Saturday, 10 November 2012

Can an introvert be a good leader?

Recently I included a Myers Briggs exercise as part of a high performing team event. This always raises questions like which type makes the best leader, and the favourite is 'can an introvert make a good leader'. My own personal experience reinforces my view that they are more likely to be better leaders, and I think this TED talk reinforces my thinking perfectly.



Tuesday, 16 October 2012

Finally I'm on the cloud

One of the biggest shocks when you leave corporate life is when you realise that no one is automatically backing up your computers. So you set up a routine to do this to an external hard drive, but being human you end up slipping up from time to time. A few months back I had my desktop suddenly go blue screen on me and die and was just incredibly lucky that I had backed up everything the day before.

So in my case backing up has tended to be a hit or miss affair. Finally last week I plucked up the courage to install a cloud drive. I have used, a Danish company, for my web site and been very happy with them. What I like is that if I have a problem I can get into a live chat with a human being, and not have to suffer a support menu of generic solutions. So filled with confidence in I downloaded apps onto my desktop, laptop and iPad, selected all my current folders and just let it get on with it. Two days and 16gb later I am not fully backed up, and the great part is that that the future backups just happen automatically. The moment I update a file, or start a new one results in a backup to the cloud. I can now move from my desktop and have immediate access to the same files on my laptop.

A W E S O M E !


Saturday, 13 October 2012

Talk nerdy to me

Here is some great advice on how to deal with a technical subject in your presentations.

Tuesday, 2 October 2012

Ryder cup 2012 victory for Europe

José María Olazábal labelled the stunning European triumph in the Ryder Cup as "The Miracle of Medinah" and dedicated it to his great friend Severiano Ballesteros.

"Seve will always be present with this team," said Olazabal, who, of course, formed the best Ryder Cup partnership with Ballesteros. "He was a big factor for this event and last night when we had that meeting the boys understood that believing was the most important thing. "

"It was the greatest comeback in the history of the Ryder Cup, no doubt about it," said Lee Westwood, who somehow pulled around his form to beat Matt Kuchar 3&2.To anyone watching the 2012 Ryder Cup it was one of the most exciting of all time.

"I have never seen anything like it. I've been watching since 85 and have played in eight of them You know I was at Brookline when they did it to us. I was there with Seve. We knew what it was like when the momentum starts to change."

To me it just once again emphasised the part emotion plays in the success of teams. I have been running High Performing Teams programmes for over 10 years, and each time I asked groups to list the attributes of great teams they have worked for, the list is dominated by feelings and emotions.

One of key jobs we do when we are coaching teams is to help them to establish this emotional bond with one another, as we know that this invariably leads to better performance.

Monday, 1 October 2012

Strengths based leadership

In July this year I was asked to run a workshop themed on 'Strengths Based Leadership' which forced me to get serious about the amazing research project run by Gallup. The theory behind the research is that each adult individual possesses a certain number of fixed universal personal-character attributes, defined as "Personal Themes" which in combination effect the individuals tendency to develop certain skills more easily and excel in certain fields while failing in others.

The research claims that by identifying the individual strength of the members of the organisation, its members can be utilised in more suiting positions, hence developing the required skills easily, helping to reduce turnover, improve employee morale and the organization's overall performance.

The Gallup Organization claims to have distilled the theory into practice by interviewing 1.7 million professionals from varying fields, have quantified the different "Personal Themes" of the subjects, and have come up with 34 distinct attributes:[1]

  1. Achiever - one with a constant drive for accomplishing tasks
  2. Activator - one who acts to start things in motion
  3. Adaptability - one who is especially adept at accommodating to changes in direction/plan
  4. Analytical - one who requires data and/or proof to make sense of their circumstances
  5. Arranger - one who enjoys orchestrating many tasks and variables to a successful outcome
  6. Belief - one who strives to find some ultimate meaning behind everything they do
  7. Command - one who steps up to positions of leadership without fear of confrontation
  8. Communication - one who uses words to inspire action and education
  9. Competition - one who thrives on comparison and competition to be successful
  10. Connectedness - one who seeks to unite others through commonality
  11. Consistency - one who believes in treating everyone the same to avoid unfair advantage
  12. Context - one who is able to use the past to make better decisions in the present
  13. Deliberative - one who proceeds with caution, seeking to always have a plan and know all of the details
  14. Developer - one who sees the untapped potential in others
  15. Discipline - one who seeks to make sense of the world by imposition of order
  16. Empathy - one who is especially in tune with the emotions of others
  17. Focus - one who requires a clear sense of direction to be successful
  18. Futuristic - one who has a keen sense of using an eye towards the future to drive today's success
  19. Harmony - one who seeks to avoid conflict and achieve success through consensus
  20. Ideation - one who is adept at seeing underlying concepts that unite disparate ideas
  21. Includer - one who instinctively works to include everyone
  22. Individualization - one who draws upon the uniqueness of individuals to create successful teams
  23. Input - one who is constantly collecting information or objects for future use
  24. Intellection - one who enjoys thinking and thought-provoking conversation often for its own sake, and also can data compress complex concepts into simplified models
  25. Learner - one who must constantly be challenged and learning new things to feel successful
  26. Maximizer - one who seeks to take people and projects from great to excellent
  27. Positivity - one who has a knack for bring the light-side to any situation
  28. Relator - one who is most comfortable with fewer, deeper relationships
  29. Responsibility - one who, inexplicably, must follow through on commitments
  30. Restorative - one who thrives on solving difficult problems
  31. Self-Assurance - one who stays true to their beliefs, judgments and is confident of his/her ability
  32. Significance - one who seeks to be seen as significant by others
  33. Strategic - one who is able to see a clear direction through the complexity of a situation
  34. Woo - one who is able to easily persuade
The Gallup group also claims that each individual's success in a certain field is defined by a combination of five attributes (of the 34 they claim as quantifiable), which considering the complexity of the human mind, is a claim of very high order.

Here is an excellent summary I found on the Internet.

Full Summary of Strengths Based Leadership

Investing in your strengths

Organizations are quick to find leaders who are great communicators, visionary thinkers, and who can get things done and follow through. However, not all leaders are perfect in everything they do, those who strive to be competent in all areas become the least effective leaders overall. Without understanding your strengths, it is impossible to lead effectively. Serious problems occur when we think we need to be exactly like the leaders we admire. Doing so takes us out of our natural element and practically eliminates our chance to be successful.

Maximizing your team

The four domains of leadership strength are executing, influencing, relationship building, and strategic thinking. Executing domain leaders know how to make things happen. Leaders with strength to execute have the ability to catch an idea and make it a reality.

Leaders who influence people help their team reach a much broader audience. They sell the team’s ideas inside and outside the organization. When you need someone to take a charge, speak up and make sure your group is heard, look to someone with the strength to influence.

Those who lead through relationship building are the essential core that holds a team together. Without these strengths on a team, the group is simply a gathering of individuals. Leaders with exceptional relationship building strength have the ability to create groups that are much greater than the sum of their parts.

Leaders with great strategic thinking strengths are the one who keep the focus and intensity in a team. They are constantly absorbing and analyzing information and helping the team make better judgments. People with strength in this domain constantly think toward the future.


This chapter talks about Wendy Kopp, who is a specialist in executing theme. Her main five strengths are achiever, competition, responsibility, realtor, and strategic. She had created Teach for America from the ground up. Kopp described how hard it had been to build an organization that now has a stable and robust flow of funding and applicants. She described the most difficult challenge was to find talent in order to keep the organization growing. Kopp had to surround herself with the best teachers, fundraisers, and leaders for the future. In her own words, talent was the key element because it “solves all the other problems.” Her responsibility theme is reflected by how she spoke about all the children who deserve a better education. Her competition theme is manifested in the context of “winning” for students in the face of hardship. Her Achiever theme keeps her going day by day tirelessly even when her organization has already reached more than three million students.


When Simon Cooper assumed the role as president of The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company in 2001, he faced a unique and daunting challenge. Cooper’s charge was to take one of the world’s greatest brands to a new level of excellence.

The Ritz-Carlton brand was already at the top of its game, and taking it to world-class was not an easy undertaking. Cooper was determined to take a legendary guest experience to an entirely different level, reaching the 98 percentile in guests’ satisfaction. Cooper and his team were determined to set a new gold standard. In addition, Cooper also move into selling private residences and fractional ownership, which became the best move in the company’s history.

Cooper talent for influencing serves the greater purpose of running an organization upon which the well-being of more than 40,000 families depends. Simon Cooper realizes that he can change the world, even if it means one person at a time.

Image via Wikipedia

Relationship Building

Mervyn Davies took over as CEO of Standard Chartered, a bank with more than 70,000 employees spread across the globe. Davies would build stronger connections throughout the organization. He was over communicating whenever possible, and was just concentrating with building an organization that had “a heart and a soul.” As a result of Davies extraordinary openness, Standard Charterer’s employees could see how much he loved the bank, and they knew that his heart was in the right place. This created a culture in which employees took ownership over their work instead of passing along blame. It also led to an unprecedented level of trust in their CEO, as they continued to give Davies latitude when he bucked the conventional wisdom. He built trust through relationship. Mervyn Davies had set Standard Chartered up to be about the only bank in the world that was able to grow through one of the most difficult economic periods in recent history. When Davies began to describe the reasons why Standard Chartered had thrived, he spoke with passion. Davies went on to describe how he had “bet his career” early on by focusing on two key things- people and corporate social responsibility- even though many shareholders couldn’t have care less about either. Davies said that the most important aspect of leading simply knows oneself. “Know yourself, know the people around you, and then get on with it.” Davies also went on to say that “if you focus on people’s weaknesses, they lose confidence.”

Strategic Thinking

Anderson was named President of Best Buy in 1991 because he and Schulze made the formal recommendation – that Best Buy move away from a commissioned sales model, where they would just let customers browse whatever they want. This enables Best Buy to become one of the most successful electronic stores. Anderson’s insatiable curiosity also led to an unconventional people-leadership approach. He surrounded himself with people who would challenge his thinking and he was also careful to select leaders who could effectively develop the strengths of those under their charge. Anderson describes the critical role of his self-awareness and authenticity. While Anderson may not be a natural at working a room or chatting up a store full of front-line employees, he has developed a unique way to connect with Best Buy’s employees, customers, and shareholders as he travels around the world: He simply asks great questions.

Anderson insatiable curiosity for everything is what makes him unique and a wonderful leader. He would go to Barnes and Noble and found at least 28 books he wanted to take home. While his strategic thinking led to a few experiments that did not pan out, Anderson unconventional approach helped create unprecedented growth. Had you invested 1000 dollars in Best Buy’s stock in 1991, when Anderson took over as president, it would have been worth 175,000 by 2008. Not bad for a guy who started at the ground level and soared through the ranks.

What Strong teams have in common?

Conflict doesn’t destroy strong teams because strong teams focus on results. What distinguish strong teams apart from others is that debate doesn’t cause them to fragment. Instead of becoming more isolated during tough times, these teams actually gain strength and develop relationships.

Strong teams prioritize what’s best for the organization and then move forward. While competition for resources and divergent points of view exist, the best teams are able to keep the larger goal in view. Members of high-performing teams are consistently able to put what’s best for the organization ahead of their own egos.

Members of strong teams are as committed to their personal lives as they are to their work. The best teams that we observed seemed to live in a contradiction. Some of the most productive team members work extreme hours and endure amazing level of responsibility. Yet they consider their lives to be in balance. They seem to have enough time to do the things they want to do with their families. As hard as they work for the company, they seem to bring the same level of intensity to their immediate family, social, and community life.

Strong teams embrace diversity. Having a team composed of individuals who look at issues similarly, who have been the product of comparable education backgrounds, and who have same experiences is not a sound basis for success. They have also discovered that the most engaged teams welcome diversity of age, gender and race, while disengaged teams may do the opposite.

Strong teams are magnets for talent. Another way to spot a strong team is to look for the teams that everyone wants to be on. For some people, it may be hard to understand why anyone would want to join a team that works longer and harder hours than anyone else. Yet despite all the consequences and pressure, it is your potential stars who most want to be on these difficult teams. They see top teams as the most stimulating place to be-the place where they can demonstrate their skills and make a real impact at their job. Instead of being intimidated, they reveled in it.

Understanding why people follow

It seems that followers have a very clear picture of what they want and need from most leaders in their lives: trust, compassion, stability, and hope.

Respect, integrity, and honesty are the outcomes of strong relationship built on trust. They don’t have to be discussed, but rather just is present. Most successful teams never talk about trust because it is inherent and acknowledge by everyone in the team. In addition, caring, friendship, happiness, and love were frequently mentioned by followers. Mervyn Davies would always help employees their families, he realized that for people to honestly love the organization, it needed to have a heart. Furthermore, followers want a leader who will provide a solid foundation, whom they could count on in times of need. Finally, followers want someone who gives them hope for the future. When hope is absent, people lose confidence, disengage, and often feel helpless in their job.


Read more:

Saturday, 22 September 2012

Kids ... MBTI ....Winnie the Pooh?

I was asked by one of my granddaughters aged 7 to do a test to determine my preferred learning style. Her school are using four characters from Winnie the Pooh to determine how best each child learns. Apparently this is universally adopted and as you go into a classroom you can immediately see the preference of each child. All the children know the profile of their teachers, plus the head teacher, and they even run sessions for the parents to find out their profiles.Rather cleverly they have used the middle two letters of Myers Briggs, known as the functions, to identify learning styles.

From wikipedia

According to the Myers-Briggs typology model, each person uses one of these four functions more dominantly and proficiently than the other three; however, all four functions are used at different times depending on the circumstances.

SN - Sensing and intuition are the information-gathering (perceiving) functions. They describe how new information is understood and interpreted. Individuals who prefer sensing are more likely to trust information that is in the present, tangible, and concrete: that is, information that can be understood by the five senses. They tend to distrust hunches, which seem to come "out of nowhere".[1]:2 They prefer to look for details and facts. For them, the meaning is in the data. On the other hand, those who prefer intuition tend to trust information that is more abstract or theoretical, that can be associated with other information (either remembered or discovered by seeking a wider context or pattern). They may be more interested in future possibilities. For them, the meaning is in the underlying theory and principles which are manifested in the data.

TF - Thinking and feeling are the decision-making (judging) functions. The thinking and feeling functions are both used to make rational decisions, based on the data received from their information-gathering functions (sensing or intuition). Those who prefer thinking tend to decide things from a more detached standpoint, measuring the decision by what seems reasonable, logical, causal, consistent, and matching a given set of rules. Those who prefer feeling tend to come to decisions by associating or empathising with the situation, looking at it 'from the inside' and weighing the situation to achieve, on balance, the greatest harmony, consensus and fit, considering the needs of the people involved. Thinkers usually have trouble interacting with people who are inconsistent or illogical, and tend to give very direct feedback to others. They are concerned with the truth and view it as more important than being tactful.

As noted already, people who prefer thinking do not necessarily, in the everyday sense, "think better" than their feeling counterparts; the opposite preference is considered an equally rational way of coming to decisions (and, in any case, the MBTI assessment is a measure of preference, not ability). Similarly, those who prefer feeling do not necessarily have "better" emotional reactions than their thinking counterparts.

How does this translate into learning preferences?
Back to Winnie
Now as interpreted for children.

  • EEYORE - Rational. Based on Myers Briggs NT, students like serious, knowledgeable classrooms.

  • POOH - Idealist. Based on Myers Briggs NF students tend to like harmonious, nurturing classrooms.
  • PIGLET - Guardian. Based on Myers Briggs ST they like structured, traditional classrooms.
  • TIGGER - Artisan. Based on Myers Briggs SF, they like exciting, accepting classrooms
I think what a great way to make sure young minds are fully engaged in the learning process, and a superb way of enlisting parents as part of the overall nurturing process.

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

What are you good at?

It makes real sense to put people in jobs that play to their strengths. This was brought home to me last night in a conversation with family where I discovered that their daughter who had taken the drama school / arts route had joined a start up in the financial services. After a very short period of working for the company she was sent abroad as part of a team to train a group of people, and was loving ever minute of it. She felt almost overwhelmed by the thanks and appreciation showered on her for 'just doing her job'. What that start up had seen in their raw recruit with no training experience was the way she was 'just doing her job'. Her ability to tell the story, the way she cartied herself, her abilty to create rapport quickly, her care and concern for her learners, always making sure that the other person learned. Never belittling them and always making them feel special. This was what gave her an edge, as she was playing to her strengths.

So what are you good at?

How do we truly discover our person edge that we bring to work and life? Obviously the earlier we are aware of our strengths, the sooner we can start working on them and developing them. Also finding jobs that make use of these skills always results in a higher lever of motivation and greater performance. A real win win situation, but what happens in real life so often does anything but develop your strengths.

To tell you more watch Marcus Buckingham who has dedicated his career to helping individuals discover and capitalise on their personal strengths. Hailed as a visionary by corporations such as Toyota, Coca-Cola, Master Foods, Wells Fargo, Microsoft, and Disney, he has helped to usher in the strengths revolution, persuasively arguing that people are dramatically more effective, fulfilled and successful when they are able to focus on the best of themselves. In his nearly two decades as a Senior Researcher at Gallup Organization, Buckingham studied the worlds best managers and organizations to investigate what drives great performance.

Note: I will provide more information later on solutions.

Wednesday, 12 September 2012

High Performing Team

Last week I was helping to facilitate a Purina conference of 100 people from central Europe and it was a real pleasure to be there. I met up with so many people who had come through our leadership and high performing teams programmes - wonderful being reunited with old friends.

There were many superb presentations and fun activities during the conference, but the one that brought tears of joy to my eyes was by the young HR team on how they had run the 'High Performing Teams' programme across the German market. I felt so proud of them as they had done such a great job and judging from how many people in the audience had attended, had made a real impact on the organisation.

The conference very kindly acknowledged me as the 'father' of HPT, but although I provided the initial passion it was only through the collective contributions of all involved that it developed into such a great programme. We continue to run High Performing Teams as a fairly unique programme, but it made me think back to how it evolved.

  • People attending our Inspirational Leadership programme had benefitted from such amazing support and comraderie that they asked me if I could create a programme that they could run with their teams.
  • Looking externally I couldn't find a programme so decided to create our own. There were lots of team building offers, but no structured programme.
  • The HPT workshop is run over two days, with day 1 focussed on 'the way we are' and day 2 on 'the way we want to be'. It includes a team 360 feedback, and a step by step approach that gets team members opening up and sharing in a way they have never done before.
  • Very important to note is the programme also helps to deal with the 'smelly fish' or tackle the 'elephant in the room' because a team can't move forward if they don't deal with the issues.
  • Sustainability was a key part of the programme and we tackled this in a couple of ways. We trained all our HR Business Partners and Trainers to be able to run the programme, and they in turn trained others to do the same. Plus we continued to develop the programme, sharing our experiences, so that at the time I left at the end of 2009 we had evolved to version 12!
What made me feel so proud of the German HR team was to see their passion for their HPT programme. My little legacy was to create the vehicle to enable them to release the magic in others, and WOW are they doing an amazing job!!!


Wednesday, 5 September 2012

The confidence of youth

On today's flight to Cologne I started reading Ken Robinson's book 'The Element How finding your passion changes everything'. First of all I love his opening story...

An elementary school teacher was giving a drawing class to a group of six year old children. At the back of the class sat a little girl who normally didn't pay much attention in school. In the drawing class she did. For more than 20 minutes, the girl sat with her arms curled around her paper, totally absorbed in what she was doing. The teacher found this fascinating. Eventually she asked the girl what she was drawing. Without looking up, the girl said "I'm drawing a picture of God." Surprised, the teacher said "But nobody knows what God looks like."

The girls said, "They will in a minute."

How confident children are in their own imaginations, and yet somehow education and work tends to condition too many people not to have confidence and as a result never connecting with their true talents.

This is so true as we find in our coaching that mostly we are helping people to believe in themselves and to have the confidence to do what they really want to do.



Monday, 3 September 2012

What work needs today is more happy people!

It's a grand time of the year here in the UK with all the young families getting back from their two week holidays in warmer climates. Gone are the stress lines now replaced with tans and smiles. It's a shame that within weeks the harsh penalties of commuting and struggling with tough economic conditions will eradicate most of the good that has been done.

This made me think of how do you go about doing the things that bring happiness and I reminded myself of that great TED Talk by Nic Marks, which really does deserve another airing.

I think what came out of Nic's research certainly makes sense to me and very relevant to my life. I know I think I am blessed with the happy gene, but perhaps it's also that I tend to do the things that will make anyone feel happy.

  • Stay connected - initially this was very hard when I retired from Nestlé where my busy life as a trainer meant I was almost permanently connected. My starting point was a loving family around me so I was never struggling, and over time I was able to reconnect with old friends, make new friends and new business pals and really never felt isolated.
  • Continuous (curiosity ) learning - I have always loved learning but now I really do follow my curiosity. The wonderful world of iPhones / iPads and Apps, learning how to develop web sites, plus as a BBQ and wok cook I gave myself the task of learning to cook 50 new dishes. Thanks to Delicious books and web site although completely out of my comfort zone I am really enjoying learning to cook.
  • Be active - in the spring of 2010 we bought Thandi our German Shepherd puppy. She is a lovely intelligent dog who I adore and walk every day regardless of the weather. Having a dog we know just makes people feel happy, and that plus the exercise does wonders for me.
  • Give to others - a wise person who knew me well advised that I do no charity work until after my first year away from Nestlé. They said establish your business first and then look for pro bono work, otherwise you will trade your busy work life for a busy charity one. After a year and a bit we started running leadership training for that wonderful charity Canine Partners. They do an amazing job, and in some small way I am able to help them and that makes me feel good about life.
  • Take notice of what's happening in the world - having more time means that I can read more and thanks to our digital subscription to the Times and Sunday Times and my fascination for so many things I take notice of what's happening around me.
Yes I am very happy and I realise that its actually what I do rather than my genetic wiring that makes this happen. This is the first time I have ever done this analysis and I think I need to bring more of this thinking into my coaching work. People need help!

What work needs today is more happy people!

Wednesday, 22 August 2012

In your element

There is no one better to talk about finding the things you are passionate about than Sir Ken Robinson, very witty and highly interesting. 

Monday, 20 August 2012

Back in business

Shock I haven't been back to my blog since September last year. MUST DO BETTER!

So I'm back and will ensure I do a better job.