Episode 5: Resilience and Courage in Leadership

Featuring Sarah Pryce & Bev Warne

In this episode, Sarah Pryce and Bev Warne discuss the importance of resilience and courage for business leaders and how courageous discussions can benefit the individual and the organisation as a whole.

Find out more about Leadership & Management Coaching from Oxford Innovation Cornwall

Sarah Pryce Oxford Innovation Cornwall

“I was thinking back, Bev, to the Leaders Assembly Forum that we facilitated together a couple of weeks back and thinking about the subject of resilience and why it seems to matter so much in the SME community and with the business leaders that we coach.”

“One of the things that really came out when I delved into it and spoke to some of the delegates afterwards was, if I can call it the “unexpected burden of leadership”, because a lot of the leaders that we coach had thought about all sorts of challenges in their business, and were really well equipped to deal with difficult things that the outside world threw at them or challenges within their own business, but lots of them had never seen themselves as a leader, and never thought about how to be strong.”

“Definitely. And I think, how critical it is that they create the right environment, and that’s the key thing. It’s about creating an environment where they can develop people, people have potential to thrive and to grow, and all those sorts of things.”

“I can imagine, if you really thought about that, you would think, “oh, my goodness, I’ve got to do that as well?” But of course, that can mean different things that different people, and inspiration can come in so many different forms.”

Beverly Warne Oxford Innovation Cornwall
Sarah Pryce Oxford Innovation Cornwall

“I like that point you make about, “oh, gosh, I’ve got to do that as well as the day job”. I think one of the things that has come out for me, doing some work into resilience, is exactly that point that our leaders in the SME community are feeling “crikey, here’s my huge to-do list of the very many things that I’m worried about, and on top of that, you’re now telling me I’ve got to be this inspirational leader?”

“Whereas, of course, we’re suggesting that it’s not ‘on top of’, but that your to-do list should be full of leadership stuff. That was the difference for me.”

“I would agree with that. It’s about people thinking maybe differently around it, and thinking actually my primary role is the leadership and everything else kind of follows from that. So if there’s a managerial task that they’re doing say, it’s checking in on something, then that’s about how they do that, and the kind of conversations they have with people.”

“That’s the most important thing and that’s them modelling the way in terms of leadership, and how they do that, and what kind of conversations they have with people, when? Are they consistent? Does it allow openness etc. and that’s the first thing they should be sort of focusing on, as opposed to all the little detail and the tasks that then ensue.”

Beverly Warne Oxford Innovation Cornwall
Sarah Pryce Oxford Innovation Cornwall

“For me, it’s some of those conversations that might stretch your comfort zone a bit, perhaps the conversations that you’re not looking forward to, or where you wake up in the morning with a bit of a gulp kind of feeling, but of course, we know those are the conversations that have the most impact, and the most potential.”

“I think it’s interesting talking to that group of people about how they prepared themselves for those kind of, you and I would call them ‘courageous conversations’ and the impact they have, and trying to help that community see the benefit of having those conversations and having them routinely, which I guess for me is part of that culture piece that you’ve just been talking about.”

“If you create a culture where you openly, honestly, constructively talk about things as it happens.”

“Wouldn’t it would just be amazing? You see so many blocks in businesses where people can’t have those conversations, or don’t believe that they can have those conversations. As a consequence it can slow business down, it can make it more ineffective, it can create a difficult environment for people to work in, because there are unsaid conversations going on.”

“So, the irony is actually the more that happens in a workplace, the better it is, the faster a business goes, the more productive people are likely to be if they feel as though there’s no hidden agendas. If they can just get on with their job and obviously how you say is equally important, but again, this is where the role of the leader comes into play: because if they have difficult conversations in a professional and very structured, open way, then that kind of models a way for other people to follow.”

“So that’s where it becomes really critical that they take the lead on that, and it is all about practice. A lot of these ‘courageous conversations’ can be a build-up in somebody’s head. Haven’t we all been there where we thought, “oh, goodness, you know, I’ve got to have this conversation, and if that happens, I’ll do this, and if that happens, I’ll do this and blah, blah, blah”. Then when we have the conversation, we go, “oh, well, that was okay. That was fine!”

“Sometimes it’s it we’re transferring our own perceptions and our own fears onto the other person.”

Beverly Warne Oxford Innovation Cornwall
Sarah Pryce Oxford Innovation Cornwall

“I think there’s something really Interesting about how you prepare for that conversation and how you get your ducks in a row beforehand.”

“I’m a big fan of using very pragmatic, simple techniques, because I think if you just had five minutes to prepare, and three post-it notes, you would really focus your thinking and think, “what’s the example? What is it that I need to highlight? What do I need this person to change?”

“What’s my opening sentence going to be?” Just a few bits of basic prep that suddenly make it much more focused, much simpler, and give you some of the courage to get going?”

“I agree, and equally, I like what you said about focusing on what you need that person to change, and taking some of the ‘personal’ out of it. So as we’re talking about a ‘behaviour’, a ‘thing that they’re doing’ as opposed to ‘them’, they’re great. Rather than leaving it, it’s about having those really timely conversations because it’s not fair, or appropriate, I would say, to have a conversation three months down the line about something that somebody’s allegedly done a long time ago.”

Beverly Warne Oxford Innovation Cornwall
Sarah Pryce Oxford Innovation Cornwall

“I think there’s also the power of the specific example. “When we were in the presentation together yesterday, I noticed that… and I wanted to talk to you about that”, that kind of thing, how that coupled with the use of great questions can really take it into quite a straightforward conversation. What I love about that is when you can support people through that, and it’s as if suddenly the scales fall away and they realise that actually, there’s such a benefit to making this the norm and routinely having these kinds of conversations.”

“Yeah, definitely, and asking the right questions, as you say, is really important because sometimes you if you ask the right question at the right moment, it can help someone with their thinking, it can help them to reflect and maybe put themselves in somebody else’s situation where they can then see how by changing their behaviour and moving it forward, they can make a difference, maybe to the other person, but most importantly to themselves.”

Beverly Warne Oxford Innovation Cornwall
Sarah Pryce Oxford Innovation Cornwall

“I think this takes me back to some of those discussions we were having about resilience at the Leaders Forum, and how it’s often the layering of issues that starts to make any of us have a wobble in our resilience, because we can all cope with all sorts of things that are professional life, or all sorts things in our private life, but suddenly layer the two things together and throw in a particularly bad week, and suddenly the most the strongest most resilient person feels a bit of a wobble.”

“What I like about the culture that we’re talking about around making these conversations really straightforward and routine, is I think it takes away some of the stuff that makes you wobble, because it means that you’re creating a culture where we talk about things openly, and honestly, and constructively, which means everybody knows where they stand, and there’s no surprises, and there isn’t that awful build-up of tension as you’re worried about something.”

“Exactly. And once you kind of clear the way in your own mind, first and foremost, I think that can make a massive impact on any business and particularly on their people.”

Beverly Warne Oxford Innovation Cornwall
Sarah Pryce Oxford Innovation Cornwall

“I was talking to a client earlier this week, and reflecting on the benefit of having a coach as a sounding board and you’ll know yourself, I’m sure, sometimes you go in to see a client and have a very specific structured discussion about a business plan or a growth plan or a strategy, and other times it’s a completely unplanned, free flowing conversation where you sometimes, as the coach, think, “I’m not sure what value I’m adding here, I’m listening and asking questions,” and it’s often those sessions that and the end the client says, “I got so much from that, that was so useful”.

“I suppose sometimes our role as a ‘sounding board’ is allowing them to unload, reflect on the pressures of the week, and “how I’m going to deal with that”, and our role in giving a different perspective – I think that’s important in building up people’s resilience, because sometimes that different perspective is really powerful.”

“I agree with all of that, and in addition I think asking those slightly more challenging questions, those questions that they probably won’t be asked by anybody else, and in a non-confrontational way, with a view to helping them to move forward, and to get over an obstacle can be really invaluable and I would say that probably that’s where we can make often the greatest impact with a client.”

“If you help them to clear the way in their own head and to get them to reflect and move forward, I think that’s one of the best things that we can do for any client.”

Beverly Warne Oxford Innovation Cornwall
Sarah Pryce Oxford Innovation Cornwall

“I think it allows our clients to almost rehearse things out loud. Knowing that we’re non-judgmental, as you say and our only agenda is to help them.”

“Completely. They don’t have to worry about anything else. They can take away any other perceptions and focus just on that.”

Beverly Warne Oxford Innovation Cornwall
Sarah Pryce Oxford Innovation Cornwall

“Some of that’s a perspective thing as well. For me, it’s just the simplest things of taking them away from the office for an hour, meeting in a coffee shop, or a hotel somewhere, or in a different venue, doing something that just takes them away from the business, and allows them to think about it differently.”

“Oh, absolutely. It gives them a different perspective, allows them thinking time, and they’re not caught up in any sort of day-to-day stuff. Just being in the work environment can restrict their thinking sometimes, just putting them into a different place at a different time, can absolutely open up a whole new way of thinking, creativity and ideas.”

Beverly Warne Oxford Innovation Cornwall
Sarah Pryce Oxford Innovation Cornwall

“One of the things that we seem to really resonate with lots of those delegates at the Leaders Forum, when we were talking about resilience is that one of the pointers I suggested was “the magic power of the stolen hour”, or otherwise “playing truant”.

“Of course, we all know that after two weeks in the Caribbean, we’d feel marvellous, but for most of us that’s not an option, and I think there’s something really powerful, particularly in the SME community where you’re often very hands-on and there’s lots going on, in stealing an hour or two when you weren’t expecting it, and walking away and doing something completely random and completely different.”

“Whether it’s walking on the beach, or whatever it is that takes you physically away, and I think the impacts of that on resilience shouldn’t be underestimated. I think it is a small technique that SME leaders should legitimise because it’s really important.”

“I suppose for me, the analogy would be bit like on the plane if you’re a parent with a child and they say to you “put your oxygen mask on yourself first before you look off your child”. As a business leader, you’ve got to look after yourself before you can look after everybody else.”

“Yeah, because you’re no good to anyone if you’re if you’re worn out, you’re worn down, or you haven’t got any fresh ideas. It’s about lifting your head up sometimes and taking that helicopter view, you can get very bogged down with the with the day-to-day.”

“I think the other thing sometimes that creates this feeling of “I can’t deal with it all” is around a business leader or a manager thinking that they have to have all the answers and they have to take responsibility for every single person. Often it can be completely liberating to not take on that responsibility, and to do with them as a coach would do with client, with a leader.”

“So for example, if an employee comes in with an issue, help them to reflect on their thinking, and help them to think about what the solution might be before going straight in with an answer, because that’s such hard work, because none of us have got the answers to everything, and that’s the only way that you’re going to help other people grow and develop anyway.”

Beverly Warne Oxford Innovation Cornwall
Sarah Pryce Oxford Innovation Cornwall

“I’m so glad you said that because I think I think it’s so powerful and it’s something I often talk to clients about, around “how would you approach this if you were coaching somebody?”, and I think the power that unlocks in people is a win-win outcome, because for the leader themselves, it allows them to empower somebody and develop that person, and help them resolve the issue themselves, but also it means that they’re not just collecting more things on their to-do list. So it’s a win-win scenario, I think.”

Interested in working with Oxford Innovation Cornwall? Get in touch to see how we can help your business grow.

 

Book Online