Do You REALLY have a Leadership Team?

The differences and the impacts of leadership by a team and by committees.

Teams or Committees?

Many CEOs and senior leaders in companies with which I have worked with often believe, in all sincerity, that they have a leadership team or executive team which works together to help focus and drives the business.

This, in my experience, is rarely the case. More often than it is not a leadership or executive team, but a committee.  This is true for all levels of the business but becomes increasingly more frequent the further you go up the hierarchy.

It is important to understand whether you have a leadership team or a leadership committee?  The impact of each is considerable and quite different.  Many problems that you may be experiencing with your leadership team have, at their root, the fact that the leadership team is actually a leadership committee.

Let me explain by looking at teams and committees in turn:


For the purpose of this article, I define a team as a group of individuals who are working together, towards a common goal or goals, in which they will either succeed or fail to do so together.  There is a strong common purpose, common understanding and real alignment to which all members of the team are committed.

A team that is well-aligned and works well together only does so because there is a high level of trust.  As such the team sets its own goals, and all the members share resources, information, and insights. There is open and frank communication between the members, with members, prepared to challenge each other in order to resolve issues and achieve the desired outcomes. Honesty and candor underpin the team allowing alternatives to be discussed and decisions are taken only after healthy and robust debate.


Here a group of people come together because of their title or role or function (and in a role as a representative of a given area or function) and agree to work together as long as it is individually beneficial, but at any time they can withhold information, resources, or not comply; also they can be rewarded differentially i.e. I win, you lose.  The individuals participate rather than promising an outcome or a result.

There is a lack of trust and there is no common purpose or any alignment, or it is very weak if there is any.  The focus of the committee tends not to be on achieving the outcomes, but on tasks and following process. Political battles and turf wars break out as committee members jockey for position.  They can withhold resources and information from others in doing so, and people will work or collaborate with others only so far as doing so helps their individual interests.  In a committee, people can win at the expense of the others. This means decisions are made on a sub-optimal basis and, although they can advance one area’s interests, may do so even though it causes damage to the business itself.

Which Do You Have – Teams or Committees?

So how do you know which you have?  Chance is that you probably already have a pretty good idea, but sometimes the group may be in a “gray area”.  In these instances, I suggest you apply the five criteria:

Andrew Cooke’s Five Golden Keys for Evaluating Groups

Look at the questions in the following areas.  If the answers tend to favor the group over the individual you have a team, if it is the individual over the group then you have a committee.

  1. Individual and Group Intention – how would you describe the individual intentions for each group member and the group overall?  Are they prepared to put the interest of others ahead of their own in advancing the group’s interests?  Are the group’s interests shared or do they vary from each individual?
  2. Effectiveness – is the group and the members focused on doing the right things?  Are there a clearly shared and understood set of priorities and outcomes? Is the group delivering progress towards the defined outcomes, or is progress being achieved in a multiple and conflicting directions against outcomes which may or may not be those which were defined initially? Are members participating or working to deliver outcomes.
  3. Communication –what kind of discussions and debate is there between group members?  Do they focus on the issue at hand or the personalities involved?  How well do they share with others what they are doing and why?  Do they have a shared and common understanding which they can consistently and clearly articulate?
  4. Relationships  – are they cooperative and collaborative, or is it a case of acting in the individual’s self-interest?  Is the nature of the relationship long-term, strategic and aligned; or are the relationships short-term and transactional in their focus?
  5. Power – is power perceived by the group and its members to be vested in the group itself, and thus all members are subordinate to the group; or is it perceived to be vested in certain individuals for who the group’s interests are subordinate to theirs?

Do you have a leadership team or a leadership committee?  Think carefully before you answer.  If your team is exhibiting signs of dysfunction then it is likely that you have a group that is a committee or has strong leanings to some of the characteristics of a committee than a team.

Consider one of the dysfunctional teams you either have been on or are a part of now.  Is your team a committee in disguise as a team?  If so, can you apply this distinction to diagnose the problem and get your team on track?


Click here to find out more about Andrew Cooke and Growth & Profit Solutions.


How You Can Stand Out from the Crowd – Your PVP!

People “buy” you – so how do you differentiate yourself from others?  What can you do to attract the people you want, and to be attractive to them?  Four steps in this simple template help you do this.

People don’t buy from companies, they buy from people.  If people buy from people, then trust is underlying factor why they do so.  You need to create, develop and maintain trust with people in order to win business, influence other people, negotiate, persuade, manage conflict and to collaborate.

What people “buy” is you, not “what” you are selling – whether it be a product or service, or trying to persuade someone around to your viewpoint internally or at home.  To be able to do this you need to stand out from the crowd and your competitors.

For this, you need to have your Personal Value Proposition (PVP).

People are often familiar with value propositions for products and service – the target market segments, the benefits your offerings provide, the value they provide and the pricing. It’s why a target customer should buy the product.

Why a customer should buy your products is focused on not what the product does, but why you do what you do, it is that which inspires you.  For an overview of the power of “Why?” click here.

Your “why” is based on your values, beliefs, and your behavior – how you exhibit your beliefs and demonstrate those strengths which make you stand out.  This is the essence of your PVP, and it lies at the heart of why people want to work with you, trust you and build a strong, healthy relationship with you.

How Do You Develop Your PVP?

We intuitively know what our PVP is, but we often fail to make it explicit and easily identifiable to others.  To do this we need to develop our PVP.  In doing this there are four steps:

  1. Set a clear target. Be clear on what you want to be known for. You cannot fake this as people will quickly realize this, you need to be authentic.  You need to be clear on not just about what you want to be known for, but the kind of people you want to attract.  This allows you to target people effectively.
  2. Establish your strengths – be as clear as you can in identifying these strengths. These fall into several areas:
    1.  What are your personal strengths?  – for example, are you a good listener? Empathetic? Able to make the complex simple?
    2. What are you known for? – for example, your ability to coach people to change their behaviors to help them personally grow and achieve outcomes; your ability to optimize production processes? Your skills in building and developing teams?
    3. What environments and situations do you enjoy and thrive in? – for example, you have considerable experience in the healthcare industry, or in people development or developing financial solutions.
  3. Link strengths to target –it is not enough that you know how to link your strengths to your target audience, you need to make it clear to them (that is those who you want to know and those who you want to know you).  You need to be able to understand their perspective as to how you meet their needs and can provide value to them – you need to make yourself meaningful and relevant to them. To do this you need to….
  4. Demonstrate how you can benefit them – you need to be able to provide evidence and success stories. They are not interested in your strengths but rather what your strengths can do and mean for them. A good analogy is that nobody buys a ¼” drill – they buy ¼” holes; that is people are not so interested in what you do as they are the outcomes you can help them achieve. As such, your achievements are the evidence you have those strengths e.g. sales growth or cost reduction. They make your case convincing.

Putting It All Together

Below is an example of how this information can be put together.


What Do You Want to Be Known For?

To be known as the go-to person for those looking to develop their people’s strategic thinking, business acumen and management skills in achieving business results on an on-going basis”.

Who You Want to Target?

“Mid-size companies or divisions of global companies who are experiencing significant changes challenges to growth and/or the retention and effective development of key people/teams”. 


Your Strengths

Personal Strengths What you are known for. Environments & Situations?
These include being able to:

  • Quickly build rapport
  • Simplify the complex
  • Empathize and be a good active listener
  • Coach others
  • Share and develop ideas, insights & experiences


This includes:

  • Driving business growth and results
  • Facilitating change and engaging people
  • Developing your leadership pipeline
  • Developing your organization’s key strategic, business and management skills
  • Simplify the complex



  • Across all industries
  • Where rapid change is being experienced
  • Increasing levels of volatility, uncertainty, complexity & ambiguity
  • Problems are not being resolved
  • People lack skills


  • Challenged by rapid change
  • Growth has plateaued
  • Increasing levels of competition
  • Where they know they cannot continue the way they have



Link Strengths to Target

I work with: To: By:
  • Businesses that are looking to grow in a competitive environment;
  • Which lack key in-house skills & capabilities including, but not limited to, strategic thinking, business acumen, and management and leadership skills;
  • With people who are open-minded, prepared to be challenged, and who can realise significant value from engaging with us.
  • Developing and implementing strategic plans focused on achieving business outcomes;
  • Unlocking the potential of key people and teams;
  • Developing people’s ability to leverage resources, people, time and money effectively;
  • Engaging and aligning staff with strategic goals; and
  • Building business acumen with the necessary management and leadership skills to support business growth.
  • Grow and develop the people to meet future needs, challenges & opportunities;
  • Improve the retention & motivation of key people;
  • Meet changes proactively and;
  • Develop & maintain sustainable competitive advantage over existing and new competition.
  • Developing and implementing strategic plans focused on achieving business outcomes;
  • Unlocking the potential of key people and teams;
  • Developing people’s ability to leverage resources, people, time and money effectively;
  • Engaging and aligning staff with strategic goals; and
  • Building business acumen with the necessary management and leadership skills to support business growth.


This can include, for example:

  • Suitable “war stories”
  • Previous experience with similar companies, situations
  • Case studies
  • Client testimonials
  • Client referrals

This template helps to provide focus on how you can develop your Personal Value Proposition from the perspective of your clients or the people you are looking to interact with.

So who are you targeting, what are your strengths and how will you leverage them, what does it mean for these people, and how will you demonstrate it to them?

Click here to find out more about Andrew Cooke and Growth & Profit Solutions.

Guidelines for Managing Conflict Successfully

Six key guidelines to manage conflict effectively

When dealing with a conflict you want to manage it effectively.  Conflicts are difficult to resolve as resolutions are rarely reached which everyone is happy with.  A conflict that is well-managed provides the basis for an approach that everyone will accept, commit to and action. Remember, you want to achieve the best outcomes possible whilst preserving and building on your existing relationships.

There are six things to do:

  • Focus on the position, not the person – you want to focus on what the underlying problem is.  Often the other person is not just being difficult, but has real and valid reasons for their position.  Focus on their position and reasons, don’t focus on the person – it makes the disagreement personal and adversarial, and brings people’s emotions into play.
  • Seek first to understand before you are understood – focus on where the other person is coming from. Try to understand their thoughts, feelings and position.  Once you have understood this, and have checked that your understanding is correct, then you are better positioned to explain your position and to do so from their context,
  • Relationships are your first priority – you need to build mutual understanding and trust.  A good relationship is a necessary precursor for a good outcome. If you lack this then you will not achieve a good relationship or a good outcome.
  • Listen – you need to listen actively  to what the other person is saying, checking for understanding, clarifying where necessary, and ensuring that what is said is what was heard, and that what was heard was what was meant.
  • Jointly establish the objective – what do you both want to achieve from the conflict? Doing this will allow you to scope out the extent of your conversation, to determine what factors are important and relevant, to help prioritize your goals, and to focus and align your efforts.
  • Develop and explore options together – either or both of your preferred choices may not be suitable, or can be improved upon.  Creating new options opens up the conversation and stimulates your collective thinking in finding a ‘best-fit’ alternative on which to agree.

By following these rules, you contentious discussions can be kept positive and constructive, and antagonism and dislike which can exacerbate the conflict can be prevented.

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Task or Relationship? 5 Styles for Managing Conflict

Styles to adopt to get the outcome you seek

Now you know what kind of outcome – in terms of both the outcome and the relationship (see ‘The Conflict Outcomes Matrix’ article) – you are looking for the question now is how can you manage the conflict in the most appropriate way?  There are five main styles that can be adopted, and these are shown below.

The Five Ways by which to Manage Conflict







The two axes here contrast:

  1. the importance of the task and its importance to you (task/self); if it is low then you behave in an unassertive way, and if it is high then you are assertive;
  2. the importance of the relationship and others to you (relationship/other); if it is low then you behave in an uncooperative way, and if it is high then you are cooperative.

Key Styles

  • Competing: Here people know what they want, and they are usually operating from a position of power. Although this can be useful when there is an emergency and a fast decision is needed, it can alienate people when used in less urgent situations.
  • Collaborative: Here people try to meet the needs of everyone involved. These people can be highly assertive but unlike when competing, they cooperate effectively and acknowledge that everyone is important. This style is useful when you need to coalesce a variety of viewpoints to get the best solution; when there have been previous conflicts in the group; or when the situation is too important for a simple trade-off.
  • Compromising: Here people try to find a solution that will at least partially satisfy everyone. Everyone is expected to give up something including the compromise. Compromise is useful when the cost of conflict is higher than the cost of losing ground, when equal strength opponents are at a standstill or when there is a deadline looming.
  • Accommodating: Here people are willing to meet the needs of others at the expense of their own needs. The accommodator often knows when to give in to others, but can be persuaded to surrender a position even when it is not warranted. This person is not assertive but is highly cooperative. An accommodating strategy is appropriate when the issues matter more to the other party, when peace is more valuable than winning, or when you want to be in a position to collect on this “favor” you gave.
  • Avoiding: People tending towards this style seek to evade the conflict entirely. This style is typified by delegating controversial decisions, accepting default decisions, and not wanting to hurt anyone’s feelings. It can be appropriate when victory is impossible, when the controversy is trivial, or when someone else is in a better position to solve the problem. However, in many situations, this is a weak and ineffective approach to take.

Understanding these different styles helps you to determine which style is most appropriate when looking at the outcome you want to gain.

Key Learning: Consider your instinctive conflict style. How does this help you to achieve your outcome or not?  What do you need to change your style and how you behave?  Ideally, you want to adopt a suitable approach for the situation, which will resolve the underlying issue, will meet others legitimate interests, and build strong relationships.

To view or download a PDF version of this blog click here

Share your thoughts and ideas here, or email me at

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Click here to find out more about Andrew Cooke and Growth & Profit Solutions.

3 Steps to Becoming Less Anxious

In a changing world, the level of anxiety people experiences increases as they become less clear on what is happening, more uncertain as to how it will affect them, and increasingly unsure about what to do. You will feel this for yourself, and your team will be feeling it too. So what can we do to counteract this and reduce the level of anxiety in the organization?  Here are several tips to help you:

  • Be transparent and simply tell the story. Don’t assume everybody already knows how the turbulence is affecting your business. They need to hear exactly what is happening and the need to hear is often. Be clear about the reality and don’t fall into the trap of sounding more optimistic than you should.
  • Talk about what’s next. If you have a strategy, spell it out in clear terms. If you don’t, say so and ask for help. Describe what has to happen and what everyone’s role must be. Give people the chance to share their feelings, concerns and, most of all, their ideas. Clarity reduces fear, even if what is made clear isn’t very positive. So as leaders we must talk straight and listen with empathy to the concerns of our teams.
  • Take action. Once you have a suitable strategy in place then take action and look to achieve quick wins whilst moving in the long-term direction. Procrastination at this point will only allow uncertainty to resurface and anxiety to return,

Use these steps for yourself and your team, and help them to cascade it to their people in turn.

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Where’s Your Mate? Mate!

Anybody who has been scuba-diving will be familiar with the buddy system. You never dive alone, you always have a diving buddy – somebody who is there to help you and support you should you need it, and to ensure that you are safe. You, in turn, reciprocate.

It can be hard dealing with the changes, challenges, and opportunities at work – so why do it alone? A strong leader knows his or her weaknesses and looks for people who are strong in these areas to provide the balance, skills, and experience that he or she lacks.  Look for people who can help you where you need it, and who you can also help in turn.  It is a two-way street, and having a two-way street allows a greater volume of ideas, insights, and experiences to be exchanged and better learnings generated. So who is your buddy?

To view or download a PDF version of this blog click here.

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Click here to find out more about Andrew Cooke and Growth & Profit Solutions.

How to Use Frames to Control Conversations

Frames are a powerful tool that allows you to define how a situation, event or occurrence can be viewed.  If you set the frame, you control the conversation; if you control the conversation, you can control the relationship; and if you control the relationship, you control the business opportunity.

A framework in the same way as the frame around a picture.  A good picture frame draws you into the picture so you can focus on it, and enhances the picture, without being apparent itself.

  1. Provides focus – so you are able to focus your clients, via your use and control of language, on what you see to be as the pith of the matter
  2. Reduces mental clutter – make it easier to identify what you need to focus on
  3. Helps to gain agreement
  4. Accelerates movement and progress
  5. Provides control

Inside of the frame is what is important, what is outside is what is not important as shown in the picture below.


Framing a Situation

For example, you may be behind budget by $20m.  You could frame this in a couple of different ways, and how you frame it will affect and determine how you perceive and act on this.

  • Frame 1 – As a Problem: We have a target of $200m for the year and we are currently behind by $20m. We should have made $150m by this point in the year, but we have only made $130m. This means that we now have to make $70m before the year end.  We need to work harder to get more deals in.
  • Frame 2 – As an Opportunity: We are working hard and well in a difficult market. We are $20m shy of where we currently want to be and need to make $70m by the year-end.  How can we leverage what we have already done?  How can we work with other areas to help them and us accelerate the time it takes to do deals and increase the average deal size?

You can see in the second frame provides a positive, optimistic and creative context from which to drive the conversation and generate innovative ideas and actions. This helps to inspire and motivate people.  The first frame is negative, pessimistic and looks at doing more of the same (which isn’t working well as they are behind budget). This is more judgmental and is likely to lower morale.

Think how you can frame things to engage and include others in what you are trying to do and to share this technique with your people, in turn, A powerful frame can help to shape the perception, interpretation and how people engage with the situation, occurrence or event.

To view or download a PDF version of this blog click here.

Share your thoughts and ideas here, or email me at

If you found this article of use or interest please don’t hesitate to share it with others.

Click here to find out more about Andrew Cooke and Growth & Profit Solutions.