Competencies of co-leaders – part 2

Preparing the Dream (5/5)

“It’s not always the people who start out the smartest who end up the smartest” (Binet)

In this blog post, my aim is double. First, I want to equip you with some of the most important skills for the global collaborative journey to come. Secondly, I like to take every opportunity to remind us that the only limit to your dreams is the sky. Part of the preparation phase is understanding that we cannot remain the killing machine we have all become. We can do so much better as a civilisation.

We could be designing the future we want for our children. A humanity that would protect, spread love and care, and help create an even more beautiful planet every day. Now is not the time to freeze or escape with fear, but to stand up and become a force for good.

And from my experience, I know this journey of dedication and service will also be one that will provide you with peace, wellbeing and an amount of love you cannot even imagine yet.

It’s not just any list, you will have to practice these skills regularly. Remember, the power always lies in the combinations.

Networking & Sense of Care

  • People tend to have a lot of misconceptions regarding networking. We see it as manipulative, or as a waste of time. Time to put the record straight! Networking is a key activity in a networked world. It can even justify up to 50% of our professional success.
  • But networking is an art, which requires most of all a great sense of care. The best networker is often very curious, genuinely interested in others and ready to be transformed.

Quick tip for co-leaders: To empower others, co-leaders eat last (Simon Sinek), which means they seek to speak last. When they speak first, and especially authoritatively, they are not encouraging others to speak out. Always have at hand a few powerful questions.

Feedback & Praise (in the form of little treats)

  • If you have not had this chance yet, experience the power of feedback, when it is appropriately given, at the right time, with the right objective. Note that it is probably as difficult to give feedback as to receive it. Whether positive or negative, what you want to focus on is improving future performance and sustain motivation. It is not about you, but the other person. So what you need before giving any feedback, is to take a step back to look at all forces at play (intention, relationship, context, level of energy…).
  • When positive and informal, feedbacks can act as little treats, which are known to have the best impact on motivation. It’s praise yes, but its power is multiplied when done in this way.

Quick tip for co-leaders: To grow this skill, you will need an open mind-set, and a good dose of empathy.

Accountability & Conscientiousness (and ideally a good pinch of humility)

  • Conscientiousness is the personality trait most directly linked to success. You’ve probably met a conscientious person in your life. Maybe you are one of them, and if so I am in awe, for I think conscientious people today are the real rebels. They resist the temptations of the post-industrial era, by not falling into the traps of urgency and business. Instead, they choose to dedicate themselves to bringing beauty and grace into everything they do, attached to the best gesture, to the best experience, ultimately to the best care. Well, conscientiousness of the players is a must in any collaborative journey. We saw the impact on the COVID-19 crisis, when conscientiousness is not more present in our society. There is so little care…
  • In order to leverage the conscientiousness of people, to make sure they act reliably and are accountable, the best framing is silent. Leaders have to model the behaviours they want to see in others. So I encourage everyone of you to take steps into this direction. Forget about the tick the box mentality, forget about rushing to solutions. Instead, pause, reflect and think about the best way to address any problem. With beauty!
  • In this journey, humility is also crucial. A whole collaborative project can fail because of the ego of a few. What I found most powerful regarding humility, is to start a journey to transform any humiliation into humility. Best to address this collectively. It’s a powerful way to stretch ourselves and master the ego in order to move to an eco mindset.

Quick tip for co-leaders: if you are not familiar with Otto Scharmer yet, I highly recommend you a powerful dive into Theory U: leading from the future.

Alignment & Framing

  • Most of us tend to be so absorbed by our own tasks that we fail to see how our tasks fit into the larger picture. This is why leaders need to show the level of interdependence between individuals’ purpose, team purpose and organisational objectives. It requires an understanding of what makes people move, as well as the organisation. Ultimately, the goal is to see beyond a narrow focus. This alignment will avoid most internal conflicts.
  • Framing is crucial to achieve better collaboration and learning. Good framing will have a huge impact on the success or failure of your project. It’s about answering the question of why it exists in a first place. Then, about explaining and modelling the desired behaviours, in practical terms, and finally to establish the measures for success. Framing is a must to ensure the players have the right mind-set from the start. What we want with it is to create a “just culture” and stop any negative pattern. For instance, we make it clear that a sense of collegiality is needed. Or, that leaders set the frame, but inside the frame is the responsibility of the people to perform the tasks, with as much autonomy as possible.

Tip for co-leaders: With alignment and framing, you reinforce the sense of belonging, by increasing the awareness that people contribute to something bigger than themselves. After all, most of us want to take part and contribute wholeheartedly, with our knowledge, skills and unique personalities. This is a critical skill for our leadership today and its absence is one of the reasons we fail after two years of this crisis.

Healthy Conflicts & Active listening

 “Leaders that do not fully grasp the concept that conflict of some sort is necessary (…) are destined to fail in all but the most routine of work environments” (Amy Emondson).

  • Many cultures approach problem solving as if they were going to war, and their key weapon is the conflict. So, most often, people are uncomfortable with conflicts. It is seen as competition, a battle to be won. For this reason, we often choose to escape, counterattack or even create enemies as strategies instead of looking at conflicts as powerful ways to build successful, and healthy relationships. In my journey, I tend to provoke conflicts as soon as possible, it is the key to fruitful collaboration. Without it, basically, we cannot have trust.
  • Often, we are so trapped by our own anxiety, thoughts, plans, etc. that we are not available for others. So we have to understand what is blocking us from listening more. In fact, when talking to someone we often think we are listening, when in reality we are just waiting for an opportunity to speak (or validate our own thoughts?).
  • So why do we talk when we talk? Is it to satisfy a need to exist, being useful, validated, prove our worth? Active listening is a way to make sure we are attentive to all languages from the other person, be they verbal or non-verbal. Remember that in communication, a speaker’s words are only a fraction of his efforts. Do not make assumptions, listen really and honestly! We could be amazed by the impact of this skill on our wellbeing.

Quick tip for co-leader: you might have heard that competition and collaboration are two ends of a spectrum. No it’s not, competition is a key ingredient in successful collaboration. This is why gamification is so powerful, for example as a tool to be used to maintain the energy necessary for collaboration.

Focus & self-discipline (& why imagination is crucial there)

  • As we are in the attention economy, focus is the number one skill to possess. It is the ability to concentrate on what we are doing in the moment, despite the centrifugal forces (i.e. all these distractions at our disposal)! How we focus holds the key to exercising willpower, which is a muscle everyone needs to train more and more every day to thrive. The brain needs to learn how to focus, but also how to unfocus.
  • The starting point is that life is chaotic and messy, so self-discipline and willpower are crucial behavioural competencies to develop. Self-discipline is self-caring, it is crucial for a more balanced life. And it is certainly not selfish, as we could see with this COVID-19 crisis. Our system is interdependent.
  • The more willpower you develop, the more resistant we will become and the more successful we will be. But there is always a but. Will also has a degenerative side like everything in life, so it can also be completely counterproductive. When? When we put too much effort into developing self-discipline, we cannot succeed. To put it simply, what we need is a way of setting limits on our behaviours. As what we do leads to what we are. A person without strong internal limits has no solid defense, the limits are liquid from the inside to the outside. It is increasingly difficult for the person to remain authentic and vulnerable, which are two other behavioural skills in these turbulent times.
  • However, you may not know yet, but our brains are rebels. So, self-discipline needs imagination to work. To move forward and develop the internal borders and the energy we need, we have to be convinced that every change is easy. And for this, we have to stick to our dream vision to get going in the right direction. No dream=no healing. For some people, it could be a better civilisation, a better work, a new career, love, etc.

Quick tip for co-leaders: Many techniques are at your disposal, to me the most powerful ones are: focus on my breath by counting from 1 to 5. And I try to repeat this during the day. I can also watch a tiny point on my desk during at least one minute, on a regular basis as well. It’s mental fitness. And it’s as important as physical fitness. Research tells us that the average worker is interrupted every seven or eight minutes and it can take ten to eighteen minutes to get back to the initial level of attention. We estimate the loss to two hours per day. Distraction is a huge cost ($1 trillion annually). Research also shows that people spend nearly 47% of their waking hours thinking about something other than what they are doing. Half of our time is spent on autopilot.

When the pace of change is rapid, even experts see their expertise becoming obsolete after less than six months, so imagine how the average person feels! It is clear that people have to stay strong, not just adaptable. The ones, without internal limits, become much too fragile. We will see later why we need a caring culture, to help each other make wiser choices to improve our self-care.

Quick tip for co-leaders: To develop this willpower, we must start new, positive habits. Often, a little habit practiced regularly in the morning upon waking or in the evening before sleeping is enough to do the trick. It’s always better to choose something for the body, because the body heals the sick spirit. And as you could read in my previous posts, we have become a pretty sick society. No one is better than another. We just need to support a collective healing. Once the mind becomes positive, the spirit will heal the rest of the body. Humans are not only adaptable, we are also resilient by default!

Sense of Control & Letting go

  • In times of change and uncertainty, the key is to focus on those things that we do control. When people are asked to do something that takes self-control, it is much less demanding for them. Simply giving people a feeling that they are in control can increase how much energy and focus they will bring to their jobs. Giving employees a sense of self-control also improves how much self-discipline they bring to their jobs.
  • Yet paradoxically, today we also have to strengthen an ability to not be in control to encourage others to take responsibility. From my experience, letting go increases impact. You will read more below about letting go. The idea here is to get a clear mind, unencumbered by judgemental or otherwise distracting mental noise. SILENCE NOT SCREAMS. This allows to be more productive, more capable of seeing the day’s trivial problems with a fresh perspective, and give greater access to innovative ideas. Overthinking is never good. Everyone needs to learn how to relax, find the openness to experience novel situations, no longer controlled by past traumas or the fear of failure. In fact, letting go is giving an opportunity to focus on the present moment, that is the only thing which counts without anxiety or stress.

Quick tip for co-leaders: If you are anxious like me, my best trick is to focus on the next decision I will have to make during the day, and then let go on all the rest. You probably know we take hundreds of them every day. Good decisions after good decisions, that’s all we need to move towards a good day by the end of the day 🙂

Growth Mind-set & Resilience

How we think shapes our behaviours and influence how effectively we obtain desired results. Growth mind-set is about turning mistakes, bad days, failures, painful emotions, griefs… into opportunities to learn and grow. In fact it’s about showing perseverance and resilience. This is the one mind-set that allows people to thrive during some of the most challenging times in their lives.

The idea is to cultivate the strong belief that we can develop ourselves throughout our entire life. My personal trick is to think that everything I do not resolve here, will be brought to my next life 🙂

Quick tip for co-leaders: Mistakes do not define you when you have a growth mind-set. They are problems to be faced, dealt with and learnt from. Blaming ourselves is always counter-productive. Confronting is a much better strategy than escaping. We will never escape really anyway.

Teaming & Stretch Collaboration

We have to make sure people understand the need to become more collaborative, to increase followership around one goal (not one leader!). And also to make sure everyone contributes. No one is able to have the answer for everything today. Building blocks of a successful collaboration are trust, clarity, frequent & open communication, use of collaborative technologies, a proper vision and strategic alignment, flexibility, empathy and a focus on relationships. I will of course come back to this very important skill in later posts.

“What could be the most leaderful about the manager is not that she takes the reins, but that she encourages others to take them when the situation justifies it. “ Raelin

Remember the sky is the limit… To be continued, tomorrow we will start delivering the Dream, I hope you are ready for it!

Photo by eberhard grossgasteiger on

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