When I am coaching or running a leadership course, one of my first questions to you is “what does leadership mean to you?”. Often the responses leant more toward what a “good manager” looks like, as opposed to a “leader”. Whilst most people have a leaning or preference towards either management or leadership, it pays to understand what the terms mean. Simply put, management is about the operational and tactical business of day-to-day organisational life; it focuses on making sure tasks are done, process followed, results measured, and adjustments made when necessary. Done well, this creates an engaged team, by which I mean the person managing does not just focus on task and process but equally on ensuring people are engaged. Leadership is future focused, about establishing vision and inspiring, motivating and empowering others to move in a collaborative way towards that vision. Engaging people is even more important here because people will not change, in a sustainable and enduring way, unless they want to.

Engagement makes the difference to both effective management or leadership. Engagement has been shown by organisations, such as Gallup and reported in academic journals, to increase profit, improve productivity, and stimulate innovation; who would not want that result? At an intellectual and rational level engagement, on the surface, looks easy to understand: get people involved and listen to them so they contribute and buy in to what they do and how they do it. It is so easy though to miss the cultural context and its impact on engagement. It is also easy to feel that because you have bought intellectually into “creating engagement”, that you are actually engaging; unfortunately that is not necessarily the case.

My research looks at different mindsets. Let me give you an example of how a culture and a particular mindset, very prevalent in organisations, gets in the way of the ambition to lead change and stimulate engagement; this mindset is called “the Deliverer”. The Deliverer likes a challenge and to make things happen. Once they have a plan of action, they persevere to make sure they, and their teams, deliver on promises made. As long as they are left to get on with it, Deliverers are a fulfilled group of people. They often have operational and project roles because “they get things done”. Sounds great, doesn’t it! The trouble is the shadow this mindset can cast, compounded when they are not sufficiently self-ware.

Deliverers mostly realise the importance of working with others and try and form positive relationships in order to get the project or task done. When they lack self-awareness, the Deliverers are focused mainly on the task and people tend to come a poor second. That becomes an issue when there are unrealistic deadlines, people have performed at a high rate of activity for a long time, when personal issues such as well-being problems or illness start to crop up. My mental image, of Deliverers that cast a more negative shadow is of enthusiastic go getters leading with courage from the front, but who fail to realise they are losing people along the way because they are not listening and pay sufficient attention.

So a Deliverer who either has not got the self awareness and or gets completely focused on just the can look highly toxic. We all know it takes a while to build a good reputation but it only takes a few events to also ruin one. When you overplay strengths, as Deliverers have the habit of doing, people get burned out and left behind. Or even worse can feel bullied and pushed into situations they increasingly cannot sustain. When Deliverers have great self-awareness they can be fantastic to work with; they pay attention, adjust schedules and deadlines, and remember to take the time to listen to others.

Each mindset casts a slightly different shadow, but each mindset has distinct similarities which makes my role in supporting you to develop easier as there are recognisable ways to develop people to be the best they can. For most of us, it is not our good days we need to worry about, it’s the days when we experience stress, are tired and perhaps not that well, or when we are just plain too busy. People will judge you on these days and learn to read you and your habits when you are not at your best. They start to disengage from you if they recognise the warning signs, and put off conversation if they can, until you are in a better place. The signs of a leader under stress are usually easy to spot, shutting the office door more, changing or cutting meetings, shorter temper etc.

If you cast a more negative shadow, perversely that shadow looks bigger and darker to others than it is in reality. The shadow we cast if more negative is often accidental caused more by lack of emotional intelligence than a deliverate strategy. In general most people do not come in to work to ruin someone else’s day. If we all focused more on our own and others well-being this would help develop the skills required to truly deliver great engagement.

Here are some questions to get you thinking about the shadow you cast:

• When you are stressed or busy, what do you do more or less of?
• How long will you listen to someone before you get concerned that you need to get onto the next thing?
• If someone is struggling how much patience do you have in helping them find their way back to wellness?

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Get in touch with me today and let’s start the journey together.  If you want further information about the general coaching programmes please see the attached coaching brochure 2

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