What stops you from being a team? Your Smartphone habits?

I support Stoke City Football Club and I must admit it has been a challenging ride for the past 12 months.  We seemed to lose our direction, were rather shambolic on more than one occasion and appeared to lack heart and togetherness.  The run of poor results led to a change of manager and suddenly the mood has changed.  During their 2-0 win over Huddersfield last weekend, the team ran hard, tried things and seemed to be more determined.  This morning, Sky Sports ran a short piece on the Paul Lambert’s return to Premier League management and visited him at the club’s training ground.  One of the instructions he has given is that all squad members will eat together after training and that there will be no mobile phones in the dining room.  The aim is to encourage the players to use the time to reflect on the sessions that they have just had and to get to know each other.

I was delighted to hear that because in so doing, he is addressing two of the things that are, in my opinion, the biggest impediments to team development and team working that exist in this modern world and I see them at play with almost every team that we coach.  The first is making time for each other.  Almost without fail, leadership teams that we talk to complain that it is difficult to find diary space to meet and that when they do arrange to meet, it is the first thing that they cut from the diary as pressure mounts.  More of that another time.

on phoneFar more damaging is how they act when they do get together and I have seen this trait in off-sites, team meetings, meals out and around the coffee point.  Almost without fail, when somebody is speaking, there is at least one team member looking at their smartphones.  Some do so openly and others kid themselves by placing the phone on the desk and then spend the whole day glancing at it every time an alert is displayed.  I would like to think that we would all agree that this is impolite at the very least but I’m not sure that we would because that behaviour seems to be so widespread and ingrained.

So let’s think about the messages that we could be sending when we act like this.  The first thing that we are saying is “I’m not interested in what you are saying.  The other stuff going on in my world is far more interesting than you”  If we have just spoken before, and then we dive into our phone, we could be interpreted as saying  “My position is right, your opinion doesn’t matter.” If we keep glancing at our textingphone they might feel we are yelling “Hurry up, I’m pretending to be interested but my world is more important” and most of all we risk giving the message: “I’m not really a member of this team.  My inward-looking world is more important.”  Most of these behaviours, whether we mean it or not, scream – “I don’t really respect you!”  Not many of those statements, nor the associated behaviours of not listening, demonstrating self-interest over the collective purpose, and being closed to other ideas are found in the list of characteristics of high performing teams. On the other hand, real listening, being open to others, being respectful and aligning with a collective purpose are the essence of true teamwork and high performance follows.

So, my challenge to you is to


and I mean


When you are in team meetings and one-to-one discussions and, if you see the phones distracting others, call it out; tell the other person how it makes you feel.  You will get so much more from those meetings if you do.  And remember, the example which others follow is almost always set by the team leader.

After all, iTS Leadership.

~Author: Tim Sandiford

I Learned about Leading from: That Phone Call

Several years ago (longer than I care to recall!), when I was first made a director and member of the country leadership team, I was driving along the M20 one day to attend a meeting of one of the teams that now reported in to me.  The fact is, to this day (over 15 years later) I can still tell you:-

  • Exactly where I was on the motorway (just approaching J.4)
  • What the weather was (blue skies, a couple of clouds, sunshine)
  • What I was wearing (white shirt with blue stripe and purple tie)
  • What the time was (just before 0945)

The reason for such clarity of memory, I guess, is down to the significant event that unfolded right there and then.  My phone rang!

nokia“Wow!” I hear you say…  “so what?!”  Well, I was about 1 week into my new role and it felt a significant step up.  I was now reporting into the GM for UK and Ireland, an individual who was extremely highly rated within the organisation.  I guess, to be honest, I was a bit in awe of him and a bit bewildered by my recent appointment.  It was his name that came up on the display of my gold Nokia mobile phone (you remember those, right?)

“Oh no!  What have I done?” “What does he want?”

The voice inside my head was loud and active and not too complimentary in his thoughts!  I answered anyway…

“Hey Antony!  How’s it going?”  His standard opening gambit at any time.  I answered, awkwardly, wondering what to say for the best.

“I just rang to say well done for your inputs over these last few days.  I was particularly impressed in yesterday’s LT meeting when you……….  Keep up this standard and I’d say you have a very bright future ahead.  Have a good day!”  …and with that, he simply rang off.

I was stunned.  I had never had a call like that before.  Especially from a boss!  No real questions, no requests, no “ifs” or “buts”.  Just a very powerful and timely positive acknowledgement.

I felt so amazing, so on top of the world….even the few clouds in the sky seemed to disappear!

Then my thoughts started in a different direction….”who could I have the same inspirational impact on?”  And with that I proceeded to call each one of my new direct reports and give a similar, personal and positive message.

By the end of the week, I was hearing that several of them had repeated the same with their teams!  Hey, maybe my bosses boss had called my boss earlier that day?  Who knows?

But this event taught me so much about inspirational leadership.

  • Just how motivating a personal positive message can be.
  • How simple it can be.
  • How impactful it is when you simply give it and promptly “walk away”.

I have used it many, many times since and encourage most of my mentees to do likewise.

The advice?

Be genuine.  Be positive.  Be gone!

After all, iTS Leadership!


I Learned about Leading From: That Video Conference

video conferenceI worked for an absolutely charming but rather disorganised boss for 2 years in a multinational office where I was his de facto chief of staff (although that was not in my job description or job title).  He appeared one day asking me to set up a video conference with a partner organisation which was in another country and different time zone.  He also declared that two others from our team should also be present at the VTC.  This was in the days before desktop VTC and Skype were commonplace and such a meeting involved considerable preparation and some expense.

Over the next two weeks, all three of us asked him what was the purpose of the meeting, what was the agenda and what did we need to do in preparation?  We had just asked 3 very busy people at the other end to attend but we couldn’t really articulate why we needed them to be present.  The answer that we received was “It’s about time we had one to catch up” and we could get no further direction.  We explained patiently that we were in regular contact with them, that all of our obligations in both directions were being met and that at our level, there was no need for the VTC to take place.  He persisted and it was duly arranged.

blameWhen the time came, it was a deeply unsatisfactory event.  My boss was late, I had to offer apologies on his behalf and endure the open and obvious annoyance that was being directed at us by 3 senior staff members in our partner organisation.  Once he had arrived, it was clear that there was little of substance to be discussed and we had done little more than just disrupt their already full working day for limited, if any, reward.  This realisation dawned on my boss and later that afternoon he asked me to check a letter that he had written to his opposite number on the other end of the VTC in which he attempted to identify some action points and outcomes and then apologised for the limited value and the disruption stating “that he had been rather let down by his staff who had failed to adequately prepare him or themselves for this meeting.”!  That was the day that he lost us, the same staff who regularly worked late, had their days and even weekends disrupted to cover for his poor organisational skills and who endured the annoyance of others when he was late or had the wrong presentation with him.  I still liked him because he was a nice man but I was deeply hurt by the way in which he failed to take responsibility for his own actions and blamed me and the other team members.

I learned that day that leading is about accountability and loyalty.  Don’t blame others when you fail and even if they have performed poorly, coach them, don’t blame them. Loyalty is a two-way street and you will get it back in spades if you selflessly show it to your team.

I don’t remember who he was quoting, but in “Winning”, Sir Clive Woodward declared:

“When things are going well look out of the window at those who are doing it, when things are going badly, look in the mirror.”

For me, that statement summed up a very worthwhile leadership behaviour pretty well and it is one that I have used to guide me.  Do you look in the mirror when things are going badly?  I do, after all, iT’S Leadership.

Author: Tim Sandiford


the greatest showmanThis weekend I went to the cinema to watch “The Greatest Showman” as so many had told be what an entertaining film it was.  I have to say I was quite surprised as I was not expecting the musical and dance spectacular it turned out to be!!  …and it was an entertaining viewing with many a valuable lesson in humanity.

As you probably know, I am a great fan of lyrics.  I often see them as modern-day poetry and so often with a valuable message within.  In one of the tracks in the film I was reminded of how we can all get carried away with our pursuit of “better things”.  It is all too easy for us to get caught on the treadmill of “bettering ourselves” through promotions and pay rises to attain more: get a bigger house, nicer car, better holidays etc. etc., but what happens in reality?  How often does the pursuit of these things take us further away from what actually makes us happy and what was the original inspiration for our “betterment journey”?

In the song “From Now On” in the film, the words are:

I drank champagne with kings and queens
The politicians praised my name
But those are someone else’s dreams
The pitfalls of the man I became
For years and years
I chased their cheers
The crazy speed of always needing more
But when I stop
And see you here
I remember who all this was for

In your life, who is it all for?  Do you know?  Do you ever think about it?

I have nothing against hard work nor the pursuit of better and greater things…those who know me well will acknowledge this!  But, my word of caution, to myself and to all is…never forget why you are doing this and who it is for, for once we do, we lose our soul, our authenticity and we are simply on the treadmill for the sake of being on the treadmill, like so many others.

My challenge – Take time to know yourself and your intent.  When the treadmill stops, what would you love others to be saying about you?

After all, iTS Leadership!

Author: Antony Tinker

I Learned about Leading from: That Rock Star

Patriot Warrior 2017

Tactical Engagement Simulation Exercise (TESEX)

In 2006, I was lucky enough to take a battlegroup to train in Canada.  It was a month-long field exercise and we were to spend about 12 days involved in a Tactical Engagement Simulation Exercise (or TESEX).  This is a live training event using lasers to simulate weapons effects and allows participants to play out their plans and practice their tactics, techniques and procedures in an adversarial setting.  Think of the biggest game of LaserQuest that you can imagine and you won’t be far off the mark!

Just before the exercise started, I explained to all of the team leaders what it was I wanted us to achieve, how we were to approach the exercise, and what particular characteristics and behaviours we should seek to develop in ourselves and our own teams. This was particularly important to me because we were due to deploy on operations within 4 months of this exercise ending. Amongst the things I listed were; mission focus, operating with clarity in chaotic situations, risk awareness, avoiding risk aversion, and having the determination to overcome obstacles, setbacks and challenges.  I then announced rather lightheartedly that we would declare the individual within the battlegroup who had best demonstrated the characteristics that we sought to be the “Battlegroup ‘Rock Star’”.  There was no long and involved nomination process, just a short verbal brief of who in their team deserved to recognition and why and we decided there and then.

We fought five mock battles and after each battle duly identified the member of the battlegroup who had displayed such determination, indomitable spirit, initiative and commitment.  Their name was announced to the leadership team with an instruction to inform their teams after each of the After Action Reviews and we then moved onto the next battle.  I thought nothing more of it.

Rock starOne of the recipients was a very popular and likeable soldier nicknamed Bagpuss, who had just kept on going and going in the face of all sorts of obstacles and was absolutely physically spent at the end of that particular mock battle.  Some five days later, at the end of the whole exercise, the Regimental Sergeant Major told me; “Bagpuss and his mates are absolutely over the moon that he was named as the Rock Star.”  We decided there and then to make more of the award than we had originally intended and got certificates made for each of the five, had them framed and then got the 650 men and women of the battlegroup on parade and presented the awards in front of them.

I learned again, that day, the importance of recognition, reward and rituals.  Naming a ‘Rock Star’ started out as a bit of fun but it soon became clear that it was a great vehicle through which we could celebrate and encourage the behaviours that we wanted to see. It allowed me to set the tone for the future and the parade gave me an opportunity to reinforce that message before we went on operations. It was a powerful source of motivation and a way to say thank you, and the recipients looked as if they felt 10 feet tall. It worked because their performance had truly earned it and our recognition was authentic and genuine.

In “Leading”, Sir Alex Ferguson stated that the two most powerful words in his armoury were “Well done”.  The Rock Star was exactly that, a public and genuine demonstrable “Well done”.  From then on, I always promoted people in front of their peers, ensured that all successes were celebrated and celebrated publicly and it became a ritual.

How much time do you spend identifying and then celebrating your ‘Rock Star’s’? Enough?

After all, iT’S Leadership!!

Author: Tim Sandiford

STOP…right now…and read this!

“Stop right now thank you very much,
I need somebody with a human touch,
Hey you always on the run,
Gotta slow it down baby, gotta have some fun”


BritYes…I’ve started the year with a blog that starts with Spice Girl lyrics! Maybe it’s because I had Spice Girls on my mind recently as someone you know went to a NYE party dressed as one (you know…that Union Jack dress!!??)…they weren’t the only one though!!

But more seriously, in my new year reading there has been a constant theme about the modern disease of running to achieve everything and do everything on our task lists and increasing our possessions and getting all the things we want and didn’t get at Christmas!!!  It can be exhausting! So many looking to define themselves by what they have or what they do, or simply just lost on the daily “treadmill of life”.  There’s no judgement here, we ALL do it and have done it!

One of the books I’ve been reading shared an account from a youngish American lawyer…a wife, mother of two young kids, home-keeper and main bread winner in the house, who found herself constantly chasing her tail to get EVERYTHING done, and never seeming to get further than half way through the infinite task list! (Do you know that feeling?)

Anyway, on one trip she boarded a flight and her mind was buzzing with all the things she had to do for her day ahead and other things she needed to delegate to others.  Then, when the plane got to the start of the runway it stopped.  She stopped.  Everything became still for a moment.  She suddenly had a realisation: “even the plane stops before it takes off!” and she started to laugh.

Business concept with pair running on hamster wheelThe point of course is, if we want to really FLY, for our careers and our personal journeys to “take off”, then we have to get off the treadmill of daily life and stop, get clarity of what exactly we want to do and why, and then get on with that with total presence and to a certain extent “bloody minded focus” (although this is no excuse for inappropriate and unprofessional behaviour nor a disregard for teamwork!  We are talking about getting on with it with total presence and the focus and energy that it brings.) There’s simply no better time of year to do this (and then make it a regular thing!)

So, 21 years since the Spice Girls released their song, maybe read it now with a new insight and listen deeply to what message it gives.  Do you want a greater human connection with those you live with and work with?  Do you want more fun?  More success?  Then you know what you’ve got to do…

Stop right now, thank you very much,
I need somebody with a human touch.
Hey you! always on the run,
Gotta slow it down baby, gotta have some fun

Have fun!  Always:-)


Author: Antony Tinker