Leadership: Purpose, Performance and Why I Work With Leaders…

Why do you do what you do? It’s a question I get asked regularly…

The answer to that question is incredibly important all of us and in particular every leader and business owner I work with. The answer provides us with what motivates and inspires us to get out of bed in the morning, face the challenge of spinning all of the plates we have to spin and is what empowers us when we recognise it, to truly connect and make a difference to our people. The answer often lies in our past and relates to a significant or set of significant occurrences or changes in our life – either something we wish to repeat and see others accomplish or something we never wish to see happen for ourselves or for others. It’s something that when utilised to its greatest helps us to achieve greatness – it’s our purpose.

Finding my purpose…

Our purpose is present in every moment we feel fulfilled, and in every second we feel a love of what we do – recognising it, means we can harness it and when others see us working in alignment with our purpose – they can’t help but comment – it’s that powerful. It’s the reason I get asked so much – why do you do what you do? How did you get into it?.

When I ask what has led to someone asking me these questions, (I’m a coach I seek understanding) I’m told it’s because of the passion, commitment, enthusiasm and dedication I bring to every piece of work I do and my desire to help leaders, business owners and their teams, no matter how challenging the situation. I’m told I’m motivational and inspiring and I often say that no matter how big the problem or challenge is, if we can get it on the table, I can fix it… it’s my drive and my purpose born from my experiences, gives me…

What’s created that purpose?

My purpose is to help people overcome their challenges, whatever they might be and in particular to help leaders and business owners create environments for personal, team and organisational growth. But, what has led me to want to do this so purposefully?

Stopping people from crying, led and brought success…

As a change consultant, I spent 6 weeks stopping people from crying during a merger between two building societies, where overnight, employees of one organisation had to become seamless employees of the other. Queues forming along the length of the high street with teams not sure how they would cope; my job was to help them and I did….but why did I do it and how do I find the patience and strength to help others facing adversity?

I’ve led projects and taken charge of sales teams that haven’t performed for two years, de-motivated lost and with no purpose, with line managers who felt that nothing could be done to change things; at a loss for what to do and with no desire to be ‘helped. My objective was to help them achieve target, which I did, often within a few months and against all odds…but why do I do what I do, when the odds might be stacked against those I work with? …

I’ve worked with leaders, business owners and sellers who have never performed to their true potential due to a lack of support from their own line managers or due to a lack of some straight forward practical and trusted guidance or fear of change…something I see so often…but why do I do what I do, when those I sometimes work with appear to not want to change and might appear mistrusting of the support I have been contracted in to provide?

I have worked with people who no one else has been able to ‘turn around’, opening myself up completely to them sharing my own hopes, fears and aspirations to ensure they feel comfortable to let me in. It’s an approach that has given flight to sleeping leaders, turned bottom sellers into stars and given confidence where none could be found…an approach that has meant totally putting myself on the line…but why do I do what I do, when it leaves me open to challenge and the insecurities that can be felt when sharing one’s own frailties?

Why do I do what I do, no matter the weather?

Why do I do what I do, no matter the weather? I’ll tell you. It’s because I understand what it’s like to be floating up stream without a paddle, without the knowledge, belief, confidence or skill needed to be able to achieve what you are being asked to do – without the environment you need to grow and be successful. It’s because I care about people and people performance, be it managers, leaders, sellers, customer service teams or indeed anyone who wants to do a great job but for a multitude of reasons, feel they can’t.

It’s because I know what it’s like to feel a ‘failure’ and to feel unable to do your job.

My first management role…

Approximately 10 years ago, I was given my first management role looking after a team of 9 people. Now as you can imagine, with it being my first management role, I felt equal parts trepidation and equal parts excitement. I wanted to be everything to the team, I wanted to generate an environment for growth, developing my team, supporting them and helping them to be what they wanted to be. I was promised support and mentoring from a line manager and the standard training that goes with the new line management responsibility. There was only one snag. The mentor who was due to look after me was called away to look after another team and with little or no mentoring, I quickly found that I was floundering under my own expectations and desire to ‘hit the ground running’.

The team I was managing seemed happy, my manager was happy and nothing I was doing was called into question, yet I felt that I was drowning under a sea of paper work, expectations and merely treading water. So, after 3 months, I made one of the hardest decisions of my life up to that point. I put my hand up and said I can’t do this, please can I go back to my old job – I was broken. Tail very much between my legs and with my confidence in tatters, I went back to my old role.

Getting my mojo back…

Over the course of the next 12 months I found again found my feet and my confidence grew. I got my mojo back and transformed the role I took over, finding a real love and enjoyment in developing my colleagues and making a difference to customers, recognising a natural ability to lead, develop and motivate my colleagues.

Towards the end of the 12 months I was recommended for a business development role, which I successfully applied for, a role in which, I finished second nationally having achieved the 2nd highest volumes of business in the UK, by influencing, developing and supporting over 18 retail outlets and over 300 managers and their teams to strive for and acquire business. Since then, I have lead further business and development strategies, change programmes and cultural change and developed business leaders to improve performance where they have overseen significant under performance. I have also lead my own team of 44 sellers to achieve target for the first time in two years, in only 3 months. In short, I have proved to myself that I can lead, develop and coach people; and generate an environment for growth – both human and business. The realisation that one can achieve leadership success with development, mentoring and support, coupled with a desire to succeed, has led to the successes I’ve already outlined above and to the opportunities through a variety of roles to develop leadership, teams and organisations on a daily basis, be it through coaching, training or mentoring.

It was from the very moment that I put my hand up and said “I can’t do this”, that I decided that I would develop myself to help leaders, teams and individuals to be confident, skilled and knowledgeable in what they do. I would help them to support their colleagues and teams and I would help them to actually do their jobs and not just share with them text book answers that would leave them still lost in how to do what they needed to do. It was from that very moment, that I realised that I never wanted to let anyone feel the way I had felt in my first management role or indeed anyone feel unsure of how to lead, manage, sell, train or coach others when they are asked to. It’s why I still get up each day with passion enthusiasm and non judgement for helping others, and to generate an environment for growth, be it organisational change, leadership effectiveness, work life balance or helping leaders and their teams address confidence issues. No matter the challenge  faced, You’re your leadership counsel and I am here to help…

Since that moment 10 years ago…

Since that moment 10 years ago, I have been developing leaders, sellers and their teams to achieve the success I know they can with effective training, observation, feedback and coaching. And it’s since that moment; I’ve been focused on making a difference.

When I tell people why I do what I do, they often look at me in awe or shock, telling me that they are inspired by my story and that I seem to love every minute of what I do and that I really do care – and I do. Sometimes it’s hard, and no matter how good I can be at what I do and no matter how much of a difference I can make, sometimes what I do can be challenging. After all, you can lead a horse to water but even I can’t always make them drink. But, when things get tough and I am even tempted to think to myself – here we go again. I ask myself, why do you do what you do? And I remember it’s because I care for once I was in that position too and I know that it sometimes only takes small changes in the environment being provided by leaders that creates the change we wish to see. It’s that purpose and understanding, which keeps me focused and thinking ‘can do’ and which enables me to help others to overcome come the barriers they face to their success.

How does purpose drive you to achieve?

I’d love to hear from you, why you do what you do and how you use that sense of purpose and passion to help you achieve for yourself and others.

If you don’t feel that level of passion and commitment to what you do, leading organisations, your people or your business, I’d love to hear from you too. In fact I’d love to help you. Get in touch, you never know, why I do what I do, could help you to find and realise what it is you want to do and why or indeed help you to do what you do more effectively and with greater confidence.

Thanks for reading; I look forward to hearing from you


Director – Your Leadership Counsel (Trading as Pinion Performance Ltd)

Generating an environment for growth…

Let me know what you think by dropping a comment below, or by sending me an email at stefan@yourleadershipcounsel.co.uk

Twitter: @stefanpowell

Example Testimonial

Below is just one example of the results you can achieve when you ensure that you hold onto why you do what you do.

“Stefan is a very skilled and talented coach who is able to use a broad range of techniques to get to the heart of any issue. He has a very reassuring, confident and diplomatic manner that instantly builds trust and respect whilst still remaining impartial. Having worked with him recently I felt fully engaged and energised throughout ,and he helped me to rationalise some complex business issues using multiple perspectives. A powerful and inspirational motivator- don’t hesitate to work with him!” Rav Bagri – National Sales Manager – Commercial – Nationwide Building Society


Leadership: Can Leadership Courses Change Ingrained Behaviours?

Leadership: Can Leadership Courses Change Ingrained Behaviours?

The following is a response to a comment made in a wonderful thread on Linkedin by Dr Payal. C, asking if a 3 – 4 day course could change a manager who had learned their ingrained habits over 30 – 35 years. Here is my reply:

For me, it is possible to create the change you seek with deep seated habitual behaviours by tapping into ideal self, values and reframing what great leadership looks sounds and feels like and the impact this makes in alignment with these values, using a range of interventions, but not in a one off 3 – 4 day course – although a significant amount can be achieved

A course must be delivered so that every behaviour change is communicated in such a way as it creates an attitudinal shift and acceptance. Ideally experience of the approaches conveyed will take place on the workshop and an overall framework of leadership and a guiding methodology will be defined and explored and must be communicated to connect with all social styles across the group and individually.

Including all of these elements will, when delivered by expert facilitators, ideally coaches and individuals with leadership success themselves, create a significant shift in those attending and increase the likelihood and ideally acceptance of the content delivered – but in truth to create the long term behavioural and cultural change you seek will take much more for most people of the nature you describe. Excellence in leadership no matter the starting point takes a great deal of time, energy and commitment.

In truth…

In truth, no matter how good the programme and delivery, (and this comes from an experienced sales leaders who drives for action and who has created life changing shifts in people in one coaching session) the reality is that at best, a concentrated 3 or 4 day group workshop will create an attitudinal shift and a foundation to begin trialling the new behaviours in the field only.

In order to move beyond this and ensure that an attitudinal and behavioural shift does take place there are a number of elements which need to sit around this including; a clear organisational purpose, values, strategy and internal and external journey maps which those attending ascribe.

There must be obtained ‘buy in’ to how the leadership approach supports and underpins the attainment of the organisational success and purpose (as opposed to the existing approach) and open and honest feedback demonstrating that a change in behaviour in the existing leadership/management population is ‘required’.

The overall purpose and behavioural change sought will ideally be communicated and exhibited from the ‘top down’, clear benefits shown to the individual will be aligned with individual values and the long term impact of not making the step to the ‘new’ behavioural approach (including the support that will be provided to get there) will be communicated.

Ideally, all of this will then be delivered 1:1 by a respected line manager and the proposed delegates will choose (choice to opt in or opt out is imperative) to attend with an understanding of why they are attending, what the organisation, department and line manager are looking for from the programme along with agreed clarity of attitudinal and behavioural changes.

During the discussion, it should be clearly articulated that the behavioural changes are sought as a result of and through implementing the behaviour beyond the course and not expected in full as a result of only attending the workshops.

Where this joint agreement and understanding is achieved, the delegate should progress to the course with an agreement that a clear development plan will be constructed before and post the course with ongoing evaluation, recognition and support in making the changes.

The course in its own right, should cover only the number of skills elements which can be covered with sufficient time to accept, understand, practice, reflect and retry the behavioural changes with effective trainer/coach feedback.

As stated, this approach will create an attitudinal shift and foundation to begin trialling the new behaviours in the field and a defined plan of mentoring, observation, feedback and coaching with ‘sign off’ for the live application of each skill will be necessary.

Performance Management, Reward and Recognition … 

Over and above this, based on experience, a clear and transparent link to performance management, with an aligned reward and recognition scheme will need to be in place to ensure that the behavioural shifts desired are acknowledged, documented and formally reinforced.

In essence the whole process needs to be led ahead, during and following attendance through to fruition and treated as the fully aligned, planned and implemented change programme that would be afforded process and system change, with a clearly communicated and bought into case for action.

No matter, whether the leadership population is as you describe, or indeed is naturally engaged, I would advocate the same time and consideration is afforded, where you wish to see sustained behavioural and cultural change.

Over the past 15 years…

Over the past 15 years I have led, delivered and facilitated significant cultural, organisational, people, product and process change, along with business development. In my experience the only ‘shortcuts’ exist not within the process, but in the quality of the leadership team delivering the change, forming part of the change and the trainers, coaches and facilitators. Indeed, it’s this very realisation of the importance of the change system within which all this sits, which led to the development of my own ‘leading change model’ – A.I.R.I.S.E – which is founded upon the ideal of creating the right environment for organisation, team and individual change and growth.

Thank you for prompting me to put finger to keyboard. I hope this share has been useful and would love to hear your thoughts.

Many thanks


What has been your experience?

I’d love to hear from you and how you have found the development you or others have seen during your leadership journey.


Director – Your Leadership Counsel (Trading as Pinion Performance Ltd)

Generating an environment for growth…

Let me know what you think by dropping a comment below, or by sending me an email at stefan@yourleadershipcounsel.co.uk

Twitter: @stefanpowell

Example Testimonial

Below is just one example of the results you can achieve when you train, mentor and coach.

“Inspirational – easy, thorough and methodical to work with while also intuitive, imaginative, creative, incredibly flexible and very accommodating”. Wendy Stern – Founder and Chair of Action For Involvement – http://www.actionforinvolvement.org.uk

Leadership: The difference 1 minute can make…

Leadership: The difference 1 minute can make…

Everyone I speak to says that they are busy and says that they like being busy and seeing their people busy, but I wonder if they see, pausing to think and reflect before acting as action in its own right?

In my experience one of the most significant actions a business leader or owner can undertake, is to pause and reflect before acting and sometimes all it needs is one minute. Don’t believe me? Here’s 7 things you can do in a minute which could significantly impact on the success of you and your business:

  1. If you’re the kind of leader that likes to act first, pause for 1 minute – it won’t kill you, I promise – and you are likely to benefit from starting less.
  2. If you’re the kind of leader that likes to think before acting, think for one minute less and use that minute to take your first step – you’ll benefit from starting more. 
  3. Choose to say well done for what has been achieved , instead of highlighting what needs to improve first. 
  4. Ask yourself – why are we doing this? And see if your answer is ‘strong’ enough.
  5. Ask at the end of a meeting with your team; what are we going to do differently as a result of this meeting (and by when)?  
  6. Breathe and let your mind relax – it could be your greatest moment of clarity.
  7. Grab a glass of water – it’s good for you.
Of course the 1 minute I talk about, is metaphorical – it could be 1 hour, 1 day, or 1 week – the concept is the same. Even if you can only afford 1 minute, it’s still worth doing.
Leadership is all about identifying what actions will make the biggest difference; consider the following questions:
  • What could it be costing you not to pause and use your ‘minute’ wisely? 
  • What could it be costing you to pause for one minute longer than you need to and not using that minute to move forward?

I’m here to help…Listening, Collaborating, Advising and Speaking…

If you find it a challenge to pause and reflect or to act quickly and stop thinking about the options or implications – give me a call today on 07736942382 or e-mail me at stefan@yourleadershipcounsel.co.uk I can help you and more importantly I would love to…

Thank you for reading


Example Testimonial – Here’s just one example of the outcomes working with me through coaching and collaboration can achieve:

“We used Stefan last year to help us on a specific area in our business,  with great success. This got us thinking about other aspects of our  business in which we could do  better with some coaching from Stefan. Once  we had identified an area, we asked Stefan to work with us on this. After an initial face to face meeting to discuss the issues around this, we had follow up telephone coaching over several months. This really helped focus our minds, and although we still have a way to go yet, with Stefan’s  help,  we are well on track to turn around this part of our business.” Andy Neath – Senior Agent – NFU Mutual Agent Chesterfield

Leadership Challenges: How do I get my people to tell me what they need?

Leadership Challenges: How do I get my people to tell me what they need?

One of the most common questions I get asked from the leaders and business owners I work with, is “how do I get my people to open up to me and tell me what they need? If only I knew what they needed” they say, “then I could give it to them”.

It’s a question born from a desire to help, or to achieve and make a difference and so many of those I work with know that when you can get an ‘issue’ or ‘solutions’ on the table effectively – you can achieve greatness. But still, at first anyway, it eludes them. So, what stops it from happening?

Reasons for a lack of openness:

I have a very special relationship with my clients and their teams. I am not their boss and am in a unique place of being seen as a welcome support (and welcome challenging) mechanism (most of the time anyway). However, I have been there and still have to deal with some scepticism – am I there to highlight what people are doing wrong, fix things, report back or tell a leader how they should do their job. From this experience, I have seen that there are three main reasons for a lack of openness from your people:

  1. Yours and your people’s perception of your role as the ‘boss’ – I am their boss they won’t speak to me; they’re my boss, I couldn’t tell them “I don’t know” or “I can’t do” is  the no 1 reason and potentially the quickest (not necessarily easiest) to address.
  2. Being open yourself to questions and not knowing all the answers – if you aren’t why should they be?
  3. Facilitating openness constructively when you achieve it – so your people feel it was ‘worth’ sharing, was acknowledged and truly considered.

So, how do you overcome these reasons for a lack of openness?

The answer to the question “how do I create openness?” lies in approaches which may take a leap of faith, practice and coaching to put in place, but I promise you, they do work. Go try them – you’ll see.

The first approach to creating and maintaining openness is to…

Stop using or thinking of yourself as “the boss”. If you consider yourself to be the boss – all the connotations of that word will run through everything you do. Ask yourself – how would I like my team to think of me? For me, it’s as a “collaborator”, valuing and bringing to the fore the wisdom and skills of your team, and sharing your own hopes aspirations and ‘tender spots’. Without your team you could not function and they need to trust you implicitly – openness on your part begins to build this and does not begin with the word boss.

Something that I do with most of the people I work with is to ask them, before asking them to open up about themselves – what would you like to know about me in order to trust and feel comfortable to work with me? I share that I am happy to be asked about anything work or personal and whilst at first it seems a little weird for them (I really do mean anything), it makes the world of difference. I have for example been asked, why do you of what you do? Do you enjoy it? Have you got children? Do you really believe that you can make a difference? Why are you really here? I always answer openly and honestly. If I can’t be honest with them, how can I expect them to be honest with me?

I recently facilitated a Managing Director to do this in a team meeting, and whilst uncomfortable at first in the main for the team, they soon warmed up, asked if the MD had ever stolen anything and following a very open and honest answer, the connection built as a result was dramatic.

If you like the idea, but are not sure you could step over the ‘precipice’, get in touch, I can help you do this, or help you to adapt the approach for you.

The second approach to creating and maintaining openness is to…

Praise your people when they question you and challenge your thinking – this says it’s OK to have a different perspective and that you value it. Many of those I work with love the challenge I provide and the way I get them to pause and think about what they do. Many leaders as I’m sure you do crave challenge, but getting it isn’t always that easy.

Recently when working with a business owner on work life balance, he said that he wished his PA would challenge him and make sure he didn’t hold onto work she could do for him. So, in the moment, I asked how he’d feel if I went and fetched her, facilitated a conversation between them both and then coached her to do just as he wished. He said ok, and what followed was an hour of pure joy, seeing his PA empowered to challenge him and he smiling from ear to ear as the weight visibly lifted from his shoulders.

If you crave challenge, I can provide this for you, or I can help you to get it. If on the other hand, you don’t feel comfortable to accept or constructively react and work with the challenges you receive or crave, let me know – I’m here to help.

Facilitating openness in a meeting: A starter for 10…

If you’d like a starter for 10, for inviting and working through your team’s questions or challenges whilst maintaining openness, here’s seven quick steps:

  • Ask a question that you’d like your teams views on – and if you do already, find opportunities to ask even more often.
  • Listen to the views, and I mean really listen. Ask questions, make sure you understand and again really don’t assume you understand, summarise what you’ve heard and ask your team if you’ve understood them ‘correctly’ – providing the opportunity for them to re-clarify their points. It might not even be a ‘challenge’ – it might be seeking clarity.
  • Acknowledge the great stuff they’ve shared and the quality of the challenge.
  • Probe, for example – how do they think their ideas could be taken forward and by when? Gain commitment to that positive action and agree a review date.
  • Answer, providing clarity on what you believe as a an organisation you can’t take forward and why, painting a picture of how or why the suggestions won’t fit into your organisational purpose and strategy. Even better if you can ask them – how do you see this fitting into our x, y or z. What impact do you feel that would have for our organisation? Our customers, our workforce? Followed by, what would need to change in order for that to work in our organisation- you may be surprised by the greatness you witness or the piece of a puzzle that could generate other solutions.
  • Confirm what can be agreed, offer the opportunity for both/all of you to reflect and arrange another get together as appropriate.
  • Thank your team and highlight how much you’ve valued their opinions, hopes fears and aspirations and how useful you’ve found their sharing – praise the behaviours you wish to be repeated.
  • Seek confirmation from your people of whether it has been a useful interaction for them, by asking how has that been for you? What have you liked about today’s meeting? Would you be happy if we continued in that vein? What tweaks would you welcome? And acknowledge and agree which bits you will take forward and who will be responsible for making that happen.

The third and most important approach to creating and maintaining openness is to…

Be open about your purpose for bringing together a meeting, what you want your people to gain from it, and what you hope to gain from it, at the start. If you want to find out what’s ‘bugging’ your team so that you can help them fix it, tell them – it’s the lack of clarity that most often closes them down – i.e.. “hidden agendas”.

My questions for you…

  • On a scale of 0 – 10 (where 10 is high) how would you rate the level of openness you are receiving from your team and organisation?
  • On a scale of 0 – 10 (where 10 is high) how would you rate the level of openness you are providing to your team and organisation?
  • How would your team and organisation rate the level of openness you are providing them with?
  • How could you use the three approaches I have outlined above to enhance openness in your organisation?
  • What support would you benefit from, to give you every confidence you would be successful?

I’m here to help…Listening, Collaborating, Advising and Speaking…

If you or your or any member of your organisation find it a challenge to create openness or to facilitate and make use of that openness constructively in meetings, gaining consensus, give me a call today on 07736942382 or e-mail me at stefan@yourleadershipcounsel.co.uk I can help you and more importantly I would love to…

Thank you for reading


Example Testimonial – Here’s just one example of the outcomes working with me through coaching and collaboration can achieve:

“Stefan is a very skilled and talented coach who is able to use a broad range of techniques to get to the heart of any issue. He has a very reassuring, confident and diplomatic manner that instantly builds trust and respect whilst still remaining impartial. Having worked with him recently I felt fully engaged and energised throughout, and he helped me to rationalise some complex business issues using multiple perspectives. A powerful and inspirational motivator- don’t hesitate to work with him!” Rav Bagri – National Sales Manager – Commercial – Nationwide Building Society