The 4-Step Leadership Process

How to lead yourself through the L&DHP leadership process

Leadership process - Nicky Cowling Good Day YellowAnother guest post this time from Nicky Cowling who talks about the leadership process in L&DHP and how it relates to her progress getting fit and plans to stay that way in the future. Let’s hope it’s another 50 years or so!

Nicky is a Director of Good Day Yellow with 25 years experience working with teams at different stages of development in professional services, corporate and public sectors. She believes that people at all levels can contribute to improving performance. She is skilled at working with both senior leadership teams and those entering the workforce. To find out more you can connect with Nicky on Linkedin.

‘Earlier this year at the Easter Bunny 10k Run in Somerset I recorded a time of 59 minutes and 38 seconds. A remarkable time absolutely not, a remarkable time for me – absolutely!!

At a recent meeting of Leading and Developing High Performance practitioners we were asked to talk about our successes and this achievement was very much on top for me. Initially I couldn’t see how it had any relevance for the work we do with teams and their leaders.

On reflection I realised that the process that I had applied, to turn myself from someone who would avoid running at all costs into someone who intends to be running for a very long time, was exactly the leadership process we advocate.

It started with the Visioning Stage at a dinner party and discussion with friends about getting older. Sound familiar? This led to my Vision (it actually sounded much more like a declaration of defiance at the dinner party!) to enter my 50’s with a positive view of the decade to come and a belief that anything I can do (and wear!) in my 40’s I’ll be able to continue in my 50’s.

At the root of the declaration was actually something much deeper, a fear of being left behind by my other half; something I have seen happen to other couples where one stays fit and active and the other struggles with weight and health problems in later life. My vision is to be climbing the mountain together (or at least walking up big hills!) when we retire.

With hindsight the leadership behaviour of projecting what you stand for, has consistently been one of the most influential. If I hadn’t told so many people what I was planning to achieve at this stage I might well have given up!

Analysing my starting point, another important skill, was more straightforward; I was too much of a couch potato! I had to accept that I needed to become more active.

The Mobilising stage was interesting! This is the stage in the leadership process where you get others on board and ensure that they are clear about their part in your plan. I knew that I needed some clear goals to keep me on track, one of which was to run a 10k under an hour before my birthday.

Being assertive and direct with myself, doing the positive ‘self talk’ that got me out the front door barely after the ice had thawed in December was a challenge, as was accepting the strong clear feedback that my watch provided. I just wasn’t running fast enough. I needed to step outside of my comfort zone and train with other people.

Leadership skills. On the run - Nicky CowlingThe Developing stage is all about motivation, both to start something new and to keep going, and choosing the right style of development activity to match the individual and the challenge they face. For me this involved joined a running club and running with other people.

This has been the most illuminating part of the experience. To start with I failed to breathe properly because I was embarrassed at the thought of other people hearing me gasping for oxygen. Losing my inhibitions and giving myself permission not to sound and look ‘normal’ in company was a big challenge.

The style of the development has been critical. Too much support and I feel patronised, too little challenge and nothing changes. I’ve learnt so much about what motivates me and just how easily I allow doubts about my own ability to hold me back.

I ran my first race (since the leapfrog relay in my last year at primary school) in January in a time of 60 minutes and 5 seconds. If I hadn’t expended so much energy during that race worrying about how I would feel if I came last I might have achieved my goal at that point. As it was I got there at Easter, a good outcome as I got to eat a guilt free chocolate egg as part of the celebration.

The final Enabling stage of the leadership process is about building capability in the best way for each team member and recognising the right point to let go of control, whilst at the same time maintaining support and encouragement.

In the past I have been guilty of letting newly established good habits lapse once the ‘big goal’ has been achieved. Anyone who has yo-yo dieted will recognise this behaviour.

In order to complete the leadership process I needed to revisit the original vision and work out how to maintain my new fitness levels and set new goals to keep me motivated.

As part of a running club it’s easier to get caught up in the view that faster and further is better, but this approach to building capability was not relevant for me. At the Ivybridge 10k I knocked another 32 seconds off my time, not because I was aiming to go faster but with the aim of getting a T-shirt and trying to enjoy myself.

My new goal is to run 10km (entering at least one more race!) 50 times before I’m 51; it is about building capability through consistency. And I’ve told you, so now I’ll have to do that too!

Recognising the personal impact that the L&DHP leadership process has had for me both now and in terms of how I see the future, has both reinforced my confidence in the approach, and also reminded me that we can expect a few blisters on the way to success.

As a leader it’s important to constantly do your best to put yourself in the shoes of your followers. Perhaps the most effective way to do this is to apply this leadership process to your own behaviour.’

What process do you follow to be an effective leader?