FeaturedReal Transformation or Boomerang Change?

Boomerang change is the kind of change that goes forwards and backwards, hesitating and never really transforming anything

Elisabet Vinberg Hearn

Everyone talks about transformation, but is it really transformation they are doing? Could it be that it’s “just” change?

Don’t get me wrong, change is sometimes enough, but the problem is that change often isn’t enough, or the efforts put into change are not impactful enough and therefore don’t really change anything other than what’s on the surface. People fall back into old habits – as habits die hard – we all know that.

Transformation, real transformation, is a marked, significant change, where the change is so thorough, so disruptive, so – well, yes, transforming – that it can’t go back to what it once was. A bit like how a butterfly can’t transform back into a caterpillar.

Real transformation requires more than a well managed project (to change processes, digital tools, organisational structure etc) – it requires a transformation of mindset, habits and culture. And that transformation must be led from the top, where leaders themselves transform how they lead the organisation, how they behave, what they prioritise, what actions and behaviours they ignite in others. Without it, it’s unlikely that transformation will happen.

Progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything

George Bernard Shaw

So, if you are serious about business/digital transformation, take a moment to reflect on how you can bring all the pieces of real transformation together – the WHY, the WHAT and the HOW, keeping in mind that real transformation is more about people than processes and tools. It’s about connecting with people, with their hearts and minds.

And maybe Einstein said it best…

The world as we have created it is a process of our thinking. It cannot be changed without changing our thinking  

Albert Einstein

Isn’t it time to leave Boomerang Change behind and go for Real Transformation?

Messages from near and far for Think’s 20th anniversary

Thank you all so much for all the wonderful messages of congratulations on our 20th anniversary! We are so lucky to know you.

Here are some of the messages we’ve had, together with snapshots from some of the many locations we’ve had the joy of working in since 2001. And some of the lovely people we’ve worked with.

A massive big thank you from us all,

Elisabet and the Think team

Back to work, but it’s not back to normal

Leading in the new hybrid workplace

We are in the middle of global pandemic where leaders are challenged and tested in a way never seen in our lifetime. How leaders respond, how they inspire hope and engage in collaborative dialogue or not, will become their legacy. Leadership matters more than ever. That’s a fact.

Through the summer, following lockdowns and recommendations all around the world to work from home, business and political leaders have been trying to figure out how to make the ‘new normal’ of being back at work will look like.

What we know for sure is that autumn 2020 brings a new way of working, a ‘new normal’ where some people are not expecting to be back in an office until 2021 or even later, while some people are slowly starting to go back now.


This brings a number of challenges for leaders to consider:

  1. Some people worry about going back, because of the contagion risk
  2. Some people wish they could go back, as they are finding it challenging (e.g. poor work environment) or lonely to work at home, or both
  3. Some people have concerns about losing their jobs as a result of the economic downturn
  4. The pandemic, in some instances, has caused mental health issues for people.
  5. Having onsite team members and offsite team members, can create two disparate groups, where those offsite can feel particularly left outside the perceived ‘main circle’.
  6. Keeping team trust high and not causing a divide and sub-groups or cliques
  7. Keeping team energy and engagement high, while not assuming those in the room are engaged and those who are not are not
  8. Moving from online to in person – does it feel different now?


Here are some things to think about, solutions to deploy to make the return to the ‘new normal’ a success

Solution 1

Think about people first. Everything else can take second place.

Solution 2

Look to yourself. How you behave, how you show up will impact people around you. Take the time to center yourself, putting yourself in a good state of mind. Leadership is contagious so lead yourself first.

Solution 3

Focus on physical safety, including ensuring that people can work while still keeping the social distancing that is needed to reduce the risk of infection. Be very clear what those arrangements are, that everyone understands them and why they are important and need to be followed.

Solution 4

Make inclusivity your top focus during this time in particular. Include everyone equally, regardless of where they are based or any other differentiator. This is the time to show through actions and behaviours that you are serious about having an inclusive workplace, an inclusive culture where people connect and engage with each other and be creative together.

Solution 5

In a recent global poll, we asked leaders what their biggest leadership challenges during the pandemic is and the second biggest challenge came out as: Missing being with people and interpersonal aspects of that. Yes, people are social beings, so put extra effort into those interpersonal moments, especially for those who are still working remotely.

Solution 6

Involve your team in creating the practicalities of hybrid working; discuss and agree how to work together and how to support each other. Be proactive about it. Focus on output, not input. When you have people working remotely, you must trust them to deliver without micro-managing.

Solution 7

Create an environment of psychological safety. It’s always been important, but even more so now. The challenges are not over and everyone will need to be able to communicate and collaborate with each other, respectfully challenge each other in dialogue to identify issues and create solutions. And for people to want to do that, they need to feel safe to speak up, to share their thoughts, to try, fail and learn (fast) and move on. How you respond when people have the courage to speak their mind makes all the difference.

Solution 8

This can be a time for contention and potential conflict – Allow, encourage people to talk about their concerns, recognising that these disruptive times can be very stressful and that not everyone will react the same way. Just talking about a problem or concern, expressing how someone feels helps to ease said concern, it’s a good first step. And you can then support them in building strength and resilience to find the solutions they need. You need to make time and space for this in a virtual and office mixed world. So, ensure you have regular informal check in points.

Solution 9

Build and work on Team Trust. The team dinners, chats and water cooler conversations are harder in this mixed virtual/office world, so recreate that by doing things like having stand up meetings with people in the office together (safely socially distanced) and include those working virtually by linking them in using a form of technology. Get the office and virtual world mixed. Have some meetings that are ‘just’ social check-ins. As most of us have been working in the virtual world we are much more aware of the impact we have when on line so when we go back into a work space we now have a new perspective on it so people are likely more respectful and perceptive of those in the room and those on line than before.

Solution 10

Make sure you all have the digital tools that will allow you to collaborate and communicate across the hybrid (remote and office) workplace.

Solution 11

When working from home, the work and home life gets blurred. Help people overcome that by not sending emails around the clock. Be a role model for a healthy work/life integration.

Solution 12

To pick up on the office/work ‘vibe’ you will need to carry out and put into the calendar more informal 1 to 1 time to fill in the gaps and the void that the virtual /office mixed environment creates. Use the informal check-ins to pick up on how people feel, what they think and what they need.

Like with everything else, this ‘new normal’ will not just be plain sailing. And that’s OK. Be intentional in your leadership of it, allow enough time in your busy schedule to manage the ‘new normal’. It’s inevitable that you and your team will try things out (how to work) and realise that it didn’t turn out exactly the way you wanted it to. And keep in mind that the ‘new normal’ will keep changing. We don’t know what it will look like in a year’s time and beyond. The power lies in exploring that together and learning together. Your role is to lead your team through that.

No one can have all the answers, no one is an expert in this global pandemic. The power and the answers are in all of us, sharing and working on this together, and that needs to be led by a powerful leader.

That is you.  

Learning and Progress go hand in hand

Learning never stops.

As the world keeps evolving, we need to evolve too – we need to gain new knowledge, skills and experience continuously.

The pace of change is simply such, that we cannot possibly know it all. We need to be a ‘learn it all’ rather than a ‘know it all’. Curious, open-minded, keen to gain insights and discover surprises on our learning journey.

And if we have a mindset of always wanting to learn, it means we are more open to being creative and it forces us to look at things differently. This helps us to continue to be creative and to innovate. And when that happens at an organisational level, we have a culture of learning.

Thinking we know everything is outdated, how can we in a world that changes so fast? Data suggests that 50% of what is taught during the first year of a 4-year technical degree is outdated by year 3. This is a good reminder that even the most experienced of people have something they need to learn. Time doesn’t stand still for anyone.

So, continuously focus on what you need to learn. This gives you permission to not have to have all the answers and instead be interested in exploring new concepts and ideas. And encourage others to do the same.

In a world of constant change how could we possible have all the answers already? Even thinking we could have all the answers is an outdated concept. And that’s good.

Enjoy your learning journey!

The Culture Shaper

The story below is a chapter from one of our future books, currently going under the working name of “The Culture Shaper”.

Alain always demanded attention, and today would be no different.

His suit carried a designer label, his shoes were shining and his trademark handkerchief was neatly on display in his jacket pocket.

Standing in a meeting room on the top floor of the Brighton hotel, his eyes were irresistibly drawn to the burnt-out shell of the West Pier. It had been considered one of the finest Victorian piers in the world until the suspicious fire some 10 years earlier had put a stop to that. All that was now left of the once grand pier, was a rusty metal frame which seemed to hover over the dark green sea, reflected grey from the sky. His gaze shifted to two people who sought shelter from the wind next to a round old-fashioned beach kiosk, long since closed for the season.

A red double decker bus made its way along the seafront and the noise of squeaky breaks travelled up the side of the building and into the room where he was standing.

Alain liked Brighton even though it was of course very different to Paris where he had lived for most of his life. He loved Paris. Brighton though, fascinated him in a different way. Maybe it was the sea, the ever-changing sea or maybe it was the mixture of cosmopolitan flair with a laidback lifestyle that intrigued him. Either way, he was pleased that he had chosen Brighton as the location for his meeting, a very important meeting. Today, he would for the first time have his new leadership team all in the same room.

He was shifting his weight, moving from foot to foot, impatiently awaiting the arrival of his team. Fear and excitement battled for space in his body; his shoulders were slightly raised, indicating the tension he felt but wouldn’t want anyone to see. They would all arrive soon so he rotated his shoulders to release the pressure, and regain control.  He wanted to be prepared.

The door opened hesitantly as if the person the other side wasn’t sure if they had come to the right place. They had though; it was Stephen and Helmut. Helmut walked purposefully up to Alain and formally extended his hand in greeting. Stephen watched with interest as it felt strange to see his old boss in this new situation.  Before he’d had time to add his hello, the door opened again. This time it was the remaining four team members. Stephen had met them all before but not in this new capacity as one of them, an equal, a peer. It made him self-conscious and he straightened his back to make himself as tall as possible. He wondered how the others were viewing him and if they thought he should be there. He had heard rumblings of skepticism to his appointment as Head of Sales. He didn’t want that to influence him but it was there in his mind all the same. They all greeted each other apart from Philippa who sat down without acknowledging him. Stephen thought of going over to shake her hand but decided not to.

Having completed the customary introductions, Alain took centre stage, sitting at the top of the table, and passionately started on the subject he had brought them there for.

“I know you all attended the Town Hall last week, where I already talked about the importance of culture. Our culture, just like any other company’s, is an indication of how we do business. And therefore it can either help us or hinder us, and I’m afraid that our culture has run away from us as we’ve paid very little attention to it. I want us all to focus on the culture of Black Sparrow Insurance. We can’t afford to leave it to chance. And frankly, the way it’s working now is not healthy. It has to change.”

He paused for effect and watched for reactions. His tall, slim frame made it easy for him to lean forward and quickly make eye contact with everyone.

“Yes, we did see your passion about the culture you want to create.“ Helmut made it sound as if it had nothing to do with him.

“It’s not about what I want, it’s about what we need for our survival” Alain responded firmly and held Helmut in his gaze. “Our industry is changing so fast that we need to have a strong culture that glues us together and guides our decisions and actions to be able to maneuver in the changing marketplace, without losing momentum”.

“What do you mean by “not healthy”? said Philippa, raising her head defiantly.

“Everyone’s working for themselves at the moment, you must see that!” Alain responded passionately. “And there are a number of reasons for that – growth in the industry and the regulatory pressures creates pockets and silos where people are simply focused at delivering their immediate targets rather than looking to the business as a whole. And we as leaders are guilty of not helping people see that we’re all in this together and that we can’t have different targets and goals. It’s wasting time, energy, effort and money. It’s absolutely crazy and it has to stop”.

The room was silent for a moment. The only sound was the rain splattering on the wall of windows facing the sea. The silence that followed felt too uncomfortable for Stephen. It felt like it was going on for minutes, but it was actually only seconds. He couldn’t let it go on any longer, so he spoke up:

“I can see where you’re coming from with this, Alain. I agree with you”

Philippa sighed and twisted her ponytail around her finger and shot a sideways glance at Helmut, who looked away.  

What’s with the new boy, playing teacher’s favourite! What a weakling. I have no respect for that. She thought to herself. I’d better put him in his place. She tried to hide her smile: Let the games begin!

Philippa smiled at Alain and said: “I’m sure all companies can improve in some way, but all this talk about culture is very fluffy and vague. So what is culture anyway? What do you know about it?” She wagged her pen at Stephen. The question was clearly aimed at him.

“Well, my understanding is that culture is about how we do things day to day, hour by hour, minute by minute. It’s the little things that become the big things. For example, a friend of mine had a situation where he was in a one-to-one with his boss and his boss was texting someone else, which made him feel thoroughly ignored and not valued. Do we all pay full attention and give time to those important meetings or are we guilty of something similar? Because whatever we do, that’s a reflection of our culture.”

Alain nodded approvingly. “Yes, that is culture, isn’t it. And I have a very good example of why culture is so rarely the great driver it can be. I’ve been through this before and I know how it works, and more importantly why sometimes it doesn’t work.”

Alain shot up out of his chair and was already by the whiteboard, before they had even had time to move their heads his way.

He picked up a blue pen, visually checking that it wasn’t a permanent marker and then proceeded to resolutely put pen to board.

His writing was bold and the letters so big that the short message covered the whole board.


“What do you think that means?” Alain asked them in a provoking way.

Alain was really pushing them now but they weren’t forthcoming with their responses, which made him annoyed. He had thought that the meaning of his written statement that was staring at them all from the board was so obvious, but this was clearly not the case. It was a good reminder for him that this wasn’t going to be as easy or straightforward as had thought it would be. The statement had been very poignant to him but he knew that he would have to be a bit more patient, starting with him explaining himself better and giving them the whole story.

“OK, let me explain what I mean. We could put more rules and regulations in place, but that rarely engages people. What really drives a culture is what the role models do – we need to be role models, we need to be the examples of the kind of culture we want everyone to embrace. So it’s not just about what we do, but how we do it. Culture is about behaviours. So you, just like me, need to become very aware of your own behaviours and the impact you are having on others.” He paused for effect.

“I’m going to be watching your leadership, and I want you to watch each other’s leadership. So as part of this journey, we’ll be going into a 360 degree feedback process for each of you individually as well as for your teams. Without it we are flying blind, and we must never be blind again”. It was a dramatic statement, just as Alain had intended it to be. He was consciously making an impact, as he wanted to shake them up a bit.

Helmut nodded slowly as he made the link between Alain’s written and spoken words.

In direct response to Alain’s speech, Philippa said: “Bring it on! This is exactly what we need”. She held her head high, exuding confidence and determination with her steady stare at Alain. Inwardly, her stomach was doing cartwheels as she was in no way looking forward to the prospect. Who knew what people were going to say about her?

“Good. I’m glad you’re taking this seriously. Now, let’s move on. What questions have you had from your departments after the Town Hall last week?” Alain continued to quiz them.

Various stories were now shared around the table, each of them taking turns to retell mainly positive responses to the culture discussion. They were gesturing, talking over each other and the room was getting decidedly animated in the process. Alain felt slightly encouraged by the heightened engagement; now they were looking directly at each other and he could feel the energy, the room felt warmer.  

As they were now all talking, Stephen all of a sudden found his voice getting louder and louder, simply to be heard. He then became aware that they were all staring at him, the stage was his.  Now I’ve got their attention, I need to make it count.

“If we now all agree that behaviours are that important, we need then consider that customer facing people are the biggest carriers of the culture.  So my area, Sales, plays a part in this. But an even bigger role is played by the Customer Service group; they are crucial to how the culture is perceived over time. Right, Helmut?”  Stephen hastily referred to Helmut as he had momentarily forgotten that Service was no longer his responsibility.

Helmut said “Yes” and his hand waved away the question with a sweeping movement.

Philippa leaned forward, ready to strike.

“Let’s not get carried away. Service is there to answer questions, but are fundamentally not more than scripted entry-level staff led by a junior leader” They’re muppets led by a mouse, but I can’t say that! “We shouldn’t exaggerate their importance. They are not more important than anyone else.”

Helmut chose not to comment, as he didn’t think he needed to defend his appointment of Anna. Instead, he confidently pushed back his chair and removed himself from the discussion and slowly walked to the back of the room, grabbing another bottle of water for the table.

Even though Stephen knew Helmut, he was still surprised by Helmut’s choice to not stand up for Anna.

Hm, how weird… I’ll take my lead from Helmut on this though, and not say anything thought Stephen. I don’t want to step on his toes.

Philippa mused at the lack of response and thought 1-0 to me!

This story gives a glimpse into how business cultures work, and how much cultures are shaped by the daily behaviours of people.

Alain is clearly keen to shape a greater culture, but he has got his work cut out for him as habits die hard, and cultural transformation does not happen overnightBut it can be done and it’s so worth it.

Want to know more about cultural transformation? Read one of our articles about it here.

And please get in touch below if you want to further explore how you can shape a powerful, healthy, productive culture at work.

Make a habit of using we-talk

Want a team where people work together, “all for one and one for all”? Then here’s a practical recommendation.

Make a habit of using we-talk.

When you talk about the team, with the team or outside it, use words that demonstrate your commitment to the team, and encourage others to do the same. Use the word we, and mean it.

Here are some examples:

  • We have some great opportunities to…
  • Together we can…
  • How can we solve this together?
  • What are the next steps we should take?
  • This is what I will do for us…
  • What did we learn….?
  • What could we do differently next time?

We-talk builds connections, it highlights that you are a team and that you’re all there for each other. It shows that you need each other (everyone is important) and it creates a sense of belonging. It removes barriers and it creates team spirit.

Saying “we” – and meaning it – may seem like a small thing, but it can have a BIG impact on the team.

In high-performing, winning teams (in sports and in business) the team goes before the individual and as a result the team can achieve greater results and success, which ultimately also means the individual has greater success. It’s a win-win mentality.

This is a revised excerpt from our award-winning book “Leading Teams: 10 Challenges 10 Solutions”, FT Publishing 2015.

Available in three languages – English, Spanish and Vietnamese.

This is the no 1 leadership challenge right now

The COVID-19 outbreak quickly changed the reality for people all around the world. The speed by which the virus spread, led to governments around the world deploying different strategies to stop or at least slow down the virus spreading.

For leaders all around the world, this has introduced new challenges, whether that would be a complete shutdown of businesses to people being required to work from home.

When we asked 104 leaders from around the world what they found the most challenging in their role during this pandemic, they said:

Balancing the short term crisis with the long term strategy

Almost two thirds (64.4%) responded that this is their no 1 leadership challenge right now.

Let’s break down this challenge and look at the two competing focus areas, before diving into some solutions:

The short term crisis

There have been (and continue to be) many short term issues that have had to be resolved; setting up teams for remote working, furloughing employees, dealing with the stress and uncertainty for team members, reassuring customers, taking care of business property and many more.

The short term issues tend to be something that can bring people together, rallying the forces to overcome the obstacles – it can boost morale and deepen the team spirit. It also tends to be practical and tangible and therefore relatively straightforward to get on with.

It allows people to focus on one thing, the next steps, giving them a sense of control and progress.

The long term strategy

Any focus on the long term on the other hand, is often put on the back-burner, which is of course perfectly understandable (you wouldn’t stop and take a phone call if the house was on fire – you’d put out the fire).

At the same time the long-term gives you direction and when focusing on it, pulls you towards it.  It gives a sense of purpose and it brings order to chaos. And it can give greater meaning to the actions and reactions of short-term crisis.

When we focus on the long term strategy, we are having the foresight to do what’s needed now to deliver in the future.

Someone is sitting under a tree today because someone planted a tree a long time ago.

Warren Buffett

Solutions for how to balance the two

Here’s some food for thought, some practical ideas for how to balance the short term crisis with the long term strategy:

  1. Make a risk assessment – what will happen if you don’t balance the two as needed? Be honest with yourself, and create a plan forward based on your assessment.
  2. Realign roles and responsibilities. Assess what you and your team need to spend your time on and re-plan your time accordingly. Consider for example whether some will focus on the crisis management while some will focus on the long term strategy. Or should everyone do a bit of both?
  3. Block time in your own calendar each week for a strategic review. If you don’t do this it’s easy that ‘putting out fires’ take up all your time – and almost becomes your ‘reason for being’, which adds further focus on ‘firefighting’.
  4. Talk to your team about the long-term strategy. Intentionally bring it into the conversations you are already having, for a sense of purpose, direction and sense-meaning. Clearly link it to what the team is doing now.
  5. Develop and use your systems (strategy) thinking so that you can talk to your team about how the crisis and the long term interact and how decisions now impact the strategy.
  6. Talk with your leadership peers and your leader about how to get the balance right. Decide on approach and how to hold each other accountable, recognizing that you are role models for how the organisation will deal with this.
  7. Explore if the long-term strategy may be changing as a result of the crisis. And consider how that may impact your approach.
  8. Recognise when people get the balance right by highlighting it to others, hence encouraging others to do the same.
  9. Remember that you are a role model in this – your team will mimic what you do. So, ask yourself – how are you balancing the short-term crisis and the long-term strategy at the moment? What else do you need to do?

It would be really interesting to hear what you think – what are you doing to balance the two? What has worked for you?

Spreading the bad mood?

Samuel was in a bad mood, his wife this morning had really annoyed him by being so negative about her new job, she seemed miserable and downbeat, she was complaining that everything was wrong. Samuel had tried to help her see that is wasn’t but it hadn’t done any good. He was frustrated with her being so despondent when she had no reason to.

On his way into the office he was reflecting on this and he was feeling pretty despondent himself.  He walked into his office, head down with a grumpy look on his face, his shoulders were slumped. It was obvious he was not in a good place.

One of his direct reports came towards his office and saw his demeanour. I am not going in there, she thought. Samuel barked an order for her to come in and discuss a report with him.

She came out of his office a while later feeling despondent, she swept out of his office ready to spread the word that Samuel was in a foul mood today.

What this short story from “The Leader’s Guide to Impact” reminds us of is that we always have an impact on people and the world around us, whether we pay attention to it or not. What’s going on on the inside, tends to ‘leak’ and affect those around us. Yes, our moods are contagious.

We can all have bad days, but we can also decide to make it as good a day as we can, by consciously choosing our outlook and the mood we want to spread to those around us. Before walking into work, we can take a moment and decide: how do I want to think and feel, what do I want to create in others as they encounter me?

Ultimately, we are all responsible for the impact we have and the impact we want to have. What mood do you choose to make contagious today?

In every day, there are 1,440 minutes.

That means we have 1,440 daily opportunities to make a positive impact.

Les Brown

5 Leadership acts of kindness

Being kind comes naturally. It’s in our human nature to want good things for others, to want others to be happy, to succeed and prosper.

As a leader right now in this global pandemic and unrest, it’s a necessity to let that natural kindness come to the forefront of how we show up as leaders. We are not always aware of what others are feeling good about or what they are struggling with.

Here are 5 powerful leadership acts of kindness to practice every day – with employees, peers, people more senior than you and all other stakeholders:

  1. Be 100% present. When you’re with someone – in real life or remotely – show them that they have your full attention and that you value them enough to not let yourself be distracted by buzzing phones or pinging emails.  
  2. Listen without prejudice. Don’t assume that you know what someone is thinking or what they will say. Be curious about their opinion. Listen first, then respond. Ask the right questions.
  3. Be supportive. Are you seeing someone struggling? Emotionally or work related. Reach out, support, offer your help, your guidance or simply your ear. Be prepared for any response and allow that to be ok.
  4. Notice when someone does something good. Praise them, thank them, recognise them publicly if relevant. Cheer someone on for their effort, dedication, creativity and results. We have the power to increase the number of positive messages around us and that creates a ripple affect. We need it in these challenging times.
  5. Be honest. Kind honesty is sharing your observations on what someone is doing very well (so they can do more of it) and also what they could do more effectively (where they’re not having the impact they want or need). Feedforward is caring enough to be honest – always in a supportive way that makes the person feel you always have their best interest in mind.

Do things for people not because of who they are or what they do in return, but because of who you are.” 

Harold S. Kushner

You don’t need to have an office to have an impact

A version of this article was first published in the Indian Management magazine.

Stephen walked through the turnstiles for the first time since being appointed the new Chief Operating Officer.

He was filled with energy and pride, having finally secured the senior position he had so coveted. This had been a long process, as all senior appointments are. He had waited for this day for 6 months. He had no history in the organization and had been given a blank canvas for his role.

Sophia met him and showed him to his desk. Desk?! Stephen swivelled around, eyes darting to try to locate his office. There wasn’t one, he realized. Before he could say anything, he was quickly whisked off to a meeting with the rest of the Executive team, in an opaque glass fronted conference room. His new career chapter started and before he knew it, it was time for lunch and his first moment to reflect on his new reality.

Why don’t I have an office? How will this work? How will people know I’m senior? I need to show my authority and get myself an office!

Stephen didn’t get an office. The CEO had a firm policy that none of the executives would have an office, as Stephen realised when talking to a few of his peers. Stephen was surprised and initially perplexed, and ultimately it forced him to think differently about his impact as COO. His impact would depend on his executive presence rather than the visual statement of power that comes with an office.

In this example we can observe that the impact you have as leaders is not through position alone but even more about how you behave. You don’t have to have an office to have an impact.

Given that impact is so important, you need to challenge yourself to become aware of the impact you have or maybe lack. Day by day, minute by minute, action by action, your behaviours create the culture you and your team(s) operate within. What culture are you creating today? It starts with you and the ripple effect that you have. Your behaviour as a leader is magnified into the organization. It’s like a big magnifying glass so if you don’t like something that is happening in your organization then hold up the mirror to yourself – and reflect on how you have been a part in creating that. And if you do like something that is happening then chances are you are creating that too, so be proud.

You may have a lot of strategies, for the business, for change initiatives and more, but you also need to have a strategy for your impact and therefore what that will do for the business. You can’t depend on symbols of power, such as a corner office, to make you impactful. You need to take control of your personal impact.

What all leaders have in common is that they always operate through others, they need to enable employees to do a great job. This is why your impact becomes your most important strategy in order to deliver the desired and expected results.

Your impact is and should be bigger than you. And as a senior leader in particular, it’s not about raising your own profile, your focus on impact is for the good of the business, the greater good.  Consistent and/or powerful impact creates your legacy, what the history books would say about you. What you become known for. Your legacy is also your personal brand. What do you want to be known for? What legacy do you choose? When you move on to the next role, what do you want to be remembered for?

Leadership impact has always been important but often more of a subconscious occurrence than a focused effort. The awareness of its importance has grown over time, hence also the need to, at a minimum, manage or ideally even create the impact you WANT to have rather than just accepting the impact you naturally have.

Be more intentional about the impact you are having!

If you are a senior leader, your impact is also greater. You set the pace for your organisation. You need to be intentional about your impact – you need to lead and role model the kind of impact behaviours the organisation, its people, its customers and all other stakeholders need.

Many people find the whole idea of creating impact challenging as it somehow seems false or conceited to them to create impact, they may therefore be reluctant to do something with this. This is particularly true for leaders in the early stages of their career. If you’re a more senior leader, this concept should and needs to be at the forefront of your mind and something you should be comfortable with. Recognise that creating impact is a positive, powerful and respectful commitment to excellence – and that you always need to do this in an authentic way, a way that suits you.

Reputation and Brand matters in all leadership positions and it’s important for leaders to understand and work with that. Whatever leadership role you’re in, it’s your duty to ensure you have a strategy for your impact, that you can be in control of. You are never guaranteed the office, the car or any other visual proof of positional power, but the impact you choose through how you act and behave is entirely yours to choose and control.

Things move fast, we’re all surrounded by constant change. Leaders need to create impact in the moment, to not lose the power of that moment. No one is perfect and no one will get it right all the time, but they need to at least seize their most important moments and create the impact that will help them connect with others in a respectful way, to create trust, get others to listen to them, to influence effectively and to drive results.

Focus on both the “what” and the “how”

Our ability to have a good or even great impact is becoming more and more important. We all need to think about the effect we have on others and what effect we want to have. ”How” we operate rather than simply ”what” we do is becoming more and more critical to success. It’s all about how we impact people, the business and the world around us. In fact, it is fast becoming the differentiating factor for successful executives, leaders and organisations overall, something that we observe every day in our work. We all need to pay attention to how we want “to be” as well as what we want “to do”. The more senior you become the more thinking about how you want “to be” rises to the top.

We all need to manage our personal impact, and the effect our impact has on all our stakeholders, both in the short- and the long-term. 

Having impact when the clock is ticking

Leaders are often brought in to an organization or are reassigned to a specific division or region to make a difference within a given timeframe. Some common examples of that are:

  • A CEO is appointed to turn around a failing business
  • A CEO is appointed to lead the organization through an aggressive growth strategy through mergers & acquisitions
  • A leader is asked to implement a specific change to how the organisation is working
  • An interim leader is asked to keep the organization afloat while a new permanent leader is identified and hired

Whatever the reasons are for the finite timeframe, any specific deadline brings about an extra need for putting an impact plan in place, where the leader ask her/himself: How can I maximise my impact to deliver as expected within the timeframe (even if I don’t have a corner office!)?

Chief Enabling Officer

A leader has a responsibility to the people they lead; to add value to them, to be of service to them. In fact, the title CEO may well stand for Chief Enabling Officer in addition to the more commonly used Chief Executive Officer. And If we extend that to all leaders, they are also in the business of enabling their employees and teams. And what better way to enable people than role modelling the behaviours that shape an organizational culture that can flourish into the future?

 Here are some examples of Impactful behaviours to consider for your Impact Strategy:

  • Listening without prejudice
  • Communicating with passion
  • Taking a genuine interest in other people
  • Seeing the bigger picture and being able to share it in an clear way
  • Generously sharing knowledge and insights
  • Showing trust in others
  • Communicating openly, honestly and respectfully

Yes, your behaviours are critical to your success, so think about what behaviours you want to be demonstrating and role modelling to others. Your personal impact can be much more powerful than any corner office could ever be.

Buy the award winning books here

Mandy and Elisabet have written 3 award-winning books on leadership:

The Team Formula, Leading Teams 10 Challenge 10 Solutions, The Leader’s Guide to Impact

Buy them here on Amazon

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The Leader’s Guide to Impact

Things move fast. Leaders need to create impact in each moment, to not lose that moment.

Creating impact is a positive, powerful and authentic way to demonstrate you’re taking charge, get more from your team and drive business results. But to succeed, you need to create the impact you WANT and need rather than relying on what you HAVE.

The Leader’s Guide to Impact will show leaders how to create the impact that will help them connect with others in a respectful way, to create trust, get others to listen to them, influence effectively, drive results and much more. And most importantly, the book will also show leaders how to do it in an authentic way that supports your reputation and brand effectively.

Managing and creating impact is not a “nice to have”, it’s a business necessity.

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Leading Teams 10 Challenges 10 Solutions

Most of us work in or manage teams, but are we really getting the most out of the numerous benefits of effective teamwork? All too often there are roadblocks – ranging from a lack of engagement to clashing personalities – that are holding us back from achieving the results we need.

Leading Teams shows team leaders how to overcome the most common obstacles to team performance and drive outstanding results from their people.

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The Team Formula: A Leadership Tale of a Team who found their Way

Written in the format of a novel, it tells the story of an international team and its struggling leader following a merger. The recognition factor is high for readers from all industries!

This is a quick, must-read for leaders and team members in any organisation. The book offers a fun, engaging and informative experience, providing opportunities for reflection as well as valuable ideas that can be implemented immediately. The story tempts the reader, to look at him/herself and ask the questions: What choices am I making? How does this apply to me and my team? What am I doing to make this team work? 

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Buy them here on Amazon

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