7 Leadership Negotiation Skills to Make the Breakthrough

7 Leadership Negotiation Skills to Make the Breakthrough

As a leader, you will need to hone leadership negotiation skills to cope with a multitude of situations. Whether you are mediating in a difficult breakdown in communication, working on a complicated client deal, or negotiating a new pay deal or change in working conditions, the likelihood is that there will be some compromise needed to reach an agreeable solution.

Here are 7 leadership negotiation skills to improve outcomes:

1. Achieve the win/win

An agreement that ends with an enforced deal will break down. Real breakthrough is achieved when both sides can claim victory, and your needs and those of the other party are both satisfied. The real outcome is the creation a positive environment to move forward together.

2. Never be the first to make an offer

Opening first always gives the other party the upper hand in negotiations. Let them make the first offer: this way you’ll have a better feel for the limits under which you’ll be negotiating. If a better than expected offer is made, you may be able to negotiate even better.

3. Be emotionally adept

Emotional intelligence is perhaps the critical key to attaining excellent leadership negotiation skills. An emotional intelligence assessment will tell you where you are currently on the EI scale. It will give you the knowledge needed to develop a number of skills associated with negotiation, including:

Improve your emotional intelligence and you’ll improve your leadership negotiation skills.

4. Ask for more than you expect to receive

If you ask for more than you expect to receive, you may be pleasantly surprised by the response. Setting the bar high allows greater wiggle room to negotiate down. In addition, it is unlikely that the other party will walk away from negotiations at this point, so starting high has very little cost.

5. Communicate flexibly

The most successful negotiators are those who communicate well. Understand the person with whom you’re negotiating, and how to assess their likely reactions and your communication skills will improve. Lack of communicative ability will hold you back, while well-rounded interpersonal skills will propel your leadership career.

6. Once the deal is closed, stop negotiating!

As you progress in negotiations, you’ll hit several mini-closes. This might be the conclusion of a point you want to make, a story you wish to tell, or fine details you want to discuss further. Once you have said what you need to, stop talking. Let the other person have their say and put their point across. Not only will you better understand the conterargument or need, you’ll also gain respect for listening well.

7. Always make it personal

Connect with your people and create working relationships that help to progress the organization and the individual. Learn what makes your people tick, and take a genuine interest in their wellbeing: you’ll find that in any negotiation, having a set of shared values and common goals will enhance the potential for a positive outcome.

Contact Primeast today to discuss our Management Development Series, including our Energy Leadership Program that helps develop high performing managers into inspirational leaders that understand the importance of leadership negotiation skills.

7 Leadership Negotiation Skills to Make the Breakthrough

7 Leadership Negotiation Skills to Make the Breakthrough

As a leader, you will need to hone leadership negotiation skills to cope with a multitude of situations. Whether you are mediating in a difficult breakdown in communication, working on a complicated client deal, or negotiating a new pay deal or change in working conditions, the likelihood is that there will be some compromise needed to reach an agreeable solution.

Here are 7 leadership negotiation skills to improve outcomes:

1. Achieve the win/win

An agreement that ends with an enforced deal will break down. Real breakthrough is achieved when both sides can claim victory, and your needs and those of the other party are both satisfied. The real outcome is the creation a positive environment to move forward together.

2. Never be the first to make an offer

Opening first always gives the other party the upper hand in negotiations. Let them make the first offer: this way you’ll have a better feel for the limits under which you’ll be negotiating. If a better than expected offer is made, you may be able to negotiate even better.

3. Be emotionally adept

Emotional intelligence is perhaps the critical key to attaining excellent leadership negotiation skills. An emotional intelligence assessment will tell you where you are currently on the EI scale. It will give you the knowledge needed to develop a number of skills associated with negotiation, including:

Improve your emotional intelligence and you’ll improve your leadership negotiation skills.

4. Ask for more than you expect to receive

If you ask for more than you expect to receive, you may be pleasantly surprised by the response. Setting the bar high allows greater wiggle room to negotiate down. In addition, it is unlikely that the other party will walk away from negotiations at this point, so starting high has very little cost.

5. Communicate flexibly

The most successful negotiators are those who communicate well. Understand the person with whom you’re negotiating, and how to assess their likely reactions and your communication skills will improve. Lack of communicative ability will hold you back, while well-rounded interpersonal skills will propel your leadership career.

6. Once the deal is closed, stop negotiating!

As you progress in negotiations, you’ll hit several mini-closes. This might be the conclusion of a point you want to make, a story you wish to tell, or fine details you want to discuss further. Once you have said what you need to, stop talking. Let the other person have their say and put their point across. Not only will you better understand the conterargument or need, you’ll also gain respect for listening well.

7. Always make it personal

Connect with your people and create working relationships that help to progress the organisation and the individual. Learn what makes your people tick, and take a genuine interest in their wellbeing: you’ll find that in any negotiation, having a set of shared values and common goals will enhance the potential for a positive outcome.

Contact Primeast today to discuss our Management Development Series, including our Energy Leadership Program that helps develop high performing managers into inspirational leaders that understand the importance of leadership negotiation skills.

Leadership Immersion – Transforming Learning

Thirty years involvement in leadership development has taught the team at Primeast a lot about the nature of leadership and the development of leaders. In recent years, unsurprisingly, the challenge for most leaders has been leading in an increasingly complex context. With this in mind, many of our clients have found it useful to distinguish between horizontal and vertical leadership development.

Without attempting to write a dissertation on this, I’d like to offer a simple differentiation between these two crucial elements for anyone who hasn’t come across the terminology and then offer just one approach for vertical development worth considering.

Horizontal development – building the leadership toolkit

I like to think of horizontal leadership development as adding more skills to the leader’s toolkit (conceptually laid out side-by-side on the leader’s workbench). So programs like presentation skills, influencing, engaging staff, empowerment and so on are one-by-one adding to the tools the leader can draw on.

Vertical development

However, studies have shown that leading in complex situations associated with the workplace today, requires more than a strong skill-set. Leaders also need a mature mind-set. Robert Keegan describes this evolution as a progression up ‘psychological levels’ (hence vertical development). At the top end of this scale the leader has to learn how to move from a self-authoring mind-set, where they (as the term suggests) decide what needs to happen and make it so, to a self-transforming mind-set where the purpose of their work is clearly bigger than they are and they understand that to serve it well they must collaborate with others who hold different and often opposing views or who may be culturally different.

Evolving Mindset

There are many ways to help leaders evolve their mind-set and mature in this vertical fashion. We use specialist diagnostics to help leaders understand their current leadership approach and to see where their developmental requirements fall. This is followed with coaching which supports leaders step by step through their development plan. And we also draw on experiential learning in groups and teams where leaders work with skilled facilitators to help them make sense of their learning experience.

Immersion Programmes offer something completely different

One of many types of experiential learning, especially suited to vertical leadership development is an immersion program, so called because we immerse leaders in an experience which is completely different from their ‘normal’ day-to-day existence and which stretches them emotionally and challenges their thinking and beliefs. Immersion programs encourage the participants to see a purpose which is bigger than themselves. These programs can be as creative as the sponsoring organization wishes and we have designed programs taking leaders to the developing world to help solve health problems, work with communities to improve employment prospects, engage with young people on environmental issues to name but a few. In large organizations, immersion programs can also be designed for several cohorts of learners in a series, working on a problem where a real difference can be made over time and the baton passed from one cohort to another.

It is also important to note that immersion programs are not limited to a physical experience. Much is possible with a creative and innovative approach and immersion programs can be just as effectively designed for the digital learning space. Our in-house design team have used learning technologies to create immersive virtual scenarios or simulations which test and challenge the participants’ thinking and provide a valuable opportunity for participants to move away from their comfort zone and enter a safe space where they can practice and reflect on their physiological response to a virtual activity.

Working on immersion programs like these is not a new thing, in fact Primeast has been involved in this type of development for almost thirty years and our team can share stories of some amazing experiences. And many organizations organise such interventions for themselves, which is great. But I would like to conclude with a thought.

The value of external facilitation

People who get to work on immersion experiences will often describe them as ‘life-changing’. I still remember the first of many trips to Malawi and being involved with the Open Arms Infant Home. But to gain maximum learning from such experiences, they have to be well-designed and supported by skilled facilitators who don’t get lost in the task (which is easy to do) but instead know when to ask participants the challenging questions- encouraging them to take a ‘balcony’ perspective on what is going on in the moment rather than remaining on the ‘dancefloor’ for the whole time and failing to gain the deeper learning. These are sometimes posed to the whole group and sometimes to a participant in a quiet space at just the right time. Or to play back an observation with appropriate sensitivity so a leader can reflect on the wisdom (or otherwise) of their actions and try a new and alternative approach. The skill in this must not be undervalued.

The Power of Experiential Leadership Development

2020 saw a dramatic acceleration in the uptake of virtual learning & development. The range of available digital learning platforms and portals exploded; both free to use and subscription based. Some now offer simple broadcast content and others have a SCORM functionality linking to the buyer’s LMS. However, they are mostly aimed at knowledge transfer and knowledge testing. This is great for improving what people know. However, it’s what people actually do at work, day in day out that counts.

Virtual Instructor Led Training also exploded, with thousands of hours of traditional face to face classes being switched to virtual delivery. Again, much of the focus is still on knowledge transfer, generally scaffolded with some discussion and a few activities converted for use in the virtual world. Some have been very successful; others less so.

Over the last few years my learning design colleagues at Primeast have found that the principles of experiential learning that we have honed, in our 30+ years of creating meaningful face to face learning experiences can and have been successfully transferred to the virtual environment. And so far, our clients have been delighted!

What is experiential learning?

In their simplest form, experiential learning sessions involve individuals being exposed to challenging scenarios, each of which has been designed to allow them to practise using what they have learned in a low-risk environment. We believe this is an important consideration as allowing leaders to effectively practise in real-life situations is too risky for all concerned (Bregman, Harvard Business Review, April 2019). Following solid adult development principles, the scenarios themselves also stretch, test and provide insights on a learner’s ability to lead in specific conditions.

The process generally follows these steps:

  1. Create a simulated scenario depicting a potential issue/situation that replicates dynamics in learners’ day to day work.
  2. Work through the scenario in real time to see how learners apply what they have learned and how they respond to the situation.
  3. Use reflective debrief processes, such as 4F and deconstructive dialogue (based on Kegan, 2010) to examine the behaviors that were exhibited and actions or decisions that were taken.

Experienced facilitator/coaches lead discussions where groups of learners reflect in detail on how their underpinning mindsets and their actions (or lack of) affected the outcome and also what could be done for better effect if a similar scenario were to be faced again.

This focus on understanding the importance of mindset and the resulting action/decision-making while under the pressure of time, helps learners understand how they might react in similar real-world circumstances. It also allows them the opportunity to reflect on both their physiological & psychological responses – learning by feeling as well as doing, providing an even more profound learning experience.

This immersive combination of feeling and doing is the essence of experiential development and has been proven to be highly effective in transforming leadership capability.

The benefits of an immersive and experiential approach to learning

One of the areas where this approach has been found to highly effective, regardless of business scale, is that it stimulates challenge of extant mindset or thinking. Often business growth is held back, not by technology or what people do but leaders’ internal operating systems and their modes of thinking, both individual and collective.

Being stewarded through scenarios by an experienced experiential facilitator/coach surfaces those underpinning mindsets that drive the way people act and the decisions they make and can be analyzed at key points during, and at the end of the scenario. The care taken in designing scenarios that replicate workplace challenges means that insights are easily linkable to the real-world and discussions which result in insights which can be enacted more effectively.

Can experiential learning really be done virtually?

Now consider the virtual learning space in which we now spend so much of our time. Recent reports from a range of respected sources like EY & Harvard Business Review have highlighted the narrative around digital fatigue which has grown significantly since the start of the pandemic.

Virtual learning environments which exacerbate this digital fatigue will not be effective, will not be a good investment and will just add to the overall reduction in human effectiveness organizations may experience.

However, we have found that there is little reason why the principles of experiential learning cannot apply to the virtual learning space and change this game around.

Feedback we have received from our learners indicates that fatigue has been mitigated by our focus on their personal and collective experience as learners, alongside teaching them useful concepts. Simple steps such as allowing facilitated reflective debrief discussions in small groups to promote psychological safety creates both engagement and insight for everyone involved.

The ability to design thoughtfully constructed, stimulating digital-enabled virtual experiences which reflect scenarios that are faced in reality is a very specific skill. It requires diagnosis, analysis and a creative and innovative approach which embraces the technological opportunity to leverage sound learning principles. As one of our colleagues noted “the trick is to see it less like designing a class or workshop and more like creating a live TV production”. The best virtual learning feels like a perfectly choreographed performance that immerses, stimulates, engages, challenges and inspires. It must stir the mind, the body and the heart. Like all good learning.

If you’re currently finding yourself working in teams or managing teams remotely and/or virtually, read more about how you can help build trust in remote teams.

Find out more about how we can help you creating truly engaging and experiential learning, both face-to-face or virtually; speak to a member of the team today.

How to Foster Purposeful Leadership

In my twenty-year career in the field of purposeful leadership, I have read, digested and repeated many quotations from leaders past and present. If I had to identify the one that has impacted me most it would be this:

“Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom” – Viktor E. Frankl

There is so much depth and wisdom in Frankl’s words, especially when his personal experience is considered. Frankl was an Austrian neurologist and psychiatrist and a Holocaust survivor. He survived Theresienstadt, Auschwitz, Kaufering and Turkheim. He was uppermost in my mind when I personally visited Auschwitz and Birkenau last month (June 2019). He was also uppermost in my mind when I chose to follow the footsteps of several of Primeast colleagues by enrolling to become a practitioner in The Leadership Circle, a powerful diagnostic to help leaders tap into the wisdom identified by Frankl.

The Leadership Circle is a 360 degree instrument to give leaders feedback on the extent they are creative (top half of the circle) or reactive (the bottom half). It is grounded in leadership research from not one but many respected sources. Having gone through the process as a participant, I can speak first-hand on the profound effect it had on me. But that’s another conversation that I’m very happy to have another day with interested parties.

The reason for writing this article is simply to make the connection between Frankl’s wisdom and this modern-day leadership development tool.

To what extent do we really make use of the space between stimulus and response?’ I am aware of the profound difference between being reactive (not using the space) and being creative (using the space).’ I catch myself frequently failing to use the space, reacting to stuff that happens, at work, at home, in restaurants, you name it. I also notice that, when I’m busy, the chances of ‘reacting’ are increased.

Let’s face it, in today’s busy world of work, is anyone not busy? Is there anyone that wouldn’t benefit from understanding their leadership gap (between reactive tendencies and creative capability)?

If you are (or know) that person who could usefully tap into the wisdom of Frankl, aided by the most powerful leadership diagnostic that I’ve discovered in the last twenty years, either let me know or take a look at some of the articles on Primeast’s Insight pages such as this one by my colleague Sarah Cave

Find out more about how Primeast services can support you and your organization to achieve greater success here: Leader and Leadership Development.

What the Tour de France can Teach us About Teamwork

Giant-Shimano rider Marcel Kittel has attributed his opening stage victory in the Tour de France to his team.

“I have to say thank you to my boys,” he said after he crossed the finishing line. “They worked very hard for me. I think the advantage for me today was the team. When you look at the last 5km, we were for sure the strongest team. We could do it how we wanted and that was important for the victory.”

The words of the German are particularly poignant given the controversy surrounding Team Sky in the run up to the tournament, which ended with Bradley Wiggins being left out of the race.

Tensions between Wiggins and Chris Froome have been making headlines ever since 2012 and the words of Kittel only serve to highlight the disparity between the togetherness of the British team and that of the German’s.

If nothing else, the frictions with Team Sky and Kittel’s ride to victory are a lesson in the importance of teamwork and togetherness for the achievement of excellence.

A tale of two teams

When we look at Team Sky and Giant-Shimano we can see clear differences in how they function as teams.

Rewind to before the Grand Depart and Sir Dave Brailsford had given an interview to L’Equipe in which he had said that his next objective was to win the Tour de France with a Frenchman. A comment that would have done little to instil a sense of support in British favorite Chris Froome. This disjointure isn’t without precedent either, with Froome having previously criticized Brailsford for reneging on agreements and not giving him the support he needed.

On the other side there is the coach of Giant-Shimano, Rudi Kemna, whose main headline-making activity thus far this year is selecting the first ever Chinese Tour de France rider. What’s more, when talking to the press he has focused largely on the talent, claiming each member has been chosen to create the best sprint formation around Kittel and Degenkolb.

“It is always hard picking a selection for the Tour.” Kemna said. “And especially so this year when we have so many riders all at near enough the same level and capable of bringing a lot to the team. The way we are heading into the Tour is the way that I like to start a race – with a team full of confidence and with clear goals. I am looking forward to going to the Tour and showing the world who Team Giant-Shimano is.”

It is perhaps these clear goals that have given Giant-Shimano the edge. Indeed, at Primeast we have seen that no matter the context – sport or business – all team members need to be aligned to a clear purpose to achieve excellence.

Conversely, the goal of Team Sky has been somewhat marred by conflicting egos, including tensions between Froome and Brailsford, and perhaps ill-advised press statements from those associated with the team.

Disjointure in Team Sky can be traced back to 2012 and while it hasn’t prevented the team from reaching the top of the podium, it hasn’t made for a smooth ride. Two years ago Froome pulled away at stage 11 against orders and in 2013 the team fell apart at stage nine, leaving Froome riding alone and vulnerable.

When we look at Giant-Shimano it’s a different story, not least because the team has two victories under its belt in this competition. Throughout the Tour de France the riders have ridden as a team thus far, being called a ‘masterclass in teamwork’. They have intensified pressure at the same time and worked in such a way as to ensure Kittel can take victory.

Team Sky, on the other hand, put in one of it’s its worst performances, amid Froome’s embroilment in accusations that he had been given preferential treatment through his use of certain medications. It seems instead of all riders being focused on the collective purpose of winning, other considerations – mainly individual – have taken precedence.

There’s no I in team

The Tour de France has certainly made clear that when it comes to creating a successful team, each member has to be valued for their role and has to be working towards the same purpose. There is no room for egos, as these affect engagement and achievement of the goal.

Start putting ‘I’ above ‘we’ and Patrick Lencioni’s five team dysfunctions become apparent.

Absence of trust – This happens when team members are unwilling to be vulnerable and open up about mistakes and weaknesses. Without this honesty, there is no foundation for trust. In Team Sky, Wiggins himself commented on a lack of trust between him and Froome, which has arguably been borne from a mutual inability to admit fault.

Fear of conflict – Conflict is one of the most powerful tools teams have but if people don’t engage in debate or ignore tension – much in the way Brailsford is said to have buried his head in the sand over Froome and Wiggins – a team loses its ability to understand each other and explore resolutions.

Lack of commitment – If a team is not engaged in open, unregulated debate, it becomes difficult to get team members to engage with purpose. This is because they haven’t been involved in the decision-making process. At Primeast we work with teams to ensure leaders involve all members to formation of purpose, values and goals. This way, a generalised team purpose becomes, for every member of the team, ‘our purpose’.

Avoidance of accountability – When people become misaligned from purpose, it becomes hard to hold people to account. This is because they haven’t committed to the plan in the first place.

Inattention to results – As a result of the first four dysfunctions, a team will often fail to achieve its purpose and generate results. This is because individual needs have been placed above the importance of collective goals.

Take aways from the Tour de France

For businesses, the Tour de France has thus far demonstrated the importance of ensuring all team members are aligned to the same purpose and no one person is elevated above the rest.

What’s more, those in charge need to lead from the front and create a culture in which team members feel supported. Whether in sport or business, a lack of togetherness at a team level will make it impossible for a company to deliver results.

Primeast has been working with organizations for over thirty years as learning and development partners. We can support you and your teams to get the compelling purpose, strong team culture, and fully aligned internal processes you need to succeed.

To start a conversation with us today, you can email Simon directly or call Primeast on +44 (0) 1423 531083.

Leading to Prime

I am sometimes asked where our company name comes from – and specifically why the word ‘prime’ features. The story goes back to our early days, when we collaborated with Gerry Faust PhD., a leading California based thought leader and researcher into the concept of ‘The Organisational Lifecycle’.

His work, alongside business partner, Ichak Adizes, identified that an organization didn’t necessarily have a finite life. Their research showed that if the organization operated in such a way as to maintain a state of optimum performance called ‘Prime’, it’s life could be extended almost indefinitely.

There are similarities to what Jim Collins PhD. found in his ‘Built to Last’ and ‘Good to Great’ research; find your evolutionary sweet spot, constantly reinvent and the organization is much more likely to become a long-term creator of value. Our founder, John Campbell, found the quest of helping organizations achieve and sustain Prime so compelling, that it was included in both our reason for being…and our name!

We have maintained that purpose, embracing change as we go to ensure relevance. Enabling, developing and advising leaders on how to get to the space where they can deliver long term value for their customers, their employees and their owners – to Prime.

Prime is the optimum position on an organizational lifecycle, where the organization finally achieves a balance between control and agility.

Prime is not actually a single point on the lifecycle curve but is best represented by an area of the curve that includes both growing and aging conditions. This is because agility and self-control are incompatible, creating healthy tension. Sometimes the Prime organization is more flexible than controllable, sometimes it’s not flexible enough. And given the fact that context is always changing, the area where Prime exists also changes.

Leaders who genuinely ‘Lead to Prime’ recognize that they need to keep their organizations just below the summit of the curve to remain in Prime and not be tempted into the trappings of Stable and the beginning of Premature Aging. As we know so vividly from 2020 nothing remains static. Leading to Prime requires constant attention and energy from both leaders and their people, continually reinventing and developing both the organization and themselves and adapting to change. We are in it for the infinite game.


When Leaders ‘Lead to Prime’ they:

‘Leading to Prime’ is not easy as it requires a shift in mindset as well as behavior. It requires commitment, investment in time, energy and inevitably funding. However, the opportunity is huge, if you are willing and brave enough to make the leap and take a fresh look at how leaders ‘lead to Prime’.

The second part of our name – east, is an abbreviation of our original name from 1986 – Executive And Staff Training.

Our name and how we do things have changed, but our quest has remained constant over the years – we support our clients with the development of their leaders and people so that their organization gets to, and remains in, Prime.

Talk to us about how we can help you and your organization on your journey to being in Prime, email Russell Evans here or call him or our client relationship team on +44 (0)1423 531083.

We invite you to take a few minutes and try out some of our assessment resources which will give you some insights into growth and development opportunities.

The Primeast PrimeFocus™ assessment takes you through the eight elements that must be aligned to deliver prime performance and helps you to understand where you and your organization are on this journey.

Completing the Primeast Leadership Challenge assessment will help you to identify potential leadership development opportunities.

Women in Leadership: Andrea Cartwright, Supergroup

As part of Primeast’s Women in Leadership series, we interviewed Andrea Cartwright, group HR director for Supergroup. Andrea shared with us her journey, the challenges she’s encountered as a female leader, and her tips for those looking to get to the top.

Primeast (P): Explain to us your current role and a bit about your team.

Andrea Cartwright (AC): I’m currently the HR director for Supergroup. We’re probably best known for our apparel brand Superdry. I have a team of HR generalists and a number of specialists in the team ranging from business partners, and learning and development, to resourcing and rewards specialists.

P: You come from a finance background, so tell us about your journey and how you got to where you are now?

AC: It’s probably worth going right back to the beginning. I chose not to go to university. I’d had enough of education, I wanted to work. Whilst studying I worked on the checkouts in a supermarket and I absolutely loved that environment. On the back of that I was successful securing an A-Level training scheme at Fine Fare, which sadly doesn’t exist anymore. So that’s where my career started and I learnt from the shop floor up the basics about food retailing, stock, management, cash management, people management and quite early on in my career started running small operational teams in stores.

At the end of the program I became a store manager and I ran a couple of small stores. I was quite young at this point, 20 or 21. I said at the time I never wanted to go into HR, or personnel as it was then, because there was a dreadful role model in one of the stores that I’d worked in. As luck would have it, I kind of drifted into a HR type role by being invited to become a regional training manager in London. A real challenge for a west country girl, moving to the outskirts of London, visiting lots of stores. I then joined Tesco and I stayed for 13 years. Initially as personnel manager in some of their big stores; I opened a number of stores from scratch. I then went into head office and did more employee relations type roles, I looked after ER for the whole group, which at the time was 160,000 employees from what I remember.

I would have been 28/29 at the time. One of the great things about retailing is it’s about doing a great job, proving yourself, and you can come through the ranks very quickly if you are prepared to work hard and be flexible. I moved house four or five times for Tesco over the years so I could take that next job that came up.

During that time I had two kids. I had my daughter quite young when I was 24. Four and a half years later I had my son and actually for most of my career I’ve been a single parent.

After some time at Tesco I then was approached about a role at Barclays. Having worked in retail for all of my career, the opportunity to do something different was one that couldn’t be turned down. I went into Barclays to be head of their employee relations legal function, so the same role as the one I’d done at Tesco, which was a bizarre experience having come from retail. Retail is a lean, mean operating machine and going to a very wealthy bank that had more money than it could possibly spend was a culture shock really. I was based in the City at this time which was an experience in itself.

In the end I only worked for Barclays for about a year because I was approached to go back into a generalist HR role for AXA, the life and pensions business. The role was down in Bristol close to my home town of Trowbridge in Wiltshire. It was a good opportunity to do a more autonomous role and be a little bit closer to my parents so they could give me a bit of help running the family. I relocated back to the south-west and worked for AXA where I was Head of HR.

My daughter was then going to be 13 the following year and I had a bit of a ‘oh my god my kids are growing up really fast and I’m never around for them moment’. I left AXA with no job to go to but I had the intention of setting up a consultancy business, which I did. I ran the business for five years while my kids were in their core teens. This was a great experience and gave me the opportunity to work with a really diverse range of business in private, public and the third sector.

I was then approached by Nationwide and it was just an opportunity I couldn’t turn down. It was interesting, they’d had a lot of problems with falling employee engagement levels and wanted somebody to go in and run all of their corporate HR functions, so reward and employer relations, but have an overarching brief in terms of how do you raise the bar on engagement throughout the business.

I really really enjoyed my time at Nationwide. I’d been careful about choosing an employer after working for myself for so long. In truth I never thought I’d work for anybody again but their values aligned with mine. I joined them six weeks after Northern Rock collapsed so it was a pretty momentous time to put it mildly but I felt that business had the right level of integrity and trust and that it would see that period through – which it did of course with flying colors. It was a really tough period to be in financial services.

I worked for Nationwide for almost five years before being approached about becoming Supergroup’s first ever HR Director. I’d have given my right arm to go back and work for a retailer again and it’s a brand that’s just so exciting. I absolutely love my job. Over the past two years I have had the opportunity to apply everything I know about Leadership and HR but in a very pragmatic, modern way. In many ways it’s been a startup role.

There was nothing to unpick really so I’ve been able to take everything I’ve learnt in my HR career and bring it to something new, something fresh and something absolutely right for this business because it’s quite an unusual business. What you’ve got here is a business that’s been built out of nothing over a period of ten years, particularly in the last five years, and you’ve got two founders still very much at the helm of the business. You’ve got a very entrepreneurial led business that is a PLC and you can imagine the challenges of all those things coming together. When I was offered the job, my kids joked at the time that I became the coolest mother on the planet overnight!

P: What have been the main challenges in your career?

AC: I never had huge career aspirations – I’ve always had a philosophy that I’m going to really enjoy what I do and you tend to enjoy things that you’re good at. I suppose the biggest challenge I’ve had is just really juggling work and life. A lot of people have said ‘how have you done that?’, especially being a single parent. Well you just kind of get on with it. You have to be good at planning and organising and I cooked excessively on a Sunday to make sure we had meals for every day of the week because I’m one of these people that would never allow ready meals to cross my threshold at home. I don’t think I’ve ever experienced any challenges specifically because I am a woman; I’ve never not been offered a job because I was a woman or not offered an opportunity specifically because I was a woman.

I have a theory that one of the reasons we don’t have as many women in leadership is because women have more choices than men do. Often we’re not the main breadwinner and we’ve got a partner or a husband who provides the income and we’ve had the privilege to look over the parapet at these big jobs and go why would I want to do that. There are so many sacrifices that you have to make and it’s ok for a woman to make that choice but sadly it’s still difficult for a man to make that choice, even if they really wanted to. I know society is changing but I still think there is a stereotypical view that men should progress and they have to keep their careers on the road and that still isn’t wholly the case for women and that is a privilege really that we should hold onto.

P: If you could do one thing differently what would it be?

AC: I would have been around a bit more for my kids, definitely. I have people in my team at the moment who are expecting babies and they ask how have you done what you’ve done and my personal view is that when they’re little, childcare is easier – it’s expensive – but they need full time care, you know where they are, that’s it. The older they get, the less you know where they are, the less they want someone around looking after them and the challenge is ‘oh there’s a day off school’ or the holidays and that sort of stuff just gets harder and harder the older they get. And also the care that they need when they’re little, of course it’s emotional but it’s mainly the physical stuff. As they get older they just want you around a bit more. They don’t necessarily want to talk to you but they just want you around. I’m quite looking forward to being a granny one day because I can do it all again in a different way.

P: So how did you manage to balance your life with your career?

AC: You have to be organised and actually in some ways that was almost easier on my own because you weren’t relying on anybody else to forget, you had to do it yourself. And I survived because I had a nanny until they went to school and I’ve had some really fantastic au pairs over the years. Much to my neighbours’ amusement they were often lads because lads tended to be able to drive but the girls never could. And it worked really well for me having an au pair because I needed someone who could live in because of the odd night I’d be away.

P: Did you have any flexible working?

AC: No, nothing formal. Clearly I always worked with people that had that sort of give and take so I could go to the odd thing at school. I do remember going to a mothers and daughters pizza evening once and we excused ourselves not very late in the evening as I had to get an early flight the next day and one of the other mothers said “oh, you work!” I thought there’s a whole other world out there that I’ve never had any experience of really.

Early on in my career not long after I’d had my daughter I remember telling my mum I’d got a significant pay rise to which she responded “well you’ll never give up work now will you”. I had to remind my mum that was never in my head. Funny that she had a perception that I would settle down and stop working. However, now she says she’s really envious and proud of what I’ve achieved.

P: What would be your key tip for women aspiring to be leaders?

AC: That’s an easy one and it’s the same for men – be yourself. It’s that authenticity, don’t try to pretend you’re a bloke or you’re something that you’re not. You have to be really credible and really reliable, then everything else sort of falls into place.

P: What are your future aspirations?

AC: I don’t have any great career plans really, they just sort of come along at the right moment. I’ve got a lot of work to do here. We’ll double in size over the next five years, which doesn’t leave me short of things to do. I have an ambition to sail across the Atlantic with my husband at some point, so I’d quite like to stop working for at least a while – I’m not sure I’ll ever stop working but pausing sometime would be nice to do. I kind of take it as it comes. I certainly wouldn’t want to be a CEO or anything. I’m passionate about HR, that’s my thing.

For more inspiration from women in leadership, see the interviews with “Women in Leadership interview, Nancy Mattenberger, VP global consulting services, Infor” and Pauline Yau, Director of Central Government for Microsoft UK’,

Leadership – A Voyage of Discovery?

As a leadership development professional and self-confessed leadership geek, I am always on the lookout for new tools, techniques, books, ideas and perspectives. So you can imagine my excitement when a colleague told me in December 2015 that he had come across a leadership effectiveness diagnostic we hadn’t seen before!

As a leadership team at Primeast, we were keen to know more – not only because we like to offer our clients the very best in theories, tools and diagnostics, but also because as leaders of our own business, we know we need to stretch ourselves and constantly look to grow our own skills and improve our behaviors.

The Leadership Circle is the brainchild of Bob Adams. Bob’s story is like many of us in the learning business – he started off doing one thing, realised it wasn’t for him and then went back to the drawing board to reinvent his career. In Bob’s case, this meant taking a Masters in Organisational Development and then becoming an OD director. He had the pleasure in his early career of working with the leading names in leadership development theory – people like Peter Block, Peter Senge, Robert Fritz, Marv Weisbord, Clay Laugherty, David Whyte, Robert Kegan, and a host of others.

Bob Adams said:

“What I noticed … as I got deeper into the thinking of each of these thought leaders was that the field of leadership and organization development is a random collection of really great stuff. The field is littered with useful theories, frameworks, models and research that is largely unconnected and unintegrated.”

This insight is what led him to create first the Universal Leadership Model and later the Leadership Circle Profile diagnostic tool, which pulls together the best in leadership development thinking into one diagnostic and output tool. Learn more about the Universal Leadership Model here.

How the Leadership Circle Profile Assessment works

The assessment reveals the relationship between patterns of action and the internal assumptions that drive them. It presents a breakthrough 360-degree framework for both individual and collective leadership development that is simple, elegant and comprehensive, thereby helping to create the leadership culture required to achieve improved business performance.

The Profile, as its name suggests, is presented as a circle – or really, three circles within each other. At the centre is identity – who you really are – while the other circles are split horizontally, with the upper halves representing the creative leadership competencies that contribute to a leader’s effectiveness. They measure key leadership behaviors and internal assumptions that lead to high-fulfilment, high-achievement leadership. They are:

The lower half of the circle maps self-limiting reactive tendencies and leadership behaviors. The reactive dimensions reflect inner beliefs and assumptions that limit effectiveness, authentic expression and empowering leadership. They are:

A personal development discovery

Having learned more about the background to this tool, we were excited to try it ourselves. In December 2015, we asked our small team to respond to 360 questionnaires on each member of the leadership team – which was a substantial undertaking for quite a small company. In February 2016, we held a two-day workshop during which we received our feedback.

I think we were all surprised by the directness of the reports we received. It’s fair to say the feedback did not hold anything back, and we quickly learned that these results needed to be accompanied by top-quality coaching by a Leadership Circle-accredited coach, taking the leader through the development points revealed by the profile. I am not ashamed to admit that I had a lot to work on to move towards becoming the leader I want to be.

During 2016-17, I was able to take some time out to really think about the impact my behaviors have on those around me, and understand how to adjust these to better reflect my intentions. I realised that my enthusiasm to get a job done can come across as arrogant and bossy; my desire to do the best possible job for my clients can be interpreted as perfectionism or criticism; my tendency to have an “if you want something done, do it yourself” approach can come across as autocratic. None of these tendencies are my intention, but that’s not the point – the truth is in the eye of the beholder, whatever my intentions are!

By using the profile and coaching, I learned how to reduce my reactive tendencies and increase my creative competencies as a leader. I am happy to say that earlier this year I got to retake the 360, and the results second time around were markedly different; my reactive tendencies have decreased, and while there is still plenty of work to do, my ability to operate from the top half of the circle and to recognize when I “go south” and stop myself has improved greatly. Learn more about Leadership Circle Profiling here/OR take the free personal assessment here.

What does this mean for leadership development?

The biggest plus I can see from this powerful 360 is the way its output gives the receiver a very well-defined development plan. In other words, it is crystal-clear from the report where their development needs are, and the Leadership Circle coach who delivers the report can support the leader to become the best they can be. It’s the first time I have seen a report point to such a clear development journey, and as such it’s something I will be using with my clients as a core tool.

Primeast now has a number of Leadership Circle Profile Certified Practitioners around the globe offering profiling and extended coaching to our clients around the globe with different language capabilities. So, if improving leadership effectiveness for growth is on your agenda, then get in touch and we’ll be happy to help you on your journey of discovery and growth.Email us here.

So if you would like a coach to reflect with, challenge your thinking, help you navigate the way forward managing your business and your team, then contact me directly and we can discuss how we can support you with coaching to help you in delivering results quickly and positively.

You can email Sarah directly or call Primeast on +44 (0) 1423 531083.

Women in Leadership: Pauline Yau, Microsoft

As part of Primeast’s Women in Leadership series, we interviewed Pauline Yau, director for central government at Microsoft UK. Pauline shared with us her journey, the experiences she’s had being a woman in the workplace, the challenges she’s encountered as a female leader, and her thoughts on the current environment for professional women.

Primeast (P): What is your current role at Microsoft?

Pauline Yau (PY): I am the director for central government at Microsoft UK. What this means in plain English is I have a team of people that are all selling to central government organizations, which are Whitehall departments and central government agencies.

I have a team of 12 people that report into me. I have a mix of sales people and also technology specialists. This means there is a mix of extrovert sales people and then more introvert technology specialists and all of them are out dealing with central government people every single day.

P: It must be an interesting dynamic to manage?

PY: Yeah it is and I think this is where some of your EQ (emotional intelligence quotient) really comes into play because I think personally, it’s a very female trait being able to manage this sort of dynamic. We’re very good at empathising, sensing and putting ourselves in the shoes of others. And so a lot of my role is adapting any messages I need to deliver to the team to individuals in a way that will resonate best for them. For example, whereas I might be a bit more to the point and harsh with my sales people, I’ll maybe go into the reasoning and the data with the more technical folks because they respond better to understanding the reasons why something is happening.

P: What journey did you have to get to where you are?

PY: I left school at 16. One of the best bits of my job is standing in front of teenage girls and telling them that my highest qualification is a GCSE! I have to say it’s not something I’m immensely proud about. I left school with seven grade A GCSEs but it was never presented to me as an option to go to college or university. Nobody in my family had ever done it and I went to a school where that aspiration was just never presented to you, so I just assumed – and my family assumed – that at 16 you’d go out to work.

When I’m talking to young girls I’m always very transparent about the size of the business I run and then I go “but I left school at 16” and you can see their teachers flinching in the background going “don’t tell them that, don’t tell them that”, but actually it seems to resonate really well with them that there is a different option, there is a different path. While I would absolutely hugely encourage any school leaver to continue into further and higher education, it’s not for everyone and there are different options available.

I kind of fell into the technology industry by accident. The first company I worked for was WordPerfect UK and I worked as a telesales person. That was really the start of my technology sales career. I moved to various companies, most recently I was with Adobe running their UK education business. I then had my daughter and decided that actually I just wanted to work for myself and pick and choose the times that I work a bit better so I freelanced for a while, then I went to a start up, then I came to Microsoft two years ago. I never set out to sell technology for a living; it’s just what I ended up doing.

I have a lot of girls coming into Microsoft and they talk to various women and learn about what they do and part of that is about helping people understand that working in the tech industry doesn’t mean that you have to be technical. I am the least technical person on the planet I’m sure but I’ve spent goodness knows how many years working in the technology industry. And I think it’s important that we show that to work in the technology industry you don’t have to be technical.

When you leave school at 16 what you need is just an enormous amount of drive and ambition because you’re relying on that, you’re not relying on any form of formal education to get you a foot in the door anywhere.

During my time in the start-up world I was exposed to a lot of folks who’d chosen entrepreneurship as their career path. They didn’t want to work for anyone else, they wanted to start their own business. I think kids that leave school, college or university with that aspiration have to be commended because it’s tough. But I think we’ve got a long way to go to recognize that as a career choice that we should encourage and support in our young people.

P: What were the main challenges you’ve encountered over the years?

PY: I guess it changes over time, I very vividly remember when I was starting out and in my early 20s, age was always the barrier. You were told you were too young to do things but I never listened to that. After having my daughter – who’s seven now – one of the challenges was ‘what do I do now?’. I was unfortunately made redundant when I was on maternity leave and that was tough. There I was with a small baby thinking I want to work and I think it’s very difficult. This is why organizations need to change because it’s very difficult for external candidates to negotiate flexible working. I really wanted to work but as an external candidate it was really hard for me to be able to negotiate any type of flexible working arrangements. And I think it’s much easier if you’re already working inside an organization and suddenly you need to have that flexible working. So that was a real barrier for me around that time and that’s when I started freelancing. I set up my own business and just did contract work for various organizations. I’d work with them for a three month period, set them up and move onto the next one. So that was a challenge because suddenly I had to build my own business.

P: How did you balance being a mum with your work?

PY: I’m incredibly fortunate in that I have my own mum without whom I wouldn’t be able to do what I do. Thank goodness for the mums. I watch friends of mine who have a career but who don’t have a mum or don’t have a mum near them and they struggle with that. I’m a huge fan of Sheryl Sandberg and her call for men to lean in as well because in order for a woman to lean in, you need a man to lean in too. Again, I’m incredibly fortunate that my husband is a very hands-on dad, we split everything down the middle. I start work early, he works late. So I think that you really do have to have that support network behind you in order for you to do what you chose to do.

P: Now you’re in Microsoft are they more accommodating?

PY: Very much so but I do see young girls who want it all, they want the career, they want to climb the ladder but they also want to do all the school runs as well and be at every single school performance and it’s just never going to happen. And while we would love to say yes you can have it all, the reality is that you can’t and you have to make some choices. My trade-off is that yes I have a fantastic career and I’m really pleased with how that’s going but I don’t see my daughter in the mornings and I probably see her for about an hour and a half a day during the week. I see her in the evenings so I probably get the grumpy half of her as well. I think you have to make your peace with your choices. I see a lot of women in particular struggling with the choices they make but you have to make your peace with it and you have to love what you do. If you don’t, you’ll always have that guilt and that battle going on.

P: Who has helped you most on your career journey?

PY: There hasn’t really been a constant person. I’m hugely self-motivated. I have my own drive and ambition spurring me along every second of the day. I wish I could tell you there’s been a single mentor throughout that journey. I think there have been different people at different stages and as corny as this might sound, I’ve been married for nine years so probably my husband in terms of just that cheerleading from the side-lines and allowing me to pursue what I wanted to pursue and supporting that. He’s had to step up massively since I joined Microsoft. I’ll go away for two weeks at a time and I can be away from home at least one night a week and that puts pressures on him. He’s very good at making sure our daughter isn’t exposed to any gender messages.

When I was in the start-up community my CEO was a huge support to me and a huge inspiration as well as I very much admired his entrepreneurial spirit and his risk taking. Now it’s probably a few other people: my boss at Microsoft, for example, who is very supportive and acts as a mentor and a coach and isn’t afraid to give me very direct feedback.

P: What are your thoughts about a recent Telegraph report about the BBC appointing a woman to the head of BBC trust and describing her as a mum of two? View the article here.

PY: It’s hilarious isn’t it. I rolled my eyes and thought heaven’s sake. I think it actually annoys me that we have to discuss this stuff. We don’t have to discuss it with men. My one hope for my daughter when she grows up is that the whole term ‘working mum’, ‘stay at home mum’, is not even thought about or talked about. These articles, the fact that we have so much debate around women in leadership, I hope that it just doesn’t exist when my daughter grows up.

The whole reporting about stay at home mums versus working mums, ultimately no child of a working mum is any more damaged than a child of a stay at home mum. It’s all down to the parenting. And you never hear the term working dad and stay at home dad. One of the things that make me angry is that when I went over to the States a couple of male colleagues came up to me and said it must be hard being away from your daughter for two weeks and I always reply no more tough than it is for a dad. And I bet nobody goes up to a man and says ‘it must be tough being away from your kids’. So it’s little things like that that perpetuate this belief that it’s a really big thing for a woman to be in a leadership position. Well no, no more than it is for a dad. You make the same sacrifices. One of the things I’m a huge believer in and one of the things that drives me on enormously, is being a really good role model for my own daughter and the fact that you can make your own choices.

There is a statement from Sheryl Sandberg and it goes something like the more dads that are at the school gates the more options children have for themselves. It opens their eyes to opportunity. Because I do think – and I have the upmost respect for any stay at home mum – especially if you’ve got daughters is that they see that as the norm, especially if dad’s not leaning in. Women have a responsibility to make change happen because it’s easy to say I’ll just do the school run.

One thing we do at Microsoft is a lot of training on unconscious bias and one of the facts that I found fascinating is that if you are a man and you’re wife stays at home and your mother stays at home, you are far less likely to promote women and encourage them in your organization.

Diversity in leadership is also important for organizations because their customers are diverse. Our customer base is full of women, young people, old people and every mix of race. So in order for us to be relevant to our customers we have to make sure we’re thinking like them and the only way we can do this is have a diverse leadership team.

P: What are your top tips for women aspiring to a leadership position?

PY: Don’t listen to the naysayers. There are certain individuals that will just sap your energy. Don’t take no for an answer, you have to be persistent. You also need to make your peace with the choices you’re making to allow you to carry on your upwards trajectory. I’d also say you should encourage other women along the way. We have a duty to encourage and support other women.

P: What advice would you give for your daughter about her career?

PY: Be happy in what you do, whatever it is that you chose to do.

P: What does the future hold for you?

PY: Since I came into Microsoft, a world of opportunity opened up to me. Before I thought my career path was very vertical. What I’ve learnt is that the world’s my oyster and if I want to diversify I can. Now I’m thinking ‘what do I want to do next?’. I honestly don’t know but the way that I come at it is ‘what’s my long-term plan? What’s the role after the next one?’ as I think this helps your thinking about what the next role should be but also what are my non-negotiables. One of mine is that it has to involve direct customer engagement as that’s where I get my energy from. If I was put into a role that was very inward looking, you never went out and saw customers, that’s not for me. Personally, I just want to continue to set that really great example for my own daughter and give her a good life in terms of exposing her to opportunities and activities that otherwise we wouldn’t be able to do and continue to be really passionate about my job. It’s important that I enjoy what I do or otherwise it all starts to fall apart.

“Women in Leadership interview, Nancy Mattenberger, now Global Chief Customer Officer at Infor.”

Communication Skills Successful Leaders Need

What Are the Communication Skills Required for Leading a Small Team and Large Organization?

Communication is key to being an effective leader. As leaders, we must communicate clearly and effectively with our team members, peers, superiors, and stakeholders to be successful. It’s the way we get our message across to our followers. It’s the way we motivate them, inspire them, and influence them. How we communicate sets the tone of our leadership, which in turn sets the tone for our followers.

Leaders who are not good communicators will have a challenging time motivating others and getting stakeholders on board with their ideas or plans. In short, without effective communication skills as a leader, there is no effective leadership.

The functions of communication

Before discussing the communication competencies required for leaders, we should understand the functionality of effective communication leadership skills: for what purposes do leaders (and organizations) communicate?


As leaders, we must communicate effectively to ensure that our people are following the organization’s rules, processes, and procedures.


Leaders must have excellent communication skills to provide information to employees, managers, external parties, and other stakeholders. We must keep our people updated with strategy, new processes, organizational goals, etc. Without this information communicated effectively, our organization will function less efficiently.


Leaders who communicate well with their peers and employees are more likely to have good relationships in the workplace. We must provide effective feedback to provide positive reinforcement, motivate our people, and improve their performance. This includes setting clear expectations for individuals and teams.

Emotional expression

Communication is a powerful tool that we can use to create empathy, understanding, growth, and connection. As leaders, we must also understand the power of communication to express emotions, as employees voice dissatisfaction and satisfaction. We should also be careful to communicate impartially, removing our own emotions appropriately to manage conflict effectively.

Key communication competencies needed in leaders today

To achieve the four objectives of communication, we must identify and develop the key communication competencies required for leaders, which includes both verbal and nonverbal communication skills.

Adaptability of communication style

As leaders, we must be mindful of our audience and the situation in which we find ourselves and then adapt our communication style accordingly. This will help us to convey ideas in a way that is easy for others to understand, by using plain language and avoiding jargon and technical terms that our audience may not know.

Clarity and conciseness

Clarity and conciseness are two of the most important qualities of effective communication. They are also the qualities that many leaders and managers struggle with the most.

We must ensure that our messaging ─ be it verbal, written, or otherwise ─ is clear, specific, and easy to understand. It must be unambiguous. We should also strive to keep our communication on point and concise ─ fewer words is usually more effective.


We are in constant communication with our team, whether it is through emails or face-to-face conversations. It’s crucial that we understand how our people think and feel so that we can see things from different perspectives and communicate empathetically. Not only will this help our messages to be met more positively, but it will also help us to make better decisions for our people and our organizations.

Asking open-ended questions

The goal of leadership communication is rarely to tell but to elicit a response and understand, and then to inspire and motivate the actions we wish people to take. Therefore, we should be good at asking open-ended questions that require more than a ‘yes or no’ reply. This is how we can encourage more thoughtful answers, which enables us to provide more clarity when needed.

Positive body language

Body language is a key component of effective communication. Positive body language can help us set the tone for a conversation, establish rapport with another person, and influence how they feel about themselves or our organization.

Active listening

Active listening is the most important skill of any good leader. We must demonstrate that we care for our employees by asking for their opinions, ideas, and feedback. We should then focus on listening, without interrupting.

When we do this, we find that those we are conversing with will be more open to answering our questions to help our understanding of their perspectives.

Giving and receiving feedback

The most successful leaders know how to give and receive feedback respectfully and constructively. They know that it’s not about them, but about the person they are giving feedback to. Leaders who can’t accept constructive criticism will never grow or develop their wider leadership skills. A word of warning, though ─ when receiving feedback, we must act on it or our desire for feedback will appear unauthentic and we risk losing the trust and confidence of our followers.

How to Develop Essential Communication Skills as a Leader

Communication skills are the most important aspect of effectiveness as a leader. To be influential as a leader, we must be empathetic, listen intently to our people, and communicate with clarity. It is crucial that we are always mindful of our body language, and that we use questions to encourage the exchange of emotions and ideas.

Are you equipped to lead effectively? When was the last time you assessed your communication skills? To learn how our Leadership Circle™ Impact Programme delivers the skills you need to be a more impactful and influential leader, click here.

Defining Culture & Values as Leaders

A brief appraisal of the economic environment of the last 15 years demonstrates the impact of corrosive leadership. Superbly summarised at the beginning of their 2012 book “The Fulfilling Workplace”, Ronald J Burke and Cary L Cooper observed that the leadership of banks and certain corporations (Enron, for example) through the 2000’s serves to show how individual unscrupulousness and toxic cultures can torpedo the honest endeavours of thousands of ordinary workers to deliver great public services.

What is Leadership?

I have long-thought that the primary role of leaders is to create the conditions in which everyone in the organization (or team) can do what they do best every day at work. This definition talks to issues like resource-allocation, personal development, suitability in role, corporate culture and purpose-focus. Understanding purpose and being purposeful is at the heart of being able to create the most effective conditions in which we can deploy the best of ourselves in the work we do. Because we are all individual, good leaders understand that the challenge of how to inspire ‘different strokes for different folks’, and all that has to be customised, flexed and constantly reviewed.

How will we know when we’ve got it?

The journey toward good leadership hangs on the development of a keen sense of self-awareness. Understanding oneself and recognising what we’re doing, and why, is a powerful tool that provides invaluable personal and intimate feedback. Being self-aware enables us to sense-check what we’re doing and why we are doing it the way we are. Furthermore, it helps us to regulate our emotions and responses so that they are proportionate and contextually appropriate. This is particularly important for leaders since the responses and immediate actions of those in positions of influence tend to set the tone of the responses of others and shape opinions.

Can we learn it?

Self-awareness is something that individuals can develop on their own by reserving time for self-reflection, asking themselves questions like ‘How did I do there?’ ‘What could I have done differently?’ ‘What could I have done more of or less of?’ ‘Did I truly understand what the desired outcomes were, before getting involved?’ In the 24-7 connected world in which we live, it’s my experience that we do too little self-reflection.

We can also get feedback from others. In my expeirence, it’s amazing how little we seek out the observations and opinions of others in considering our own style and approach! But, by understanding the views of those whose opinion we trust and respect, we can gain incredible insight into how we ‘land’ in the eyes of others. Combining this with our own self-reflection gives us a substantial data-pickup with which we can adapt and enhance our leadership skills.

There are numerous psychometric assessments, many incorporating a 360 degree element, which provide valuable feedback on our leadership style. Taken ‘in the round’ and overseen by suitably-qualified coaches, they afford the opportunity to get feedback in a structured format which has, ideally, been appropriately validated.

And, we can also ask people who’ve been there before us about the things that worked for them; getting reference points and examples helps us to build the courage and confidence to tackle difficult situations. Talking at length with experienced successful leaders has incredible value.

It’s also within us

Perhaps the most fundamental part of identifying our own leadership approach is having an understanding of and appreciation for our personal values: what are those deep-seated beliefs that shape our behaviors, our attitudes and our relationships? Understanding these and appreciating their impact on our actions and thoughts gives us a real insight into what drives us, and this enables us to define in what context we want to work and to recognize whether our organizational culture is supporting or hindering us. Barrett Values Centre cultural transformation tools is one of the best ways of identifying personal values and understanding how they fit with those of the people around us.

Aligned with the benefit of deeply understanding our values-set is the complementary importance of defining one’s personal purpose. I appreciate that for some of us, identifying our personal purpose might be a life’s work on its own! If one is able to articulate it, then one is able to answer the question of how does what we aspire to fit with your organization’s purpose and that of your significant other colleagues?

Armed with the knowledge of one’s values and personal purpose, and with a deep self-awareness of how one ‘lands’ with others, it is possible to build a powerfully-effective and authentic style of leadership. Of course, it still requires leaders to stay true to themselves and their values in all that they say and do, even when times are tough; this is often the part that lets us down!

Leadership is not a gift: we all have, in my opinion, what it takes to lead; we just need the passion for something that reflects our personal purpose and exudes our values.

Building Resiliency as Leaders

We already knew we were living in uncertain times and then Nature came along to say “You ain’t seen nothing yet”. Without notice, we have been pitched into a global pandemic that has prompted border closures, civil constraints and an economic crisis. This worldwide disruption to lives and livelihoods calls for decisive leadership by governments and institutions… and each of us also face personal challenges about what to do for the best. This is a testing time as we each adjust to the ‘new normal’.

Keep informed

Just getting to the facts is difficult. Fake news, misinformation and vested interests all compete for our attention alongside respected news sources. Even our governments are having to improvise as they address an emergency on a scale not seen in generations. Confusion and contradictory information makes it important to question what we hear, to search out credible views and to find ways of independently verifying what we’ve learnt.

The most important thing to find is authoritative advice about what to do to reduce the risk of catching and spreading the virus. Next we need to turn to the personal economic and social fallout. For many, the impacts will be profound: being laid off, loss of income and more…

Our ability to recover from such problems depends on how we approach them. Having good information, getting help, good decision-making and acting swiftly will all play a part. As this is new ground for all of us, questioning our usual biases (e.g. for pessimism or optimism) and assumptions will be critical. Good information is critical to developing the confidence to act.

Follow the Government’s medical advice

Naturally, we should follow official guidance: trust the medical experts and science rather than your intuition or the guy down the pub (if indeed pubs and bars are still open where you are).

In chaotic and volatile situations people often panic or shrug things off, both of which are counter-productive behaviors. Our own actions may feel insignificant in the current crisis and unlikely to have any effect on the overall situation. However, we can reduce our own risk of infection by taking basic precautions. If everybody follows the health advice, the aggregate effect will be to slow down the rate at which the disease will spread. The slower the infection rate, the fewer people will catch the disease. So, seemingly minor actions taken by many people will add up to saving lives.

Good individual practices build group resilience whether that is in your family, your team at work, your community or the society as a whole. Societal resilience comes from acting in concert, supporting each other, protecting the vulnerable and doing the ‘right thing’ even if it is counter-intuitive or personally inconvenient.

Work out what else needs to happen

When deciding what else we need to do, everyone will have different factors they will need to take into account: things like age, health, income, finances, job, family and the risk of infection. Ask yourself what you need to do in your particular situation. Some questions to get started:

What would make a real difference? How can you do that? What needs to change? …And by when? What difficulties do you anticipate? What support might you need and where can you find it? What are others doing that you might also try? Who should be involved and who else will be affected by what you do? What would success look like?

When thinking about what you’re going to do differently, consider the wider picture: your organization, team, community, people who you depend on and those who depend on you: How might they be affected? What support might they need?

This stage in building resilience is to think about the changes you need to make and the ‘who, what, why, when and how’ of making them. You should consider different scenarios and decide what you might have to do should they occur. A key part of resilience is being flexible enough to react to new situations as they arise.

Choose action not fear

While it’s human to be scared about something so dramatic, some of the media seem to be adding fuel to the fires of our fears. It is undoubtedly serious: at the time of writing, infections are doubling every 4 or 5 days. The numbers of critically ill and of deaths are rising at a similar rate. Without decisive action, our medical facilities may become overwhelmed. Despite knowing that the authorities are working to prevent that happening, the trumpeting of such distressing information obscures the fact that this is a mild infection for most people. If possible, hold on to that. Either way, know that, by following the advice to minimize your risk of infection, you are doing what you can.

The economic effects are a different matter. At the time of writing many Governments around the world have closed almost all non-essential public places and are enforcing a ‘stay at home and work from home if you can’ policy – we are all affected by them. Actively getting to grips with the issues that affect you and finding ways of improving your own situation is a great antidote to anxiety. Some things are easy… do them first (pick the ‘low hanging fruit’). Others, such as changing ingrained habits, are harder… so find some support. We are all in this together and working alongside others helps us stick to our aims.

Resilience means consciously changing to meet new challenges. It is taking control where you can.

Managing anxiety

Worry can be debilitating. At the extreme, it can disable your thinking. So another, often-overlooked element in building resilience is to look after yourself. Set aside the time to:

Be thorough and systematic about developing good practices for each of these topics (there’s plenty of on-line advice). Doing so will support your immune system and strengthening your mental resources. Mental resilience is as important as being fit and healthy: it enables you be more effective at what you do.

Wishing you every success in rising to the challenges of your ‘new normal’. I hope that you and yours emerge healthy and strong.

To start a conversation about your leadership development or the development opportunities your organization faces – you can email our team directly here.

10 Critical Skills Needed for Leaders

Skills Assessed as Required to Lead Through the Next Crisis

Leading effectively is exciting, not least because of the diverse set of skills you have mastered. A skills assessment will help to evaluate the skills that your leaders possess. Many of these will be hard, technical skills necessary to lead with authority and knowledge. Equally crucial are the skills that are often less measurable but essential to lead people effectively.

Research such as the 2020 survey conducted by LinkedIn examining the future of leadership demonstrates that soft skills are ‘more than a bonus, they’re table stakes’. In other words, they are a bare minimum requirement. Despite this, more than half of the survey’s 14,000 respondents don’t think their leaders are good at soft skills and are underprepared to lead in the future.

So the question is, what soft skills will your leaders need to lead their people and engage them in the purpose of your organization?

Here is a list of the 10 critical skills that your leaders must develop.

#1 Self-awareness and emotional intelligence

Understanding yourself is essential to understanding your emotions, motivations, and reactions. Three things you can do immediately to help develop your emotional intelligence are:

  1. Keep a diary of your emotions (what happened and how it made you feel)
  2. Note how your responsibilities make you feel (in all your life roles)
  3. Predict your emotional responses to different situations

With greater understanding of your own emotional response and how to shape it, you will be able to connect with people more effectively.

#2 Effective communication

Communication capability is essential for leaders to master. Being able to listen actively will help you understand and analyze people’s emotions and their challenges. Only then can you practice thoughtful communication that resonates with your audience.

#3 Positivity

Especially through times of crisis, when the world, industries, teams, and individuals are in chaos, a positive attitude is essential to lead and inspire. Positivity demonstrates confidence in the future, in the business strategy, and in your people. It helps to build the resilience needed to cut through external and internal issues over which you have no influence.

#4 Critical thinking and problem solving

You’ll need to use your knowledge and experience to analyze the plethora of data and facts available before making bold decisions. The ability to think on your feet does not mean making immediate, ill-considered decisions, but rather rapid assessment to develop creative solutions where problems exist.

#5 Motivational

It’s mission-critical to inspire and motivate your people. This requires a deep knowledge of individuals, because we are all motivated by different things. The key is to understand what it is that each person needs to do their work effectively, and offer the support they need as they develop.

#6 Relationship building

Building relationships is central to achieving all you are capable of as a leader. You will give and receive feedback positively (even when it is negative), show interest in people’s lives, recognize and reward contributions, and help people to understand where they fit in and why they are important.

#7 Conflict management skills

Of course, you will also need to deal with people who have bad attitudes or whose poor behavior jeopardises team spirit. You will be judged on how you handle volatile team members and situations.

#8 Have a learning mentality

It is as important to develop yourself as it is to help your team develop. This means making time for self-development, which can be a challenge with everything else that requires your attention. Create time to develop your own skills through reading, networking with others, and taking courses or attending webinars.

#9 The art of delegation

You cannot do everything yourself. Delegation is vital to lead a team to peak performance and realisation of potential. You’ll know when to delegate work and who to delegate work to. You’ll need to use your knowledge of people’s strengths and weaknesses to get tasks done efficiently, but also their goals, likes, and dislikes to ensure that motivation is maintained, and personal development continues.

#10 Trustworthiness

It will be essential that your people feel comfortable enough to approach you, discuss their issues, and seek your support. They need to trust you. Trust, of course, is built over the long term and founded on honesty, accountability, knowledge, vulnerability, and integrity.

Is it time for a skills assessment?

When was the last time you assessed the skills of your incumbent and developing leaders?

Leading a team effectively requires much more than competence in hard skills. The crises we have navigated through 2020 into 2021 highlight the need for a collection of soft skills. To be a successful leader requires you to embed these soft skills, and this requires coaching, time, practice, and feedback on which you act.

You can start now by taking the Leadership Challenge skills assessment.

To learn where you are on the leadership curve and how Prime Leadership can develop your leaders of tomorrow today, contact Primeast.

Nancy Mattenberger, Infor speaks to Sarah Cave

Congratulations to all the women who made The IT Services Report ‘Top 25 Women in IT Services 2020’. As part of Primeast’s 2015 Women in Leadership series, we interviewed Nancy Mattenberger, Vice President for global consulting services at Infor, New York. At No.4, Nancy is now the Global Chief Customer Officer at Infor.

We thought now was a good time to republish our 2015 interview in which Nancy shared with us her journey, the challenges she’s encountered as a female leader, and her tips for those looking to get to the top.

Primeast (P): Explain to us your current role and a bit about your team.

Nancy Mattenberger (NM): I’m Vice President for Consulting Services at Infor, the world’s third largest business applications company, and lead a team of global consultants. Infor provides beautiful crafted software purpose built for specific industries and micro verticals to simplify the way companies work. To achieve this, we have set ourselves a course of disrupting the enterprise application business and we create compelling experiences for enterprise software users, going beyond just the usual look and feel. In fact, we have our own in-house design company in our headquarters in New York City and have been branded “the world’s largest start up”.

P: You didn’t start your career in technology, so tell us about your journey.

NM: I started my life as a translator. I moved around a lot in my childhood and have lived in numerous countries. I speak a few different languages and decided to put them to good use, working as a translator in a major international organization.

I soon got bored and realised that what I really enjoyed doing was managing a global workforce and the challenges that presented, from moving employees and their families from one country to another and ensuring they thrived and adapted to new cultures and environments. Consequently, I went into operational HR, working for a global packaging company with a large mobile workforce and enjoyed assisting staff and their families to move around the world, tapping into my own experience of relocating globally with my family as a child and then an adult.

It was during this time that I got very interested in the PwC technology we were using daily to calculate taxes and compensation packages for expatriates and ultimately was offered a job at PwC. They needed someone who actually came from the HR industry, who would be credible in front of HR executives and who could manage an international team. So I moved to London, joined PwC and transitioned from an HR operational role to an IT management role, successfully managing a European team and increasing revenue numbers across Europe, the Middle East and Africa.

From PwC I moved onto Australia and a job at Kronos, where I held a variety of roles in pre-sales, sales and consulting in the APAC region. I also helped Kronos launch brand new markets in China and India and successfully grow the company footprint across the whole of Asia Pacific for the next 8 years, it was an exciting time and I learnt a lot about launching, expanding and thriving in new markets. It was during this time that I had my first mentor who championed me and helped me grow tremendously in this new role.

I then moved to Oracle to run their Australian ERP consulting services practice and to find ways to compete against tough, low cost competition from offshore companies. I was successful in that role and increased the scope of my responsibilities, taking on the delivery practice of one of Oracle’s SaaS acquisitions and was instrumental in assisting with the transition of the business from a traditional on premise operation to a cloud focused delivery practice.

I enjoyed working for Oracle but wanted to go back to working for a company that was a true game-changer, in a high impact and high visibility position and so I joined Infor a year ago and took on a global position, for which I had to be based out of the US. I relocated to Florida for the outdoors’ lifestyle but commute to New York or to other States to see customers most weeks. It was a really successful move.

With 13,000 people around the globe, Infor could easily be a lumbering corporate giant but instead, it is branded the world’s largest start-up and it truly is! I really love the energy, enthusiasm and the willingness to take risks to be disruptive and innovative in the marketplace. It’s great to see a company of this size invest in its people and their ideas.

P: What are the main challenges you’ve faced?

NM: I started my career in a junior role and as I worked my way up the ladder I do remember some discussions along the way that were very meaningful. I think people are always trying to put you in a box and so I got a lot of people when I was trying to move from operational HR to IT saying “don’t move out of your lane, it’s not possible”. I even remember a significant conversation with a senior HR VP, who was a woman, saying that as women our careers are limited to female oriented roles such as HR, or being an airline hostess. I couldn’t believe I was hearing that kind of language coming out of the company’s most senior HR representative.

Despite claims that all careers are open to women and men, there is still a lot of discrimination in the marketplace and a belief that once you get stuck in one line of business you can’t move to another. I didn’t listen to what people said, moved industries, tried new things, moved countries, took risks and moved up the chain. For me that risk paid off but if I had listened to all the ‘no-sayers’ along the way, I don’t think I would have gotten very far.

P: Did you notice different attitudes to women in different countries?

NM: Absolutely, some countries are more open to female leaders in the workplace. However the Technology sector as a whole is still very much a male dominated industry and it’s harder for a woman to take on certain positions past the glass ceiling and when they do, there are lots of people watching and lots of critics, more than when a man takes the same position. I have found that it is often true what they say that men are judged on their potential whereas women are judged on what they have achieved.

P: How do you balance personal life with career?

NM: Despite the fact I don’t have children, it’s still a balance you have to make. My husband and I approach everything as a partnership. He has been one of my biggest fans along the way and it’s great to have that kind of support.

Every role I’ve taken we’ve talked about it and what it would mean to us. We’ve discussed what each role would mean in terms of travel frequency and my availability to do other things. We talk openly about the job’s constraints. Either he’s all in or we don’t do it. Otherwise it becomes an extra pressure that you have to deal with if your partner is not on board.

P: Have you ever needed flexible working or given it to other female team members?

NM: I’m very conscious of flexible working and the importance of fostering a positive environment where female and male team members can balance their work and family commitments. Many of the companies I have worked for supported flexible working environments and I’ve always tried to make certain accommodations for staff to do more work from home or facilitate moving staff into different roles with less travel or less extended hours when their circumstances required it. We are always conscious of giving people with young families more family time and more time off the road. It takes a little bit of juggling and it’s not always perfect but I try to make it happen otherwise those people end up leaving the company and you lose talent.

P: What are your top tips for women who are aspiring leaders?

NM: No matter what stage of your career, embrace mentorship opportunities, whether it is internally or externally. Outgrowing mentors can happen very fast and is a normal process. I connected with lots of people along the way and the value I got from my mentors was new skills, more confidence, networking and new job opportunities. My external mentors helped me challenge my assumptions and got me thinking about opportunities in a totally different direction. It’s easy to get stuck thinking in the same old way and you need to make sure you surround yourself with people who will continually challenge you and question your thinking.

Also, know who you are and what values you stand for and don’t let others talk you out of it. I learnt the hard way that it’s not worth landing that big job if the company culture isn’t the right fit and you need to work in an environment that goes against your personal values. So make sure you choose the right corporate culture fit in a company that is genuinely supportive of its women leaders.

Think long-term. It was a real eye opener for me talking to a careers executive coach a few years ago who got me thinking about not just the next two years but the next ten or fifteen years. She pushed me to think about what I would want to be doing after my corporate career which got me interested in building up my company Board experience. I then attended a course to be certified as a non-executive director and landed my first board position as a non-executive director in a small start-up and am now well on my way to building some valuable board experience.

It’s also important to talk to the next generation and let girls know they can do anything they put their mind to. In Australia I used to participate in an initiative that was aimed at high school teenage girls to educate them on careers in IT and it was sponsored by Oracle. We would have these 14-15 year old teenagers come in and they would say things like “it’s not cool to be a geek” and “a woman needs to be sexy and have a sexy career”. We would really try to talk to them at their level and let them know that technology can be cool: you can move around the world, you meet a lot of great people and as a woman you can achieve great things.

P: What does the future hold for you?

NM: I am fascinated by the complexity of managing global operations; I understand different cultures intimately and have done business around the world. I would like to continue working for Global companies and become a CEO someday for an international company. I would also like to continue down the non-executive director path and sit on different boards, do charity work and continue to contribute and give back to the community, as I think I get as much satisfaction out of that as I do in my corporate career.

Lots of women don’t know about board opportunities or underestimate their ability to participate or give advice as a board advisor. By sitting on a charity’s board you can help thousands of people by giving that organization better advice about how to run their company as opposed to helping just a few people when you volunteer at your local charity – you can make so much more of an impact in the world.

P: Thank you for taking the time to share your inspirational story with us.

About Infor Infor is a leading provider of business application software helping 73,000 customers in more than 200 countries and territories improve operations, drive growth, and quickly adapt to changes in business demands.

First published on the Primeast Insights pages on 3 March 2015

For more inspiration from women in leadership, take a look at our interviews with “Women in Leadership interview, Andrea Cartwright, group HR director for Supergroup”. and “Women in Leadership interview, Pauline Yau, Microsoft”.

The 5 Creative Competencies you Need to Succeed

In my last Insights post, I talked about one of the diagnostic tools we use when helping leaders to develop – The Leadership Circle. Here I go into more depth about what it can tell you about your leadership competencies and how you can develop them.

As the name suggests the report you receive is shown as a circle. It has 2 hemispheres – upper which shows your creative competencies and lower showing your reactive tendencies. Both have their plus points. In fact, the two hemispheres and their component parts can be seen as two sides of the same coin with the profile owner either reacting to problems or creating outcomes.

The extensive research behind the tool shows that leaders who score highly in the creative competencies (i.e. they are outcome creating) are the most effective leaders and therefore have the greatest impact on the success of their organization.

What creative competencies do you need to maximize your leadership effectiveness and impact?


The relating dimension measures the leader’s capability to relate to others in a way that brings out the best in people, groups and organizations.

This dimension is made up of 5 sub scales- not surprisingly this is the largest of the creative competencies – after all leading is really all about the people who follow you. Let’s look at them in detail:

Caring connection measures the leader’s interest in and ability to form warm, caring relationships.

Fosters team play – a leader’s ability to foster high performance teamwork among team members who report to him, across the organization and within teams in which he participates.

Collaborator – the extent to which the leader engages others in a manner that allows the parties involved to discover common ground.

Mentoring and Developing measures the leader’s ability to develop others through mentoring and maintaining growth-enhancing relationships.

Interpersonal Intelligence – the interpersonal effectiveness with which the leader listens, engages in conflict and controversy, deals with the feelings of others, and manages his/her own feelings.


This dimension explores the leader’s orientation to ongoing personal and professional development, as well as the degree to which self-awareness is expressed through high-integrity leadership.

Selfless Leader measures the extent to which the leader pursues service over self-interest, where the need for credit and personal ambition is far less important than creating results that serve a common good.

Balance measures the leader’s ability to keep a healthy balance between business and family, activity and reflection, work and leisurethe tendency to be self-renewing and handle the stress of life without losing the self.

Composure measures the leader’s ability, in the midst of conflict and high-tension situations to remain composed and centred and to maintain a calm, focused perspective.

Personal Learner measures the degree to which the leader demonstrates a strong and active interest in learning and personal and professional growth. It measures the extent to which she actively pursues growing in self-awareness, wisdom, knowledge and insight.


Authenticity is the leader’s capability to relate to others in an authentic, courageous and high integrity manner.

Integrity – how well the leader adheres to the set of values and principles that she espouses; this is how well she can be trusted to ‘walk the talk’.

Courageous Authenticity is about the leader’s willingness to take tough stands, bring up ‘undiscussables’ – risky issues the group avoids discussing, and openly deal with difficult relationship problems.

Systems awareness

Systems awareness focuses on the world in which the organization operates, the wider system which is critical to the organization’s success. It measures the degree to which the leader’s awareness is focused on whole system improvement, productivity, and community welfare.

Community concern is the service orientation from which the leader leads. It measures the extent to which she links her legacy to service of the community and global welfare.

Sustainable productivity is the leader’s ability to achieve results in a way that maintains or enhances the overall long-term effectiveness of the organization. It measures how well she balances human/technical resources to sustain long term high performance.

Systems Thinker is the degree to which the leader thinks and acts from a whole system perspective as well as the extent to which she makes decisions in the light of the long-term health of the whole system.


This is all about how you get results. Made up of 4 sub scales, it measures the extent to which the leader offers visionary, authentic and high achievement leadership.

Strategic focus – the extent to which the leader thinks and plans rigorously and strategically to ensure that the organization will thrive in the near and long-term.

Purposeful and visionary – the extent to which the leader clearly communicates and models commitment to personal purpose and vision.

Achieves results – the degree to which the leader is goal directed and has a track record of goal achievement and high performance.

Decisiveness this is about the leader’s ability to make decisions on time and the extent to which he is comfortable moving forward in uncertainty.

When I read through this list of competencies nothing surprises me. Of course these are what a leader needs to be/do to be effective and to lead the organization, but doing this every day is hard. Sometimes our reactions get in the way but having these as a check list to reflect on daily can be helpful for any leader – new or experienced. In the next post we will examine the reactive tendencies which can derail us and how we can make small changes to become more effective.

Want to find out more about the Leadership Circle Profile? Click here.

A Human Enterprise

I have recently started reading ‘A Promised Land’ by former US President Barack Obama. In the preface he describes that part of his intent in writing the book was to lift the veil on the role of The President and the government to show that they form a “human enterprise like any other”.

That phrase struck me and prompted me to consider whether leaders and business owners have perhaps lost sight of the fact that any organization, set up to create and deliver any kind of output, is first and foremost a ‘human enterprise’. So, what should a good human enterprise look like? A long-time friend of Primeast, author Richard Barrett, touched on this in his 1998 book ‘Liberating the Corporate Soul’, in which he suggested, that for sustainable success and responsible development, leaders need to reframe how they see organizations.

The shift is from [sic] ‘a structure of systems and processes, operated by humans that create an output’ to ‘a living, beating organism, made up of humans, who operate in a coordinated and systemic way to create value’.

The COVID-19 pandemic has undoubtedly shaken the world of work and how organizations operate. An increased reliance and focus on systems, processes and technology has enabled business continuity and has driven change, even at this difficult time. How long will this be sustainable? Early results from several studies indicate that recent success in this latest phase of switching to a more virtual, process led world has only been possible because of the ‘goodwill’ that has been built up over years of face-to-face human interaction. One suggestion is that, over time, that goodwill will erode and entropy will set in, resulting in a gradual deterioration of cohesion and business effectiveness.

These dynamics are not entirely new and there is a mountain of evidence of what happens when leaders get the balance wrong between human dynamics and operational systems. Over the last 50 years organizations have spent huge amounts of time, energy and money on technology-led business transformation. Many of those transformations have failed outright, others have stalled, and equally, many have been successful. The reason for such a mixed bag? A frequent failure to recognize that any kind of meaningful and sustainable change in an organization must be human centred. Hence the need to cycle back to the fact that organizations are primarily human enterprises.

Adopting a human enterprise approach means leaders choose to lead any initiative first with the people in their organization. By doing this they deliberately create conditions of engagement, ownership, agility and innovation. People are more willing to be enthusiastic and committed when the feel that they are active contributors to solving the challenge, rather than merely being the subject of it. Of course, it means we need to adjust our relationship with systems, processes and technology as well.

So how do you create a human enterprise approach?

  1. Start with purpose and values
    • Human enterprises require a clarity of purpose beyond any financial metric. Purpose defines why the organization exists, it’s reason for being and potentially it’s contribution to humanity. Alongside its purpose are the values which articulate what the organization stands for and how it operates. People are energized by these.
  2. Remember we are humans before anything else
    • In every strategy or decision, the question “what are the human implications?” needs to be right at the top of the list. Human enterprises seek to liberate and empower people to be creative, entrepreneurial and innovative by automating mundane tasks and streamlining those processes and systems that sap the human spirit. Human first.
  3. Build a positive culture that enables effectiveness
    • Human enterprises generally have an open culture, where experimentation and balanced risk-taking are encouraged. It’s important to build trust, accountability and encourage people to be truly creative. In doing this, there is a greater likelihood that they will come up with solutions to address the increasingly complex challenges we face. Micro-management and excessive measurement will kill this dead, so beware. As singer/songwriter Peter Gabriel once said when talking about his craft; “true creativity comes from the freedom to fail”.
  4. Seek multiple perspectives and embrace diversity of thought
    • Embracing diversity of thought and seeking of different perspectives is an imperative for human enterprises. Not only does it create an engaging place of work where people feel valued, it also provides rich insights to help the business move forward. Leveraging diversity of thought and multiple perspectives contributes to the building of intellectual capital too. Organisations often invest huge amounts of money in primary and secondary external research, yet don’t ask their own people to provide their own perspective
  5. Build processes that support people to solve problems, not the other way round
    • 20th Century management doctrine built upon the work of ‘scientific management’ thinkers like Taylor, Fayol and Weber. Even the legendary John Kotter and Tom Peters focused on structure-driven and process-heavy approaches to business effectiveness. Consequently, standardisation and predictability have become dominate operating models. However, in a VUCA (volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous) environment, many of these approaches are proving too rigid and are no longer up to the job. Human enterprises, on the other hand, are more flexible as they are focused on solving challenges. They benefit from realising opportunities to create value. The whole Agile Movement is built on this principle; people centred, fast-moving, solution-focused and technology-enabled. Hierarchy and control are secondary.

We are at a kind of inflection point where, if left unchecked, process, system and technology will increasingly become the principal drivers of how organizations evolve. Before it’s too late, we need to grasp the opportunity to re-orientate our thinking; organizations should be human enterprises that are enabled by technology, not the other way round.

Visit our Prime Leadership and Scaling Talent pages for more details of how Primeast can support you and your organization to create outstanding leaders who are equipped to lead organizations where people can thrive.

To get in touch with Russell Evans you can email email him here or call +44 (0) 1423 531083.

You might enjoy: ‘Why purpose matters more than ever’ and ‘Behaviours to develop trust within remote teams’

How to Communicate as a Leader: Step 1

Why Is Communication an Important Leadership Skill?

Effective communication skills are crucial for leaders, who must be able to communicate vision, thoughts, and ideas to others with clarity and detail, which can help with decision-making. Communication skills can also help with conflict resolution, as well as empowering influence with employees, clients, and other stakeholders.

Ineffective communication can lead to misunderstanding, confusion, conflict, and mistrust. It can damage productivity, harm customer satisfaction, and even decrease brand value (remember Gerald Ratner’s ‘prawn sandwich’ comment, in 1991, that wiped £500 million off the value of the company?).

In this article, we look at the first step in how to improve communication skills as a leader.

Communication tips for leaders: Know your communication style

To strategise how to improve leadership communication skills, leaders must first understand their communication style. There are various assessments and diagnostics that we use when we assist leaders and managers on their personalized journeys of discovery. Such tools and techniques are designed to inform leaders with specific needs, equipping them with greater levels of self-awareness and emotional intelligence.

EQ-i 2.0: The Model of Emotional Intelligence

This model measures emotional intelligence across 15 competencies in five composites:

By assessing and scoring each competency, it is then possible to create a development plan to deliver effective change, improving self-awareness and providing the building blocks to communicate more deliberately and positively.

You can view a sample EQ-i 2.0 report here.

The Ladder of Inference

How do you move from thought to action? Often, we give this process little thought. It happens naturally ─ and, of course, communicating is an action.


The Ladder of Inference (source: Chris Argyris and Peter Senge) is a description of how we think. Understanding this can help a leader to analyze data successfully, challenge false conclusions drawn by others, communicate constructively, and make more effective decisions.

The Ladder of Inference takes you through seven steps:

Using this model, a leader can challenge their own beliefs, assumptions, and the data and facts used. This helps leaders to remain objective, remove unconscious bias from their decision-making, and come to collective conclusions free from conflict.


A DiSC profile assessment provides an insight into a person’s four major behavioral tendencies:

Understanding self in this depth helps a leader to be more effective, by developing strategies to act and communicate more appropriately according to the environment in which they find themselves.

You can view a sample DiSC report here.

How to improve leadership communication skills ─ Take the first step

Great leaders communicate well with their colleagues and know themselves well enough to understand their communication style and how it can be improved.

Self-awareness is a key element in improving one’s leadership skills. Knowing one’s strengths and weaknesses can help a leader figure out their style of communication and how they interact with others.

Emotional intelligence is another important part of improving leadership communication skills. It helps leaders understand the emotions of their colleaguesas well as themselves, which in turn makes it easier for them to communicate effectively with those colleagues.

Understanding how they run from fact to action helps a leader to be more deliberate and objective in how they communicate with others, removing bias and mitigating the potential for conflict.

When helping leaders and managers to develop strategies to communicate more effectively, our starting point is always to help the individual to understand themselves better. We use the most appropriate tools as well as bespoke content depending on learning needs analysis, the leader’s role, experience, and development stage.

Primeast’s team of facilitators and coaches are accredited in the world’s leading tools and assessments which ensures we can select the right tools for the specific situation or development need. Because one size doesn’t fit all.

To learn more, or to discuss your organization’s unique needs, Contact Primeast today.

Find your Why & Unlock the Benefits of Value-Driven Leadership

Follow Simon Sinek: Find Your Why and Unlock the Benefits of Value-Driven Leadership

The Power of Purpose in Leadership

When you read Simon Sinek, ‘Find your why’ becomes a rallying call to leaders and organizations that want to inspire the key attributes of alignment. These include trust, a shared vision, greater collaboration, focus, motivation, transparency, harmony, and much more.

Sinek’s theory of the Golden Circle encompasses three rings:

Think about it. You know that your organization makes widgets. You have a good idea how these widgets are made. Now, do you know why your organization makes widgets?

The importance of discovering your why

What you do is probably not unique. If you differentiate your organization, or yourself, on what you do, it won’t be much different to a million other companies and people. You make widgets. So do companies all over the world. You lead a team. So do millions of others.

What you do is grey. It melts into the background. Very rarely will your job title excite and enthuse someone to hear more. “I’m a managing director,” does not make a crowd fall over themselves to learn more.

The same can be said about your ‘how’. Describing how you do something may be interesting, but it’s unlikely to be awe-inspiring. The manufacturing process is pretty much the same if you make clothes or shoes or cars – it’s a production line on which people work machines to turn raw materials into finished goods. Have you fallen asleep yet?

There are notable exceptions, of course. You could be a deep-sea diver whose next job is to travel into space to explore why the moon is rusting.

What makes you stand out is your why. Your purpose in life. The values that prompt you to do what you do and how you do it. Now that’s a story that people want to hear. When Simon Sinek says ‘Find your why’, he makes a big point.

Why you must discover your why

‘Why?’ is the question that many find hard to answer. It’s there, but it is abstract. It’s a collection of ideas, thoughts, values, and beliefs. Yet it is there. It connects who you are to what you do. It has huge power, too. It is what makes you unique and creates loyal employees, customers, partners, and other stakeholders.

The difficulty in explaining your why is its intangible nature. You can’t see it or touch it. When you discover your why as an individual, it will help you decide on the type of organization you want to work for and the type of work you want to do.

For organizations, being able to describe your why will help you identify the problems you want to solve, who you want to solve them for, and attract talent that aligns with your purpose.

Exploring your why

The question now is, how do you find your why?

The starting point is to explore the reason you get up in the morning, the reason you go to work, the reason you do what you do. What is your story? It is that that will engage, excite, and inspire.

This may sound an easy exercise, but only when you begin the discovery process will you learn how difficult finding your why can be. A partner is often essential. They will help you to identify the thread that connects your stories together, the experiences that have had most impact on you, and why your tangibles help you realise the intangible nature of your purpose.

Understanding your why will allow you to clarify your direction. It will give everything you do its purpose. It’s the reason why people are loyal to their manager and their employer. It’s the reason why customers don’t source their products based on price.

Start your journey to finding your why by completing this short Personal Values Assessment. Once you have your results, you can dive deeper with the ‘Understanding your Purpose’ free virtual workshop by Sarah Cave. Client Partner & Primeast Director, Sarah is an accredited coach and certified practitioner of the Leadership Circle™.

To understand the challenges your organization faces, and the opportunities for change, complete the Primeast PrimeFocus™ assessment.

Start a conversation with us today to explore how we can partner with your organization to develop your people, leaders and performance. Find out more about Scaling Talent and Prime Leadership below.

How to Improve your Listening Skills as a Leader

The Importance of Active Listening in Leadership

Leading by listening means to actively listen to the needs of your employees and act. It’s about using your skills as a leader to make sure that you are contributing towards making their job easier and not adding more work to it.

Leading by listening will ensure that you are efficient in what you do and improve the productivity of your team. With this skill, you can establish meaningful relationships with others and provide them with much-needed support.

What Is Listening?

Listening is a skill that we often don’t think about until we’re trying to communicate effectively and find it difficult to get our point across. Listening allows us to phrase our thoughts in such a way that makes sense and shows understanding of others.

So, what is listening?

Listening goes far beyond simply hearing what someone else is saying and responding accordingly. True listening requires conscious engagement and an understanding that confusion and misinterpretation can happen very easily when you don’t ‘tune in’ and apply your active listening skills. This requires leaders to understand not just the words, but the inference; knowing that each person will bring with them to a conversation their own subjective perceptions, interpreted reality and assumptions based on their particular life experiences and the data available to them.

Listening skills are critical when it comes to achieving cultural understanding and empathy to better integrate into society and be more inclusive towards diverse groups of people.

Being Good at Listening Helps Lead People Towards Their Goals

It is no longer enough for leaders to only give speeches and talk about the issues. Good leaders are good listeners. They create an atmosphere of safety in which people feel comfortable sharing their feedback, concerns, and ideas. To do this, they must know how to actively listen to understand what people need and how to best facilitate positive experiences.

Develop a Listening Mindset

Listening is not just about hearing the surface intention, it’s taking in the emotions that come with the words, and recognising the influence behind the words. When you listen to someone, you acknowledge what they are saying is important by asking questions or agreeing with them.

Good leaders are good listeners, and it all starts with a listening mindset. It’s not enough to say you listen. It’s crucial to understand the importance of listening in leadership and then consciously practice active listening.

How to Improve Listening Skills as a Leader

With a listening mindset, a leader can begin to improve their listening skills. Here are 7 listening techniques that will help leaders develop their listening skills:

Maintain eye contact with the speaker

Eye contact is the most crucial factor in establishing a human connection. You can get more of this essential connection by making sure to always maintain eye contact with the speaker.

Don’t be judgmental when listening

We all make judgments. It’s not something we can avoid. Leaders should be aware of their biases and be careful about what they say and do, to make sure that their judgments don’t affect others negatively. When listening, pause first to check your own judgements and preconceptions before responding.

Listen for the unspoken things

One way to improve your listening skills is to focus on the unspoken things. These are the thoughts that people don’t express verbally but will often convey through body language or other non-verbal cues.

Don’t interrupt

Poor listeners often interrupt people in conversation, but this can make people feel uncomfortable and not engaged with the conversation. Instead, listening leaders should wait for a pause in the conversation, before interjecting or answering questions.

Ask clarifying questions

Leaders who listen always ask questions to improve their understanding and enable people to feel comfortable discussing what is needed. This also demonstrates concern and provides an opportunity to empathise.

Visualise what the speaker is saying

When trying to understand what the speaker is saying, use listening skills to visualise what the speaker is talking about. This can help the leader understand meaning and context, and produce interesting questions that will make the speaker elaborate on what they just said.

Empathise with the speaker

Great leaders are good listeners, they focus on what is being said, and use contextual meaning to understand how the speaker feels. This helps the leader see things from the speaker’s point of view, communicate more effectively, build better relationships, and solve problems.

Is your organization a listening organization?

Listening helps you build relationships and make connections with people. It also helps you understand what your team members want from their work and how they want to contribute to the greater goal of the company. If you learn how to listen well, you will be able to lead people towards their goals and help them succeed in life.

Leadership listening skills can make or break your career as a leader. But it is not enough for one person in an organization to learn listening as a leadership skill. Your organization must take ownership of it as one of its core competencies.

Are your leaders equipped to lead effectively? To learn how our Leadership Circle™ Impact Programme delivers the skills your organization needs to deliver impactful leadership, click here.

Why Being Assertive Can Benefit Your Business

Developing assertiveness is one of the key aspects of successful leadership and effective teamwork, but it can often be difficult for people to demonstrate this when the pressures of work have us pulled in all directions.

Helping individuals to build the confidence to say ‘no’ and to understand why it is sometimes important to do so could therefore be a fantastic boon to many businesses.

Understanding assertiveness in the workplace

Adopting an assertive mindset provides the opportunity for individuals to more easily work alongside others and to bring together people in a constructive manner. Here is a definition of assertiveness that we believe holds the key to understanding what we mean:

The ability to confidently express your needs, rights and views without invading the needs, rights and views of others.

Assertiveness is all about effective communication and having the confidence to put across one’s own point of view. At the same time, there is the need to take into account the position of others to deliver the best outcome for mutual satisfaction.

Why is assertiveness essential?

Being assertive helps to ensure that effective communication is taking place within an organization. It ensures that all parties know where they stand and the difficult task of delivering on promises can be more easily achieved.

Dealing with conflict can be one of the most difficult aspects of business, but developing assertive behaviors can help to limit distress for all parties. To do so, we need to understand the common approaches to conflict resolution, and these are:


The goal of assertiveness is to foster this final behavior. Collaboration means digging into an issue to pinpoint the underlying needs and wants of the two individuals, who are then able to work together to deliver a successful outcome that satisfies all – the best possible result for any business.

This helpful graphic highlights these key relationships:


Balancing our own needs against others

What people need to understand is that being assertive does not simply mean imposing your will. Assertiveness is not about getting your own way, nor is it about manipulating others.

Assertiveness ensures that everyone gets a favourable outcome when discussing their expectations of both themselves and others. It provides a clear understanding of what is needed from each individual in a way that is unambiguous and geared to facilitating a favourable response.

An example of assertive behavior may be a demanding boss calling upon you to deliver a project in an unrealistic timeframe. In cases like this, it can be easy to simply become frustrated and say that it’s not achievable. However, a more assertive response would be to properly explain the situation and come to a compromise.

Perhaps they could take away some less pressing work to make capacity for this more urgent project? Or, the project could be put on hold until it can be delivered without the need to rush? In both of these outcomes, delivering a satisfactory result depends upon you being willing to stand up for your own best interests and those of the business in delivering the best possible work.

When people are able to successfully incorporate the following traits into the way they communicate with others, this creates an assertive tone and mindset that can help to build respect and get things done:


Assertive communication is a key to better business

By helping individuals at all levels of your organization to work in an assertive manner, you are developing more respectful and productive teams. The advantages that this holds for businesses include increased efficiency, greater staff happiness and wellbeing, well-run teams and, ultimately, a better bottom line.

Assertive behavior and communication also helps people to come away from situations with a stronger feeling of satisfaction and self-worth, happy in the knowledge that they have done themselves justice.

You can find out more about the importance of being assertive and how developing a stronger mental attitude in the workplace can provide real and lasting benefits for all by reading ‘Bolstering mental toughness: A how-to guide’.

The Power of Generative Listening

The benefit of listening is something that every good leader will appreciate and understand; however, while many will believe they are excellent listeners, the truth of the matter is that unless they are aware of generative listening, they could be missing out.

What is generative listening and why is it so important?

In his 2008 book ‘Theory U’, Otto Scharmer describes the distinct levels of listening that leaders will need to understand in order to help bring out the best in themselves and their workforce. Broken down to the basics, Scharmer argues that listening can be classified into four distinct categories – each of which provides a deeper level of empathy and engagement as the individual moves through them.

Generative listening is the fourth, and deepest, level of listening identified in his book. Here, the individual is able to set aside their own ego and be open to gaining a new understanding of the topic they are discussing by listening and taking onboard the attitudes and emotional responses of others to the subject in question.

It is a process described as ‘listening to the future’ and those who can master this skill are able to take onboard information during their interactions with others that can be used to develop a deeper clarity of thought and provide a better sense of how to shape change.

Generative listening is about turning words into action; it is the process of allowing our thoughts to become reality and, ultimately, it revolves around setting aside one’s own preconceptions and being fully prepared to embrace the thinking and viewpoint of others to achieve a common goal.

Shaping change through generative listening

Generative listening is an active process and is a skill that all leaders should be willing to learn. While generative listening may come naturally to some individuals more than others, leaders need to realise that a business is a group of people all coming together to achieve a unified purpose. It is therefore essential that those leading the company are able to listen effectively to those around them and use what they learn to keep everyone pulling in the same direction.

Frederic Laloux explained in his own 2014 publication ‘Reinventing Organizations’ that the purpose of a business will continually evolve over time and with it, the understanding of staff regarding their own purpose must evolve as well.

We can take, for example, the oil and gas industry. In the past, the overriding purpose of the sector was to go out and find hydrocarbons and extract them for profit. However, in today’s world, this is no longer the sole driving force of the industry; instead, a range of other considerations have now come into play, from environmental and sustainability factors to the pressures of operating in an increasingly VUCA (Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, Ambiguous) world.

This demonstrates how the focus of an organization can change over time and with it, those working in the field must change too. Speaking to the future is therefore what generative listening is all about and the savvy business leader will always be looking at new ways to preempt demand for their services in the years ahead – this is where an empathetic and prophetic ear can make all the difference.

Bringing the art of listening into skilled facilitation

It is not just in the boardroom and at an industry-wide level that generative listening can play a crucial role in organizational development, however, as the power of this process also lends itself to bringing about far-reaching cultural change at all levels of business.

When considering the impact that generative listening can have on shaping the future of an organization, many companies will begin by bringing in an outside facilitator (such as the work we do here at Primeast) to collaborate with their directors and managers. In these cases, promoting a shared sense of purpose is one of the biggest challenges, and this is something that the process of generative listening can help bring about.

By using techniques like immersion and role-play, the facilitator can bring together individuals from different backgrounds and disciplines to learn from each other and to work closely in achieving a shared goal. By doing this, it requires those taking part in the sessions to more actively engage with their colleagues and to listen intently and with meaning.

Working together to achieve success

The task might be something as esoteric as working together to design a matchstick bridge, through to the much more important and grander topics of brainstorming a way of beating world hunger. Whatever the circumstance, it is essential that participants take onboard the need to listen and learn from their peers and external stakeholders.

It may sound simple, but developing the skill of generative listening can be as easy as asking participants to answer some straightforward questions, such as ‘why are we here?’ or ‘what will success look like?’. By encouraging individuals to share their views, it can spark inspiration in those around them and that is what lies at the heart of generative listening in practice – an ability to create something concrete from discourse.

So, next time you’re half-listening to a conversation or letting your attention wander from the person you are speaking to, remember the importance of a generative approach to listening and how by fully engaging in the moment, a skilled listener can be speaking to the future and taking the first steps in making an emerging future a reality.

Clive Wilson is an experienced senior leadership coach, speaker and facilitator at Primeast. To start a conversation about your leadership development or development challenges and opportunities for your organization you can email him directly here.

Analytical Skills Vs Critical Thinking

Required Skills for Developing Leaders

Analytical skills and critical thinking are crucial to business performance. However, according to the updated UK Commission for Employment and Skills’ ‘Employer Skills Survey 2015: UK Results (Amended 2018)’ :

Analytical skills and critical thinking are no longer nice-to-haves. They are required skills for a changing world, and among the 10 critical skills needed for developing leaders. But which matters most?

What are analytical skills?

Applying analytical skills, you can break down facts and information into small elements that help you to solve problems. You can analyze data, apply reasoning, and recall information. You are curious about the way the data fits together.

Analytical thinkers can spot trends and gain insight into an organiSation’s business by pattern recognition. You’ll seek to identify differences, similarities, trends, and relationships between all the elements.

All these skills make you good at evaluating problems and developing logical solutions – a business-critical function.

What is critical thinking?

Critical thinking is broader than analytical reasoning. As a critical thinker, you consider all the facts and figures as presented and make judgements based on these and a range of other inputs. These may include opinions, views, and potential solutions put forward.

You don’t automatically accept information as fact. You probe, prompt, question, and research to ensure solid data, and from all you know you draw conclusions. You use all you learn to develop creative solutions.

Critical thinking skills increase your ability to be purposeful, logical, and innovative when decision-making.

Analytical skills vs critical thinking – can they be separated?

Analytical reasoning is a more linear approach to gathering and analysing data. It takes a step-by-step flow that breaks down information in a logical pattern.

Critical thinking skills enable you to question the data, verify it, and analyze outside information before developing a more holistic solution.

Which matters most depends upon your point of view. Analytical reasoning is a crucial step in the process of critical thinking. You analyze data before applying critical thinking to it.

If only using analytical skills, you use the data and facts to support your solution.

By then applying critical thinking, you evaluate all sources of information before making a judgement based on your opinion, knowledge, experience, and expertise.

While both are unique skills, and can be used individually, the nature of them makes them completely complimentary. However, the nature of them also means that critical thinkers typically use their analytical skills as the first step to developing holistic solutions that have a positive impact on their teams and organizations.

In short, analytical skills are usually developed first and are a necessity to meaningful application of critical thinking skills.

Do your employees possess the analytical and critical thinking skills to accelerate your organization toward its goals? Take a look at our Scaling Talent and Prime Leadership programs, designed to develop skills and talent across your organization.

We’d love to talk to you about how we can help you and your organization develop outstanding learning and development programs – Virtual Instructor Led or face to face as this becomes possible. Email our team here or call our client relationship team on +44 (0)1423 531083.

Interactional Leadership: Are You a Fluid Leader

Employing interactional leadership to personalize approach.

All leaders and managers have had cause to manage conflict in the workplace. Difficult situations can lead to breakdown in communication and the need for managers to adopt care-fronting or confronting styles to resolve issues.

Effective leaders can turn conflict into innovation, but to do so they must manage people flexibly. This brings us to the interactional theory of leadership.

What is the interactional approach in leadership?

We understand that people react differently in different situations and that their behavior can be out of character. We also expect leaders to be level-headed and non-emotional. Yet, emotion is a human characteristic that cannot be separated from leaders or managers who aren’t (yet) robots.

Interactional leadership theory acknowledges that a leaders behavior is determined by their own personality and the situation in which they find themselves. These situations can exhibit any one or more elements, including:

In short, leaders just like others respond to a complex environment in which many elements interact. Reactions are not always constant because:

How to increase your effectiveness as a leader

Understanding the effects of your environment on your reactions is the first step to understanding that you must be flexible in your approach.

There is a relationship between you and your people, and this develops through two-way communication. This communication affects action and reaction, and your ability to personalize your behavior is key to resolving disputes, inspiring actions, solving problems, and empowering collaboration and teamwork.

Are you task-oriented or relationship-oriented?

Leaders who focus on task manage plans and actions to achieve objectives.

Leaders who focus on relationships interact with employees and operate in a culture of trust, open communication, and mutual respect.

To lead effectively you must transition between these two modes, personalizing your approach to situations and individuals. In emergencies, it is likely that you will employ a more authoritarian approach to benefit from quick and decisive action.

Flexibility in your leadership style enables you to be fluid in your approach, matching it to the complex set of elements in the situational environment.

Situations can encourage acceptance of leadership

A complicating factor in assessing the effectiveness of leadership style is that situations can also determine acceptance of your leadership style by your employees.

For example, an authoritarian approach peppered with a streak of stubbornness may be deemed inappropriate in normal working conditions. It can lead to distrust, indignance, and a lack of commitment from employees. However, during times of emergency, such an approach could be exactly what is needed to steer a team or organization into calmer waters.

An example of this is Sir Winston Churchill. Prior to World War II, Churchill was relatively unpopular in Great Britain. He was viewed as stubborn, single-minded, and even a little dictatorial. However, it was these qualities that made him the perfect wartime leader, and that catapulted him into being considered one of the greatest leaders the world has seen.

It must be remembered, though, that Churchill was summarily voted out of office after the end of the Second World War. He was viewed by the public as not being a suitable leader for peacetime. Perhaps if he had been more flexible in his leadership style, with the ability to adapt his approach to evolving circumstances and complexities, he may have remained in office longer.

In summary

To lead different people and teams effectively, through different circumstances, it is essential that leaders are equipped with the ability to be flexible and lead fluidly.

For your leadership to remain authentic, you must not only have the skillset and emotional intelligence to personalize your approach; you must also ensure that your decisions and actions align with your organization’s values and purpose.

To learn more about developing effective leadership and management skills, connect with Primeast today.