Strategising about China in the English countryside

Our third book ‘The Leader’s Guide to Impact’ was recently released in Chinese, which we are both excited and proud about. And as we have now received hard copies of the book – YAY! – we decided to meet up in a little tea house in a small village in the beautiful Sussex countryside to plan for some promotion of the book in China.

Writing books and getting them published is a non-stop learning journey. When we first sat down and started writing our first book ‘The Team Formula’ we were just keen to start writing. Our awareness of the bigger process and the whole lifecycle of a book was pretty unknown to us. One day we just sat down in Mandy’s kitchen, inspired by the garden outside, with a laptop and a flipchart and started brainstorming ideas and then started writing, one word at a time.

The Leader’s Guide to Impact on Amazon bestseller list

We found straight away that writing was SO MUCH FUN and that we wrote well together, it worked. Time just seemed to shoot by when we were writing. At first we weren’t thinking about the publishing of the book, we were simply completely caught up in the writing, enjoying the process and the creative way to explore what we do for a living.

We quickly came to understand that there’s a real sense of responsibility that comes with the creation of a book. The work certainly isn’t done the day it’s written and edited and goes to print. No, writing the book is just the beginning. Caring for the book, promoting it, working with it and learning from it never really stops.

Yes, once you’ve opened the door to writing, things are just never the same again, books are in our bloodstream now!

So very soon our first promotional video about ‘The Leader’s Guide to Impact’, dubbed/subtitled in Chinese, will appear in online book shops in China. Another fun milestone on our writing journey.

7 Tips for Mastering the Art of Questions

Three key characteristics that great leaders have are that they:

  • Are interested in other people
  • Are good at listening
  • Know that they don’t know everything!

Great leaders ask really smart questions – they don’t give the answers.

And as such, they realise that the art of asking questions is crucial when it comes to creating engaged team members and effectively managing the expectation of key stakeholders.

Think about it – when someone asks you a question – and are being genuinely interested and listening – how great does that feel! It makes you feel seen and important, it makes you want to get involved. It also makes you learn, and it gets you to think of the answer and therefore you learn from it.

In addition, when people have had input, they are more likely to make the change happen and create lasting change – as it was their idea.

No, a leader definitely doesn’t need to have all the answers, they just need to have really smart questions. Or just questions. All questions can lead to interesting discoveries.

Be aware though that sometimes it may be tempting to just give the answer (assuming you have it), as it’s easier and quicker. It may be more challenging to think of a smart question that allows the other person to think about the answer. It may take a little more time, but it’s also more skilful and it achieves more impactful results. Remind yourself how a question can get the person thinking differently, creatively, insightfully.

Here’s an example:

I recently worked with a leader who was talking to me about how much time they spend thinking about the future. Instead of giving them the answer on how to work out their time to allow for more of this (which is an answer), I asked them “As the leader of this team that you are responsible for, how much time do you think you should be spending thinking about the future and the longer term? And how could you make that happen?”

They stopped and reflected and came up with the answer for themselves, which means they are now going to put it into action. I gave them a question, not the answer.

So if you want to become an expert at asking questions, to connect with people, to learn and to create better answers, here are some of our top tips to consider.


What is the purpose of the questioning? Do you want to gather data? Do you want to create dialogue? Do you want to innovate? Or something else? This is important to be clear on so that you can target your questions to that purpose.


Open or closed questions? Open questions gather more information, but there are times when a quick yes or no is all you need or have time for – and then a closed question is the best option.


Use softening phrases. Too many questions can sound like an interrogation ? so think about how you can best frame the question to make it interesting for the other person to answer it. Here are some examples of softening phrases:

  • I’m curious…
  • I’m really interested in your thoughts on….
  • Tell me more about ….
  • In what way….?


Ask the question (with softening phrases if relevant). Here are some examples of great open questions:

  • What do you think we should do next? What would you recommend?
  • If you could do anything, what would you do?
  • Where could we find that information, do you think?


The most important thing – LISTEN.

Ask questions without judgment. Don’t be too quick to jump to conclusions about what’s being said. Don’t think about how you will respond – just listen. It’s amazing to see what happens when we fully listen to other people, and how much we learn.


Thank them. Whomever you’ve talked to, whatever the subject – thank them. Make sure they know that you really appreciate their input.


Think about how to make the most of the insight you’ve had from talking to others. Consider the different views you’ve been privy to. Don’t forget to formally credit those that have given input, if relevant.

So think about it – who will you be meeting with today, tomorrow or next week? What questions can you prepare (in your head) to make that meeting interesting, productive, rewarding and maybe even transforming for both of you?

“The important thing is to not stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existing.”


How can you avoid Boomerang Change?

Everyone talks about transformation, but is it really transformation they are pursuing? Or could it be that it’s “just” change?

Don’t get us wrong, change is sometimes enough, but the problem is that change often isn’t enough, or the efforts put into change are not impactful enough and therefore don’t really change anything other than what’s on the surface. People fall back into old habits – as habits die hard – we all know that. A bit like how an ice cube can melt and change into water BUT it can also be put back into the freezer and return to being an ice cube.

Transformation, real transformation, is a marked, significant change, where the change is so thorough, so disruptive, so – well, yes, transforming – that it can’t go back to what it once was. Just like how a butterfly can’t transform back into a caterpillar. The change is complete and persistent.

Real transformation requires more than a well managed project (to change for example processes, digital tools or organisational structure), it requires a transformation of mindset, habits and culture.

And that transformation must be led from the top, where leaders themselves transform how they lead the organisation, how they behave, what they prioritise, what actions and behaviours they ignite in others.

Transformational change happens at a behavioural level. If the behaviours and habits within an organisation don’t change, nothing really changes.

Without it, it’s unlikely that transformation will happen and you end up with what we call Boomerang Change.

This is where people never fully get onboard with the change, stick to many of their old daily habits and the change efforts and investments never really pay off. It doesn’t matter how many great collaboration tools you implement to make a hybrid workplace function, if people don’t trust each other and want to work together, those tools will not give the desired effect or payback.

So, if you are serious about your business or digital transformation, take a moment to reflect on how you can bring all the pieces of real transformation together – the WHY, the WHAT and the HOW, keeping in mind that real transformation is more about people, mindsets and habits than processes, projects and tools.

It’s about connecting with people, with their hearts and minds. It requires vision that makes sense to people, and hope about what the transformation will bring and what role each person will play in that. It’s about bringing people with you on the journey, not just giving them a fait accompli about a change.

It’s about CHANGE LEADERSHIP not just change management.

Change leadership is about giving direction, setting the scene, giving the context, taking people on the journey with us. Management is different; it’s more of the execution – how we are moving in the right direction. It’s about keeping track, checking boxes, ensuring we are on the right route. We need both but in times of change, leadership comes first.

How could we start managing something that hasn’t been given enough direction? We might end up anywhere! And not necessarily where we wanted to be.

Think about how you can ensure real, well-invested transformational change. How you can best achieve sticky change.

  • How will you behave?
  • What will you create in others, how will you make them feel?
  • How will you connect not just with people’s minds but also their hearts?
  • How will you engage, communicate and collaborate with others?

And maybe Einstein said it best…

The world as we have created it is a process of our thinking. It cannot be changed without changing our thinking”


If we want real, sticky transformational change, we need to do things differently. We need to think differently about change and we need to think about the power of habits and behaviours. That’s where the rubber hits the road.

Don’t waste your time on Boomerang Change. Isn’t it high time to leave those exhausting experiences behind and go for Real Transformation?

Never lead with fear

The key to leadership is hope, care and trust – especially in a crisis.

As we watch in horror how Ukraine is being invaded, we reflect on different leadership styles and what it takes to lead in a crisis in particular.

In a crisis everything comes to a head and the key characteristics of effective leadership become crystal clear.

We have probably all met leaders who were feared by others. Those that through their actions and behaviours have made others avoid them, appease them or even cower to them. Yes, that’s sadly not uncommon, but let’s be very clear here, that is NOT leadership.

Leadership by fear and aggression is not leadership at all – it’s bullying and weakness. And that does not belong in a leader’s role or job description.

When people are fearful, they are not operating at their best, they are in survival mode rather than in a creative, collaborative, success generating mode. They may even hide the truth from the leader in an attempt to protect themselves.

We have seen this happen when a financial loss escalated as no-one dared tell the boss that things were not going to plan as they feared his reaction.

Yes, leaders who create fearfulness stop diversity of thought hence are surrounded by group think and yes-sayers who fear speaking up and become enablers of bullying and suppression. And this in turn makes the leader and their decisions less and less successful and effective.

Not only does it feel pretty awful to be at the other end of fear-inducing leadership, it’s also a HUGE waste of human capacity and potential. No-one is at their best and everyone is poorer as a result.

No, there is really only one way to lead effectively and sustainably – especially in a crisis – through love and care for others, by wanting the best for others, by looking for win-win outcomes.

Those are the leaders we remember and value, and are thankful for them being or having been in our lives. They leave a legacy that lasts and lives on through others even when no longer working directly with that leader.

Here a five key habits of leaders that lead with love and care for others.


They involve others in dialogue, continuously. They listen for and value the input of others. They are willing to change their mind as they learn more.


They make it easier for people to be successful by being non-hierarchical, removing conflicting/competing goals, inviting the right people to the table. They are not afraid of bringing diverse groups of people to dialogue.

They don’t hesitate to push boundaries and find new solutions through diversity of thought and true collaboration.


They are genuinely interested in people, they like people, they take the time to connect with them and understand them. They value them for their unique contribution.


They are inspiring, and that is driven by them feeling inspired themselves. They seek inspiration as they know how impactful that is to all involved.


They help people see that great things are possible here and now or around the corner.

Even in the darkest moments they are able to embody and convey a sense of purpose to all, while helping people see how they can contribute to that purpose and feel in charge of their own situation. They know that hope breeds hope which breeds great results.

Great leaders always inspire hope. They are not afraid to face realities, but also look for solutions and ways forward. They are realistic optimists.

The March/April issue of IMPACT is here

Welcome to the latest issue of IMPACT!

This time we focus on the art of asking questions, leading with fear or hope, how to make change sticky and the power of contagious, culture-shaping leadership behaviours.

And there’s a story about a reluctant team member and the effect they can have on a team.

The IMPACT HACK this time is all focused on strengths.

You can download the magazine here or read it online here.

Travelling again?

Yes, it definitely looks like travel is starting to pick up again. The second terminal at an airport close to where we both live will open up in a month’s time after being closed for almost 2 years. This is a clear and tangible indication that demand for travel is up.

We certainly don’t expect business travel to go back to pre-pandemic levels, as distances have largely been eradicated with the help of a plethora of video and collaboration tools. But there is also such a need to meet in person, people have missed being together and we all know that face to face interaction can speed up relationship and team building, understanding and innovation.

And travelling isn’t just a process of getting from A to B. No, it’s also an opportunity to see, experience and learn something new. To be curious and intentional about every trip, to see it as a learning journey and approach it that way. Not just at our destination but also while in transit.

One of our favourite things to do when travelling and passing through an airport or train station is to visit a book store, to pick up a new book, to use the travel time to consume some food for thought, and to get new insights, ideas and inspiration. There’s something wonderfully tactile and immediate about a physical book, isn’t there! And recent stats indicate that print books outsell ebooks 4 to 1. We were a bit surprised by this given that so much of our world is now digital.

WHSmiths London City Airport Feb 2022