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Business Leadership Potential Self Development

The 3 things that led me to my success and can lead you to yours

The 3 things that led me to my success and can lead you to yours

A lot of people say to me ‘I couldn’t do what you do, Jo’. I have always been baffled as to why people believe that. It’s like they think I have something special or a secret skill that allows me to do what I do…

…and truth is, there really isn’t.

So, I spent some time thinking about what it is I do, or how I think, that has allowed me to transform my life and fulfil my dream.

I want to share them with you now in the hope that you realise it’s never too late and you too can achieve your dreams. 

It’s all about choice and making a decision on how you want to live and the person you want to be.

Number 1 – Drive

I have valued drive since I was 18 years old.  Before then I just sort of wandered through life. I followed the popular gang around, kept my head down and did what I needed to do to get by.

My priority was to fit in, not to excel.

It was at 18 that I then saw how fragile and short life was when my father suddenly passed away in front of me. 

This was my life starting all over again. 

I often wonder, to this day, who I might have been if that hadn’t happened.

After the grieving process and the running away from pain, something ignited in me. I was always a hard-worker – having worked for my dad in a restaurant from the age of 12 – but now there was something new, which I now know as ‘Drive’.

Nothing was going to stop me from being a success. 

I didn’t get the qualifications expected at school and I didn’t pursue any further education, but this just fuelled my drive even more. 

I would show the world that I could be somebody and do well.  

3 ways to ignite your drive:

  1. Visualise the life you want for yourself 5 years from now
  2. Know your why and make sure it is bigger than you – this will get you out of bed
  3. Keep moving forward one step at a time (they can be small steps)

Now, drive on its own wasn’t enough.

Number 2 – Resilience

The second factor that I valued and have built on a daily basis.

Seeing your Dad pass, your Nan have 3 heart attacks in the same night and continuous tragedies over the following 6 years…

I had a choice: To be a victim or to dig into my resilience.

The mental commitment I had made to my dad to make him proud (even though he wasn’t here anymore) enhanced my ability and purpose to build my resilience.  

Don’t get me wrong, I can still get knocked down, and I did when I moved to Australia and very quickly found out the ‘dream job’ wasn’t going to work out. Now though, I am able to quickly rebuild myself to keep going, and with each knock my resilience just gets stronger and stronger. 

What is resilience? 

By definition it means: the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties; toughness.

It’s also very important to understand that resilience is a state; it is not a personality trait. You can build your resilience levels and learn the tools and techniques to manage stress, uncertainty and adversity resourcefully to ensure your performance levels remain high. 

3 ways to build your resilience:

  1. Keep promises to yourself with your self-care
  2. Know how to be in charge of your own mind
  3. Realise that you are in control of how you see the world – no one else

Resilience has been one of the most important factors in being able to run my own business. 

Going from 20 years in corporate to being on your own in business is massive, especially when you find out as you go the amount of different hats you need to wear!

Being awarded International Coach of the Year 2020

Number 3 – be a continuous learner

I fell in love with learning again 5 years ago.  I was told I was average at school, which gave me the belief that everyone else was smarter than me.

This was very limiting and once I learnt how to let go of those limiting beliefs, the joy for learning flooded back into my life.

I cannot stress enough how doing just 15 minutes of learning everyday will move you towards the life and results you want. 

I do an hour every morning and I read every day. 

The world is full of the answers you are looking for and the inspiration to be the person you want to be.  

Don’t settle. 

It is proven by neuroscience that the brain can change, adapt and learn new ways of being.  Leverage this and fuel your drive, raise your resilience and learn what could be possible for you.

It won’t happen overnight. But if you really want it, then it can be yours. 


Joanna is an award winning international coach who is passionate about helping people achieve success. Combining 10 years of operational experience with her behaviour 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

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Business Leadership Self Development

3 proven strategies to make this year ‘Your Year’

3 proven strategies to make this year ‘Your Year’

We all tend to enter into a New Year with the mindset of it being an opportunity to reset, start again and achieve those goals we have been striving for.

How many of you have said to yourself ‘This is going to be the year’.

When I sat down to write this article, I knew I had a choice. To write the things that will stop you from making this your year (trust me, there are a lot!), or to give you some strategies to help set you up to achieve your goals and targets in 2021.

We are also coping with a 3rd National Lockdown and our initial motivation may have been somewhat knocked.  It’s all too easy to write and talk about what we do badly, so I’m going to share with you 3 strategies that will not only give you a head start, but help you to stay on track with both your business and leadership success this year.

Number 1 – The power of the decision

When someone decides to climb Everest, they don’t start by planning the ‘how’, they start by making the decision that they will get to the top. Once the decision is made, the path of ‘how’ will start to emerge.

For example, if you are thinking of taking your business from £10m a year to £15m a year, don’t start with ‘how’ you are going to do it.  

You first need to decide – with all your body and mind – that you will achieve £15m. If you start with the ‘how’ you can fall into the trap of finding so many reasons why you can’t do it or why it will be hard.

By starting with the committed decision to do it, you will start to find the natural energy and strategies that will help you achieve that goal.

So this year, make the decision on ‘what’ you are going to achieve and the ‘how’ will take care of itself.

Number 2 – Mindset first

STOP DOING! Start thinking. Your mindset is what will make this year great or average.  

“Everything begins inside your mind. With the right mindset you will succeed.”

To change your results you need to change the way you think.

Look back over the last year and reflect on your levels of thinking and how you thought about various situations.

For example: if you are currently resisting change and trying to keep things working the way you like them – yet you are not seeing the results you expect – then you are currently in a fixed mindset and will become stuck.

We are certainly in times of change and the key is to accept and adapt to what is being given to us.

Change your mindset to being curious and open to ideas and suggestions for alternatives.

Be okay if they don’t work straight away or need tweaking.

This is all part of growing and elevating the results you can achieve.  

A business or leader who doesn’t embrace change will get left behind and fade away.

Take charge of your mind and set it to the right place in order to move towards success.

Number 3 – You don’t need to be liked and you don’t need to be right

Too many leaders stay average because their core needs are to be liked and to be right.

It’s part of the leadership journey, but if this is to be ‘Your Year’ then this level of thinking needs to upgrade.

Set yourself up for success by backing your ideas, finding your signature voice and not falling into the trap of people-pleasing and wanting to fit in.  

Be totally okay to not know everything. It’s fine. You are human. Having a leadership title doesn’t mean you become a walking encyclopedia! It’s just not possible and putting this expectation on yourself will distract you from what really matters.

The best kind of leaders are open to learning and continued development. 

Be the difference that makes the difference. Your business and team will thank you for it.

So there you are. My gift to you for the start of the year – three manageable yet proven strategies to help set you up for success in 2021.  


Joanna Howes is a leading coach, behavioural expert, and No 1 best selling international author, who specialises in leadership and business operations. If any of these have 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.

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Business Leadership Self Development Wellness

Are you a hidden leader?

Are you a hidden leader?

It’s an oxymoron right? A leader reaches the position that they’re in because they are marked out as someone who can guide others – they are the decision-maker, the figure in the spotlight. For all intents and purposes they are visible and accountable. But a huge swathe of leaders I have met recently  seem to feel like who they are as a leader, and the potential of what they can be or what they can achieve with their teams, exists in a parallel universe to the one they’re currently in. Outwardly they are performing and hitting the right notes, but their internal world is at war.  Enter, the ‘Hidden Leader’. 

In my experience this affects some of the most highly skilled, well-liked and tenacious leaders out there – and with the state of the world currently, Hidden Leaders seem to be multiplying. Leaders I am working with are telling me that they question their conviction in decision-making and they wonder about their ability to lead their teams in the way they need to be led during this period of time. The time to change this is now. As businesses face further uncertainty, we need leaders who can lead their teams from a place of certainty. I believe it’s time for Hidden Leaders to emerge from hiding, into a space where they can fully step into their power – if any of this resonates with you, here’s how you can start the process.

I constantly felt like there was more in me 

This topic is an easy one for me to write about because I completely relate to anyone who feels like this. I had a call with a prospective client last week who listed all of the obstacles in the way between where she was now and where she wanted to be and it was like having a conversation with my former self. Before I moved into leadership coaching, I was a Director of Operations for some of the world’s biggest creative agencies – and I spent a lot of this time feeling really disconnected with my leadership style and doubting the decisions I was making. I constantly felt like there was more in me, that I was taking a detour away from my potential.  It was only when I began to look inwards, and started to focus on the self-limiting beliefs I had and the habitual thinking patterns I had developed that I discovered that I could learn to shift these and make real change in my professional and personal life.

How to take control 

After reflecting on my own journey, the research I have undertaken as a behavioural and resilience expert and the case studies I have pulled together from my work as a leadership coach, I have discovered four key growth areas for leaders who are ready to begin this journey to work on. I guarantee if you invest the time in this, you will see the results. So let’s dive in. 

1. There is no such thing as failure it is feedback

We all put limiting beliefs on ourselves and these beliefs are the first blockers in place stopping you from progressing forward within your role and developing your leadership style. Changing your limiting beliefs is possible and the good news is you have full control to do this. It is time you called them out and challenged them.

A common limiting belief I encounter in leaders is: ‘I better not do that as I may fail and be judged’. This is a huge obstacle, as it immediately moves leaders out of a place of learning and growth into safety, and ultimately, inaction. When you shift the thinking around this, re-word it and instead deliver it as: ‘There is no such thing as failure it’s feedback’, it is transformed. This new belief creates huge potential for growth, risk taking and innovation. 

If you need an example to anchor you to this new belief, look no further than some of our greatest leaders, from Richard Branson to Tony Robbins to Oprah. These leaders all have the same thing in common, they have learnt their greatness from the things that didn’t go right.  

Ultimately, you have a choice, one is the path of safety, this will give you a comfortable and okay life, which suits a lot of people. However, if you are reading this, then it’s clear that this isn’t what you’re after. You are hungry to explore your own potential, and this means you need to challenge the beliefs you have about yourself.

One of the best books to get you started with this is, “Feel the Fear and do it anyway” by Susan Jeffers.  The key take out from the book is ‘what is the worst that can happen?’. If you can identify the worst thing, then ask yourself if you can handle it. 

2. Raise your standards

Our personal standards set the benchmarks for who we can become. Although many leaders feel like their personal standards are their driving force in how they conduct business and lead their teams, there are day-to-day behaviours many exhibit that can seriously undermine this. Look at the following and notice if you did any of these in the last two weeks:

  • Turned up to meetings late
  • Agreed in a meeting and then disagreed with a smaller group afterwards
  • Avoided difficult conversations
  • Treated all your team the same and expected them to deliver
  • Used your phone in meetings
  • Cancelled your 1-2-1’s with your team

Although these are seemingly small moments, they can have a big impact on your ability to advance in your leadership journey. Each one of these represents a low personal standard that you have displayed not only to yourself, but to your team. These standards will maintain the status quo, and keep you moving along at the same level. 

Instead, look at the people who are having the success you want to be achieving and delve into the standards that drive this success. This is called modelling excellence, and is an easy way to identify what personal standards you need to make central to your leadership. As an example, the standards below are some I have identified and modelled to achieve the success I now have:

  • Show up 100%
  • Commit to what I achieve to do
  • Be fully present when someone is talking to me
  • Give feedback to help people grow
  • Keep promises to myself
  • There is always a way

3. Be kind to yourself

To change and grow you need to ensure you have self-care rituals in place to look after your mind and body.  

The essential self-care step when it comes to being kind to yourself, is to notice how you talk to yourself. The voice in your head can have a lot of power over the decisions and choices you make for your life and career. The voice can completely determine the success levels you can achieve.

Being aware that you can control the voice is your starting point. You are then able to understand that the voice is ultimately trying to keep you safe. When we are trying to change, our ego (our subconscious brain), doesn’t want us to. It’s very happy with where you are, as you have taught it that this is what is safe for you. The biggest thing to note is that the subconscious brain doesn’t know the difference between what is good and bad for you, it learns that what you do on a repeated basis must be what you want. 

Begin the process of changing the voice and letting it know you are okay to grow. As you and your inner voice become more adept to change, you will start to reduce the anxiety around expanding your comfort zone.

4. Take action

It’s time to stop looking at the water and jump in the pool. Everything is in the action.

The previous steps we’ve looked at are very important but without taking action and starting to change how you show up and changing your strategy, you will remain a Hidden Leader.

It doesn’t need to be a big dramatic overnight change. The process of emerging as a courageous leader, one who operates with certainty, courage and resilience, is an evolving process. Start by focusing on small areas that you’d like to change. Below are some that could be relevant:

  1. Speak up in a meeting if you disagree with what is being said
  2. Have the difficult conversation and not find reasons to be busy to avoid it
  3. Share your ideas 
  4. Give feedback to peers if they are misaligned to the culture of the company

So, are you ready to trust yourself?

Yes your to-do list is endless and the pressures on your time may have increased. But this work is truly worth it. It will not only improve your performance as a leader but it will directly drive up your fulfilment in the role you are doing – you will be able to feel the ease that comes when you truly trust yourself and your decisions. And let me tell you, having experienced both sides of it, it’s wonderful to have stepped out into the light – come and get your Vitamin D hit, it’ll do you the world of good. 

If you want to explore your potential, I invite you to book your FREE 30 minute discovery call with me by clicking this link: https://calendly.com/joannahowescoaching/30min

Categories
Business Leadership Self Development

STOP SETTLING, it’s never too late to activate your full potential and get BIGGER results

STOP SETTLING, it’s never too late to activate your full potential and get BIGGER results

‘I know I am capable of more, but it’s like it’s trapped inside and not coming out’, is a repeated statement I hear from a lot of leaders. Firstly, let it be said – these are not leaders who are underachieving. They have climbed the ranks at an accelerated rate moving into Partner and Executive roles at hugely acclaimed companies, and are, by all accounts, knocking it out the park career wise. 

However like many who have led their teams through the changes of the last 5 months, not only has it been testing, but it has rattled perspectives, shaking them into something new. Leaders I speak with discuss the challenging balance of work/life, the fast-paced, high pressure business demands, team dynamics and how this has increased the feelings of frustration and dissatisfaction; in the role they’re doing and how they’re doing it. 

What this ultimately boils down to is… potential. Navigating what you need to do so that you feel like you’re achieving what you want to be achieving in your leadership, is more vital than ever. Here I will argue that for many leaders right now, it’s make or break. 

It’s so much more than leadership skills

If you attended my future-fit masterclasses – you’ll know that a huge challenge facing business leaders over the next ten years is remaining on the pulse of innovation. The fact that 85% of roles in the industry that people will be doing in 2030 have yet to be created according to Dell, in partnership with the Institute for the Future, sets the scene. Courses for upskilling yourself are huge right now; no surprises there. But here I am going to go against the grain, controversially perhaps, with a new call to arms. 

Leaders, hold back investing in your skillset at the moment. Yes, your business needs new strategies and expanding your understanding of what those are and how they will help you hit your targets are important. I am just asking you to put a pause on those plans or conversations momentarily. They’re important, but there are more pressing things that you’re facing. Until we focus on how to address the feelings of inadequacy or the lack of confidence and conviction, even the slickest new skills are not going to stick. Leaders will get left behind, not because they don’t have the skills the business needs, but because their own inner world is holding them back.

Stop being frustrated and learn how to achieve more

Instead right now leaders need to pause, breathe and focus on the deeper reasons why they are feeling unfulfilled or inadequate. Where are these feelings coming from? It’s striking that even the most confident leaders I work with, who originally came to me so I could help them tighten up their business and operational processes, are now finding that their foundations are shaken. 

This is not surprising, given the year that we’ve faced, it is a natural outcome. What it means though is that it’s having a knock-on effect. Leaders are stopping themselves from advancing in their careers and reaching the roles and earnings they want. 

When you feel like there’s more in you but you just can’t get to it, not only is it massively frustrating, but it’s a self fulfilling prophecy. The discord is going to hold you back and stop you from thinking innovatively, from leading boldly and from landing your next role. You must learn how to use the voice that is telling you that you can do more and achieve more, and do exactly that. 

Your Potential

Leadership coaches like myself refer to potential a lot, and for lots of people the concept of potential can feel totally intangible (often because it is!). We can write about it poetically, a fire in the belly, an internal restlessness; but what does it actually mean and how can you make sure you’re aligned with yours. 

My view of activating your potential is being connected to all of you and feeling completely centred and certain in who you are and what you stand for. The transformation that took place for me was knowing I could handle anything that came my way. I felt so whole and free in my thinking that I could embrace challenges with confidence, conviction and courage. And at the same time enjoy the moment, as I was bringing all of me to the table and allowing myself to shine brighter than I ever did before.

It’s fully liberating and the progress you can make in your life accelerates tenfold. 

If any of this strikes a chord with you, here are a few things you can do today to start activating your potential:

1.Understand you are not your mind, your mind is a tool you use to take you where you want to go

2.Notice your thoughts and how many are helping you vs keeping you stuck. Try and work out what the limits are that you are choosing to put on yourself – these limits are beliefs you have decided to have about yourself. Beliefs are not real and you have the ability to change them to achieve your goals

3.Raise your standards – if you haven’t read my article on standards then do so now. I deep dive into why raising your standards is essential for increasing your potential

Do the work. It is your greatest shortcut

Personal development work is something that so often gets funnelled into the ‘I’ll get to it when I’ve ticked off all these other things’ list. Unsurprisingly, it rarely gets much air time. But really, this is the area that holds the key to career progression. It always amazes me that leaders don’t invest more time in it – but also, I totally get it. I ignored this work for 15 years, and chose to feel frustrated, doubting my ability and my decisions, envisioning a version of myself as a leader that was always out of reach. 

Feeling disconnected from where you want to be or where you believe you should be, only grows. The path that leads to your success is actually much clearer, and it’s already waiting in the wings to make an appearance. You just need to figure out how to remove all the obstacles that you’ve built up over the time that are now blocking your way. Doing this is your quickest route to achieving the results you want.

I am obsessed with this topic. ‘Transformational results’ is bandied around left, right and centre at the moment – but helping leaders discover the model to activate their potential is an area that really delivers on this. 

If any of this resonates with you, I’d be delighted to hear from you. I offer a FREE 30 minute discovery call and you can book yours here.

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Business Leadership Self Development Teams Wellness

The business crisis just got personal

The business crisis just got personal 

The conversations I am having with leaders and witnessing online have dramatically changed in the last few weeks.  For me, it has been most marked by the shift in language I am seeing people using. No longer are we talking about ‘pivoting’ or ‘survive and thrive’ instead, ‘fatigue’, ‘overwhelm’, ‘stress’ and ‘burnout’ are the new words. (In fact these conversations have driven me to create a 30 minute masterclass for leaders who are worried about their teams to get some practical solutions to help them – if you’re interested you can find out more here). 

What I find most interesting though is that this shift in conversation marks a move from putting the professional impact front and centre, to discussing the personal toll this period of time has taken on the individual – an, quite rightly may I add. It is short-sighted to not recognise how undeniably interlinked the personal and professional effects are. Here I am going to explore why businesses need to shift their focus to solving this, the top reasons underpinning burnout, and why most of the new initiatives leaders are trying are falling short.

Mental Health is a conversation in business that can no longer be ignored 

Covid aside, stress is the number one cause of disease and has unfortunately been the currency for a lot of high-performing teams well before the events of 2020 unfolded. So, in the last few months, it has been heartening to see discussions around mental health become woven into the narratives of leadership and company policy. I have seen this byproduct of the pandemic as being an overall positive move in business. Clients have told me about a new wave of honesty in the conversions they’re having in 1:1s, of wellbeing articles landing in their inbox, and, virtual mindfulness sessions organised for lunchtimes and after work. 

However, for those who are already up against it managing childcare alongside full-time hours, increased workload due to a depleted team or increased levels of anxiety (which is a normal response by the brain to extended periods of uncertainty), they are simply not able to take advantage of added initiatives. And for those that do take part, these offers are good painkillers and most definitely a step in the right direction, but they are not going to heal the root cause of the problem. 

We’re stuck in a loop

Not only that, the big worry that I have is that the leaders I am speaking to are so stressed and overwhelmed themselves that they can’t be there for their team in the way they want to be. They recognise they are falling short, but they simply don’t have the time, nor the headspace to do anything differently right now. In trying to keep their heads above the water and keep their team in a functioning state, the consequence is that everybody feels like they’re at best, treading water, and at worst, sinking.

When the impact is affecting leadership level, we see a dangerous loop emerging. Teams are struggling to adapt to changes, they turn to their leadership team for guidance and they see their experiences being reflected right back at them. Certainly there is a levelling that happens when different ranks in business are united behind a shared experience, not ideal though when the experience is a negative one that impacts personal and professional success.

Businesses truly have a responsibility to help. Not only will a team who are struggling with overwhelm or motivation be more likely to be affected by anxiety and low mood, they will also struggle to make decisions, stay focused and perform well. Burnout is the word of the moment and suggests that teams and their leaders are not simply under-performing or struggling, they’re at a point of crisis.

So how did we get here?

There are, of course, many reasons that have led to the current landscape. Below are the top take-aways from our findings over the last few weeks.

1.People are being expected to do two people’s roles due to the depletion of teams

2. People are taking on tasks they are not skilled in or do not have enough experience of

3. Leaders are in a survival, short-term reactive mode and therefore are causing panic amongst their teams

4. Investment in training and development has gone – or budgets have been frozen 

5. Leaders are not skilled in coaching or human behaviour patterns, so do not know how to help themselves their teams, with stress and anxiety 

6. With the increased pressure of childcare, employees are having to now do both with the expectation that their work outputs should remain the same

7. Team members who thrive off connection and interaction are struggling to stay motivated and find fulfilment in a virtual working set-up

The key is shifting your thinking 

Another interesting thing to note is that burnout is also caused by the ‘fear of not being good enough’. This fear is undoubtedly amplified right now due to people seeing loss of jobs happening all around them and wondering if they will be next. Most leaders I am speaking to are experiencing a level of uncertainty in their future. This is leading to confidence and worthiness issues in personalities who have never previously experienced this before. Let alone those who were prone to this before the pandemic.

Now more than ever we need leaders who can be there for their team and give them the level of support they deserve. Teams need leaders who can understand how to best manage their own levels of burnout so they are able to help others do the same. This process can only begin when leaders start to shift their thinking.

Here are some quick tips on what you can do to be there for your team:

1. Become a leader who is comfortable with mindfulness practices – it is proven that taking 60 seconds out every hour to do a slow stretch, yawn or perform a conscious breath improves focus and motivation – In your meetings, start or end with a stretch or a yawn. Have fun with it and don’t be embarrassed, you and your team will see the benefits if you make this part of your daily workings.

2. Know your team on an individual level – We are all different and need different things to help us be okay. Find out what each of your team members needs are and let them be heard. For some of them it will be a simple feedback call once a week, others will want to have fun to release stress and some people will just want to be left alone to be able to focus on their work. It is not a one size fits all model.  Know your team and then you can manage your time better to be where they need you to be.

3. Be mindful of your language – If you as the leader are using pressure language like ‘it’s a nightmare’, it will increase your stress and your team’s stress as it releases cortisol, which will affect their ability to come up with a solution. Instead, choose a phrase like, ‘it’s an inconvenience’ – this will not only make you smile (as it’s a bit daft), but it defuses the intensity. This allows you and your team to think of how you are all going to support each other to find a solution forward.

These are 3 simple tips to get you started. If you’re interested in learning some further proven exercises you can do with your teams to discover how to keep their energy levels charged up and increase motivation, then download my free guide from my website here.

Or discover more more about my programmes and team coaching here.