Generation What?



Generation What?

 There have been numerous articles, podcasts and YouTube videos warning us about this different breed of employees – Generation Y. Generation Y or Millennials are born between 1980 and the end of 1994 and usually the offspring of Baby Boomers. If you have done your maths Millennials are between 20 and 35 now and are not only owning and staffing most tech start-ups in Silicone Valley and across the world but they are also are moving into senior positions in large organisations now.

If your HR team are still running presentations on how to prepare for the coming of Gen Y you’re too late because Generation Z are very close behind them and are already in your workforce and research shows that they are even more different.

Entrepreneurial Learning Culture

Generation Y’s optimism and resilience is being tempered by Generation Z’s recession forged practicality and resourcefulness. Learning and entrepreneurship are the new currencies for success with 61% of Generation Z would rather be an entrepreneur instead of an employee when they graduate.


While technology is important to Millennials, it is essential to our Gen Zs. Whereas Millennials use 3 screens on average, GEN Zers use 5 and they watch between two and four hours of YouTube and less than an hour of traditional television per day. According to the World Economic Forum Facebook has a population substantially bigger than China, India is third and WhatsApp has the 4th largest population in the world.

Contact and Authenticity

Despite this almost full integration of technology 51% of Gen Z say they prefer in-person communications with managers, as opposed to emailing (16%) or instant messaging (11%). For a generation starved of the genuine through spin, Photoshop and sponsored, product placement, authenticity is highly prized.

Generation Viz

The Future Laboratory has nicknamed Gen Z Generation Viz or Visual; as advances in accessible technology and skills mean that videos are the new PowerPoint and animation the new infographic. Messaging will be shorter and sharper reflecting the nature of the social media that surrounds their world.

The Shape of the Workforce

Contract working and portfolio careers will change the way our organisations operate and grow. With a world over half full of entrepreneurs there will be less traditional employees and therefore the powerbase and the need for different relationships will enviably need to shift. Reward, recognition and retention concepts will need be overhauled too.

Generation K     

Noreena Hertz spent 18 months interviewing over 2000 Generation Zs and nicknamed them Generation K after the powerful female Hunger Games character Katniss Everdeen. Gender neutrality will become not only more commonplace but an automatic or intrinsic part of company culture. Gender, disability, sexual preference race, and religion gaps will all but disappear in the work place too. Facebook offers 4 months paternity leave to males employees including same sex couples.

Collaboration and Ownership

Generation Zers like to co-create, they like to be part of a solution and have their own stamp on it. This is exemplified by the Pokéball Frappuccino and the somewhat obviously named he Purple Drink in Starbucks; not on the advertised menu, but there is a secret menu (go ahead, look it up) where customers are creating their own variations on the advertised options. The concept of co-creation goes beyond customized cold beverages, the majority of the workspaces created by the new generations are open plan and collaborative, engineered to be flexible and build communities.

  • Whilst many large organisations relish the concept of an entrepreneurial mindset, it rarely fits comfortably with the structures, systems and cultures of behemothic organisations. How are you going to build cultures that attract and flourish entrepreneurial activities to accelerate your business growth?
  • So many of today’s organisations still only share the “extra kit” with the executives where the “senior iPad” gathers dust in the offices of the top floor and still I argue with leaders and trainers who ban devices form meeting and training rooms. Does your IT strategy recognise who will be more effective and efficient with the appropriate technology?
  • More and more businesses are adding to the traditional email by embracing instant messaging, video conferencing and contrary to popular opinion Gen Zs are crying out for authentic, human contact. How are you maximising genuine face time with your people and does your leadership strategy demand and measure authenticity?
  • I have seen so many organisations so very excited about how they have managed to get their IT strategy into an infographic whilst my son has written and edited a film to form part of his introduction and induction to college. How are your After Effects skills and how are you focusing your internal and external communications for Gen Viz?
  • Large, traditional organisations still talk about retention and still foster long-term incentive plans; the workforce of (literally) tomorrow don’t care about these things their motivators are very different.
  • In many organisations, those that hold the purse strings for facilities like their offices and their individual desks, they may well have tried buying a couple of sofa fro IT as a test but truly collaborative and flexible spaces are still largely in Silicone Valley or their local offices. If you won’t let the creative minds help you create your future they will go and do it for themselves or worst for your competitor.

There are many debates about should we give way to these changes or just “teach them how to operate in the workspace”. The change is coming and the change is a good thing, like evolution it will drive survival and success it s time to embrace it and make the changes.

I believe that whilst highly descriptive, these “generational behaviours” are not limited to strict age groups, you can by 20 with a Baby Booker mindset and you can be over 40 with a Gen Z mindset. I’m off to enjoy my Purple Drink.




Not a new high-street store for junior marketeers but a set of steps to help you sell yourself, either at interview or when you are pitching. Building your own brand seems to be a new trend at the moment, but why is it so important? My experience has shown that many people are not strong at simply, succinctly and clearly stating to potential employers or even friends in the pub who they are professionally. There could be an argument that if you can’t tell me simply who you are, then maybe you don’t know, and if you don’t know, maybe I don’t want to buy into you. As Jeff Bezos says: ”Your brand is what people say about you when you’re not in the room.” This is an exercise in helping you to write that script.

Many people, when asked about their job answer, at least initially, with their job title. Job titles in many cases in this day and age are getting longer and longer and less and less clear. And let’s face it we are all more than our job titles.

How would it be if you could respond with a clear, authentic outline that really informed and engaged the enquirer to want to know more? Before we jump in, let’s gather some data; ask yourself and others some simple questions:

  1. What is my emotional appeal? This might be a brainstorm of the features of your personality. How do I make people feel? How do people benefit when they work with me? What are the words others use to describe me?
  2. How can you describe what field or industry you are in? Consider avoiding the generic titles such as HR Generalist, Marketing, Finance Manager and list the words that describe your work and your target audience.
  3. What services do you offer? What makes you stand out above others in what you do?

Now with that data in mind here are a few simple steps to put it all together:

  • Your first step should be to describe why do you do what you do and how does it make others feel. As Simon Sinek says in his now famous video “Start with why…” (if you haven’t seen it check it out on YouTube) “People by don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.” Can you see why a statement such as: “I am passionate about helping small businesses drive success and build prosperity” is a much stronger opener than: “I am a business consultant”?
  • The second stage is to find ways to articulate how you do these things, what expertise, tools or techniques do you use? What makes you stand out from the crowd on how you deliver? To continue our example: “I deliver for my clients by deeply researching and understanding disruptors in a range of industries and bring their thinking to your business”
  • Stage three is what you do, now is the time to bring in what you can do for people. For example “I ask probing questions, listen and formulate simple but detailed plans to help all stakeholders understand exactly what is expected of them and why they need to do it.” 
  • A final word or two about authenticity: being authentic about what you are saying is absolutely key and I would urge you to consider this on two levels:
  1. On a practical level you need to be able to say this statement out loud without cringing; it needs to feel right and genuine.
  2. Your truth, whilst I won’t lecture you on being honest in your statement I would encourage you to be true to yourself, share what gives you passion, share what you enjoy. If you don’t enjoy blue-sky thinking, don’t sell yourself as a high level strategist, even if you think that’s what people want to hear. If you don’t enjoy auditing, don’t tell people you want to do it. Sell the best of you.

Have a go at building your brand statement and practice saying it to a range of people. 


Lessons Learnt - The Jedi Master and the Billionaire



I haven’t blogged for a couple of weeks, not because I have run out of stream or stopped caring but, I am delighted to say I have been working pretty much full time delivering for my new business to actual customers. Now, having launched my business a little over three months ago I wanted to pause and reflect on what I had learnt. I also wanted to share this with you with the aid of two quotes from very different sauces.

My first is from Richard Branson, who suggests: “If somebody offers you an amazing opportunity but you are not sure you can do it, say yes – then learn how to do it later!”. Now, I am not recommending making rash promises to potential customers and lying about what you can deliver, but to me this gives two messages:

1.     As you step into new and very different challenges you need to develop a personal mindset to help you cope and give you the confidence to support your move into the unknown. This, to me in the “fake it ‘till you make it” ethos; tell yourself you can do it until you have proved to yourself that you can.  Let me give you an example. I am dyslexic and writing has always been a challenge, I have adapted to avoid writing as much as possible as I have always been criticised for it. As I build my business there is (currently) no corporate affairs or marketing department, so the getting the message out is (like sales, finance and facilities management) down to me. I said “yes” to myself and started to blog on a weekly basis, learning on the way how to write, edit and publish.

2.     This leads me to the second message I gained from Mr Branson’s insight: learn by doing. He also said: “You don’t learn to walk by following rules. You learn by doing and by falling over and it’s because you fall over that you learn to save yourself from falling over”. Even over the last three months I have become a better writer by writing, a better networker by networking and a better coach by coaching.

My second inspiration is from Yoda, Grand Master of the Jedi Order who said, “Do or do not. There is no try.” When I started Realising Your Potential I told myself I was going to try to set up my own business and “see how it goes”. This is undoubtedly a personal defence mechanism so if it doesn’t work out, “I wasn’t really that serious”. Well if you are not that serious, then don’t do it, if you are, put your time, your heart and your sole into it.

If you are starting a new business venture, a new or enhanced role or stepping into realising a new development opportunity:

1.     Tell yourself you CAN do it

2.     Learn on the way (its actually quite fun)

3.     And do it.

Making It Stick



Ok, so you have enacted your development plan or maybe by happy accident you have learned something. It might have been a course, a TED video, watching some one else undertake a task or a reflective piece of feedback. Whatever it was it was some form of investment on time, effort and possibly money – let’s not waste that, let’s make the most of it and ensure that the learning sticks. There is great deal of research on how quickly we loose knowledge with some suggesting we forget up to 50% of what we are taught on a formal training course within the first hour.

So how do we make it stick? Here are few ideas to really make sure your investment adds value.

Celebrate it, you should rejoice in the fact you have learnt something and you should label the value it has added to your life. You will now be quicker, wiser, slower, more accurate, more efficient or happier for your learning activity. Understand the outcome and its impact on you.

Share it, It was Joseph Joubert the 18th Century French writer who said, “To teach is to learn twice.” We learn as we are taught something and we learn it again when we teach it to someone else. Doubling our capacity to learn will drive home the knowledge and build an abundance mentality about learning.

Make it relevant, we learn much more effectively if we know how we can utilise what we have learnt, it is more meaningful if it is applicable. Whilst learning for learning’s sake may be fascinating, learning for a reason instantly adds value.

Practice it, once you have gathered some knowledge, apply it. The application of any learning will take us around the learning cycle again and improve its impact. If we believe in the research above about how quickly we forget what we are taught we should look to put our learning into practice as soon as possible.

Learning is precious, it is what makes us grow, let’s not waste it let’s make it stick.

But Why?



Not the cry from a petulant toddler but a challenge to ensure we know the direction we are setting is right for us. We have talked quite a bit about understanding yourself, building a development plan and getting support to really drive your growth. We have spent quite a bit of time on “the what”; I thought it might be interesting to reflect on today “the why”. If we are dedicating so much time and effort into a direction we should ensure it is the right direction. As we build our career plan we should aim it a direction that will excite.

Confucius said “Choose a Job You Love, and You Will Never Have To Work a Day in Your Life”. Now, whilst that is a hugely aspirational I think we should take heed and focus our efforts at work on things that give us energy and passion. If we are going to develop ourselves towards a brave new world let’s make sure its our brave new world not anyone else’s.

Strengths.  Whilst we are all growing and developing and stretch is an important element of realising your potential there is a huge amount of research and evidence that suggests we are at our best when we play to and build on our strengths. When we understand what we are good at we can better choose where to focus our energies. Clifton StrengthFinder is a very reasonably priced and valuable tool to help you to focus on what is right, and strong about you.

Motivators. Just playing to your strengths is not always the only answer. It is key to understanding what motivates us too, why we get out of bed in the morning. David McClelland wrote in his book, "The Achieving Society." about three motivators that he believed we all have: a need for achievement, a need for affiliation, and a need for power, we will all have a preference for the balance of each of these. I met an amazingly successful sales woman in North America last year, she was at an event that was celebrating sales excellence and developing young leaders. Although she had smashed her targets for the past 3 years she was deeply unfulfilled. After a brief coaching conversation, it became clear that she was heavily motivated by a need for affiliation (characterised by: valuing belonging to a group, favouring collaboration over competition and not liking high risk or uncertainty) rather than the achievement type role she was in.

Values. We talk a lot about an organisation’s values but it is arguably more important to be able to understand and articulate our own, personal values. These values should align with any organisation’s values you choose to work for. I have met so many people who fundamentally disagree with the purpose of the organisation they spend 50 hours a week working for, and they are deeply unhappy. Hogan’s MVPI (Motives, Values, Preferences Inventory) is another valuable tool to help you understand what you value in your work setting.

Spend some time understanding and articulating your strengths, motivators and values, and at every point in your personal and career development, test to see if your next decision is aligned with these. As Mahatma Gandhi said: “Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony.”



So you have developed your self-awareness to the point that you have honed your development plan to perfection, you know what you need to focus on to build on your strengths and mitigate some of your risks. You have some clear goals for success and great measures to know when you have got there – awesome, well done.

Who are you going to get to help you get there?

You might be able to do this skill, experience and behavioural transformation on your own whilst continuing to excel at your day job, investing in your family and friends and your hobbies but I am not aware of a single professional sports person who would attempt to grow without some help. And let’s face it; most of them get paid less than you do.

So whose help do you need? Let’s give the “job titles”:

Champion: you need someone on your side telling you when you are doing well but more importantly you need someone on your side telling the people that matter that you are doing well. You need a champion (or champions) who have access to your work but also have access to people of influence. You need someone who will tell your story to people who can give you the next role or stretch project.

Mentor: someone who has been there and done that, who can advise you on what they did and shouldn’t have done in the situations you are about to embark on. Your mentor is your wise owl, who is both experienced and willing to share what they have learnt to help you accelerate your success.

Peer support: If you are striding out, attempting to be ahead of the rest, there is a risk some of the rest will be unhappy or jealous with your attempts to shine. You need colleagues who understand what you are doing and that want to support you do it and are willing to be honest with you about how they are seeing your approach. Your peer supporters are keeping you honest and true.

Coach: we have rehearsed in these discussions the importance of a coach on a number of occasions so I won’t bang on again, but your coach is your facilitator, your challenger and the one holding you to account.

Friends and family: All of the above are directly or indirectly in the work environment but you need the emotional support of those who really care about you and see you at your best and worst.

We have the job descriptions; now we need to do some recruitment.

  1. Make a list of names of people who could fill each of the roles, you should have at least one per role and you might not know some of these people well yet. Remember if you are stretching yourself you need to reach outside of your normal circle for help.
  2. Against each outline their stake in your success, what do you need from them and what’s in it for them?
  3. Define the current relationship you have with them. Do you see them every day, or do you currently bump into them in the lift once a month and they don’t know your name?
  4. Define the future relationship you desire. What is the interaction you need from them? How often? Through which media?
  5.  Make a plan; clearly state what you need to do to get them in role and on-board.
  6. Tell them. Do not attempt to have people on your support list who don’t know their role; secret mentors don’t work. People who understand their role and what you need form them will work much harder for you than those who are innocent of your intentions.

The final action on your list, and this might be a more long term one, is to pay it forward. Who can you be a champion, a mentor, a peer support, a coach or a friend to? If you received sound advice, guidance and support, help others. An abundance mentality will bring more success to the world and more respect to you.


The Trouble With Coaching



We have discussed coaching on a number of occasions so far and I was interested in some recent feedback I received from a senior leader I was working with. I had set up a series of coaching sessions for her with another coach and was having a debrief with her about the experience. “You see Chris” she said “the trouble with coaching, pure coaching, is that sometimes you just need some advice”. Her point was that when we employ experienced executives to be coaches they bring with them experience and knowledge and yet the purest of coaching models suggests that the coach should facilitate answers from their clients and not give advice, share knowledge or comment on ideas.

And so, potentially begins the debate between coaching and mentoring where, in my view coaching is the facilitative skillset and mentoring the advice giving, “wise owl”.

I understand the value and ownership implications of “pure” coaching; it is an incredibly powerful tool in supporting Execs and teams to develop options explore solutions and create futures; but sometimes we all need a little nudge, hint or outside idea from someone who has been there before.

Now, I’m not suggesting that a team or individual coaching sessions should turn into one way, teaching sessions (we have training for that), but there is space in every coaching session for sharing. The trick is for the coach to offer thoughts and advice, which clients and teams can at any time refuse or discard. If coaches are genuinely there, solely for their customer with no ulterior motivations, then advice and experience, if invited can and should be laid on the table. This is not to be seen as the only answer but as a catalyst to help further thinking.

The role of the coach is to help you come to your own solutions, so as a coachee you might well need:

      stronger feedback;

      wider insight into options;

      greater challenge to your assumptions and limiting beliefs;

      better filtering of your multiple thoughts;

      clearer reflection to focus your thinking;

      more rigorously holding you to account for your actions

A good coach will ask you questions, a great coach will do all of the above, at the right time.

A Deeper Insight



We have talked in previous blogs about the importance of self-awareness and ways to gain deeper self-awareness; today I thought we would dig a little deeper into one of the key tools for understanding: psychometrics.


Psychometric tests are qualitative tools designed to assess, measure and interpret psychological variables such as interests, aptitude and personality traits, well that’s the textbook version. They are tools to help us understand what we are good at, how we might choose to grow and how we choose to do things. They broadly fall into 3 areas:


1.    Interest tests allow insight into how people differ in their values or motivation in relation to their interests.


2.    Aptitude tests measure ability to undertake different tasks.


3.    Personality tests measure how people differ in their style or preference of doing things; it also helps them understand how they interact with the world around them including other people.


Psychometric assessments are used for a wide range of applications and possibly most traditionally for recruitment and selection where they can help hiring managers assess the fit of a potential new recruit. However in this blog I will focus on their use in individual, team and career development.


Individual Development

Using a tool such as Hogan HDS or MBTI to help you reveal your individual strengths, risks and preferences, opens up a whole range of conversations and provides an interesting foundation to base your individual development plans on. Having a stronger understanding on how you prefer to interact with the world, where you gain your energy from, how you make decisions or what might derail your effectiveness and relationships, gives a view of your behaviour. You can use this to detail where and how you focus your growth for better effect.


Team Alignment

Tools such as Hogan HDS, MBTI and Facet5 work to develop teams and build alignment on two levels. Firstly, teams work more effectively if they understand the strengths and preferences of the individuals within the team. Understanding that some people need data and others work on gut instinct, understanding that some need a plan and others are more effective in a crisis will allow interaction to flow better.  Realising the value of the differences within a team using a non-judgemental common language creates collaboration and builds harmony. As Carl Jung said “Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves.”

The second level is that understanding the strengths and risks of the team will paint a picture of how others view the team. What example is a leadership team setting to the rest of an organisation? If the top team are seen to be in conflict or slow in decision-making they are role modelling an expectation to their teams. The insight a psychometric team view allows for the development of a set of behaviours or rules of engagement to build both team alignment and the foundation for effective organisational culture.


Career Development We have discussed in previous blogs how people loose (or don’t define) their career direction. A tool such as Clifton StrengthFinder will help reveal what you are good at, which should form the basis for where you should focus your time. A tool such as Hogan MVPI will help you understand your values and what will engage and excite you in your work and work environment. All this is valuable data to support profound coaching conversations and meaningful decision-making.


At this stage it is important to stress that, whilst powerful and valuable tools, psychometric assessments are just one set of data and should only be used in conjunction with other information they are not, in my opinion definitive and the be all and end all; they are valuable catalysts for conversation.


It is also key to highlight the importance of using tools that have strong reliability and validity. Magazine or Facebook questionnaires are fun but if you are looking for deep insight use a professional, valid tool and have the feedback delivered by a professional coach who can help bring to life the report for in a balanced and supportive fashion and facilitate you towards conclusions and action.


Why not dig a little deeper, why not try a deeper insight?

Realising Your High Potential


So you have identified some super smart people in your organisation who you believe will be your leaders of the future, what are you going to do with them now? Here are a few questions to help with your thinking:

1.     Did you identify them in an objective and systematic way?

Many organisations and their leaders often mistake high performance for high potential, rising stars are both. Whilst high performers are fantastically valuable to any organisation only 15% of high performers are also high potential. It is key to reward and retain your high performance but placing them on a high potential programme is an enormous waste of investment. It is essential to assess both high performance and high potential in a consistent and subjective way to drive efficacy and fairness.

2.     Did you tell them?

Like you and I, our high potential people value recognition, yet despite whatever process was used to identify rising stars 63% choose not to or fail to tell their HiPos of their status in the organisation. Whether they are “HiPos, “Rising Stars” or simply “selected for additional investment for our future” it doesn’t matter what you call them, but make sure they know they are special.

3.     How are you going to develop them?

Having told them, you HAVE to do something with them. Whilst paying for their MBA or sending them on a leadership development programme are traditional options, it is vital that we develop them through experience as well and training. If we believe the model that 10% of learning is formal and 70% is through experience it essential that any development initiative includes stretch assignments or projects.

4.     How are you going to support their development?

If you have invested all this time, money and effort into identifying and developing your future leaders you must keep them engaged for two reasons: they are your ambassadors, for the company internally and externally you need to ensure they remain high performance and high potential and aligned to your business because you want to keep them; you also need to ensure that all the learning they are doing is landing effectively and they are able to navigate their growth. Ensuring they have on going support from their line manager is key and so is maximising the input from their champion or sponsor at a senior level and finally investing in a coach to provide that external perspective to realising their potential.


Accelerate Your Success



So, did you do it? Did you pick one development action? Did you feel the fear? Did you JUST DO IT?

This will only make sense if you read last week’s blog where we discussed Abraham Maslow’s thoughts about either stepping forward into growth or to stepping back into safety.

If you didn’t, maybe you need some help; maybe you need to consider a coach. Coaches are not just for senior executives or top athletes, their job is to help you realise your potential. As Sir John Whitmore the Pioneer of Coaching said… we are more like an acorn which contains within it all the potential to be a magnificent oak tree. We need nourishment, encouragement and the light to reach toward, but the oak-treeness is already within”.

A coach can do many things to support for growth and development, here are 5 things a coach can do for you:

  • Motivate you: personal development can be a lonely journey and to have someone on our side, who understands how to give us the right stroke to move us forward when it becomes tough is a valuable ally. Sometimes particularly if we have a tendency towards perfectionism (and many high potential people do) we need someone to tell us we are doing fine.
  • Facilitate your solutions: I believe the main role of the coach is to create insight and a framework to create solutions. The coach’s role is not to provide the answers but to provide feedback and ask smart questions to help you find your own solutions. Having someone to help stretch your thinking in new and different ways and allow you to create your own answers is a very powerful route to success.
  • Challenge you: Your peers, your colleagues and even your family and friends won’t always tell you the truth. All have a vested interest in giving you one story or another. A good coach will be your critical friend, challenging you when you are not performing or behaving as you might want to, pushing you harder when you need to and helping you see when you succeed.
  • Hold you to account:  If you make a pledge to yourself to do something with your coach they will follow it up with you and hold you to your promises. Their role is to make sure you are really clear on your goals and your actions and to hold you to account for delivery.
  • Act as a sounding board: Smart people have lots of ideas, and I am sorry to break it to you but not all your ideas are brilliant, life changing insights of wisdom. Having an honest broker to share your thoughts, ideas, journey with before you unleash it on the world is a valuable way to accelerate success. 

If you are that acorn, maybe you need some help to realise the oak tree within, maybe you need a coach.

Step Forward Into Growth


Today will be a short and simple message, however one that many of us fail to do, consciously on a daily basis. I am talking about making that step into your development plan.

We all (I hope) have a development plan and it is one of those super-worthy things we have that we will get around to if we just weren’t quite so busy.

I am sure we have all said, “I’ll take a look in the Summer, when things calm down a bit” or “Let me just get Q1 out of the way and I can focus”. All of these are possible and real, however my challenge to you is to think of the words of the title of this piece which is a quote from Abraham Maslow: “In any given moment we have two options: to step forward into growth or to step back into safety.

As I listen, in coaching sessions to colleagues and clients the top reasons for not starting on a piece of personal development are:

Too Many Development Actions: We often bravely list all the things we want to change, grow and develop at the beginning of the year in an attempt to cover every piece of feedback and failing from the past year. This exhaustive list seems to take over and ultimately create a barrier in starting anything.

Not Enough Time:  There is a perception that there is not enough time to focus on development activity because we are too busy doing “real work”. “I don’t have time to read the pile of articles I have printed off and piled up on my desk” or “The piece of e-learning that my boss recommended will still be there next month.”  Not enough time is the third barrier.

Fear: What if I fail? Inevitably growing and learning takes away from safety and what we are good at into a heightened possibility to fail, make a fool of our self or not be as good as we usually are. This fear is barrier or excuse number two.

So, what do we need to do if we really do want to step forward into growth? Well the answer is three fold:

1.    Pick one: Stop trying to solve all the challenges of the world and pick an action. Pick the one that interests you the most, pick the easiest one, or pick the one that will have the greatest long-term impact, but just PICK ONE.

2.    Just do it: Stop prevaricating, stop putting it off, stop waiting until the weather is right, JUST DO IT.

3.    And in the words of the late, great Susan Jeffers: “feel the fear and do it anyway

Good luck.

Let it go!



At the risk of starting a serious leadership development blog by quoting Queen Elsa, this is a piece of reflection I often share with aspiring high potential people as they sit in a transition in their career. Much like the person I identified in my last blog “Which way ought I to go from here?”

As a high potential employee you probably have a core functional capability, be it marketing, finance, sales, product development etc. Not only have you revived professional education and training in this core competence you have received praise, recognition and possibly even reward for your excellence in delivering in your chosen field. Good times.

Then you sit at your next review or you are faced with feedback on your HiPo programme and the person opposite who is usually in awe of your phenomenal capacity to deliver says “You need to be more strategic.”

But,but…” you stutter, “aren’t you pleased with my performance?”

This is a perfect example of what the great Marshall Goldsmith describes as “what got you here, won’t get you there.” The horrible truth is that many of the traits you have demonstrated that have bought you success will actively try to prevent you from further climbing the corporate ladder and realising your potential.

Before I continue, it is important to note that “climbing the corporate ladder” is not the only option in your life right now or at any time in the future and this is your first decision.

So (if you do want to) here are some things to consider that will get you there, in no particular order?

You can’t do it all: this is a really important lesson and a tough one to learn. Despite being super smart any aspiring leaders initially believe they can do all the things that made them famous AND be more strategic, be more visionary, build their network, be more consultative, be more collaborative outside of the usual part of the business or geography. STOP IT, you can't do it all, you are already working too many hours and even if you think you can tag on an extra couple to do the new stuff, you will not be effective and you are setting a poor role model to those who are already looking up to you.

Re-contract: you are not the only barrier to success, your boss, your team and your key stakeholders really like what you are doing now and whilst they wish you well for your future, it is their short term interest to keep you delivering what you are good at. Have conversations with your key stakeholders and redefine what you can and can't do and ask for their help.

Learn to coach: linked to the above point, you need to help others be less reliant on the “old you” whilst you build the “new you”. People come to you for solutions, particularly your team. You have earned your stripes and you have earned the right to share your wisdom and expertise however, every time you give an answer, rather than help them find their own solution, is another day of staying here and not going there.

Just say no: again you have been successful and “the go to person” because you say “yes” and you always deliver. This is a fantastic reputation to have but to be known as a “safe pair of hands” is not the cutting edge, strategic leader reputation you are seeking. Is what you are being asked to do supporting you to where you want to be? If the answer is “no” then help your enquirer to another source of help.

Let it go: as Peter Drucker said, “We spend a lot of time helping leaders learn what to do, we don’t spend enough time helping leaders learn what to stop.” You need to develop a list of what is not in service of your vision, a list of what you need to let go. 

Which way ought I to go from here?



I have, for the past 15 years been building and facilitating high potential development programmes and have insisted on weaving coaching into each as part of individual development. The coaching element is consistently reported as the most valuable part of the programme from a self-awareness and learning perspective.

The majority of people on these programmes are between 25 and 30, all are super smart, high performers and most are completely lost.

The common story is that they did well at school, without really trying too hard, and followed the traditional route to university where, again they performed well. They then fell into an “ideal job”, their hard work was recognised early and were given additional responsibility early and progressed well through the next couple of roles.

They are recognised and given the “high potential” label and placed on a programme, at which point they are faced with a couple of truths:

  1. They have stumbled through their career and bumped into a range of great opportunities but don’t have a clear plan on what they want to do or achieve for the next stage of their career;
  2. They have never failed and are absolutely petrified that at some stage they are going to be “found out”.

This is possibly what a friend and colleague calls a “quarter life crisis”; a new term for me but ably explains the often emotional reaction to sailing to a certain point in your life and having to take some form of control.

As I coach our future potential, I often share the Lewis Carroll quote where Alice is lost and meets the Cheshire Cat:

Alice: Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?

The Cheshire Cat: That depends a good deal on where you want to get to.

Alice: I don't much care where.

The Cheshire Cat: Then it doesn't much matter which way you go.

Alice: ...So long as I get somewhere.

The Cheshire Cat: Oh, you're sure to do that, if only you walk long enough.”

As a “hi po” you can choose to walk for long enough and you will probably get somewhere, or could can make the bold step of taking some control.

  • Gather some data about you: Ask as many people as possible (colleagues, friends and family) what are you good at? What do people come to you for? What do you enjoy doing? what do you hate doing? What gets you out of bed in the morning?

  • Build a brand; start to find a way to articulate how you add value, perhaps write what you are famous for? what do people come to you for? How do you do what you do? What energizes or ignites you? What are your true passions? Write a paragraph emphasising your specialty and your 5 key talents, weaving in your most important values, passions and skills. 

  • Define where to you want to get to: Try to avoid the question: what do I want to do?” this is a limiting question, better ask yourself “what do I want to achieve?”. Include all aspects of your life plans, the answer to this question might be: have a huge family; earn a six-figure salary by the time I am 30; teach disadvantaged children to read or all of the above.

  • Compare and contrast:  does what you want to achieve match with your brand? more importantly, does where you are now match your brand and does it support what you want to achieve? If the answer is “no” you have some changes to make.

  • Make a plan: this doesn’t have to be a detailed, 5 year time line with measurable milestones (don’t put that pressure on yourself), but use the data from the first 4 points above to help you make choices: is your next project, promotion, move in support of what you want to achieve? Does the next training course (in or outside of work) help with your direction of travel?

Next time you meet the Cheshire Cat’s question you will be able to articulate a coherent answer and you will be amazed how the fear reduces once you take control.


Self-awareness, but how?



My last blog was about the importance of self-awareness; today I thought I'd discuss ways of becoming more aware. The following findings have come from conversations with leaders at all levels, from all around the world. 

Be curious, your role as a self-aware leader is to ask for feedback as often as possible. Try to avoid asking in the traditional way, for example after a presentation to the Board asking: “how was that?” because, inevitably the answer will be “fine” and you have learnt nothing. We know giving feedback, particularly in certain cultures is difficult so be explicit. Ask for specific feedback: “what is the one thing I could have done better in that presentation?

This tactic not only focuses the person delivering the feedback to give you one developmental piece of learning, it also helps you receive only one (and hopefully their best) piece of feedback that you can choose to focus on.

Reflect on you day or your week; most of us spend precious little time reviewing our own performance or practice in a positive fashion. Ask yourself the same question you would ask others: “what is the one thing I could have done to handle that negotiation better”; “what is the one thing I could have done to better motivate the team this week?”  “what is the one thing I could have done yesterday to be a better parent?”.

Psychometric tests are an excellent tool to gain personal insight; they can help you understand your personal preferences and traits, give them labels and a common language to aid discussions with others and understand how to build on your strengths and develop your risks.

Make a plan (as my friends in South Africa say). It does not need to be a full on SMART development plan that the HR department will approve of. However writing down your ideas for development will significantly improve the odds of you being successful. The reasoning being, firstly it will help you clarify what you want to achieve, the act of writing will help filter your thinking to be more explicit. Secondly, it will help you prioritise additional actions, with a list; you can compare, add, combine or reject new opportunities. Finally, seeing a list on your fridge or monitor will remind and motivate you to success.

Get a coach. The discipline to regularly and effectively “hold up the mirror”, build and process awareness is a difficult one for busy leaders. A short series of sessions with a professional coach will dramatically speed up growth, development and ultimately performance.

My challenge to you is to try at least one of these over the next 7 days and identify one area of genuine strength to build upon and one area of growth to develop. 


Holding Up The Mirror



High self-awareness is the strongest predictor of overall success for leaders, whilst not a core competency it is the foundational knowledge and the acceptance that drives insight, decision making and learning.

Leaders who are aware of their own strengths and risks are often better able to hire people who perform well in areas in which they are deficient. A leader I have worked with for some time often says “My job as a leader is to employ people more intelligent than me”. One of the reasons he is successful is because he is comfortable with the fact that there is someone in his team will have an idea better than him.

Leaders who are aware of their own strengths and risks are also better able to apply styles of leadership appropriately to situations. They “turn the dials up or down” on being directive or choosing to coach solutions, on being facilitative or jumping in to help.

When leaders are in the midst of the battle driving performance they need help, someone to hold up the mirror so they can see their strengths and risks, label them and help build strategies to optimise the good and challenge the less effective.

Top athletes would not dream of performing without a coach to maximize their performance why would you?