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!


What is the most valuable asset of YOUR company?


Recently I was at a speaking engagement in Austria with The Marketing Academy and, amongst others, there was a really fascinating and profoundly inspirational speaker – John M Neill, Chairman and CEO of Unipart.  I consider that one of the most important things he said out of the whole hour was when he pulled his talk together at the end saying “….. the most valuable asset of your company is the culture and spirit of your company ……”.

To me that is the absolute crux of leadership – what do I need to do to create an environment where people are valued, feel safe, able to think for themselves and listened to when they come up with suggestions for improvement.  They come to work bringing not just their mind and body but their whole heart as well – they care.

I have some clients who know and believe this absolutely passionately – they recognise that if they are to get the strategy through the organisation so that everyone is aligned, the very first thing that has to happen is to create the culture to enable this.  Without this the words are just rhetoric and no one truly believes it.  To work with a CEO who comes into a new company and starts this way and truly gets this shift in culture is a complete joy.  I can remember working with an MD in a division of a very large corporate and he knew the importance of this so this was one of his first things he wished to do after deciding on the strategy.  It was a fairly small division so only about a thousand people and we managed to get about 400 of the top people (starting with him and his team!) through a leadership programme aligned to culture change, in about 4 months.  When the CEO of ‘Best companies to work for’ interviewed people in that corporate he said that he could physically feel the difference when he walked into the building housing that division – it was palpable.  And guess which division came in as the highest performing?

Other companies sometimes struggle to ‘get’ this and when I listen to some of the conversations, even at senior levels, they talk about things that they want or need to do and then say things such as ‘yes, that would be really good but I don’t think the culture will support it’.  This amazes me as it almost seems that they see culture as something that is outside of them!  Ludicrous of course, as it is they that actually are the culture – if they don’t like it, then change it!

So – how can you go about changing culture as I make it sound very easy?  Actually, it is not difficult and it means having the behaviours very well embedded and it really does have to start at the very top.  That is where the culture begins – right from the CEO – and leadership behaviours have to be lived and breathed all the time.  A very simple example where it can so easily go wrong – imagine that someone a coupe of levels below you comes forward with a new and possibly radical idea to get rid of some of the bureaucracy. You listen intently – because you know that is one of the behaviours that you need to be demonstrating – and you then proceed to tell them what to do about it!!  One really good behaviour then invalidated by the follow-up.  Alternatively when they come up with a good idea you could forget to get back to them to tell them what the outcome of their suggestion is, worse yet you could reproduce it without giving credit for where the idea has come from.

There are many things that come together to define the culture of an organisation and time and again I hear people say that changing it – is difficult, takes too much time, can’t be done quickly etc. etc.  All of those statements I fundamentally disagree with and have been able to disprove them time and again.  If you can take a group of ten people from the top of a company and clearly demonstrate to them the impact of three things – how they think, understand responsibility at a far deeper level than they may ever have explored it before plus shown them the consequences of the way they can inadvertently communicate you can get lasting behaviour change.  The results from those behaviour changes can be truly extraordinary and when we first worked with that small division of the large corporate the culture changed totally in a few months and in that year employee engagement went up 16% – it didn’t just ‘feel’ different, the results followed and fast!

Let me quote John one more time – “the most valuable asset of your company is its culture and spirit”.  If you want to get the strategy successfully through your company and people truly living and breathing the values this is the most critical thing to focus on.

If there is anyone reading who wishes to understand how this can happen I am running one programme – and only one – next year.  Please do check my website –  I would be more than delighted to see you there.

Management to Leadership – is it really necessary?

I read with interest the article in HR Magazine by John Adair suggesting that organisations need to become more leadership centered and I just could not agree more and, in working with our clients can truly prove the truth of this.  To become more successful I believe it to be critical and leaders need to be developed at every level – not just the top.

Why is that?  Well, let me first suggest a definition between the two that works very well for me.

“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.”










This indicates that there are many extremely successful managers out there who have delivered great results, may have turned a division or a company around and considerably improved bottom line results.  It may be that the company had lost direction and needed someone strong and very capable to come in and do some things that in the short term were painful – restructure, remove some of the costs, which could include people, and drive people to perform differently.  Based on their own experience and track record of success they knew how to do it, what needed to be done to become more successful.  This, based on the definition above, is very much about ‘management’ as it is based on me and my ideas and pushing them through the organisation.  Great for this situation maybe!

However, to take it to the next stage it is almost certainly necessary to be very different as what is now needed is people to think for themselves – at every level.  To come up with ideas that could continue to improve performance.  Now it is leadership that is necessary so that each and every person is passionate about the company and always looking for ways to do even better.  Think of the people serving the customer, be they an engineer, in the call centre or a sales person – you want them to always be thinking ‘how can I go the extra mile?’  If they are used to being told what to do then they have been educated into not thinking for themselves so are likely to wait until someone tells them to do it differently or the processes and systems structure them in how to behave and they dare not step outside them.

So what, in very practical terms, needs to change to make this transition?  Very simply, the majority of the change needs to be in how we communicate.  Most of us want to be helpful and, when someone comes to us for advice about how to do something or what decision they should make we leap into helping by telling them our thoughts and ideas.  The message we have just sent, albeit inadvertently, is ‘you are not up to doing this without me’.  I am quite sure that this is not the message we wanted to send but regretfully that is what we have just done, all by being ‘helpful’.  I absolutely know that I learnt this the hard way because when bringing up my six children I did this all the time and did my very best to unknowingly educate them into not thinking for themselves – I was truly addicted to giving advice, albeit lovingly!  Our communicating style needs to change from ‘this is what I think’, to ‘what do you think?’

I truly believe that leadership is actually quite easy once we ‘get it’ – it is about doing some very simple things consistently.  It is more about ‘being’ than ‘doing’, more about ‘listening’ than ‘telling’, more about ‘giving’ than ‘getting’ and is always about recognising that leadership is about changing me and not about changing others.

My DVD, ‘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. To find out more, read here:

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.

A Manager for the first time?

Management help DVD

Recently I was working with a lovely team of people, some of whom had been in management positions for a considerable amount of years.  They started by going through our three day programmer which, for want of a better description, lets call ‘Common Sense Leadership’.  Now these were not junior managers in their first supervisory positions but reasonably senior in a large corporate.  Some of them had been with the company for considerable years, some had been only a short time, some had had experience in a broad range of industries and some stayed mainly in the current one.  There was considerable diversity within the group.

Now I really believe that this programme genuinely is just common sense and the principles really important to understand when you first start a career and most definitely before you first take on any sort of supervisory position.  So why was it that their reactions consisted so much of ‘I wish I had learned this years ago’?  The more I work in business the more I realise how scarily people often move up in an organisation – a bit like chucking someone in the deep end of a swimming pool before knowing if they can swim and hoping they will learn quickly enough before they actually drown!

Ask yourself for one moment what happened when you were promoted to your first supervisory or management position.  Were you given the opportunity to attend some sort of development programme that enlightened you about the different skills that might be useful now you were about to take responsibility for leading a team of people?   Were you given some insight into how you might develop each individual in your team how to step into their potential?  Or …….. did you go home on the Friday leaving your current position knowing you were to step into your new role on Monday and very much hoping that some sort of osmosis will occur over the weekend turning you from employee to manager?  Sadly, far too often I see the latter happen and when I run a programme find that people have been in management positions for a considerable length of time – sometimes many years – and had no opportunity to learn how to be truly effective and how to get the best out of the people who work for and with them.

So what can this result in?  That you subconsciously take on the behaviours of the person or people who are above you.  Fascinatingly enough, it can even be behaviours that you yourself don’t like.  What do I mean by that?  Lets say you have a successful and very autocratic boss who basically makes the majority of decisions, likes to have his ideas implemented and takes up most of the air space in meetings.  This boss basically drives performance and is successful doing it – he cares about people and believes that he knows the way to keep the business moving forward – he is involved in everything!  Now, you may find this incredibly frustrating and restrictive but because his strength and his decisions normally have a successful output you keep a low profile and just get on with it.  Without even realising you are doing it, there is a very high probability that you will now adopt a similar style when managing your team.  What I see when people are managed this way are those who become pussycats upwards and dictators downwards.

Obviously if you have a different type of boss the opposite becomes true.  The style I have just described is totally a management style and not a leadership one and if that is the style that comes from the very top then the culture is likely to be one that suppresses individuals thinking for themselves and holds back their potential performance. It is likely to be a culture that believes managers are there to motivate their people rather than breeding leaders who know that their role is to inspire each individual to motivate themselves.

Management help DVD

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

So – to come back to where I started – without some understanding and learning about what it is that can make a great manager and leader you may acquire habits that are not entirely useful so find out all that you can BEFORE you take up that amazing opportunity.  It will reward you many times over and allow you to choose who you want to be rather than copying a style that may not sit comfortably with you at all.  I have become so frustrated with this that I have now launched a DVD suggesting that, if you are promoted without any thought about how you might tackle your new role, what are the first steps you could take to give yourself the very best opportunity to become an outstanding manager. Click here to find out more.  Other DVD’s will follow suggesting the next steps that would allow you to develop even more of your leadership potential.  Watch this space!

Manager or Leader – which is best?


The other day someone asked me if I thought management was bad and leadership good and that was a bit of a wake-up call for me – was I getting a message across in a way that inadvertently was suggesting this to be the case.  So – I think I had better put the record straight and say very clearly up front that no, most definitely I am not suggesting that for one second.

I use this as a definition and have said it many times so forgive me for repeating it again here.  “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”.

So, assuming that you can ‘buy in’ to this as a reasonably comfortable definition, what am I suggesting is the real difference between these two styles and when might one use one versus the other?

There are many, many hugely successful individuals who use management as a style rather than leadership – they have teams that are hugely motivated, successful and continually get great results.  These individuals can go into an organisation and take over a poor performing team and can transform them into an excited, highly motivated group of people that keep delivering fabulous results.  How do they do it?  Mostly by sharing all the things that have made them so successful over the years, coming up with great ideas, and in many ways trying to give them all that is possible to make them as much like they are as possible.  And it works – and works well!  However, does it work forever, is it sustainable even when that manager leaves and does it really release the potential of each person within that team.  This is where I have my doubts.

The best example that I can give you of this is when I had a Regional Manager from one of our retail clients come through our leadership programme.  He was the highest performing manager in the company and his division always came in with the top results.  I did observe that their life balance for each of them was severely out of kilter, which personally I consider sad as having a really great home life is very important.  The majority of us work to live not the other way round.  He was getting really frustrated as he really believed that they could still do better and no matter how much he pushed and encouraged performance had reached a plateau.  They were still top of the ‘leader board’ but he knew they could go higher and deliver yet more.  He was demonstrating all the behaviours of an ‘outstanding manager’ and felt there really was nothing more he could do – he had reached the stage of feeling helpless.  Now, when he joined the company and taken on this team it was clearly under-performing so what he had achieved was excellent and he was recognised accordingly.

What were the behaviours that he was demonstrating – the major things that were impacting his ability to raise the performance even more was that all ideas for improvement were coming from him.  They were all coming to him with their challenges, opportunities and problems, either asking him for his suggestions or ‘running it past the boss’ before pushing the button.  On top of that all his focus was on where things were not as good as they could be with him giving advice as to how to improve it.  His communication was all about ‘let me tell you’ and was all coming from ‘I’ plus he was continually looking for what was wrong.  They had become totally reliant on him to the point that even when he went on holiday his mobile went with him and he remained totally available to them if there was something where they felt they needed advice.  If he didn’t get a phone call he would worry and call in to check on what was happening.  He had almost become addicted to being the No 1 and was determined to stay there no matter what the cost.

Working with him to prove how successful he had been to this point and now it needed a different style was interesting to say the least!  What was now needed was to enable each person in his team to think for himself or herself and be able to fly WITHOUT HIM!!  He now had to keep his mouth shut, give them no ideas of his own but keep asking them questions to help them find their own solutions.  And this was after they had had many months of never having to think for themselves so it was tough on them.  All his focus and communication needed to change to looking for and then telling them the things they were doing well, even the little things, plus having the majority of his communication about ‘you’.  He needed to become very skilled at listening and asking powerful incisive questions.  Just to put this in perspective, when he attended the programme and we measured his communicating behaviour he was 99% in the ‘I’ and 1% in the ‘you’!!!  He was scared s……s!!!

He did ‘get it’ and was determined to change his style even though he found it incredibly difficult in the early days.  He had habits that had been ingrained for years of driving performance and caring for his people so much that he wanted to help and guide them all the time.  He was also worried sick that now performance would drop without him driving it!  The reality was that for a couple of months performance did plateau – it didn’t drop but it didn’t improve – for the first two months.  After that it began to take off and performance went up gradually and then gathered momentum and exceeded by far anything they had every done before.  Motivation improved and people’s home lives became so much better which equaled a happier team.  What he was forced to realise was that what had actually been holding back the full potential of the individuals and the team was him!

So – coming back to where I started let me say very clearly that management was almost certainly exactly the right style for when he joined the company and took on a team that was under-performing and feeling pretty down and wanting some evidence that they could actually be good.  He did a fantastic job.  What he hadn’t realised was that he now needed to become a leader so that they could now grow into their full potential and, who knows, become even better than him!  To keep him on the straight and narrow he actually decided to become a trainer of the leadership programme so that he had a constant reminder and was setting himself up quite deliberately to then get feedback when he began to slip ….. as we all do!

Penny has worked with businesses like British Gas and Metrobank 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.

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.