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Business Leadership Self Development

High Functioning Depression in Leadership

High Functioning Depression in Leadership

Now, more than ever, it is likely that we know and indeed work with someone who is living with a mental health condition, and so recognising days such as a World Mental Health Day is an important step in starting conversations around mental health and supporting those that need it.

And no, it is not always easy to recognise when someone is struggling, especially as our perception of mental health may not always be accurate.  When we speak about mental health problems, we picture people who are sad and withdrawn, or simply not their usual self and can easily mistake smiles for being ok.

Earlier this year I interviewed Brie Stewart for my podcast, and during the episode she spoke very openly about her journey with High Functioning Depression, a term that I wasn’t previously familiar with.

Brie is an award-winning Creative Director with over 13 years’ experience including working at esteemed Public Relations Agency Edelman, and the advertising agencies Ogilvy, Clemenger BBDO, and most recently Wunderman Thompson.

When you read her bio, it’s certainly impressive and so it was fascinating to hear her experiences about how she was doing publicly; she was going to work and had a successful career, and under the surface she was living with depression.

During the interview Brie explained that she has lived with High Functioning Depression for years and while her introverted side was thriving during the isolation, she was also inspired to share her story. 

I Feel It Too, We’ll Get It Done was Brie’s way of starting the conversation about those mental health issues that are easier to overlook or miss. She wanted to highlight the ‘behind the scenes’ part of HFD: the internal struggles, the severe tiredness and the complete and utter lack of motivation. She was fine. But she wasn’t. Her message was so powerful, it really is ok not to be ok and that we need to create cultures where we all feel comfortable to speak out about it, no matter our level of seniority.

It wasn’t an article that Brie wrote lightly; she acknowledged that it felt risky. Working in an industry that is so competitive and where busyness is worn as a badge of honour, to admit that she was struggling to stay afloat, was a real risk that she would be seen as weak and not resilient.

However, the reality was that the article was met with an outpouring of support both publicly and privately; showing that speaking out and working through our struggles is the strongest and bravest acts we can take.

In fact, Brie actually credits her vulnerability as making her a better and more courageous leader, and I was moved by some of the points she shared as to why, including:

Being comfortable with not being perfect builds trust

When you’ve shared a difficult moment, you demonstrate that we are all human and we all have to move through difficult times.

Having the courage to say “I’m not ok” opens up conversations

These conversations then create an atmosphere of honesty and integrity where people feel comfortable showing their own vulnerability.

Practising what we preach about the importance of rest

This is especially true at times of great pressure. When you show that you prioritise rest it sets the example that you can achieve, but not at the expense of your health.

Understanding that there is a ‘no’ in every ‘yes’

Every new commitment we make takes time and energy away from other things. Getting comfortable with saying ‘no’ demonstrates the importance of setting clear boundaries.

Accepting that you will not always be liked

Being comfortable with the fact that it is more important to speak your truth than to sit in silence encourages your team to speak up too.

It was truly inspiring listening to Brie talk about High-Functioning Depression and how being open about it has freed her up to be a stronger and more effective leader.

To learn more about how our own vulnerability can help us become better leaders listen to the podcast here

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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 https://thechangecreators.com/courageous-leaders-club/Ho

Categories
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 https://thechangecreators.com/courageous-leaders-club/

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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

 

 

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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. 

Categories
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.

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Business Teams

The moment I realised I’d lost my spontaneity and how it’s time to bring it back to business

The moment I realised I’d lost my spontaneity and how it’s time to bring it back to business 

I’m currently reading for the 8th time ‘You2’ by Price Pritchett (incredible book) and one of the key learnings is how our tendency is to default to our familiar behaviours and ‘what we do best’ vs. taking a quantum leap and breaking our patterns to create the extraordinary.  

We are creatures of habit and routine, so when we are presented with a world of uncertainty and lack of clarity, it forces us even more to fall into those habits, which can be both productive and unproductive. The problem is even the productive one’s may not be the right thing to be doing.

“It really doesn’t matter how well you do something, if it’s the wrong thing to do”

So, why am I sharing this with you?

Breaking the familiar

It got me thinking, what are my familiar patterns that if I continue doing them will prevent me from reaching new heights of success.

A very simple one came up.

Email vs Picking up the phone.

I have defaulted to email vs. picking up the phone for years, and a very wise person asked me the question why?  

Great question. 

Here’s my answer:

“I worry that I will interrupt someone’s schedule as I can’t remember the last time I phoned someone or someone phoned me and we hadn’t pre-planned a time, It almost feels impolite these days to just pick up the phone”

As I said this out loud it made me think how sad it was that communication and building relationships has become so scheduled and formal.  

On a side note: I was also shocked (and then I wasn’t) to find out that: 81% of millennials feel they need to summon up the courage to make a call.  

This is frightening as I think of all the skills that are being lost and ‘what if’ email suddenly didn’t exist (anything is possible), we would have a huge group of people who do not know how to communicate confidently with each other and businesses would plummet. 

Bring back spontaneity

Okay, back to the story: the lightbulb moment struck and I realised that not only have we lost our spontaneity in lockdown, we lost our spontaneity years ago with email.  

Ask yourself “when was the last time within a business context, did you just pick up the phone and check in with someone”?

We think we are maybe helping by emailing but all this is doing is clogging up an already overwhelmed inbox and potentially causing more stress as you have now added a ‘reply’ on their ‘to do’ list.

Also, do we really get to know someone over email?  I know I’ve got at least 10 people I’m in contact with that I’ve never met or spoken to and yet we converse over email regularly and start with the wonderfully polite greeting of ‘nice to e-meet you’.

Now I’m not saying stop emailing and start calling.  It’s finding the right balance, I just feel we have gone too far one way and I believe it’s time to bring some spontaneity back to life and business.

The benefits of picking up the phone:

  1. You make decisions faster
  2. You can pick up tone on a call and gain clarity of meaning
  3. You can actually solve things faster as it’s achieved in the call not back and forth on email
  4. Reduced anxiety as you’re in the space with the person. You’re not repeatedly clicking ‘refresh’ on your emails second guessing what is going on
  5. You build stronger relationships
  6. You can build on ideas 
  7. You receive an answer in the moment 

I do understand efficiencies and tracking conversations, especially coming from an operations background, however business was once achieved without email and I wonder for all we have gained, what have we lost that would right now be so wonderful and productive to bring back.

We are all searching for connection and community in these strange times, so how about you join me in my quest this week to phone at least 5 people and see how they are and how you could help.

I’d love to know how you get on.


Joanna Howes is an international award winning 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 your free discovery session with Joanna here. Joanna also shares free resources on her website which you can access here.

Categories
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

Categories
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.

Categories
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