Monthly Archives: January 2012

Leadership, The Coach and Coaching

I was fortunate to attend an evening hosted by one of my local football clubs on Friday night. The guest speaker was Ange Postecoglou, head coach of our local nationally based football (soccer) side, the Brisbane Roar. Ange has represented Australia playing football and has successfully transitioned into coaching ranks.

Ange was able to offer significant insight into his own style and the great success his club has had in recent seasons. TheBrisbane Roar FCre were several points about leadership and team culture that particularly resonated for me. A selection of the key points raised by Ange are highlighted below, followed by my own thoughts about how they translate to the business environment.

Point 1: The team exists because of the players and their ability to perform and follow the team plan. All other people in the club, including the coach, CEO and other staff are there because of the players and they should be served accordingly.

My Thoughts: This is as true in business as in sport. As conveyed by Ken Blanchard and other thought leaders, the ability and willingness to serve your team as individual’s and a unit is one of the great leadership mindsets. You are there for your team, not the other way around.

Point 2: If you really believe in something, you must be prepared to make decisions and stick by them. Ultimately the buck stops with the head coach, so make sure you are in a position to make decisions and reinforce them through action.

My thoughts: Every leader has their own style. Some are more decisive, democratic, inclusive etc. however the leader should lead. This requires the ability to make decisions, align them to business and team goals and compel others to buy into the concepts because overall accountability still sits with the you as the leader and it is difficult to achieve on your own.

Point 3: Although Ange acknowledged he is ‘not a fan’ of confrontation, he is more than willing to take it on when it comes his way.

My thoughts: Although I have met very few people who enjoy confrontation (there is a difference between ability to manage confrontation and enjoying it), the skill to effectively manage confrontational situations is key to leadership. Emotional intelligence, engagement and empathy are important in my experience – reading the situation clearly by understanding the other person’s perspective and reasons why the situation has escalated help to manage confrontation.

Point 4: Not everyone will fit into your team culture, plan and goals, even if they are very good players and stalwarts of the team. (Note: when Ange took over coaching the Brisbane Roar team in 2009, he chose to release a handful of key players and the captain, which, although unpopular with supporter’s and the media at the time, have proven to be the right moves).

My thoughts: This is an interesting point. Through force of conviction, clear goals and direction, Ange was able to identify those player’s who were willing and flexible enough to transition across to the new team culture. ‘Star’ players and high performance historically does not necessarily translate to continued success within a different culture and/or set of expectations.

Point 5: Performance – it is OK to make mistakes if you are playing the team way. Be prepared to allow player’s to make mistakes, but not if they are playing as individual’s. Be brave and allow the players to express themselves, within the team guidelines.

My thoughts: Within my team and when I am facilitating leadership development sessions, I often discuss the concept of boundaries and expectations. Among other expectations, it is imperative to set clear direction and limits so that all team member’s are aware of guidelines, where they fit in, what they will be measured upon and how they are supported. Without it you are encouraging individualism, creating confusion and an environment of assumptions. I have found it is about finding the balance between expectation-setting and providing enough space to be innovative, creative and proactive.

Point 6: Ange would prefer to see the team play the team way and adhere to the team structure and lose than get a good result by not following the team plan. He was able to offer examples of games where he was happy overall with the effort, organisation and structure of the game but the result did not go the team’s way. Alternatively he has on occasion been unhappy with the team’s response even with a good result. His message was clear, how we get there is just as important, if not more so, than the end result!

My thoughts: I could not agree more with this concept. Too often I see managers rewarding and recognising employees based on the end result, with no regard as to how it was achieved. I interpreted this message as the ‘right’ journey will more often than not provide the ‘right’ result and the team culture, ethic and standard will be reinforced even further as a result. This point focuses on the ‘how’. Ultimately, the long-term culture and level of understanding benefits from this mindset.

This also relates to the belief from some that ‘the end justifies the means’, which I do not support. I have often seen greater growth and learning occur for someone through the sequences contained within the journey more so than benefits achieved from the outcome. The outcome in itself is a short-lived effect – the path to get there has many opportunities to learn and contribute. Developing a strong team brand, aligned to values and integrity will always create a team dynamic and culture that has long-term benefits, even through the challenge of staff turnover and transition periods.

Point 7: Each morning, the players have to shake the hand and acknowledge every other player, staff member and employee of the club that they come across.

My thoughts: Another interesting concept. Although it feels a little contrived, ‘forcing’ this initially may have felt unnatural to some player’s, however I see the point. Being present and engaging those in your team and beyond creates a dynamic and inclusive environment. Hopefully this becomes a natural part of the culture and ultimately more ‘real’ for those involved, however initially creating a team standard more overtly has obvious benefit. Essentially, show an interest in your people because you are actually interested not because you feel you should!

Point 8: You play for what’s on the front of the jersey (team jumper) not what’s on the back!

My thoughts: I love this point! The front of the jumper has the team logo (Brisbane Roar); national competition logo (A-League); and the sponsors logo. Ange is reinforcing that the player should respect and be proud of the club, the association that provides the opportunity to play and the sponsors who enable the team to succeed through sponsorship and funding. The back of the jumper has the player’s name and player number. The message is clear – in the Roar culture, play for yourself and you won’t fit in to his team. In business, focus on your needs only and you are missing the whole point of leadership!!

Point 9: Taking shortcuts has implications. Ownership for the team’s success must be held by the entire team. Leadership traits are the responsibility of all.

My thoughts: I am a keen advocate of developing leadership skills in people, even if they do not have direct reports. Leadership is more than a role or title – it is first and foremost an attitude, with the skills and traits that effective leaders display being able to be learned by almost anyone. It takes significant effort and time to develop though, with no silver bullet to learning and application of leadership. Of course, how well these skills are portrayed is critical, but the point that leadership within the team is the responsibility for all makes perfect sense. There is the leader and there are those who lead!

Overall, there were many interesting points raised on the night. Although the context between sports coaching, business and leadership has been written about many times, the first-hand examples and theories provided by Ange in his role as a successful coach of a national sporting team, have many parallels to business. How many can you identify with?

I am very interested in your own thoughts and comments relating to sports coaching, leadership and aligned successes.


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Expectation Setting – Who Cares?

Feeling The Pressure Of Long Hours...Are Expectations Clear?!!

Does an employee have the right to clear expectations?

Or, is it the employee’s responsibility to ask if they are unclear about any aspect of their role. As leader’s should we just expect that the clarity and details will come in time – it’s not like there is an expectation of high performance on day 1..or day 10..or day…? Or, is there never an expectation of high performance? There should be!

Earlier this week I read a blog on the Leaders Beacon website (thanks Colleen Sharen) providing insight into expectation setting. It got me thinking. How well do we as leaders really set clear expectations? Do we induct our new employees effectively? Is this even on the radar of leaders or central to business planning and strategy? Do we consider business requirements, measurement and regularly review these aspects for our longer-tenured team member’s? Fair questions for leaders…not so great a reality.

Expectation setting is more than providing a broad brush-stroke of requirements as highlighted in a position description document. It is also not simply a high-level group of role requirements that form part of the probation period, if there is one. It goes well beyond that and has a direct correlation to employee engagement. It is defining a reality for that employee – with depth and meaning – based on the information included within but not exclusively from work documents, policies and position descriptions. Yet, it is more than that.

Every individual has different expectations of themselves, their leader and the employer. Each team member brings different skills, values, biases, desires and other personal traits to their role. It is the leaders job to understand the employee well enough to blend business needs with personal needs. This helps to build strong relationships, opportunity to align values and remove uncertainty that often comes from unexplained or misunderstood diversity between employees.

Clarity in expectations is not only important for each employee but clearly of benefit to the employer/business. The risk is that if expectations are not clearly set and understood, performance will suffer, morale of this employee and possibly others around them may decrease and certainly, the ability to ‘master’ their role is diminished. It is a lose-lose situation and yet not all that rare an occurrence.

Reduced discretionary effort and a limited willingness to engage beyond the bare minimum are also potential risks. Additional pressure is often felt by the employee and can be demonstrated through behaviours such as increased hours in the workplace, withdrawing from the team, irritability, sullen attitudes and other negative outcomes.

Setting each team member up for success starts before their first day. We all make judgments and these start during the recruitment and interview process – for both the employer and the potential employee. Hopefully, you have set a good standard of communication and enhanced the image of your business throughout the recruitment process. This high standard certainly must be consistently delivered from day one of employment, assisting to build employee engagement, which is of value to any leader as noted below.

  • In world-class organizations, the ratio of engaged to actively disengaged employees is 9.57:1.
  • In average organizations, the ratio of engaged to actively disengaged employees is 1.83:1.

Actively disengaged employees erode an organization’s bottom line while breaking the spirits of colleagues in the process…estimates this cost to be more than $300 billion in lost productivity alone. Beyond the significant differences engaged workgroups show in productivity, profitability, safety incidents, and absenteeism versus disengaged workgroups, we have proven that engaged organizations have 3.9 times the earnings per share (EPS) growth rate compared to organizations with lower engagement in their same industry. (1)

In any role, the employee has the right to expect a clear understanding of what is required of them. Every task, function, skillset, policy and other related expectations should be provided early in his or her tenure. This set of expectations should then form part of the regular rhythm of coaching, discussions and review.

It is never fair employment strategy nor smart leadership to expect that an employee will ‘pick up’ all they need to perform their role to a standard if that standard is never clearly established.

This includes the need to also check in and ensure clarity (for both parties), along with a willingness and ability to meet the expectations now or in the future with the proper support, development and training.

If we don’t, then we are breeding and encouraging mediocrity in our leadership standards, within our team cultures and potentially setting the bar low before your business has had a chance to excel.

Expectation setting – who cares? You should!


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Steve Riddle:

I have had many discussions over the years with various leaders about emotions and their place in business. For the most part we have agreed to disagree! Having emotions is being human…showing emotions is normal…being overly emotional, adds little value at work.

Originally posted on Blanchard LeaderChat:

“Don’t get emotional—this is strictly business.” How many times has that phrase been uttered by managers and leaders over the years?  That’s the question that Scott and Ken Blanchard ask in their first column just published in the winter issue of Training Industry Quarterly. They explain that, “while managers often ask employees to take a detached view of the work environment, the reality is that feelings play a large role in performance.”  The two Blanchards recommend that, “instead of avoiding feelings, managers should be embracing them.  They are a key driver of performance.”

How is your organization doing?

Blanchard and Blanchard go on to explain that to create a passionate work environment, leaders need to address 12 work environment factors. Drawing on the company’s employee work passion research, the Blanchards point out that employee perceptions of what is happening in each of these areas will lead to…

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Steve Riddle:

How many of these traits are part of your own world?

Originally posted on Procentus Leadership Talk:

  1. Putting self interest first
  2. Betraying Trust
  3. Being too certain – not embracing uncertainty
  4. Not living up to values
  5. Too focused and obsessive
  6. Arrogance
  7. Acting too fast
  8. Not Authentic
  9. Everything focused on the leader
  10. Not being self reflective

Video  Featuring:        to view video click here

Bill George, Professor, Harvard Business School and former Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Medtronic
Evan Wittenberg, Head of Global Leadership Development, Google, Inc.
Dr. Ellen Langer, Professor, Harvard University
Andrew Pettigrew, Professor, Sïad Business School, University of Oxford
Gianpiero Petriglieri, Affiliate Professor of Organizational Behavior, INSEAD
Carl Sloane, Professor Emeritus, Harvard Business School
Jonathan Doochin, Leadership Institute at Harvard College
Scott Snook, Associate Professor, Harvard Business School and retired Colonel, US Army Corps of Engineers
Daisy Wademan Dowling, Executive Director, Leadership Development at Morgan Stanley

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Leadership – It’s About You

Effective leadership is neither easy nor a given – it takes effort, practice, ongoing learning & persistence: Steve Riddle

The rewards that stem from being an effective leader are difficult to articulate or describe to someone who has never felt them.

I have recently started reading the outstanding book, The Truth About Leadership by James M. Kouzes and Barry Z. Posner. The premise for the book is that the authors have identified ten ‘Truths’ that form the core elements of effective leadership identified over years of research. In the introduction Kouzes and Posner highlight that, “…as much as the context of leadership has changed, the content of leadership has not changed at all (since we first started studying leadership). The fundamental behaviors, actions, and practices of leaders have remained essentially the same since we first began researching and writing about leadership over three decades ago. Much has changed, but there’s a whole lot more that’s stayed the same”. (1)The Truth about Leadership: The...

This is an interesting point, possibly an obvious one to those who have been practicing the art of leadership and attempting to develop as many related skills as possible over the years, but one worth highlighting. The essence and key points of leadership – the things that make good leadership, good leadership – have not changed that much in the past 30 years or even before that. Why?

I believe that it is essentially because leaders, by definition, are working with and for people. Leadership is a values-driven, people-connection, relationship-based function…or at least it is when performed well. The elements of effective leadership, the qualities that separate good leadership from bad, are heavily reliant on how well we connect with those around us, particularly those looking for guidance and support from us.This is not to say that leadership concepts have not gained depth and sophistication in thought and practice over the years.

People were being led before the 1980’s, need leadership now and certainly will also in the future. The common thread here is not leadership itself, but people. Connecting with people, developing meaningful relationships and helping others to thrive is not a new concept. It is possibly better understood and articulated now and technology has most definitely assisted to disseminate this information more broadly but leadership content has changed little.

It is the people-oriented aspects that define great leaders. Adept leaders drive change and results by helping others achieve more than they would have if they were not developed, realising their greater potential and being led capably. The leaders who are able to connect with others through their head and heart, build trust, credibility and work with and for their teams, not at or in spite of their people, are the most successful.

I regularly observe and am frequently approached by managers who are concerned and frustrated at their inability to make the kind of difference they either wish to or are being asked to by their bosses and business leaders. Many times these managers are also the people who have not developed the depth of relationships and connection with their team members and peers. They struggle to delegate, often micro-manage, work long hours and often appear tired and run down. Leadership is sometimes described as a lonely role. It certainly is for these people who are at the vanguard of management but are missing the point about leadership!

Leadership is not an automatic ‘gift’ or something that can be gained over-night. However, with practice and commitment, base leadership abilities can be built upon because many of these attributes are already within us. These traits and skills may be raw – they may even be unknown at this stage – but the ability to recognise opportunity and develop is the first in many steps that effective leaders have taken in the past and that you can make now…for the future!

Someone’s sitting in the shade today because someone planted a tree a long time ago: Warren Buffett

I am genuinely excited about reading the rest of this book. Although I have only read the first couple of chapters, it is already resonating with me. I will write other blogs based on the content delivered in ensuing chapters, I am sure. In the meantime, enjoy life and keep on transforming yourself and those around you.

(1) The Truth About Leadership: The No-Fads, Heart Of The Matter Facts You Need To Know, James M. Kouzes and Barry Z. Posner, 2010, Jossey-Bass


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Leaders vs Managers: The Time Factor

Last year I was introduced to a simple, yet powerful concept describing the
breakdown of how a person in charge of people or a process (manager and/or
leader) should spend their time.

It is powerful in that it encourages all of us to reflect on where we are dedicating our time within our roles and possibly make a conscious decision to change, if necessary. The percentages are an indicative reflection of where the balance of time should be spent if you wish to be an effective leader. The power of this simple tool develops from each of us assessing where we actually spend our time as leaders of people.

In my experience many of us spend much of our time in the first two categories i.e. ‘Doing the Job’ and ‘Managing’. In fact, one of my key coaching philosophies relates to the idea that the differences between managing and leading can be clearly delineated by understanding how much time an individual spends in the first two categories (Doing the Job and Managing) compared to the latter two (Leading and Coaching).

Where Does Your Time Go?

Consider some of the traits and elements that make up a management/leadership role such as control, trust, completing tasks, original thinking, communication, imitation, self-motivation
etc.  With a little thought it is reasonably simple to place each of the traits within either the manager or leader category. Mostly, we also recognise the benefits
and power in developing a leading and coaching style along with the many related skills and traits that enable these attributes.

The differences between effective leadership and management are well documented. Leaders and managers are very different kinds of people. They differ in motivation, personal history and how they think and act…Managers tend to adopt impersonal, if not passive, attitudes towards goals whereas leaders adopt a personal and active attitude toward goals…leaders who are concerned with ideas, relate to people in more intuitive and empathetic ways…Leaders establish direction by developing a vision of the future, then they align people by communicating this vision and inspiring them to overcome hurdles (1).

So, why is it that the majority of people in a role where an individual is required to support, develop, engage, influence, be accountable, take ownership and other requirements (leadership/coaching) fail to do so (‘doing-the-do’, management).

What is worse, although often spoken of by senior management, these individuals are allowed to ‘get away with’ this sort of behaviour and inaction, to the detriment of all involved.

You may even know of examples where a manager is being given credit for leading a successful or high-performing team due mainly to the contribution of the individual team members, rather than effective leadership. This in itself, can be demoralising for other members of the team, however an element that is often missed is the negative impact this can have on morale and the level of discretionary effort other leaders and peers within the business choose to give.

There are many reasons why this occurs, in fact too many to list here, however what is clear is that negative behaviours and beliefs such as fear, procrastination, a lack of self-awareness, skill deficiencies and other self-defeating thoughts and actions stop many managers from becoming leaders.

The good news is that it is also clear and proven that individuals are able to change…leadership skills can be developed…effectiveness and efficiency can be gained. Part of the difference is acknowledgment and action.

“While leadership is easy to explain, leadership is not so easy to practice. Leadership is about behaviour first, skills second. Good leaders are followed chiefly because people trust and respect them, rather than the skills they possess. Leadership is different to management. Management relies more on planning, organisational and communications skills. Leadership relies on management skills too, but more so on qualities such as integrity, honesty, humility, courage, commitment, sincerity, passion, confidence, positivity, wisdom, determination, compassion, sensitivity, and a degree of personal charisma” (2).

Review the ‘Balance Of Time’ model, check yourself against the percentages and take action to remedy any shortcomings whilst giving yourself credit for the good work you are doing.

Leadership is always about practicing the art, remembering that balance in all things is key, no more so than in leadership. There is no such thing as a perfect leader, but there are many managers claiming to be leaders.

Which are you?

Steve Riddle: CoachStation


(1) Organisational Behaviour: Robbins, Waters-Marsh, Cacioppe & Millet 1994, p. 471)

(2) BusinessBalls


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Falling Into Leadership

An individual taking on a leadership role is often something that has ‘just happened’.

Being a genuine leader does not come from the role and title designated to you but rather from your decision-making, inclusiveness, delegation skills, ability to communicate and other, well-recognised and documented traits. Many of these traits can be learned and enhanced through proper coaching.

Does this story mean anything to you?

You started in a company at a lower level. Opportunity presented itself in the form of a chance to step-up temporarily or permanently into a role providing more money, esteem, credibility or some other perceived benefit. You jumped at it! Of course, along with all of the benefits the role also came with much higher expectation…that of others and your self.

You worked hard…things went fairly well but you didn’t really feel supported to truly excel. You wanted to be the best operator so didn’t ask many questions  – after all, asking questions shows that you were not ready for the promotion in the first place, doesn’t it? “Better to bite your tongue and work your way through the issues on your own”, is a common thought and action at this stage.Don't Step In The Leadership

Your boss didn’t spend much time developing you or even working with you day to day. This autonomy had its benefits, but also plenty of downside. You were often stressed, tried to please everyone and in so doing often pleased the few, including yourself. Longer hours and pressure meant that you regularly wanted something different but didn’t know how to achieve it or even what that difference looks like.

However, after a while further opportunity presented itself. Another step onwards and upwards. You wondered why you were being considered as you don’ t feel like you have been particularly effective in your current role, but people seem to like you and you occasionally receive some good feedback, however insincere it often seems. You know in your heart that you are not ready for more responsibility…more stress…but you wonder can I “fake it ‘til I make it at an even higher level?”

So, you take on the new role because it’s expected of you, or it offers greater prestige, salary or some other perceived benefit – you don’t want to let others down and certainly the benefits outweigh the negatives…don’t they!??

Now, you’re leading people.

You are responsible for a process and regular input into projects and other ad-hoc work requiring your expertise, skill and knowledge. You are also now not only accountable for yourself but leading, developing, coaching and inspiring others. Are you ready to lead? If not, the impact will be felt by many. Effective leadership can have a significant benefit on a team or business culture, personnel satisfaction, attrition, sickness levels and the bottom line. Ineffective leadership has exactly the opposite impact. Now, how does that pressure feel for you???

Does this scenario sound familiar? In my experience and working with many new and experienced leaders, this is a very common journey felt by many. Most of these people felt they had few opportunities to rectify their situation. Progress and genuine development will only succeed if you are willing to take some risks, source someone to assist you (a coach, mentor, role-model or some other trusted person) and challenge your own beliefs, perceptions and perspectives.Is your leadership foundation solid?

The ability to take yourself out of your comfort zone often enough to test yourself and learn, is key. Knowing when to step back into your comfort zone is also a skill linked to self-awareness and emotional intelligence. These are skills and traits that can be learned.

Regularly the difference for individuals who are experiencing these fears, self-limiting beliefs, poor feedback and other negative impacts is their willingness to seek help. There is no doubt that the most effective and respected leaders in any role or organisation are those who recognise that they are not in their role because they have all the answers. Rather they are successful because they understand their own strengths and limitations, possessing the emotional intelligence to surround themselves with a team who have various strengths and skillsets that contribute to the synergy and effectiveness of the team.

Ironically, emphasising delegation as a standard, building strong/ trusting relationships, focusing on self-development and coaching of others, amongst other elements starts to enable development and improvement. This manifests itself through better work-life balance, team members feeling more engaged through contribution and being heard, less of a feeling that the leader has to take on all the work his/herself, prioritisation and many, many other more positive influences.

The first step is the key step. Seek out someone you trust to share your situation with and move forward through understanding your choices and taking relevant action.

Steve Riddle: CoachStation


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