyone is engaged, inspired and committed to working towards something bigger than itself.
Your role as leader is not to fulfil your own agenda but to align yourself to serving the agenda of your team members, stakeholders and the organisational vision, in return you’ll achieve more reward for yourself than you can imagine.
Your team needs you!
Tim Gallwey’s ‘Inner Game’ series may have seemed revolutionary in the 70’s but Plato beat him to it by 2,000 years.
People have innate knowledge they just need to be asked the right question - Plato
Coaching is not a profession it is a form of communication and for great sports coaches this is second nature, but often disrupted by ego. Coaching is simple but there are five tips to help you be an effective leader as coach.
What is ‘followership’ and what does it really look and feel like?
Have you ever followed anyone?
Did they really lead you?
What were they doing to create a high performance team
When I started to write my book in 2011 I considered who had inspired me to go beyond my own expectations. What did they say to me? How did they say it? It started to occur to me whether I actually followed anyone.
My experience of great leaders was based on a participative approach, involving me in strategic decisions, allowing me the freedom to make mistakes and learn. They rarely intervened in my activities, only making themselves available to hold me accountable for what I had committed to do.
On reflection they appear to me now as great facilitators of high performance. They trust and believe that everybody is resourceful, creative and capable.
What is your experience, have you followed someone or was there more to it?
Do people with a winning mind-set simply not fear failure?
I think it’s more about how people channel their fear of failure that counts. Lou Holtz, one of the premier College American Football coaches of all time said “Life is ten percent what happens to you and ninety percent how you respond to it.”
The word failure means different things to different people. Everyone will be threatened by something, we are biologically designed to feel threatened, it has aided our survival.
I have observed 3 types of people when it comes to failure:
1. People who are driven to succeed because of the fear of failure. The idea of actually failing is enough for them to do whatever it takes to succeed. However these people also tend to become stressed and get the red mist when things don’t go right.
2. People who will not take on a challenge if they believe that the goal is unachievable. They analyse the situation and appear to avoid any possibility of failure by not even taking on the challenge in the first place.
3. People who don’t consider the outcome and jump straight in, they are carefree, they don’t mind the experience of the unknown and their optimism sees them through. Although they may find they don’t actually learn from their mistakes and continue to do the same thing expecting a different result.
Are you one of these?
Good leaders can solve problems however if you want to be a great leader:
On good teams leaders hold their people accountable.
On great teams leaders create a culture where team members hold each other accountable.
Go through your accountability checklist:
Answered yes? Then all you need to do now is make sure your team achieves what they have set out to do.
Your role is to create a culture of accountability.
Here are my 5 tips for improving accountability:
You can read as many books as you like on the topic of leadership - and there are over a million to choose from - but at the end of the day the question you have to ask yourself is “do I actually give a shit about my people?”
If you don’t then you are seriously going to underperform as a leader.
Developmental feedback to team members is essential but not always fun. But if you can spend that time listening with your people, helping them discover their purpose so work is meaningful to them and praising at EVERY opportunity, then you will build trust and credibility making those difficult conversations feel less difficult.
You don’t have to like your colleagues but you do have to actually give a shit about them.
About 10 years ago I was running a manager as coach workshop for recruiters. I gave a demonstration of the model we were using with one of the participants. After ten minutes I turned to the group and asked for feedback. The first response went as follows:
If my manager spoke to me like that I’d think he had been smoking the funny stuff
What I had failed to do was demonstrate in a way that fitted the culture I was working in so that the participants could imagine applying coaching in their live environment. When the modes of communication doesn’t fit the culture your message sounds like fluffy bollocks.
I promised myself from that moment no more fluff.
This is often the disconnect between HR and front office, what might work in theory does not necessarily work in practice. However I am 100% convinced that leaders who practice coaching are far more effective than those who don’t.
Living with purpose is essentially an attitude of mind. Virtually everything you do in your life is ruled by choices that you make. You can choose to focus on the negative or the positive; you can get stressed about things beyond your control or you can focus on the things that you can influence. The fear of failure can be a barrier to achieving what you want or it can be an opportunity to learn and improve. These choices will have a direct impact on your performance and well-being. The aim is to find balance between performance and well- being and not to sacrifice one for the other. Living with purpose helps us to strike that balance.
After 15 years of research and observing top performers, I have come to the conclusion that there are three principles that support a life with purpose.
Those who live with purpose can articulate their story. They know how the story of their life has shaped them and they use their story to inspire them going forward, they are clear on how they want to look, act and feel in the future, and the changes or sacrifices they may need to make to get there. In return this allows them to play to their strengths and have a positive impact on the world.
They manage their thoughts, feeling and emotions, what an athlete would refer to as ‘staying in the zone’. Ask any athlete and they will say that the difference between winning and losing is the ability to manage their thoughts, feelings and emotions under pressure.
Neuroscience research tells us that the brain does not differentiate from one threat to another and change for many is a number one threat, furthermore change is physically painful, therefore developing the skills to manage change will not only deliver better performance but also improve well-being.
As individuals we will only truly buy into the changes that are being asked of us if we understand why. At an intellectual level people understand what is being asked of them but at an emotional level there maybe no understanding of why. By aligning personal purpose to the organsational purpose and values people really ‘feel’ the need to make change happen. The next step is to embrace change and identify with our unconscious resistance to change. What I refer to as ‘flip the switch’ on our potential.
What I have recognised working with elite sports teams is that despite an immediate emotional connection to the end goal i.e. the gold medal, athletes can still feel stuck, fear the unknown and therefore not compete at their full potential.
Don’t sacrifice one for the other
I had aspirations to play professional ice hockey and although I played to the highest level at Inline Hockey, there was a key differentiation between the real pros and my ability.
I can shoot the puck hard and I shoot the puck accurately, I just can’t do both at the same time!
To operate at the elite level, you cannot sacrifice one for the other. You can’t have great offence but your defence sucks and it is the same in business.
Organisations, teams and leaders often focus heavily on performance results, the numbers, key performance indicators, which are very important, but not to the detriment of engagement.
Focus on performance an you will create disengagement, focus of engagement and you will drive performance.