Archive for Leadership Development

Leadership – a matter of mindset

Here are some thoughts from Martin Wilson, Executive Coach here at Sheridan Resolutions on why leaders must be given time to think about their development and perspectives.

 Leadership is first and foremost about mindset. Why? Because, like life, work does not happen in conveniently packaged and predicted events – it mostly just happens. To respond effectively in those unpredicted, unscripted moments – how a leader chooses to ‘be’ – relies on a solid sense of who they are.

This is not only about the tools and techniques they may have learnt, but a solid conviction about the ‘right’ course of action. With this new instinctive response, the former can of course help. Without an instinct to help those struggling, to forego short term wins for long term gain, to be prepared to reflect or facilitate answers from others rather than fix oneself, tools and techniques can quickly gather dust. It’s ‘action logic’ that demands leaders’ attention – how are they ‘being’ in the day-to-day of leadership? Mindful of relationships, driven to grow others and intolerant of disrespect? What they notice and overlook in these every day moments is what defines them.

As Sheridan Resolutions, we create an environment to challenge senior leaders to be the best they can be. Given the pressures on a modern leader, businesses need to give their top people the time to think about their development and the space to make good decisions for the benefit of themselves and the organisation.

It is these moments that will define a leader. It’s about instinctively asking the question, ‘what would be helpful to you right now?’, because at the heart of their leadership sits, amongst many, a conviction that this is their role and responsibility. Lacking that, other instincts kick in, the moment passes and the opportunity is lost.

On their journey, leaders need to take care that their beliefs and instinctive responses / actions are fit for the leadership purpose and not relics of some earlier life and role. This may require jettisoning old ways of thinking, and re-equipping themselves with new ones and so leading with intentionality, until that becomes embedded as new instincts, which can be heard by others as new questions, new phrases.

Language is the pinhole of perception and that’s why the very best leaders take great care first over mindset and the way in which they are expressed through conversations.

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A Confidence Boost for Female Leaders

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There are some excellent articles on women in leadership in this week’s Sheridan Weekly. One feature looks at how women in senior positions can profoundly change a company’s culture, while another looks frankly at the reluctance some men feel around mentoring aspiring female leaders. Both pieces are well worth a read.

As someone who has worked in the City for many years, I am acutely aware of some of the difficulties women face in getting into and thriving in senior roles there, as elsewhere. Whilst there has been a marked improvement in the past few years, corporate life is still a challenging environment.

Women hold less than a quarter of FTSE 100 directorships. At Sheridan Resolutions, we support women to think about their style, approach and confidence in the workplace and provide insight and guidance on how to best get to where they want to be. Sometimes the need is for one-to-one coaching or mentoring to focus on specific needs and to gain insight as to how best to interact with colleagues and behavioural styles to address.

This gives them the confidence they need to approach their careers from a new angle, with a momentum that can carry them further within a company than they may have previously thought possible.

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Caroline Sheridan, Chair, Workplace and Employment CMC group and Founder of Sheridan Resolutions

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C³ – leadership for high level engagement – by Martin Wilson

(This post is from Martin Wilson, one of our top team of consultants here at Sheridan Resolutions)

Leadership matters. Our world is more complex than ever before, with access to more information than ever before. It’s a complexity and abundance of information that can paralyse and confuse. Organisations need leaders who are agile thinkers, who can rise above the details, synthesise and create clarity and purpose for others.

We also live and work in a far more interconnected world. A silo mentality leads to inefficiency and missed opportunities.

Organisations need leaders who are socially skilled, who can communicate and network effectively, and who can connect and build productive relationships across boundaries. In addition, whilst employee and customer expectations have risen, organisations need to deliver more with less. That requires leaders who can inspire and engage others.

Finally, we live and work in a world of greater ambiguity and pace. Anyone hoping for a period of stability will be disappointed. Organisations need leaders tolerant of ambiguity, open to new ways of doing things and with the self confidence, persistence and commitment to keep things moving in the right direction.

Given how much it matters, it’s not surprising that leadership has been conceptualised, studied and theorised so extensively. Surprising; no. Confusing; yes. Ask Google ‘what is leadership?’ and you’ll get about 613 million results in 0.49 seconds. Try Amazon for books on leadership and you’ll have over 50,000 to choose from. If you want to over-complicate leadership and you’re OK not getting out much, give Google and Amazon a go.

If, on the other hand, you want to quickly get on with inspiring high level engagement, it’s possible by focusing on these 3 leadership priorities:

1. Clarity – providing people with a shared sense of purpose and meaning

2. Connection – inspiring, exciting and aligning people

3. Commitment – creating the conditions for people to do more than they thought they could.


1. Clarity

Martin Luther King did not say ‘I have a strategic plan’! People are not lead by plans and analysis. Effective leaders provide people with a shared sense of purpose and meaning. They answer the question ‘what am I doing here?’ by creating a compelling picture of the future and a clear focus on the right things.

In charting new courses, they understand that the more precisely you can define what you want, the more likely you are to communicate it effectively and ultimately achieve it. In this way, effective leaders are able to make the complex simple and the challenging seem attainable.


2. Connection

Effective leaders understand where they’re going and how to get there, and their teams share this understanding. But more than engaging the ‘head’, effective leaders also encourage the ‘heart’. They act as a magnet as well as a compass. They attract alignment to shared values and goals by communicating with an infectious passion.

They know that people have to be won over emotionally as well as rationally and so they get out and proactively attract and align people to a cause. Showing people they matter is an essential element of leadership and effective leaders make each person feel special and confident. One of the secrets of effective leaders is their understanding of the very real connection between how people feel and how they perform. They pay attention to others, involving, listening and building the emotional engagement that inspires discretionary effort.


3. Commitment

Having engaged hearts and minds, effective leaders make things happen; they engage people’s feet as well! With a strong bias for action, effective leaders move others, modeling the personal commitment needed to bridge the gap between dream and delivery.

With a heartfelt commitment to the things that matter, they maintain confidence and momentum, keeping themselves and others going in the face of apparent paradox and ambiguity. They take accountability for creating the conditions for people to do great work rather than seeing themselves as victims of others’ indifference. With everyone in the team feeling they have a part to play, that they are valued and that each of their jobs is important, the leader can mobilise the team to do more than they ever thought they could.



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Leadership investment and agility are closely connected

I’m fascinated at the moment by the increasingly clear case for investing in your leaders on the one hand and, on the other, how great leaders respond to the fast-changing business environment. The two things are, of course, linked.

Investment in excellent leadership development creates an environment to challenge senior leaders to be the best they can be. And, given the pressures on a modern leader, businesses need to give their top people the ability to think about their development and yet make good and rapid decisions for the benefit of themselves and the organisation.

It really matters to any business to keep its key performers motivated. To face new challenges requires resilience, courage and clear vision. To give a leader the opportunity and investment to allow the talented people underneath them to develop their repertoire of skills and abilities clearly maximises their performance and impact.

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How to be a better leader

There’s more to being a good boss than having the title and responsibility of telling people what to do. Leadership comes with many challenges, and to become effective you need to know how to guide and motivate your employees.

Be agile

Be prepared for disruption – it’s not all going to plain sailing in business. The secret is to make sure you’re responsive to what employees need and also what’s happening from an external perspective. Be proactive in your approach to leadership, so you’re not just fighting fires on a daily basis, but you’re thriving to grow by listening to the needs of your staff and stakeholders.

Let your employees spread their wings.

It’s all well and good having a framework and structure to work within, but don’t make this too restrictive. We’ve found that the most effective leaders…give their staff the maximum degree of latitude to operate within that structure. It’s important that your managerial style reflects this and allows individuals within your organisation to grow to their strengths.

Build relationships

Having the emotional intelligence and behavioural flexibility to lead effectively is so important in business. It’s all about strengthening those professional relationships to create a high-performing workplace. Essentially, you have to be authentic. The big challenge is then maintaining the fabric of that relationship with your employees through disruption and conflict. Show your human side and you’re on your way to converting the sceptics into committed and passionate employees.

Work as a team

Take the time to get to know your team. Understand their background and gain the insight you need to lead in a more collaborative team style. Remember how and when to let others take control, and show respect to others with a different perspective. Employees want to be recognised as individuals and it’s important to take the time to do that.

Mediate effectively 

Want to have a competitive advantage and guarantee business success? The first step is to show staff that the business is willing to hear them out. Mediation with staff is often not used as effectively as it should. It’s all too easy to ignore strained relationships, especially when we’re under pressure ourselves, but have a conversation early enough and it can make the world of difference. Transforming relationships in a positive way avoids the consequences of doing nothing at all and that minor dispute escalating into poor productivity, a lack of engagement, increased workplace absence and ultimately recruitment costs.

(adapted from an article by The Parliamentary Review at

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Great leaders accept their limitations

So much of the discussion around the nurturing of top talent is about leaders coming to terms with their limitations – and turning this to their advantage.

We’ve found that corporate resilience can be built through leaders helping their employees understand and be prepared for the sense of vulnerability inevitable during times of change. To do that, the leader must first take the time necessary to assess and understand where the next source of disruption may come – and how it may best be addressed.

As we recently stated in the latest edition of the prestigious Parliamentary Review, the modern leaders’ role is not to have the answers. Rather, it is to be skilled in having coaching conversations with their people, which in turn expands their thinking and resourcefulness. This is vital because employees increasingly (and rightly) expect to be recognised as individuals, even in the face of sweeping changes, with different needs from, and potential contributions to, their employer.

Treated as such, they can make the change. Those managers who have developed skills in this area will usually make better leaders than those with very high-level technical skills but less personal or professional engagement with their people.

Caroline Sheridan, Chair, Workplace and Employment CMC group and Founder of Sheridan Resolutions

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The power behind positive reframing

I came across a great post the other day that talked about the “art” of positive reframing. It really is an art – practised where the listener restates a negative statement made by another person in a more positive way, without changing the meaning.

Why is this important? Well, it helps the other person to appreciate that you have listened and understood them and encourages them to appreciate how others may view things. It also shifts the focus from people to behaviours. To stop things from “getting personal” is essential.

At work, leaders and managers today need to know what to do when workplace relations break down in this way. Mediation can ensure conflicts arising are managed well. For this to happen, positive reframing is a vital tool – mediation then becomes even more effective in not only unblocking obstacles but also in making real change happen.

A key characteristic of mediation is “flexibility” – and as mediators we too need to resolve to show the flexibility to keep on listening and learning in our daily work – and positively reframe our conversations whenever necessary.

Caroline Sheridan, Chair, Workplace and Employment CMC group and Founder of Sheridan Resolutions

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A new era for leadership development

There’s some great articles in this week’s Coaching & Mediation Weekly on leadership development. Our lead article looks at how some organisations, sadly, still consider leadership development a strategic option, rather than a strategic imperative. In these businesses, leadership development lurches from feast to famine, mirroring the ups and downs of the business cycle.

The need for more, not less, leadership development in times of great uncertainty is clear to many – and now the rules are changing in two respects. Firstly, the era of the “command-and-control” leader is well and truly over. Instead of relying on the wisdom of a few people at the top of the organisation, we now need to devolve leadership across every business. This necessitates a highly-developed sense of purpose, trust, excellence and integrity for the organisation in everything it does. These are all values that we support strongly at Sheridan Resolutions and, when blended together, essentially represent the sense of “connection” one feels within any outstanding business.

It’s really interesting, therefore, that our second article reveals that while the selection of candidates for leadership development programmes has historically focused on senior executives, the highest-performing organisations today make leadership development available to any manager who is interested – a defining factor that sets them apart from low-performing organisations. In other words, high-performing organisations cater for the development of all aspirational employees, wherever their learning journey begins.

Equality of access is a theme of our times – it’s also an important trend for business owners in terms of funding their business aspirations. That’s why we’re really happy to support Informed Funding’s latest Finance Seminars (on 22nd September – click here), which will focus on helping all sorts of growing businesses in the UK to get the access to the funding they need to grow.

Caroline Sheridan, Chair, Workplace and Employment CMC group and Founder of Sheridan Resolutions

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Do your people feel safe to take risks?

There’s a fantastic recent article from Strategy & Business on the 10 Principles of Strategic Leadership in a recent issue of the Coaching & Mediation Weekly. The principles are all excellent – and the article is well worth a read in full, as is our second article covering Google’s take on what makes a great team.


One of the 10 principles that leapt out at me was that of “Making it safe to fail”. This principle highlights the difference between what many an organisation says it does when failure comes – and what it really does.

A business may say it encourages innovation and risk, for example, but when creativity fails or a bold decision turns sour, the recriminations can begin quickly. This “skin-deep” attitude to failure can be one root cause of the workplace conflict and mistrust which Sheridan Resolutions is called in to resolve in its work.


True “safe to fail” principles need to be enshrined in practices and processes. This means a recognition that failures are better thought of as staging posts on the way to success. It is imperative to recover from any failure and find the courage to try again.

Our lead feature therefore looks at businesses that have learnt how to fail. Honda, for example, once had to recall about 8.5 million vehicles (to date) over a faulty airbag. The company’s leaders eventually had to acknowledge that the airbag failure was not of itself the problem. Rather, it was an inability to acknowledge and accept the failure at an early stage, when it could have been much more easily corrected.  As one executive said: “We forgot that failure is never an acceptable outcome … it is the means to acceptable outcomes.”


Only if leaders can accept failure in reality as well as in rhetoric can they hope to make much better decisions. 

Caroline Sheridan

Sheridan Resolutions

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Why it’s time for Connected Leadership

I’m reading a great book at the moment called Connected Leadership: How to Build a More Agile, Customer-Driven Business by Simon Hayward. His explanation of why he wrote the book is our lead article – and basically he charts the changes from a time when there were a lot of ‘hero’ leaders around – people who took all the decisions and stifled the people around them in the process – to a new world in which things started to become a lot more unpredictable. Command-and-control leadership has started to fail us. And, rather than relying on people at the top of an organisation, we now need to devolve decision making across the business.

Connected Leadership shows leaders how they can create a more connected organisation that is better equipped to respond to the complex challenges they face today. By adopting the five key factors of connected leadership they will be able to:

– Develop a clear sense of purpose and direction for the organisation

– Build a more open, transparent and authentic way of working

– Devolve decision making

– Encourage collaborative achievement

– Create an agile organisation

The reason we love this book is because these are the principles around which Sheridan Resolutions is based. We are known for bringing trust, excellence and integrity to everything we do – and it’s great to know that there are books around and doing well that articulate these principles clearly.

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