Gareth Turner/ The Courageous Leaders Club Podcast. Released 2022.
Gareth Turner: Creating Environments of Psychological Safety

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Business Leadership Self Development

How to Build A Successful Team

How to Build a Successful Team

One of the most important things we do as leaders is to build a team, as these are the people who will become responsible for delivering your ideas and projects.

It’s not surprising then that it is also one of the most challenging things we will do as a leader, because the hard truth is that not everyone will be capable of taking your vision into the world and making it happen.

Which brings me to the million-dollar question in leadership – how do you build a successful team and what key elements do you need to keep in mind that mean you can attract the right people in the first place?

Below I’ve delved a little deeper into the three core areas that will help you do this.

1. Prioritise values and mindset as highly as you do skill set

It is often no longer your responsibility to deliver on your ideas and projects, but to inspire and empower others to do so. This means that everyone in your team must be aligned on the vision and be able to take that out into the world and make it their own. 

A key part of your role will involve you needing to be able to bring your ideas and projects to life to create buy-in and momentum; and so, when you build a team, you need to be confident that you can create a vision for them and know how to build alignment to that vision.

After all, there is no vision without alignment, and teamwork will not happen without shared values. 

Before attempting to build a team you, therefore, need to be clear on what it is you need; and you must remember that it’s not just about the skills and experience of your team members, it’s also about mindset, values and connecting the right people. 

By spending the time at this early stage honing in on what it is that you need from your team as a whole and as individuals you are far more likely to bring together those people who can make what we want to happen, happen.

2. Be clear about your expectations

Once you know what you’re looking for, you need to set clear expectations with those you are looking to bring onto your team.

You must give potential new team members the opportunity to understand the type of organisation they would be joining and how they would need to work; and once your team is in place it is your role to provide clarity and set clear expectations.

This is about more than just a job description; it is about being clear about what values and skills you need from your team, what tasks they will be responsible for and how they show up and respond to challenges.

If you need people who can be flexible within the team, work with fluid structures and not need to be told what to do, you need to tell potential team members that. Do not fear scaring people off, instead reframe your mindset to ensure you bring the right person on – not everyone will be suited to your organisation and that is ok.

Recruitment is a collaborative effort between you and the candidate to ensure you find the right fit, but neither of you can do that unless you tell them exactly what you are looking for.

Of course, this may mean that you will reduce the number of candidates and in some cases it may take longer to find the right person or people for your team. But the key is not to panic; not to lower or shape your expectations based on who you meet.

We all know, many of us from personal experience, that it is much more costly in the long run to hire the wrong person than to wait a little longer to hire the right person. The most successful teams often take a little longer to build but the impact they make lasts far longer.

3. Remember building a team is a creative process

It is easy, when building a team, to become bogged down in the challenges and minutiae of the process but creating a team is and should be a creative process.

Just like creativity, building a team is a blank piece of paper and it enables us to move beyond the thinking and into the doing.

Using those creative skills that make you a successful leader when creating and building your team – imagination, vision, originality, inventiveness – you will be able to bring together a group of people that not only succeed as individuals but as a team that is greater than the sum of its parts.

After all, our teams are our most creative tool and the one by which we will present and deliver our ideas to the world, and we should approach the process of creating it as such.

The key to an effective team is trust, and it is your role as a leader to help them get to know and understand each other so that the trust can be built. Be courageous and curious in the questions you ask and the time you give to really know who your team members are and understand their needs, get to know them as individuals and then support them to come together as a collective.

Putting our team together is one of the most challenging aspects of being a leader because we know how important it is to get right, and how easy it is to get wrong!

This means it can be a very daunting process and comes with a lot of pressure – but with my Courageous Leaders Club, it is not something that you need to do by yourself.

By joining my community of leaders from within the creative industries, you will be part of a safe, supportive (and successful) team created just for you. It is a space to learn, share ideas and overcome challenges together, giving you the confidence to go forward and create the team you need to succeed.

To find out more about the Courageous Leaders Club and to apply to join visit

Business Leadership Self Development

The Importance of Expanding Not Just Elevating As Leaders

The Importance of Expanding Not Just Elevating As Leaders 

Speak to any business leader and they will tell you that the workplace is changing and the pace of that change is only getting faster. In fact, according to a report by Dell Technologies in 2018, 85% of the jobs that will exist in 2030 haven’t even been invented yet.

For many of us that can be a difficult prospect to grasp, so what is the key to thriving when the future of our workforce is unknown? 

Clearly it is time to revisit that long held belief that empowering our employees to climb up the ladder is the only way to succeed and instead look at widening said ladder to enable our teams to expand their skills as well as elevate them.

If we are to be effective and courageous leaders we need to make sure we are providing the working environment that supports everyone to be brave in their pursuit of success, however that looks.

Here are three key ways to achieve this:

Reskill As Well As Upskill

Gone are the days when career paths within businesses were a simple linear path from junior employee to business leader and those who completed this path the quickest were lauded as the winners in business.

Now we must recognise that it is not a race to the finishing line and often the most successful of those in our team are the people who take their time, veer off in one direction to return a little later and enjoy the journey as they go. A speed boat may reach the other side of the lake quicker but the yacht that zig zags across at its own pace reaches the same destination and has more adventures to tell of when it arrives.

The future of leadership needs to be more people centered rather than career centered. We need to listen to our team and treat each one as individuals, taking the time to learn their individual interests and ambitions.

By developing and supporting people to achieve what they want to achieve rather than forcing them to follow a predetermined career path, you will be building a more resilient and deft individual capable of taking on the challenges of their yet undetermined future.

Giving people permission to move out of their lane and explore what interests them will also be creating an environment where people feel empowered to take risks, to make bolder and braver decisions and move your business forward with passion and integrity.

Be Prepared To Share Your Team

For too long, leadership was seen as a way to build mini-empires and opportunities for growth and development within the team were seen as a threat. This thinking no longer has a place within modern leadership. If we continue to be protective and defensive of our teams we will be denying them the opportunities to harness the skills needed in the future.

A good leader isn’t one who’s team knows their place and doesn’t step out of line, but one who encourages those they work with to look beyond the team. 

We have to be open in our approach to supporting people, even if that means they ultimately find a place somewhere else. As leaders we should seek success in watching those we once led outshining us and carving their own path beyond the confines of our territories. Over protectiveness in business leads to stagnation and that spells disaster in the modern business environment.

It is important to remember though that as leaders, we do not exist alone. Being committed to sharing our teams in order to maintain creativity and innovation only works if other leaders around us are doing the same. It is all well and good recognising that a member of our sales team has an interest and flair for marketing that should be encouraged, but if the leader within the marketing team isn’t as open then there is little chance of achieving success.

Recognise Leadership Is A Skill

Nearly all of us as leaders, at some time or another, will have fallen into the trap of neglecting our leadership responsibilities in order to achieve a goal, complete an important project or simply keep on top of our workload. Often the duties that come with leadership are given to us on top of existing responsibilities to get work done.

But, as a leader it is imperative we acknowledge that our most important role is to facilitate the team to do their job better, not to do their job ourselves. Listening to and helping solve the problems within our team isn’t a distraction from our job, it is our job and like with any role it requires skill and a determination to succeed. 

Simply being promoted to a leadership role, whether that involves leading people or not, does not make us a leader. We have to learn how to do it so we can be the courageous leader that businesses need if they are to survive beyond the present. But we can’t do that alone. 

That is why I set up my Courageous Leaders Club to provide a community for leaders within the creative industries to learn together and from each other, giving you a safe, supportive space to reflect and recharge with like minded individuals to help you become the best leader you can be in these fast moving times. It may feel lonely at the top sometimes but with the Courageous Leaders Club it doesn’t have to.

To find out more about the Courageous Leaders Club and to apply to join visit

Business Leadership Self Development

How To Lead Unapologetically As Yourself

How to Lead Unapologetically As Yourself 

“He that thinketh he leadeth when no one is following, is merely taking a walk.”

John. C. Maxwell


When we commit ourselves to being the best leader, it is all too easy to lose ourselves in the noise; to become what we believe a leader should be rather than the leader we can be.


Being a leader should never be at the expense of being ourselves, especially as authenticity is often what inspires trust and loyalty from those we lead. 


That is why I am passionate about leadership being a journey of continuous personal and professional development. Opening yourself up to self-reflection, change and improvement is essential if you are to inspire the sense of conviction and confidence in those that follow you that expands their idea of what they are capable of achieving. 


So how do we lead positively and unapologetically as ourselves in the modern business world?


Below I have outlined five key ways that have helped me in my leadership, that I wanted to share with you in this blog.


1. Overcoming the fear of failure

As young children, we don’t consider our actions will result in failure. We would build a tower of bricks not expecting it to fall and then when it did, we would simply rebuild it, without self-doubt preventing us from believing that this time it would rise taller.

Yet as we grow older and we experience the inevitable setbacks in our lives and careers, the fear of failure begins to influence our decisions, making us indecisive and cautious. Even when our tower is at its highest, we can become overwhelmed by the voice in our head telling us that it will fall if we add another brick.


But, failure in itself isn’t bad, it is how we deal with it that ultimately determines the ongoing influence that moment has in our lives. We are in control of how we approach those moments and the internal voices we decide to listen to.


Do we listen to the voice that tells us we can do something or the one that says we can’t? The one that makes us doubt ourselves in the face of failure or the one that gives us the confidence to dust ourselves off and learn from it?


No one can completely banish the negative voices in their head but we can learn to make friends with them. By recognising them for what they are – a reflection of our fears and doubts – we can start to relinquish the power those voices have on us. It’s not about ignoring those voices but attaching the right level of significance and volume when they speak to us. Knowing that those voices are a part of us, but they are not all of us.


Once we let go of the notion that failure is the worst possible outcome, rather than just one outcome out of many, we can begin to lead from a position of inner confidence and truth.


2. Recognising the power of gratitude

Starting from a place of gratitude allows you to take a step back from any negativity or stress that is consuming you and move forward with more clarity.

By taking a moment to stop and think about all the parts of yourself and your life that you are grateful for, you are putting your arms around yourself and reminding yourself that there is a lot of good in who you are and what you’re doing.

Anxiety and gratitude cannot exist in the same moment, so practicing this simple act can help to refocus you and reinvigorate you for the challenges of leadership and allow you to reconnect with yourself.

3. Remembering Feedback is Not Always the Truth

We all understand that receiving feedback is part of our professional lives. Even, or perhaps especially, as leaders we must be prepared to listen to feedback, both negative and positive, and reflect on what it means for us going forward.

However, just as being open to receiving feedback is an important part of leadership, recognising what feedback is helpful and what will only drag us down in the opinions of others, without providing clarity is an equally essential skill.

The most important thing to remember is that feedback is not the truth, it is the truth of the person speaking it. That means that just because someone calls you arrogant or bullish or too sensitive it doesn’t mean you have to believe it and doesn’t mean you should change to fit their idea of who or how you should be.

Ask yourself what the person who is giving you the feedback has to gain from doing so. What is their motivation? Are their words more a reflection of where they are and their own insecurities than a true reflection of you?

By understanding and keeping hold of the fundamental beliefs about yourself, such as “I am a good, kind person” you can start to filter the feedback you receive and let go of those comments that do not serve you.

That’s not to say all negative feedback should be ignored, but it is about being objective about your thoughts following that feedback. You can see your faults but you are not them. By doing that you can work on reflecting and improving, without second guessing and losing yourself in the process.

4. Letting Go Of The Labels

Often with feedback comes labels. We become known both by ourselves and by other people by traits or behaviors used to sum us and our leadership style up. Bossy. Confident. Outspoken. Decisive. Defensive. They can trap us in a box that restricts our growth and ability as leaders and as human beings, but the good thing about labels is that you can unstick them as easily as they become attached to you. You do not need to submissively accept a label that does not serve you. 

Your job is not to make other people’s lives easier or for them to feel more comfortable, it is to be you. Claim your identity and let go of those labels you no longer want and then make room for new ones. Go back to those fundamental truths you know about yourself, attach those labels and wear them with pride. It’s time to invest in your strengths, not focus on your weaknesses.

5. Leading By Example and Embracing Vulnerability

Finally, and arguably most importantly, we must lead by example and let ourselves be vulnerable. I’ve spoken before about how allowing myself to be vulnerable when my team was offering me feedback, by admitting I found hearing it difficult, helped to create an atmosphere of trust and respect that hadn’t been present before.

Often as leaders we’re told to ‘fake it ‘til you make it’ and that to be strong is not to show weakness, but vulnerability and showing that you too are human is a powerful tool in inspiring and leading our teams and keeping in touch with our own inner selves.

However, it is important to remember that as a leader our team looks to us for solutions, so whilst we should share what is troubling us we have to also show how we are overcoming them. By demonstrating how we deal with challenges and reminding people that even in a bad week, not every moment is bad we are helping our team to become more open yet resilient.

In my mind, the most courageous leaders are those that care and are sensitive to the world around them. The Coronavirus pandemic gave us all an unique opportunity to witness and appreciate the humanity of those we worked with. We saw into their homes, met their partners, children and pets, we learned they played the guitar and collected snowglobes, we saw them drop their games faces and gained a greater understanding of their everyday pressures and stresses as our team did with us.

Despite being more physically further apart than ever, we all became more connected with what made each of us who we are both in and out of work. Now that we’re moving beyond the pandemic and returning to the office, it is important not to lose touch with the quiet humanity that we witnessed and shared for all those months. By dropping the mask and allowing others to do the same, we not only lead as our authentic selves but we show others that they should too.

It is not always easy to keep hold of our true self as leaders. We are bombarded with opinions, feedback and advice on how to be strong and confident, much of which can lead us to believe that we must wear a mask that never drops. Yet authenticity is strength and by keeping hold of what makes us who we are and using that as our foundation from which to lead we become better, more inspiring and more effective leaders as well as healthier, happier people.

When you lead from a place of truth, others will follow and ensure you are not walking alone.

If you’d like to lead confidently as your true self, build courage and certainty in your leadership and get access to high-level monthly training and a supportive community, I’d love you to join me as a member in the Courageous Leaders Club.

You can find out more and apply here



Business Leadership Self Development

The Underestimated Superpower You Need in Your Leadership

The Underestimated Superpower You Need in Your Leadership

Type ‘what is good leadership’ into Google and you’ll be met with about 36,300,000 results.

Your screen will fill with lots of articles telling you that you need to display qualities such as being assertive, self-assured, logical, and confident to take risks. You will read all about how good leaders have grit, resilience and are mentally tough.

You will probably see mentions of empathy and other traits that have traditionally been seen as softer skills, but there will be very little focussing on them, or more specifically, on the importance of kindness.

Of course, I’m not saying that the things listed above are not important, but for far too long, understanding the power of kindness and other ‘soft’ skills, such as being nice and caring in business and in leadership has been underestimated, and worse, it has come with negative connotations such as being weak, ineffective, or naive.

It’s time to change the narrative, because I know from experience that being a good leader and a nice person are not incompatible. I am confident that it is not only possible, but essential for us to work in a demanding industry, lead with authority and be able to do so with kindness. 

The future of leadership is already starting to see the ‘softer’ skills as the ones of power, and we must adapt with this and recognise the benefits of both.

Going forward, a good leader will need to combine the two, where traits like compassion, empathy and kindness play a much more pivotal role.

So, what does this look like in practice?

If we take the dictionary definition, kindness is ‘the quality of being friendly, generous, and considerate’, not hard to argue that these are all qualities of a good leader.

Being friendly can be as simple as operating with a meaningful smile, showing you enjoy what you do and who you are doing it with. The saying ‘smiling is infectious’ is not wrong and leading with that kind of warmth will build trust and make people feel safe.

Being considerate may take a little more thought than a simple smile but can still be relatively easily achieved. As leaders’ part of our job will inevitably involve things like giving feedback, having difficult conversations, and managing change. These elements of our role can be tough, but when we stop to be considerate of the individual, and how these things might feel on the receiving end, then we can approach them through a lens of kindness, and in the process, we can build trust.

Finally, let’s take the aspect of generosity in kindness. Being generous as a leader is a little more multifaceted than the first two, but there are three main approaches that I want to talk about here.

1. Being generous with your time

As a leader you need to take time to actively listen so that your team feel heard and you need to invest time to understand where people are coming from, so that they feel safe and cared about. When you do this, they will trust that you have their best interests at heart, and this will show in their productivity and results.

However, I know this is not easy, because if I asked any leader what they wish they had more of, I bet time would be right up there!

Key to getting this right is understanding the impact and value of your time and knowing that to be generous with it, you also need to protect and be precious with it.

Fundamental to achieving this is learning to relinquish control and delegate, which leads me to my next point on where you need to be generous – with your trust.

If you’d like to hear more insights around how to be generous with your time, please tune into my podcast, where I recently had the pleasure of interviewing Sergio Lopez, EVP. Global Head of Production at Publicis Groupe on my podcast, who shared some incredible wisdom on his experience of doing this.

2. Being generous with your trust

To get the best out of others, you must be able to confidently delegate, and in doing so empower your team to learn and give things a go in their own way. Whether you are training your graduate trainees to be an Account Manager, or you are onboarding a new team member, you need to be generous in your trust with them.

Trusting your team will empower them to shine, so long as it is underpinned that you will be their safety net if things go wrong.

When people feel trusted to do a job well, and have trust that you will support them and have their back when mistakes happen, they will give their all, and feel safe to ask for help – and that really is the golden key in leadership.

3. Being generous when building relationships

It is easy to fall into the trap of seeing building relationships and networking as a means to an end, and so when you don’t see immediate results from it, you can get frustrated and give up. 

However, when you approach doing this generously, and without any expectation that anything is going to come from it, or hoping for something in return, then it becomes so much more meaningful and rewarding.

Building relationships because you are genuinely interested in that person will always come back to you, even if it is years down the line. You will build your reputation as an authentic leader and a kind person, both traits that you as an individual, our industry, and the wider world will always benefit from and needs to see more of.

In summary, never underestimate the impact of being kind because it can be the superpower that activates your team’s full potential; and showing kindness in your leadership will be a gift that allows you to unfailingly get the best out of everyone you work with.

So, who wants to join me in building a future of kind leaders?

If you answered yes, I’d love you to join me as a member in the Courageous Leaders Club, where you will receive monthly training and support, keep expanding your courageous zone and be part of a growing community of leaders who are helping to shape the future of leadership in a way that they want to see it progress.

You can find out more, and apply here.

Joanna Howes is the CEO of The Change Creators. She is an award winning international coach, behavioural expert, and No 1 best selling international co-author, who specialises in leadership and performance coaching. If this has resonated with you and you would like to explore how a coach can guide you to achieve your success, please book a free call using this link to discuss how Joanna can help you achieve your goals faster and easier than ever before. 

Business Leadership Self Development

How to create the right environment for courageous action

How to create the right environment for courageous action

When I work with companies, one of the first things I always like to talk about is their environment.

And by that, I don’t just mean what they put in their creds, or what they go out and say they do. I mean the unwritten grapples that exist in every business.

For me, the real ground rules of a company are the things people say about it as they meet in the communal areas or chat via DM. That’s where the environment of a business can truly be found.

And the environment is so important, because it is the very foundation of where courageous action begins!

Here’s 3 ways that, as leaders, you can create the right environment to inspire courageous action:

1. Have an opinion

As a leader if you’re not sure about something or if you disagree with something, it’s so important that you can stick your neck out and say so. Being able to go against the consensus or popular opinion is often not only important, but necessary when you are considering the bigger picture. Doing so will show that you have courage in your convictions and that you’re not afraid to challenge the status quo – and it will also make your employees feel like they can do the same!

2. Putting yourself out there

Following on from the first point, one of the most courageous things that you can do as a leader is to create an environment where it’s ok for people to disagree with you, and to challenge the people around them, in a constructive way. Everybody has a right to have their opinion heard at work, and allowing an environment where people can honestly and boldly say what they think, even when it may challenge the norm, is one of the most powerful things you can do to inspire courageous action! You will earn respect, loyalty and perhaps most excitingly, even create some genius out of the ideas that are a little bit more out there.

3. Understand who people are as human beings

Leading a work environment that allows people to feel valued is so important – and if you don’t understand who your team are as human beings, you will never achieve this. Finding out what motivates the people who work for you, what they value and what makes them happy will unlock a wealth of opportunity for you to truly nurture the environment that they work in, and allow so much potential for courageous action to take place.

And that really is where the true magic begins!

What do you think? Do you do any of these? Or do you have anything else you’d add to the list?

Let me know in the comments.

Joanna Howes is the CEO of The Change Creators. She is an award winning international coach, behavioural expert, and No 1 best selling international co-author, who specialises in leadership and performance coaching. If this has resonated with you and you would like to explore how a coach can guide you to achieve your success, please book a free call using this link to discuss how Joanna can help you achieve your goals faster and easier than ever before. To see how else Joanna can help visit her website here.


From Employee to Entrepreneur and now the CEO of The Change Creators

From Employee to Entrepreneur and now the CEO of The Change Creators

Do you feel there is something lacking in your life and career right now?

Do you have the feeling that there is more inside you but you can’t figure out how to access it and what your next step should be?

Are you too focused on what others think rather than what you really want to achieve?

4 years ago I would have answered ‘yes’ to all the above. 

Now I’m writing this article as the CEO of my own company – The Change Creators. 

If you had said to me back then that I would be running my own company, supported by a team of four and working with some of the most exciting brands in the world to create change, I would have laughed – awkwardly. 

So for me to be writing this and celebrating the evolution of my company in becoming The Change Creators with you now is a huge milestone in both my life and career.

4 years ago, I didn’t believe this journey was possible. Outwardly I was at the highest level of success in my career, the pinnacle of what I had worked for over the last 20 years. However, inwardly I was at rock bottom with no confidence and a sense of losing who I was.  

Looking at yourself in the mirror and feeling like a fraud, a failure and having no clue as to what you are going to do next is something I do not wish on anyone.

All I knew was that I was starting to feel the need for a change. I had a restlessness inside me, a feeling that I wasn’t living fully or authentically and that I had to explore it. I didn’t think for a minute that it would be what it turned out to be.

A new door opened

I had experienced some coaching in my last corporate position and loved it. It made me realise that in my operations role, you can only make changes if you understand why humans do what they do. So I made the decision to ignite my passion for learning and focus on human behaviour by pursuing my coaching training. I felt this would be a good way for me to learn about myself and then use it in my next corporate role to help elevate how change works.

Upon starting the training I fell in love with everything I was learning and began having a vision of building a business that was focused on creating change for others so they can be their true selves. So they never have to feel they need to be what they think they ‘should’ be or suppress their character to fit in. Just as I had once felt.

I wanted leaders to feel fearless and safe to bring out the best version of themselves and activate their full potential.

To do this I knew I had to back myself first. I had to work on my own self-belief and start to address that feeling inside that I could do and be more. 

This feeling still drives the business now. I want to show all the leaders I help that if I can do it, anyone else can.

31st May 2018 

On this day I opened the doors to Joanna Howes Ltd, coach, consult and trainer.

I was nervous, excited and also had no idea what was going to happen.

As an introvert, picking up the phone and reaching out to my contacts was a cocktail of butterflies and trepidation (now I’m a big fan of cocktails, however, this one? Not so much!). 

The realisation of having to wear all the different hats, becoming a marketer, accountant, sales person and course designer in a very short amount of time was a challenge.

But, using my training, I learnt that small steps lead to huge leaps both for myself and for the companies I’ve been honoured to help. The breakthroughs and transformation we have witnessed over the last 4 years have been incredible and very moving.  

Becoming The Change Creators 

My priority has always been people and have focused on helping create change in individuals, teams and businesses to help them grow and achieve their vision and goals easier and faster than ever before.  

To achieve this and keep our clients evolving, it’s important that both myself and my business evolved too. Being ‘Joanna Howes Ltd’ was great but with both my team and clients growing, I felt the time was right to grow further. 

It’s not a buy-out, merger or takeover. The core is still me.

Becoming The Change Creators is allowing us to expand our offering, grow our team and become the go-to brand to help you activate your full potential and be fulfilled in your life and work. 

One day or Day one?

I will be forever grateful that I took that leap and decided to back myself and create my change for good. Mine turned out to be building my own company. For you it may be securing a promotion or living more authentically in your work and life. 

My main message to you is that if you feel something strong enough, don’t ignore it. Go out and explore it!

I did 4 years ago and it’s got me to where I am today which I still have to pinch myself about. 

If you have ever felt the same then maybe today could be your day of change? 

How would you feel if you became the leader and business you know you can be?

So don’t keep thinking ‘one day…’ – Make today your ‘day one’. 

I’d love to hear from any of you who this resonates with. I’ve been there and can fully relate. Drop me an email here I’d love to know your story, what you’d like to achieve and help you fulfil it.

This is a very exciting time for us all. Thank you for being part of our journey and we hope you continue to do so.

Stay posted for new product launches and surprise gifts that we will be sharing to celebrate our growth. 


5 steps to build a people-first, high performance culture

5 steps to build a people-first, high performance culture

Remember when you used to have a one-to-one human conversation with a colleague in the office? Ahh…the good old days…

Over the past year our working relationships have been forced to change. 

There was no capacity to manage everything and know what our teams were up to 24/7. (Unless you forced your staff to have their zoom on all day – Big Brother style!)  We had no choice but to delegate, trust our teams and hand over responsibility.

The feedback I’m receiving is that companies actually found an increase in productivity, not the decrease they expected. 

I am actually not surprised to hear this. 


Because when we give people responsibility and our belief, they experience ownership and feel a greater commitment to deliver. Allowing people to work more on their own terms makes them feel valued and more likely to work harder and smarter to achieve personal, departmental and organisational goals.

We are becoming more aware that we are all individuals and we work and behave in individual ways. This recognition makes employees feel understood, and that their contribution counts, so they work with a stronger motivation and a greater level of engagement. They will go the extra mile because they want to contribute to an organisation that cares about them. Wouldn’t you? 

This is known as a ‘people-first’ culture where you believe in and back your people, as they are what make your company successful. 

So the big question is HOW can you achieve this?

How do you know when you are operating as a people-centric company? 

It’s about taking action and creating clear leadership expectations and objectives so you can measure your progress. 

Here are 5 steps to building a people-first, high performance culture: 
  1. Leadership alignment 

Are you all aligned on your values and what a ‘people-first’ culture looks like for your organisation? And I mean from board level to senior leaders. Are your values operationalised so they can be lived every day? Ask questions to your team at the end of the day. How did you live the value of X today? 

  1. Align employees to company success 

Clarity and context is key. Employees must know exactly what is expected of them. Be clear on your goals and benchmarks for company success – both externally and internally – as this will help individuals realise how they contribute and what it looks like when they have achieved it.  The more clarity they have on their performance and how their goals align with the greater organisation’s goals, the more engaged they will be. If you’re clear then they can be – it’s not rocket science.

  1. Increased effective communication

Do not assume the company is aware of what is happening. Too often, leaders spend a lot of time talking about changes and think that everyone else knows what is happening and the communication doesn’t filter to the right people.  Or worse still, the communication is inconsistent and confuses teams.  Ensure you have effective communication strategies and flow so you create an inclusive informed environment. If you don’t communicate properly then how can you expect others to understand?

As Brené Brown says ‘Unclear is unkind, clear is kind’.

  1. People-focused development

How do you feel when someone invests time or an interest in you? It’s good isn’t it?! When people feel like you are investing in them, they will invest in the company. So offer training and development opportunities that go beyond the role. Offer development in confidence, mindset and leadership. Your team may possess the skills but lack the confidence and self trust to fulfil them. I offer ways to work with both individuals and teams and you can check out my programmes here. 

  1. Be the example and have a feedback culture

As a leader you need to embody this culture and walk the talk. To be comfortable giving and receiving feedback that is aligned to the company’s values. Become aware when you are making it about ‘you’ and not your people. As leaders, we need to trust, value and care for our team,  which then drives loyalty, increased effort and retention. 

There are some great companies already exhibiting this culture – you can find the best in the UK on the Best Companies List here, which recognises company commitment to employees and demonstrates that they see workplace engagement as a vital part of their organisation’s success.

If we all start to adopt these beliefs, we will create productive and HAPPY places to work – whether we are back in the office together or out of it.  Sound good?

I’m already excited for the future of business. And hope you can be too!

Joanna is an award winning international coach who is passionate about helping people achieve personal and business success. Combining 20 years of operational experience with her behavioural expertise and leadership coaching, Joanna has worked with leading companies like Getty Images and the BBC to increase performance and results. If you’re interested to learn how Joanna can help you and your team, book your free discovery session with Joanna here


Why leaders need to move out of their comfort zone

Why leaders need to move out of their comfort zone

Remember when you first left home? 

It felt exciting. Freedom. Independence. No one telling you what to do. 

But it was also a little bit scary. You were leaving your comfort zone of being looked after and were now going into the unknown. No one to do your laundry, cook your meals, pay your bills etc. You had to stand on your own two feet and at times it felt overwhelming or uncomfortable. 

With time and experience though, you adapted and learnt how to do it all. Before you knew it, you had developed your own home routine, grew as a person and loved living like an independent adult (although, it would be great if someone else still paid our bills!). 

It’s similar with leadership growth. 

Whether we want to hear it or not, the only way to grow as a leader is to step out of our comfort zone. It’s not easy and it’s not, well… comfortable. We have to be ready to trust the process and learn from those who have gone before us to achieve the success we want to reach and access our full potential.  

I’m writing this article to share with you one of the processes that I have personally followed to help you fully immerse yourselves in the process and continue to grow and adapt as future-fit leaders. 

This won’t happen once either. This will happen over and over again as you climb the ladder and take on new responsibilities and challenges.  

So, it’s best to get started with this work now as – like anything – the more you do it, the more confident you become and the faster you will achieve your goals. 

The Process to Courageous Leadership

The model above brilliantly demonstrates the process of moving from our ‘comfort zone’ to the ‘courageous zone’. 

Comfort zones are where the majority of us are created from. From when we were babies. A place of certainty, safety and comfort. As humans this is part of our core needs and the reason why we feel so at home here. So it’s completely natural to feel this.

However, in order to make changes and grow as a person and leader, we have to access our bravery and start the exploration of the next zone. 

To move through these zones it helps to know your goals and who you want to become as a leader. This will bring more connection and motivate you to overcome the challenges and keep moving towards the vision of your success.

Face the Fear

The first zone we are faced with is ‘fear’. Our brains are wired for survival, so as soon as it senses fear the voice in your head will be telling you to seek certainty and comfort.  Sound familiar? 

When you are in this zone you will potentially be aware of feeling a lack of self-confidence, finding excuses and being affected by the opinion of others. I want you to know this is totally normal and is a sign that you are heading in the right direction. 

To leverage the fear for growth you need to access your conscious mind in order to let your subconscious know that you are okay and that you can handle what is happening.  

This simply means coming off autopilot living, overriding your natural state and sticking with the feeling, allowing the anxiety to rise and be ok with it.  It will soon pass and you will be able to move to the next zone.  

Learn your own way 

The next zone we experience is ‘Learn’. This is where you will start to rise to the challenge and work out new solutions for yourself. You will advance your skill set, build your confidence and start to expand your zone of comfort. 

This part of the journey can feel quite liberating as you start to notice new ways of thinking and implementing. You are moving away from ‘group thinking’ and your mindset becomes more open, developing self-trust to make effective decisions and take the action needed. 

In my coaching sessions I call this the ‘Aha!’ moment. We all have the answers we need inside of us, it’s taking that leap of faith to trust yourself and learn that the biggest growth we have is in our set-backs. Building and developing the muscle of your mind to learn to move through these as opposed to just turning back to the comfort zone. 

Unleash your courage 

The final zone we arrive at is ‘Courage’. Now that we have discovered we have the tools and mindset, we find a new sense of purpose and confidence. We are also less likely to lose faith should we be faced with another challenge that feels daunting. 

In the courage zone we are able to accomplish objectives and set new, even bigger goals. We feel more aligned with our dreams and desires as we are actually taking action to fulfil them. This is where we see growth.

We know we are enough and have a new sense of certainty in ourself to know we can handle whatever comes our way. 

Are you ready to leave your comfort zone?

Are you ready to become the leader you know you can be? Are you ready to be the leader you wish you had and your team deserves? Yes, it will be uncomfortable – just like it was when leaving home for the first time – it’s just knowing and trusting that you can arrive at a place of being comfortable with feeling uncomfortable. 

You may find you are resistant to this process due to the pandemic. We have just had a whole year of uncertainty and uncomfortableness, but this is why you need to access your courage and be the leader the world needs right now – now more than ever. 

Some people thrive on going big and setting a big challenges. It is also totally OK to start small. Ask yourself what is the one small challenge you can commit to right now? 

If you are ready and would like to know how a coach can guide you through this process, I’d love to know what you’re wanting to achieve and how together, with my help, we can get you there. 

Joanna Howes is an award winning international coach, behavioural expert, and No 1 best selling international co-author, who specialises in leadership and performance coaching. If this has resonated with you and you would like to explore how a coach can guide you to achieve your success, please book a free call using this link to discuss how Joanna can help you achieve your goals faster and easier than ever before. To see how else Joanna can help visit her website here.


3 leadership tips to navigate the working environment post lockdown

3 leadership tips to navigate the working environment post lockdown

My recent article with Elite Business Magazine about leadership in the new working world seems to have struck a chord with many leaders and businesses. This style of leadership is something I am incredibly passionate about and the reason I started my coaching business. 

Our working world has changed, and is changing again, as we navigate moving back to offices and explore hybrid or flexible working. 

So, how do leaders manage this process to ensure our employees feel trusted, safe and empowered to keep morale and productivity at a high?

Employees have proven that when they are given responsibility and trust they will deliver. If this starts to be taken away we risk losing great talent, so looking after our talent is going to become a number one priority.

Here are 3 tips to help you lead your teams into the next phase of change:

  1. Communication – Over communicate to your teams, provide the certainty they need in knowing where you are with your decision making.  Don’t let them wonder and assume how it will be.  Even if you don’t know all the answers yet, let them know that – it’s better to be transparent than driving them to second guess and gossip being created to fill the uncertainty. I also recommend you ask your team how they would like it to be, what they believe and expect now the offices can open up again.  Create a sense of collaboration and ownership in designing new ways of working. 
  1. Individual leadership – All people want to know is that they matter.  See the person in your team, not the job title. Working from home has naturally increased this style of leadership as we have had an insight into the lives of our colleagues and teams. Take the time to listen and understand how each of the team are responding to how you are planning to work going forward. When people feel heard and understood they are more receptive and supportive to change.
  1. Trust – You will have needed to trust your teams more than ever throughout the last year.  Build on this trust, don’t allow it to be stripped away.  If your team is achieving their goals, does it matter how they got there? Maintain the attitude of flexibility and people finding their best way of being productive.  We are all different and in this last year we have discovered so much more about the environment we individually need to be high performers.  Allow these new findings to grow and don’t slip back to rigid working systems.

We are emerging into a new working world and this requires leaders who can understand human behaviour, mindset and how to meet the needs of their teams at a higher level than ever expected before. Leaders need to step into their courageous zones and be the role model for their teams to do the same. 

Joanna is an award winning international coach who is passionate about helping people achieve personal and business success. Combining 20 years of operational experience with her behavioural expertise and leadership coaching, Joanna has worked with leading companies like Getty Images and the BBC to increase performance and results. If you’re interested to learn how Joanna can help you and your team, book your free discovery session with Joanna here


Why I’ll always invest in myself as a leader

An interview series with previous Activate Your Full Potential participants

Today I’m delighted to welcome Diya, who joined my group coaching programme ‘Activate Your Full Potential’ last September. A 10 part leadership training that combines 121 coaching, online training and a community of like-minded leaders.  The course is for those who are committed to elevating their leadership, to have a positive impact by leading as their true self. 

As someone who worked for over 20 years in the creative industry I understand the challenges that many creative leaders face. This is why it is my passion to help those in this space to realise their potential and help them lead a more fulfilled life at work and at home. 

Thank you Diya for agreeing to share how the programme has impacted you and your leadership. 

Before enrolling in the programme, how were you feeling about yourself as a leader?

I felt like I had some of the tools to be a good leader but they felt scattered and clouded. I knew what I wanted to achieve but it felt like a mountain to climb.

What made you realise that investing in yourself was the right decision for you?

I knew taking some time for myself and seeking guidance from someone who has walked in those steps before me would only help me become better. This has been a tough year and I’m a true believer in slowing down and taking the time to recalibrate. To be able to reassess if things can be done better, I can do better, rather than just running at things in the same way and getting the same results.  

What made the ‘Activate Your Full Potential’ group coaching stand out for you?

In short, it was Jo. She has worked in the creative industry before she understands the struggles and the ups and down that come with it. I have immense trust in her abilities as a coach and she has a great way of getting straight to the issue and providing the support you need to fully understand yourself.

How did meeting and working with like minded leaders help your growth?

This was my favourite part. I gained a lot from hearing how other people have the same struggles, questions and hearing how they can see things differently. The biggest lesson I learnt from everyone was the strength in showing vulnerability. It’s ok to not have all the answers all of the time.

What problems has AYFP helped you solve so far? 

The main thing I’ve taken away from the course is the realisation that people just think differently to you and each other. Having this awareness has helped a lot with overall communication at all levels.

How did the programme make you feel?

The programme made me feel very centred and balanced. It made me confident at being flexible – switching from one state of mind to another and resourcefully reacting to what’s in front of me. Improving my Communication by really listening to what people are saying.

Would you recommend coaching to other leaders?

I couldn’t recommend the course enough to other leaders. It’s a gift that keeps on giving over time.

What advice would you give to other leaders who may be feeling like they have more to give but are unsure how to access it? 

My main advice is to lean in. Lean into not knowing all the answers, to learning, to getting things wrong and being open to change. The drive to grow is a key characteristic to being a good leader in my eyes and this course offers that in abundances.

What’s next for you and your business/role?

I was lucky enough to get my team some leadership training with Jo too. My next step is using those new skills to elevate the role of the team within the organisation, making everyone feel safe and having a seat and a voice at the table.


Thank you so much Diya for being so open and honest about your experience. I’m so pleased to hear that you found the course so valuable and that you will keep referring back to it. 

If anything Diya shared resonated with you and you are ready to seek clarity in your leadership and bring a positive impact to your work and your team, then do check out my programme. There are only a *few spaces* left, so for all the details and how to save your space follow the link below; 


If you would like to speak with me first then please do not hesitate to email me, I’d be delighted to talk you through how the programme can help you. 

Joanna is an award winning international coach who is passionate about helping people achieve personal and business success. Combining 20 years of operational experience with her behavioural expertise and leadership coaching, Joanna has worked with leading companies like Getty Images and the BBC to increase performance and results.

an immersive day full of leadership insights, training and support to create positive impact