Being a Brave Leader

Being a brave leader is hard! I most certainly didn’t get it right all the time. I don’t think anyone does.
 
The aim has to be to do what you think is right, and when you get it wrong, face up to it and learn from the experience.
 
You have to be prepared to accept that you won’t get it right all the time, you have to be prepared to ADMIT you got it wrong.
 
Being brave in the face of all the challenges you will face won’t come easily. At times you will want to run screaming to the hills! Don’t think you are on your own – you definitely are not!
 
So, what does great ‘brave ‘ leadership look like?
 
In my opinion it looks pretty much like you’d expect any great human to behave. It’s how you’d hope we could all treat each other. It’s about standing up for what is right, even when that feels uncomfortable. For sure, there are ways of doing this which don’t instantly get you sacked. If you keep kindness in your heart and remember these key points then you will be on the right track.
 
Loyalty
 
Stand up for your team – even when things are not going great
Hanging your team out to dry, even if things are going badly, is not the way to go. Your team need you to support them to get better and if they know you are not on their side morale will drop like a stone. Once that happens you will struggle to improve anything.
 
Trust between you and your team is vital. If your team feels that you will pay a blame game in the face of trouble, you will reduce the likelihood of your team being creative and courageous.
 
Accept failure, in yourself and your team as a stepping stone to success. Don’t talk badly of the team to others. If a peer is talking badly of your team, find out what the issue is and work to resolve it.
 
Make sure the people who stick with you know how much you appreciate them. You cannot be a success on your own. You need your team, maybe more than they need you.
 
Doing what you say you will do when you say you will do it proves you as reliable and trustworthy. Do the right thing even when no one is watching.
 
Have those difficult conversations.
 
Sometimes you are going to have to do things which are not fun. Talking to someone about their failing performance, poor attendance, or bad attitude, is not pleasant. But, you have to do it. You can’t let things drag on. And, you must treat that person with kindness, even if you are feeling very frustrated with them. The conversation is not about you, it’s about them, so don’t bring your feelings into it. You need to get to a place where they understand that the conversation is necessary, and improvement required.
 
Brave leaders are the ones who tackle issues quickly, kindly and decisively. You cannot allow for important issues to not be addressed.
 
The rest of your team have to see you taking action when action is necessary.
Respect others – and yourself
 
It always comes back to respect, not just for others but also for yourself. You need to be clear on your own values whist respecting others.
 
Listen to your team. Accept that you don’t know it all and hear what others have to say. And, see things from others perspectives.
 
You may still disagree but will be doing so from an informed position.
 
Sometimes you will have to be prepared to stand up and be counted. If you are asked to do something which does not sit well with you, even after having heard all the reasons why you should, then you may have to say no. In these cases it is always helpful if you can state what you can do, rather than what you can’t.
 
Strive for excellence over perfection
 
We work in a very uncertain world. Leaders have to be able to make bold decisions amid the uncertainty and striving for perfection will hold you back.
 
Accept the uncertainty. Plan where you can but be prepared for curve balls and the need to adapt quickly.
 
Brave leaders know that things will not always be perfect. They will accept that sometimes ‘good enough’ is enough.
 
Be striving for excellence they will have created the right environment for ‘good enough’ to be very good indeed. It is in these environments that people thrive because they stop being afraid. Imperfection is accepted and risks can be taken. Creative minds will flourish. Fear of getting things badly wrong reduce. Often this is when something magical happens.
 
 
Be prepared to accept your vulnerabilities
 
You can’t be a brave leader unless you accept your vulnerabilities and love yourself anyway.
 
We are all a ‘work in progress’ and to be your best you have to recognise this.
 
Self-awareness and self-love are the most important factors in our efforts to be human leaders.
 
But, understanding ourselves and why we react to certain things does not give us an excuse for bad behaviour. Rather, it gives us a place to focus our learning and development.
 
Is it even possible to be in a leadership role and not feel vulnerable?
 
Leadership roles require us to step up and put ourselves in uncomfortable situations. There is no certainty that we will succeed. We have to rely on and trust other people.
 
Owning our vulnerablity whilst leading takes bravery.
 
The idea that vulnerability is a weakness is outdated and extremely unhelpful.
 
Vulnerability isn’t about exposing all of our deepest fears. It’s about sharing what is appropriate in the workplace. It’s about using your vulnerabilities to develop and grow, and creating an environment where others can do the same.
If you need coaching support on any leadership issues in your role then I can help. With 30 plus years experience and a passion for helping people to increase confidence in their role I have solutions to the problems you face.
 
mandy@positivelypracticalleadership.co.uk
 
 
 
 
 

Been promoted? Top tips for what you should be prioritising

So, you have been promoted and you face the challenge of taking over a team which has been working together for some time.

It’s daunting! Either you are coming in from outside and you have no real clue how the team operates. Or, you have been promoted from within and you know everyone but as a colleague rather than as their team leader.

No matter how confident you are about your skills and the role you can play it is easy to mess up at the start. If you do it can take a long time to get back on track.

You can be successful from day one if you remember these five priorities.

1. Engage

2. Build Trust and Rapport

3. Understand

4. Plan for change

5. Act

1. ENGAGE

Engaging with your new team is your first task.

You need to do this with respect and dignity. Your new team are human beings and so should be treated with dignity regardless. But, also they have been on their own journey. Where they are right now is as a result of their personal journey and you must respect that.

Create a mutual sense of worth and show respect for their views, whilst engaging with your team collectively and as individuals.

Talk to people, find out what make them tick. Get to know what is important to them individually.

Be clear about what people can expect from YOU, as well as what you expect from them.

2. BUILD TRUST AND RAPPORT

Building trust is vital. Your new team needs to know that you have their backs.

Forget your assumptions. If you are coming into the organisation from outside, forget what you think you know about the people, their drivers, their strengths and weaknesses. Find out for yourself.

Remember, if you have been promoted from within you may have seen a side of them that they would not normally share with their team leader. Respect that.

Make sure the team know what you won’t do as well as what you will. Help them to understand where you are coming from.

Trust that your team know what they are doing. Assume the best of them.

3. UNDERSTAND YOUR NEW TEAM

Observe, learn, question — be curious. Get to understand the team as a collective and as individuals.

Spend some time in their work world. Sit alongside them and see what barriers they face, where things work well and where they don’t. Understand their individual working and learning styles

Find out what is important to the people in your team.

Identify the development opportunities and where skills are being under utilised.

4. PLAN FOR CHANGE

You are more than likely going to want to make a few changes. To do that successfully you need to have a plan and build the case for the change.

Help your new team to see your vision — to see where you are going and WHY.

Change for change sake is morale destroying and takes up the team’s energy. You don’t need to implement change to ‘put your stamp on things’.

Acknowledge the team’s history and each individual’s place in that history. Show respect for decisions made by your predecessors.

Explain the reasons for change and the consequences of not making it. Outline the opportunities for individuals as well as the team as a whole.

Involve the team in the plan — it needs to be their plan and not only yours. Be open to ideas and feedback.

Expect things to take longer to change than you might ideally like!

5. ACT

Your actions will speak louder than any of your words. How you behave evidences what you really mean.

As you start to understand how the team works, where changes might be necessary, where extra support is needed, you MUST take action.

Failure to follow through on your promises is the fast track to failing as a new leader.

Your team will quickly lose faith, and see through all your good words.

Rather than promise everything, establish the most important barriers the team face and work quickly to address some of those.

Where longer term plans are needed be sure to tell your team that, and how you intend to take things forward.

Celebrate successes as a team.

Accept when the change doesn’t work and be prepared to re-think.

Be open about the fact that everything may not work perfectly from day one.

Be visibly active.

Finally, be prepared to seek support for YOU. You are a human being too! At times you will doubt yourself. In your role it can be tough to cope with that because you don’t want either your boss or your team to know if you are feeling out of your depth. This isn’t unique. We all go through it. Coaching and mentoring can really help. Find someone who can support you, and I assure you your confidence will soar.

How to stop doubting yourself

We all do it from time to time! For some self doubt can be crippling. For others of us it’s something that hits us, often out of no where, on occasions. It may be triggered by something, or someone. It will almost always be due to a memory that we are holding on to from the past.

Whatever and however we struggle with self doubt it is very rarely helpful.

OK, on occasion, a bit of self doubt is useful as a way of checking ourselves. Questioning whether what we are doing or thinking is the right thing to do. That is reflection rather than doubt though, and something that we always need to do employ.

I want to talk to you today though about that crippling self doubt. The sort that is getting in your way and stopping you from achieving your total awesomeness.

That nasty negative voice on your shoulder, telling you ‘ you can’t do that’, ‘people will laugh’, ‘no one is going to take you seriously’.

My self doubt is linked to my embarrassment filter. I have always had a deep fear of being embarrassed and worried about what other people think of me. This did very little to protect me and instead held me back. Even now, I have to overcome the little voice in my head which is telling me that people will think my blogs are rubbish! (Maybe they are but I am happy with them and they might help someone which is exactly why I do them)

I used to look at others and wonder how they overcame those fears. And then I met someone who simply didn’t care about what others thought. Not in a big headed, arrogant way. This person is lovely, compassionate and caring. They simply do not preoccupy themselves with what anyone else might think of them. They do what they think is right and, if they screw it up, they apologise, if necessary and move on.

For me, this was a bit mind blowing. How can you not have that embarrassment switch? Turns out that by being comfortable with who you are, and confident in your abilities to generally do the right thing, it becomes much easier to care less about what you THINK others think of you.

Because that’s the other thing I have learnt. What you think others are thinking is very rarely right.

‘I am not offended by all the dumb blond jokes because I know I am not dumb.I also know I am not blond.’

Dolly Parton, singer, songwriter, around superstar

To achieve in life we really must stop wasting precious time worrying about what others might think of us. It is utterly pointless!

As I mention above, yes we do need to embrace a bit of reflection and these 3 questions are good ones to use when making decisions.

1. Is this something I want to do, to be, to have?

2. Is this going to take me in a direction I am happy with?

3. Is this going to negatively effect anyone else? (And this does not mean someone being a bit disappointed in you but materially impact badly on someone else.)

Of course, you care! But, caring shouldn’t also mean keeping yourself small to please others.
Of course you should listen to feedback. This will be helpful to your development.
Yes, you must take responsibility for what you say and do.
But, you are not responsible for how others react. What others think about you is on them – and they will come their conclusions based on their own filters.

So, how do you start to over come that doubting voice in your head.

Here are my top tips.

1. Ask yourself why you are about to do or say something?
Is it to people please? Is it to put someone else down because it makes you feel better? Is it to get back at someone? Is it make someone beholden to you?
Or, is it because you know it will help someone in a positive, non-conditional way? Or, because you have a legitimate calling to do it? Or, just because it will be fun and you will enjoy it without harming anyone else?

2. Do the best you can.
If you can honestly say you have done your best then your self doubting demon has no choice but to shut up! If you know you haven’t then that inner voice, telling you that you did a crap job, is partly right, and you know it. Do your best, be proud and don’t worry about anyone else’s thoughts.

3. Change your inner voice.
This is a trick I learnt many years ago and I come back to it all the time. Pick an imaginary mentor. Kids use imaginary friends to help them deal with stuff – you can do the same. Although maybe don’t talk out loud to them or set a place for them at dinner!
Chose someone that you admire. Think about what it is that they have that inspires you. Then, next time you’re in a situation where you start doubting yourself, ask ‘what would my imaginary mentor say/do’?

4. Trust your gut.
Did you know that your gut is kinda your second brain? Amazing isn’t it! There is physical and chemical connections between your gut and your brain. Millions of nerves and neurons run between your gut and brain. Neurotransmitters and other chemicals produced in your gut also affect your brain.
When people talk about a gut instinct, it is an actual real thing!
You KNOW when something doesn’t feel right? Pay attention and ask yourself some questions. This isn’t self doubt but a sensible reflection on what you are doing and why.

5. Be kind to yourself .
Heck, the things we tell ourselves are so much harder than we would ever say to anyone else. If you spoke to a member of the team the way you speak to yourself at times, you’d be called up for bullying.

Be kind. You are NOT stupid. You are awesome but sometimes make a bad choice. You do not ALWAYS get things wrong. You are awesome but not perfect.

Know yourself and be more ‘Dolly’.

Top 5 Leadership Behaviours

How you behave evidences not only your commitment to good leadership, but also the standards of behaviour you expect from others.
If a leader goes around barking orders, undermining people, and making negative comments about others, then this will be seen as acceptable behaviour. Before you know it, everyone is doing it!
You can say all the right things but if your words are not backed up by your behaviour then it will not come across as sincere or believable.
There are 5 top leadership behaviours that all great leaders develop.

1. Compassion

Everyone talks about the need for empathy, and it is a critical attribute. Compassion is what will take your leadership up to the next level.
Compassion will ensure that you are in touch with your team. Having compassion means that you see situations through another person’s perspective.
Compassionate leaders take the time to consider and understand people’s stresses so they are better equipped to take the right action.
Compassion gives great leaders the ability to proactively help another person.
Having empathy is one thing, but being compassionate enough to do the right thing is a whole new level.
This means showing genuine interest in your colleagues’ success and well-being. It being understanding, and although not necessarily agreeing, being prepared to find compromises.

How to practice compassion.

  • Be self aware. Understanding your own mental well being and looking after yourself emotionally, is the first step to improving your ability to be compassionate towards others
  • Find out about your team members’ emotional well-being: Are they stressed? Feeling overworked? Is there something going on at home that will impact on them at work?
  • Be transparent and honest with people. This isn’t about sharing negativity but being open when when things are not going well
  • Learn to forgive. Holding on to grudges and going over old ground is bad for your mental health and for everyone else.

Your team will learn that you expect compassion within the team, and between colleagues.

2. Adaptability

Things change – all the time. As I have mentioned in a previous blog, your role as the leader is to support your team through change. The more adaptable you are the easy you, and everyone around you, will find the change.
Adaptable leaders establish a culture of learning and trying new things. They enjoy pushing themselves and their teams forward, and will accept that sometimes things go wrong, but that’s OK. It’s OK because an adaptable leader will see this as a learning opportunity.

How to improve your adaptability

  • Be prepared to try new things and new methods – even if it takes you out of your comfort zone.
  • Don’t always rely on the tried and trusted ways.
  • Challenge yourself each week in some small way.

Your team will see that you really mean it when you say there is a ‘no blame’ culture’ and will feel more confident to try new things.

3. Coaching

People develop well when their manager is actively involved in the process. Taking a coaching approach creates a partnership between the leader and the team member. They have a shared vision for what needs to happen and are equally invested in seeing that through.
Taking an active role in another’s development creates trust.

How to be coaching leader.

  • Focus on praising team members application of processes and how they handled specific situations.
  • If a mistake is made give feedback that enables your colleague to grow and fix the problem.
  • Delegate in a way that gives people an opportunity to develop..
  • Work with an individual to construct a developmental plan for them.
  • Always recognise effort.
  • Get to know team members as individuals. Understand what works best for them and how they learn.

Your team will see that personal development and taking responsibility for that is important.

4. Listening

Often we listen only in order that we can speak. We hear only just enough so that we can start formulating our response.
LISTEN is an anagram of SILENT.
And, to be an affective listener you need to be silent. You also have to pay attention. That means listening with all of your body.

How to be a better listener.

  • Stay silent and let the other person get out whatever they need to say.
  • Pay attention not just to WHAT is being said but also what isn’t. Pick up on hesitations, phrasing, half finished sentences. Aim to hear the meaning behind the words.
  • WATCH what people are saying. How is the body language supporting (or not) the words being used.
  • Think about how what is being said makes you FEEL. What is your gut instinct telling you? Does it raise questions that need to be answered to help you understand? What is your heart telling you? Show compassion and don’t judge.

Being a better listener will tell your team that you value them and what they have to say. They will feel more confident in their communications with you. They will also know that you expect them to offer the same level of listening to you, their colleagues and indeed their customers if they deal with them.

5. Inspiring

Being the leader puts you in the unique position of being able to motivate and inspire people. Whether it be to do their best, to develop thier skills, to pursue goals that they might otherwise feel out of thier league.
It is one of the most rewarding aspects of being the leader. You can make a huge impact on the future of others by believing in them and giving them the opportunities to grow. to do their best work and pursue projects and goals that enable them to grow.
Great leaders aim to create an inspirational work environment. They create a sense of community and belonging within there teams. They celebrate and reward achievement. They tend to have a lot of positive energy and share that with others for the benefit of all.

How to be an inspiring leader.

  • Set stretching goals. If you aim high, even if you don’t meet all the goals, you will achieve far more.
  • Have a clear vision. If you don’t know where you are going, how can anyone know whether it is worth following you?
  • Collaborate as much as possible with others. Share your knowledge and evidence that you are keen to take on others ideas.
  • Take the initiative and champion change. Be the one who volunteers to trial new working methods, new systems or procedures. If nothing else this gives you the opportunity to shape organisational change.

Inspiring leaders show their team that standing still is not an option, but that moving forward is full of opportunity. The team gains a strong sense of accountability.

If you want to develop your leadership skills, become a more effective leader and develop both personally and professionally I offer training programs that are designed to meet your specific needs. 30 plus years of experience in senior management and leadership roles mean that I understand the challenges you face.
Get in touch today to arrange a FREE consultation. No commitment and no hard sell. I will honestly discuss with you how I could help you to meet your aims.

Purpose, Vision, Principles – why are they so important?

Purpose

For a long while now my purpose has been to inspire others to be the best they can be and to help people reach their full potential. This has guided me well in my leadership of others. It has helped to keep me true to myself. I would always have it in the forefront of my mind when dealing with issues and question ‘was what i was doing helping others to be the best they could be?’.

Sometimes, I would have to pull back. My desire to get a job done, my pursuit of excellence could, at times, mean that I would want to take over a project. If I was going to help people reach their full potential then I had to let them make their own decisions and see what the outcomes were for themselves.

I found this tough. The control freak in me would be desperate to jump in. And, sometimes you have to for the great good of the organisation or project.

Always, though I had to come back to my purpose. Although my organisational purpose was to provide services which supported the wider community, I wanted to do this whilst I was also meeting my personal purpose.

Your personal purpose defines who you are, it reflects your passions and values. It helps to provide you with clarity as you set goals.
Again, organisationally I would have specific goals. Within our plans for meeting those goals I would want to ensure that my team mates were developing, learning and given their chance to sparkle.

Vision

Leadership vision is vital for focusing attention on what matters most; what you want to achieve in your life and what kind of leader you wish to be.
Your vision should address the future as well as deal with today’s realities. It represents who you are and what you stand for. So, my vision (in part) is to ‘create work places where everyone can flourish.’
For me, your vision is what helps your colleagues to understand where you are going collectively. I believe your vision should give your team a clear picture of where you are aiming for. Too vague and blurry and it will be meaningless.

Principles

Your principles motivate you do to do what seems right to YOU. A collection of sentences which set out what you believe in and HOW you will work.

People always say, ‘When I am a leader I will support people’. But, what does that really mean? Your how and what are important to nail down exactly you mean.

For example, one of my principle is ‘I will support people by making time to create quality relationships and emotional connections, in order to understand them, and the problems they face.’

This is specific and helps me to hold myself accountable. I may have other principles which also clarify how I will support people. Again vague principles are not helpful, as everyone can interpret them differently.

To help you think about your Purpose, Vision and Principles I have developed a 5 day challenge.

It is completely FREE.

It takes you through some simple exercises and you can spend as much or as little time as you want on them.

I have used these with my team leaders over many years, and have seen how powerful they can be to help nail down what is important individually.

You can access this 5 day challenge right here: https://bit.ly/5dayleadershipchallenge

Once you have signed up, I will send you your daily challenges .

How to harness the power of encouragement

Imagine the scene…..

You have spent some time on a particular task or project. You are feeling particularly pleased with what you have done. Even if you do say so yourself, you’ve done a great job. You are feeling good, right?

But, what if no one else notices? What if your manager never notices? You might be left feeling flat. Or, wondering whether what you did was good enough? No matter how many times you tell yourself that you KNOW you did a good job, a complete lack of external validation brings even the most positive and self confident of us down.

No matter what level you are at in your organisation. Whether you are the business owner, the CEO, or a first time supervisor. We all need someone to tell us that we are on the right track, doing well, getting it right.

So why do so many leaders find expressing gratitude, encouragement and praise so difficult to get right?

We have all been subjected to the “you’ve all done very well’ comment as the boss leaves the office on a Friday afternoon. Or, had a generic thank you, but you are not sure what for.

Don’t be like those people. Be nice – give others what you would hope to receive yourself. Don’t buy into that ‘it’s not our culture’ nonsense. Make it the culture in your team to make people feel great about what they are doing.

Here are a few simple suggestions for improving every day feedback to your team colleagues.

1. Be specific.
Vague praise doesn’t work and won’t make an impression. General thank you’s will not get through the chatter of insecurity that most people have going on in their heads. Say what specifically you have noticed someone do well and when. This not only shows that you care but also that you are paying attention to what happens around you.

2. Praise sincerely and realistically.
You have to mean it! And, it has to be based on reality. Detail is important, so if you have been specific you should have this one sorted. The most important thing to remember is that the person receiving praise or thanks needs to believe you.

3. Avoid offering praise and asking for a favour at the same time.
This can feel so fake and if you do it too often people won’t want your feedback as they will know it is conditional.

4. Look for something less obvious to praise
Avoid praising the same thing over and over. It loses its power. If you can, find something that your colleague hasn’t heard praised many times before.

5. Don’t hesitate to praise people who get a lot of praise already.
Everyone loves praise. Those that tell you otherwise are probably not being honest with themselves. If someone has done a good job with something then let them know. It doesn’t matter that you praised them only the day before for something else.

6. Praise people behind their backs.
This is one time when the ‘grape-vine’ is extremely useful. The person will almost always hear about your comments. Hearing from a third party that your manager thinks you did a great job is almost better than hearing it face to face.

7. Be very careful if a person asks for your honest opinion.
This can indicate that they are feeling insecure and need some reassurance. Now is the time to praise their bravery in asking for feedback. Now is the time to spend a little more time looking at the issue in question. Find and point out the good, express your gratitude, and ask them to express what they are concered about.
Then maybe set aside another time to carefully discuss anything that needs a little more attention. You can turn this into a wonderful coaching opportunity.

8. Gratitude is powerful.
Expressing your gratitude is a sure fire mechanism for getting more of the same. Show your appreciation for your colleague’s hard work and contribution. Expressing gratitude doesn’t mean you have to be happy about everything. Just that you appreciate others and the efforts they go to.

I bet we are all agreed that getting sincere and meaningful praise and thanks feels awesome.

Giving praise and thanks will make you feel great too. It’s pretty difficult to feel down about making someone else’s day a better one. You will get an instant happiness boost – and who doesn’t like one of those?

If you have found this useful and you like my posts please share with others who might. Collectively we can make work places better through being more ‘human’ leaders. Thanks Mandy xx

How could mentoring help you?

Why mentoring can make all the difference

When I was starting out on my leadership journey the offer of a mentor wasn’t forthcoming. Even if it had of been I would have shied away from the idea. Talking to someone I didn’t really know, about work? No, thanks! Talking to one of my colleagues about what I was struggling with? No chance!

It’s only later on, looking back, that I realised I had found my own mentors early on. As my career developed my mentors changed to suit my needs. Then, later on in my career, mentoring became a more recognised tactic for supporting managers and leaders.

Mentoring is best described as a learning and development partnership between someone with experience and knowldge, and someone who wants to learn.

One person shares their knowledge, skills and experience to assist others to progress in their own lives and careers, within agreed boundaries.

As soon as I was in a position to do so, I decided to take a mentoring approach with all my team members. I made it my mission to share my learning and experience with others – if they wanted it. I was never going to be the sort of leader who held on to the knowledge because of that old nonsense that ‘knowledge is power’.

In my experience, knowledge did not equal power, it simply meant that no one else could do my job if I wasn’t around! I quickly learnt as a team leader that sharing knowledge and experience as much as possible built resilence and improved practice.

BENEFITS

There are benefits for the mentor AND the mentee, which far outweigh the resources spent on the relationship. The added value you gain from a mentoring relationship is significant.

For the mentor there is the very tangible satisfaction of passing on your skills, learning and experience.

But, also it enhances one’s own performance by giving you time to reflect on your own practice. It helps you to develop professional relationships, and enhances peer recognition.

As a mentee, you gain impartial advice and encouragement. Your very own NON-critical friend, who will help you with problem solving, in a non-judgy way. You will have the opportunity to reflect on how you handled situations. And, what you can learn from the good, the bad and the ugly. (Don’t kid yourself that you won’t encounter all as some point!)

You have your own personal cheerleader. Someone who is on your side and will support you. Your mentor is not there to tell you what to do, but to help you work out the best way for you to do something.

You will gain self-confidence and improve your belief in yourself.

You will learn from someone who has been through the same or similar issues. It’s very rare that your problems will be new. They are just new to you.

Personal professional development is a fantastic investment in YOU and prospective future employers will recognise this.

Now, if you work in a big organisation, chances are you already have a mentoring programme in place. Which is great because all you need to do is tap into that amazing resource.

But, this won’t be the case in all organisations. Or, you might run your own small business. You may simply prefer not to bare your concerns and areas for development with someone in the same organisations as you.

PITFALLS

There are of course some potential pitfalls. 

You may not hit it off with your mentor. The relationship is important and cannot forced.

If you have an internal mentoring progamme the mentor may feel that they don’t have time to fulfill the role whilst carrying out normal duties. This may be apparent in your meetings with them.

Another possible pitfall is that the mentor may feel that the mentee is not progressing quickly enough. Or, doesn’t seem able or willing to change their approach to a problem. This can lead to frustration and again will come across in your interactions.

You may also become frustrated if you feel that you are not getting the guidance you need.

Communication is vital – if its not working then honesty is the best policy. There need not be any judgement in a decision to discontinue and find another mentor/mentee arrangement.

REVERSE MENTORING

You may be a senior manager yourself and may be unwilling to enter into a mentoring relationship for yourself. In this case, do not use out reverse mentoring.

Whilst you may not need mentoring on your leadership skills, the ever changing and fast paced world we live in can mean we quickly become  disconnected from new technology, new approaches and emerging issues on the ground.

Reverse mentoring takes theconcept of mentoring and turning it on its head.

Reverse mentoring acknowledges that the more senior person is the one who is looking for a fresh outlook. It can be a powerful mechanism for organisational culture change if the bosses are being mentored by mentors much younger and who have a very different experience of today’s world.

I know that a lot of people cannot access mentoring through work. Some cannot afford it, or are put off by the huge costs that some people charge. If you are in a leadership role having a

For that reason I am offering a 1 hour taster mentoring session for the reduced price of just £79.

In one hour we will have time to unpick at least one issue that you are struggling with. You can get a feel for whether mentoring could be the life changer I believe it to be.

I have 30 plus years experience in leadership roles. I have encountered all the monsters you might be facing. In just one hour I can help you on your journey to be the best leader you can be.

Don’t just take my word for it. These are the words of a new leader that I had the pleasure of mentoring last year.

“I have being having mentoring from Mandy … and haven’t looked back. I get a huge amount from my meetings with her and she is teaching me so much which I am utilising on a daily basis. She has given me great confidence and challenged me to push myself and believe in myself. She is really thoughtful and realistic about what is achievable and is a calming influence which has let me focus on the positives. I have left all meetings with a clearer view of what I should be doing to better manage my career and work towards meeting my long term goals. Mandy is very talented and her experience and guidance so useful.” 

To access this special offer sign up to my list here:

https://mailchi.mp/eec62317c754/pplmentoringspecialoffer

Top tips for deciding whether something is worth your energy and ways to carve out extra time in your day

How many times today have you done something and then thought to yourself, what was even the point of that? It’s easy to get sucked into a continuous wheel of doing things that add no value. Whether you are working for yourself, or in a big corporate organisation, often these pointless energy sappers can be a form of self sabotage or procrastination.

Oh, I know – I used to do this all the time. There would be that report that really needed to be written, but I would spend a bit more time checking time sheets. Or, I knew that I could add most value by going and having a conversation with one of my team. Instead I’d read all those emails that I have been copied into, for no good reason!

Sound familiar?

Yeah, I know that some of the stuff we have to do doesn’t seem to add any value on the face of it – and we have to do it anyway! It’s the other stuff that I am talking about. The things that we have convinced ourselves are vital, take up our time, and yet we are not really sure why!

You can break this cycle of spending time doing things that you don’t need to do.

Firstly, you need to recognise the difference between the stuff that has to be done verses the stuff we have added in to our processes.

Even having recognised something as a ‘must do’, ask yourself a few questions.

Is it a corporate or legal requirement? If it is, then can you streamline the process in any way? Does it have to be YOU who does it?

For example, those timesheets I referred to earlier. It didn’t need ME to check them all. Yes, they had to be checked. Yes, as the team leader you need to know if something is amiss. But, checking them could be done by anyone other than the person submitting them. Peculiarities can be highlighted to you to act on.

“Ahh, but!” I hear you say. “What if the person checking them can’t be trusted to do that.” If this is the case then the problem you need to resolve is one of trust and accountability. Spot check occasionally if that makes you feel more comfortable.

Many, many years ago, when I was a junior clerk, I recall asking a senior officer why they were stood at the photocopier, waiting for copies to come off. That was my job! They told me that they were so busy they didn’t have time to pass the work to someone else (me) to do, and anyway they disliked passing down the mundane tasks.

That didn’t make sense to me then and it doesn’t now. We convince ourselves that it is quicker to do something ourself. Or that we should ‘muck in’ and do some of the so called ‘menial’ tasks ourselves.

Of course that doesn’t make sense.

It’s better to put a system, or some training, in place to ensure that work is being carried out at the appropriate level.

It’s not a case of being too grand to do certain tasks but thinking about the cost of your time.

I learnt a lot from the ‘menial’ tasks when I was in a more junior position. Not least, that there was a great deal of satisfaction from knowing that my role was a vital one. I knew that I was playing my part in ensuring the organisation ran efficiently.

Even today, whenever I carry out tasks, I always ask myself, ‘does this need to be me?’.

If the answer is yes, my next question is ‘How can I streamline or simplify the process’.

Systems make our lives easier. If you have a simple system for carrying out a process you can save countless minutes – and all those minutes add up. Alerts, reminders, calendar entries, tasks list all readily available on your computer can play a huge part. But, so often they are not used effectively. In addition there are a raft of work planning and tracking systems out there if you have the budget.

Avoid double handling of work. Cut out duplicate entries of data. Do you have 2 spreadsheets which do the same thing, or could be made to meet multiple needs?

This might all seem obvious but so often in my conversations with team leaders, the simple fixes have not been explored.
If the task is not a corporate or legal requirement, ask yourself why you do it.
Does it add value in some way? If you have a client base does it add value to your customer?
Or, is it something you have always done because you were told that it should be done? When we step back and look at what we are doing in this way we can find that we have tasks on our to do list that we don’t need to do at all. We have always done them, without thinking.

Again this seems too simplistic.
Why would we do things that we don’t really need to? We do though, all the time. Often these things are our security blanket. We feel comfortable doing them. It gives us the excuse we need to put off doing something more challenging.

But, if you are always under pressure, too busy, to stop and talk to your team members. Or drowning under the endless to do list. Then have a very good look at what is on that list.

Do YOU need to do it?

If you found this useful check out my website and other blogs for loads of free leadership advice. Or join me on Instagram or Facebook for regular inspiration.

What have you got to lose?

https://www.facebook.com/PositivelyPracticalLeadership

https://www.instagram.com/positivelypracticalleadership

Imposter syndrome? It’s not just you.

Impostor syndrome is the name given to self doubt about your accomplishments and the internalised fear of being exposed as a “fraud”.

Those of us with impostor syndrome tendencies can have low self-confidence and a fear of failure. We experience an internal struggle between achieving success and avoiding being “found out.”

This in turn can hold us back from reaching our full potential.

It’s surprisingly common, particularly in women. It’s also very easy to feel like ‘it’s just you’. But I can promise you it’s not!

Having been plagued with this all my life it has recently hit me hard again, precisely because of my blogs.

After all, who am I to be advising others on leadership skills? Who would want anything that I have to offer? Who am I kidding, trying to help others when I have plenty of my own issues?

Those of us who suffer from this tend to be very self critical. Even when we do something well we will brush away praise, be flippant about success. We tend to overwork, people-please, and experience stress and depression.

So I took a step back. It was the first time ever that I have done this. In my career I have always ploughed on regardless and kept my fears and anxiety with me.

In taking that step back I spent some time to think about what this fear is really about, and how I could fast-track my way back to my path.

I came to the realisation that by spotting the symptoms I had the perfect opportunity to develop my own self-awareness in this area.

I also reminded myself that ultimately, my purpose is to help others. So how could I use my experience to help others? By getting back on this particular horse, of course.

So if you are a fellow sufferer of this restricting syndrome here are my top lessons learnt.

It’s not all your fault!
Human beings are engineered to worry. It’s helped us to survive, by being cautious.

Also, the culture we grow up in and the way we were brought up have an impact. For example, British people tend to own their success less well than our American counterparts.

As children we want to fit in and that can lead us to dampening down our natural self to please other people.

But, whilst we might not be able to change the reasons for our feelings we can change the impact they have on us.

And step one, is to recognise them.

The voice in your head.
Have you noticed that the negative voice in your head seems to have a megaphone, but the positive one whispers?

I’m not saying you should stop listening to the negative voice. In fact on occasion, it will have something useful to say that you might need to take account of.

What I do suggest is turning up the dial on the positive voice. Often the positive voice will be counteracting the negative voice and you must pay attention to it also.

Listen to both voices, but remember that more often than not the negative voice is saying things that are not REAL. It’s telling you what other people might be thinking or saying – but in reality it doesn’t know! It’s saying what you are used to believing, because that’s always worked for it in the past.
So acknowledge that and then dismiss what it is telling you.

Turn down the volume on the negative voice so you can stop and think about what is real, and what you are just assuming.

I find it helpful to have an image of my positive voice. Someone I trust and admire and who I know would have my best interests at heart. That turns my positive voice into my very own cheerleader.

You don’t have to be perfect
We are all works in progress. You don’t need to be perfect all the time. It’s okay to sometimes mess up. Find something to learn from the situation and move on quickly. Going over and over it in your head is not going to change what happened. It will simply drag you down when you could be getting on and fixing the matter.

Being wrong doesn’t make you a fraud. People get things wrong all the time. Successful people recognise this for what it is. Accepting you made a mistake will always make you a better person, not a worse one.

Accept what you have achieved
You will have achievements big and small scattered through your life. Know that you can do things well, because you have evidence of them. When the imposter syndrome starts to raise its head draw on the experience you have had of success. If you succeeded before you can do it again.

Stop worrying about what people think of you
They are probably too busy with their own imposter syndrome to be thinking anything about you. Generally people are glad that someone else has shown that they are not perfect either as it makes them feel better about themselves.

Avoid comparison-itis
Comparing yourself with others is very unhelpful. You are not them , you are you. And you are the best person in the world at being you. So just STOP it!

Recognise Imposter Syndrome
Say to yourself, “this is imposter syndrome’. It starts to lose its power when you see it for what it is.

For myself, I have come to realise that it’s because I am just like anyone else and that I have faced up to my fears, that makes what I have to say valid. It might not be useful to everyone. But, if what I write helps even one person, then I am meeting my aim.

As the philosopher Bertrand Russell wrote: “The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, and wiser people so full of doubts.”

Ten steps to support your team through a coaching leadership style

To help your team colleagues meet their potential great leaders use a postive coaching leadership style.

A coaching leadership style recognises, and works with, the individuals needs and considers their specific training, development, and motivation requirements.

The coaching leader looks for opportunities to help colleagues to improve themselves and also takes their preferences into account.

A coaching leader promotes responsibility and independence and their team feel supported and involved in their work.

Whilst a coaching leader is not a coach, they must use coaching skills.

It takes more time than telling people what you want, in the style of an authoritarian leader. Instead of making all decisions and delegating tasks, the coaching leader takes the lead to get the best out of their team colleagues. In the long run this is far more rewarding for both parties.

A coaching leader is closer to their team than the authoritarian leader and will know the individuals better. They will understand the role of the team member and will know what is happening within the team.

By following these ten steps a leader will have different conversations with their team members and as a result, better outcomes.

1. Time

You will need to have made enough time in your diary for the conversation and for follow up. You will need to make the time to notice the little things. You may need to spend time with the individual in their work world to understand any issues, barriers or complexities.

Starting on this journey without investing the time is a recipe for disaster. Your intentions must be backed up through your actions and failing to follow through will demotivate your team and damage your relationship with individuals.

The coaching leader offers enough space and freedom for the individual to talk about the tasks that must be carried out. You will need to ensure that there is time to try things out.

2. Tact

When you function as a coaching leader your team members can call on you in case of personal problems.

In doing so, sensitive and private situations may be discussed. These sensitive matters must be handled tactfully and professionally. You must create a safe space for the individual.

Even if the conversation is entirely work related, we all want to feel safe in admitting where we struggle with certain tasks and why. Tact and diplomacy is needed to ensure that your team member does not feel that they are ‘stupid’ or ‘not good enough’.

3. Open Mind

You need to clear your mind of preconceptions about the person and any issues they may have. You need the individual to feel secure so that they feel safe to explore any issue they have in their own way.

If you have already made up your mind about how you expect them to behave they will pick up on this and it will affect your conversation.

4. Clarity

What are you both aiming to achieve? Is this clear?

You need to make sure that there is absolute clarity about the purpose of the discussion and the ‘rules of engagement’.

You can reassure your colleague through clarity and set the tone for the conversation. You need to be mindful though that this is based on what will work best for them. This will not be a ‘one size fits all’ scenario.

5. Questions

As a coaching leader you should be giving limited instructions. Your colleague needs to be able to think for themselves about a possible solution to a problem by asking questions.

Creativity is to be encouraged.

The questions you ask should draw out the individuals thinking, and give them the opportunity to explore ideas with you.

6. Action and outcomes

Coaching has to result in outcomes. These need to be measurable in some way.

What is to be achieved and when? What support is needed? What might get in the way? These are all questions that must be addressed as part of the conversation. Agreement must be reached and you need to be realistic about what is achievable.

Small positive steps forward are far more motivating than failing at the first hurdle.

Ultimately you need favourable results. Established objectives will take you to where you need to be, step by step. Your aim is to develop and improve the talents of your team member. Thus, the outcomes will be aimed at development rather than task completion.

7. Feedback

Feedback and reflection are the corner stones of any coaching conversation.

Feedback must be provided based on clear measures. Feedback must be professional and must not include any personal judgements or attacks.

Feedback is often only half understood and processed. As part of the conversation recheck whether the person receiving the feedback actually understands it.

8. Safe

You are there to help your team colleague. You need to keep them safe. Watch for signs that they are uncomfortable. Encourage them to step back from whatever is causing that.

Help them to look at matters from different perspectives. Help them to imagine what could be possible.

Make it as easy as you can. This should not be an intimidating conversation.

9. Knowledge and understanding

You should be close to the activities within the team and understand the issues, barriers, and blockages that your team are encountering.

Time spent ‘in’ the work and understanding the way that the work happens is a powerful tool for understanding the challenges that individuals face.

10. Belief

Your role is to believe in people and instil that belief in each one of you team members. If we believe we can then we are much more likely to do so.

Building self belief and confidence is one of the greatest gifts you can give as a leader.

A few words of caution …. Coaching is not always be what is needed.

Whilst coaching is a powerful method of helping a team colleague to overcome difficulties it may not always be the answer.

An individual may be experiencing severe private issues or psychological problems which are impacting their ability to do their job and to develop in their role. In such cases it is vital that you recognise that this goes beyond your skills and that therapy may be a better option. The greatest service you can give is to support them to get the level of support required.

For more FREE leadership advice follow me on Facebook  and Instagram

And, check out my previous blogs which are chock full of what I have learned in over 30 years of leadership roles. Simply hit this to go straight there.