Overcoming the 5 Dysfunctions of Teams

Overcoming the 5 Dysfunctions of Teams

No matter how cohesive and successful a team may be, it is inevitable that they will face challenges that could potentially derail their productivity. When this happens in high performance teams (or indeed, any team), we need to look beyond the symptoms of low performance to find the true cause of this behavior. Based on the work of Patrick Lencioni, the 5 Dysfunctions of Teams explores the idea that to resolve surface level issues, you must first attend to lower level needs. Each dysfunction impacts on overall performance and must be overcome in order for teams to perform at their best. 

Dysfunction 1: Lack of Trust

The first dysfunction Lencioni identifies is a lack of trust amongst team members. When trust is minimal or absent, it is often because individually, we are afraid to appear vulnerable in front of others, and want to maintain an image of infallibility. This stops us both individually, and as a team, from asking for advice and developing collectively. We may even hesitate to provide positive feedback to others, or assist in areas outside of our own responsibilities.

Overcoming this fear of vulnerability, opens up opportunities to understand each other on a more personal level. Nobody is perfect. Being able to own up to that and admit to our weaknesses makes others around us more comfortable, and more likely to start doing the same. Learning about Rumbling with Vulnerability is a pillar of the Dare to Lead™ program, based on the work of Brene Brown. This section of the program aims to dispel many misconceptions people have about vulnerability. Typically thought of as a display of weakness, in Dare to Lead™, vulnerability becomes known as one of the fundamental tools for leaders to establish trusting relationships in their teams.

Dysfunction 2: Fear of Conflict

Team performance is enhanced when there are diverse voices contributing to the conversation. While this provides an incredible opportunity to achieve better results, it can also cause hesitancy to share an opposing idea for fear of creating conflict. Controversial topics are ignored even if they have the potential to create success for the team.

A great first step to take in creating constructive conflict is to be intentional about how these conversations take place. Designating even one-hour a month is an opportunity for your team to be able to voice their opinions, safe in the knowledge that they will not be negatively received. A leadership excellence program can be useful in building group dialogue skills that help teams to have conversations that matter. These are conversations that allow teams to delve deeper into topics or issues that are important to them, and they are then able to come up with resolutions as a unified group. It is important too, that these conversations be held regularly for sustaining high performance.

Dysfunction 3: Lack of Commitment

Perceived inaction, avoiding difficult conversations, and ambiguous goal setting are just a few reasons why there may be a lack of commitment from team members. Without clearly defined goals, teams do not know what it is they are working towards and therefore, have no real investment in the work they are doing. The same is true when there is limited communication surrounding decision making and problem-solving. 

When decisions are made that impact your team, explaining the rationale that led to that decision will help them understand and accept new changes. Inviting your team to be part of the decision making process also gives them a personal incentive to successfully implement those changes. Understanding the ‘why’ is important for building commitment to the actions being taken. Giving your team a strong reason for, and belief in, the work being done leads to increased dedication and better performance.

Dysfunction 4: Avoidance of Accountability

The ability to hold oneself accountable is a skill that is closely tied to our willingness (or lack thereof) to be vulnerable and admit to our mistakes. We fear failure. Sustaining high performance in teams also requires that team members hold each other accountable as well. Often we avoid doing this for fear of causing conflict even when an error would be costly. This results in team leaders becoming the sole source of accountability for the whole team. This can quickly become an overwhelming task for one person, especially in large teams.

Owning up to mistakes shows that you are responsible for your own actions. True self-accountability goes beyond this when you make conscious and demonstrable changes in your behaviour, or work to correct specific errors. Holding others accountable does not have to be a combative exercise. Intent is important here. Criticism for its own sake is counterproductive to team effectiveness. Blame is not the same as accountability. Feedback should aim to support the recipient and help them to constructively improve future performance.

Dysfunction 5: Inattention to Results

When the vision of team success is overlooked in favour of individual achievement, collective progress stagnates. You may even lose valuable market competition, or results-oriented team members. While leading high performance teams usually means there are high levels of self-motivation to completing tasks, it is the leader’s role to ensure a clear team focus. As with the avoidance of accountability, leaders must ensure that each member of the team has a concrete understanding of how their individual role contributes to the team purpose and achievement of results. 

Measurable metrics will be a considerable aid in maintaining team focus. A useful practice in developing leadership excellence within teams creating habits for success. By setting simple goals, and rewarding the team as a whole for their success, fosters a greater connection amongst team members and continued desire to achieve results. 

Understanding the 5 Dysfunctions of Teams is important for leading high performance teams. The capability to diagnose workplace challenges and overcome them is an integral part of developing leadership excellence. Dysfunction prevents effectiveness in the pursuit of team success and cohesion. Delving into how each dysfunction contributes to challenges, helps teams to form better and long lasting solutions. 

For more information about The Leadership Sphere and how we can help you unlock performance through leadership, by supporting your leaders at every level of the organisation with leadership development, executive coaching and high performance team programs please visit our website or call us on 1300 100 857.

Overcoming the 5 Dysfunctions of Teams

Defining Leadership Excellence

Defining Leadership Excellence

It is easy to recognise leadership excellence when we see it, but when asked to define what that looks like many people struggle to identify specific characteristics. The truth is that leadership excellence looks different to everyone. However there are two key areas which, if intentionally cultivated, help to bring us closer to defining leadership excellence. Training programs that focus on these two aspects of excellence should form the basis of your executive leadership development.

Practical Excellence

There is no escaping the necessity for leaders to see to the practical day-to-day operations of running a team or organisation. Ensuring that tasks are completed on time and are of high quality is an important aspect of successful leadership. Demanding excellence from your team is not enough to guarantee that their resulting work will meet high performance standards. It is the role of a great leader to set, and then help them to achieve goals for your team that will push them beyond their perceived limitations. 

To do this, you must be clear with your team about what these goals are and why they are important. Providing them with motivation to reach their goals will result in more success and stronger performance overall. Developing leadership excellence in a practical manner does require that your team has access to the resources they need to achieve the goals you set out for them. This demonstrates to them your own dedication reaching those same goals with excellent results. 

Interpersonal Excellence

Establishing strong interpersonal relationships with the individuals you work with is pivotal to building a high performing team. Developing senior leaders must understand this and strive to create these connections early in the formation of their teams. 

Leadership development programs like Dare to Lead™, teach participants how to form these deeper connections within their workplace in order to build trusting and honest relationships. Gaining a personal understanding of the individuals on your team can have lasting mutual benefits. Learning the personal values and goals of your team allows you to offer support and opportunities for them to develop their skills while they are contributing to a greater vision.

Training for leadership excellence should include a focus on both practical and interpersonal excellence. Individuals who have strong personal connections with their leaders are far more likely to be motivated to perform at a higher standard and aim to reach their goals. Executive leadership programs that teach participants to establish and sustain trusting relationships are the foundation to developing leadership excellence. 

What is the most important aspect of leadership excellence for you?

About the Author: The Leadership Sphere

The Leadership Sphere helps small and medium businesses and larger organisations in Australia, in creating value through leadership. The Leadership Sphere provides a humanistic approach to the way it delivers leadership, performance and coaching services. We work with leaders and senior teams who need to gain increased clarity, build capability and ensure contribution at every level in the organisation, and enable a safe, inclusive and high trust organisation.

Defining Leadership Excellence

6 Skills Needed for Leadership Excellence

6 Skills Needed for Leadership Excellence

Leadership excellence is not always a measure of how successfully a manager’s directions have been followed. True leadership excellence is much more the result of their ability to inspire their teams to achieve the extraordinary. They must be effective communicators, decision makers, visionaries, students, and coaches. Undertaking senior leadership training programs can help leaders become more effective and successful.


Maintaining a consistency in your beliefs and values affords you the ability to lead with integrity. Operating with a guiding set of principles will make it easier not to compromise those values when faced with challenges. To lead with integrity we must first develop an understanding of what our personal values are. A personal values assessment will help to determine how the qualities you value in leadership align with your perception of the current and desired culture of your organisation. Hold yourself accountable, and others will do the same.


Everyone likes hearing that their efforts are appreciated. Great leaders know this and express their gratitude freely, no matter how small the contribution. This is not to say that they are over praising individuals when they are meeting expectations. Rather they display genuine appreciation for necessary but often overlooked efforts made that have a significant or positive impact on the project. Acknowledging your team’s ongoing hard work and celebrating their accomplishments, reinforces a strong work ethic and fosters a positive team environment. 


The key component of genuine praise and criticism is that it is provided honestly. Compliments mean more to us if the person giving them, truly means what they are saying. Similarly, we are less likely to take personal offence to criticism if we can recognise the truth of it ourselves. An often cited example of this idea comes from Brene Brown. In her book Dare to Lead™, she states that “Clear is Kind, Unclear is Unkind.” This is a significant focus of the Dare to Lead™ leadership development program. It is better to be honest in your critiques to allow for  development, than it is to be vague in an attempt not to hurt someone’s feelings.


If you have ever found that your team’s progress on a project has stalled because they are waiting for your approval, you may consider removing yourself from the process if possible. By delegating entire processes to your team and entrusting them with more responsibility, you empower them to make better decisions and become high performers. Engaging them in leadership training programs, and even coaching them yourself, promotes autonomy and accelerated performance amongst your team. Delegation does not mean that your role as leader transfers from you to someone else. In developing leadership excellence, you understand that mistakes will occur. You should still be following up on delegated tasks and providing support when necessary.


Having a clear vision or direction for your organisation is an integral trait of leadership excellence. Defining this vision and communicating it effectively with your team ensures that each individual understands the goal you are aiming to achieve. Communicating vision and inspiring others to act on it is a trait that is not always considered particularly skilful. This could not be further from the truth. Developing insightful foresight takes just as much practice and experience as any other leadership skill. Doing so can be the difference between a successful execution or an unsuccessful one. 


Great leaders constantly seek to improve upon their existing skills to keep up and even get ahead of industry trends. Training for leadership excellence means identifying areas that can be improved and building upon already proven strengths. For some, this may require them to identify those areas with the help of a Hogan 360º Report or assessments from an executive training program. Industry standards and processes are always evolving and leaders must evolve their expertise along with it to continue to grow their success.

Building leadership excellence requires dedication to both yourself and your team. Senior leadership training can be an effective tool to help leaders understand their own values and how to become better communicators. Leadership development is an ongoing process that will only result in benefits for you, your team, and your organisation as a whole. 

For more information about The Leadership Sphere and how we can help you unlock performance through leadership, by supporting your leaders at every level of the organisation with leadership development, executive coaching and high performance team programs please visit our website or call us on 1300 100 857.

6 Skills Needed for Leadership Excellence

Developing a Coaching Culture

Developing a Coaching Culture

When it comes to coaching in support of professional development, a coaching culture is one that takes what has been taught in development programs and continues to prioritise learning outside of a formal setting.  In building a coaching culture, it is important to remember the impact that emotion and mental health play in performance. Leaders who coach, as opposed to manage, their team will see a greater improvement in performance and success. 

Coaching vs. Managing

Many management styles of leadership tend to focus on task delegation and optimising work practices in order to achieve as much as possible. While this is great for the bottom line, it is not always so great for our employees. The pressure to reach certain targets can often lead to poorer performance and unsatisfactory results. When individuals fail to meet expectations, a manager may reassign them to another project, leaving the cause of the issue unresolved. 

A coach will instead take the time to work through mistakes with individuals to give them a better understanding of what has gone wrong. This allows them the opportunity to develop the skills needed to perform their task correctly while remedying their mistake. It addresses the issue directly without punishing the individual. One of the positive effects of executive coaching on culture is that it establishes an environment that builds high performers by allowing them to gain valuable experience. 

Coaching to Lead

When leaders develop a coaching strategy, team performance improves due to increased engagement and personal relationships. Using leadership and coaching tools for cultural change is the most effective way to increase team performance. Leadership coaching uses a combination of formal feedback reporting and honest communication to establish trusting relationships between leaders and their teams. By developing their own coaching skills, leaders establish a precedent of continual development and education. 

Executive coaching helps leaders understand their strengths and work towards achieving their personal and professional goals. By employing these same techniques in their leadership practices, a culture of coaching naturally develops. To make skills development a sustainable component of an organisation, establishing leaders as coach rather than manager is necessary. When leaders become educators, the autonomy and productivity of teams improves. 

Establishing a coaching culture can have a significant impact on how your organisation approaches skills development. It shifts the role of leaders from being directive and task oriented, to being much more of a mentorship. Teaching your leaders how coach skills build teams that are more independent and collaborative. Coaching reduces the fear of failure and builds confidence in individuals that allows them to take more risks and become more innovative. 

What coaching strategies do you employ to promote skills development?

About the Author: The Leadership Sphere

The Leadership Sphere helps small and medium businesses and larger organisations in Australia, in creating value through leadership. The Leadership Sphere provides a humanistic approach to the way it delivers leadership, performance and coaching services. We work with leaders and senior teams who need to gain increased clarity, build capability and ensure contribution at every level in the organisation, and enable a safe, inclusive and high trust organisation.

Developing a Coaching Culture

5 Steps to Improving Leadership Development

5 Steps to Improving Leadership Development

Traditional executive leadership training has placed a large focus on the development of the practical skills needed to manage teams. Increasingly, leadership development is shifting from this model to one that establishes soft skills that are key to decision making and performance. As the global business community continue to focus on diversity, inclusion and belonging, these secondary or softer skills are becoming primary drivers of leadership development programs. For leaders to get the most out of their development, there are several options that organisations have to ensure they are providing programs that offer a diverse approach to learning.

Understanding Values

When embarking leadership training for culture change, it is important to have a clear understanding of the values you wish to  instill in your employees and greater organisation. Developing this understanding of personal values and how you can build them into your day-to-day practices can play a significant role in establishing and sustaining workplace culture in the long term. This is a particular focus of the Dare to Lead™ program. Participants are encouraged to reflect on their personal beliefs and inspect the ways in which they practice their values in how they conduct their work.


It can be useful to run an assessment of a team or individual’s strengths prior to their participation in a leadership training course. Knowing what they already do well and in which areas they could improve, help to establish what kind of program they would receive the most benefit from. The 360º Feedback Report provides insight into how leaders are perceived by their teams and exposes key areas of success and growth. This can be a valuable tool for re-assessment and tracking the progress being made.

Be Vulnerable

Open and honest communication is key to establishing the interpersonal relationships that help sustain a positive workplace culture. It relies on leaders allowing themselves to show vulnerability to their teams as well as a willingness to listen to their feedback and concerns. Leadership development programs that teach participants how to embrace vulnerability and establish a culture of trust throughout the organization leads to improved performance and success. Vulnerability is not a skill that you download in one go, it is rather complex, but at it’s core is honesty and transparency, however, there are always elements of what to disclose and not to disclose. Transparency without thinking through what you disclose as a leader can be dangerous, as can more traditional leadership styles of armouring up and showing no signs of vulnerability in the process. It is the balance of both extremes that creates leadership that enables a high trust organisation.

Be Challenged

A strong measure of effective leadership comes when leaders are faced with uncertainty and challenges that push them towards innovation and creative problem solving. Leadership training programs that focus on developing creative thinking as well as practical skills, result in leaders who are better equipped to overcome unexpected challenges. As we have seen during times of challenge such as the COVID-19 global pandemic, leaders are required to respond to challenges over a longer term period of uncertainty and that requires new strengths in resilience and support and is a big part of leadership development programs to help organisations maintain organisational health through difficult times.

Establish Development Culture

Many leaders who profess a desire to improve their personal and professional development often put off doing so until they ‘have the time,’ without realising that the time to start is always now and that “some time” far too often becomes “no time”. Prioritising performance over development is to disregard the opportunity to get the greatest benefit out of both outlets. When learning and development are integrated into everyday practices, we establish ways of becoming better leaders in ways that enable us to improve overall performance. The evolution of leadership within an organisation is very much about a consistent loop of evaluation followed by a continued challenge of development where you need it most, and those who do it best are now building leadership development and high performance team programs with values and vulnerability at the core.

The development of leadership skills and practices is an integral part of both personal and organisational growth. Where performance is concerned, so too should leadership training be. The success of any organisation depends upon those who put in the effort each and every day to ensure it. Companies must provide support and opportunities for leadership and management training if they want to see performance exceeding that of their competitors.

For more information about The Leadership Sphere and how we can help you unlock performance through leadership, by supporting your leaders at every level of the organisation with leadership development, executive coaching and high performance team programs please visit our website or call us on 1300 100 857.

5 Steps to Improving Leadership Development

Leadership Skills for Dealing with Uncertainty

Leadership Skills for Dealing with Uncertainty

Dealing with crisis and uncertainty is incredibly stressful for individuals at all levels of an organisation. For leaders, this poses the added challenge of needing to assuage fears and provide a sense of stability for their teams. Navigating change can make us doubt our effectiveness as leaders, but it is important that we learn to sit with this discomfort in order to face it. There is a strong connection between each of the skills we have identified as being important for dealing with uncertainty. Each on their own can have a great impact on how teams are led, but it is how they feed into one another that makes them truly successful.


Communication is the most crucial leadership skill to use during times of crisis. When times are uncertain, people rely on their leaders to keep them informed. Even though we may not always have a perfect answer, making sure everyone is on the same page can be an invaluable relief to those who struggle with unknowns. Equally as important as conveying information with clarity, is listening to the concerns of your team. Often overlooked, listening and hearing what others are saying is key to clear communication. By ensuring that we give others our undivided attention when discussing matters of importance, we demonstrate that we value their time and opinions.


Trust is integral to clear communication. This is especially the case during times of uncertainty. Leaders must not only be in frequent communication with their teams, but that communication requires honesty in order for there to be trust in what you are saying. Great leaders will have already spent a significant amount of time building trusting relationships with the individual members of their team over the course of their working together. Trusting and high performing teams are more likely to succeed at overcoming adversity because their dynamic as a unified group has already been proven.


Building trust is a large focus of the Dare to Lead™ program, based on the work and research of Brene Brown. She posits that real and lasting trust cannot exist without vulnerability. Throughout the course, participants are invited to ‘rumble with vulnerability’ so that they might gain a deeper understanding of who they are as people and leaders. ‘Rumbling with vulnerability’ is about giving yourself the opportunity to experience moments of uncertainty or perceived weakness. In short, to get comfortable with being uncomfortable. Leading through times of uncertainty is uncomfortable. Learning how to manage effectively while while leaning into the discomfort is a valuable skill that leaders at all levels should develop.

When organisations face challenges that leave many people feeling worried about the uncertainty of the future, it is up to our leaders to be the driving force that guides teams through such significant change. Of course, the continuous communication between leaders and teams is vital for working through these difficulties. For this to yield successful results for the organisation as a whole, there must also be clarity, trust, and vulnerability. No team will remain productive and continue to deliver exceptional results if their leaders are not willing to be honest with them. By embracing all three of the leadership skills discussed above, the uncertainty and ‘what ifs’ will be much more readily overcome.

For more information about The Leadership Sphere and how we can help you unlock performance through leadership, by supporting your leaders at every level of the organisation with leadership development, executive coaching and high performance team programs please visit our website or call us on 1300 100 857.

Leadership Skills for Dealing with Uncertainty

Coaching Trends to Support Your Leaders During Times of Uncertainty

Coaching Trends to Support Your Leaders During Times of Uncertainty

When navigating uncertainty or change management, we rely heavily on our leaders to guide us through with minimal negative impact. It is important to remember that it is during such challenging times that we must also ensure that support is given to them as well. A great number of unprecedented challenges have been overcome in the past year as many industries were forced to revolutionise their operational practices. Leadership development and executive coaching has been no exception. As a result, several once emerging trends have proven their longevity. These are some of the most prevalent factors that clients are now looking for in a coach.


The added stress that individuals feel during times of crisis, means that their tolerance for platitudes and ‘corporate speak’ decreases significantly. The use of such jargon increases the level of distrust they have in management or the organisation. Leaders undergoing executive coaching while managing a crisis, want the same thing their staff want from them – clarity. The best way to provide clarity is by being authentic in your approach and delivery. How you speak matters just as much, if not more than what you are saying. Throughout her book, Dare to Lead™, Brene Brown explores how vulnerability is often a key component of brave leadership. The Dare to Lead™ program delves deeply into this idea of how vulnerability contributes to authenticity in leadership and how it is linked to bravery.

Not Just for C-level

As the name suggests, executive coaching has long been considered a luxury only available to senior leaders. This perception is changing as companies are recognising the need to support and develop both existing and high potential leaders across all levels. The impact of including leaders at even the directorial or managerial level in executive coaching programs is that it creates the opportunity for those who may otherwise be overlooked for promotion to stand out. It also allows for lower ranking leaders to develop the skills that will be necessary for them to have once they reach a more senior position.

Social Media

Circumstances being what they were in 2020 meant that we saw increased creation and interaction via social media than almost ever before. Many people turn to social media in search of inspiration and tips for finding solutions to their problems. The perceived authenticity of social media over more traditional marketing campaigns is what makes platforms like Facebook and Instagram so appealing to clients. Engaging with potential clients on these platforms provides them with insight into who you are as a person and as a coach before they even speak with you. 


With the prevalent practice of working remotely, the demand for similarly delivered executive coaching services is rising. Potential clients are becoming less interested in general or group programs and more concerned with finding a coach who can help them with their specific personal and professional goals. By choosing to work with a specialised coach, they are prioritising the needs specific to them, rather than spending time they may not have, participating in a full course that will not benefit them. For coaches, this means they will have a greater chance of working with new clients if they are able to provide services that are personalised and have a narrower focus. With so much white noise in our personal and professional lives, and the ongoing pressures of leading through change and times of uncertainty, having a coach by your side that understands you is one of the most valuable gifts we can give ourselves and others in our organisation. At The Leadership Sphere, we see organisations without coaching to support leadership development achieve a 3 x return on investment, whereas those who blend leadership development training with ongoing coaching and leadership development and support, receive 10 x return on investment. Greater spend in terms of money and time, however, the impact on the return is a continued topic of much interest!

Driven to Learn

With the rapid changes that are brought about by a crisis, leaders often find themselves underprepared for the new challenges they face. They can feel as though they are losing confidence in their own skills and effectiveness. Fortunately, this does allow the opportunity for leaders to reflect on their recent performance and assess where their development might be stalled. Uncertainty creates a drive to learn new skills to prepare ourselves as much as we can for any number of possible circumstances. Executive coaching programs offer this opportunity in a way that addresses the specific concerns of the individual. 

When faced with new and unpredictable circumstances, we expose both our strengths and our weaknesses. It is important for leaders that they can recognise each of them in order to continue in their ongoing development. We must expand our view of what executive coaching looks like, in terms of its delivery, content, and presence. As the world continues to shift further into digital spaces, the world of coaching must follow to provide value and support for those that need it. In fact, one might say that executive coaching is a critical part of uncovering where our risks and opportunities are when it comes to leadership development, and from that we can ensure learning is being directed at those areas that will maximise our results!

For more information about The Leadership Sphere and how we can help you unlock performance through leadership, by supporting your leaders at every level of the organisation with leadership development, executive coaching and high performance team programs please visit our website or call us on 1300 100 857.

Coaching Trends to Support Your Leaders During Times of Uncertainty

Leadership Training and Development Trends for High Performance During Times of Uncertainty

Leadership Training and Development Trends for High Performance During Times of Uncertainty

In the 12 months since the world was thrown into a near complete shut down due to the spread of COVID-19, the shift in how leadership training is delivered continues to evolve. As we begin the slow return to normalcy, it is worth taking the time to reflect on how the changes we have adapted to have proven successful for developing high performance teams. Though much of our activity has been uncertain for so long, there is also a lot that can be learned from how we handled such uncertainty. What worked? What did not? And what trends will continue in a post-COVID world? 

Online Leadership Training

Perhaps the most prevalent change of the past year has been the significant increase in the use of virtual meeting spaces such as Zoom and Microsoft Teams for conducting leadership development training. Though online training systems were certainly commonplace prior to the pandemic, the necessity for their exclusive use has brought to light the many benefits they provide. When The Leadership Sphere moved the delivery of the Dare to Lead™ Program to Zoom, we were able to continue to provide high quality training to participants across Australia. The ability to develop and maintain connections will continue to be integral to the success of leadership training programs in the future.

Flexible Training Programs

In addition to being able to run live training programs, one of the greatest benefits of online leadership training is the fact that many courses can be self-paced. In a rapidly developing business environment, many individuals in leadership positions are finding themselves to be time-poor. Self-led or self-paced leadership development programs offer the flexibility to engage with the learning in a way that fits in with their schedule. This means that they can continue to deliver high performance in their work without being distracted by the needs of their training. Simultaneously, they can give their full focus to their training without worrying about how they’re going to meet upcoming deadlines. 

Change Management

Effective change management has been one of the most vital factors in business endurance during these times of uncertainty. Unfortunately, many businesses have struggled to cope in the face of it. This has exposed the need for leadership training moving forward to encompass a greater focus on navigating change and succeeding while also dealing with major unexpected disruptions. Managers must now, more than ever, be prepared to lead and support their teams through time of crisis.

Leading Remote Teams

We often think of leadership in a very hands on and face-to-face capacity, however the last decade has seen a consistent shift towards more remote operations for many industries. With this shift, comes the added challenge of leaders needing to manage teams whose members may rarely get to meet in person. This requires that leadership training programs reflect this and ensure the development of skills necessary for this style of business. 

Soft Skills Development

The development of soft skills within the workplace has been a growing focus for some time, and the uncertainty and stress caused by the global pandemic has highlighted how necessary such skills are in all roles, but especially in leadership. In times of crisis, leaders must exhibit higher levels of empathy and emotional intelligence to effectively support and communicate with their teams. Soft skills are becoming more integral to organisational success as workplace culture becomes more important to potential employees.

Where we go from here with Leadership Development

The importance of leadership training and development has always been widely known. However, the disruption and uncertainty caused by the COVD-19 pandemic shone a much needed light on the role that the resilience of leaders plays in succeeding through times of crisis. It has taught us that we can adapt in any situation and that what we learn under pressure can have a lasting impact in how we grow and develop into the future.

For more information about The Leadership Sphere and how we can help you unlock performance through leadership, by supporting your leaders at every level of the organisation with leadership development, executive coaching and high performance team programs please visit our website or call us on 1300 100 857.

Leadership Training and Development Trends for High Performance During Times of Uncertainty

Great Leaders Understand – Clear is Kind and Unclear is Unkind

Great Leaders Understand – Clear is Kind and unclear is Unkind

The adage ‘Clear is Kind, Unclear is Unkind’ is a relatively new concept in the world of leadership development, but has fast become adopted by many thanks to the work of Brene Brown, pioneer and expert in vulnerable leadership. In her book, Dare to Lead™, Brown talks a great deal about the importance of communicating with clarity at all times but most especially when those conversations are difficult to have. What she found while conducting a 7 year study on bravery in leadership is that most of us tend to avoid clarity under the illusion that being indirect is kinder when actually, we’re being unkind and unfair.

Brene Brown explores this further in the following ways:

  • ‘Hinting’ at the issue or telling half-truths to make someone else feel better is unkind
  • Talking about people instead of to them is unkind
  • Not setting clear expectations for others, but blaming them for not reaching them is unkind
  • Saying ‘Got it, on it’ instead of having tough conversations and gaining clarity is unkind

In each of the above points, we can see that what they all have in common is that while employing these strategies may seem as though we are putting the other person’s feelings before our own, we’re not. Instead, we’re trying to minimise our own discomfort with confrontation. In business, this has the tendency to be extremely detrimental because rather than resolving an issue directly, it is being talked ‘around’ and may become exacerbated. By prioritising our own emotional distress, we’re being unkind to the other person – who isn’t being given the opportunity to grow or change their behaviour – or ourselves – who will continue to endure the ramifications.

Clear is Kind

To explore this idea further, let’s break down what each statement looks like in practice. Clear is Kind. What Brown is referring to in the first half of her thesis is the idea that clarity in how we communicate is the most effective means of delivering information. There is a significant amount of focus given to this idea throughout the Dare to Lead™ program that encourages us recognise the importance of honesty when it comes to discussing difficult topics or issues. When it comes to delegating projects or tasks, the best thing you can do as a leader is to do what Brene Brown refers to as ‘painting done.’ This is simple yet effective strategy for setting up expectations that only needs to take up a few minutes during your first briefing on the task. To paint done, is to be explicit in what you’re asking someone to accomplish. You’re providing them with an exact idea of what the final result of the project will look like. This not only saves you both time in the long run, but you’ve given a clear expectation of what needs to be done. 

Unclear is Unkind

The second piece of this statement, Unclear is Unkind, is the antithesis of Clear is Kind. Being unclear or indirect about expectations and information can have detrimental implications in the long run. In situations where we can see that a teammate has missed the mark or hasn’t performed their role to their best standard, it can be difficult to engage in a conversation about it. What tends to happen instead, is we speak ‘around’ the core of the issue or we ‘hint’ at the problem and hope that they will pick up on our disappointment. We think of ourselves as being kind in this moment because we’re trying to avoid hurting their feelings. But that isn’t necessarily the case. All we’ve really done is protect ourselves from feeling uncomfortable and it doesn’t help to resolve the situation. It’s unkind to them – they don’t know that there is an issue at all, or they don’t know the extent of it. It’s unkind to you – you will continue to be disappointed and frustrated. In the Dare to Lead™ Program, participants develop the ability to lean into what makes them uncomfortable in order to get to the heart of daring leadership.

Clarity in leadership is an integral piece of the Clarity + Capability + Contribution model that is central to The Leadership Sphere’s leadership development programs. Clarity comes first as it is foundational to both Capability and Contribution. We aim to help leaders create clarity for themselves and the people they support. It drives certainty of purpose and increases productivity. From there it is possible to develop leadership capability that enables a high trust organisation where leaders can contribute in ways that help others be the best they can be. But it starts with being clear and being kind. 

For more information about The Leadership Sphere and how we can help you unlock performance through leadership, by supporting your leaders at every level of the organisation with leadership development, executive coaching and high performance team programs please visit our website or call us on 1300 100 857.

Great Leaders Understand – Clear is Kind and Unclear is Unkind

How to Develop and Sustain a High Performance Team

How to Develop and Sustain a High Performance Team

High performance teams are ones that we all strive to create or become a part of. Why is this? The great appeal of such teams lays beyond their ability to consistently achieve results. In most cases of high performance teams, there is a strong willingness for individuals to go above and beyond in their efforts to contribute to the success of the team. They are motivated to perform at their best because there is an understanding of the inherent value of each person’s role. As a team, they are focused on a common goal and support each other to achieve it. In this article, we will be taking a closer look at some of the factors that make high performance teams possible, and why you should consider incorporating them into your development.

Keep Size in Mind

If you’ve ever tried to speak up in a large group, you understand how difficult it can be to have your voice heard. For this reason, it is important when building high performance teams not to oversaturate them with too many people. However, you must not sacrifice skilled team members for the sake of keeping numbers low. Instead, consider the logistics of coordinating teams and communicating effectively among a larger group. Teams with fewer than 10 members provide a more manageable balance that allows for each voice to be heard. This leads to quicker (and better) decision making as well as greater productivity. 

Inspiring Leaders

For teams to sustain high performance, they most often are led by those who are able to inspire motivation and enthusiasm. These are not the kinds of leaders who simply assign the work and expect it to meet high standards. Rather, inspiring leaders encourage passion from their team that creates a level of dedication that will naturally produce excellence. When we feel that our work has value and that it is important to us, we are more driven to make it the very best that we can. When building high performance teams, consider whether the person calling the shots is capable of this. Not just as a leader, but also when facilitating the volume of each individual member. Remember, the best leaders support and bring out the best in their people, and provide a safe place for people to speak up and have equal say is an important part of this. 


A team that is given a clear direction is predisposed to high performance. This is of course not limited to assigning tasks at the beginning of a project. Great communication should be rooted in giving and receiving feedback and regular check-ins with individuals that foster strong relationships. The adage “clear is kind…unclear is unkind” is a significant focal point of the Dare to Lead Program that encourages leaders to communicate effectively without being misconstrued or coming across as rude. High performance team leaders keep people focused, informed and on-track. They encourage people to voice their thoughts, and to do so in an honest, clear and deliberate way. After all, there is a real efficiency in clear communication that helps a team get to where they want to in a shorter time, whilst not unnecessarily wasting energy in the process.


To sustain high performance over the long term, your team must be able to quickly adapt to sudden changes. The advantage of adaptability means that there is no stagnation in work processes. The team can identify potential problems early and adapt their processes to overcome these challenges. Adaptable teams can find multiple solutions to every problem, giving you options for each new project. This means that there will always be other ideas to implement if the occasion calls for it. With adaptability also comes the mindset of a champion team, and that is to enjoy the journey as much as the destination!

Trust in Leadership

Finally, the mainstay of each of the qualities discussed above is trust. Specifically, trust in leadership. A leader that is not trusted cannot be inspiring, will be doubted, and won’t be looked to when guidance is needed. Building and maintaining trust within teams should be a top priority. This is something that we cover extensively throughout our Dare to Lead Program and other leadership development and high performance team programs. Trust is the foundation of all healthy relationships, both personal and professional. Leaders who encourage openness and honesty in their teams, must exemplify these qualities themselves. This kind of transparency in leadership shows that you have nothing to hide and builds your team’s trust in you. Trust is also the one element that cannot be falsely manufactured, and that is what makes it so powerful, because when it comes to leadership, people are motivated most by the authentic you, the vulnerable leader who deals with issues with integrity and courage, and helps others to do the same.

When working with organisations to develop their leadership talent, The Leadership Sphere helps to make strategic intent clear for leaders and the people they support, develop capability in leaders to better connect people to the strategy, and enable leaders to contribute in a way that unlocks performance and helps others be the best they can be. To build and sustain high performance teams, you need to keep these factors in mind. As previously discussed, clarity is the key to open communication and vision. Capability is needed in every member, and each member must be able to contribute effectively when challenges arise.  The most important contribution of the leader is to invoke trust and motivation within their teams to reach their highest potential. 

For more information about The Leadership Sphere and how we can support your leaders with leadership development, executive coaching and high performance team programs please visit our website or call us on 1300 100 857.

How to Develop and Sustain a High Performance Team

Trust is the Key to Healthy and High Performing Teams

Trust is the Key to Healthy and High Performing Teams

A lack of trust in a relationship can be distressing – in teams it can be devastating. It can take a huge personal toll and in teams it can light the fuse of self-destruction. Relationships fracture, shaming and blaming are prevalent, productivity goes out the window, reputations are soiled, and people leave. While not all teams suffer from these extremes of course, the consequences of low or patchy trust severely reduce the work a team should produce and also impacts our own sense of engagement and energy.

Conversely, high trust organisations experience 32x greater risk-taking, 11x more innovation, and 6x higher performance (Edelman Trust Barometer). And at a human level, treating each other with respect and forming good relationships feels like the right thing to do. 

In this article we’ll discuss why trust may be the most important element that needs to be present in a team. In Parts 1 and 2 of this series, we laid the foundation about why braver leadership and fostering more courageous cultures in our organisations matters. In Part 3, we explored vulnerability and in Part 4 we identified that values form the touchstone of who we are and how we show up. And sometimes, our values are all we have as we enter the arena. According to Brené Brown, brave leadership and courageous cultures require four kill sets: (1) Rumbling with Vulnerability; (2) Living into Our Values; (3) BRAVING Trust and (4) Learning to Rise. 

Why Saying ‘People Have to Earn My Trust’ is a Cop Out

Over the years I have heard repeatedly from leaders that people ‘have to earn my trust.’ The problem with this management credo is that it requires others to do the heavy lifting while the person who holds this belief sits back to assess whether they’re up to it. This isn’t how trust works except if we view trust in a transactional sense – you have a job to do or task to complete. Did you complete it successfully? If yes, transactional trust increases. If not, transactional trust goes down. If transactional trust is all you want, then go for it. But transactional trust is just that – it revolves around a task. Real trust, the type that propels a team’s performance, is much broader and deeper. Real trust requires vulnerability and vulnerability requires trust in a dynamic interplay. 

In this article, we will further explore trust – a topic that has been written about extensively, indicating its importance – and challenges. Trust is a big topic. Given that this series revolves around the work of Brené Brown and in particular her book Dare to Lead, we will focus on her framing of trust through the mnemonic BRAVING.

“Real trust requires vulnerability and vulnerability requires trust in a dynamic interplay.”


BRAVING Trust is a mnemonic formulated by Brené Brown (Dare to Lead) and it stands for:

Boundaries: You respect my boundaries, and when you’re not clear about what’s okay and not okay, you ask. You’re willing to say no. Boundary management, as I like to call it, means that we establish our boundaries, communicate them, and then provide feedback if they’re not respected. An example for me is being clear about timeliness around meetings whether in a professional or personal context. For example, if I anticipate being any more than 1-2 minutes late for a dentist or hairdresser appointment, I will phone ahead to let them know. Sometimes they are surprised, but mostly they are grateful for the courtesy.

Reliability: You do what you say you’ll do. At work, this means staying aware of your competencies and limitations so you don’t overpromise and are able to deliver on commitments and balance competing priorities. This can sometimes be a challenge, but the question is ‘Do you deliver what you say you will deliver?’. Again, I see this as related to timeliness and keeping our promises and commitments. If you say the report will be done by Wednesday, to build your reliability muscle, it should be there on Wednesday before close of business.

Accountability: You own your mistakes, apologise, and make amends. In Part 4 (Values), several examples of value-destroying leadership were outlined or what I termed ‘Breakers’ (value-destruction) as opposed to ‘Builders’ (value-creation). All too often we hear and see ‘everyone was accountable and no-one was accountable’. We must strive for single points of accountability. This is different to responsibility, which is about who is actually performing the work. 

Vault: You don’t share information or experiences that are not yours to share. We need to know that my confidences are kept, and that you’re not sharing with me any information about other people that should be confidential. Brené Brown describes people who share information inappropriately as those who try to ‘hotwire connection’. It doesn’t work because people start to wonder what they might share about their conversations with you.

Integrity: You choose courage over comfort. You choose what is right over what is fun, fast, or easy. And you choose to practice your values rather than simply professing them. This is similar to ethical leadership in that we need to determine what is right. Brave leadership is actually doing it, even if its hard. So we can be either ‘in integrity’ with a stated value or ‘out of integrity’. It’s about our behaviours, not our intentions. Someone once said that we judge ourselves by our intentions and others by their actions.

Nonjudgment: I can ask for what I need, and you can ask for what you need. We can talk about how we feel without judgment. We can ask each other for help without judgment. Judgment is very easy and seductive. Our primitive brains, built to help us survive, are prone to judging others. We stereotype, put people in a box, or dismiss them based on our judgement. At the very least, it is likely our approach and behaviour will change around that person as result of our biases and judgment. usually in a negative way.

Generosity: You extend the most generous interpretation possible to the intentions, words, and actions of others. Generosity is closely related to judgment and is in fact the opposite. If we are able to hold a positive interpretation of other’s behaviour, we will open our minds to other alternate explanations to why someone did what they did. Being generous with others allows them to grow, flourish and perform better. It is important to note that being generous in this way doesn’t mean that we don’t hold people accountable. On the contrary, the research suggests that the people who are the most generous are also the clearest about their boundaries – in other words what is okay and not okay. When boundaries are loose or non-existent, then the interplay or dance between two people can become muddied. When boundaries are clear, it is immediately apparent if someone has acted within our boundaries or not.

I recommend that you focus on one element of BRAVING Trust for others and for yourself for 21 days, then shift the focus. In terms of others, you could practice Reliability by being exactly on time for everything (and if you’re not going to be let people know well ahead of time). We incorporate the building of habits such as these via our online Habit Builder application, which helps people track their progress as well as make journal entries to help their learning. In terms of Reliability for yourself, you might set one personal goal around exercise or something else that is just about you – and then stick to it. 

Phil is the Managing Director of The Leadership Sphere, a firm that focusses exclusively on strategy, leadership and performance. He is a Certified Dare to Lead Facilitator, conducting public and in-house Dare to Lead programs for teams and organisations.

Trust is the Key to Healthy and High Performing Teams

The Results Are Life Changing When You Dare To Lead

The Results Are Life Changing When You Dare To Lead

In a constantly changing global business environment, it can be a challenge to create certainty for those we lead. While an admiral goal, absolution is not possible due to the inherent imperfections of the world we live in and as a result of human behaviour – we’re all prone to misreading situations and to making mistakes. What can unite us though, and help us lean into our own limitations is embracing the willingness to be vulnerable as leaders. This is exactly what participants are encouraged to do in our Dare to Lead Program. The Dare to Lead Program is based on the work of Brene Brown and focuses on being a more authentic version of ourselves and presents a refreshing way to look at the idea of vulnerability in leadership. A significant amount of time is spent, discussing and dissecting the importance of vulnerability and how closely tied it is to courage. Simply put, we reconnect with the vulnerability as a strength rather than a limitation. Though the course is designed for leadership development, there is a deeply personal aspect of each of the lessons that many find confronting. The biggest take away that participants have had is that they found they were challenged in unexpected ways. It has helped them become better leaders at work and a much better version of themselves on the home front. 

Be brave in ways you have never been before

It’s not often that we get the chance to explore what it means to be brave both as an individual and as a leader. Participants who undertake this opportunity in the Dare to Lead program gain a deeper understanding about harnessing brave leadership as a willingness to act during times of uncertainty. We can not lead bravely without the risk of falling short, because in order to do so we must be willing to do what is right over what is easy. In order to foster an environment of trust, leaders should allow themselves to be perceived as vulnerable. One of the ways this is explored is by thinking about what prevents us from being open and honest in front of others. We are given the tools to learn to recognise these moments when they occur and how to step back and prevent them from overcoming us.

Find courage when things get tough

One of the first exercises of the Dare to Lead program is Container Building where every participant comes together to discuss what behaviours will be required to create a safe environment for everyone to feel comfortable opening up with potential strangers. This encourages the building of courageous cultures that enable us and others around us to be brave. A large part of what it means to have courageous cultures is that it eases some of the difficulty of having tough conversations. In her book, Dare to Lead, Brown writes about the paradox of avoiding these tough conversations in an effort to be polite or kind – an idea that is wholeheartedly rejected. Instead, both she and the course teach us that “CLEAR IS KIND. UNCLEAR IS UNKIND.” All this means is that having the courage to be honest, even when telling hard truths, is ultimately a much kinder act than being ‘nice’ about it. As we reflect on the massive uptake in the Dare to Lead program we can see that the notion of “clear is kind” has always been a big part of leadership development programs and the development of high performing teams, however, said so simply and eloquently and enabling people to build stories around “clear is kind” and the opposite of ‘unclear is unkind” just makes it so much more powerful!

Integrate your unique values into day to day life

The Dare to Lead Program challenges participants to work on themselves and explore what is most important to them as a person as well as a leader.  Our values aren’t always something that we act on consciously in our everyday lives (though of course they can be). In fact, it is when we evaluate our behaviours that we find out that our values are. In doing this, we may realise that the beliefs we hold aren’t as frequently called upon as we thought. Such an exercise can be an eye opening experience for some, taken as an opportunity to refocus our ideals and begin to integrate those we wish to see more of.

Values based leadership is about living and leading with values that motivate others to do their best and that inspires everyone to contribute to the greater good. Some participants have followed the Dare to Lead Program with ongoing conversations via a ‘buddy system’ that is encouraged on the program, and others have taken on coaching from The Leadership Sphere expert coaches, in all cases the impacts have been even more significant, as the ongoing reflection allows the embedment of the core leadership development take aways from the program.

Re-establish trust with yourself and others

It takes quite a bit of due diligence to truly understand what causes us to feel angry or begin to shut down, as well as to understand the connection with feelings of worry, guilt, and shame. We may not always realise that when we react to certain situations with anger or dismissal, we may be experiencing something deeper (like fear or shame). By acknowledging this we can connect with what it takes to build an environment of trust where we can confidently rely on ourselves and others to do the right thing. 

Relearn the importance of self compassion and empathy

It is often much easier to extend compassion and empathy to others when they open up to us, but we don’t always extend these same courtesies to ourselves. What we view as bravery in others can feel like weakness in ourselves. This could not be further from reality. Dare to Lead teaches valuable techniques that help us to be more understanding of ourselves and others as we realise that everyone is doing the best they can. In an interview with certified Dare to Lead facilitator, Phillip Ralph, course alumnus Simone Wright put it another way: “hearing other people’s experiences, while they’re different, are similar.” 

Simone also said of her experience that “there’s an emotional journey in this course that is very strong” – a sentiment shared by many alumni of the course in a way that they found was unexpected. At the heart of the course is the coming together of the personal with the professional. It’s about humanising the workplace. Every person’s journey will be unique as it forces us to do a great deal of introspection about the things we value, feel, and experience. Not only have participants reported seeing a benefit in their leadership roles professionally, but personally as well. The Dare to Lead Program is designed to encourage participants to explore ideas in great detail and allow them to gain a deeper understanding of themselves.

For more information about The Leadership Sphere and how we can support your leaders with leadership development, executive coaching and high performance team programs please visit our website or call us on 1300 100 857.

The Results Are Life Changing When You Dare To Lead

Why Values Work Better in the Arena than Armour

Why Values Work Better in the Arena than Armour

When we feel frightened, tired, alone, up against it or under pressure, it can be tempting to want to protect ourselves by putting on the armour when we walk into the field or play or arena. When we armour up however, we are much more likely to create the very outcomes we’re trying to avoid – disconnection, a lack of engagement, or trying to preserve our sense of identity – at least how we perceive it or want it to be perceived. This is a powerful paradox. The harder we try to prove that we’re capable, have it all together and are worthy of people’s trust and acceptance, the more likely we are to destroy it. Hustling for our worth is a zero-sum game. It destroys the very heart of leadership – value creation.

The arena is the metaphor used by Brené Brown in her book  Dare to Lead,, based on the speech given by Theodore Roosevelt in Paris in 1910. In this article, we’ll discuss why values might be all you have to take into the arena – and sometimes, all you should take into the arena. 

In Parts 1 and 2 of this series, we laid the foundation about why braver leadership and fostering more courageous cultures in our organisations matters.  In Part 3, we got a better understanding of vulnerability. According to Brené Brown, brave leadership and courageous cultures require four kill sets: (1) Rumbling with Vulnerability; (2) Living into Our Values; (3) BRAVING Trust and (4) Learning to Rise.

The Arena

As Brené Brown says, “In those tough matches, when the critics are being extra loud and rowdy, it’s easy to start hustling—to try to prove, perfect, perform, and please.” In these moments, we forget why we are in the arena, which is particularly interesting given our values – our core beliefs – is what led us to the arena in the first place.

According to the research conducted by Brené and the team, the daring leaders who were interviewed were never empty-handed in the arena. In addition to rumble skills and tools, they always carried with them clarity of values. 

Let’s start by defining values, again through the lens of Dare to Lead. A value is a way of being or believing that we hold most important. Living into our values means that we do more than profess our values, we practice them. Values guide us, prompt us into action, and help us make the right decision.

Why We Need Better Leaders

The central role of leadership is value-creation, whether in our organisations, government, not-for-profit entities or our local school. And in order to create value – at least in the long term – we need to be able to practice effective leadership. I believe real leadership consists of two dimensions or pillars: ethical leadership, represented by asking is it the right thing to do and brave leadership, represented by actually doing the right thing, even if it’s hard.


Ethical leadership is best served by firstly knowing our values and then living by them. Brave leadership is best served by taking off our self-protecting armour and leaning into the work with purpose, grit and courage. 

We have seen some very prominent examples recently where ethical decision making and actions were not present and it destroyed value – literally. In May, the mining giant Rio Tinto destroyed two rock shelters that demonstrated 46,000 years of continuous human occupation in the Juukan Gorge in the Pilbara (Western Australia). The aftermath was fascinating and disturbing. 

Rio Tinto’s own internal review concluded that “Everyone and no-one was accountable.” The company stripped around $7million in bonuses from three executives but it didn’t recommend anyone being stood down. 

Shareholders and various stakeholder groups were not happy, believing that the penalty didn’t fit the ‘crime’.  After enormous pressure, Rio Tinto boss Jean-Sebastien Jacques and two senior executives will be replaced after an investor revolt forced the mining giant’s board to escalate its response.

There are numerous examples of failures of leadership, evidenced by the number of royal commissions and inquiries we’ve had in the last few years (e.g. Aged care, Mental Health, use of police informants, Hotel quarantine around COVID-19 in Victoria, and currently Crown Casino and it’s links to Asian syndicates and money laundering).

And every day in our organisations, we still tolerate bad behaviour in the form of bullying, sexual harassment, or people being treated poorly. We must demand a higher standard of behaviour in organisations and society for that matter. We must demand braver leadership. 

The question for each and every one of us is, “Are you a builder or a breaker?” 

Breakers destroy value through their actions or lack of actions, including trying to prove they’re right, using shame and blame to manage themselves and others, leading through compliance and control, not having the difficult conversations, professing values rather than practicing values, leading reactively, resisting change, and getting stuck by failures, setbacks and disappointments. It’s what Brené Brown calls armoured leadership.

Leaders and teams alike face serious problems showing up in a vulnerable way at work; instead, sabotaging themselves and others and killing real collaboration, trust, innovation and creativity. 

Value creators – or Builders – create value by living in accordance with their values and what is deemed to be ethically sound by basic human standards. Builders work to create high-trust, safe workplaces where people can truly show up and be their best. 

Living into our values means firstly knowing our values and then actually living by them. It means being able to foster more humanistic organisational cultures. To do this, we need to continue to develop our level of self-awareness and courage skills.  We need to confront our own cognitive biases, limitations and fears. 

We need to work harder to cultivate braver, values-based leaders.

The author is a Certified Dare to Lead Facilitator. You can find out more about our in-person and virtual Dare Lead Courses here.

Why Values Work Better in the Arena than Armour

Time for a Leadership Development Detox?

Time for a Leadership Development Detox?

Detox is a word that is often talked about in health circles. In more recent times the idea of a detox has moved from ‘diets’ to other areas to support our mental health, such as a ‘digital detox’ to get us away from our devices and minimise the overload of white noise being thrown at us via the internet and social media. But have you ever stopped to think about a leadership development detox for yourself or your organisation?

What is the purpose of leadership development anyway? Are our leaders expected to know too much? What is the right leadership training for our situation? Do we have strategic objectives in place to hang our leadership competency framework off of? What leadership training do we give our executive leadership team versus other senior managers and line managers? Wow, a new best seller on leadership development, I had better read that one. It all becomes a minefield of questions really quickly.

Regardless of how capable our senior leaders are, there is always areas for improvement. That is why each year, thousands of resources are presented to us such as leadership development programs, online leadership assessment tools, online courses for leadership, books on leadership and many other resources that deal with self-help, leading self and leading teams. So much choice can create confusion about what problem we are trying to solve, so let’s press pause, get out a blank piece of paper and start a leadership development detox for our self (or our organisation).

What problem are we trying to solve?

Let’s acknowledge that leadership development is about helping leaders reach their full potential. Leadership development experts at The Leadership Sphere use a framework that considers three important areas that we can reflect on:

Clarity – are we being clear or unclear to our leaders, to our managers and to our teams? In other words, are our strategic objectives clear and are we communicating this in a way that resonates at every layer in our organisation?

Capability – have we the capability to do what we need to do, or is there skill gaps that we can work on with our people? Saying we have a leadership capability issue is a cop out… instead we need to consider where the capability gaps are and that can take us down the path of understanding the right leadership development for the right group of people. Of course, it is not a one size fits all approach to leadership training and coaching agenda is important.

Contribution – how are the contributions at every level of leader in our organisation and what can we be doing to better support them?

When we start asking these questions in the context of what is really going on in the workplace it becomes clear as to why so many leaders feel like they’re drowning in their responsibilities and expectations of them as a senior leader. Between managing the business, staying reasonably current in their functional skills, and trying to be a good manager of people, it can be hard to stay afloat. Often expectations are so high, and we are being asked to achieve more with less resources that people become overwhelmed, things become unclear, we doubt our capability and contribution diminishes. As a result, many leaders feel extremely unsatisfied in their role and it can lead to less than desirable performance and in some cases burnout and mental health issues. Think about it. We ask individuals in leadership positions to be highly emotionally intelligent and excellent team players in addition to being enterprise leaders, situational leaders, transformative leaders, servant leaders, collaborative leaders, virtual leaders, strategic leaders; it’s a pretty long list of areas to be an ‘expert in’. Starting to sound like a leadership development detox is on the menu?

If we are going to help leaders reach their leadership potential and to be satisfied in the process, we need to focus on what constitutes good leadership. Here is a list of questions that can get you started.

  1. Are we clear about our strategic objectives and what we are trying to achieve?
  2. Do we communicate these objectives clearly to our people?
  3. Does everyone understand (and live) our values?
  4. What is overperformance, full performance and underperformance and what are the impacts of each (to the organsiation and to our people)?
  5. Do we coach and give people feedback well?
  6. Do we collaboratively solve problems and make decisions?
  7. Do we delegate tasks and responsibilities effectively?
  8. Do we mediate and resolve conflicts and differences constructively?
  9. Do we spend enough time observing, listening, asking questions?
  10. Do our leaders maintain composure during times of adversity?
  11. How do we operate in an emergency?
  12. Are we encouraging people to cooperate as part of the broader team?
  13. Are we flexible in our approach (i.e. are we adaptable to meet the changing needs of our people and our clients)?
  14. Are you overwhelmed just by thinking of this long list of questions? Ok we will stop now!

A big part of your leadership development detox is to write down all the questions you can think of… think about clarity, capability and contribution in the process… think about it top down from strategy through to day to day tasks. Once you have done this brain storm, then for each question, simply answer two things, what effort would it take to get it right, what impact would that have on the results of our organisation. This is a simple effort versus impact exercise. Then of course, once you have done that we can apply the Pareto Principle and look to build a leadership development program that addresses the 20% of our questions that we believe will give us 80% of the result. You will find that your solution is not just about the next best leadership book, or leadership course on the market, but rather a longer term approach to building in a combination of leadership assessments, leadership workshops and coaching for leaders along the way.

At The Leadership Sphere one of our most popular programs is the Dare to Lead Program where we encourage leaders to consider a simple statement of ‘CLEAR IS KIND’… ‘UNCLEAR IS UNKIND’ which interestingly gets us thinking about the amount of time we waste in the world of unclear and what a difference it makes when we start to think about CLARITY first. We encourage you to think about all leadership development and executive coaching programs using this. That is, start by having the courage to focus on being clear and then take the next step into building a high performance leadership program.

For more information about The Leadership Sphere and how we can support your leaders with leadership development, executive coaching and high performance team programs please visit our website or call us on 1300 100 857.

Time for a Leadership Development Detox?

Rumbling with Vulnerability

Rumbling with Vulnerability

The title of this post, ‘Rumbling with vulnerability’ sounds like it’s from the south of the USA, and that’s because it is (or more accurately South Central).

Many readers will be familiar with the work of Brené Brown and her latest book, Dare to Lead. By her own admission and the way she told it to me last year in Texas as part of a cohort of soon-to-be Certified Dare to Lead Facilitators, a well-meaning person once laughed and said it was funny how a lot of the language you (Brené) use has something to do with rodeos and cattle and well….Texas. Apparently that was a big surprise to Brené. Most people can connect with the language, or at least it’s meaning. Regardless, vulnerability is at the core of leadership so deserves further exploration.

This article will discuss what vulnerability in leadership is and why we should be serious about what it has to offer us as leaders. In Part 1 of this series, it was mentioned that talking about ‘brave leadership’ sounds awkward and feels a little elusive. In Part 2, the focus was on brave leadership and courageous cultures and why it matters. True leadership, by its very nature, requires leaders who are prepared to be vulnerable.

You may recall from parts 1 and 2, that, according to Brené, brave leadership and courageous cultures require four skill sets: (1) Rumbling with Vulnerability; (2) Living into Our Values; (3) BRAVING Trust and (4) Learning to Rise.

What is Vulnerability?

Vulnerability is defined in Dare to Lead as: The emotion that we experience during times of uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure.  A rumble is defined as: a discussion, conversation, or meeting defined by a commitment to lean into vulnerability, to stay curious and generous, to stick with the messy middle of problem identification and solving, to take a break and circle back when necessary, to be fearless in owning our parts, and, to listen with the same passion with which we want to be heard.

Simply put, vulnerability is about having the courage to show up when you can’t control the outcome. Being able to rumble with vulnerability is the foundational skill of courage-building. Without this core skill, it is impossible to put the other three skill sets into practice. One of my favourite quotes from the book: 

Our ability to be daring leaders will never be greater than our capacity for vulnerability.”

Brené Brown

Vulnerability is not about weakness, spilling your guts, fake vulnerability (e.g. asking for an open discussion with the team and then closing down hard questions), or managing the risk or uncertainty out of any situation with an app. 

Who Cares About Vulnerability Anyway?

Vulnerability in leadership is still poorly understood, particularly the link to its benefits. As previously mentioned in another post, my own experience in running hundreds of leadership development programs, and what prompted me to write this series, is that many remain sceptical. Perhaps because it won’t be perceived as cool or the right thing to say, but when we scratch the surface to examine people’s core beliefs about vulnerability, many don’t believe, or understand, the link between vulnerability and performance. And even if leaders do buy into the notion that vulnerability is good for business, then many struggle knowing how to be (appropriately) vulnerable.

Adding further weight to creating more humanistic organisations is in a recent article entitled Stop Overengineering People Management (Harvard Business Review, Sept-Oct 2020). The authors mount a strong case that scientific management – through the optimisation of labour – is pulling leaders and organisations away from four decades holding a belief in worker empowerment. In this model, labour is treated as a commodity and strives to cut it to a minimum by using automation and software. The potential is that this force will further remove connection, trust and innovation (the authors recommend finding the mix between optimisation and empowerment).

Here are my top five reasons why we should care about vulnerability in business:

  1. Connection 

While technology has been incredibly valuable, it has also provided unintended disconnection. Dan Schawbel in his book Back to Human, says, “Technology has created the illusion that today’s workers are highly connected to one another when in reality most feel isolated from their colleagues.” Being vulnerable allows us to connect with others that then enables the building of deeper relationships. We know that deeper relationships at work have many benefits including increased job performance, loyalty and overall feelings of wellbeing.

  1. Trust

I wrote an article recently that outlined, among other things, why trust is important and how it can drive results. For example, high trust organisations experience 32x greater risk-taking, 11x more innovation, and 6x higher performance (Edelman Trust Barometer). And at a human level, treating each other with respect and forming good relationships feels like the right thing to do. As mentioned earlier in the article, you can’t actually develop high-trust relationships without vulnerability and people feeling comfortable around you. The two fit together and can’t be separated.

  1. Innovation

We know innovation is good for business, yet struggle to create nimble, agile and innovative cultures. Why? It is clear that creating a culture of innovation is no simple exercise, however, for many, there seems to be a belief that if enough agile processes are implemented, or they teach people how to brainstorm, or teach people how to use right-brain thinking, somehow magically the culture will change for the better. 

In a new book by Gary Hamel and Michele Zanini entitled, Humanocracy: creating organizations as amazing as the people inside them, the authors believe bureaucracies are ‘innovation-phobic’ and despite the proliferation of ‘innovation hubs’, little progress has been made. Their thesis and assertion, which I wholeheartedly support, is that we need more humanistic workplaces and I know no better way to do this than through being real, showing up and rumbling with vulnerability.

  1. To Partner is to Lead

If you want to create change in your organisation then you need to be more ‘leader’ than ‘manager’. And in order to create meaningful change, leaders need more partners than followers. 

Sure, the notion of ‘follower’ is a convenient and somewhat quaint notion that there is a leader and then there are followers – but the world has moved on and so should you – if you haven’t already. What modern organisations need is a culture of partnership, collaboration and yes, even service. While I acknowledge that most teams have a formal head whose role it is to co-ordinate and guide the activities of team members, an effective leader will also understand the role they play and will be flexible in how that role comes to fruition.  

Authority can work okay as a platform when the work is of a technical nature (we know what to do and have the knowledge and skills to do it), but anything other than this type of work requires a different approach (for example in adaptive work where the solution may not be clear or follow a linear, predictable pathway – think almost any change!).

“Self-aware leaders will share leadership, partner rather than tell, guide rather than direct.”

Self-aware leaders will share leadership, partner rather than tell, guide rather than direct. When was the last time you enjoyed ‘following’ someone who just told you what to do? Perhaps never. 

In order to partner effectively and not simply rely on the formal authority vested in your role, you must be able to connect, build trust and have meaningful relationships with people. In other words, we need a vulnerability and authenticity in order to partner successfully.

  1. Building Learning, Growth and Resilience

I remember in the 1990s there was a whole genre of university courses created to teach people how to teach others how to ‘recreate’ because in the future (e.g. the 2000s) the nature of work would have changed so much that we would have oodles of spare time on our hands. With so much spare time, how would we use it productively? We do need to learn how to ‘re-create’ and renew ourselves, but for very different reasons. Life seems to be getting busier and busier in an always-on, connected digital world.

One of our primary tasks as leaders is to grow and develop confident, capable and resilient people. We can only do this if we focus on these things. In my experience, these outcomes are subordinate to task achievement. We busily tick off our ever-expanding task list, often at the expense of growing and developing the very people who are doing the work. If we can be vulnerable and in turn promote those around us to be vulnerable, then we are far more likely to fast-track employee development. The opposite of this is a culture of hiding mistakes, always trying to appear like we’re on top of things, and managing an external persona that we think will make others thinks we’re worthy to be in the roles we occupy. Vulnerability is the key to you creating an amazing learning culture and workforce who will help your company outperform. 

Where to From Here?

Creating more humanistic organisations is not an easy undertaking. There is no magic wand or one way.

However what is clear is that it will take a focussed effort on developing leaders who themselves are more vulnerable and real, who can ask hard questions, challenge the status quo, give and receive meaningful feedback, and create meaningful change.

By reducing the personal armour that we carry and step into humanistic, courageous leadership, we will take positive steps forward in creating organisations that are as smart, curious and creativity as their people.

Rumbling with Vulnerability

What Does it Mean to Dare to Lead?

What does It Mean to Dare to Lead?

The Fantasy of Leadership

Talking about ‘brave leadership’ sounds awkward and feels a little elusive.

While I have not personally seen a job description that says the incumbent should be brave per se, most position descriptions are weighed down by a long list of angelic sounding qualities such as able to demonstrate an ability to challenge the status quo, lead change effectively, deliver business results; drive innovation; and build strong relationships with stakeholders, among others.

Oh, and by the way, while doing this you also need to ensure that you are authentic, values-driven, emotionally intelligent, empathetic, and self-aware. Basically, leaders need to be awesome, almost faultless humans. This is the fallacy of leadership.

“Basically, leaders need to be awesome, almost faultless humans. This is the fallacy of leadership.”

We know however that we are not faultless, in fact, we are fundamentally flawed. This is not a criticism, just a reality. Its what makes us all so different and special. We carry with us our parents’ DNA with all its wonder and challenges, our experiences, fears, feelings, shame, values, ambitions and vulnerabilities. Is it any wonder that – in the moment – we may struggle to respond in a constructive way to a bewildering number of scenarios that might challenge our sense of self. And therefore it shouldn’t be a surprise that every one of us learn a multitude of ways to protect ourselves – at least that’s the assumption.

The irony is that what seek in our leaders – a long litany of qualities, skills and experiences – requires bravery. Not the hair-raising, clenched fist, seat-of-your-pants warrior energy, but the type of bravery that puts us out on a limb. It’s the kind of bravery where we will feel vulnerable – at risk, exposed, and uncertain.

Real Leadership is Risky

In my book, Leadership Without Silver Bullets, I wrote that leadership is risky. And while there are many languages and cultures with an interpretation for the actual word ‘leadership’, I have a favourite: the Indo-European root of the word leadership is leith, which means to go forth, to cross a threshold, or to die (Gerzon, 2003).

Vulnerability and risk come with the job, or at least should if we’re exercising real leadership and not what Dean Williams calls counterfeit leadership. This is the kind of leadership that looks like we’re leading but in fact, our actions and behaviours are benign at best or destructive at their worst. Leadership without ‘daring’ smacks of leadership that is, well, not leadership. It is anything other than leadership. We could provide a generous interpretation of leadership that is not ‘daring’ and call it management. But even that would be doing a disservice to the important function of management. Leadership without ‘daring’ is managing the status-quo, polishing the china if you will.

The Heart of Daring to Lead

Brené Brown has spent two decades studying courage, vulnerability, shame and empathy. By her own admission – Brené has said that she spends 10 x more time studying what gets in the way, rather than ‘the way’ (our aspirational leadership behaviours). For example, Brené set out to study connection and empathy and ended up studying shame, and she set out to study courage and ended up studying vulnerability.

The book Dare to Lead is based on 7 years of research, starting with one key question: 

What, if anything, about the way people are leading today needs to change in order for leaders to be successful in a complex, rapidly changing environment where we’re faced with seemingly intractable challenges and an insatiable demand for innovation? 

A strong theme emerged in the research – we need braver leaders and more courageous cultures. However interviewees struggled to identify specific behaviours, rather, they could describe behaviours that get in the way, including avoiding tough conversations; low trust; not acknowledging fears and feelings; getting stuck when we fail or fall; perfectionism; and too much shame and blame in organisations.

Four Skill Sets emerged from the research:

  1. Rumbling with Vulnerability
  2. Living into Our Values
  3. BRAVING Trust
  4. Learning to Rise

In this series, we will examine what it means to ‘Dare to Lead’. The series will provide a narrative that aims to draw together the threads around the why, the what and the how. Far from being a rehash of Brené Brown’s work, it will be a narrative as I see it, both as someone who has spent a large proportion of my career as a leadership and team development specialist – as well as a Certified Dare to Lead Facilitator. We will also be taking a deeper dive on each of the four skill sets, again, from the lens of a practitioner (not that Brené Brown is not).

So, Why Dare to Lead?

The principles of daring to lead speak directly to who we are, and who we are matters enormously in how we lead.  Leaders are never quiet about things that matter. They have difficult conversations, they attend to people’s fears and feelings, and they continuously build trust with and through people. They are connected to their values and encourage others to live their values. They ‘dig in’, meaning that they take action or say what they think needs to be said in a thoughtful way, despite the perceived risks or outcomes. These leaders create real change because they understand people and systems. Those who continue to work on themselves, who continue to rumble with vulnerability, and continue to practice the skills of daring leadership will be those best placed to lead effectively in an increasingly complex world.

Those who occupy important positions of power in government, our institutions and organisations are those who must dare to lead. The consequences of not doing so are dramatic, costly and come with a huge human toll.

Find out more about our Dare to Lead™ Program.

What Does it Mean to Dare to Lead?