I have always avoided playing golf. For some reason it just doesn't appeal to me. I much prefer the rough and tumble of team sports.
In my role of developing leaders it got to the point where I was being asked too often to play golf to avoid playing. All those charity and corporate events – you get the picture. Not being competitive at all I decided I needed to learn quickly how to play so I could win! I duly booked into a local golf club with the local professional who I had been told was the best in my area. Fantastic, I thought.
I duly turned up, and as I was wearing all the wrong gear, we decided to start my lessons on the driving range. Clearly I wasn’t dressed right to go on the course. Graham, “See that red flag right in front of you, it is 275 yards away. I want you to take a seven iron and hit the ball as close to the flag as possible.”
I thought what is a seven iron? Luckily I spotted the numbers stamped into the clubs. I took my seven iron and decided to be Rory McIlroy. I wiggled my bum a bit and hit the ball. To my amazement it went straight towards the red flag and finished rolling about 15 yards away. Cool, I thought!
Feeling proud of myself my coach said, “Now let me show you how to hit a ball and play golf.” No well done, just let me tell you. He went on to tell me everything about grip, approaching the ball, my foot positioning, knees, hips, swing, the lot. I then spent the rest of the lesson not being able to hit a ball.
Moral of the story is to take one step at a time. In elite teams and elite sport they regularly talk about making a 1% difference.
We shouldn’t try to change everything about how we lead in one go. That would be a disaster like my golf. We need to take a step-by-step approach. As Dave Brailsford from Sky says, “Go for marginal gains.”
To start off with, I recommend the four stage process to improve leadership skills and regain your leadership power that I use in my leadership workout book, Leadership Laid Bare! The naked truth of GREAT leadership.
Step 1: Creating and Managing your Leadership Brand
One of the first steps to improve leadership skills is creating a leadership brand. You need to know what you stand for as a leader and who you are, and so do the people around you. It is important to remember it is a journey – it evolves. It helps you to achieve clarity and supports your decision making. Explore your strengths and build a leadership brand based on your authentic self.
Richard Branson, entrepreneur and the founder of Virgin, is clear about who he is and his strengths. His stated philosophy is “to have fun in my journey through life and learn from my mistakes.” Branson shared his personal mission statement in an interview with Motivated magazine. He added that “In business, know how to be a good leader and always try to bring out the best in people. It’s very simple: listen to them, trust in them, believe in them, respect them, and let them have a go!”
Here is the process I teach and share in Leadership Laid Bare!.
Step 2: Living the New Leadership Manifesto
Based on the New Leadership Manifesto outlined in Leadership Laid Bare!, make a personal commitment to live and breathe it.
Step 3: Building and Using Your Leadership Toolkit
This is the toolkit I share in Leadership Laid Bare!.
Step 4: Crafting Solutions
I always remember my early military education, mainly because it was consequential as my life depended on it. One of the many principles that stuck in my mind was that your plan is always useless because when you come in contact with the enemy you have no idea what is going to happen. Your plan will become rapidly redundant.
We were trained in managing these ‘dislocated expectations’ through having the right open and agile mindset, focussing on the process of the solution, and empowering people to make decisions on the ground. As a leader you ensure the ‘why’ is in place and then enable success.
This thinking has evolved to my present day approach where I am completely convinced that as a leader we need to craft solutions.
Crafting in my mind evokes a whole new image compared to the traditional “we must have a detailed plan and ‘stick to it’ thinking”. Crafting is about thinking and doing skills, emotion, mastery, dedication, collaboration, pride, greatness, and being your best. When you master this way of ‘thinking and doing’ you will be amazed at your results.
Crafting in a leadership context is where you design a process using a range of tools along the way to solve a problem, or grab an opportunity before starting to tackle it. In a way it helps you to speed up by slowing down. You then implement your process making changes every step of the way as the information unfolds.
The best way to learn this is to do it for real, so let me share an example. Then you can take one of your challenges and have a go.
Let’s say I’m a Project Manager and I need to get more buy-in for my project and gain more funding to make it happen.
How might I approach this? I could just get busy and hold lots of meetings and try and influence people, and then tell them again, and then again being a little louder and slower – or I could use a crafted solution.
Example Crafted Solution for a Project Funding Challenge
In order to:
Engage the Board in my idea and secure more funding to implement the changes I need for my project
1. Sell idea of a meeting to the Board – use the DRIVERS(CAP) Tool to formulate board paper and show what is missing and consequences.
2. Have a meeting with the Board – build a business case by asking what are the implications of not doing it and the benefits of doing it? Show how the idea fits to the strategy. Determine blockers and brainstorm solutions using the Radiant Problem Solving method.
3. Build an action plan – Use the Game Plan Tool to create a plan.
So there you have it, a four stage process to regain your personal leadership power. Let me know how you get on and keep learning. Here's a final thought for you:
Interested in taking your leadership skills to the next level? Sign up to our two-day Leadership Athlete Masterclass. You'll learn how to craft a winning leadership stategy to achieve extraordinary results.