Coaching Leadership

Accepting Feedback

A really great way to get a better view on the impact your actions have is to practice the art of accepting feedback.

If you are in the habit of blaming the messenger, then pretty quickly you’ll find that no more messages are sent. You’ll lose access to a valuable source of information and be making decisions on much shakier ground.

Of course, this is rarely a problem if the news is good! It’s very much a skill to practice when hearing something difficult, when the impact of your actions is at odds with your intent or when the messages don’t align with your view of who you are.

So, what’s the benefit?

If you accept feedback with poise and grace, then it’s likely that whoever if giving it to you will continue to do so. It builds trust that you can handle difficult conversations and that it’s worth continuing to have them.

Practice this skill as it can be difficult to master. If you’ve struggled in the past, then reflect on the reasons why. Do you leap to your own defence? Are you quick to point to your intent? Do you try to flip the conversation to your own hurt feelings?

To start with, try this. Thank them for the feedback. Then stop, and don’t attempt to address it immediately. If you need to, say that you’ll need some time to reflect on the thoughts they’ve shared.

Feedback is a gift, it gives you more information than you had before, about an area that may be hard for you to see on your own.

In the same way that a pair of socks for your birthday may not be the most looked for gift, so might any specific piece of feedback. You might plan to send those on to the charity shop the next day, but you’ll still thank the giver in the moment.

It’s about building the long term relationship. Remember that and you’ll be learning more about yourself and supercharging your journey of positive change.


Nothing is Perfect

The only truly perfect thing is nothing. There are no problems, no mistakes and nothing that can be improved.

That’s why a feeling of needing to be perfect is always going to be limiting. You default to doing less, aiming towards nothing. It’s an approach that will stop you realising your true potential and instead you end up lost in the noise.

Instead, look towards something that’s good enough to go out into the world. When you are creating something, think about what done is before you start. Find your cheerleaders and seek out their advice. Go through a couple of iterations with this group, then get it out and start learning.

All masters learn their craft over time, and they learn by finding out what works and what doesn’t. Perfection doesn’t let you do this, so don’t get hung up on perfect. Start learning as soon as possible.

If you are driven towards perfection, then try this exercise. Think about something you’ve done that you thought was perfect at the time. Find the old document or presentation, and dive into the detail. I’m certain that you’ll find a lot that could now be improved upon. This is a demonstration of your learning over time, of mastering your craft.

You let this creation out into the world. It was well received, positively remarked upon and may even have landed you more impact or influence in your role. It wasn’t perfect. It was real, it was valuable and it’s something you can do more of.


Star of Your Movie

You are the star in the movie of your life. Everything that happens to you, everything that you do or think, it’s all vital and it’s all going to get top billing.

There are co-stars, special guests, cameos and bit-part players. Different people will loom large in some acts, before becoming lost to the story as you move on through your journey. Some of these will be very easy to predict, some will be very unexpected.

Everyone else you encounter will also be starring in their own movie. Their story is of top importance, and you might just be an extra in a crowd scene.

Sometimes you can be blocked from taking action as you assign too much importance to your own place in the story. If you shy away from a step that’s positive because of what someone else might think, then stop and consider where you sit in the story of their life.

Change can be uncomfortable, but if your large change is just going to have a transient impact on someone you don’t interact with much, then that’s not a reason to hold back.

Changing jobs is a really great example of this. It’s going to have more lasting impact on your co-stars (immediate family) than anyone else. These are the people to consult with, to care about and to be a key part of the journey.

Everyone else will notice the change, but only as to how it impact their own movies. Co-workers might feel some passing pain but they’ll adjust. Your real supporters will celebrate the change, and might just turn into stars of the next act.

Anyone who doesn’t celebrate wasn’t worth worrying about. A bad boss who bemoans your success because it’ll cause them more work just becomes a funny character to only ever be recalled in a minor flashback scene.

If you find it difficult to make a change in your life, draw out your movie poster. Care deeply about your stars, and don’t let the bit-part villains hold you back.



Keep on showing up. Meaningful change is hard and there are no quick fixes or shortcuts. Set a pace and stick to it and you will build up significant progress over time.

The compounding effects of consistency are incredibly powerful, but in the early days it can be hard to recognise the positive benefits.

For each small step you take, keep on learning and improving, but keep on taking those steps. When you’ve found something that’s moving you towards your goals, keep on doing it.

It’s better to set your schedule and keep to it, than it is to go in bursts and then do nothing. Setup your commitments accordingly. Write a blog post once a week and publish every Monday, rather than write five in a month but share them all in the last week.

If you are helping people on LinkedIn, then set aside a chunk of time each day, and keep on that schedule. Don’t dip in for a few days and then disappear for a week.

Building the consistency not only gives structure to your efforts, it helps people to see your commitment and to understand the engagement they can expect.

Celebrate your small wins early on, then celebrate the bigger ones as you build up steam.

Keep showing up, and after a while people will be ready for what you are bringing. That’s when the consistency pays off.

Coaching Leadership

Find your Cheerleaders

When you are identifying your options to achieve your goals, it’s really powerful to understand who is going to cheerlead your success.

Who is going to support you, run ahead of you and broadcast your wins?

The initial effort to get the fly-wheel of change spinning by yourself can be overwhelming. If there are other people to push along with you, then it’ll start moving more quickly. You’ll be able to top-up that energy faster and build impetus at pace.

So, identify people that will supportive of the change you are attempting to bring about. How does the work align to your manager’s needs and desires? Are you solving a pain point that will benefit your peers, or other team members?

Maybe you are pushing forwards an initiative that’s stalled. Find the sponsor, figure out what help they need to get moving again at weave those actions into the next steps you are going to take.

If it’s a real and positive change, you will have supporters. Find them, enlist them in your cause and get them out there shouting about your success.


Successful Collaboration

In the world of business, you are likely to have to collaborate with people from different teams, departments or organisations. Sometimes it’ll go really well, but sometimes it’ll fail to achieve the results you were aiming for.

One of the best ways to ensure a great collaboration is to make sure that the way different parties are being measured and incentivised aligns with the goals of the collaboration.

If one of the parties is measured on clients gained, but another is measured by profit made, then they will likely be pulling in different directions. If one considers themselves successful by solving a pressing tactical issue, but the other looks to a strategic resolution, then it will again be a source of tension in the collaboration.

This get even worse if the people involved are not clear what their end goals are. If everyone is seeming to pull towards one outcome, but one party has an unclear or hidden contradicting goal, then this will poison the collaboration from the start.

The simplest solution to this problem is to be crystal clear about your goals, and to secure that clarity from the other party. You can then look at where there is overlap, where there is difference and where there is contradiction.

If the goals are closely aligned, then you are more likely to have a great collaboration. If they are slightly different, then you may be able to agree a shared measure of success that suits all parties. You may be able to align on new clients who are profitable, rather than a total focus on one or the other.

If the goals are totally divergent, then you are better placed killing off the collaboration early. It’s better to put resources and effort towards initiatives with the best chance of success, rather than forcing something that’s likely to fail because some of the people involved are actively rewarded with its failure.

Once you’ve aligned, record the agreement and share it far and wide with any stakeholders in the outcome to the collaboration. The public commitment to the agreed outcomes ties all parties to the success of the initiative. You can confirm that every party will be measured on the success of the overall collaboration.

If everyone involved has the same definition of success, if they publicly agree on that definition and if they are measured and incentivised towards that outcome, you’ve got a great starting point and a high chance of a successful collaboration.

If you don’t have that agreement, you are doomed to fail.

Coaching Leadership

Coaching for Performance

This is a long overdue look at one of the fundamental texts of the coaching and leadership field, Coaching for Performance. It’s the book that introduces you to the GROW model, and builds the basic theory of coaching around this tool.

It takes you through a journey of understanding, starting with defining coaching and how taking a coaching approach will help create high performing teams and organisations.

Part two builds lays out the principles of coaching, taking you through Emotional Intelligence, coaching as a leader and how coaching builds partnership and collaboration.

Part three moves into the practices. It covers the vital skills of active listening and questioning. Then we dive deeply into GROW, with chapters dedicated to each step of the model. In part four, we look at specific applications, covering 1 to 1, team and other specific coaching areas.

Finally, we cover the potential of coaching, including measuring the return on investment, leadership qualities and effecting cultural change.

The appendices are great additional tools, a comprehensive glossary gives a short overview of every core coaching term covered in the book. The question toolkit give a wide range of powerful options and approaches to apply in many different stages of the coaching conversation.

This is a key read for anyone who wants to improve their coaching and step up to the next level. It’s approachable and well grounded, with each short chapter presenting powerful and actionable lessons. You can read it through from start to finish and then dip back in to specific sections to refresh and brush up on specifics.

It’s a book that should be read by everyone who calls themselves a coach or a leader.


Communicating Change

When you are attempting to communicate with someone, you need to always hold on to the idea that “it’s not what you say, it’s what they hear”. Once you’ve internalised this, it gives you a chance to build the shared pool of meaning that’s required to communicate something effectively.

Communicating “change” is a whole level beyond this basic interaction. Change brings uncertainty. It will take time, and it will affect a number of people.

With these added complexities, you need to bring another skill to bear. You need to be consistent.

You will have to repeat your message many times, in many formats and to many people. A single broadcast in a single medium will not have the impact you hope for.

If you are communicating change, you will have had more time to get used to the idea, to see the benefits and to see the path forwards. Anyone new to the idea will not have this, so your first announcement will feel like a bolt from the blue.

People will react to this in different ways, excitement, shock, even anger. Be ready to refine your message and to share it in different contexts and mediums, but always hold your consistent points in the front of mind.

When you’re sick of saying it, people are starting to get it, so get your head down, craft your message and give it multiple times with consistent focus.


Got Goals?

I’ve written a number of times about setting powerful goals. Going through a process of understanding where you want to get to, how you’ll recognise you’ve made it there and creating statements of accountability helps to shape your focus and purpose.

Once you’ve done this? What next?

Understand your options. Come up with some approaches that might help you achieve your goals. Think about what will be hard, visualise the steps you can take to remove barriers. Lay out a range of choices.

Then pick one, and do something that will move you closer to achieving your goals. Take that first step and start to build momentum. Keep on taking steps. There are no quick fixes, so you’ll have to keep going and going. Once you’ve started it will get easier, if you keep on putting in the work.

A sufficiently transformative goal will not be achieved in a single burst of effort, so build in a plan to review your progress. Some steps are easy, so might need reflection on a weekly basis. Some take longer to show progress, so you may look back monthly. Whatever you do, setup a regular cadence. Learn from what you’ve done and correct early, and you will progress more quickly.

Goals are great once you have them. Now you need to go and achieve them!


Make Reviews For You

The annual review process has long been recognised as far from the most effective model for measuring performance. However, it’s still likely that you’ll be involved in some sort of review process, and at the moment you might just be somewhere in your end of half review cycle.

If you are required to be in the cycle, then use this current point in time to your advantage, and set yourself up for a great future. Now is a great chance to make the process as good as it can be. There’s certainly immense benefit in stopping to reflect, and deadlines can help sharpen the mind. However, it’s very easy to fall into the trap of the cycle, and only bring this reflection to bear in the days leading up to your review deadlines.

The ideal outcome is to make the formal process as painless as possible, by switching yourself to a constant rolling cycle of learning and growth.

First up, record what’s gone well and what was less good? Really work on this and don’t fall for recency bias. Try and find something from each month, then look for patterns. You can use email, instant messenger and direct feedback as sources for this reflection. Once you’ve built it up, think about how hard that was. If you track as you go then the reflection will come more easily in the future, and will certainly be quicker to pull together.

Take those patterns. Good things are your strengths, less good areas might be places to develop.

What do you want to focus on, think about where you want to grow. Set some strong forwards looking goals, and don’t be vague! Give them different time horizons. Think about three months, six months and other durations. Do this to set even stronger accountability, and use the variation to start to break out of your performance cycle.

Now you can review these goals with your manager. They may be able to provide more insight, or wider organisational context. If you are being reviewed annually, then this might also be a chance to discuss what an outstanding end of year review would look like. Agree this with your manager, and write it down. Documenting agreements like this will make all parties accountable in creating successful outcomes.

Agree to regular reviews and check-ins in weekly one-to-ones. If you don’t have them, now’s a great time to organise them. It’s all about making sure you have the support to achieve great things, whilst showing your progress and course correcting quickly if things are going less well.

This approach will let you get the most out of a fixed review cycle. You’re able to take it, turn it into a rolling process and then use the formal cycle as a point in time check-in.

It’s a great way to go from the theatre and heavy workload of annual reviews to a powerful shared model of constant development.

Own your future, and make reviews work for you.