Q&A from the Behavioural Leadership Conference 2023

Read the questions and answers from the latest Hollin events - answered by world class experts in leadership and Behavioural Science.

Howard Lees

With 35 years experience in the construction industry, before founding Hollin, Howard has plenty of experience to draw upon when it comes to leadership. Click the question to view Howard's answer.

Q:Howard, what was the hardest behaviour for you to change?

Without doubt, talking too much. It’s still number one on my list of required behavioural improvements. All the great leaders can keep silent and allow people to speak freely. I look up to many people that can ask a great question and then listen and respond politely to the answer.

Q:Howard, how can you tell if the person you are trying to engage is a bureaucrat?

They spend more time explaining why they can’t do what you want than it would take for them to just do the task!

Q:Howard, when you haven’t led as you would have liked, how do you go about correcting that?

I have quite a portfolio of past regrets regarding my leadership. The acceleration of any personal improvement over the years occurred when I was in the presence of great leaders. I was strongly influenced by people I spent time with but also by writers and playwrights. I can think of times when their messages finally got through to me. Allowing people to learn lessons on their own without me chipping in is also very necessary. I hope I am allowing this process to breathe more often these days.

Q:Howard, you said great leaders ask about people, not concrete. Does this assume competency on the project? How do you catch the failing project early?

If a great leader is involved then the chances of there being a failing project are very low indeed. The great leader would have a litmus test for each project, a handle on simple primary quantities or a solid view on where the project should be by now. They would also make sure that the site people will ask the moment they need help. There are always multiple great things happening around the people that understand great leadership. It’s sad but I suspect there are a large number of people out there that have no idea what it’s like to work for a great leader.

Q:Howard, were there any lessons that you’ve learned that you’ve found particularly important?

I was lucky in the latter stages of my engineering career. I was lucky to work for multiple super-talented leaders, they challenged me in a way that was reinforcing, not scary. They encouraged me to be confident, to try stuff out, to ask for forgiveness, not permission. I enjoyed the support, and I also enjoyed the freedom. There’s a lot of unrealised talent out there; most people have phenomenal potential, they need to be identified and given support and opportunity. My number one lesson – get out there and help people realise their potential.

Q:Howard, how do you give feedback to a narcissist?

My initial thought was ‘with a baseball bat’! There are a number of narcissists out there spoiling the workplace environment for everyone, spoiling businesses and spoiling projects. I am writing a book right now about egotists and I am trying to make it funny, I think it’s the only way to approach such a maddening & tiresome subject. Every week we hear of another talentless prick spoiling things, it’s easy to ask “Why do the victims tolerate this crap?” but I guess you have to be there to truly feel the painful threats. As you can see, I haven’t quite hit the vein of humour on this subject quite yet!

Martin Laycock

Martin has demonstrated his insight in dealing with international
operational teams on large, complex manufacturing plants. Click on the questions below to read his answers.

Q:Martin, do you have any top tips on how to kick off holding ½ hour leadership development sessions, e.g., framework to structure.

Great question: My first tip is using a variety of media and material, such as recommended Ted Talks or some of the articles in the Hollin monthly Digest for example. So, my advice is to consider your audience, your team. Does it make sense to start with articles and short videos before starting a book?

Don’t expect everyone to devour a book, some people love to read, others don’t. My second tip is break up books into chapters and remind the team when the next chapter is to be read.

Third and final tip is to find the right material, use your network and your own research for what will inspire your team. Some books and materials are very easy to digest, others not so!

Q:Martin, you’ve worked in many different locations. How did you adapt for language or cultural challenges?

Firstly, language has not been a major issue as the majority of leaders in our business are fluent in English. However, it’s important to understand that you must speak clearly and read the audience when you are having a conversation in someone’s second language.

I believe it is good to be aware of cultural differences so you can respond and converse to help others develop and be the best they can be! One area that from my experience which isn't impacted by culture is personal development.

Q:Martin, how do the senior site leaders cope with having so many different KPIs? How do you keep perspective of the big picture?

Brilliant question. Frankly, it is sometimes challenging. So as KPI's are distilled upwards it helps if they can be simplified and reduced for senior leaders and for other leaders to highlight where there are interesting trends to understand.

Q:Martin, regarding effective 1:1’s. Our line managers are busy. They will say they are ‘too busy’. Where do you start to get them to do 1:1s happily and get the balance right between workload, productivity, coaching, cost etc?

My advice is firstly decide on the frequency: If weekly is too much, then go for monthly. Clarify the intent of the monthly discussion in the first session and the expectations for you and your managers. If you have, say, ten managers in your team - is it really too much to spend 30mins per month to discuss their development, experiences and challenges to help them grow? Even if you combine this with 30mins of preparation and follow up, for 10 direct reports, it only adds up to 10hrs per month.

Alasdair Cathcart

Alasdair is a great communicator, he does a great job at conveying his passion and experience - he is an inspirational leader. Read Alasdair's responses below by clicking the drop down on each question.

Q:Alasdair, the concept of 30-minute meetings is fantastic, but it feels out of reach from where my organisation is. The senior people are the worst culprits! How can I effect change?

Meetings are important, but are so time-consuming that their success should not be left to chance.

• Identify the strategic, tactical, & operational meetings you need for the cadence of your business, & what the objectives of each meeting should be (they should be different).
• Having done this, then identify the participants you require for these meetings to achieve their objectives (the attendees will be different also).
• Send an agenda in advance, with all materials to be discussed included as pre-read, so everyone shows up familiar with the material, and ready to provide diversity of thought (informed opinion from everyone), so the best quality decisions can be made.

If you do this, you only need 30 mins per meeting. If you have large numbers of attendees, who are only seeing the material for the first time in the meeting, with one of two participants dominating the conversion, then don’t be surprised that your meetings are measured in hours not minutes.

Q:Alasdair, can you give an example of when you have had to change your behaviour or the way you work?

As a leader flying at 30,000 feet, you have to descend to ground level to check on the actual work from time to time. This is why you have to invest in your own learning & development (you have to know the 5% of everything so you can’t be taken advantage of. Measuring primary quantities can help with this – ‘if this much has happened then we must be close’ etc). If everything is OK, you need to return to the skies - if it’s not, you stay engaged until it is. I used to struggle returning to the skies, as I liked being at ground level, but by being there for no reason, I was micromanaging - demotivating my team! I had to change my behaviour.

Q:Alasdair, what do you do when the goals are known but the behaviours don’t change? For example, the climate emergency.

Focus is the key - having 6-12 KPIs on your dashboard to steer all your efforts, no matter the ‘background noise’ or the ‘poor behaviours’, is the secret.

When COVID hit, with 40,000 employees around the world we focused on only 3 principals (protect our colleagues’ health, serve our customers, & protect our colleagues’ livelihoods) measured through 5 KPIs only (retaining competence & capacity; reducing operating costs; reducing capital expenditure; financial resiliency; & building backlog).

By communicating these goals often & consistently, our progress towards achieving them transparently (good or bad), and applying the immediate consequences, we were able to change behaviours in a time of great stress.

On climate specifically, the goals need to be more near term to drive the right behaviours. When they are long term, the consequences are future and uncertain, and behaviours don’t change.

Q:Alasdair, how do you filter all the diversity of thought? Especially if you have too many chiefs in the 1st place? Basically, doesn’t adding more ideas ultimately confuse things more?

Diversity of thought is about getting all of the views of everyone around the table, not just the opinions of one or two chiefs. It is therefore important that you have the right participation (attendees) in decision making forums, and that their opinions are all heard (also every participant needs to understand they need to show up prepared to offer an informed opinion), before decisions are made.

Q:Alasdair - how have you addressed the issue of ownership – specifically the lack of – from a team, or leadership?

Follow my road map, especially steps 3-5 with disengaged teams.

1. Listen to all.
2. Change the environment, earn respect & build trust.
3. Set expectations & communicate transparently.
4. Dismantle cliques, establish diversity of thought, & make decisions quickly.
5. Manage behaviours through consequences; recognize & reward based on results.

Q:Alasdair, if you could go back to the start of your career what would be the best bit of advice you would tell yourself?

Expect your journey to be cyclical and to make an effort to learn from both the ups & the downs.

Q:Alasdair, how have the C-suites reacted when you have modified life for ‘the craft’ for the first time? If they haven’t previously seen the benefit of doing it, how do you motivate them?

Ultimately you should be doing what is the best thing for the project(s) - not just for the client, or just for the contractor, or just for you - and it’s critical that we all have respect for the skilled men & women who are building our projects.

If the C-suite doesn’t appreciate this, or understand it, bring some of your best construction professionals into your meetings with them (eg Health & Safety - how many meetings do you have on this topic, with no craft representation, and yet they are performing the actual tasks!), and they will be blown away by their competence and commitment.

Q:Alasdair, did you have a posse of great people that followed you around all these jobs?

No. It is more powerful ‘turning’ around existing teams - especially the nay sayers - as it earns you more respect (& builds trust quicker, so gets you on the path to improved performance quicker) than simply substituting everyone.

Q:Alasdair, if you enjoyed all these big, impressive jobs how did you handle stopping? Does it feel like a loss?

My frustration in working as a contractor, for some clients, was that we could always see a better way to execute but we were unable to influence the thinking early enough. Now, working in Private equity - especially in today’s economy where costs of capital are higher, and availability of capital is tightening - they have private capital available to ‘join the dots’ in the most effective way, and I enjoy working in this new environment.

Q:Alasdair, what smallest change in the workplace environment had the biggest impact?

Changing the environment to remove the perks of office, demonstrating leadership humility, as we serve our professional staff and construction professionals (eg. Removing named car parking spaces, getting rid of offices, moving management away from the windows to the middle of buildings to give employees the light).

Changing what we call things (eg. Calling our manual craft workers ‘construction professionals’).

Bryony Sherry

Bryony is the newest member of the Hollin team. Bryony has a background in psychology with experience supporting mental wellbeing in challenging environments. Click on the question below to read Bryony's answer.

Q:Bryony, do you need to make yourself vulnerable to promote psychological safety?

I think that people respect when their leader isn’t afraid to show weakness - which can mean being vulnerable from time to time. An example could be finding something difficult or having a difficult time. Coaching for Improved Work Performance by Ferdinand Fournies, talks about the importance of managers remaining calm – if you lose your rag at some point in the day, it better be in private. I think it is better for managers to stay calm where possible; doing this protects your team from unnecessary stress. However, everyone is human, and we make mistakes. I think the vulnerability comes when you approach your team and apologise for acting in a way which was not appropriate/professional and make plans to approach the situation differently in the future.

Q:Bryony, what’s the link, if any, between diversity (gender, race, age etc) and psychological safety?

I spoke about championing diversity in the workplace - by supporting tattoos, piercings, and coloured hair. In doing this, people feel free to express their identity.

Supporting equality and diversity amongst race, gender, age and other characteristics of identity is the priority of a whole organisation. There should be clear policies in place, along with corporate initiatives which help a leader encourage diversity and enable equal opportunities for all.
A leader who chooses to stifle equality and diversity will ultimately diminish trust and respect of their colleagues and co-workers. In cases where leaders actively work against equality and diversity, I’m willing to bet that psychological safety is low. How can you feel safe to share your opinions, if only a certain type of person is welcome?

Dr. Ryan Olson

Dr. Ryan Olson is a professor at Oregon Health and Science University. He is the leading researcher for lone worker safety, with a background in the study of behaviour - specifically obstacles to workplace performance and safety. Click on the questions below to reveal Ryan's answers.

Q:Ryan, you say flexible working is beneficial for those doing it. Have we considered those that don’t and have to fit 5 days of work into 4; who rely on and work with the flexible colleague?

Flexibility in terms of when and where we work is a privilege. And, mostly a privilege for knowledge workers and not those on the front line. However, freedom and control can be promoted at all levels of an organization, just with varying degrees of freedom depending on the job and results it is meant to produce. Differences in this privilege in an organization can create feelings of injustice or unfairness that have to be addressed and discussed openly if it is to work.

If a “flexible colleague” is not reliable or not producing results, that is a performance problem and they need feedback and accountability. In fact, in a study of the Results Only Work Environment in Minnesota, involuntary turnover increased after this ultimate form of flexibility was introduced (people let go for failing to produce results). However, involuntary turnover decreased as the system was rated favorably and led to a range of positive other outcomes.

Q:Ryan, I agree work is a social activity. How can I encourage colleagues to realise this without enforcing ‘in person’ attendance?

I think I would probably recommend role modelling this by asking to connect with others in person yourself - over coffee or lunch. Perhaps 121s could be done this way?

Q:Ryan, how do we get people to build reciprocal relationships?

It is quite a strong social norm. I would recommend being the initiator and look for ways to serve or be helpful to others. You could ask, is there anything I can do to help you with your work? That is really easy to do with the people who report to you and with peers, but imagine how potentially powerful it might be if you asked your boss if there was any support or help they might be in need of from you. Then you have your boss likely to reciprocate for you in the future.

Q:Ryan, how would you design ‘hybrid working’ for humans?

I think this is really “how will WE all design ‘hybrid working’ for humans. I don’t have the secret sauce myself yet and I don’t think researchers do either. Pre-pandemic we were studying flexible working arrangements (hybrid), and the bottom line then was that they were beneficial for people’s health and for productivity as long as supervisors were really clear about expectations for work results. This was because giving people freedom to work when and where they want allows them to balance and manage work and personal/family demands in the most efficient way for them (they are the experts in their own “total” lives). In other words, people were able to tend to and better balance all of their human needs with flexibility. But, at the time, there was pretty strong scepticism and resistance by some supervisors who worried about people slacking off at home.

We’ve learned in general during the pandemic (and post-pandemic) that millions (billions?) of people can be productive working from home – in some cases even more productive. But there is a risk for isolation and loneliness, and missing out on some of the creative things that can happen when we are physically together. I guess my best advice going forward is that leaders need to be experimenting with hybrid work approaches with the general guide to emphasize freedom and positive reinforcement (to encourage in-person and socially direct working) work over getting controlling and rigid about rules for when and how people work.

Q:Ryan, do you foresee larger health problems as screen time/tech advances? Or will AI give us more time?

The promise of technology freeing us up to have more leisure time is an old one (see 1950s and ads for various household appliances). My hunch is that the pressures to work long hours will remain with AI advancements; the nature of the work and what humans will do will just change. I believe there are studies that roughly provide dose-response relationships for things like work hours, sitting time, and screen time and subsequent musculoskeletal, cardiovascular, and other health problems. We should be taking brief stretching/walking breaks from sitting every hour, focusing our eyes on things beyond the screen frequently (I believe every 20 min), walking at least 30 min a day, and doing physically active hobbies or exercising that stretches our bodies, challenges our muscles, and gets us into a variety of positions and movements.

Rachel Edwards

Rachel is the consulting director at Hollin. Rachel practices what she preaches, being a strong and caring leader whilst skilfully delivering thought-provoking sessions. Read Rachel's answers below.

Q:Rachel, why do you think people resist fixing meetings and emails?

Dr Ryan Olson talked about motivational traps at the conference workshop; behaviourally-sound explanations of why we might engage in behaviour that puts us further away rather than closer to reaching our goals. One of the motivational traps is the sneaky trap; when the undesirable outcomes of a behaviour are slow to accumulate, we don’t realise we have a problem until it’s too late. Fixing a problem requires recognition of the problem; until that happens things might not seem bad enough to warrant the effort of fixing them. This is perhaps part of the problem with meetings and emails at work.

Bruce Faulkner

Bruce is a behavioural consultant with an impressive record for organisational change. Bruce's wit and humour helps him deliver constructive feedback, leading teams to successful change. Click on the questions below to see Bruce's answers.

Q:Bruce, when you look back on your career, is there anything you wish you’d done differently?

Of course, the answer’s yes. In 1984, I started studying computer science and engineering. By ’87 I dropped computer science because I thought it was the wild west, and compared to engineering, they’d never be able to get it together. Boy, did I misread that. 

But there’s no undo button in life. That means there’s no point in ruminating. In fact, that’s worse than just wasting effort. It’s actively keeping you stuck in the same place. The alternative is to engage in reflection. A non-judgemental exploration of the experience. That’s what creates the learning. It turns a headwind into a tailwind.

Q:Bruce, if you could give your younger self one piece of advice, what would it be?

Learn to write. The education system does not teach people how to write. All my schooling and cultural reference points led me to believe that good writing flowed. Editing was there to fix grammar and correct mistakes. For me, my writing experiences were always punishing.

The result — I’ve spent too much time in my head trying to write. The dominant model implies you think in order to write. This makes the need for editing appear as a bug. In reality, the only way to process your thinking is to write it down. Writing isn’t actually about flow, it’s a process of constructing sentences. And by engaging in that process, you hone your thinking. Writing then becomes the accelerator for reflection. If you want to know what you're thinking, write it down.

Q:Bruce, what you described in your talk takes time; people tend to never consider their career when they are in the height of battle. What’s the solution to that?

Answering a career question like, “What do you want to do?” is difficult. When you turn your attention to such a big question, you may experience a mixture of feelings including anxiety, uncertainty, fear, and frustration. That numbness means you’ll likely put it off until the time feels right. Often, that time gets imposed on you because of a job crisis like redundancy. Under such stress-inducing situations, you’ll see a limited set of options.

Think about how organisations treat human resources. Throughout your career, an employer has given you a job title, a role, responsibilities, even a job description. These management techniques seek to iron out the uniqueness that is you. The aim is to position people as swappable. None of the above describes who you are or your potential.

That’s why you should build your understanding of yourself before you need it. To take the first step on this journey, dedicate 1 hour to:

• Sit with a friend.
• As you talk through your CV as they write out post-it notes.
• They capture the knowledge, abilities, and skills you’ve accumulated.

At the end, you’ll have a set of raw materials, unconstrained by job titles. You can start recombining them to see the outline of your true potential. Doing this exercise creates the momentum for starting a new journey.

Q:Bruce, why do so many organisations struggle to create good communication?

At the top of the organisation, leadership is trying to figure out how to make the whole enterprise work. The frontline workers and managers are trying to figure out how to help the customers. These two environments are different. What people talk about and focus on in these environments is also different.

A leader then needs to craft a message that remains relevant to all the various layers of the hierarchy. If that message doesn’t match up with the day-to-day needs of the individual, then it feels irrelevant. Nothing changes, and frustration builds across the organisation.
These messages are launching aspirations to create a sense of urgency. But they carry the same punchline — You must try harder. That’s because the content of the message offers no relief for the person listening. By that I mean, today that person faces obstacles as they try to get the work done. Those obstacles don’t magically disappear because a leader stands up and talks or sends out an email.

What I’m describing isn’t a collaborative environment. The leadership holds on to and makes all the decisions. The person delivering the work has no room for discretion, and they know it. Because the reporting systems forces them to explain deviations in the KPIs. The person looks around and sees there is no mechanism for relief. For that to happen, the leadership would need to ask for and act upon feedback, and how to create that is a much longer answer…

Q:Bruce, I need results today. I’m not sure we have time to create collaborative working.

I get the need to generate results today. Since there’s already a sense of urgency, don’t waste that opportunity. Here’s what I mean by that. Most workplaces have too much work in progress. What then happens is everything gets delayed. People jump from one escalated demand to another and don’t get to spend the time to get quality into their work. Everyone’s work is interconnected. This means they end up chasing each other and waiting, all at the same time.

Offer people relief by pausing work. Freeing up of people makes them available to work with others. This removes the conditions that suppressed collaboration. This is a counter-intuitive solution — pausing work gets you the dual benefits of higher overall rate delivery and increased collaboration.

Q:Bruce, we’re stuck with our company’s current people assessment processes – how can we make the best of it?

My recommendation is to manage exposure and temper your expectations. First the exposure. Recognise that you’re stuck playing a game, and don’t leave yourself open to being marginalised by it in the future. These processes involve documenting what you’ll be evaluated against. Use that to manage the downside. By that I mean, take the initial list of expectations one by one and pinpoint what you’ll be expected to do and deliver. Expect that those initial expectations will change. Those new expectations often show up in verbal communication. Email your boss to confirm the change. This technique helps senior people manage their own behavioural integrity.

Now for the expectations. Make them low, that way you won’t be disappointed. And occasionally you might be pleasantly surprised. Railing against the fairness or effectiveness of the system leaves you stuck and frustrated. Instead, open up another path for managing your own growth. Find a specific aspect of the business that you’d like to know more about. Write out a question and use that as the excuse to have a conversation with a more senior person. At the end of that conversation, ask the person to recommend who you should talk to next about the specific question. This approach creates more opportunities than any formal process could ever envisage.

David Dickinson

David has lots of experience on a range of complex projects and has led many large operational teams. Click on the questions below to see David's answers.

Q:David, could you play out some of the ‘separate the person from the idea’ scenario? For example, who should read out the ideas and how should they be discussed, in order to maximise the opportunity from diversity?

The meeting chair is typically going to be the ideal person to facilitate these mechanisms, unless you have a member of the team who is independent of the problem space and who could facilitate the meeting to bring extra impartiality. The idea being that memos for each agenda item are drafted in advance, or that post-its are written out in private and then stuck to the wall, and then the chair reads these out and discussions take place to gain alignment on the best solution. ‘Alignment’ is key. You don’t want people necessarily ‘voting’ on ideas as so much goes unsaid in a voting situation. It is important that the pros, cons, and way forward are discussed and that everyone is ‘aligned’ on the next steps and why they are happening, even if they don’t necessarily ‘agree’ it is the very best solution. The point of alignment being that you want people to be motivated to take the solution forward, and not to be throwing rocks under the tyres as you move forward. If you or someone else mandates an idea, then there is a chance that it might be 10% better than the ideas of the others in the room but you can guarantee that the engagement of those in the room will drop by a far bigger percentage when it comes to the application of that idea.

Q:David, you mentioned a number of sources for good things to read/listen to. How do you combine these disparate things into a single credo?

Yes, some great books and articles on this subject of psychological safety, group intelligence, and alignment include:

Rebel Ideas, by Matthew Syed;
Promises of Giants, by John Amaechi;
The Five Practices of Exemplary Leaders, by James Kouzes and Barry Posner;
Leading Change, by John Kotter;
Safety Leadership, by Howard Lees;
How Aligned Is Your Organization? by Jonathan Trevor and Barry Varcoe.

Q:David, your company sends people out to projects. How does it maintain company training, mentoring etc while people are elsewhere?

The bigger the consultancy team and the more projects you are dealing with the harder this becomes so we tackle this challenge by creating multiple layers of interactions – particularly important in the post COVID world of mixed office presence, and when leading multiple geographically separate office hubs and multiple geographically remote projects. This layering of interactions allows for a clear cascade and flow back of information and ensures that messages and alignment dialogue engages with as many people as you can. We structure and time leadership meetings, regional team meetings, line manager cohorts, subject matter cohorts, group training sessions, and line management 1-2-1, all of which are purposely project / account agnostic, and we do that in that drum beat order so that so that each layer is well informed and in a timely manner, and that voices are heard by those who need to hear them in an equally timely manner.

These interactions need to be in addition to project and account specific interactions or that long term relationship with the team and the business is lost. In the consultancy world, there is obviously always the challenge of maintaining strong billability but if we were to focus on that alone we wouldn’t be the really strong team we are, with very low attrition and very strong engagement levels. Equally, we find our clients get the need for this too, and we use these interactions to ensure our clients are connected to us too and use this to drive a learning legacy.

Q:David, what is the most efficient, meaningful, and reliable way to gain honest anonymous feedback?

This is very context dependant. For our line managers and leaders to receive personal anonymous feedback we have a purpose-built platform on our Oracle system that achieves this. And we work with our line managers and leaders to train them to interpret and act on this feedback consistently across the team, so that anyone asking for and receiving this feedback is coach to ask the right questions specific to them, and how to receive and act on it.

More broadly, we also utilise a system known as Peakon that seeks anonymous feedback at fixed intervals and based around a framework of questions and scoring. This allows a broader view of engagement and fourteen other performance factors to be reviewed regularly, and progress towards higher engagement to be tracked. The critical thing to get right here is how that volume of information is received and acted upon consistently so that participation is as high as it can be and that those participants are very confident that they are being heard and that their voice really drives positive improvements in their environment. You cannot break this trust. Two way anonymous dialogue of specific matters is critical but so are overall messages of what has been said, how you have interpreted it, and what you have done and are doing about it. And responses are time critical. If a grenade is thrown, they need to hear it go off safely or they will be tiptoeing around very nervously.

Anonymous feedback is super important but so too is an environment where direct feedback can be given. The above approaches to anonymous feedback will help foster an environment where more and more direct feedback can be given too; both on the person and on the project or organisation. The only downside of anonymous feedback being that it can be riddled with subjectivity and lack context – but the above anonymous feedback mechanisms can be used to suggest a direct face to face feedback dialogue take place to help you to dive deeper where you think it needs it and where the trust is in place.

Q:David, what do you say or do to draw out great ideas from people?

Hollin books provide some great pre-written questions in Escape the Too Hard Box and Power Coaching, as does Michael Bungay Stanier in The Coaching Habit. Any good meeting is laced with a feeling of safety to speak up that is borne out of trust and respect. This comes from you and your people listening more than you speak, making sure everyone feels that they have a voice and aren’t going to be shot down. Particularly in the early days of building this trust though, those coaching questions will be really powerful. Sometimes the problem will feel completely intractable to everyone in the room, and in these scenarios your job is to get the boulder of ideas rolling… In such a scenario I like the model of 1) Kickstarter Questions, such as simply ‘What’s on your mind?’; followed by 2) So What Questions, such as So what, what’s the problem? Or so what else could you do?; followed by 3) Focus Questions, such as what is the real challenge? Or so what are the blockers to why this isn’t solved already? Followed by 4) Strategic Questions, and 5) Learning Questions. The questions build specificity through progressively deeper strategic and learning lines of questioning to home in on the problem, solution, and deeper learning. You are the asker of questions and not the giver of solutions in this dynamic. A dynamic you should try and live in as many situations as you can. This might feel like a forced conversation, but they are merely sign posts to direct conversations from the stuck position, and to keep you in question mode so that you don’t run out of steam.