How to get the most out of your meetings: Involve them all!

When you host discussion groups and meetings at work, do you find that a few of the more reserved members of the team are less inclined to share their ideas? How many meetings have you attended where the loudest voices always get their points across whereas other members of the team are left frustrated because they’ve not been heard?

Are the quiet voices getting heard?

Are the quiet voices getting heard?

Letting things carry on this way can be a risky business. By not involving everybody in key meetings and important decisions you risk great ideas going un-voiced, staff feeling undervalued, and on top of this, the whole exercise can be a serious waste of time and money – some of the best ideas may not come out or some ideas that need to be challenged are not! This is why ensuring that everyone feels that they are able to share their opinions should be a key goal for any team.

Of course, what too often happens at these meetings, unless positive communication behaviours have been well and truly learnt, is that those with the most seniority and volume will get their ideas heard and driven through. The quieter members of the team may turn up assuming they are there simply to ‘bear witness’ to the decision, and thus never end up engaging, or even feeling that they are able to.

Unfortunately, when this happens those who feel they haven’t been heard can begin to disagree with the idea. They may begin to feel uncomfortable about the decision that they had little say in, and whilst not intentionally trying to undermine the idea, they are likely to begin discussing their concerns with others. People may agree and offer their own opinion, gradually dissuading segments of the team from doing the agreed actions in the first place!  A counterproductive move – and something that illustrates how important it is to let everyone express their opinion in the initial meetings. This scenario often ends with a frustrated boss exclaiming – ‘but this is what we all agreed on in the first place isn’t it!?!’

Great ideas can come from the quietest corners

Great ideas can come from the quietest corners

We need to learn how to involve everyone in our team, and we need to understand how to encourage everyone’s contributions. If someone is suffering from nerves, putting them on the spot in a meeting may leave them feeling flustered, exposed or threatened – consequently none of these feelings will allow them to think well and their ideas aren’t as likely to be as good either. This, over time will lead them to thinking they have no value as a recurring theme, and the downward spiral continues.

To avoid putting team members in these situations, think about new ways you could possibly approach them, using the strengths you know they have to both of your advantages. I suggest you ask the question in this way: ‘Sarah – do you remember that idea you were sharing with me the other day when we met for coffee? I really think there were some interesting ideas there and perhaps you might like to share them with the team.’ By doing this, you’ve already made it clear to Sarah that her ideas are good ones and that she has your support. When she shares she’ll be able to do so in the knowledge that you are behind her!

Simply by doing this you’ve shown her that talking in front of the group needn’t be a nerve-wracking ordeal. You may need to carry on creating some different ways to include her in the next few meetings, but once you have developed her confidence in coming forward, you will soon find that she will develop the courage to more frequently share her thoughts in team meetings, without prompting.  As she develops this self-assurance the likelihood is she will realise that she is contributing to the team success which, in turn, will help her feel more valuable and guess what, you are now creating an upward spiral of confidence and great ideas!  A more valued and valuable member of the team emerges.

Brilliant and innovative ideas aren’t always the easiest things to come across – and sometimes we need to dig a little deeper to help fresh thinking to emerge. Creative thinking needs a leadership environment to blossom and being sure that each person gets their chance to be listened to and truly heard is critical.  Time spent doing this is never time wasted, and is truly worth the work you put in. So do all that is possible to use all of the people available to you, and ensure you know how they think and how they function – I can promise you that it will be worth it in the future!

If you’re looking to book an inspirational public speaker for an event or show, please contact Penny here. Penny, as the founder of The Living Leader, a provider of leadership courses that have been rolled out to tens of thousands of delegates all over the world, is an expert in leadership training and has worked with the likes of Sage, Centrica and Caterpillar. Click here for more info on how to change your business.


How to make ‘no’ an acceptable word in your vocabulary

So often we think of ‘no’ as that impossible word. It’s a word that we rarely allow ourselves the relief of saying, for fear of disappointing or offending our peers. Although one of the worst places for this is in the work place, it happens all the time – with our boss, friends, colleague, partners and even our children. We even fear saying no to complete strangers! Sometimes you don’t realise how big the problem is until it begins to take a real effect on your life.


Saying no to a face like this? Impossible.


Here’s an example from my own personal experience. I’m a typical yes person – or at least I was. For instance, my third husband had an enthusiastic idea for a brand new product: he loved designing and creating new things. However, the cost would be substantial and the risks were high. We were short of money, but it sounded like a great idea and he was sincerely passionate about it. So of course, although I didn’t want to, and in the full knowledge that the decision was mad – doubly mad – we increased the mortgage on the house (The house I had bought). Of course, the product didn’t do as well as we hoped, and I was left some years later with nothing.

It’s an extreme example, but a good reminder of just how powerful a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’ really can be. It takes courage to be true to yourself and ask ‘is this really right for me at this time? How do I feel about this?’ The fact remains that the first thing we need to do to take control of our lives is to master the tricky art of saying no.

So – how to say ‘no’? I meet so many people in the work place who are stressed and feeling totally out of control of their own lives because they simply don’t know how to say no. They have lost track of the amount of times X has left the office and said, ‘Oh Pen, I’ve got to dash out to a meeting, you couldn’t finish this report could you?’ Ultimately, the knack is to be able to say no to requests like this without offending anyone. For instance, If you have colleagues that continually dump stuff on you, then show them your list of priorities that have to be completed and ask them to choose which piece of work they’d like it to replace. Explain that if it’s for another person or department that they’ll need to go find that person and tell them that the work you’re currently doing will have to wait. At that point, they will probably move their work elsewhere!

What we must combat in the art of saying no is how to deal with the feelings of guilt we experience when we do. Sometimes it can be crippling! Occasionally my children will ask me for financial help, which I would happily give them. But is it always the right thing to do? So I say ‘no’, and am instantly wracked with feelings of guilt, wondering how they are going to cope. However, I know deep down that I’m doing the best thing and encouraging them to take responsibility for themselves. Try to understand that you are almost certainly doing the best thing for someone when you say a considered ‘no’.

Saying yes won’t always benefit the person you’re going along with, and it will most certainly not always benefit you. Ask yourself what you really want – and never be afraid of saying no.

My organisation, The Living Leader has changed the lives of over 35,000 people around the world and has had a significant impact on the business performances of those I’ve worked with including companies like Argos, Metrobank, Sage and more. To see how I can help you, please get in touch.


Getting to know both of you

Do you see yourself as two people? You may not see it at first, but if you think about it – you have the achieving, determined and smooth talking entrepreneur inside you, and you also have the you that you take home. The caring mother or father, brother or sister. Or maybe there is one version of you for strangers, and one for friends?


Do you have to divide yourself between your home life and your work life? Should you have to?

This was always something that concerned me when I worked in training: and as we approach the Personal Leadership Programme (starting today!) it’s important to remember the origins of it all, and why the PLP remains so successful. Much of it comes from the life experiences I had before the PLP was first in place, when I was still working in management training.

The fact remained that no matter how ‘successful’ the company claimed to be at management training, and no matter how great the people said the training was, once they had returned to work the next day they had forgotten most of what they had learned before they had even put it into practise! 6-8 weeks after, all delegates had forgotten 90% of the course. This happened too often to count, and for me, this was unacceptable and disillusioning. I came out of the business, and after what can only be described as an extremely testing year, threw myself into qualifying in sport’s massage, aromatherapy, Reiki Healing and more. I left no stone unturned!

It was on these courses I met people from all walks of life, including countless business professionals. I asked several how they applied what they learned at the courses into their work, and to my surprise the response was, more often than not: ‘This is for me. Not for work.’ Again, reinforcing this idea of being two people – on a daily basis! One for work and one for play.

It was then an idea struck me. What if this was why all the training I’d come across over the years had been nine times out of ten unsuccessful? What if there could be a programme that appealed to just the one person – for both work and life outside of business? Could I do it?

On most training programmes, trainers are appealing to people’s heads: what makes sense? They get them to think about the best ways to lead, inspire and motivate, using all sorts of models to make you understand. The training is all aimed at head level, meaning it is swiftly forgotten when life begins to get in the way again. Why? Because their hearts haven’t been engaged, so they’ll never be able to make lasting change.

When I realised that the question should be ‘What sort of leader do I want to be?’ instead of ‘What do I need to do to be a great leader’, I hit a turning point and my whole life and my approach changed. I began to only run programmes that affected the whole person, in both work and life, in order to create lasting change in life as a whole. It was here that the PLP was born, and since has been rolled out to tens of thousands of people across the globe and counting; inspiring a new generation of leaders.

Remember, that in order to become a great leader, you must be able to apply your principles to all aspects of your life. Once you do this, you will begin to see the rewards and results. The PLP this week will be running today and tomorrow and will be revisited on the 18th February, so I will keep you updated with our ten delegates’ progress and stories.

For more advice, hints and tips on leadership, please come back to the blog, or follow me on Twitter and Facebook!

How to be successful in your first management position – the DVD!

Penny Ferguson on the new Management DVD launch

Penny Ferguson on the new Management DVD launch

Have you ever been expected to become a manager overnight? Or worse – have you ever expected an employee to become a manager overnight? They leave work on Friday being your best sales guy, and you expect them to come back on Monday as your best manager: with some osmosis presumably happening over the weekend. Only sometimes the process just isn’t that easy.


There are a lot of talented go-getters out there, ready and worthy of a promotion. However, just because they are worthy of a management position, does not necessarily mean they can acquire the very specific skillsets overnight. Undoubtedly they have the capability of becoming a great manager with time and training, but how many managers are actually given that training in order to help them, and therefore their team, reach that potential?


My DVD (RRP £24.99) – ‘How to be successful in your new management position’ talks you through some of the main obstacles in between you and success. I talk with new managers about how to cast aside self doubt and blind panic, and gain confidence. In the DVD I also cover how organisations work, what to expect of them, and what they expect of you – as well as talking about your performance and how to achieve your own visions with your team.


The DVD will tell you easily and precisely how to start in your new role as well as putting you on track to building a strong, committed and high performing team. For just £24.99, you will gain confidence in the knowledge that you can become the sort of manager everyone wants to work with. Whether you buy this because it will help you in your new role as manager, for your own personal development or for your staff’s benefit; it will lead you towards success. You can buy it here.

Management help DVD

My DVD is on sale now and highly recommended for your newly appointed managers.

My organisation, The Living Leader has changed the lives of over 35,000 people around the world and has had a significant impact on the business performances of those I’ve worked with including companies like Argos, Metrobank, Sage and more. To see how I can help you, please get in touch.

Motivation – from me or you?


Today has been an interesting day with one small part of it challenging me and, as always, giving me yet another learning opportunity!  As any of you who read my blogs or have worked with me over the years know, I am a bit of a dog nutter – well, probably more than a bit!  There are not many weeks in the year when I am not visiting Peter Branch and Anji Forte at Newbury Lodge Kennels with one of my six dogs involved in some sort of dog training.  There is invariably one of them going through either their Bronze, Silver, Gold or Platinum obedience training and at the moment it is my little Molly.

Now, I guess I consider Molly my most special as she is the ‘follow-on’ from my very first long-haired Jack Russell, Honey, who started my passion for these little dogs 25 years ago.   As a breed they are feisty and courageous characters, little dogs who believe they are big dogs, very individual and with huge hearts.  She has already passed her Bronze and Silver and Peter persuaded me that taking her for the Gold would be good – for her and me!  Why is she such a challenge?  Because she knows exactly and very quickly what I want her to do, knows how to do it, and will happily do it ……….. when she wants to!

My big challenge is how to keep her motivated because she just gets bored and switches off.  When she is like that my temptation is to do all I can to keep her focus on me, keep her occupied and keep pushing her, and occasionally find it hard not to get frustrated with her when she doesn’t do what she knows perfectly well how to do.

Forget my dog training for one moment – does this sound a familiar story back in the work place?  When I was doing a webinar the other week I got asked a question that made me think.  “How do you get people to bring their passion and motivation back when they seem to have lost it?”  Much of the time we believe that one of the main things we need to do as a manager is take responsibility for motivating our team and we do all we can to inspire and drive performance.  Now I know that way of thinking is not useful because that means that I am thinking like a manager and not a leader so the risk with that is that I can actually become the blocker.  If I think of the difference between the two in very simple terms – ‘outstanding managers drive people to perform at the highest level they are capable of and it is very much about control. Outstanding leaders inspire them to do it for themselves and it is more about freedom.’

Let’s assume for one moment that I am a really successful manager, pretty senior in my business and continually get great results.  There is a strong likelihood that I will be full of great ideas, often sharing my thoughts and my suggestions based on my knowledge and experience.  My communication will largely consist of ‘I think, I suggest, I don’t agree’ and it will be that way because I care so much about them being successful and I want to help them – I want to give them the benefit of my wisdom.  The sad reality is that if I keep telling them what to do I am going to be inadvertently suppressing their thinking and they can never be better than I was yesterday.

The fact is I am very aware that it is not my role to motivate others because if I carry that as a belief I have to accept that when I am not there motivation is likely to drop.  I need to step away from management into leadership.  My role is to inspire them to motivate themselves and that means holding back on my thoughts, ideas and suggestions and changing the way I communicate.  It needs to become more of ‘what do you think, how might you handle that, that’s a great idea that you just had, let me be sure that I have understood you correctly ……… ‘.

So why did training with Molly today remind me of this?  Because I found myself trying to push her, using treats, getting frustrated and getting nowhere!  So after the break I did it differently and during each gap I played with her, talked to her and before each exercise asked her how she felt about doing it (yes really!!!) and stopped luring her with treats but saved them until she completed the exercise.  Result?  A different dog, excited and did everything successfully!

Penny has worked with businesses like Sage and Argos to inspire long lasting positive change within the company, in order to take steps towards success and leadership. Contact her at The Living Leader to book an appointment or to book her to speak at one of your events. She is also on Facebook and Twitter! Feel free to leave your thoughts and comment below.

Confidence – a myth or a choice?


Earlier this week I had a speaking engagement – a short one.  Well, meant to be 30 minutes but because of an over-run from the speaker before me ended up as 22 minutes!  Had I been in a position where I was using slides and timed myself to that structure I could have been in trouble – but – fortunately, whenever possible, I don’t speak that way.

Why is it that using slides and giving myself too much of a structure doesn’t work for me?  So many people who have to speak in front of large audiences cannot understand how I can just get up there without any notes and only a vague structure and free flow.

It took time for me to have the confidence to do it this way because much of my ‘education’ in public speaking was about the structure, the overheads, the practice and so on.   And it was not just about the big issue of finding the confidence but recognising that, for me, this was the only way to make it work successfully.  And yes, despite the cutting short with no notice, just a 5-minute card being shown to me, I did get really fantastic feedback.

Twenty years ago I would not have been able to stand up and speak in front of a group of 6, let alone the largest group where I have presented to about 1000 people.  At that time my confidence was so low that thinking I would have to speak in front of even a very small group I know that my voice would have been trembling, my hands sweating, probably close to tears and complete panic going on inside.  So what is it that changed?

I had one of those wonderful ‘ah-ha’ moments where suddenly something became very clear to me.  I won’t bother to share the whole story so you get weary reading this but suffice to say that my elder daughter had asked me to go and speak to some of her clients and I couldn’t let her down – even though at the very last minute she told me there were to be 40 people not 4!!!  As I was driving down to the venue a friend who was with me in the car asked how I was feeling about the upcoming talk and upon me saying I was terrified asked me why.  My response was long and crazy but included such things as – ‘they’ll think it’s a load of rubbish’, ‘I’ll forget what I have to say and they won’t understand me’, ‘they’ll blame Lucy for wasting their time to come and hear me’, ‘they won’t like me’, etc. etc.  I will never forget what he said to be next – it truly was like a silver bullet straight between the eyes!  He said ‘ why are you thinking about you?’

I realised in that moment that every time I had a confidence problem I was thinking about me, thinking about ‘get’.  I have no control over ‘get’ at all, I only have control over what I ‘give’.  My reputation is not inside of me and what anybody chooses to think about me is little to do with me and I certainly can’t control that.  My life changed in that moment and focusing on what I can ‘give’ became my life.

Think about it for one moment in very simple terms.  Imagine you are about to take on a new job and someone asked you to describe how you want the job to be.  I am sure you could come up with a wonderful list – a supportive boss, one who listens, great colleagues, a job that stretches me and allows me the opportunity to make a difference etc. etc.  Then ask yourself how much you can actually control that and the answer is not a lot.  However, ask yourself what you can give to that job to help it become the job of your dreams and you begin to realise how much you can give and influence it to be an amazing career choice!  How often do we focus on how we can get the best from our team, our colleagues, our partner?  Perhaps asking yourself a different question may be worth considering – ‘what can I give to my team, my colleagues, my partner to create the best relationships possible and free them to become the best they can be?’.

So – when I go on to that stage, all I think about after I have planned the first sentence is ‘what can I give to this audience, or a few people in it, that will make a real difference to the way they think and can add real value to their lives in some way shape or form’.  I let go of everything else and I speak from my heart with real authenticity, openness and honesty.  Do the nerves go entirely – most definitely not – but – when I am waiting to go out there and feel the butterflies doing cartwheels around my insides I ask myself ‘who am I thinking about right now?’  If the panic is beginning to set in the answer is always the same – my thinking has slipped to the wrong place and I change it and ask myself ‘if I knew that I can give some really great ideas to a few people out there what would I want to share and how might I choose to get the message across?’

Penny has worked with businesses like Sage and Argos to inspire long lasting positive change within the company, in order to take steps towards success and leadership. Contact her at The Living Leader to book an appointment or to book her to speak at one of your events.

What Does It Mean To Be A Living Leader

Blog written by Maurice Whelan of Unleash Potential and reproduced here with his kind permission.

Some years ago I attended a training course given by Penny Ferguson to the organisation I worked in.  Penny is a forthright presenter with very strong views about leadership. I thought it would be useful to review Penny’s bookThe Living Leader to gain a greater awareness and understanding of leadership in the context of coaching. Also I thought it would be apt to remind myself of what leadership in business means today and what particular skills are needed to achieve success. Penny tells the reader that she has completely changed her opinion on what leadership is actually about.  She once believed it was primarily about developing skills and acquiring more knowledge around the various theories on the subject of leadership. She believed that success was essentially about learning these skills and putting them into practice. She has changed her whole way of thinking in recent years. This change emanates from her experience of dealing with many International companies and global Chief Executives. She now believes that Leadership is not primarily about what you do, it is aboutwho you are and who you choose to be. Or to put it in philosophical terms, leadership is more about being rather than doing“Leadership is a potent combination of strategy and character. But if you must be without one, be without strategy”.    Norman Schwarzkopf.

Penny’s concern is about achieving organisational success and leadership is a fundamental part of that ongoing success. Every organisation must have a clear vision to be successful. To make that vision a reality, organisations need Leaders with the right skills, attitudes and character. The key learning for me was just how important questioning was to the successful leader, something Leadership has in common with coaching. “You can tell a man is clever by his answers. You can tell a man is wise by his questions.” Naquib Mahfouz Penny states that outstanding leaders recognise that asking the right questions is critical, not least because leaders require all the pertinent information before making a decision. So, for Penny, becoming a listening leader is essential to success.

It is interesting that She focuses heavily on the skill of questioning, which of course is a fundamental requirement of the executive coach. She underpins the importance of incisive questions and urges her reader to use the ‘who, what, where, when and how’ questions to uncover the information needed to make executive decisions. The incisive question needs to become second nature to the leader. Penny’s book highlights for me the fundamental role that incisive questioning play in excellent leadership, and indeed in many aspects of life, including coaching. It reinforces for me the central role of questioning in my coaching work and the need to bring this skill to the clients awareness and encourage them to use open questioning within their business life.

The book is an articulate, informative and inspiring read and I would highly recommend it to anyone interested in the subject of leadership. Better still, if you ever get an opportunity to attend an event where Penny is speaking, grab it with both hands!