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Zenger Folkman

Why Zenger Folkman?

We all know that the whole is worth more than the sum of the parts. And I regularly get asked the question “Why do you choose to partner with #zengerfolkman?"

For me, the answer is simple; they are the best at what they do! Whether it’s constantly looking for new ways to reduce staff turnover, increase employee engagement or new insights around leading others you can guarantee that it is data driven and based on solid research. They continue to enhance an already formidable portfolio, designing and developing programmes that embed and sustain learning way beyond the class-room; Zenger Folkman have built a tremendous reputation based on what they have achieved.

As Henry Ford once said "You can't build a reputation on what you're going to do."

I’ve been in this industry now for well over 20 years, and I’m still learning. More importantly; I’m still ENJOYING learning and both Jack Zenger and Joe Folkman are of similar minds! I find their mature, unadulterated enthusiasm for developing leaders as infectious as it is inspiring.

Zenger Folkaman’s research into what constitutes Extraordinary Leadership – what separates the good from the great – has been hugely influential around the world as organizations have slowly woken up the enormous power – and truth – surrounding strengths-based leadership. As I travel around the globe, I am increasingly encouraged by the fact that most organisations now appear to have adopted a strategy for playing to people’s strengths and managing weaknesses, rather than the old way of thinking; to pour enormous amounts of money into training people’s weaknesses.

That never ends well!

I am also very proud of our association. It is exciting that Natural Direction was chosen to partner Zenger Folkman – a global organization that is well placed to differentiate the mediocre from the magnificent.

It’s as simple as 1+1=3.

Now, let’s see if I can make it add up to 4!

Martin Coburn
Extraordinary leadership

Extraordinary leadership

So in the wake of another #generalelection, I have been fascinated by listening to – and watching – the various party leaders try to connect and communicate with the Great British public. If It’s not inspiring, it’s entertaining. At least some of the time!

From a country figurehead, to a captain of industry, to one of our own school teachers; we’ve all been affected by someone we thought of as an extraordinary leader.

The interesting thing is that whilst we might look on in awe, we rarely seem to try to understand what it is that makes them different. What’s the secret? Where’s the magic?

I see this all the time in my travels; working with global businesses – at the highest level – there is still, often, a sense of “you’ve either got it, or you haven’t”. And whilst there is undeniably some truth in this, the greater truth is that – as in most things – it’s a cross between nature and nurture.

In fact most organisations would be in trouble if they were to only rely upon natural born leaders!

They are far and few between.

Instead organisations know the majority of their best leaders – extraordinary leaders – are the result of hard work and development. It doesn’t just happen. They have honed their craft either though a heart felt love of what they do, or a passion to change things for the better, or sometimes personal ambition. But rarely just that.

It’s one of the reasons I love what I do; I know that it’s possible to change things. A change in a level of skill, that then goes on to change other people's hearts and minds, the teams you lead and eventually your organisation.

Being intentional about being a better – extraordinary leader – reaps massive rewards for individuals, families, teams and businesses.

Perhaps even a country.

Martin Coburn
Pitching to win

Pitching to win

Having spent the last week working with a senior team at a global consultancy in one of their key European locations, it has hit home – again – that it is critically important to be able to sell; to have a flow, a process – and even a point!

I have friends who think of selling as vulgar. And yet they too sell. Naturally, they don’t call it selling. For them, it’s about having a conversation about the benefits of a new car, or a new house. Even something as simple as which resturant to eat at, or what toppings to have on a pizza.

It’s all selling. It’s all a pitch.

To say that you hate selling is a bit like saying that you hate company politics; the truth does not cease to exist simply because it’s ignored. Or even hated. And your ability to successfully navigate your way through both of these two potential minefields, will dramatically affect how effective you can be, both personally and professionally.

What's super exciting is that by becoming just slightly more intentional – about a flow and process – we can all become far more effective in the art – the simple, mechanical process – of selling.

It’s the small things; setting out a framework for a discussion, our ability to listen – and then think – before reacting, the investment we make in getting to know our audience, the time we take to understand the needs of our client – or perhaps spouse!

It’s certainly very rewarding to work with people who can immediately see, hear and feel – who can actually measure – the difference in their ability to connect with an audience.

Pitching to win. It’s a good thing!

Now, what do I fancy for supper?

Martin Coburn
The pace of leadership

The pace of leadership

I felt inspired at the weekend by @MercedesAMGF1. What an incredible effort; whether you love or hate F1, I don’t think you can fail to be impressed by Mercedes’ performance. They’re not just at the top of the leaderboard, but out on their own, with clear blue water seperating them from the rest of the pack.

At least that’s my perspective.

I'll wager it doesn't always feel like that from the pit lane. I’m sure that the intensity demanded by staying ahead of the field means that you’re always looking over your shoulder – or at least glancing nervously in your rear view mirror – as the other teams desperately try to grab onto your shirt-tales.

So then, when Joe Folkan – President of Zenger Folkman – spoke at our event in London this week about the critical importance of the speed of leadership, it reminded me that the AMGF1 team were an excellent example of getting it right.

I recently learned from a friend – who worked in F1 – that if the car that won in Australia (the first race of the season) remained unchanged, then by the last race in Abu Dhabi – just 19 races later – it would be the last over the line. Such is F1’s speed of change.

Of course, raw speed is no good either! And the line can be tight between getting it done, and getting it right.

Better still; both!

Joe's blog post on the matter is an excellent – provocative – piece, that I would encourage you to read. You could even take your own pace survey – for free – by contacting us personally.

See you on the circuit. Possibly!

Martin Coburn
Raising your professional profile

Raising your professional profile

Do you ever wonder how you can raise your professional profile? How do you demonstrate that you are a great performer? How do you stand out from the crowd?

It’s simple – identify what you’re great at and play to those strengths. We are born to naturally excel in certain areas and we are all good at something. We just need to identify these natural strengths and then showcase our talent. Often we will hear people being acclaimed. This acclamation usually highlights what they are doing well: “You did a fantastic job on that report, you have such a talent to present the key information with clarity and depth” or “Excellent presentation, you are a natural at engaging the audience” and such like. It’s all about being able to demonstrate and highlight your strengths – the tangible things that you are good at.

The accolades, recognition and praise comes from those areas makes you stand apart from the others. Traditionally, we focus on delivering in all areas and often try to excel at everything. Imagine if you adopted a different approach – consider focussing on some key strengths and use these to catapult your profile by demonstrating what you can do better than others.

In the coming weeks, start thinking about what you’re good at. Where do you really add value and what makes you stand out? How do you feel when you do these things and how does this impact on those around you? It will become clear to you that identifying, focussing and continually improving in these key areas will do wonders for your profile. Not only will those around you see what you are truly talented at and where your strengths lie, but you’ll feel great! You will be motivated, empowered and feel as though you have so much to give.

By enjoying and engaging in what you do, you add more value to those around you, making you feel stronger. Raising your profile by demonstrating the value you add can only be a positive – after all, it’s your responsibility to share your natural talents. Identify them, work on them and excel in them!

Martin Coburn
Resilience Mastery

Driving employee engagement through extraordinary leadership

Every leader knows a more satisfied employee is likely to put more discretionary effort into their work. The cost remains the same, yet their output and productivity is amplified. Not only that, but your employees’ personal pride in their work is increased, leaving them feeling valued and fulfilled.

If you multiply this technique by hundreds of employees, you end up with one of the most effective and reliable economic levers available to you.

The question is where do you begin? What are the key levers to realising this discretionary effort and driving employee engagement? Joe Folkman’s whitepaper, Top 9 Leadership Behaviours that Drive Employee Commitment, highlights 9 leadership behaviours that, when done well, have a direct impact. Some of these behaviours, such as building trust or supporting others, might sound easy, but they are in fact often overlooked.

I recommend taking the time to read and discuss these 9 critical behaviours, either individually or collectively as a leadership team. Identify individual or team behaviours that may need attention. These behaviours will not only be costing your organisation, but diluting the efforts of you as an individual and of your leadership team.

Secondly, it is extremely important that you highlight the behaviours you are already doing well, and think about how you can apply this approach to strengthen your leadership even further. In other words, if you do more of what is working, the commitment of your staff will continue to grow.

This whitepaper highlights some practical, easy to achieve actions and logical first steps that cost nothing other than paying more conscious attention to your leadership and how it is experienced by your staff.

As a leader, everything you do, no matter how small, has an impact that can be negative or positive. Look closely and you may well find that just a couple of small changes to your leadership behaviour have a large impact on your employees’ performance and productivity within a very short time.

Martin Coburn
Resilience Mastery

Honour your calling

What is your calling? What are you really meant to be doing do? Do you grasp each and every opportunity that is put in front of you?

It’s our responsibility to ourselves and to those around us to grab all the opportunities the universe presents to us. There’s something inside all of us – an inner voice that recognises opportunities and makes us think, “I should be doing that”, “I’d be great at that” or “I’d love to do that”. However, more often than not there’s a counter voice that tells us, “I can’t do that’”. “I can’t do that because I’m doing something else”, or “because I might not be good enough”.

When you begin embrace the opportunities presented to you, the universe will present you with more and more. This will give you the energy to do what you should be doing. You’ll want more, you’ll feel excited and you’ll create momentum in your life.

The sad truth is that so many people do not honour this calling or embrace these opportunities. They don’t have the fundamental belief that we were put on this earth to do something well, rather than to do something poorly. We were put here to do something that we enjoy, to have a great time and to give value to those around us. By not engaging in opportunities, our skills and motivation will, bit by bit, die off inside. Our spark, the light inside of us and that uniqueness that no-one else has will start to fade. When this happens you live a life less than satisfactory than it could have been, and it’s a shame – life can work for you if you let it, and our choices can become self-fulfilling. It can be easy to convince ourselves that we shouldn’t have done it, or we shouldn’t have taken the risk – after all, nothing came of it, so why bother? But if we don’t take the risk and or take up these opportunities with energy and passion then we lose our chance. We need to wait for the next one to come along, and sure enough, after giving away a few they become less and less frequent, and soon the universe stops providing altogether. We need to tackle opportunities head on with energy, enthusiasm, action and drive!

We need to honour our calling.

Try to imagine a world where more people are doing what they really enjoy and what they genuinely want to do. Think about the feelings of satisfaction and pride, and the passion and energy that we feel when we are achieving. Not only will you lead a more fulfilled life, but those around you will benefit from it too.

Let’s rise to the challenge! The challenge is for each and every one of us to embrace the opportunities presented to us for the sake of ourselves and those around us, who will benefit from us being focussed, successful and playing to our strengths. Follow your calling and be true to yourself and others in everything that you can.

Martin Coburn

Our clients

We have the privilege of working with some of the most successful organisations in the world.