Leadership Coaching Tips – 6 Steps to Behaviour Change

old dog and a new trick

Can you teach an old dog new tricks*?  (For the answer, read on……)

I find that one of the reasons that people don’t always deliver on their promises, meet their goals, objectives, or KPIs is that even with good intentions and the best will in the world they know ‘what’ they need to work on or change but they don’t know ‘how’.

Let me explain.

Leaders often want their team members to ‘improve this; increase that; influence more effectively here; develop new ways of doing this or that’.….. and so on.  And, intellectually, team members ‘get it’

They get the ‘WHAT’.

But when the WHAT is about some kind of behaviour change, they can get stuck.

Because they don’t know where or HOW to start.

And it seems a bit overwhelming; scary even.

So to all leaders who find themselves in this position, wanting to help your team to make those behaviour changes these tips should help:

We’ll use a simple example of speaking up at a meeting

Firstly, you both need to agree that the behaviour change is necessary (and why)

1.Ask your team member how ready he is to make the necessary change – just because you’ve spoken about it and you both agree, it doesn’t mean he will make a start straight away.

2.Be clear on what YOU will be thinking, feeling, hearing, seeing if he makes the change (for example you might think that he clearly has something of value to say that is useful to the whole team; you will be hearing his ideas which can be very useful to the team’s thinking process; you will feel happy that he is making a really valid contribution and you will be seeing his team members feeling that he is contributing equally and taking part rather than sitting  back or ‘opting out’).

3. Ask him what HE will be thinking, feeling, hearing seeing if he makes the change – and possibly what others will make of it (e.g. his team members).

4. Ask him to share what he thinks the pros and cons of changing his behaviour might be.  This is important.   For example, the pros might be all of the points in (3) above.  But for him, at the moment, he doesn’t rock the boat/put his cards on the table/disagree with others by staying quiet – so he stays ‘safe’.  So, for him, changing behaviour potentially comes with some perceived risk. So what are the beliefs behind his current behaviour? These should provide some enlightening pointers.

5. How can you help him prepare for the behaviour change?  (What might he need to write down/think about in advance/ask somebody else/practise)?

6. What’s the first step he might take – this is key.  Maybe his first step will be to speak up once or ask one question at the next meeting.  Rome wasn’t built in a day.

lynn scott coaching -leadership development

In my coaching work, I often ask clients to do experiments to help with behaviour change.  I once worked with a man who was extremely well respected in the organisation but who had this feedback from his colleagues:  ‘Nobody knows the real you ; you don’t share much of yourself; we’d love to see more of your personality – because we don’t know you, we can feel a bit wary of you’. 

This was not how he wanted to be perceived so behaviour change was the order of the day!

This was a man who was highly intelligent, professional and successful.  His belief was that board meetings and indeed work in general should be all about getting on with the job in hand and not what he called ‘small talk’.

This belief was not serving him well.


So we set up an experiment where he would make ‘small talk’ in the airline queue, on planes (he travelled a lot on business!), in the supermarket and so on.

We also agreed that he would find out two things about each of his board member colleagues that was non-work related –  in whatever way he felt was right for him.

Small steps.

But these experiments were totally transformational to the way he saw himself and the way others experienced him as a colleague and team member

He truly came out of his shell!

One of the most useful books I have read on the subject of behaviour change is Changing for Good .  The Stages of Change model outlined is a really useful indicator of the steps that we all go through when making changes (or not) in our lives, how change takes place and some of the reasons why we don’t change.

*Yes you can teach an old dog new tricks  – but like the ‘changing a lightbulb’ joke, the dog has to want to learn!


Till next time,



Leadership Development – 3 Ways to Master Difficult Conversations

leadership-development coaching-difficult conversations

As I have been recently facilitating a number of leadership development coaching sessions I’ve been speaking to a lot of leaders  about ‘difficult’ conversations.    They are the conversations that:

(a)     You don’t know how or where to start

(b)    You’re worried about the outcome

(c)    You can’t quite find the words

(d)    You feel you’ve ‘messed up’ in the past

So you hope that if you avoid the conversation, the problem might go away. (A clue:  it won’t).

So ask yourself this:

What’s to be gained from having this conversation?


What could we potentially lose if we have this conversation?

This is clearly an area that a lot of us could get better at both at work and in our personal lives –   which is why there are so many books written on this  subject (Tough conversations; Crucial Conversations, Fierce conversations…. You name it, there’s a book!)

And I would say it’s a topic that comes up in some shape or form with most of the leaders and teams I work with and it’s been one of the most challenging areas of work for me personally.

Much as I hate to generalise or stereotype it’s something we Brits seem to be particularly poor at, for some reason.  When I work with other Europeans they often despair of our total inability to ‘say it as it is’.

lynn scott coac

So why do we find it so difficult?

The most common reasons are:

  • A strong need to be liked  (yep, that was mine!)


  • Fear of conflict (psychological or physical)

But where do those beliefs come from?  Often we’re brought up to believe:

  • I must be nice
  • I must be supportive
  • Don’t rock the boat
  • Don’t make personal remarks

You’ll have your own script.  And whilst these phrases might seem to serve us well some of the time, we have to ask:

In this situation, in what way is this belief serving me (or others) well?’

If the answer is ‘it’s not’ then there’s work to be done.

Here’s my story.  Wanting to be liked made me a great supportive coach.  But most leaders want to be challenged.  They want their thinking to be challenged, they want honest feedback about their impact and their blind spots; they want to be stretched to the edge of their comfort zone and beyond  and they want somebody to ‘say it as it is’ to them with what is sometimes beautifully described as ‘fearless compassion’.

So to be a better coach I had to get over my desire to be liked and focus on the need to ‘speak my truth’ to serve my clients and their organisations in the best possible way.

At first it was hard.

I took a lot of deep breaths before speaking.

At times, I screwed up, misread a situation, got the wrong end of the stick or was too focused on my own ‘stuff’ rather than the person in front of me.

But I believe it was Woody Allen who said ‘if you’re not failing every now and again, it’s a sign you’re not doing anything very innovative’.

So I keep on going!!

And that is where preparation is the key to making a good start.  Now, I’m not saying you should prepare a script but you do need to be clear on:

  • The purpose of the conversation
  • The  outcome you want as a result of the conversation
  • How long you need for the conversation
  • What will happen after the conversation (immediately after and in the longer term)
leadership conversations

Once you’re clear on that, I’ve found that one of the best things to do is to practise saying out loud the things you have written down.  You can do that with a friend, a colleague or a coach.  Or you can simply practise saying it out loud when you are driving, doing the washing up (well, that works for me!) or anywhere else.  There’s something about saying the words over and over again a few times which helps us become more comfortable with what we need to say.


So you’ve done your preparation and it’s time for The Conversation…..

Remember, it’s a two way street.

So you’ve done your preparation and practised out loud.  The two of you are in a room together

So start by:

  • Outlining your reasons for having the conversation
  • Explaining what is at stake
  • Sharing your thoughts and feelings on the issue (I think/I feel NOT you make me think/feel….)
  • Explaining that you are looking for a solution and mutual understanding


  • Ask for a response from the other person
  • SHUT UP AND LISTEN! And allow some silence for reflection
  • Explore options to help you move forward
  • Agree actions.

Like many things, the more we practise the easier these difficult conversations will become.  But if we do nothing….. well, you know the answer to that!

So here are the three ways to master difficult conversations:

  1. Understand your beliefs and where they come from (and decide if you need to ‘re-visit’ some of them if they are not serving you well)
  2. Prepare
  3. Practise

Once you do this a few times, you’ll find conversations become less difficult and easier to have ‘in the moment’.

Good luck!


Who Are You And What Do You Stand For?

core values-lynn-scottValues are one of those things that can sometimes sound a bit ‘pink and fluffy’; often we associate them with a few nice words or phrases on a mission statement or corporate website. But what are Values and why are they so important?

I’ve learned that knowing and understanding our own core values – at work, at home, in relationships, is crucial.  Values reflect what is important to us.  They underpin how we live our life, how we view the world, what we tolerate in ourselves, the type of organisations we want to work for, our motivations and how we lead and like to be led.   And when people are unhappy, unfulfilled or angry at work I find more and more that it is because their own values are not in alignment with the organisational values (explicit or not), or their own leader’s values or they feel ‘out of sync’ with the rest of their team.

It just ‘feels’ wrong.

You can hire the most technically able and competent people in the world but if the cultural ‘fit’ is wrong, they’ll underperform or they won’t hang around.

A value is something you need – indeed MUST have –  in order to feel fulfilled. Now, most of us can draw up a list of things that are important to us but core values go deeper.  If you know what triggers a very strong emotion in you then it is highly likely that a core value has been touched.   Values and beliefs drive the decisions we make.

Courtesy of The Values Centre

Courtesy of The Values Center

Of course, values can be limiting as well as positive – and  in order to let go of our limiting values (blame and revenge for example) we need to understand and eliminate our fear-based beliefs.  To understand this more deeply I strongly recommend you take a look at the Barrett Seven Levels of Consciousness Model

But where do our core values come from?

They come from many places.  They are shaped by our upbringing; what we learned was acceptable or not when we were growing up.  They might change as we experience new things in the world or changing life conditions. Some of our values are cultural or historical. Some might change over time.  Some will stay with us and we will not change them, come what may, EVER.

So the first thing is to be clear on your own values.  Who are you and what do you stand for? How do you live those values on a daily basis? You can download a list of values here. Click here.

Here’s an exercise to get you started (it’s in three parts)


Part 1


Freefall writing –  You write without censoring yourself; letting your thoughts and feelings tumble onto the page.  (For some reason this works better if you write by hand….)Go somewhere quiet where you will be undisturbed for 20 minutes or so.  On a blank sheet of paper just write whatever comes to mind starting with:

A time when I was totally fulfilled, at my best was when…….


And the feelings associated with that time are……….


Then look at the values list (attached) Click here and highlight the words which were totally present for you at that time.

Part 2

Fill out the missing words in these two sentences:

If I don’t have  xxxxxx in my life, I am unhappy, unfulfilled and miserable.


When I have xxxx I feel totally at one with myself, at peace with the world and personally fulfilled.


Look at that values list again (attached) and highlight any more key words.


I find that most people have 10-15 words highlighted by this time.  Can you narrow it down to your top five?  Or three?

Part 3


Write down your top five (or three) values.

What beliefs do you have behind each value?

What behaviour do you demonstrate that relates to each value and belief?

For example if you have ‘honesty’ as a value, your belief might be that ‘honesty is the best policy.’  How do you demonstrate honesty in your daily life?  How would your team know that this is a strong value for you?  Or your friends or family?

Now what?

Once you’ve done this for yourself it’s a great exercise to share with your own teams.  And you can build on the value words to make them ‘come alive’.  So let’s imagine everybody in the team had ‘integrity’ as a value…… what specifically does that mean to your team? How do you make that value come alive?  How do you demonstrably live that value?  How would others know that you were living that value?

I’ve only touched the surface here and if you want to read more on values, my favourite resources are here: www.valuescentre.com


Till next time,


4 Little Known Habits To Get Focused

leadership skills-focus

A topical subject when it comes to leadership development. Lack of focus – meant I didn’t get any newsletters out following the very successful one earlier this year on Dialogue for, literally months. ‘Newsletters’ went on the bottom of the ‘to do’ list; not urgent; not enough time…… didn’t know where to start etc…… Sound familiar? Notice I’m not using ‘lack of time’ as an excuse. I am TOTALLY RESPONSIBLE for how I CHOOSE to spend my time. It happens to leaders everywhere and focus is a leadership skill we all need to consider.


Leadership Development And Marshall Goldsmith

Marshall Goldsmith is one of my favourite writers on leadership. Straightfoward, practical and no BS.


If you don’t have time to read the full article now, make a note of his delegation questions and use them with your team members in your next 1-1. His questions are:-

  • Are there cases where you believe that I get too involved and can let go more?
  • Are there cases when I need to get more involved and give you some more help?
  • Do you ever see me working on tasks that someone at my level doesn’t need to do? Are there areas where I can help other people grow and develop, and give myself more time to focus on strategy and long-term planning?

Read Marshall’s full article here:

When C-level executives are asked what change they could make to become a more effective leader, one of the most common answers is, “I need to delegate more!”

My caution to these executives is always the same: Don’t delegate more. Delegate more effectively.

Delegation is not a quality like “demonstrating integrity” or “complying with the law.” Honest, ethical and legal behavior is always appropriate – delegation isn’t. Inappropriate delegation can do more harm than good.

I saw an extreme example of the “empowerment is good” flaw in one of America’s largest companies. The CEO naively believed that his employees would always rise to the occasion and see the value of their learning through mistakes they made. He eventually promoted people to levels that were far beyond their capabilities. These people were not ready for the challenge. Perhaps they could learn from their mistakes when the mistakes cost thousands of dollars, but the company went bankrupt when the mistakes cost billions.

When feedback from direct reports indicates that a manager needs to delegate more effectively, the dissatisfaction could come from one of two causes: The direct reports may feel that their leader is micro-managing or getting overly involved with subordinates, or the direct reports may not feel micro-managed at all, but see their leader engaged in tasks that could be done effectively by someone at a lower level in the company.


Courtesy of Marshall Goldsmith

To help leaders ensure effective delegation, my advice is simple:

Have each direct report list her or his key areas of responsibility. Schedule one-on-one sessions with each person. Review each area of responsibility and ask, “Are there cases where you believe that I get too involved and can let go more? Are there cases when I need to get more involved and give you some more help?” When leaders go through this exercise, they almost always find that in some cases, more delegation is wanted, and in others it is not. In fact, more help is needed.

Ask each direct report, “Do you ever see me working on tasks that someone at my level doesn’t need to do? Are there areas where I can help other people grow and develop, and give myself more time to focus on strategy and long-term planning?” Almost invariably, direct reports will come up with great suggestions. For example, for several of my C-level clients, team management has emerged as an area where letting go can both free up executive time and help develop direct reports. Too many top executives feel a need to schedule team meetings and then act as traffic cop during the meeting to ensure that the time schedules are met and that agendas are completed. This meeting management task can usually be delegated on a rotating basis to direct reports. This helps direct reports understand the agendas of the peer team members and allows them to develop their skills in building collaboration and reaching consensus.

In one example, a CEO was frequently traveling. He would not schedule any team meeting when he was on the road and was falling behind on some important projects. A team member suggested that he did not have to be present at every meeting and that the team could still get a lot done without him in the room. He was pleasantly surprised at the outcome. Decisions that involved cross-divisional cooperation were made effectively without involving him. Another advantage was that his direct reports were getting on-the-job training that could help them take on larger responsibilities in the future.

On the other side of the coin, a division president learned that his employees consistently wanted more direction on one key topic. The company was operating in a rapidly changing environment. His direct reports didn’t need to be told what to do or how to do it in terms of technical details. They needed to know how their work was fitting into the larger strategy of the corporation and how their efforts were aligned with their peers both in the division and across the company. By establishing regular bi-monthly check-in meetings with each person, the president was able to increase the effectiveness of the team and help them build better relationships across the company.

What are your next steps? When are you getting too involved? When do you need to get more involved?

Ask yourself these tough questions. Then ask the people who are working with you. The answers may save your time and increase your team’s effectiveness.



Dr. Marshall Goldsmith was recently named winner of the Thinkers50 Leadership Award (sponsored by Harvard Business Review) as the world’s most influential leadership thinker. Along with being recognized as the #1 leadership thinker, Marshall was listed as the #7 greatest business thinker in the world. What Got You Here Won’t Get You There was the #2 bestseller on the INC Magazine / CEO Read list of business bestsellers for 2011. This is the fifth year in a row that What Got You Here Won’t Get You There was in the top ten. MOJO was listed at #19. This is the second year in a row that it has been in the top twenty.

What Does Authentic Leadership Mean To You?

Someone I met at a networking event recently (Networking? Now there’s an activity where we often see inauthenticity in action!!) asked me: ‘what do I need to do to be a great leader’? He’d bought all the books, could spout the latest theories, had attended a few conferences with various ‘leadership gurus’ but still he was struggling.


Do we become better leaders by reading about leadership or going on leadership courses? That depends! Both can be helpful to us but continually adding more data and knowledge is not always what’s required. Trying to imitate the leadership gurus doesn’t really work for me although I can learn huge amounts from them. I’d rather find my own path – with a bit of knowledge and understanding of some basic principles of course – which means that for me any work I do with leaders needs to include something on core values, self- awareness; self-reflection and feedback.

So I’m very drawn to the idea of Authentic Leadership – Dictionary.com defines the word authentic as ‘not false or copied; genuine; real’. Authenticity is also defined as “owning one’s personal experiences, be they thoughts, emotions, needs, preferences, or beliefs, processes captured by the injunction to know oneself” and “behaving in accordance with the true self” (Harter, 2002, p. 382).

authentic leadership-exercise

Well, so what??

Authentic leaders are sometimes described as ‘good in their own skin’; open and honest in presenting their true self to others; leading from the heart as well as the head. We know where we stand with authentic leaders. They don’t do ‘flavour of the month’ leadership. Some would argue that we each have many different authentic selves, based on our environment, relationships, intentions. And sometimes, when we are developing as people and as leaders we need to stretch our comfort zones so that what is “authentic” changes.

Authentic leaders make authentic choices – I am very struck by something a colleague shared with me recently – a quote from Gail Sheehy’s book Passages:

‘I realised I was working as hard as I could to become someone I wouldn’t like’ – the very antithesis, of course, of authenticity.

So, if you want to understand more about your authentic self – whether you want to uncover it or to create it – try this exercise as a starting point:

Take a large piece of flipchart paper and draw a picture that illustrates ‘Me at my Best.’ Share with a colleague, friend or spouse…… See what emerges……….

I’ve used this exercise a lot with leaders and with teams and the ‘a-ha’ moments are truly amazing!

Till next time,