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Lucy Windsor

Trending Management Challenges

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Here are 5 trending challenges faced by middle and senior managers that have been addressed by us this quarter. Are you experiencing similar trends in your business?

  1. Managing people in a process-driven environment
  2. Getting team members to take responsibility and ownership in a fast-paced industry
  3. Delivering results with limited resources
  4. Receiving negative feedback about communication style
  5. Prioritising when everything is urgent

As a manager, trying to deal with these challenges when you don’t have all the skills or strategies to do so is a very stressful situation to be in. Over time, it erodes confidence and all sorts of issues arise.

With the right support, skills and strategies, what seemed once to be an impossible situation can be turned around even if you have a manager who is not a natural ‘people person’. This helps the manager and creates a positive cultural ripple across the organisation.

If you are experiencing any of the challenges on the list, do get in touch because we know how to help.

best wishes




Engagement The Secret Ingredient

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Employee Engagement

Do you find employee engagement difficult? Get your own team engaged by discovering the Secret Ingredient. It costs nothing, yet once you have the secret ingredient, you will transform your team performance.

Albert Einstein is famously quoted as saying “If you can’t explain it to a 6 year old, you don’t understand it well enough.” Well, if you have any 6 year olds in the house, perhaps you’ll try it out for us.

Find out how to engage with your employees by downloading this short e-book.

Lucy Windsor is available for speaking, consulting and troubleshooting.

Call on 00 44 1932 888 885.





Functional Teams

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Functional teams work consistently towards outcomes and improved performance, whereas when you are in a low-functioning team it can sometimes feel like a war of attrition – which inevitably ends with the leader resorting to pulling rank to get stuff done.

Whilst the result might be compliance on behalf of the team member, it often doesn’t feel good and can leave a bad atmosphere in the team.

Further, its sets up both parties for a similar experience next time as they come to the table forewarned and forearmed and the pattern repeats.

Can you think of an example where you have experienced this, either as the leader or as the team member? Or have you observed this in the way that others are interacting?

How does it make you feel?

It is likely we all fall into this trap from time to time. I know that I recognise it in myself sometimes and I have to catch myself. You might not be surprised to learn that this is a really common problem in successful and busy organisations.

Here’s a typical scenario, taken from a real-life situation. There is a Manager, I’ll call her Jules and one of her team members, Lily.  They were in the final preparations for an in-house event. Jules’ phone rang – it was the tech team. The venue representative was ‘being difficult’, could she come immediately. Under pressure, Jules said to Lily “When you have them all in the room, I want you to greet them by making an announcement. Tell them where to put their bags and tell them to turn off their phones. Oh, and make sure they are respectful of the speakers and listen!”

Lily immediately felt uncomfortable. It was minutes before the audience was to arrive. She had been expecting to register them, give them their badges and let them into the auditorium at 10am. She was not used to speaking to a group and she really didn’t want to do it. Jules picked up on her reluctance to do this, but she really didn’t have time for this. She said “Just do what I ask please.” And left to sort out the issue with the venue.

Lily was now anxious and annoyed with Jules. As people came in, Lily tried to be warm and friendly, she felt awkward giving the message about being respectful of the speakers, so just mentioned it to them individually as they arrived. She could see it wasn’t going down well. After the reaction of the first tranche of delegates, she stopped mentioning it.

At the interval, a few complained to Jules about Lily and asked what could possibly have made her think they wouldn’t be respectful. There were also mutterings over coffee that they were being treated like kids.

Jules was really cross. She found Lily back stage and said, “What did you say?! You’ve managed to upset half the room, Lily.”

I will leave the story there, but you get the point and where this story might lead.

Let’s circle back to the beginning of this EPIC Insight. What is the most important differentiator between functioning and non-functioning teams?


In this case, Jules was under pressure. There was pressure of time, pressure of demands from different people. Pressure of expectations. In an attempt at brevity, Jules had fired off some instructions to Lily that didn’t make clear sense. Lily felt obliged, yet very uncomfortable. Consequently, the message was poorly delivered and badly received.

Pre-framing is a powerful tool. In this case, Jules might have said this:

“I am short on time, as I have to meet with the tech team. We have two important elements that I would like you to take ownership of so that we can maximise the success of this seminar. Firstly, we need to make it really easy for people get out and home at the end of the event, so to achieve that, can you find a way to store their bags for quick and easy access? Also, during the event, there will be some important messages throughout the speeches that they will need to remember over the next Qtr. Can you let them know? They might find it really useful to have a notebook and pen at the ready.”

When we pre-frame, we are giving the other person the heads up as to where we are going. The outcome we want to achieve or the goal we wish to reach.

Using pre-framing, Jules enables Lily to be honest and helpful to the audience and achieve the desired outcomes.


Practice getting into the habit of pre-framing. As you can see by Jules’ example, it often takes no longer – but makes a significant difference to the team’s ability to perform.


Happiness on Tap?

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Have you ever been going about your day just minding your own business, and you smell, see or hear something and immediately you are transported back in time to a place – maybe your school, a holiday destination, or an event in your life.

These moments may also be accompanied by a rush of emotion. This happened to me only recently and I found myself suddenly and unexpectedly filled with joy.

I was in a park, and there was some fencing around a tennis court, you know that steel wire that you so often see. Leading to this was some grass, cut short. The sun was shining, and immediately, I was transported back to a holiday home we used to go to when I was very small, I think I was 4 or 5 the last time we went. I had a distinct recollection of playing next to a putting green with my older brother, near some wire fencing. That unexpected memory made me feel wonderful! Soaking up that moment, I found myself smiling from ear to ear as I continued my walk.

What is happening is that the brain picks up on your sense memory. This memory is programmed into the physical body. Our sense memory is instinctive. It is this bit of our memory that also allows us to tap out a phone number on the telephone number pad, even if we can’t actually remember the number. The body is extraordinary in its ability to remember. Whilst I recall very little of the detail of the memory I have described, it was enough to induce an emotion of joy inside me and a smile on my face.

When I work with individuals, I am very interested in the information provided by the body – it is a great communicator and sits at the heart of many breakthroughs both in business and in life.

If you are interested in learning more about how you might harness your sense memory to help you at work, you might find this simple exercise enjoyable. It gives you a fast track to positive feeling or thought on demand.


  • Pick a picture, objects, music or photographs that make you feel immensely happy.
  • Display them where you will look at them several times a day – in the case of music, listen to it throughout the day.
  • Spend time studying your items in detail. Touch them, smell them, notice how they feel, how they sound.
  • As you are enjoying them, place one hand very specifically on your body, (eg: hold onto a thumb or finger, put your hand on your chin, or maybe your sternum, touch your elbow, whatever feels right to you)

Then at any time of day when you feel in need of a boost of resources, put your hand on that place and recall your memory to instantaneously recreate that feeling of happiness.

By tapping into happiness, you will feel good and at the same time, you are stimulating the area of your brain responsible for strategic thinking and problem solving – BOOM! A double whammy.


Do YOU Have Confidence?

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Do YOU Have Confidence?

What does that even mean? We all have confidence in our ability to do something.

Some people are confident when they stand up and give presentations. Some are confident looking after small children. Some are confident riding a horse, or plumbing a house.

Confidence means that you have enough knowledge, experience and skill to perform or execute something successfully.

So, what does it mean when we describe someone as a confident person? This suggests that perhaps they were just born with the gift of being confident. A confident person is a broader description. It is not pointing at a skill or task. It is simply stating that this person, more often than not, approaches life ‘confidently’.

It means this person faces challenges in life with a determination to succeed and the inner belief that they will find a way somehow. This mindset leads them to do one thing repeatedly. They take positive action.

When we believe that we will find a way and be successful, we automatically do things that will take us there and it doesn’t matter a fig if we know how to do it to start with. Nor does it matter if we start off down one route and then change tack, as long as we are moving in the direction of success, we are building momentum. This type of confidence does not lie in our knowledge, skill or experience of the task. It lies within us.

Confident people are not defensive because they have nothing to defend. They will succeed, at some point, at some time, they know they will achieve what they set out to do and they know that they will have setbacks and challenges along the way.

We all have times when our sense of confidence leaves us, momentarily. Maybe having received shock news, being made redundant, learning of the death of someone close. It is during times like these when it is easy to start believing you can’t instead of can. It is incompatible to hold onto the belief that we will find a way somehow and succeed, when we are consumed by a sense of failure and loss.

I believe that we are all born with confidence. We learn to walk, despite falling many, many times. We learn to talk, use a crayon, read a book. We delight at our small achievements along the way, and we very quickly shake off our failures, even if we hurt ourselves when we fall. Even if our fall was caused by someone pushing us over.

To be a confident person, you just have to know that you will find a way and be successful and when you do that, you will take action. If that action does not deliver immediate success, you will make an adjustment and go again, and you will keep adjusting and taking forward steps until you succeed.


This coming week, spend time each day telling yourself, ‘I know I will find a way and succeed.’ If someone knocks you back, tell yourself, ‘I know I will find a way to succeed’ and be ready to learn, adapt and change your tack if necessary. If one door closes, go and find another to open. In fact, find another 10 doors. Before you know it, your confidence will be shining through.

By the way, it doesn’t matter which doors shut and which ones open. Confidence can bloom even in the face of rejection when you know that you will find a way and succeed.



A Different Approach To The Skills Gap

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‘…whether incorporating the best strategies for moving their business forward; or overcoming some current performance issues. There is always a gap…’

(If you prefer to view this content in video format, click the link above).

If you ever travel by tube or train, you will likely have heard the familiar words ‘Mind the Gap’ over the tannoy, cautioning you to take care not to disappear underneath as you board the train.

As a coach, I help my clients to ‘mind the gap’ too. The skills gap.

Together, my client and I are eager to find the gap. Whether stretching their skills to prepare them for future promotion; or at Director level, incorporating the best strategies for moving their business forward; or overcoming some current performance issues. There is always a gap. The gap lies between where they are now, and where they are heading.

The gap represents to me, the opportunity to take a significant step forward. Just as you have to step across the gap to board a train, once you have, you will find that you are on your way to a new destination, or a new level of competency.

My suggestion for this week is to alter your view of what the skills gap represents to you. If it feels disheartening to hear that there are things you need to improve, that you are not the finished article, imagine you are standing on the platform ready to board a train. Embrace the challenge, develop those skills, ask for support if you need it. You will not regret it. New opportunities and increased confidence await you.

And then, when you are ready for the next challenge and need more advanced skills, you will know to mind the gap and board another train.

To find out more about how to be an EPiC leader, click here to arrange a conversation with one of our Consultants or call us on 00 44 1932 888 885.

Staying Focussed When Under Pressure

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It’s not easy being a leader, especially when the pressure is on and especially when everyone else thinks they know better and feel compelled to share their opinions with you.

For this blog, I’m going to share some leadership tips from my experience of rowing. Actually, and more specifically, coxing.

Coxing can bring with it some very high-pressure moments, especially during a race – there’s nothing like careering forward at speed, no brakes, poor visibility and 65ft of boat and muscle in front of you. You have to be aware of the weather, the water conditions, tide changes, potential hazards in the water, other crews, the course, the rules and at the same time, get the optimum boat speed from your crew. You can also expect to be shouted at from the bank, from other boats, from bridges and possibly also from your crew members. Coxing is not for the faint-hearted.

You will feel exposed and uncertain, you will have to find a way to remain in control when things are happening that you have no control over.

How can a coxing experience be compared to being a leader in business? Well, as a leader, you will experience moments of very high pressure too.

You will feel exposed and uncertain, you will have to find a way to remain in control when things are happening that you have no control over. You will need to have an awareness of the market, the competition, your clients’ needs and all the time, you will need to have a vision of success and guide your team confidently and cleanly through. You are going to be heckled and you will receive unsolicited advice, maybe even experience aggressive behaviour from others. Leading is not for the faint-hearted.

Here are three ways to stay focussed even when there’s a lot of pressure to perform and things aren’t going your way.

  1. Why are you there?

Why are you turning up for this? Whether it is a meeting, a presentation, a day in the office, training. Why are you there? This is a different question from: What are you there to do? For instance, if you are there to chair a meeting, that is what you are going to do. But most importantly, Why? What must come out of that meeting? That is where to focus your attention, particularly if you’re feeling stressed.

When I sit in the cox’s seat, my job is to steer the boat and navigate. But Why am I there? I have one purpose. To optimise the speed at which the boat travels through the water for a specific period of time. I am there to use any method or strategy available to me to achieve that aim. That means I have to ensure the boat runs smoothly and efficiently, tension in the boat slows it down. The work has to be distributed in a way that will optimise the energy of the crew, I have to find ways to maximise the effort through the water and allow the crew to recover between strokes.


Task: Ask yourself right now, ‘Why am I here doing this specific task? What is my real purpose?’ What is the best outcome in this situation?

  1. Get organised

Know what the plan is and communicate it to your team. If you just expect them to do their bit, that’s what you will get. People doing what they know in ways that feels right to them. But as a Leader you want more for your team. You want them to be invested, to be upping their standards, to be working as a cohesive team. You want them to feel like they are learning and growing and you want them to know just how much their contribution matters to the greater picture. You want high standards and must believe that they want that too.

When a rowing crew goes out on the water, they perform better when they know what they are trying to achieve from the outing. As a cox, I communicate with them throughout the session, whether in training or racing so that they know in advance what is expected of them at each stage of the outing and they can prepare themselves mentally and physically. It is my job also to set the standards and expectations. Sloppy rowing not only looks rubbish, it makes it harder for everyone in the crew to row. The cox sets the standards and holds the crew accountable throughout. If I accept sloppy standards from just one rower, it brings the level of performance down for the whole crew and makes for harder work. Good discipline prepares the whole crew to respond positively during those high presssure moments when they come.

Task: How good are you at communicating? How does that change when you are feeling under pressure? What one thing can you do differently that will give your team even more clarity whatever the situation?

  1. Look Forward

There will be times when you need to make a change to the performance of a team member. It is much more effective to do this by outlining what you want to achieve and identifying with your team member the specific changes required. Several small and incremental changes over a short period often have more impact than trying to change too many things in one go.

When working with a crew, the most useful comments are those that explain the desired outcome and what specific change you want to see. It is also really important to acknowledge the success of each small change and anchor it by focusing the crew or crew member on feeling the difference the change has made. The least useful call is one that asks the crew, or crew member to stop doing something (eg: stop rushing) It is unhelpful. It should always be replaced with what you want them to do instead, clearly and concisely.

Task: How do you currently go about changing behaviour and upping the standards? What one change could you make today that would make your Leadership style more effective?

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When and How To Delegate Up

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‘You can help your manager to help you by communicating when you notice a problem or oversight…’

In a recent Insight, I talked about the art of Managing Up. This Insight is about Delegating Up, which is slightly different in my view.

Let me define what I believe Delegating Up to mean. You are at work and something has landed on your desk that you:

a) Are not equipped/skilled to deal with

b) Don’t have the authority to deal with it

c) Don’t have the capacity/resources to deal with it

d) It is someone else’s job

This matter will have come to you either direct from your manager, or through another route.

These are typical circumstances where delegating up to your manager might be appropriate. So how do you do it effectively?

1. Objectivity

Your initial reaction may be to feel dumped on, frustrated, stressed, angry, resentful, anxious at the thought of taking on this task. Your physical and emotional discomfort is a great indicator for you. As soon as you feel it, ask yourself, why do you feel that way? Which of the 4 reasons above are causing you such discomfort? Or is it something else?

OK. So now you have identified the source of the problem. And in knowing that, you have objectivity. You can go to your manager with a clear head and purpose.

2. Communicate

Arrange an appropriate time (bearing in mind any deadlines) to have a conversation with your manager. The purpose: to share that something has landed on your desk that requires action and you are not sure if (a, b, c, d or another). You would appreciate help or guidance on how best to proceed.

This provides the initial opener for a useful conversation. Notice, that the language used brings you along side your manager, rather than being combative. Humans by their very nature like to help when they are needed and your manager is likely to want to help you.


When you meet, this is your opportunity to share the problem with your manager as you see it, and round out the detail:

a) Lack the Skills

If you believe you are not equipped or skilled to deal with it, share your concerns with your manager. It may be that your manager can coach you through so that you feel confident and capable of taking on the matter yourself. Or, it may be that the manager will reassign the task to someone who is better equipped. This also opens the potential for discussion around future development. Is it a skill you need to develop? If so, you can put a plan together so that you are equipped next time around.

b) Lack the Authority

If you believe you don’t have the authority to undertake the task, this is something to discuss. Either you will need to be given the responsibility and support of the manager and business, or if that is not possible, hand the task back to your manager. Delegate up.

c) Lack Resources/Capacity/Time

If you are genuinely maxed out and you don’t have the resources or capacity to tackle the matter, you can explain the situation to your manager, outline what you currently have on your plate and what is the likely impact of this task on your other workload. Ask your manager to help you to decide on the most important tasks to prioritise, or reassign the task to a team member who has more capacity.

d) Not My Job

Finally, if the task belongs to someone else, you can ask your manager to reassign it to the correct person/department. It might be just as simple as sharing with your manager that you think it has been given to you incorrectly and ask for their help to ensure it is picked up by the right person/team so it can be properly actioned.

(I have shared more about why this is so important to you, your manager and the business in the attached video).

In Summary

Your manager is responsible for ensuring you are working to a manageable capacity on tasks that you are equipped for and paid to do. You can help your manager to help you by communicating when you notice a problem or oversight. This is far more constructive than taking on work-load that you shouldn’t be doing and either failing to deliver or busting a gut and resenting others.

I hope this has been a useful insight and offers a helpful strategy for when and how to Delegate Up appropriately.

If you like it and can see its value, please share your enthusiasm with your friends and colleagues so that they may receive Insights too.

To speak to one of our consultants, please call us on 00 44 1932 888 885.

Clear Your Mental Clutter

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‘The more we postpone making a decision, the longer the spin cycle and the bigger the load…’

(If you prefer to view this content in video format, click the link above).

My friend and Professional Organiser, Denise Allan, was sharing tips on morning TV the other day about how to keep your home tidy and she said “Clutter is postponed decisions”.

Wow! Powerful.

And then I began to look about me. The areas of clutter in my own home (Those drawers that contain stuff that we never use, but haven’t decided what to do with them. That pile of papers, not urgent, yet waiting for a decision. The neglected area of the garden, waiting for us to decide whether to plant or pave it).

Consider then the tidy areas (The utensils, we decided exactly which ones we want in the drawer. Those we use only on rare occasions are kept in a different cupboard. The living areas are tidy – most of the time! Everything has a place and is put away at the end of each day). It seems therefore, that clutter does indeed represent postponed decisions.

Did you know, however, that a similar thing happens in the brain – the clutter, or mental chatter, that accumulates. The endless spin cycle of thoughts, that take up so much head-space.

The more we postpone making a decision, the longer the spin cycle and the bigger the load.

When you feel exhausted, and there is no apparent reason for it (that is, you haven’t been up for hours, or pushed yourself mentally or physically), ask yourself what are the thoughts that are going around in your head? What decisions might you be postponing?

Raj Raghunathan PhD. Associate Professor afilliated with Dept of Marketing at University of Texas, McCombs School of Business ran a study to look at mental chatter.

He got the students to write down their spontaneous thoughts. These are the thoughts that occur before the student attempts to put a positive spin on them.

Prior to the study, most students predicted that 60-75% of their thoughts were likely to be positive. The results were surprising. Up to 70% of the spontaneous thoughts that were actually recorded were negative.

According to Professor Raghunathan’s study, the thoughts fell mainly into 3 categories:

Inferiority eg: Will someone else do better than me?

Love & Approval eg: Why wasn’t I chosen?

Control Seeking eg: Why won’t people listen to me?

You will notice how these thoughts are all about external validation and comparison.

So what is the connection between clutter clearing at home, mental clutter clearing and this study?

Once again, we’re back to decisions.

As a Leader, you can buy yourself head space and clear some mental chatter by making decisions. Successful leaders are in the habit of making many decisions up front. They plan for them. For instance:

o How they are going to represent themselves

o What they are going to wear (they adopt a ‘look’ – no pulling out all the possible options at 6:30am for them!)

o How they are going to lead their team

o What culture they are going to create

o What standards and expectations they expect of themselves and their team

o What they will do to meet their objectives

o How they are going to deliver value for the organisation

And so on…

With these decisions already made, they have automatically freed up space in their heads so that they can tap into their creativity, be more resilient and self-assured, gain clarity and the energy needed to deal with important matters. It really is like opening the filing cabinet, boxing up everything unnecessary and archiving it.

When we work with clients, we focus on simple, practical steps that make the biggest difference to them, their teams and their organisation.

By the way – if you could use some clutter clearing tips for the home, here is that clip of Denise in action.

To read an article about Professor Raghunathan’s study, click here.

To find out more about how to be an EPiC leader, click here to arrange a conversation with one of our Consultants or call us on 00 44 1932 888 885.

Are You Successful At Managing Up?

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“You will have a unique perspective, based on who you are, your experience, your knowledge and your understanding of a situation. Sometimes, your unique perspective might be just what is needed…”

(If you prefer to view this content in video format, click the link above).

This is an interesting topic and the reason I am posting it now is because it is a challenge for so many and specifically because one of my clients raised it with me the other day.

What does it mean?

Firstly, I’d like to define what Managing Up means, in my view. Managing Up is to be a trusted colleague and to have a voice with those who are of a higher status than you, your boss, for example.

It is perhaps an unfortunate term, as it can suggest the tail wagging the dog and that is far from the truth and a million miles away from what anyone needs or wants.

I see Managing Up as distinct from Delegating Up, which will be discussed in a future article.

Why is it important to be able to Manage Up?

At times, maybe often, you will see things that others don’t see. You will have a unique perspective, based on who you are, your experience, your knowledge and your understanding of a situation. Sometimes, your unique perspective might be just what is needed.

What are some of the perceived risks of Managing Up

  • Getting into conflict with your boss
  • Your boss taking the credit for your ideas
  • Your boss not doing what you say
  • Feeling frustrated that they don’t see your point of view
  • Feeling undervalued
  • Your boss not
  • sharing their worries with you
  • Defensiveness or getting angry
  • Feeling reluctant to stick your neck out, after a previous bad experience

The list goes on…

How to Manage Up Successfully

1. Rename, reframe – Instead of Managing Up, it might be helpful to think – How can I become a ‘trusted colleague’?

You are trying to create a relationship that is mutually respected. Where you can voice your opinion safely and can work together for the benefit of the company, clients and team. There is no ‘management’ to be done, there is only collaboration and openness.

2. Know the parameters – Every relationship has parameters that must be observed to be successful.

This is key to your success here. One of the biggest mistakes people make is to believe their value as an employee is attached to being right and this can damage the relationship. When you believe success relies on your advice being acted upon, as soon as you have won the argument (assuming you do), you may well have damaged the trust. If your point is not acted upon, however, you are likely to feel aggrieved.

Remember, you don’t have the responsibility that your boss has and you won’t necessarily share the same perspective as each other. Your boss might have a broader understanding of the strategy, for instance. Therefore, it is good practice for a trusted colleague to detach from the outcome, when it comes to offering up your ideas and opinions. By all means, get fully behind your proposition and give it your best. Then let go. Your boss owns the decision.

3. Think first – Is what I am about to share constructive and positive? Does it benefit my boss, the organisation and the team?

4. Practice patience – It is easy to get frustrated. It takes strength to practice patience. It will pay off. Focus on your own deliverables and make sure your work is of the highest standard, avoid getting distracted by politics, gossip or what other people should be doing and remind yourself that rejection of one idea or opinion does not mean a rejection of you. Stay confident, stay open and whatever the result, know that you have at least sowed a positive seed and a different perspective.

Wishing you luck! Please share your experiences with us. It is always so inspiring to hear when you have had a great result.

To find out more about how to be an EPiC leader, click here to arrange a conversation with one of our Consultants.

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