Category Archives: Advising

Want to build a better leadership team? Get a coach

In his 2017 TED Talk Want to get great at something? Get a coach, surgeon, author and CEO Atul Gawande tells the story of the Harvard and Yale American-rules football teams: “In 1875 Harvard and Yale played their first game. Yale hired a coach Harvard did not. The results, over the next three decades Harvard won just four times. Harvard hired a coach”. Every high performing sports team has a coach, why doesn’t every leadership team?

This article explores the nascent role of leadership team coaching in high growth businesses: what it is, the (surprisingly common) challenges it helps address, and how you can practically embrace it to support the growth of your company and people. We’ll learn how some of the most successful technology companies in the world, like Google and Apple, have used leadership team coaching to incredible effect, and more about the science and psychology that underpins it.

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Women leaders: How to break the habits holding you back

In How Women Rise: Break the 12 Habits Holding You Back (Amazon UKUS) authors Sally Helgesen and Marshall Goldsmith identify 12 habits that commonly hold women leaders back as they endeavour to advance to the next stage in their careers. This article provides a summary of those 12 habits, plus a list of powerful questions posed to you by myself and Lynn White, leadership expert and Principal Partner at WDI Consulting.

We hope this summary, and our questions, will help you to explore your own habits and unleash your full leadership potential, and the potential of your team and organisation.

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A leader’s guide to decision making under uncertainty

Uncertainty is normal for leaders of the high growth businesses that I work with. The Coronavirus pandemic has taken this to another level. Asked by clients for advice on how to navigate this crisis, I’ve pulled together thoughts and key resources into this guide, which draws on evidence from behavioural and decision making psychology, the latest leadership thinking, and my own experience working at Her Majesty’s Treasury during the Great Financial Crisis and navigating the uncertainty of cancer.

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What’s the difference between a coach, mentor & therapist?

Like any high-performing individual, new leaders need to wrap a professional support team around them if they are to give themselves the best chance of success. That team must be trustworthy, objective, and acting always in the leader’s best interests. Having coached hundreds of CEOs and other leaders in startup and high growth businesses, I’m convinced that leaders benefit from a combined team that includes an executive coach, a mentor and a therapist. This post unpacks what the difference between a coach, mentor and therapist is and explains why, together, they make up a such a cohesive support team.

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How Vertical Development helps new leaders truly transform

Have you noticed how awash the internet is with advice from investors and other gurus about how to build and lead technology businesses? CEOs and other new leaders need good advice“guidance or recommendations offered with regard to prudent future action” – if they are to stand any chance of building a successful business. There are many core skills that must be acquired, and there is much to be learned from those who have done it before. But to develop truly effective leaders we need to move beyond providing them with more information – telling them what to do and how to do it – to helping them improve how they think, make decisions, and make sense of the world. This is the distinction between horizontal development, which focuses on what you know, and Vertical Development, which concerns how you think.

In a VUCA world, where information and knowledge is everywhere, it will be individuals and teams who develop their ability to think and act in more complex, systemic, and interdependent ways who will be at the vanguard of leadership and business growth. This post dives into:

  • What Vertical Development is and considers its application to leaders in startup and high growth technology businesses.
  • Unpacks Adult Development Theory and identifies the Forms of Mind that adults can travel through as we grow and develop.
  • Provides practical advice to help new leaders transform, including three Habits of Mind that you can develop to help advance your thinking and leadership capabilities beyond what you know to how you think. After all, this is the place where you truly transform and grow.
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How to develop a leadership culture in your business

The internet is awash with articles about the importance of developing a positive company culture. What’s less commonly discussed is the importance of developing a positive leadership culture. In this post I explore what leadership culture is and how you can develop it in your business by: having focused executive leadership team conversations, engaging the whole business in leadership conversations, owning leadership culture from the top, and investing in leadership development.

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Leading on the job: advice for new leaders

Not long ago you were part of a small team of people with a big idea that you thought could change the world. Now you are responsible for a rapidly growing team who are looking at you for direction. Your burden of responsibility has increased dramatically and you need to learn to lead quickly. Having coached a lot of new leaders in this situation, I’ve turned that experience into five pieces of advice for new leaders.

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4 questions to improve your leadership self-awareness

Self-awareness is the “capacity for introspection and the ability to recognize oneself as an individual separate from the environment and other individuals. Self-awareness is how an individual consciously knows and understands their own character, feelings, motives, and desires”. Back in 2003, psychologists acknowledged that self-awareness was “arguably the most fundamental issue in psychology, from both a developmental and an evolutionary perspective.” More recently, the critical importance of self-awareness as a key trait of effective leaders has become recognised.

Because Great Leadership Starts With Self-Awareness, helping my clients understand how self-aware they are now, and how they can become more self-aware in the future, is critical. In this post, I identify four questions that I ask and which you can ask yourself too.

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The management, leadership & coaching principles of Bill Campbell

Trillion Dollar Coach: The Leadership Handbook of Silicon Valley’s Bill Campbell (Amazon UK, US) is a book about a man who helped build some of America’s greatest companies, including Apple and Google. A former college football player and coach, Bill didn’t enter the business world until he was thirty nine. Moving quickly though through executive roles, he went on to coach the likes of Steve Jobs, Larry Page, Eric Schmidt, Ben Horowitz and Bill Gurley, to name just a few. He passed away in 2016, leaving a legacy of growing companies, successful people and an enormous amount of respect. The book is essential reading for any manager or leader operating in a fast-moving, high growth business.

This post is a summary of Bill Campbell’s approach towards management, leadership & coaching. For more inspiration, sign up for my Monthly Newsletter: a curation of articles, books & podcasts about the future of business & leadership, and follow me on Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram.

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How to avoid being duped by survivorship bias

It’s easy to see, and pay attention to, only successful individuals and businesses, not the failures that fall by the wayside. This phenomenon is called survivorship bias: “the logical error of concentrating on the people or things that made it past some selection process and overlooking those that did not, typically because of their lack of visibility.” (Wikipedia). This article explains what survivorship bias is and how to avoid being duped by it.

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The Lindy Effect: a simple heuristic to help you choose your next book

In his book Antifragile: Things That Gain from Disorder (Amazon UK, US), Nassim Taleb provides a simple heuristic, known as the Lindy Effect. The effect simply says: that the expected life of an item is proportional to its past life. You can use this heuristic to help you choose your next book based on the wisdom it might contain.

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Do these 2 things to get better at coaching your employees

The Coaching Habit: Say Less, Ask More & Change the Way You Lead Forever (Amazon UK, US) is one of the best books I’ve read for managers and leaders who want to use a coach approach with their employees but don’t have the time or inclination for formal training. It’s short on theory but long on practical tools and techniques that are a shot to the heart of great coaching.

The author identifies seven questions to ask when taking a coach-approach towards engaging with your team. Rather than spoil the book, I’ll share two challenges that he identifies for anyone seeking to be a better coach-manager or coach-leader.

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What is the difference between coaching & mentoring?

The words coaching and mentoring are often used interchangeably, though there are in fact important differences. In his book Coaching for Performance (Amazon UK, US), the late Sir John Whitmore, explains what the difference between coaching and mentoring is. Whitmore is the founder of the coaching movement in the UK. The book is widely considered to be the industry gold standard for performance based coaching.

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The role of luck & randomness in life & business

Howard Marks is one of Wall Street’s wisest investors. He co-Chairs Oaktree Capital Management which has approximately $100 billion in Assets Under Management. He’s also the author of  The Most Important Thing: Uncommon Sense for the Thoughtful Investor (Amazon UKUS). A highly successful investor, and multi-billionaire in his own right, Marks is clear that luck and randomness has played a key role.

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ANOTHER post about what’s WRONG with The Lean Startup

Lean Startup Collage

The Lean Startup, by Eric Ries, was first published in 2011 and has since become the bible for startup entrepreneurs around the world. More recently, the approach outlined in The Lean Startup has received criticism, but is that fair? In this post I argue that it is not, because that is all it is, an approach, albeit a very good one. 

The Lean Startup is not a prescribed formula that guarantees business success. Sadly, management is complicated”, something that Eric Ries makes very clear in this video where he discusses how the principles and processes explained in The Lean Startup can be used to gain competitive advantage.

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