Unlocking my best self to leadfully

Recently I’ve signed to start using the new toy, sorry, tool from SYPartnersLeadfully.


Leadfully provides a system of tips, tools, and everyday actions you can use to activate your authentic leadership style.


As part of the daily challenges, thoughts & inspiration that they send out via e-mail, they sent a challenge to “turn impossible into possible”.


What does this mean?

Well, quite simply, it’s about engineering growth opportunities by raising the bar to encourage people to stretch beyond what they believe is possible.

And this is something that I am 100% fully committed too.

For us to be a great team, we need to be great people. And to be great people, we need to grow, stretch ourselves and tackle scary & challenging situations. You know, those situations that you don’t feel prepared for – but you go for it anyway. [As a side, Julie Felner wrote about her experience of this only yesterday].

As Richard Branson once quoted:

If somebody offers you an amazing opportunity but you are not sure you can do it, say yes – then learn how to do it later!


Except, that if a member of my team did this, I want to be there for them – to help, support & encourage. In other words, to be their leader.

And Leadfully has just challenged me to do just that!


The challenge

As part of the challenge, over the weekend I will be stepping back and thinking about the work my team is doing and how it’s assigned to make sure there is a meaty stretch assignment for each person.

This could be mastery of a skill, a new behaviour, or a task they’ve never had to handle before.

The goal is to make sure there is something new that’s a reasonable stretch for each person.

So that’s what I’m doing.


I’m pulling together my thoughts into a single place – which I won’t be able to share as it’s personal for each person – and will then sit down with each team member to then do the second part.

Although, here is a screen shot of the templates I am using:

Page 1 – 

Team development - goals, stretches and challenges_2016-01-08_Page_1

Page 2 – 

Team development - goals, stretches and challenges_2016-01-08_Page_3


The second part

This is then followed by the other key element of this challenge.

During my next one-on-one, I will be waking each person through how I’ve been thinking about new ways they can grow. And I will be asking them to think about their own ideas before the meeting too.

We will then work together to create a shared plan.

Thank you again SYPartners for making a tool that is helping me and my team aim towards greatness.

Join us on the journey – visit https://leadfully.com to sign up today.

Here’s to progress.

The challenge of creating the right sub-culture

One of the most acknowledged key ingredients for any great team or organisation is its culture.

The most innovative companies – such as Apple, Google or Pixar – are always used as examples of organisations that have the right culture. Other organisations – such as local government or financial institutions – are often used as examples where bureaucracy creates the wrong culture. In other examples, fear is often used to describe why culture is badly affecting the health of the culture in an organisation – just think about any of the ‘great’ companies that disappeared during the recent financial crash.

But, I always think that the examples are missing a really key point. Obviously I can’t disagree with the fact that a company’s culture can influence it’s success – or not – but I do think that there is something else that is often forgotten – or overlooked.

And that is that a company, organisation or even a large team does not have just one single culture.

The sub-culture

Yes, companies can set an environment for a particular type of culture to thrive – however, quite often in my experience, each team will have its own culture – a type of sub-culture. Something that has grown through the time the team has been together. Something that each member of the team influences. Something that supports that team to exist, function and do its work.

Quite often this sub-culture is shaped by the manager of the team. The manager can support the culture of a team to be a better culture than the wider culture of the organisation – or the manager can support the culture of the team to be a worse culture. It can either make people want to stay in or join your team – or it can make them leave or not want to join in the first place. Everybody knows about that team that they could never work in – and about that team that they really do want to work in.

And this sub-culture is something that I have always had an interest in as it is something that as a manager/leader I can influence and help shape, and it it something that I have always tried to shape even when I didn’t have any managerial responsibilities.

It is also something that I have been working on changing for my team as part of our journey to becoming a great team – to become that team that people want to work for.

Cultivating the right sub-culture

In my earlier post – The importance of purpose – I wrote about when I first started working in my team that I didn’t fit properly within the culture of that team at the time – a bit of an issue when you’re the manager of the team! And as I felt that I didn’t fit within the culture of the team I never took ownership of it, or tried to shape it. Instead I just let the existing culture fester. I knew it wasn’t the culture that I wanted for my team. As a result we weren’t working as we should. The environment wasn’t encouraging the growth of the right culture. There was bickering, there was blame passing, there was an unwritten rule that the quality of the work didn’t really matter. The team saw itself as being there to just do the work.

But then one day I decided that for me to carry on being part of the team I needed to act as the manager of the team and start to influence the sub-culture, I needed to make the sub-culture better, I needed to make it more like the sub-culture we needed.

And as the manager of the team I have focused a lot of my energy, time and decisions on changing it – for the better.

So I started to sow the seeds of the right sub-culture and then started to cultivate the right environment needed for them to grow and flourish. 

Reaching out for help 

And to help sow the seeds over the past year or so, I reached out for help.

I knew that I didn’t have the experience or knowledge to do all that in my own. I knew that that I needed something or someone else to help me do what I knew we needed to do.

So I reached out to the brilliantly insightful and inspirational people at SYPartners. And unlike those large organisations that SYPartners usually work with – like Apple, Nike and Starbucks – I could not afford to bring them over to the UK to work face-to-face with me and the team.

But luckily I didn’t need to!

As the old saying says “When the Student is Ready, the Teacher Appears” – and appear it did. About a year ago, the great people at SYPartners launched a new set of tools – called Teamworks – which were designed to help people like me.  Teamworks was designed to keep your team engaged and aligned – so you can work better together and do your best work.

So I signed my team up to using it.

Teamworks gave me a platform to create an environment where we could start growing our new sub-culture. By completing the tools in the nine habits of great teams, Teamworks gave me space and the opportunity to work on some new actions, decisions and activities as a team.

Taking actions – making progress

In some of my other posts – check them out at www.iammichaelwatts.com – I have talked about some of the actions, decisions and activities that we did as a team to start become team, such as – 

Good times are coming

One of the things that is giving me a real skip in my step at the moment is that I am now starting to see the fruits of my labour. I am starting to see the sub-culture that we need as a team starting to emerge.

I’m starting to see minds – and hopefully hearts – change when we talk about what we do, why we do it, and how we do it.

We are working as a team. We are building on our skills sets – and understanding when someone else in the team may have a more suited skill set for a task. We share setting high standards for ourselves and others.

We are starting to live, breathe and be our shared team purpose. 

We are making progress.

Making every relationship a priority

Followers of my blog will know that one of my greatest sources of inspiration, ideas and, quite simply, an organisation I would love to work for, is the American firm SYPartners. In fact they’ve appeared so much in my blog I recently wrote a post called ‘There’s a lot about SYPartners in here‘!

This latest post focuses on another lesson that I have learnt from them since I stumbled across the company a few years ago – see my post ‘Getting unstuck to make progress‘ to see how and when I stumbled across them.

This new lesson was about how vitally important the relationships between me and each individual member of my team are. Okay, this isn’t necessarily a ground breaking statement or thought, but it’s the way SY deliver it and talk about it that just made so much sense to me.

I first stumbled across their approach in the video of the chairman and founder, Keith Yamashita, when he was speaking at a 99u conference about the 3 successful habits of successful teams. You can watch the video again below:

Keith Yamashita: The 3 Habits of Great Creative Teams from 99U on Vimeo.

In the video Keith talks passionately about the importance of continuously working on, enhancing and nuturing the smallest possible working relationship that you can have – between you + someone.

SY take this so seriously that they even give it a name – Duos.

What are duos?

Having strong duos builds the foundation of good teams. Good duos trust each other. Good duos work well with each other. Good duos allow to positively challenge and improve each other. Good duos are essential.

But, some duos are not strong. Some duos can be neutral. And some duos can be broken. See the picture below from Teamworks:

When I was listening to this video for the first time, I almost missed the point. I heard it. I thought “yeah my relationships with each member of my team are okay – I’m a nice guy and get on with most people”. Then my brain started to move onto the exciting stuff about superpowers [see my superpower post for more info about that!].

And then one day it hit me – this was exactly what Keith was talking about.

How healthy were my duos?

Viewing my relationships as “okay” was the very sin he spoke about. Okay is not good enough. Looking at all my relationships in the same sentence was not good enough. To be a better me I needed to do better. But that meant some uncomfortable thinking, reflection and analysis.

And then it hit me so much it hurt – some of my relationships were not okay.

Whilst reflecting on my duos, I realised that during my life I have had very strong duos from the moment I’ve met people. I’ve had duos that have taken time to develop. I’ve had duos that start strong and turn weak. I’ve had duos that I’ve had to work really hard to develop. And then I’ve had duos that have just not worked and I’ve accepted those.

A broken duo

In fact one of my duos with the biggest problems was in my relationship with one very important person. That relationship was broken. It was fractured. We were clashing. We were not communicating. We were not working as a team. Who was that person? It was my manager.

That relationship had to get better. It was having a negative impact on the team. The rest of my team could feel the friction – and some were making the most of it. We weren’t working together. The trust had gone.

So I realised that we needed to develop our duo.

Mending my broken duo

Obviously one person cannot solve a broken duo. But, one person can start to fix a broken duo.

I started to improve the way I engaged in our relationship. I took the Teamworks advice to give trust before I had earned my managers trust. I started to tackle some of the route causes of the broken duo. I became more communicative and I involved my manager in more of my work as I realised that this was a major issue. Because I had worked for a number of years before quite autonomously I didn’t like the day-to-day control that I was now under. I didn’t like the constant need to seek permission for my actions and decisions. But, I suddenly had a lightbulb moment – the reason that my new manager was working in that way was because they didn’t know me, I hadn’t early their trust yet, they didn’t know me. In one of my earlier posts I have already spoken about how it wasn’t finishing work off properly. And this would continue the vicious circle of our broken duo. How was I supposed to gain their trust if I hadn’t earnt it?

So I started to change that.

I became more open in my 1:1’s. I shared more about my work. I saught advice more. I started to finish tasks to my usual standard. I started to prove myself. I started to be me.

And once I started to be more me, my manager started to be more them.

Our relationship got better. Yes, there were some very uncomfortable conversations at the beginning. Yes, it took time. Yes, there have been ups and downs since. But, we are now in a much better place.

We have a better understanding and appreciation of each other. We have more trust of each other. We have a more communicative relationship.

We now have a strong duo.