Andrew Williams

How to keep grounded as a leader

As you rise through the corporate ranks, the impact of your decisions increases and your role becomes more and more important. You do not.

Failure to recognise this can lead to all sorts of problems. Leaders who think they’re better than the people they lead will lack empathy, alienate people, lose touch with the reality of their business on the ground, and become dangerously overconfident.

The best leaders know how to keep their ego in check, but is this something you can do deliberately? Andrew Williams, who’s been CEO of FTSE 100 company Halma for nearly 16 years, shares some tips.

“I went to a Cardiff comprehensive school that was… not the best. But while I may not have got a great academic education, my social education was fantastic. I’ve never been in awe of people above me, and I’ve always tried to treat people lower down the organisation with respect.

“That’s important – I’ve seen as many people struggle because they can’t be authentic around their boss as I have people who get ahead and then forget where they came from.

“A good starting point is to find friends who aren’t interested in what you do for a living. I still play football every week on a Thursday night [out of lockdown], and though it’s a different part of the country, they’re the same kind of friends I had 30 years ago.

“And of course as soon as you walk through the front door at home, you know you’re not the boss any more: my kids treat me with the appropriate lack of respect.”

Original article can be found here –

Leadership Lockdown Lessons

7 leadership lessons from 2020


The past year has taught me that I can actually be flexible and go with the flow and I have no doubt that I will be a better business leader as a result. By nature, I am a big planner and my style is very much to have everything organised well in advance. This year, of course, all of my best-made plans have had to change, often at the last minute. Some ideas we have just had to put on hold, while others we have managed to adjust so they could still go ahead.

I love being in control, so have found this particularly challenging. Yet, our business has survived the unimaginable disruption of 2020 and has still managed to grow. June and July have been our busiest ever months for franchisee recruitment. And on top of this, I also managed to see my friends and family and even get a holiday – all of which I probably enjoyed and savoured far more because of the uncertain path to getting there.

 Vicky Matthews, co-founder, Pink Spaghetti 


This year has shown me that I work too hard and too long, most of the time. I’ve had a tendency to burn the candle at both ends but with the lockdowns that we’ve had, the extra quiet time and the relaxation of many deadlines has meant that I have had the time and energy to think properly and get more on top of research and strategy than before.

It has taught me that I need to take more time out and that doing so does not harm my business or slow things down. In fact, it is genuinely helpful to my work – if I’m honest, I’ve known for years that I should do this but this year has just forced me to experience its benefits. In future I will aim to make sure I get out into the park and have whole days off, even in the middle of busy periods.

  Jasmine Birtles, founder and director, MoneyMagpie 


Every business has been impacted by the pandemic: some businesses have sadly disappeared, some new businesses have been born, and some have pivoted. This year has taught me how quickly we can adapt to change, and how, regardless of what is thrown at us, we can keep going and thrive. My belief is the biggest constraints breed the best creativity. The coronavirus pandemic confined us to our boxes but helped us think outside the box. We all fear change but I no longer fear it as much as I did. Change means opportunity to exercise our creative muscle, to find opportunities that were previously hidden, like the farmer who started successfully renting out his goats as special guests on video calls, funny and brilliant. Sometimes change happens slowly and sometimes quickly, however it happens, we should not fear it, we will take it in our stride and adapt. Bring it on.

  Dan Gable, founder and CEO, ShoutOut 

Find out more here.

Eddie Jones

A quick guide to being a better coach

Coaching is not the same as giving advice.

Most managers instinctively know that coaching is a good thing to do, but it’s easier not to do it for a variety of reasons:

  • Managers simply don’t have the luxury of hours of coaching time for deep, meaningful conversations with multiple direct reports.
  • They know what coaching is but feel ill-equipped to do it properly and would therefore rather not try.
  • They think that they are already coaching but they’re actually just giving advice.

So why bother? And why now particularly?

Managers act as the gatekeepers to the potential in the organisation. If managers are not releasing that potential, helping people thrive and bring their best selves to their work then what exactly are they doing?

Research points time and time again to the fact that employees who receive coaching are more likely to be engaged, feel more valued, apply more discretionary effort and are more likely to stick with the organisation.

In fact, organisations who place coaching at the centre of their culture have been shown by Bersin and Associates to have a revenue 21 per cent higher than their competition.

At a time when most employees are at home, many feeling isolated and disconnected, managers have an opportunity to do anything that can help their people feel more involved, more cared for and continuing to develop.

The good news is that it doesn’t take hours of focused training and experience to get up to speed with the most effective elements of coaching.

Here are our top tips on how to coach as a manager and reap the benefits as quickly as possible:

1. Intent matters more than expertise. Coaching needs to come from a position of trust, a lack of pre-judgement and a true belief that the individual has the potential to grow. Be open, tell them what you’re trying to do, take them on the journey with you.

2. Ask questions and listen to the answers. Great coaching questions challenge the coachee to think deeply, building their self-awareness and their ability to generate solutions. Allow silence, it gives space for deep thought and the chance to put into words vague ideas or feelings.

3. Focus on their desired outcome rather than their presenting problem. Help the coachee vividly bring to life what success looks like, what they hope to achieve and why it matters rather than wallowing in all the things that are wrong.

4. Empower individuals to try things out. We all learn through doing so be creative about how you enable your team members to experiment, make mistakes and learn within a safe environment.

5. Build your coachees’ confidence and self-belief. Grab every opportunity to demonstrate progress and highlight strengths that can be used to address challenges.

6. Avoid offering advice or direction. Let go of the need to demonstrate your expertise and experience. Your goal should be to guide them to come up with their own solutions and actions. If you feel like jumping in with your wisdom, think WAIT – ‘Why Am I Telling?’

Coaching should form a part of every conversation with team members. It takes seconds to ask a powerful, thought-provoking question and the sense of being supportively challenged will push people out of their comfort zones and reap rewards.

In every conversation with a direct report ask yourself, what can you do or say now to help the individual grow and develop?

Original article can be found here.

How anger and worry can make you a better leader

Emotions and business historically didn’t mix, at any level. Workers were supposed to be unthinking cogs in a machine; leaders were supposed to be unfeeling hands at the tiller. Since the 1980s, thankfully, there’s been a vast body of research in neuroscience, psychology, biology and organisational behaviour, showing that emotions are actually central to the life of business.

How we feel affects everything from our ability to assess risks and make decisions to how well we co-operate and communicate, how freely we think and how hard we work. The 21st century is surely a good time to be emotional at work.

When we think about useful emotions, of course, we tend to think of the cute, fluffy ones – happiness, enthusiasm, trust, courage, kindness and the like. But in so doing, are we overlooking the merits of their more venomous cousins – anger, anxiety, even hate?

‘Any highly intense emotion, whether it’s extreme enthusiasm, rage or hate, isn’t typically productive in work environments because it completely hijacks your system,’ says Michael Parke, assistant professor of organisational behaviour at London Business School.  ‘But the more common negative emotions – anxiety, stress, frustration, anger – are very good at signalling and prioritising problems.’

Read more here.


What Aristotle can teach you about leadership

2000 years ago, Aristotle, the world’s greatest philosopher, statesman and writer made a profound observation about Successful leaders.

As per Aristotle, all successful people have loads of something called koine aisthesis or sensus communis.

He describes this quality as the higher-order perception that humans uniquely possess but used properly only by a few. This acts as a kind of guide for the others, organising them as well as mobilising them in one connected perceptual apparatus.

In the Nicomachean Ethics, Aristotle defines this quality as a “master” virtue and a must for achieving success in life. He also terms this quality as phronesis, a term which combines ethics and action.

Phronesis has been interpreted in different ways, “prudence” is the most common one. But the definition that I like best is “practical wisdom.” Or “common sense”.

Let us see what Aristotle has to tell about practical wisdom-:

· Practical wisdom combines action, accompanied by reason and ethics required to prevail over a difficult situation.

· It does not depend on knowledge of the person. Rather it depends on a particular situation and a particular situation requires specific action.

· Practical wisdom is critical for decisions promoting Eudaimonia (Happiness or Leading a good life).

In a nutshell, Deliberation, Reasoning, and Action. This is the stuff of practical wisdom.

Aristotle considers this as the master virtue because this is the only virtue which keeps the other virtues in “check” or in other words, in perfect balance.

For example, too much “courage” in an impossible situation is foolishness. Similarly, Loyalty can degrade into “blind obedience” if done without thinking rationally. Likewise, too much of “self-confidence” can harden into a stubborn ego and so on.

Thus Practical wisdom “is the ability to do the right thing, at the right time, for the right reason.”

And In Book 6 of the Nicomachean Ethics, Aristotle lays out the skills and attributes a leader needs to develop in order to become practically wise.

Know your objective

Businesses form teams to achieve an objective that improves the quality of a service or product, reduces waste, or removes inefficiencies in a process. Successful teams have a strong leader who can guide the group toward the objective or goal.

The goals of the leader must align with the objective of the project and lead the team toward its mission.

Always remember a leader who does not understand his objective can never attain practical wisdom in it.

Understand the Perception.

Once in a while, businesses will encounter emergency situations that often need quick action. These moments are understandably challenging, as their outcomes largely depend on the leading capabilities of the leader in charge.

And this is precisely what Aristotle meant when he tells us that practical wisdom depends on a particular situation and a particular situation requires specific action.

To know how to act in a particular situation, we need to deftly perceive and understand the circumstances before us. What are the facts in this case? What’s the history here? How do others feel about it?

Successful leaders tailor their responses accordingly to the situation in hand and turn the tables deftly.

Seek the Truth

Great leaders are truth seekers. It enables them to deal with facts and act in the best interest of their business and their people.

And Aristotle believed that an understanding of absolute truth was necessary in order to be practically wise. Absolute truths act as boundaries for us while we exercise practical wisdom.

Understanding absolutes require an informed intellect. This gives us the necessary data to slice and dice and come up with a meaningful decision which ultimately brings Eudaimonia to all.

Learn from Experience

In the Nicomachean Ethics, Aristotle states that “practical wisdom is also of particulars, which come to be known as a result of experience, but a young person is inexperienced: a long period of time creates experience.

Aristotle firmly believed that practical wisdom could only be gained through experience. He often likened practical wisdom to a skill like carpentry or masonry. You can’t just read a book about carpentry and expect to become a master carpenter.

You become more and more practically wise, the more situations you face. And with every situation you face, you gain more experience, either good or bad. And this cumulative experience is the key to success.

You learn from your experiences and make informed right decisions.

Play the Devil’s advocate and then act on it.

According to Aristotle, “the person skilled in identifying multiple options would in general also be practically wise.” The heart of practical wisdom is deliberation.

Practical wisdom requires that we deliberate with ourselves the best course of action to take in a given situation. It’s a skill that we become more adept at through experience.

And Of course, all the reasoning and deliberation would be a waste of time if we do not Act on it. Over and over again in the Nicomachean Ethics, Aristotle states that “practical wisdom is bound up with action.”

It’s not enough to know what the correct thing to do is, you must actually do it.

Why is Common Sense So Important?

As organisations have become more complex, specialised, and bureaucratic, the opportunity to exercise practical wisdom has increasingly been replaced with reliance on rules, regulations, and incentives to achieve our goals. But rules don’t always work as intended.

However, Successful leaders always ensure that while rules and processes should be powerful enough to command discipline and commitment, but at the same time, they should be flexible and nimble to act effectively in unforeseen or unusual circumstances.

And this Flexibility to adapt comes from common sense. Common sense thus is a form of practical decision-making and the ability to imagine the consequences of something you do. It stops us from making irrational mistakes and makes it easier to make choices on what to do.

And we aren’t born with common sense, we develop it over time and with repeated practice.

As Aristotle has rightly said:

Men acquire a particular quality by constantly acting in a particular way.

Original story can be found here.

Fail well

Fail well: How to handle business mistakes

Looking at how companies deal with mistakes is like staring deep into their souls. Corporations that emphasise culture seem to take failure in their stride, while everyone else falls flat on their faces. Suppose your employee was trying to do something great, and instead failed. What if that mistake cost you money or a client account? How would your organisation deal with that? Assuming you cringed at this scenario, here are 10 ways you could handle mistakes positively – and suck a lot less.

1. We’ve got your back

One of the gleaming examples of how to deal with failure comes from Southwest Airlines. When I interviewed Southwest’s director of people Shari Perez-Conaway and VP of people Julie Weber on my radio show, they revealed a startling party line on the issue. If employees truly believe they are doing what is best for the customer and slip up, the airline has their backs. Southwest will retrain or coach staff – not punish them – toward better solutions.

2. Culture of learning

Does your company view mistakes as part of the learning process? Or are they weapons of shame and grounds for demotion or dismissal? Leverage a perception shift by accepting that to err is human and necessary to growth and improvement. Being prepared for mistakes helps companies face the inevitable. It leads to flexible and creative thinking, sometimes prompting breakthroughs and successes that would otherwise never have happened. Making mistakes should be tied to learning, not shaming.

3. Mistakes vs errors

When formulating policy on failure, it is important to distinguish between mistakes and errors. Mistakes, as in the Southwest Airlines example, are about trying to do something good or awesome and not quite making it. New, bold, or innovative acts are risky but can pay off with practice. Errors, on the other hand, are dumb moves that should be caught, fixed, and not repeated. If a clerk keeps miscalculating payroll time and again, that employee might need to go.

Read more here.

When should your Star Performer be given the boot?

Last week Harlequins Rugby parted company with Marland Yarde – the England International flying wing. A player who has very impressive stats – 31 tries from 100 first class matches and 8 tries from 13 test matches. He is a 6ft power house of a player and when seen playing for Quins always gives his all. Why therefore have they given him the boot?

Well you only have to hear from his current and former team mates Chris Robshaw and Ugo Moyne.

Chris Robshaw said “Harlequins is in a ‘better place’ without the winger.”

Ugo Monye said “Over the past few years, Marland’s off-field behaviour has not been in line with the core values, culture and beliefs of Harlequins, and that is what has led to this decision being made’’.

It is often very difficult for organisations to know what to do if there so called star performers play up.

Most teams whether in the sporting arena or in the business arena have to come to terms that they will have a collection of personalities fulfilling different roles. On top of this many will be on different pay scales.

It is key for organisations that they create an environment for high performance as well as creativity.

When I played at Saracens I shared a dressing room with three of the most iconic Rugby Players who ever played – Francois Pienaar, Phillip Sella and Michael Lynagh. We may have shared the same dressing room and played on the same pitch but I obviously knew they were being paid a hell of a lot more money than me for that privilege.

Did I have an issue with this – of course not. They all for one were revered players who have proved themselves World Class players. Two were World Cup winners and the other at the time the most capped international in the world with 111 caps.  Any recruitment company would tell you for World Class performers you need to pay top dollar.

The other reason I did not have an issue was they were absolute professional in the way they went about their business. Not only did they work hard – never late always early to training, putting in extra time to practice core skills – but also as senior team members they spent time with other members and set the standard and lead from the front.

Take Marland Yarde – he is a top earner at properly around £350K per year and at 25 years and given his experience certainly should be seen as becoming a senior pro. As a senior pro within the team therefore comes great responsibility. It is no good just turning up and doing the bear minimum – senior pros need to lead, set the example and bring an organisation values to life.

One thing any organisation or team cannot do or should ever tolerate is any senior pros falling below the standards and values expected of your team or organisation. If they do ‘give them the boot’ or else be prepared for a decline in your culture and performance.

Often in teams we speak about ‘values’ and ‘team trade marks’. Teams should agree and fulfill their values and how they expect each other to behave. They need to show each other the mutual respect and live up to them. Again failure to abide by this should lead to the individual being performance managed.

Unfortunately Marland fell short and Quins quite rightly decided they needed to move on.

For more information on Leadership and Team Performance visit our website

Leadership development

Leadership development is stuck in the dark ages

Today’s bosses need better help to deal with new technologies, working practices and generational shift.

The modern workplace has become complex, volatile and unpredictable. The skills needed for great leadership have dramatically changed and include intelligent behaviours, adaptive thinking and emotional intelligence. However, the methods being used to develop our leaders have not really changed at all.

Bosses are facing increasing challenges – information overload, complex and competing objectives, new technologies that disrupt old work practices and the associated differing values and expectations of new generations entering the workplace. Not to mention increased globalisation and the need to lead and build effective teams across cultures.

Still primarily developed through on-the-job experiences, training, coaching and ‘360-degree’ feedback, our leaders are simply not developing fast enough or in the right ways to match the new environment. Supported by a growing belief among senior executives and up and coming talent that the leadership programs they are attending are insufficient, we need to completely redefine our approach to developing the leaders of tomorrow.

The renowned business thinker Marshall Goldsmith has commented, ‘Many of our leadership programs are based on the faulty assumption that if we show people what to do, they can automatically do it.’

However, there is a difference between knowing what “good” leadership looks like and being able to do it. We have arrived at a point where we face diminishing returns from teaching managers more about leadership, when they still have little understanding about what is required for real development to occur.

Read more here.