Words of Wisdom: Mentor Leadership

Engage, educate, equip, encourage, empower, energise, and elevate. Those are the methods for maximising the potential of any individual, team, organisation, or institution for ultimate success and significance. Those are the methods of a mentor leader

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What’s the state of your ‘Heart’

The Heart is the engine room of the human body. Within in it is found the spark that starts and maintains life. It is the place which feeds and nourishes the rest of the body. If it is performing poorly the body suffers. If it stops, the body dies.

There is a saying “The Human Body is made up of many parts, but the many parts make up one whole body”.  So it is with an organisation – a body of people all together making up one body.

Leadership is the Heart of the organisation

Leadership feeds and nourishes its people. It is the spark which nourishes and drives the body. If Leadership performs poorly the organisation suffers. If Leadership stops, unless there is swift and effective action, the organisation will die.


How do we spot and identify the state of our Heart? With the human heart, there are a number of different ways –

Early symptoms are usually experiential and could include things like shortness of breath or pins and needles. Of course, these could be attributed to other problems, not heart-related so you could then go to diagnostic practices.

When I first was diagnosed with my heart condition H.O.C.M back in 2001 the doctors used an Electrocardiogram (ECG) which read my heart rhythm and allowed them to pick up irregularities which definitely indicated heart trouble. They then used an Echocardiogram  (an ultrasound machine) to look at the structure ad function of my heart.

Symptoms in the Human Body are all good and well, but how does this tie in with  identifying the shape of our organisation’s Heart?

Through my years of experience in helping sports people and organisations perform I have observed and learned that the early warning symptoms we see in the human body are similar to the ones of the organisational body so I thought I would share them with you.

Note – Although Poor Performance is a symptom, it is unfortunately usually a sign that the Heart has been performing poorly for a while. Below I have listed the Human Heart symptoms and causes along with Organisational Heart symptoms and causes.


In reading the above you may have noticed it reads ‘Potential Causes’. This is intentional!

As with my Heart symptoms I described at the start, my GP didn’t just listen to the symptoms (which combined are very highly Heart related) and give me a prognosis that it is my Heart, as there are other things that could cause the symptoms. First, they ran Heart-specific tests to make sure it is, in fact, the Heart.

It is similar in the organisational context. All the symptoms above are strongly indicative of Heart problems however it is critical before any corrective action takes place that a deeper investigation of the underlying causes takes place.

As I wrote in a previous post “Organisations rise and fall to the rhythm of its Heart” Make sure you are aware of the state of your Heart

Leadership in Motion is your organisations Heart Health Specialist. We prefer to prevent the symptoms you may face by developing up and coming talent in our Developing Leaders who are World Changers Program. However, we are as also highly skilled at identification and cure. Want to know more about our Developing Leaders who are World Changers Program? Click Here. Are you seeing any of the above-mentioned symptoms or are experiencing these for yourself and are concerned Click Here

Houston, we’ve had a problem

The rather sombre words uttered by Jack Swiggart, Command Module Pilot, Apollo 13, at 21:08 April 13. 1970 shortly after Oxygen tank No. 2 blew up, causing No.1 tank to fail. A catastrophe which left the shuttle and its crew stranded: No electricity, lights, or water; 200,000 miles away from earth, with no way to power the engine to “begin an immediate return to earth”

Thankfully, due to the expertise, courage and sheer blooded determination of the shuttle and ground crews this story ended – as James A. Lovell writes in his book Apollo Expeditions to the Moon, CHAPTER 13.1, Houston, we’ve had a problem, – not as a tragedy but “a successful failure”

How many businesses can say the same thing? You’ve launched successfully and are powering along, nose to the grindstone moving towards your chosen destination. Your dashboard sais you are on track – profit is growing, you’ve moved into bigger offices, are hiring new staff. Okay, like Apollo 13 you’ve had a few minor surprises – your top performer quit to join a competitor, you’ve had a few performance issues, all minor trembles but you’re growing and your dashboard says profit is up so you keep going. And then

Bang blog

You find yourself in a space with no resources: you lose your most experienced people through performance and churn issues, leaving you with ‘newbies’ who are going to take at least 6 months to start contributing. The problem as you investigate further is that the newbies are actually not performing, or being as productive as you thought nor are they anywhere near where they should be in terms of abilities.

You desperately need to do something and do it quickly or you and the shuttle might not make it out of orbit.

Luckily in most cases, much like Apollo 13, business owners have the courage, determination and sheer bloody-mindedness to push harder – get training for the ‘newbies’ put in a better performance management system, change the recruitment process and hire more people and slowly the shuttle rights itself and carries on towards its intended destination with nothing more than a stress headache.

Only, it’s slower with a lot of clunking that you hadn’t noticed before and pretty soon you have another…Bang

For those of you out there who have experienced this, I am sorry and hope that you don’t go through this again. If you haven’t been through this yet, lucky you :0)

In either case: How do you (as mush as possible) prevent this from happening and if it does, then ensure that instead of a catastrophe you turn it into a “successful failure”

  1. Identify the warning signs – There are always signs of impending problems, the earlier you recognise and acknowledge them the easier it is to minimise the chance of them occurring
  2. Take appropriate action to correct the warning signs – As with the Apollo mission there were many things that should have been challenged and changed. Unfortunately, time and cost pressures often put a stop to these happening Two very important words around action:a) Take – Action needs to be taken, which because of change can be harder to do

    b) Appropriate – The right action needs to be taken, it’s no use putting a bandage on a headache.

  3. Recognise that you need help in taking the appropriate action: (Think symptoms vs cause) Most often actions take place which rectifies the symptoms. the problem here is that it looks good at the time but only wears down further later on. True change/ transformation is a complex business with many facets. As a leader/owner, you are a critical part of the change,  however, because of your position and vested interest in the success of the business help should be sought in moving this forward.

Identify the warning signs

Sometimes its hard to see the ‘cracks’ – warning signs that although nothing is obviously wrong, if action isn’t taken quickly and efficiently you should expect a bang. I’ve created a short questionnaire which you can complete. The questionnaire is a short, informal, non-scientific tool I designed from years doing this work.

Want to identify if your business is a “Houston, we’…. candidate” complete this short questionnaire Click on this link

I understand the challenges leaders go through, I’ve been in the business of organisational performance a long time. Leadership in Motion was formed to help organisations flourish by developing their people into strong, confident leaders: Leaders who recognise their purpose and authority; and who have the tools and means to equip, enable and empower others to realise their full potential. Find out more

A leader is a change specialist


*Jemma is a successful sales consultant who works for a growing tech firm in London’s East End. Energetic, engaging and radiating positivity, Jemma was well liked by her colleagues, senior leadership team, and clients and although only having started with the firm two years previously as a trainee consultant – had already received several promotions and was on the succession plan. Six months ago, Jemma was promoted to team leader, and as part of the promotion was given responsibility to manage a team of two high potential consultants whose previous team leader had left the business. Ambivalent about this opportunity to applying the management techniques she had learned on her junior leadership program and use her experience and energy to achieve great things, Jemma got stuck in. Unfortunately, as the weeks progressed, instead of things going from good to great they started going bad: Objectives were not being met, her team, who previously had come to her for guidance were resisting agreed actions and performance/behaviours were slipping.

As Jemma explained when we met, “I couldn’t understand what was going wrong! I was doing everything I had been taught, I was being the same me as before but nothing was working. I thought I was doing well.” The result was that in the last month she had been called into her manager’s office to be told they were concerned about her performance and were putting her on a performance plan. “I hadn’t realised”, she explained further, “but as time went on I had slowly started withdrawing. I stopped interacting in the leadership meetings, started snapping at my team members and for the first time came to a point where I was waking up not wanting to go into the office. I just couldn’t recognise myself and didn’t like the person I was becoming. Thankfully a friend recognised where I was at and having found themselves in a similar position previously, recommend I get in contact with you as you had helped them navigate successfully through their situation”

Jemma’s story is a familiar one. A new, energised leader takes on the responsibility of a team. The team and the leader are capable and competent in their specialisation and show immense promise. The team and leader have respect for one another. The leader has been on training on how to be an effective manager and goes into the role with a vision and passion for the possible. Then things start to slowly unravel.

The challenge, Jemma started to understand as I coached her through this, is that leaders don’t realise that in essence, they are Agents of Change

“Individuals that are required to create continuous improvement (change) in all their areas of responsibility”

and therefore need to be Change Specialists

“Individuals who have, not only the ability to identify the change required but the capability to help the individuals (and themselves):

  1. Cope with the change required
  2. Facilitate and support the change happening
  3. Ensure the change lasts, and that true transformation takes place”


“You mean I have to go and train to be a change specialist as well now!” Jemma responded somewhat despondently.  “Thankfully this is not the case.” I assured her, “All the skills that are taught on leadership programs are key skills required by a change specialist. The problem is that ‘change’ is not specifically covered which causes the problems you are facing and the response you have just given. By helping you understand what change is and why is change difficult, how people attempt to change, and how to go about making change last, you will see how your current skills and knowledge fit in, putting you in a position to cope with the change that is required from you, decide on and action the changes required, and embed the change so that true transformation takes place”

Thankfully Jemma is an individual who realised she needed and wanted to change, knew that she needed help in changing and took the necessary actions she had identified and we had agreed on. Below I outline a few of the key concepts we discussed and grappled with in our time together.

1) What is change and why is change difficult?

The Mirriam-webster dictionary defines change as “To become different” which in itself is what makes change difficult. As James Baldwin, Novelist noted

“most of us are as eager to be changed as we are to be born, and we go through our changes in a similar state of shock

Change can be shocking:

  • Either because it is unexpected – as in Jemma’s case where she received feedback which contradicted how she saw herself;
  • And/or because it is unfamiliar – also Jemma’s case as she recognised that she needed to change but didn’t know what or how. The result is that people typically resist change because they perceive (experience or fear) that this change is either going to be painful and/or difficult. Research which delved deeper into this area identified that people resist change because –
  • They have an inability to give up what is safe, predictable, familiar
  • They have no real conviction that change is better than the status quo
  • They fear what change may be like if change takes place (safer what you know, even though miserable rather than risk change and face what is unpredictable, unfamiliar and potentially threatening)
  • They feel the proposed changes are not realistic/practical
  • Others want the change, where is the person does not
  • They may hold conviction that change is not possible – and are therefore less motivated to try
  • They don’t have; feel they don’t have the support, guidance, understanding, encouragement of a trusted person to take them through the change process
  • They have unrealistic beliefs around what they are capable of which is driven by external messages which results in unrealistic expectations
  • They have self- deprecating beliefs as a result of messages received from peers growing up

2) How do people try to change?

Once the perceptions and potential barriers to change had been identified we then started to look at how change occurs and how people try to change. The starting point of this was to understand how people respond to change as well as the drivers for this response. As we had identifies in previous conversations people typically (unless they recognise the need for change, know how to change, accept that they need help to change, and are able and willing to move out of their current state and move to the new state) will resist change. Depending on the level of preparedness and familiarity of said change, as well as their –

  • Personality
  • Space in life
  • Past change handling experiences

this resistance can come across subversively (example :agreeing to taking responsibility for actions and then not following through with these actions) or outright emotional / verbal outbursts, driven by panic or denial/need for avoidance (example: a violent outburst in the middle of a performance review, blaming others)


It’s at this point (hopefully) that people – either through the manager (example: Jemma’s manager putting her on performance management); or through the individual (example: a person who tries to change, however they fail to recognise that they need help in doing this, because they don’t know how) start the change process, which typically fails. The reasons for this are very broad so I have only shared one for each situation

The manager -This often fails because they themselves do not understand the change process and try and fix the person/ situation for the person before having fully understood the causes etc

The individual – Two Canadian psychologists,  Janet Polivy and C.Peter Herman, in their paper “if at first you don’t succeed: false hopes of self-change,” American Psychologist 57 (September 2002):684 proposed that self-change failed because of what they termed the False Hope Syndrome or briefly because false expectations are set at the start of the change process.

3) How do you go about making change that lasts

If you are a leader and want to create changes that last, first and foremost you need to become a change specialist. The starting point to this, Gary R Collins, Christian Counselling, 3rd edition, writes is to –

  • Understand the change process
    • How people try and change themselves
    • Why change is difficult
    • What makes change last
  • Believe in the person
  • Affirm them
  • Be trying to help the person in question
  • Be an encourager
  • Help the person know Christ
  • Help the person grow in their walk as a Christian
  • Be a confidant
  • Know how to positively challenge a person
  • Be aware that individuals will attempt to manipulate you

Whether you are self-changing or supporting the change, Gary goes on to give the following advice regarding change that lasts

  • Set realistic expectations
  • Set realistic and attainable goals
  • Be realistic about the ease with which change will occur
  • Focus on success – success measures and rewards when goals attained)
  • Realistic that relapse will occur, its not about being perfect on the journey it’s about doing the journey
  • Be aware of potential stumbling blocks and agree how to avoid/overcome these
  • Give support/encouragement, accountability
  • Challenge reasons for failure
  • Prayer for guidance and influence of the Holy Spirit

Gary goes on to share wisdom from Jeffrey Kottler, Making Change Last, that above all this the most critical element to lasting change is “self efficacy

The person expects to change, is confident that he/she will change, is willing to do whatever is necessary to bring about lasting change, and is in this for the long run, not just the short term

Back to Jemma

Through the time we worked together Jemma was able to recognise: firstly how she responded to change and was able to start applying practices that helped her move through the change and become the change specialist she realised she aspired to be. She was also able to identify and label the resistance she was experiencing from her team and with further work had transformational conversations with each of them. The results were that over time her’s became one of the highest performing teams in the business not only because she was applying the principles in her management role but also because she took the understanding of why change is difficult and used it in her sales conversations to truly understand her clients leading to better commitment. 

*Jemma is a fictional name to protect the identity of my clients


Sell it, don’t tell it

Whether you are a leader in business, in your home or in your community; or you are in sales/recruitment – essentially any position which requires you influencing others to  ‘come on board and buy into’ what you are proposing – this is for you.

In my role as a leader and coach to leaders, one of the key skills we need to be adept at is how to; ‘persuade’; ‘motivate’; ‘engage’ our audience to make a change and go down the path being proposed. Now change, in most cases, is never easy and I have found that people are typically reluctant to change – HBR published a great post outlining the Ten Reasons People Resist Change
So how do we get people to buy into what we are proposing and start that change?
Thankfully, I don’t need to re-create the wheel on this one as Simon Sinek, author, motivational speaker and marketing consultant, a guru in this area has already given us the key. Take a moment to watch his TED talk
Now, because this clip has had over 30million views there is a high likely hood that you are reading this and thinking to yourself, “been there, done that, bought the T-Shirt!” which is why I have a second principle to add which goes as follows

“If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up people to collect wood and don’t assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea. “

Antoine de Saint-Exupery
This quote (which I love) was brought back to my attention by one of my recruitment trainees after a session they had attended on ‘selling the opportunity’. In this session, my key objective is for participants to walk away with the ability to get a prospective job applicant committed to a role they are suited to, and it teaches a number of sales fundamentals centered around two mantras  –
Sell it, don’t tell it
Sell the opportunity, not the job
The reason for two mantras is that: the first is the essential process/flow to follow, as so beautifully explained by Simon (the sell). The second is the essential msg/focus of the message. Most people (sales and leaders alike) focus their message on (the job) what people are going to be doing and as Antoine so beautifully points out this does not get you buy-in. Rather, you need to paint a picture, create a feeling of how lives are going to change; how desires are going to be met; how expectations are going to be fulfilled (the opportunity) and then let your people decide how they are going to get there.

Remember, any time you are asking anybody for anything, the first question in their minds is “Whats in it for me?” so it’s critical that the message communicates this. In order to ensure the message connects with the ‘need’, do the following

  1. Identify their ‘what’ through curious questioning and loving listening
  2. Then take them on a journey of what this will look like, feel like when accomplished ‘why’
  3. Tie this tightly to ‘what’ you are proposing
  4. Finally then get their insight and commitment on ‘how’ they want to take that journey with you

Have fun, because you can

To be a successful leader, you need to behave like a great parent

As part of my ongoing learning and development, I am currently making my way through a phenomenal book by Alan Kendrick, Randy Alcorn, and Stephen Kendrick called

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This morning as I studied my new week’s chapter (each week I focus on one chapter, allowing me to truly focus and apply the key message for that week) I had an epiphany about leadership.


“I will bless my children and teach them to love God with all of their hearts, all of their minds, and all of their strength.”

Now to those who know me, me focussing on this area appears somewhat strange, especially as we (my amazing wife and I) don’t have children, and your confusion would be well placed as I too thought ‘why the heck am I reading this and what possible value could it add to my life?’.

Oh ‘me’ of little faith :0) One of my prayers before any kind of activity is to pray for wisdom in any interactions I have so that I hear, see and learn what my Father voice and in this instance, it came out loud and clear.

To be a better leader, you need to become a better parent

The link between parenthood and leadership came about through 2 bible verses/words of wisdom the authors share.

  1. “Fathers do not exasperate your children so that they will not lose heart” Colossians 3:21
  2. “Before training and instructing, it is critical that we do not frustrate or embitter or they will lose heart and not listen to us” the authors

As I read these words the first clear message that came to me was “Parents are leaders, and leaders are parents.” Don’t go away, hear me out…

Below I relay nine things the authors listed (buy and read this great book for all the details) that cause children to lose heart. Alongside each ‘thing’ I have started a sentence which I urge you to complete.

Thing            (Definition)                                        “Complete the sentence…”

A) Absence (Not giving full attention; outright not being there)

“When my boss doesn’t give me their full attention (at the appropriate time) I become …..

B) Anger  (saying or doing things that wound

“When my boss acts out in anger towards me I …”

C) Unjust discipline (unjustified or administered unfairly)

“When my boss mete’s out discipline unjustly or unfairly I …” 

D) Harsch criticism (sarcasm, belittling in private or public)

“When my boss says sarcastic or belittling things to me or about me I …”

E) Lack of compassion (not listening fully, not clarifying)

“When my boss doesn’t listen fully or dismisses my fears/concerns I …”

F) Favouritism

“When my boss shows as if they have favourites I …”

G) Hypocrisy 

“When my boss preaches one thing and does another, I …

H) Misunderstanding (not listening and then disagreeing or sharing opinions)

“When my boss shares their opinion or disagrees with me before having fully listened and understood I …

I) Unrealistic expectations (set up to fail)

“When my boss assigns me tasks or objectives for which I am not equipped or skilled to accomplish, I …”

To conclude,

If you are anything like me and the people I have observed in the workplace on the receiving end of any one of these behaviours, I hope you realise that leaders, like parents, have people who need to be treated and communicated with in certain ways. Failure to do this will and does, lead to resentment and withdrawal most definitely a costly and often painful event.

Would love your thoughts and reflection on the above. How do you as a parent/leader ensure engagement and positive development?

Have a brilliant week

Delegation: The art of leveraging time and performance

One of the biggest grumblings I hear from anybody in a leadership position is  “I just don’t have the time” and I get it!

As a person moves up the proverbial ladder of empowerment they become saddled with more responsibilities, attend more meetings, deal with more issues and generally end each day with a to do list which is longer than when started the day. This becomes a repetitive spin cycle sucking you into a black hole of no hope

Fear not for this need not be the case and this need not be your life. All that is required is that you take a leap of faith and start delegating

Here are the fundamentals

  • What is delegation?

The Oxford dictionary defines delegation as: The art of entrusting (a task or responsibility) to another person, typically one who is less senior than oneself

  • Why is delegation important and how is it beneficial?

Motivation and morale – The average person not only accepts, but also seeks out responsibility. By delegating individuals then feel a greater sense of satisfaction and, subsequently, more commitment to the organization.

Growth and expansion = Motivation plus speedier learning curve

Increased autonomy – The more responsibility is delegated the less people rely on you to make decisions and the more confidence they have in themselves to make decision

Agility of business – The more responsible, confident and capable the organisation, the more agile it becomes

Now you may be reading this and thinking to yourself “That’s all good and well. But I’ve given this delegation lark a try and all it did was put me in hot water and give me more to do because I had to pick up the pieces!”

Unfortunately my friends that is more than likely down to you having made one or more of the following mistakes when you ‘tried’ to delegate.

  1. Delegating a task or responsibility to someone who does not have the ability to achieve the desired outcomes. A common mistake that will most definitely land you in hot water.
  2. Delegating a task or responsibility to someone who does not want responsibility for the task.  Another common mistake, we have all the desire to develop and empower people, some people just don’t want it themselves.
  3. Not setting clear expectations and outcomes from both parties. Things can only go wrong when expectations (from both sides) have not been clarified
  4. Over managing or under managing the person once delegation has occurred. Critical error, the first part is often due to lack of confidence in the individual being delegated to (see point 1, 2, 3) as major contributors to this, The latter being hugely attributed to point 5 below
  5. Abdicating accountability. This is an interesting one because we often talk about delegating responsibility so what is the difference between responsibility and accountability?

Although most definitions do show these as being similar it is important to differentiate the two. and can be explained in the following way – Accountability is overall ownership for the result. Example – As a manager you are accountable to your stakeholders for the achievement of team target. What this means is that although you can delegate responsibility of tasks to individuals in your team you cannot put the blame on the individuals if your target is not hit. I.e. the buck stops with you

Abdicating accountability is the sin of giving the buck to someone else

Now that we know why and how not to, lets take a look at how to leverage time and performance through delegation

  •  Stage 1: Preparation

If you fail to prepare, prepare to fail

Two key things to do at this stage

1. Identify and priorities your tasks. A great tool for this is the Urgent/Important Matrix  which I understand originates from the Eisenhower Decision Principle by General Dwight D. Eisenhower leadership lessons that can be gleaned from the life of Dwight D. Eisenhower.

“What is important is seldom urgent and what is urgent is seldom important.”

Ask yourself: Who can do this instead of me? Who can do this better than me? Who can do this at a lower cost than me? Does this really need to be done i.e. can it be eliminated?

2. Identify and understand your team Their goals, capabilities and interests

Armed with this valuable insight you are now ready to move  onto

  • Stage 2: 6 steps to effective delegation
  • Match the person to the task
  • Agree on what needs to be done (SMART objectives)
  • Agree on how the job is going to be done (this ensures clarity that you are on the same wave length. For experienced people coach, less experienced tell
  • Agree deadlines and touch points
  • Agree support
  • Manage by exception: This is a term I picked up from BrianTracey

If the job is on track, and on schedule, the person does not have to report back to you. If you don’t hear from them, you can assume that everything is going well. The individual only reports back to you when an exception occurs and there is a problem with getting the job done on time, to the agreed upon level of quality.

And presto follow the guidelines – they are well tested and remember

If something is not going the way you expected, start with the question

“What did I do, not do which caused this?”