Re-engaging Technical Stars

A sales & marketing expert faces the challenge of self awareness

Meet Nigel, small business founder and new dad. Like most K-Leader participants he’s a specialist in his field – Nigel is a sales and marketing expert in the digital media industry and sees his core value being the deep, expert advice and services he provides to others in the business. He’s not a generalist or a people manager.

"You always kind of assume leadership is about people, but now I understand that they’re talking about knowledge leadership which is quite different."


Here are his insightful reflections as he progressed through the course

“Overall it was very interesting. It did so much more than any refresher course and was very engaging. It way exceeded my expectations.”

Day 1

“We did a lot of role plays. There was a software engineer who was so literal about everything. I messed one role play completely. But luckily there are no right or wrong answers, you just need to navigate the nuances. I think my small business background caused me to be a bit politically incorrect!

I was confused initially about ‘leadership’. You always kind of assume leadership is about people, but now I understand that they’re talking about knowledge leadership which is quite different.

Personal Brand provoked a huge discussion, particularly around the division of private and public personas.

Listening techniques were a revelation to many in the class who, being SMEs (Subject Matter Experts), were mostly used to doing the talking as experts.”

"I really opened up when we did the session on life’s greatest challenges"

Day 2

“Wow, that was a big day! The role plays became so much more challenging and difficult.

There is just so much content, and so much in it. I’m worried about how I’ll be able to retain it all and make use of it?

I noticed that each topic has different challenges for each person, we’re struggling with various concepts and sailing through others. Personally, I really struggled with understanding ‘removed stakeholders’ and who they are – this is a much harder concept when you consult and are not part of a large organisation. In my situation, I’m wondering if they’re customers or clients?

I really opened up when we did the session on life’s greatest challenges. I talked about wanting to kind of opt out. I did a deep dive on my own life circumstance and this seemed to help everyone else to open up as they shared very deep insights too. It was a really great session.”

Day 3

"Today I’m just exhausted, I’m really shattered.

Some of the behaviours we’re learning are really abstract and others are much more recognisable. My challenge is to make the abstract ones into muscle memories, how do I entrench them as instinctive behaviours so I can make best use of them?

I really liked the fierce, difficult conversations thing, the OIPS framework. It’s the best tool I’ve used so far because at this stage of my career and in home life I seem to be having lots of difficult conversations – it’s great to be able to strip out the emotions.”

Day 4

“Change management and learning styles were the themes for the day. It was a bit less intense which was probably good considering the need to prepare for our personal growth plan presentations tomorrow.

I’m not sure I’m ready, but I guess I’ll find a way. I now see why we’ve been encouraged to make notes about our personal development objectives after each learning module, it’s going to make putting my presentation together so much easier.”

Day 5

“Presentation day and there was a fair bit of tension in the room because it was clearly a big deal. The participants’ managers showed a huge amount of interest in the presentations and their feedback was given in a very constructive and respectful way which calmed the guys.

It was fascinating to see that almost all the growth plans included a focus on the development of Personal Brand as a key priority. My take on it is that Personal Brand became code for ‘team player’ for most of the participants.

I was a bit nervous about the presentation but in a good way. I’ve got a lot of difficult work and personal issues to deal with in the next six months so my personal growth plan is very much focussed on tools which would be most helpful in difficult negotiations - elements of emotional intelligence, and GROW better time management.”

 "It was fascinating to see that almost all the growth plans included a focus on the development of Personal Brand as a key priority."

 An outsider’s perspective - Nigel’s Manager, Ken

 Ken was very honest about the issues he wanted to see addressed and was pleased that Nigel had landed on some of these as priorities: “Nigel has had a reputation for being unprepared for meetings and a bad time manager. So his focus on time and preparation for conversations and planned outcomes was great news.”

With Nigel’s recent change in role from company director to internal consultant, Ken sees: “He needs to be less directive and more of a team player and I’m already seeing signs of improvement in his interpersonal skills”.

Interpersonal skills development was not a priority area in Nigel’s growth plan, however “It’s been particularly pleasing to see broader behavioural changes in Nigel without them necessarily being front of mind.”


K-LEADER programs have SMEs from fields such as information technology, risk, legal, human resources, finance, business planning and change management. The key is to support the participants through the execution of their development plan. The K-LEADER  program is comprised of  a 4.5 day workshop, two phone check-ins to discuss progress and barriers, and a one-day refresh session with some additional content. We encourage multi-company, multi-discipline cohorts. The cohort size is between 15 and 24, and our experience is the larger the cohort, the better participant experience. K-LEADER can also be run as an internal program if you have 12 or more participants. For the next intake dates, contact us to discuss your needs.


Role Plays: On the program we call them real plays. Most participants, like Nigel, have a love-hate relationship with them. It’s like cough medicine in the old days – we don’t like the taste but we know its good for us. Dominic Johnson

Personal Brand: We ask on participants to reflect on how they show up to various groups of colleagues in the workplace. This becomes a burning platform – “I need to change” – for most participants. Personal Brand is defined as the traits and values that define you and, and importantly, how you communicate these to others. Personal Brand is an incredibly powerful heuristic - it allows people to know a lot about you based purely upon recognition. It is therefore a hugely powerful tool for influencing others. Craig Healey

OIPS Framework: OIPS is a simple but highly effective framework for giving and receiving feedback and is designed to assist particularly with ‘difficult’ conversations. The framework involves Observation (what is the issue?), Impact (provide feedback - indicate how it impacts you emotionally?), Pause (to allow your colleague time to digest the feedback) and Suggestion (suggest what could be done better. Craig Healey

GROW model: Most readers would be familiar with this simple 4 stage framework - Goal, Reality, Options and Will. The GROW Model is a surprisingly powerful method for personal growth discovered through a series of sequential ‘coaching’ conversations. The Model is known for its success in both problem solving and goal setting. It’s strengths are simplicity of use and flexibility of approach. It enjoys a high take-up with SMEs.




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