Why succession planning can be motivating

June 20, 2016

One of the greatest privileges of my life was to work alongside my father, and to help him retire both emotionally and financially successful (knowing his team and company would thrive without him).  So it may come as no surprise to find succession planning is close to our hearts at Aspirin Business. Read more

Which came first – the leader or the training?

May 25, 2016

by Susannah Brade-Waring and Paul Kinvig – Business Coaches & Facilitators with Aspirin Business Solutions


In a recent Radio 4 programme, Melvyn Bragg described how the Greek mythological creatures ‘The Muses’ descended upon individuals, transforming and enabling them to be better, more creative & knowledgeable than they were before.

It’s strange but in many organisations we almost expect our managers to become leaders in the same way – some magical external force will provide them with the skills and mindset necessary to become leaders as soon as they are promoted, or as the situation requires, with little guidance, training or coaching.  And this can leave them in a position to create damage and be damaged, and potentially be put off leadership forever.

The reality is people are often called to be leaders before they are fully equipped to do the job, probably because they’re already exhibiting leadership traits and tendencies.

This is fascinating to us at Aspirin Business, because we’ve seen how this ‘am I or aren’t I?’ style of leadership changes the dynamics and relationships within teams and can be unsettling.  From Motivational Maps, we know that just because the person acts like a leader, doesn’t mean they’re motivated to lead, or to want responsibility for a team or project.  In fact, our data shows many people actively avoid it, despite having the potential.  That creates great frustration for their managers who offer extra responsibility and/ or Leadership Development, only to find the individual doesn’t show the expected enthusiasm for the opportunity, or deliver the expected change in behaviour.

If you’re confused, you’re not alone.  Recognising that just because it motivates us, doesn’t mean it motivates others, is a leadership challenge.  Understanding what to do about that is another.

Bill Murphy Jr’s article, entitled ‘7 Things Great Leaders Always Do (but Mere Managers Always Fear’ helps to identifies some of this, by identifying significant differences between leaders and managers.   These differences are not in what they do, but in their mindset and what they believe.  For example, Bill Murphy identifies that real leaders are thrilled when team members achieve great things, whereas ‘mere managers’ are threatened.

So which comes first – the leader or the training?

Before the training, there are some incredibly important steps that help future leaders understand what being a leader means, and how that differs not just in behaviour but in how we think about things.  (In a strange way it’s similar in going from GSCEs to A-levels, where you’re pretty much told to forget everything you’ve learned so far.)

Being mentored and coached through these steps helps them to develop their natural leadership style that enables them to wear and wield the mantle of leadership lightly, in a way that will enable them and their colleagues to enjoy and value their role as an effective leader.  Three of these steps are:

Focus on becoming comfortable with uncertainty and not having all the answers.

By definition leaders lead.  They need to switch from looking inwards at the tasks and details, to look outwards at the market, the opportunities and risks.  Therefore, they have to become comfortable with not knowing everything, not being the most capable person in the team and with not following the norm.  Instead leaders scope out the short and long-term future, using the best knowledge they have, whilst recognising this may and probably will change.  Leaders identify others who have subject matter expertise, knowledge and experience, and recognise their own role shifts from being the expert themselves to creating the conditions for others to deliver their best performance as part of the overall objective.  Leaders challenge the norms in order to raise the bar, invite different perspectives to their own and then manage the team to create structures & processes that will get the desired goals achieved.

How many of your current managers raise the bar on a regular basis?  How many encourage and support others to shine brightly?  Are they working in a supportive culture that allows them to do so?


Focus on behaviour not title

The fact that we’ve given someone a title does not automatically make them a leader… whatever the size of team. Whilst the position will (and should) command a level of respect, it’s exhibiting the right kind of behaviours that generates and retains long term respect, inspires people to emulate them, engenders commitment and encourages improved performance. In current business, the days of ‘command & control’ compliance simply because of the ‘rank’ of the order giver are gone. If we’ve learned anything in recent years on engaging employees for improved performance, it’s this – leaders walk it like they talk it! If the words & the actions don’t match then look out. As the saying goes……”people join companies & leave managers!”

What are the correct behaviours you want to encourage in your future leaders to enable them to lead effectively? Are you a leader they want to emulate?  If they can ‘crack’ this before they’re given the title or authority, then people will treat them like leaders anyway – and they’ll experience leadership as natural and enjoyable.


Focus on people not tasks

We need to coach our future leaders to get caught up in people not in tasks. Let’s be clear, tasks are vitally important in goal achievement but if we want to encourage our future leaders, then the phrase ‘lead the business or department, manage the team’ becomes our mantra to them. Understanding what motivates teams, creating goals that inspire and clear targets and expectations they understand and are held accountable to, along with consistency, authenticity and an ability to develop loyalty are all hallmarks of being people rather than task focused.

Take a look at your managers – how many of them are primarily task focused? Could it be that focusing on their people doesn’t motivate them?  Unless it does, they’ll struggle to learn the associated skills and empathy – because it just doesn’t interest them.


Helping our future leaders step up is not fundamentally about titles and personality…. it’s about mindset & behaviour.   And we can all create opportunities for our future leaders to understand, observe and practice that before we place the heavy expectations that come with titles, formal training and significant additional responsibilities.


Here, at Aspirin Business Solutions, we’re great at building strong Senior Teams and developing future leaders.  We help help in all sorts of ways – but primarily in identifying and developing both their strengths and weaknesses, developing their mindset and skills, and applying that to their work.

Current and future leaders play a significant part in our Seven Factors to Faster Growth – they are a core part of the team that will develop and deliver the strategy to take the organisation forward.

seven steps


We’d love to explore how we could help you develop your future leaders.  Please get in touch to arrange a conversation.

E: sue@aspirinbusiness.com

T: 01202 801187

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