What Colour are YOU?

We are all driven by values - they form the foundation of our lives.

Values act as a lens through which we interpret the world, and if you are a leader, they interpret how you judge those you lead.   

Your values will influence your decisions about people; who you promote and the kinds of activities you believe are worthy of your time.

Despite this importance, few leaders choose to understand and shape their values.  Instead, they allow them to sit in the background, unannounced, unseen, making judgements and colouring their decisions.

Values are established early in life; how your parents interacted with you, the rewards you received from the people in your social circle and how you achieved success.

Most people simply adopt the values of their parents and the dominant values of the society they grew up in. The values that you built as a child remain with you in adult life. Some may serve you well, while others – not so much.

As a leader, it is important that you understand values; yours and those of your team members, because the behaviours you see in your team are products of how values interact.  

To create a symphonic leadership team, you must start by exploring the values held by everyone on your team.

Start with yourself:

  • What words describe your values?
  • What beliefs are linked to each value?
  • What behaviours demonstrate your values?

For example, a leader who values Creativity believes that ideas can solve any problem, and often uses workshops and open-ended conversations to find solutions.   (UNICORNS)

In contrast, a leader who values Control believes that structure provides the foundation for success and often uses systems and processes to create solutions.  (EAGLES)

A leader who values Collaboration believes that teams are the best way to find solutions and will put teams together to resolve problems, creating flexible organisations with loose reporting lines.  (DOLPHINS)

Whereas a leader who values Competition believes in getting things done and uses goals and deadlines to drive performance. (TIGERS)

You can use this link to discover your dominant value. http://apps.makinggreatleaders.com/cvf/index/duet

Once you have discovered your values, help your team members do the same.   Then have each person share their values and ask their teammates to listen and look for the obvious common values – these provide a foundation for trust.  

Once the team understand where they naturally connect, they can work to mine the differences. When opposite values exist, so does the possibility for innovation.  

Looking at problems through different lenses gives the team a more holistic understanding of complex problems and usually leads to better solutions.

What are YOU doing to improve the culture inside your team?


What is the biggest LEADERSHIP challenge great leaders face head on?

It's time to think again.


A simple experiment uncovers this challenge every time.

Set an almost impossible problem scenario and then set your leaders up to fail. To do this, you have them answer the scenario alone. This builds the first barrier, ” I think my answers are right or almost right.” This psychological pneumonia studied and explained skillfully by Daniel Kahneman, in his work, highlights the struggle we all have separating intuition from logic.

Barrier one is created by the assumption that our intuitive answer is correct.

In my experiment, I then help leaders build barrier number two; confirmation. Working with one or two others I ask them to share their answers and agree on the new right answer. This kicks-off a process of trading, logical arguments, made up facts, and some coercion. This small group has now reinforced that they are “mostly right”.

Because the intuitive part of your mind is a lot more powerful than you may think, we quickly defend our assertions and develop “Logic” to support them – in the blink of an eye.

In his book How we know what isn’t so, Thomas Gilovich walks us through the process we use to reinforce our assumptions and biases and he shares strategies to overcome this natural way of thinking.

In my experiment, it only takes two steps and about 30 minutes to create factions. When the smaller groups are asked to work in a larger team to come up with the right solution they spend almost all of their energy trying to convince the other side that their answers are right and little energy exploring possibilities.

When one person within the group is the actual leader, i.e. the senior ranking officer, they often use positional power to force a conclusion, which, in many cases, resembles their first answer. They will then create the logic to support their actions and not waste time on reflecting on what just happened.

Most of us like to think we are not that kind of leader. That we are capable of making rational decisions, listening to other’s views and taking them onboard. The fact is we rely on our gut instinct and then create the logic to support this. Not always a bad thing.

However, left unchecked it can create an enormous blind spot that blocks out the intellect and innovations that only teams can generate. When we hold that our beliefs, judgements and opinions are based on solid reasoning we put ourselves and our organisations in peril.

It’s time to think again.

Subscribe to learn more on maintaining a leadership mindset.  My next pod cast is coming soon…..

Good reads are:

Thinking, Fast and Slow

Thinking, Fast and Slow by [Kahneman, Daniel]

Prof Daniel Kahneman, from Princeton University, started a revolution in our understanding of the human mind. It’s a revolution that led to him winning a Nobel Prize.

How we know what isn’t so.

How We Know What Isn't So: Fallibility of Human Reason in Everyday Life by [Gilovich, Thomas]
Thomas Gilovich
His research focuses on everyday human judgment: How do people assess what they and others are like, what the future has in store, and what events in the past “really mean”?

What Makes you a Great Leader?

What is leadership? Do a search and you will find endless definitions, but we think it is simple. Being a great leader is the ability to motivate yourself and others.

However, you cannot be a great leader on your own.

Napoleon’s leadership crystalised into using the best talent available. Until the French Revolution the aristos were keeping all the jobs for themselves, but once the guillotining was done and dusted, the doors were open for anyone who had something to offer. The French legal, education and social systems were founded in his short reign as Emperor.

He had the ability to lead but also the confidence to listen.

Knowing why you want to be a leader is a good place for you to start. So ask yourself these questions:

  • Why do I want to lead?
  • How will my life improve if I am a better leader?
  • How will my work improve?
  • How will my home life get better?
  • What are my measurements for success?
  • Who will I be leading?
  • What barriers will I overcome?
  • What parts of my personality do I want to be strengthened?

Leadership involves the practical and the emotional. Being there first, to meetings, to ideas, to innovations. Having empathy and understanding that those that want leadership need to be encouraged rather than bossed in the old fashioned way.

Most of all Leadership comes from being open. The confidence to say “I don’t know – tell me!”, the ability to say “Let’s try that” and the humility to realise “They are better at this task than I am.”

Leading a company, division or team needs the same skills. Your success comes from their success, your confidence grows as theirs does too and your empathy makes them want to do more for you. Once you have got there, you can truly call yourself a Leader.

To take the path to be a Great Leader – why not find out more about the Breakthrough Development Programme in October in London here

Which company would you like to lead – Apple or Samsung?

Two great companies - two very different leadership styles...

Tim Cook is the leader at Apple. He is up there alongside Bill Gates and Jeff Bezos as a famous tech leader. He had the unenviable task of replacing perhaps the most admired and loved innovator of the past 50 years, Steve Jobs.

This week he has had the enjoyable task of telling the stock market that Apple has delivered above expectations, always a welcome message for investors. They are seeing double-digit growth in almost every market, and their latest iPhone X has not sold quite as many, but they are getting a better price. The elasticity of demand in action.

Meanwhile, Samsung has seen a decline in their sales of the direct competitor for the iPhone, the Galaxy S9. Who announced it? Samsung. Not a person, but the company, Not one person but “executives” are quoted.

I Googled the same question about each brand. Who Leads Apple/Samsung. Look at the results.


The Apple results show the people, the Samsung results show leads.

What we are seeing is a difference in leadership, culture and branding. The leadership in Apple is visible. They are easy to find. They are also prepared to carry the can. If Apple makes a bad move, the shareholders will be gunning for people they can see. But they are also cheering and clapping those people when they make the right decisions, and Apple make more right than wrong moves.

You can find out who is the leader of Samsung if you dig about a bit, and in South Korea, they are public figures (particularly as one, Lee Jae-yong is in the slammer for corruption).

There are two types of leadership going on here. The visible, responsible, engaged, public leader that is Tim Cook, and the invisible and corporate leadership of Samsung.

If you were given a choice of leading either company, which would you select? There is no right or wrong, it might be that your personality suits one more than the other. You might be thrilled by the opportunity to stand on stage and get wowed to the rafters, or that might be the last thing you ever want to do.

Leaders do not have to fit one category of person, but they do need to decide what type of leader they will be. Breakthrough Leadership Coaching helps you uncover your strengths and how to maximise them to be the best leader you can be. Working with Tim Taylor and a small cohort of fellow leaders, you will be given the tools to lead effectively.

The next Breakthrough Leadership Programme is in London in October, three days leading to three months of engagement and learning how you can use your skills and experience to become a leader.

Find out how to Breakthrough to the next Leadership level here.

No one wants to tell a CEO-owner that their baby is ugly

separation = feedback powerful

Building a company is a very personal matter. Anyone who has ever started a business from scratch knows that they feel sensitive about every aspect of the business, like a parent you are proud and protective. Good feedback is welcomed with a smile. Bad feedback, on the other hand, is usually met with a defence.

No one wants to tell a CEO-owner that their baby is ugly, or even that they have some blemishes because they don’t want to deal with the defence mechanisms, usually displayed with at least a touch of anger and aggression.

As a leadership coach and development consultant, it’s my job to go in and do just this, to fearlessly point out the good, the blemishes and the plain ugly. To do this well, I have had to adopt numerous strategies to get past the angry stage. In one case I start feedback sessions with “we need to go to lunch” which has become code for “I have some ugly feedback, and if we go to a restaurant you’ll think twice about getting angry.”

It is not that my clients don’t want to hear feedback, it’s that it feels very personal because they are all working so hard to build a good company and a great place to work.

This issue is not one that only founders face, many caring executives running businesses or institutions feel the same pain when confronted with feedback that is not as good as they hoped.

Everything and everyone is connected. What happens in one area has a butterfly effect in another, this can make the possibility of creating a great company seem too complicated.

The power of separation

There is power in stepping back periodically and separating yourself from your business. Developing this ability is key to using feedback to maintain the good and address the ugly.

It requires a mindset shift created by checking into your beliefs about you and the business.

  • You are not the business, and it is not you.
  • Your actions matter and so do those of your leaders.
  • You don’t have to fix everything yourself.
  • Your leaders will take responsibility for the culture and performance.
  • People come to work to do a good job.

Overseeing the leadership behaviours of your leaders should receive the same attention as your financial performance. Admittedly, the data sets are not as clearly defined or as well organised as management accounts, but it is still possible to collect and assemble data on leadership and use this to make decisions and build strategies to grow the business into a great company.

Tools, Values, Language, Artifacts, Myths, Stories and Rituals

Leadership is an experience people get working inside a company. It is experienced through the interactions people have with their manager and other leaders.

Tools and Language

We use tools every day; spreadsheets, PowerPoint, Word, email, SLACK, meetings, briefings, conference calls, and so on, but it how we use these tools to share information, collaborate and manage that provides that basis of the leadership experience we give to others.

It is therefore essential to also adopt leadership tools to enable you to get the most out of your interactions with others. These can include tools that allow you to understand your people to tailor your approach to their needs. Tools that enable your managers to build a shared vision that aligns their objectives and priorities.

Adopting leadership tools will allow your leadership team to create a language about leadership and strategise together about building a sustainable performance culture.


Values are the foundation stones to build a culture that supports your business ambitions. These exist within everyone that comes to work for you. Creating a healthy culture requires values to be acknowledged, talked about, understood and lived, this is not something managers do to their people, quite the contrary, this is something a leader does for their people.

Leaders need to address values continuously to ensure they create the DNA they want for their business. It is healthy to allow values to be interpreted uniquely by each group within the organisation; this is an organic and fun way that helps people find real meaning and connection to the company’s culture.

Stories, Myths Artefacts and Rituals

Humans have been using storytelling to communicate concepts and complex ideas since the dawn of language. Cave painting was the antecedent of PowerPoint and used to teach, record history and inform a community. From these stories and artefacts, we can determine a lot about our ancient ancestors.

Similarly, the people working in your organisation can determine a lot about expectations through the stories they hear, the images that are used to teach them and how history is reported.

Leaders (and leadership teams) that pay attention to the stories they promote, the rituals they use and the artefacts they create are superior to those that allow these crucial elements to exist by accident.

Your baby never need be ugly if you take leadership development seriously.