0044 (0) 7894 466671 anna.coen@acintegration.com

Taken from a talk I gave at the ICAEW Annual Practice Conference 2011

Being able to work through others is a fundamental skill for a leader.

As a leader, your focus includes:

Working with peers to set and communicate direction and identify new opportunities

Inspiring your teams to align with the direction and achieve great results

Deepening your relationships with clients and stakeholders: to understand their needs and to deliver true value.

When you are used to achieving results through your own drive and technical expertise, it can be challenging to shift your focus to achieving results through others. And when the ‘others’ don’t behave as you would like, it can feel frustrating.

A technique that may help when faced with resistance and unwanted behaviours is to look in the mirror


My experience suggests that role modelling behaviour is crucial to influencing others.

A CFO who recruited first and foremost for team qualities, did not try to prove himself or take the stage and yet had set the direction and culture. He showed understated confidence and respect to everyone. Interestingly, the team’s vision began with-a happy productive team that will deliver value………. usually teams begin with a value proposition and finish with ….through a high performing team….He lived breathed and role modelled ‘team’ and that is what he got.

There are many examples where leaders are asking others to behave in a way they do not role model themselves. The most common complaint I get when delivering programmes especially to aspiring senior managers is:

‘It’s all great this people stuff but our senior partners or senior management team don’t behave like this’.

My reply to them is that they can only be responsible for themselves and if they want to be a leader they need to start with themselves. However the reality is that it is very tough to change your behaviour if those above you role model something else.

Take the new managing partner who wanted his team to work more corporately.He was frustrated because a ‘fifty year old’ partner would not join in. He had been with the firm a long time, was highly respected and generated substantial client work and his clients loved him. Was the managing partner role modelling the behaviour he was asking of his senior partner? The younger partner had replaced his clients with a new fulfilling role. The lone partner was being asked to share and give up autonomy and relationships that motivated and sustained him with no perceived replacement or benefit.…….  If the managing partner looked in the mirror, what would he see? What behaviour was he role modelling? What was he really giving up?

Look in the mirror and ask yourself, ‘am I really role modelling the behaviour I ask of others?’

If I want my team to share, am I sharing with my peers?

If I want people to be on time, am I on time?

 If I want people to be respectful to others do I always switch off my blackberry when talking to someone?

If I want people to delegate things they are attached to, am I delegating the things I am attached to?

A quick word to say that role modelling behaviour may not be sufficient to get the behaviours you want, but I think it is necessary.