Leadership Conversations – Part 3 of 3

Leadership is Embodied

For many of us Leadership is most obviously needed in formal situations – presentations, team meetings and appraisals. For example, when presenting we probably spend a long time ensuring that our slides are really slick and that we know exactly what to say. Unfortunately, most people will not take much notice of all of this preparation. What they’ll be noticing is whether they find you credible, convincing and compelling. They’ll be making this judgement, not based on what you say, but about how you say it and who you are while you’re saying it! This will also be true of all of the informal conversations that you’re having as well.

When we can combine our thinking, our emotions and our body into a cohesive whole, we are able to Embody Leadership. Our thoughts determine how we respond to a situation and the emotions that result. Our emotions determine how our brain behaves in terms of what chemicals it releases in to our system. These chemicals can be positive or negative, for instance of we think about failure, we might become fearful, and this will release our ‘flight’ chemicals. If we think we’re under attack in a meeting, we may feel angry and this will release the ‘fight’ chemicals into our body. These chemicals have physiological impacts and change the way we sound and look. Both of these situations can lead to feedback loops that inhibit our ability to perform at our best.

What is less well-know is that how we hold our body, also has an impact on the brain. Our posture and our breathing, both have an impact in how we feel and how we’re perceived. For example a recent scientific study measured how certain postures reduced the amount of cortisol (hormone often linked to feelings of stress) released into the system by 25%!

When we are physically centred, upright and aligned we feel and look our best. This positive posture is a means for you to be authentically and uniquely you. This body, when combined with a skilful and consistent way of thinking and behaving will enable you to be an effective leader in your organisation, no matter what the role.

… is not a position in the hierarchy … exists at every Level in the organisation
… is not about authority … is everyone’s responsibility
… is not about delving into the negative … is about exploring what’s possible
… is not about telling people what to do … is about painting a picture of success that you and your team can contribute to
… is not about reductionist thinking … is about connection and exploring the ‘adjacent possible’
… is not just about formal events … should flow into every conversation
… is not about cold facts … should tap into the emotions of your people
… is not about blame or witch-hunts … is about finding stories that demonstrate the values, purpose and vision of the team or organisation
… is not just about the message … is an embodied reflection of how you think, feel and behave

We’d love to hear your thoughts…..





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Leadership in Every Conversation – Part 2 of 3

Leadership is about possibility
Going back to Bill and Julie at the coffee machine, what do we talk about? Well, we can talk about what they’ve been doing recently, what they’re about to do and about how it feeds the picture of success that we then paint together. We link the resources at their disposal to the relevant skills they have. We create a bond between their values and the purpose of the team. It’s no accident that the word ‘Vision’ relates to something that you can see!
So every conversation is an opportunity to lead a colleague, a member of your team, or even your boss to a state of possibility.

Leadership is about connection
So if leadership isn’t about hierarchy anymore and it’s also not about telling people what to do, what is it about?
Unfortunately, many of us are still caught up in the reductionist thinking about people and organisations that was popular at the time of the industrial revolution. We see situations as a combination of linear causes and effects. If I do this, then that will happen. Fortunately people are not linear, remember we’re unique! That’s why we can be so creative.
If we want to bring all of our people into the workplace then we will need to think and act differently. We want to encourage people to make new connections, to see patterns where there were none before. As a Leader this means being able to create the conditions where questions are just questions and not personal attacks, where mistakes are seen as a means of learning something new and where differences of opinion are valued as a source of creativity.
Anyone who has ever seen an episode of the medical drama ‘House’ will recognise that complex medical problems are identified and treated through a diagnosis process that is dependent on open dialogue, conflict and team-members making new connections. This space, also known as ‘the adjacent possible’ can only be reached if we are prepared to explore the boundaries of our thinking, to challenge the habits that have gradually become the way of doing things around here. As human beings we’re designed to take short-cuts (can you remember the last time you had to think about driving your car?) and in many cases this is useful to us. However, in the changing face of world business, our old habits will stop us making the break-throughs that will propel the business into the future.

Leadership is about emotion
I remember being told when I started work that we need to keep emotion out of the workplace. That would be fine if all we needed was an automaton, but that’s not enough anymore. We need motivation, passion and inspiration! We are emotional creatures and it’s our emotions that bring energy to our work. Motivation comes from our values being fed. If we value relationships, we’ll be energised every time we have an opportunity to engage with someone. Passion comes from our sense of purpose; if we’re passionate about service, we’ll relish the opportunity to serve someone well. Inspiration comes from our vision of the future; if we’re making that vision a reality in some way, we’ll be inspired by doing so.



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Leadership in Every Conversation – Part 1 of 3

Leadership in every conversation:

When we were children at school, we were taught about the great leaders in history and we learned how these special individuals managed to change the world through their actions. At that time very few of us will have put ourselves in the same category as these amazing people…  and yet most of us now find ourselves in leadership roles: in our families, our communities and our organisations.

But I’m not a leader

So how do we learn to see ourselves as leaders? An easy thing to do is to replace the judgement ‘special’ and replace it with the completely accurate ‘unique’. Each of us has an opportunity to make a difference in the world by bringing forth what is truly unique about us. As Martha Graham famously said:

‘There is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all of time, this expression is unique.’

That’s all very well, but what does that mean for me, talking to Bill and Julie at the coffee machine on Monday morning?!!

Leadership isn’t about hierarchy

Well, leadership is no longer just a position in the hierarchy. For organisations to thrive in such tumultuous times, we need all of the talent and energy of all of our people. That means that leadership must exist at every level in the organisation; everyone taking responsibility for their bit, no matter how small.

The key thing here is responsibility, not necessarily authority. We want people to feel the kind of responsibility that energises them, that excites them and makes them want to come to work in the morning. It’s the kind of responsibility we feel when we think about our loved ones or a cherished project in our community. It’s the kind of responsibility that makes us feel bigger. This is separate from authority. We might have some authority for resources and budgets too, but responsibility can flourish whether authority exists or not.

Leadership is about responsibility

How do we get people to feel this kind of responsibility? Well it’s definitely not by commanding them to have it! Leadership is not about telling people what to do, but about painting a picture of how each individual contributes to the wider picture of success for the team, department or business. This doesn’t mean being able to spout verbatim the vision from the company brochure either. This is about having such a clear picture of success, that it can help us navigate ourselves through the situations that arise during the day, difficult or not.

For example, if our picture of success is about service, then we’ll know what great service will look like. We’ll know the values that support great service and the beliefs that underpin and provide substance to how we behave with customers. The same would be true if our picture of success was about an exquisite delivery process or how we can discharge a healthy patient.

Coming soon – part 2 of 3


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Coaches Must Master Energy

There is a new imperative for coaches – and that is to help leaders and managers understand how to release the energy of their people and their teams.

I’m talking here about that sort of energy that’s characterised by people’s full engagement in work, by the momentum that becomes apparent when employees bring a positive attitude to work, and by the vibrancy that exists within an organisation when energy is flowing freely. Indeed, it is my contention that there is nothing as important to a leader as their awareness of energy and their ability to help that energy to flow.

Their success or failure should be judged on nothing less than whether there is more or less energy coursing through the organisation as a result of their leadership tenure.

Expert coaching can help leaders and managers to appreciate the impact of energy in the workplace, but let us start here by ensuring that we’re clear about the different forms of energy that manifest at work.

Energy at work

‘Can do’ energy – The first type of energy that people always bring to work is one that is very familiar and which we can identify as physical energy. This is the energy that gets people to work in the mornings and that they use to fulfil their tasks and their projects.

But leaders and managers can’t rely on this ‘can do’ energy alone. On its own, it is limited. You can compare it to running a race; after a time your muscles get tired, your body needs a rest, and if this is your only source of energy your performance will, in time, tail off.

Coaches must master energy

I liken leaders and coaches who get used to looking for and addressing such blocks of energy within their organisations as practitioners of verbal acupuncture. Acupuncturists believe that all the energy that anyone needs is available to them at all times. It’s their task to release it by stimulating the necessary pressure points. A leader or coach can follow exactly the same practice, except that in their case – instead of acupuncture needles – they can use skilful questions and directed conversations with those people who have responsibility in the areas in which the energy is stuck. These are Leadership Conversations.

Coaches and energy awareness

Finally, turning my attention to the coach. When coaches are working with leaders and managers – either on a 1:1 basis or providing input to teams – their own awareness of energy and their skills in knowing how to release it are critical.

There are some coaches who have begun to build an appreciation of the role of energy at work but this is, in truth, a new and emerging area. For people to become masters in working with energy, it is my experience that they need to learn and practise how to pay exquisite attention to what’s happening in the present as well as to what is important.

There is, I believe, no one way in which this awareness should be developed. In my own life the way I became aware of the power of energy was through my practice as a student and then teacher of karate-do – a discipline which has provided me with some wonderful ways of understanding how energy is directly applicable to individuals, teams and businesses. The practice of karate-do continually confronts the student with both their potential and their self-imposed limits. It teaches physical, mental and emotional skills and encourages practitioners at all times to be clear about their purpose as well as to live in, and enjoy, the present. And it’s exactly this level of deep attention and truth seeking that coaches need to use with their clients.

So how can you develop your mastery in this area? If you’re a coach reading this, then it’s your task to develop such profound skills on which you can draw to help your clients. You don’t need to be an expert in karate, but you will, I believe, need to have practised some discipline that, as a minimum, has taught you how to be congruent, has shown you how to be aware of your own energy alignment, and has developed your ability to ask those simple but incisive questions that help your clients to unlock the flow of their energy.

To exemplify the point that energy is not the province of coaching but can be drawn from any discipline, let me finish with a quote by Martha Graham, the dancer and choreographer, who had great insights into the role of energy at work and who spoke very clearly about it. Her area of expertise was, of course, one where the expression of energy was everything and where it had an immediate impact on the audience.

She said:

“There is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening, that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and will be lost.”

It’s my conviction that, in our own ways, we are all looking to express ourselves creatively; we all want our energy to flow. The coach who is committed to helping people achieve this aim is already working with the grain and is in touch with the deepest of human ambitions.

How energised or inspired do you feel at work?

Colin Reeve founder of RA,  Leadership Expert & Speaker, Author & Karate Master



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Achieving Goals

Professor Richard Wiseman, in his book 59 Seconds, shares the results of his large scale scientific study into the psychology of motivation. The research showed the following 5 tools are the ones that significantly increases the likelihood of people successfully achieving their goals.

Have a plan and break it down into a series of sub-goals which helps remove fear and hesitation. Stating your aim is the start but does not by itself lead to success; by explaining how you intend to achieve your goa, makes success much more likely. Make the sub-goals concrete, measurable and time based.

Tell others about your goal – friends, family or colleagues. Making a public commitment makes us more likely to stick to our goals, less likely to slip back into old habits and also gain support from those we have included.

Remind yourself of the benefits associated with achieving your goals: having an objective check list of how things will be better once you have obtained your aim. Focus on the positive benefits of realising your goals, not the negative aspects of not changing.

Attach a reward to each of your sub-goals will give you something to look forward to and provide a sense of achievement.

Express your goals in writing – make your plans, progress, benefits and rewards as concrete as possible and then write them down. This will significantly boost your chances of success.

If you’d like more information about RA’s leadership conversations tools and workshop and helping others to realise success, click here





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The Real Impact of a Powerful Posture

Scientific article showing the hormonal impact of a powerful posture, increasing confidence and reducing stress. Simply holding one’s body in expansive, “high-power” poses for as little as two minutes stimulates higher levels of testosterone (the hormone linked to power and dominance in the animal and human worlds) and lower levels of cortisol (the “stress” hormone that can, over time, cause impaired immune functioning, hypertension, and memory loss)., click here

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The Delusions of Leadership

The 3 Delusions of Leadership
We all have the capacity to influence, inspire and empower others. Unfortunately Leaders often get in their own way. In this post you will learn to let go of the three dis-empowering delusions and discover that Leadership is easy.

Delusion 1: Leadership is difficult and only exists in the gifted few
It is often suggested that Leadership is difficult and that it is the preserve of the naturally gifted. This can be said about many things that require a high level of skill. For example, the naturally gifted athlete finds acquiring the skills to improve their performance easier than their counterparts.
However, there are of course different levels of attainment within each field. For example in sport there may be club, county, national, international, world class performance. An individual may start with a different level of talent, but each and every individual can improve their performance at their level through training and practice. This is Leadership at Every Level [link to BBC clip] and is a pre-requisite for successful organisations in today’s unparalleled business environment.

Delusion 2: The delusion of ‘Self’
When a leader believes that they are important and take themselves too seriously, they get in their own way. Leaders need to awaken to the fact that it is only through others that extraordinary performance can be achieved. Extraordinary performance cannot be commanded, it can only be given. The leader must therefore act as a conduit for the potential of others, removing any obstacles that prevent the team from realising their shared vision of success.

Delusion 3: What I did yesterday is good enough for tomorrow
In many of the organisations in which we work, Leaders and Managers have somehow found themselves as the custodians of ‘the way things are done around here’.
The truth is that to thrive and survive, leaders cannot stand still. They must continue to develop themselves and their abilities, consistently establishing a new ‘personal best’ for every aspect of their performance.
The problem compounded
It is very hard to be successful in something if we’re continually telling ourselves the reasons why it is impossible. Blended together, these 3 delusions allow us to keep the same… telling us that we can’t change, yet we exist in a world where change is constant.

The solution: Culture not Cult
In this turbulent white water business environment we need to move away from a cult of leadership to a culture of leadership; a culture in which everyone takes responsibility for their performance and their part, (no matter how small) of the organisation. To do this we will have to accept that there are different levels of leadership and that leadership skill and behaviour will need to be developed and honed in everyone.
Leaders need to translate leadership philosophy into behaviour and get past the delusion of difficulty. This is the first magical step when the leader transfers leading from mind to muscle, from idea to action – not just understanding leadership, but being a leader. By doing this they liberate themselves and their people to achieve not just high performance, but authentic, natural and healthy high performance.

What do you think?
Tell us of someone you know who is a leader without the job title

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