3 Reasons Why You Need Executive Coaching

3 reasons why you need executive coaching

Executive coaching programmes can benefit business leaders of all kinds whether you run a small, medium or large company. An executive coach can offer a business owner or senior manager an objective view of their performance as team leaders as well as offering fresh perspectives on their vision for the business and where it is going. Executive coaches don’t tell business leaders how to run their companies but they do give them open and honest feedback that they can use to their advantage to improve both their individual performance and the overall performance of the business. Executive coach John Raftery outlines 3 reasons why you need executive coaching and the role it plays in effective leadership development that benefits the whole organisation.

1. Executive coach as a sounding board
The first reason it works is because to a large extent business leaders don’t get an opportunity to talk in a confidential and safe environment. The key thing is that they can use the executive coach as a sounding board. Just trying to articulate their own ideas can be a challenge for business leaders. To a large extent business leaders live inside their own heads. Then they try to communicate with their staff and it can be difficult for staff to interpret what’s in the leader’s head. Communicating ideas to staff can be challenging. They may be cautious about articulating certain issues or concerns that they might have. So the first thing executive coaching does is it gives people the ability to try and articulate what is going on inside their own heads.

2. Provide feedback
The second thing an executive coach does is provide feedback, and ask challenging questions of the leader as well. It’s important that the executive coach has experience, has some knowledge or background in business so they have credibility with the leader in terms of giving feedback and acting as a sounding board.

3. Inspire action
The third thing an executive coach can do is inspire people to take action or prevent procrastination. A lot of leaders have particular issues that they know they need to address. But as long as it stays in their head they will never get around to actually dealing with it. But an executive coach will listen to you and challenge you and encourage you to take action. To start implementing a plan of action and set deadlines to deal with issues, and be confident that once you deal with those issues you can give further feedback to the coach. You then use that feedback to see how things have gone and decide where to go next.

It’s important to point out that executive coaching is non-directional. It’s a process that allows the business leader to make up their minds and come to their own conclusions. You’re suggesting ways forward, you’re asking the leader ‘what if’ or what are the alternatives. Is there another way of looking at this or how do they feel about approaching a problem in another way? What do they think the outcome would be if they tried an alternative solution? You are not saying to the leader ‘this is what you should do.’ You can offer advice and guide people in a certain direction but ultimately the business decision rests with them, they must come to their own conclusions. So really executive coaching is about providing the space for business leaders to explore options they may not have otherwise considered and then letting them come to their own conclusions. That way they take ownership of their decisions rather than passing responsibility to someone else. They own the decision and if they own it they are far more likely to follow through and implement it.


John Raftery is Executive Coach at LEAP

John Raftery





Interview by Des Kirby

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Nobody Told Me I Was Going To Be A Manager

nobody told me i was going to be a manager

The vast majority of people in management, bar military people that sign up to it, land in management roles because of their expertise in the area they work in. There is no evidence that they are predisposed to becoming an effective manager. For example, a finance person may become a financial director because they have a background in finance, they have their accountancy qualification, they’re good with numbers but there’s no evidence that they can manage a team of people.

So why do they get the promotions?
It’s based on their technical competence and they are good hard workers. They understand their brief so they seem like a safe pair of hands. Most people are not hired for management roles; most people acquire management responsibilities the more they prove themselves in their particular area of expertise. Because they are good foot soldiers, they are then given management responsibilities on the back of that. There is often little or no evaluation done by the company or the individual regarding their suitability to manage. They are getting managerial responsibility because of their ability to manage their own area of expertise.

What is meant by management capability?
It means having the skill set, the confidence and the awareness to be able to manage yourself, and manage the team you work with to ensure the company achieves the right outcomes. For example, the good salesperson who ends up becoming a sales manager. They are naturally good at hunting down potential customers and opportunities, and going down every avenue to make that sale. But when they become managers their natural hunting abilities are not required. They are now required to help people on the team who may have less experience and less ability than themselves. They must support them and coach them, but they are naturally more inclined to think in terms of sales and ‘going in for the kill.’ That hunting mind-set is poorly suited to the mind-set of supporting, mentoring and coaching teams who are not at the same level as you are.

So they are out of sync with the capability level of the team, but the company who chose them are basing their decision on the last five years of sales which were good so we’re making you sales manager. There is no thought given to the question of what skill set is needed to effectively manage a team. The person may have the mind-set of a sales ‘warrior’ but is that the correct mind-set for helping individual team members to become effective in their roles, and supporting them throughout their development? People can flounder and get very frustrated, and the company can get very frustrated with their lack of performance but that’s because they are a square peg in a round hole. People must take responsibility. The buck stops with the person who appoints people to management roles without proper evaluation of their management capabilities.

What should happen before someone is appointed to a management position?
The first thing is to clearly define the objectives of the role. Then decide how you are going to measure if someone is doing a good job or not. Identify what behaviours come naturally to them, then outline the key behaviours that you need to see someone demonstrate in the role. Are they good at dealing with people on a one-to-one basis? Are they good at confronting them when they are performing poorly, or their behaviour becomes unacceptable?

So it’s about people management skills and the behaviour of managers in keeping with the values that are critical to the organisation. Has the potential candidate demonstrated the wherewithal to support those values through their behaviour? Have they got the flexibility, the adaptability and the decision-making capability to align with company values and fit the managerial role? Their values and behaviours as managers will in turn effect the organisation as a whole.

The new manager needs to develop a new mind set

What happens when business owners or senior managers choose the wrong person for a managerial role?
Well it’s very stressful for all concerned. It’s stressful for the individual who has been dumped into a management position. They are trying to prove themselves to the company and they sometimes behave in a reactionary way towards team members who are not performing well. They don’t respond in a healthy way; they don’t give people the space or time or proper support they need to improve. As manager you need to find ways to effectively engage your team members, and not just keep banging on the table because you feel under pressure to prove yourself. Becoming a manager is often an ‘accident’ imposed on an individual who is ill prepared for the role, selected by senior staff who have not gone through a proper evaluation process. So it ends up becoming a very stressful situation all round.

But if someone is already in the role and they are clearly not a good fit, what should happen then?
Well usually it’s a case of the manager not fitting well as opposed to being the wrong fit entirely. The person has an understanding of what needs to be delivered in terms of the business; the challenge is how to get the team to do it as opposed to doing it themselves. Nobody told me I was going to be a manager but you are a manager now, and you have to step up to the plate. First you must increase your self-awareness and how you communicate with the people around you. In the past you focused on being right, but now as manager you have to focus on getting the right outcome for the company. You can no longer be happy to be right all the time; you must now focus on getting a team of people to achieve consistently good results. The emphasis is now on the team’s performance not on you as an individual.

So the new manager needs to develop a new mind-set.
Absolutely, and of course you can acquire new skills and knowledge. You can work on communication skills or time management or conflict management, but it’s crucial to adapt the new mind-set first. You have to be clear that you are no longer here to show how good you are at sales but to lead a team. You have to think, I am here to get the most from my team and get the best outcome for the company.

The more effectively you can change your mind-set and adapt to a new way of doing things in your work environment, the better chance you have at being successful as a manager. And it’s ok to make mistakes and get some things wrong if it’s within the context of your new role as manager. You test objectives and find that some worked and others didn’t, and you take time to reflect on those outcomes and understand why they did or didn’t work. Through that process you are acquiring the new skills necessary to be an effective manager.


Mike Gaffney managing director at LEAPMike Gaffney is managing director at LEAP. Interview by Des Kirby.

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Management Development and Economic Opportunity

Management Development and Economic Opportunity Image: GettyImages

Tricia Cunningham discusses management development, the crucial link between human resources and economic opportunity, and why it plays such a vital role in the long term success of organisations. 

Tricia, why is it critical for companies to invest in management development?
Now that the economy has started to turn in a positive direction, the skills that employees currently have may not be the skills that will allow them to help an organisation grow, and maximize business opportunities that are carved out through hard work. Over the last number of years the focus for many organisations have been doing what’s needed to get ahead one step at a time, but now that things are improving and opportunities are opening up, people and organisations will need to start thinking differently and incorporating new skills to maximize those opportunities.

What business supports should senior managers and business owners consider?
(1) First, organisations should start thinking about what requirements their organisation will need over the next eighteen months, and mapping out the skills needed to deliver on those requirements. From that they can start to consider and assess their employees against those requirements. They can then determine the best way to develop a new set of required skills. There are many different approaches to developing people from formal training programmes to giving employees the opportunity to work on new projects.

(2) Secondly, over the last number of years managers have been working in environments heavily focused on cost reduction with few resources available to them. So the focus has been on the technical deliverables; delivering to the specific requirements of customers and getting paid. Now that things are changing again, managers need to understand that how they manage a team and interact and guide a team is vitally important to the long term future of the business. People skills are critical to that future so it’s not sufficient to focus only on the technical aspects of the job.

(3) Thirdly, we have to recognise that if the economy continues to grow as it is with a current unemployment rate of 8.6{aa1e4c34c9c0f46e0a1f04e30c2eb1b9efaea7a47ed6ca6f324476e114da37f4}, having dropped from a peak of over 14{aa1e4c34c9c0f46e0a1f04e30c2eb1b9efaea7a47ed6ca6f324476e114da37f4}, it is becoming more of an employee market. If that rate continues the organisations that don’t invest in employees and help employees to develop their skills will lose those key employees. Generally speaking, employees who work in an organisation value opportunities to develop and enhance their skills. Investment in them and developing those skills can have considerable payback in terms of commitment, loyalty and a desire to do more, deliver more and assist the organisation to grow.

So owners and leaders need to consider development as an investment. Before any training begins, they must agree with the employee the skills to be developed and how the organisation expects the individual to demonstrate those skills back at work. In this way the leader can see that development is no longer a cost but a sound investment. By focusing on developing the skills of key individuals, organisations are better positioned to grow and retain key employees who have assisted them in the harder times and are also equipped to maximize the new opportunities.

Business Effectiveness

Understanding Management Best Practices
Managers need to be supported in developing the key skills to manage people effectively; learning from their experience isn’t sufficient. It’s about understanding management best practices and determining how they can be applied in the organisation so that organisations are developing strong competent teams that can work effectively together and with the manager; a team who respects the manager and learns from the manager.

Personal Growth and Career Ambition
When an individual works in an organisation there isn’t always the expectation that by participating in management development programmes they are going to climb the rungs of the ladder, but rather they are enhancing the skills they have. They are broadening their knowledge and broadening the opportunities they have to do different types of work. That is also development and this is often very satisfying for an employee. When you work in the SME sector you know there are few opportunities to climb the rungs because there are very few rungs on the ladder to begin with.

Management DevelopmentAnd if you work in a large organisation you need to be careful not to give the impression that development is all about climbing the ladder because when an opportunity presents itself, six people may go forward for that opportunity but only one person can secure the role. What happens to the other five candidates? How are they to be managed so they don’t become deflated and believe that there are no opportunities in the business? They need to understand there are opportunities to develop skills that are still very valuable and will ensure they remain employable and valuable to the organisation. They need to know they can continuously contribute to the organisation and that’s why investment in their development is important.

Shouldn’t organisations continuously develop staff whether the economy is good or bad?
Yes but when organisations have experienced the kind of recession that we had, one of the first things that gets cut is training and development for staff, because during a downturn development is too costly for a business. Now that many businesses are in a position where they can make some investment in their people again, they need to consider the supports available out there, like government funded supports to help them develop their team. These business supports ensure the cost isn’t borne fully by the organisation particularly for those that may not yet be in a position to do so. But if they can bear some of the cost, government agencies will step in and provide further funding and support.

Can you give an example of business supports that are available?
There is a strong organisation called Skillnets that are located around the country and their remit is to provide support for organisations seeking to develop their people. Skillnets will supplement part of the overall cost of the training and development in-company, but Skillnets will also provide open programmes for people at a reduced cost per employee. These two options for the organisation should facilitate them in developing their teams further.

Larger organisations like Enterprise Ireland have grants available as part of overall programmes that focus on efficiencies in organisations. As part of that there are various LEAN programmes and training and development falls within the remit and scope of those grants and business supports.

What management development supports do LEAP offer organisations?
LEAP recognises the need for strong leadership, effective management and engaged employees in organisations. From our 15 years’ experience of working with companies we have put together programmes that focus on developing the core skills of these three groups. Additionally we look at operational effectiveness to ensure that not only are the people working effectively, but that they are focusing on the right things and doing them right.

Tricia CunninghamHow is your organisation preparing for economic recovery? Let us know with a comment below.

Tricia Cunningham is co-founder and senior partner at LEAP



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5 Ways To Make Management Team Meetings More Effective

5 Ways To Make Management Team Meetings More EffectiveImage Source

When the New Year began many of us committed to being more organised and structured at work. We made great efforts to tidy our desks and eliminate the clutter we’d magically accumulated. We committed to using our calendars more effectively and to prioritising tasks and actions. This is all good and indeed necessary. Now it’s time to expand our focus and consider additional actions to assist us in becoming more effective and efficient.

The big complaint many have is the amount of time spent at meetings. Ask anyone about the greatest time wasters and invariably attending meetings will be mentioned. People get frustrated when they consider the time spent at meetings versus the results achieved. Too often they consider meetings exhaustive, repetitive and worst of all a waste of time! When you add up the cost of each person attending the meeting and the length of time of the meeting, what is the cost to your organisation? Can you say this is good value for money? If not, what are you going to do about it?

Take Action

To address this issue begin by looking at the meetings you have control over. Work to make these meetings as efficient and productive as possible. Consider the following:

1. Define the need for the meeting
Every meeting should have a clear purpose which is evident to all. Simply having the meeting because you’ve always had it is not good enough. Define the outcomes the meeting needs to achieve e.g. measure progress on the project versus what was planned and identify next steps.

2. Determine who should participate in the meeting
Everybody’s time is precious. Don’t include someone unless you can clearly articulate the reason why they should attend and the input you expect from the person.

3. Develop an agenda and distribute it to all involved with sufficient time for them to prepare for the meeting
An agenda needs to have structure. It is not a list of bullet points. An agenda should include a directive e.g. Agree the response to senior management on the new process for resolving customer issues. An agenda should also have the items prioritised and times assigned to each so attendees also know they key issues that will receive the greatest focus.

4. Anticipate how you will facilitate the meeting
The facilitator’s job to keep the meeting on track and ensure the issues identified are addressed. The key skill required is communication: the skill of actively listening, challenging contributions, drawing in reserved people and limiting others who are dominating. In advance consider how you will manage these different challenges and anticipate your responses to the dominant person or indeed the reserved individual.

5. Following your meeting evaluate effectiveness
Review the agenda and determine progress made in terms of achieving what you had identified. Ask others about the meeting: how was it helpful and how could it be improved? Be prepared to stop meetings if they are no longer required.

Of course when it comes to meetings in which you participate you need to consider how you can influence the facilitator to take on board your recommendations for managing the meeting more effectively. Also, query your participation on meetings. Be disciplined and consider your value to the organisation: would you be more valuable to your organisation by attending the meeting or focusing on other deliverables? Of course, when opting out of meetings you need to consider how you communicate that to the facilitator. Again, communication skills are critical.

Tricia CunninghamTricia Cunningham is the co-founder and senior partner at LEAP.





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Developing Winning Company Habits

Developing Winning Company Habits_blog

How damaging can a negative company culture be to a business?
Working with companies throughout Ireland, it’s evident we underestimate the effect bad habits and practices have on business performance. Companies are coming out of the recession and want to kick on. They are looking to make the most of the improving economic conditions. Business leaders want to develop new approaches to driving the business forward and managing the teams who will need to deliver the results. However, unless the leader takes a detached perspective and looks seriously at how people think and act within the business, then all the commitments to change won’t take hold. Those underlying negative habits (largely invisible) which have become ingrained in the day-to-day activities of the business must be addressed.

To change the company from within requires an understanding of how individual and collective habits are developed.
First of all developing habits is natural, the human brain, (and animal brain – just watch what your dog does when he thinks you are taking him for a walk) is programmed to develop habits like driving a car. The first time it’s awkward and clunky. With experience and practice it becomes a subconscious behaviour, and that’s how the brain works, it actively looks to create habits. So if you’re going to make serious changes in your business with a view to maximizing new opportunities, you need to recognise the subconscious habits and often limiting behaviours that are holding the organisation back. Without recognising and addressing them you won’t achieve the changes that are necessary to transform the business.

What should business owners do to change negative habitual behaviour?
It was Einstein who said ‘we cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.’ The big issue here is a lack of recognition of underlying negative habits and behaviour by the business owners and management team. Making statements to staff such as ‘we need to change’ isn’t good enough. Yes you can map out a new strategy for the business, but that won’t work either if you don’t address people’s negative behaviours. A fundamental change in behaviour must occur for any real progress to be made. Effective businesses recognise that they need three things to work in tandem to enable them to be successful (as strongly advocated by Jim Collins in ‘Good to Great’ a number of years ago).

Developing Winning Company Habits

That sounds great in theory. In reality the company is where it is with the existing team, so how can an existing company successfully adopt the above disciplines and thereby replace legacy habits and behaviours. It can be done by individual and collective re-framing as to how it thinks and acts. To effectively make this level of internal change requires an understanding as to how change is internalised. We look to Willian Glasser’s ‘Retention Triangle’ as outlined in the diagram below.

We retain/ remember:
Glasser's retention triangle

Now in line with Glasser’s retention triangle, as a business owner I want to have disciplined people, thought and execution in my company. If I can get my core team to interact and develop something collectively which they will then communicate (educate) to the full team, then I have a strong possibility of bedding down the three disciplines.

Are there any practical tools that businesses can use to bed down the three disciplines?
Yes the futureSME methodology which uses visual management tools to map a company’s strategy and the lines of action to execute the strategy, and the KPIs to ensure strong operational performance is delivered. The team also develop effective business disciplines through the ongoing execution and focus on the strategy. It is a powerful and underestimated management tool to prevent us from focusing on one area and neglecting other equally important ones.

The futureSME methodology was derived from an EU Framework 7 programme managed by the University of Strathclyde with 23 EU partners. Its remit was to identify best practices in highly successful businesses and determine how they could be applied successfully in the SME sector. The futureSME methodology is proving its impact in Ireland with over 50 companies having deployed the futureSME foundation programme successfully. futureSME is an approved programme within the Action Plan for Jobs 2015 and its deployment is managed by ManagementWorks.


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Mike Gaffney, Managing Director LEAP

Mike Gaffney managing director at LEAP





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Out with the Old, in with the New!

How do you know as a manager that you have had a good year
How do you know as a manager that you have had a good year?

Here are the 5 things that will tell you.

1. You have less to do!
Most managers do not believe that their purpose in life is to make themselves redundant! In fact managers generally behave in a way that makes them essential to the business and create work. But if your responsibility is to develop the people who report to you, delegate tasks effectively, increase efficiency and eliminate waste then the logical outcome of great management is that you will have less and less to do. The key question is…… what you do with the time you have freed up?

2. You have dealt with a poor performer.
Sorry about this, but every team, group or organisation will have people who are not making a contribution. No matter how much we focus on positivity, develop high performers and build teams there is always someone to be dealt with. It is difficult and sometimes easier to ignore it. But in my view, confronting the issue always has a positive outcome even though there may be short term pain.

3. You find the business environment is simple, not complex.
Be concise, get to the point, and make it simple. Few people can deliver the simplicity that is the foundation of superb communication. Instead they mistakenly assume that the boss or their direct reports will be impressed by long presentations to show how much they know, or that they will win people over by talking more, not less. There is a lack of appreciation that in today’s world all information is available through the internet, knowledge is no longer power! It is your ability to synthesise, to connect the dots in new ways, to ask the simple smart questions that lead to untapped opportunities.

4. You realise that the right Attitude is the most important thing in an employee.
In recent study the Harvard Business School stated that 14{aa1e4c34c9c0f46e0a1f04e30c2eb1b9efaea7a47ed6ca6f324476e114da37f4} of the success of an employee is related to their technical ability, their skill or knowledge but that 86{aa1e4c34c9c0f46e0a1f04e30c2eb1b9efaea7a47ed6ca6f324476e114da37f4} of an employee’s success is due to their attitude, intention and sense of purpose.

5. And finally, you have performed well with your Key Performance Indicators.
This is obvious, I hear you say, except for the many people who have been too busy to develop KPI’s. Or maybe you have agreed them at the start of the year but you are not sure what they are now. Many companies lack the discipline to agree meaningful performance indicators and regularly review progress. This discipline is fundamental to avoiding the “busy fool” behaviour which is all too common in business today. If we take the points 1 to 4 above seriously then we will avoid the “busy fool” syndrome.

Don’t worry, in a few weeks you get the chance to start again. Happy New Year!

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Team Leaders Should Always Be Improving

Team leaders should always be improving


John Raftery explains why team leaders should always be improving in order to keep staff engaged across the whole organisation and develop a successful company culture. Leaders need to create the right environment where employees at every level strive to maintain high standards and help them to reach and exceed company goals and objectives.

Effective team leaders build confidence in other people

In terms of interpersonal skills and the relationship between senior managers and the people who report to them, it’s very important to strike the right note with the people who are reporting to you. You need to encourage them and develop them, and get them to work with you. On a surface level your personal appearance and body language is very important. Body language is one of the key factors in creating confidence in other people and in yourself. It’s about sitting up straight, standing straight, looking people in the eye, having a firm handshake. All of these things are important in terms of body language, because you are sending out signals to people all the time. People pick up on these signals very quickly; it becomes a hidden dialogue between people.

Leaders behaviour dictates company culture

If you’re showing any kind of frustration, anxiety or impatience, people will pick up on it even if you’re trying to cover it up. If you’re showing any doubt or uncertainty or if you are slow to make decisions, all of these things create an atmosphere around you and this can permeate throughout the organisation. What I’ve learned above all else is that the behaviour of the leader of any organisation dictates the culture of the organisation. While personal appearance and body language are very important, ultimately the most important thing is the behaviour of the senior people in the organisation; their behaviour dictates everything else.

Empathy is one of the key skills of influential people

One of the key things you try to develop in working with senior executives in a coaching programme is trying to get them to develop empathy. Empathy is one of the key skills of influential people and a vital component of leadership. Empathy is being able to see things from another person’s viewpoint, to put yourself in their shoes so that you can try to understand them better, and be able to influence them more. Where you show high levels of empathy people will be drawn towards you. You will begin to understand people better and you can even start coaching them yourself. Ultimately executive coaching is about trying to bring the best out of people. It’s about winning people over and getting them to perform at their best because they want to perform at their best.

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 Why do an executive coaching programme?

To a large extent we live in our own heads to a large extent. We find it difficult sometimes to step outside of ourselves to see how we behave, to understand ourselves, our strengths and weaknesses a little better. You need that external viewpoint, you need somebody who can hold up a mirror to you and give you a clear picture of who you are and how you behave. To help you discover what is working and what isn’t working , and be able to discuss these things in a confidential and safe environment. A good executive coach will really challenge you and your behaviour. If you can become more aware of your behaviour and if you can control your behaviour better, this will affect the behaviour within the organisation. The organisation itself then becomes more controlled and aligned with the goals you want to achieve.

Setting standards across the whole organisation

One of the most common problems for managers is accepting shoddy work from staff. Employees come to them with information that’s half-baked or incomplete, or in a format that is unclear and some managers accept that. These managers often end up sitting down and trying to make sense of the information themselves. What they should be doing is sending these employees back out of the room, and telling them to come back when they have all the information clearly presented in the format you require.

Team leaders should always be improving

It’s about setting standards, that’s the important thing. We often get used to doing things a certain way over a long period of time. Sometimes we are just not aware that we are accepting mediocrity, we start to believe that what we do is ‘good enough.’ But if we personally raise our own standards then we will challenge other people who work for us to raise their standards too. That’s the key thing that you as a business owner, or as a team leader, should always be trying to achieve; raising the standards of the whole organisation.

Interview by Des Kirby


John RafteryJohn Raftery is Executive Coach and Senior Partner at LEAP.

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To Be A Great Leader You Need To Get The Balance Right

To be a great leader

Business leaders often have boundless energy and enthusiasm that reflects their role as entrepreneurs. However some leaders, and senior managers, have a habit of moving forward too fast and end up leaving their management teams behind. To be a great leader you need to get the balance right between your desire for success and your team’s need for a clear system of communication. John Raftery explains why self-awareness is a vital factor in this process.

John what are the most common problems you encounter with management teams?

The big difficulty managers have is a lack of self-awareness. The more self-aware they are the more they can control their environment. There’s a phrase that goes “what I’m aware of I can control, what I’m unaware of controls me.” The biggest fault I find with entrepreneurs or senior executives is that they move too fast, way ahead of everyone else. They are hungry to achieve more and they see further ahead than everyone else in the organisation.

But the people around them may not be able to see that far ahead and so frustration often builds up. Where you have frustration you can get continuously changing priorities and then confusion, and people start getting get angry or impatient. Short tempers and moodiness can start to surface in the organisation purely because the business owner or senior manager is forging ahead quicker than the team can handle.

This frustration is due to a lack of self-awareness?

Well they may be aware of what they’re doing, but their desire to succeed can be greater than their ability to control what’s going on around them. The team may get left behind. It’s difficult for some to get the balance right. It requires systems and processes in place to overcome a lot of that. Like proper communication systems, clarity regarding expectations, measurement of results, milestones to be reached by certain times, clear time management schedules – they all help to overcome these issues.

To be a great leader you need to get the balance right

‘Communication must be clear and consistent’

Communication is important but the communication must be clear and consistent. Some people confuse communication with engagement. There can be lots of team meetings where people feel obliged to contribute by constantly changing priorities, targets or schedules, but this more often results in confusion. Outwardly it appears to be a system of regular communication, but it’s more a system of constant confusion. Team leaders need to distil the information down to a clear message and format, and be consistent with it.

The ‘No Frills’ Approach

Take Ryanair for example. Regardless of how you feel about Ryanair they are a great example of what I’m talking about. They successfully distilled their entire philosophy down to just two words – ‘no frills.’ Both their customers and Ryanair staff understood that simple message, and that’s what the organisation stood for. Everything they did was about reducing bureaucracy and costs, and keeping things as simple as possible.

Recently that ‘no frills’ philosophy has changed again. Now it’s three words instead of two; the ‘always getting better’ programme. Now they’re making people aware that they are trying to improve customer service, and it seems to be working as passenger numbers are increasing. Running an airline can’t be easy, it’s a complex business. But Michael O’Leary keeps the business model simple, he keeps the message simple so everyone knows what they have to achieve. That’s your challenge as a manager.


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Forget About Employee Motivation

Forget about employee motivation

Forget about employee motivation, it is about employee engagement. Motivation is temporary, engagement is more permanent. As usual our American friends have the statistics: 70{aa1e4c34c9c0f46e0a1f04e30c2eb1b9efaea7a47ed6ca6f324476e114da37f4} of US employees are dis-engaged. Dis-engaged employees cost the US economy an estimated $450bn per annum, (Gallup 2013).

Definition: employee engagement is the emotional commitment the employee has to the organisation and its goals.

This emotional commitment means engaged employees actually care about their work and their company. They don’t work just for a pay check, or just for the next promotion, but work on behalf of the organisation’s goals. When employees care—when they are engaged—they use discretionary effort (Forbes). So now, with the world beginning to turn towards the sun again, and the economy improving, how do you ensure you improve your employee engagement?

What if we address some of their underlying fears? We start by recognising the 5 universal fears every human has:

• Death (our own and our families)
• The Outsider
• The Future
• Chaos
• Insignificance

(Source: Donald E. Brown in Human Universals (1991)

Managers who have a responsibility to ensure every member of their team is as engaged as possible, might respond – “addressing their fears is way beyond my pay grade.” Yes and no. Let’s keep it simple, how does an individual or a team best respond to these fears. They look for the correlated need as outlined below. Now the management team need to determine how best to tap into the universal fears to better engage the team members to everyone’s benefit. Some ideas are included in the table below:

[table id=2 /]

The above sounds straight forward, but as usual the devil is in the detail. Every manager needs to take time to reflect on his current skill set, and determine what he or she needs to develop and give the time and head space to do so. Nearly everyone in business stumbles into management and the skills that got you there are the wrong skills to be effective as a manager. Like addressing fears above – the most basic question any manager needs to ask is: how would I like to be managed and act accordingly; and more importantly recognise when you did not act accordingly and learn from the experience.

Through LEAP’s structured Management Effectiveness Programme managers get the opportunity to reflect on their current performance, develop their management skillset, apply best practices and gain QQI certification in management practice.

To learn more about the programme click the link below.

Management Effectiveness


Mike Gaffney, MD LEAP

Mike Gaffney managing director at LEAP

Contact Us
Tel: 091 755736
E: info@leapleadership.ie

Leadership Effectiveness for Senior Managers

Leadership Efectiveness for Senior Managers

Choosing the right people for leadership positions within your organisation is a critical process that will determine the future of your company. Regardless of how well your current senior management teams perform, they will move on at some point either through career change or retirement. Mike Gaffney discusses the importance of behavioural traits when identifying the right people to take over senior leadership positions, and why these traits will continue to drive growth and protect company values.

Mike what is leadership effectiveness in an organisation?
In time there will be a need for managers to move into a more senior leadership role. Senior staff will target them for senior management positions. These managers have the skills and knowledge to manage effectively, however the challenge now is not about skills and knowledge, but about behaviours.

The biggest difference between a leader and a manager is the leader’s ongoing adherence to certain behaviours that are mandatory in the organisation. These behaviours are testament to the core values of the organisation. You can be the best manager in the world within your given area but if you don’t display the expected behaviours of the company – be it flexibility, adaptability, positive attitude- then you are not leading by example which is key to effective leadership. The leader must live those behaviours consistently, and to do so requires the following:

• a significant level of self-awareness
• an honest assessment of your current performance
• a gap analysis showing where you need to be
• a commitment to take the necessary steps to achieve optimal performance

How does LEAP help companies prepare their employees for leadership roles?
In that context LEAP’s Leadership Effectiveness programme uses an executive coaching approach. We will sit with the individual and review feedback from their peers and colleagues. It’s a 360 assessment incorporating the views of those that report to them, those on the same level as them and from their superiors that they report to. We also do rigorous personality profiling to identify the normal disposition of the individual, what motivates them.

We also assess the company’s values and the required behaviours to drive those values. With that starting position, the individual and the executive coach will map out a personal growth plan typically covering a 6 to 12 month time frame. This plan will outline how they are going to progress to the required level of performance.

What is expected of each participant?
At the start of the programme it will be explicitly stated what that required level of performance is upon completion, then we typically set 3 month milestones where certain behavioural targets have to be reached. This is very much about the individual working with the executive coach within a structured framework. It challenges the participant to improve behaviours, to increase self-awareness, to take ownership of existing performance.

There is consistent reviewing of their trial and error efforts throughout the programme. For this to work it’s critical that the individual’s manager is also fully committed to the process. He or she must agree with the profile of the individual’s current level of performance, and also agrees to sign off on the gap analysis, and where the individual needs to get to within the agreed time frame.

So this programme is for people already in leadership roles?
Yes it’s about developing people already in management roles to go to the next level within the organisation where they are now in a senior management position. At this level their behaviours and their ability to engage as part of a senior management team is critical. This includes their ability to make strategic decisions, and to think for the benefit of the whole organisation not just their own immediate area of responsibility.
In stepping out of the functional role of the middle manager into a broader role of the senior manager, the individual must ask themselves ‘how do I contribute to the team? How do I make sure the organisation grows and improves its performance on a continuous basis?’

How important is innovation and creativity in the leadership role?
Different people have different capabilities. It’s more about demonstrating the right behaviours as one of the leaders within the organisation. It’s about your ability to work on yourself to perform as an effective leader, to ensure that as a leader you are contributing fully to the decision making process of the senior management team.

In a way every worker is a leader because every worker can lead by example. But there are specific requirements that people need when moving into senior management roles. The higher up you go in the organisation, the more critical your leadership skills and capabilities become. The danger is you can have very good managers who aren’t good at leading because they don’t reflect certain behaviours, or because they don’t fully engage with the decision making process. So the higher up you go in the organisation the more you have to deliver based on your leadership capabilities rather than on your managerial expertise.

What are those leadership capabilities?
A lot of organisations have leaders who are naturally enthusiastic and great communicators. They are energetic and very strategic in their approach, always looking for new opportunities to explore in the marketplace. Their leadership style infuses other people with the same kind of positive energy. But at some point those leaders will need to be replaced. When it comes time to replace them you have to be careful that their replacement is not someone who relies on their managerial expertise, but lacks those vital leadership qualities and behaviours. Leaders move beyond just skills and management capabilities and into the role of strategist.

Is the programme partly an assessment of managers to gauge their suitability as senior managers?
No, their suitability has already been decided before they come to us. The organisation believes you are the right person for the senior management position; the question for them is ‘how do we support you at this senior level?’ That’s why we start with the question ‘where are you now, and where do you need to get to?’ Then the gap analysis and the personal growth plan are agreed and signed off by the individual and the senior manager. The executive coach is there to bring the discipline, the objectivity and the expertise needed to help the individual progress and succeed at each stage in the programme.

Interview with Des Kirby. Click the button to learn about our leadership effectiveness programmes.

leadership effectiveness




Tel: 091 755736
E: info@leapleadership.ie