Hiring an Entrepreneurial Leader

Hiring a leader who is both entrepreneurial AND happy to be an employee is a tough assignment. Or maybe you are a leader yourself and you need to grow, and show, your entrepreneurial abilities. 

Timothy Butler’s research in HBR (March/April 2017) comes up with some fascinating insights. Your attitudes to uncertainty, control and persuasiveness turn out to be the key factors.

Did you think it’s about being creative? Not so much. It’s more about being able to thrive in uncertainty, which brings out your motivation to be adventurous, to learn, and to seek opportunities in the situation. 

Did you think it’s about being a risk taker? Again, not so much. Entrepreneurs are certainly more comfortable with risk, but they don’t actively seek it out. 

They are however control freaks – in a particular way. It’s not about dominating others. Instead, entrepreneurs need to be at the centre of the process of creating the project or product. Like an artist or sculptor, they need to feel that they own the end result. Think of Steve Jobs’ need to be at the heart of every detail of Apple products in his time. 

Entrepreneurs are, as you would expect, natural salespeople. Their passion for their projects is highly persuasive. 

But how do you identify these characteristics when hiring? It’s about eliciting evidence of each of the above themes. Butler’s article includes suggested questions and some quick questionnaire-style activities that will show preferences for or against these characteristics. 

Read it here

Over to you! 

Your Coach, Hugh 

“It’s Not Prejudice, But …” Oh Wow.

Prejudice is a blindness. Here’s a perfect example, reported by Coco Liu in the South China Morning Post [SCMP] recently. (I’ve written about some great things – for example this – happening in the business world in China, but not today).

Luo Mingxiong is a venture capitalist. Please show some sympathy, as he is like a blind man who has decided that he also needs to insert ear plugs in case his senses happen to pick up any information that doesn’t fit with his pre-set ideas.

In January 2017 he made a presentation in Beijing, stating that “we usually don’t invest in female chief executive officers”, listing that factor as one of his top 10 reasons not to invest in a company, along with negative attributes like dishonesty and the inability to learn. He went further, declining in general to invest in companies with women on the Board even if the CEO is male. 


“It’s not because of any kind of prejudice” he said. “But […] What do women do better than men, except giving birth?” And “Because it shows that the entrepreneur can’t recruit equally excellent and ambitious male executives.” SCMP “This Week in Asia” 22-18th January 2017.


In which universe is that NOT screaming the word PREJUDICE? Blind & deaf, he’s leaving the field to much more discerning and intelligent investors. He’s been able to conveniently overlook the stream of statistical evidence that has emerged over recent years to show that companies do better with a balanced, diverse leadership. Here’s one major example. Oh, and here’s how this could add $12 trillion USD to global growth. 

My question to you, dear reader, is this: how can we respond when faced with this kind of wilfully blind prejudice? 

Do we sweep it under the carpet and pretend it has nothing to do with us? Do we prompt competing investors to grab the opportunities and demonstrate success? Do we actively seek such people out and attempt to challenge their world view? 

One powerful response is for those close to the individual – family, friends, colleagues, peers, even courageous direct reports – to express their own alternative view. Stand up, draw a line in the sand and refuse to allow such ‘alternative facts’ to go unquestioned. The earlier the better. 

Being wealthy or famous doesn’t make people right, or wise. 

Kung Hei Fat Choi.

Your Coach, Hugh 


The Neuroscience of Trust in Organisations

Would you like significantly more energised, engaged, productive, loyal, happy, aligned, healthy, higher earning employees who rave about how great it is to be working for you? Here’s how, backed by reliable research. Discover the 8 leader behaviours that will pay off, big time. Spoiler alert: it’s about TRUST.

Paul Zak is a ground breaking researcher in this field and his work has massive implications for the way to lead organisations for higher productivity …  with less stress!

8 Key Points

If you don’t have time to read this HBR article in full, here are the 8 key points. If you want help making them happen, give me a call! 

  1. Recognise excellence. It amazes me how rarely we acknowledge this. 
  2. Set stretching but achievable goals. This helps people to get out of their comfort zones, seek help and build teamwork. 
  3. Give freedom to choose. Great people work best when given discretion and autonomy to choose the best way to deliver results.
  4. Let them design their jobs. Going one step further, why not let people focus on the work that they care most about? 
  5. Share your flight plan. Clarify purpose, goals, strategies and tactics – openness leads to buy-in. Being left out of the loop just kills trust. 
  6. Intentionally build relationships. When people care about each other, they help each other out – and, funnily enough, their own performance goes up. 
  7. Invest in whole person growth. Help people fulfil their aspirations and potential. It’s great that they might need to look beyond their current job with you, not a sign of disloyalty! Never again receive a shock, last minute resignation.
  8. Show vulnerability. Asking for help when you need it makes you appear wise and part of the team. Failing to ask for help just makes you seem like a know-it-all jerk. 

Which of these do you most need to work on, starting today? 

Your coach,


How to Say No Assertively

How to say NO and still have people raving about how helpful you are! Let me share the concept in just over 3 minutes.

Consider this: an abrupt, hard NO is certainly quick, job done. Except that you have a lot of mopping up to do in the relationship and you’ll also have to face payback, one way – or probably several others.

My suggested approach takes longer initially but keeps the monkey off your back and where it belongs. And the other person goes away thinking how incredibly helpful you’ve been. So instead of trying to repair damage, you end up with credit points in the bank instead. And somehow people stop expecting you to do everything for them.

The strategy works, sometimes miraculously, both at home and at work.

Oh and professional coaches – the principle applies to you. You’re not saying “no” to your client, but you most definitely are NOT there to solve their problem and do the heavy lifting for them. Be helpful, empower – but don’t either reject or take over.

Whatever you do, persevere!

Over to you …

Check out the full course in communication and conflict skills for leaders

5 Rules for Asking Great Questions

If you want to coach rather than tell, you have to be able to ask great questions. Here Michael Bungay Stanier nails it once again. Watch, learn and above all – put these tips into action!

Teamwork: An Elephant in the Dark

Elephant oblique

Teamwork? Here’s a poem by Rumi, a 13th Century Persian poet. It says a lot about the difference between a bunch of well meaning individuals and a high performing team.

Some Hindus have an elephant to show.

No-one here has seen an elephant.

They bring it at night to a dark room.

One by one, we go in the dark and come out

saying how we experience the animal.

One of us happens to touch the trunk.

A water-pipe kind of creature.

Another, the ear. A very strong, always moving

back and forth, fan-animal. Another, the leg.

I find it still, like a column on a temple.

Another touches the curved back.

A leathery throne. Another, the cleverest,

feels the tusk. A rounded sword made of porcelain.

He is proud of his description.

Each of us touches one place

and understands the whole that way.

The palm and the fingers feeling in the dark

are how the senses explore the reality of the elephant.

If each of us held a candle there, and if we went in together, we could see it.

Drawn from the book I’m currently enjoying, by Elena Aguilar. A brilliant read, sharing her own worst and best experiences of leading teams, and how to build a high performing team. While the organisational setting is education, it’s highly relevant anywhere. Highly recommended. Click the image to get your copy.

The Second Mouse Gets the Cheese … Food For Thought?

Food For Thought indeed. And yes, the pun is intended!

One thing that separates top leaders and entrepreneurs from the herd is the ability to see things that others can’t. Avoid the strategies that just don’t work, see the bigger picture, and find new solutions. Unlike the first mouse.

Last week I ran a session for entrepreneurs and business mentors at Metta, aimed at helping them recognise blind spots. Once seen and recognised we can develop real skills and habits in thinking differently. Next week I’m going to follow up with a session on provoking new ideas and thinking, but for now let’s focus on those blind spots.

Here’s one of my favourite challenges. It looks simple but be aware – it’s not! Have a look at the pictures here, grab a sheet of paper and a pair of scissors (you don’t need tape, glue or anything else) and knock yourself out trying to re-create just the purple part of the image. That little ‘chimney’ at the top is tricky. Disclosure: The pics show both sides of the structure, and I made this with one single sheet of A4 card and one pair of scissors. The yellow sheet is not relevant, it’s just a place holder. That’s all.

IMG_1131 IMG_1132

This is one of the problems I use to illustrate four ways that we develop blind spots and fail to see solutions that are available to us.

  1. Consistency. We value consistency and it certainly has its uses! But it also narrows our thinking by causing us to see things in only one way – the way that seemed to work for us in the past – and because we tend to use one single thinking language. What I mean by that is that if I’m a highly trained engineer I’ll see things my way, not in the same way that an HR director, or an accountant, or a three year old would see things. Is the problem expressed in words, numbers, pictures? How would we explain it to that three year old? One example – here’s a possible headline: “Woman Throws Herself Through 15th Storey Window and Lives!”. Can you see at least two ways to look at this?
  2. Commitment. Something else we value! We get committed to patterns of thinking, which actually get wired into our brains. Stereotyping is a classic example. Once we perceive something as ‘true’, our tendency is to look for evidence to support that belief and in doing so we ignore other facts that support a different truth. For example, have you ever known someone who was taught early on that they were stupid? I know several people who are affected by dyslexia, for instance, who were treated like this but are in fact very bright and intelligent people. It took a long time for them to believe this themselves, as they were committed to the notion that they were not. Mentors and coaches: please take note. What worked for us in the past won’t necessarily be what gets our clients to where they want to get in the future.
  3. Compression. Sometimes we’re overloaded with information – sadly more and more in this social media age – and sometimes we don’t know enough to be able to solve a problem, it’s in fact too compressed. So managing and organising the flow of information, categorising, avoiding multi-tasking and focusing totally on the right thing are essential. I had fun with the group on this one, asking a question in a way that nobody could even remember their own name …
  4. Complacency. Perhaps the biggest sin on my list – we are biased against thinking. Seriously. Have you ever passed by someone gazing out of the window when they should have been working, and thought it was high time they got on with something productive? Yet thinking and solving problems is perhaps the best way professionals can add value. And if our staff keep asking us why we do things in a particular way, do we regard that as helpful – or as undermining? It’s time to rediscover our natural curiosity and our willingness to challenge the way things are. We had these skills when we were 5 years old, so why not now?

Still stuck with the problem I set at the start? Hmm. I don’t want to solve it for you. It’s a great example of consistency, seeing things in only one way.

How about this – after you reach a point of total frustration,  imagine picking the structure up and flipping it over, looking at it flat or upside down. That might help. Or come to one of my workshops!

@metta, @hughtodd


How To Coach Successful Leaders.

How to coach successful leaders.

Businessman Winning Race --- Image by © Royalty-Free/Corbis

Businessman Winning Race — Image by © Royalty-Free/Corbis

How much information do you share or withhold? How much emotion do you share or withhold? Too much, too little, too inappropriate and things can go very wrong.

Using this example as a starting point, Marshall Goldsmith explains how our process helps to recruit a whole team in the development process.

The people who are stakeholders in the way the leader works are the ones who really count. Gain their commitment to let go of the past, to be open and honest, to be helpful not negative, and to choose something to improve themselves – and watch not just the leader but the whole team flourish.

Click this link for the full article.

For more information about Executive coaching services, click here .

You’re welcome!

Challenge Upwards. It’s a Must.


It’s a very tough ask, expecting employees at any level to challenge upwards, even when there are important ethical problems to be resolved. Plenty of companies talk the talk, but the reality is that it rarely happens. Think of Enron, NASA before the Columbia shuttle disaster, or Andersen’s and you’ll realise that saying and doing are vastly different. The reality is that massive consequences can happen further down the track.

What happens when you or a team member notice something that’s wrong and you try to point it out? Do you even get as far as raising it with those upstairs?

What are you doing to safeguard the integrity of your organisation? What’s your company doing?

If you’re not sure how to tackle these questions, here’s the best advice I’ve ever found. Click this link:

Over to you, Marshall Goldsmith! 



Lead Like the Great Conductors

conductor 02

“Lead”? Conductors? Surely conductors are authoritarian, egotistical prima donnas, with complete command and control over their orchestra? Not so.

Imagine leading with complete authority, yet without making a sound. And sometimes without even moving your baton, as we will see. Your job is to create the environment in which people can be great, where they understand when to start and what to do, even when you leave it up to them. You are there to empower and bring out their full talent. They are engaged with each other as much as with you. In turn, you are fully engaged both with the team and with the task in hand. And the resulting performance affects others, sometimes profoundly.

How? And how can people with otherwise great technical skill fail utterly to achieve this kind of leadership? One skilled conductor was asked by every member of his orchestra to resign, in spite of his ability.

Put aside 20 minutes to watch this classic, entertaining TED talk by Itay Talgam. It will be the best investment of  time that you make all day. If you’re short of time, start 10 minutes in. If you’re REALLY short of time, just watch Leonard Bernstein’s leadership power (without baton!) at the very end.

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