7 Ways to Know and Present Yourself At Your Best

Do you dread the question: “What’s your story?” or the instant opener: “Tell me about yourself.” It happened to me twice in the last week and to be honest I wasn’t prepared. I instantly fell into the trap of describing my past and my current situation. Neither memorable nor inspiring!

So I reflected on all the coaching collateral I take my clients through and realized the importance of being in the present tense to be truly present and to share what really makes you tick and what you are choosing to do going forward!

Use the following 7 ways to discover more about who you are!

“This above all: to thine own self be true.” ~Shakespeare

1. Purpose

This answers the question “why?” Why do you exist? What do you choose to devote your life to? What brings joy and meaning into your life? Yesterday I helped a coaching client strike up the courage to ask to attend a Strategic Planning Event in her company. She got a “yes” and we high-fived. That gave me a high.

My purpose is to help people realize their potential – their personal power to create and shape their lives. What’s yours?

“The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honourable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well.” ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

2. Promise

What do you deliver to others? How do you make a difference in their lives? What results do they achieve faster and easier because of your help? Think back to 3 peak moments in your career. What were the amazing things you achieved?

My promise involves uplifting people, leadership capacity and people engagement! I can identify three major measurable successes where coaching clients have shifted a full stage in leadership development in a single year, where leadership capacity has increased by 20% in a single year and people engagement has lifted by 30% in 6 months. I can promise rapid results in developing leadership capacity. What’s yours?

“Promise me you’ll always remember: You’re braver than you believe, and stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.” ~AA Milne

3. Proposition

The third thing to focus on is our own unique value proposition. What 3 elements distinguish your services that lead to the Promise? If you go back to your peak moments, identify the common threads that were integral to each success. Once you’ve identified these 3 elements, they form the foundations of your Proposition, your offering to others. Nail them and keep them.

By way of example, my Proposition is strategic leadership, holistic leadership and culture/career transformation.

“Knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom.” ~Aristotle

4. Prospects

Who do you serve? What situation are the people in who could use your help? What problems or challenges are they facing that you’ve already navigated and have got some answers for or at least a methodology to follow to allow new solutions to emerge? Your ideal prospect is your customer avatar.

For example I love working with senior executives who aspire to do more, be more and live more powerful lives. People who want to take more responsibility for creating transformational shifts in their lives and in their organizations so that they can create real value for their customers, build goodwill in their communities and create a more sustainable world. Who are your prospects?

“I had no idea that being your authentic self could make me as rich as I’ve become. If I had, I’d have done it a lot earlier.” ~Oprah

5. Personality

Let’s go with 3 words once again to encapsulate your uniqueness. You could use words that you own as being true to you – I’d probably just say intelligent, intuitive and interested – I’m curious about life and how it works. However these descriptors can lead to a mundane definition of yourself.

It’s much more exciting to select 3 less common words that others use most often to describe you! For instance one of mine is “uplifting”. It’s an unusual word that kept coming up and I thought to myself, really, that’s cool! I’m glad I’m able to do that for others. What key words do others use to describe you?

“We ask ourselves, ‘Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?’ Actually, who are you not to be? Your playing small does not serve the world.” ~Marianne Williamson

6. Power

The source of your power are your aspirations (purpose and vision for the future) and your values. Let’s focus on values as the ones you choose become your GPS as  you navigate your life. If they’re not clear, you’re not making the most of your inner GPS to become who you were meant to be. Once you’ve identified a specific set that are right for you, they’ll act like a radar for you to pay attention to.

Choose a set of aspirational values and play with the words until you can create an acronym that also speaks to you. I’m a big believer in personal power so I ended up with POWERFUL – Peace, Order, Wisdom, Eminence, Reverence, Freedom, Unity and Love! Once you have these programmed in your mind, they will alert you to the alignment of your actions with your values. This is how we learn and grow to become who we truly are. What are your most important values?

“The privilege of a lifetime is to become who you truly are.” ~Jung

7. Practices

It’s important to embody our ideas and notions of who we are through a set of regular practices that enable us to become more of what we espouse every day.

For instance I read a book every week, I’m a pescatarian (with the exception of pepperoni pizza!), I put my knowledge into form every day to guide others, I use Saturdays to clean, shop and do the routine stuff of life, I consult my oracle cards every Sunday to see how I’m tracking and I’ve started to use Sundays to find a new practice each week to incorporate into my life so I can improve my health and wellbeing.

What are your regular practices? How do they contribute to your Purpose and Promise? Do you need to develop some new ones?

And there you have it – the 7 ways you can get to know yourself better and, even more importantly, become the amazing person you are within! Having just gone through the process of reminding myself of who I am and could become, I feel more alive and focused again! So how about you? Please use the comments below to share a snapshot in answer to: “Tell me about yourself.” I’d love to read your opening lines …

“Alice laughed. ‘There’s no use trying,’ she said. ‘One can’t believe impossible things.’

‘I daresay you haven’t had much practice,’ said the Queen. ‘When I was your age, I always did it for half-an-hour a day. Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.”  ~Lewis Carroll

Antoinette Braks is a Transforming Executive Coach, Bestselling Author and Corporate Gypsy!

Book a Complimentary Coaching Meeting with me if you’d like to get crystal clear on your 7 Ps above and your aspirations for 2016, develop a new holistic awareness of what is causing challenges for you, and feel energised, uplifted and inspired to make 2016 your best year yet!

Or if you’re ready to Transform Your Career, check out this Special Introductory Offer or attend my live workshop in Sydney in January 2016.

Click on the links to follow and connect with me on LinkedIn or Twitter or join my Strategic Holistic Leadership Group

Transition Your Career and Transform Your Life!

Career Transitions can be scary!

When you’re suddenly ousted from your role or you know there’s a restructure coming, or you’re just aware that you’re no longer happy in your role, feel discontent and know it’s time to move on, everything in your life seems to be magnified. You’re poised at the brink with the potential for disaster while feeling ripe for opportunity!

At this point you can choose to take strong action with your mind, heart and intuition to step up or out to rise to your highest potential, or you may falter in the overwhelm of uncertainty and even experience despair as you wonder what will happen next.

I’ve been taken out of the game more than once unclear about the dynamics of what was going on around me. It can be a very upsetting, shocking and anxious time. Especially if you’re the sole provider or your income is essential to meet mortgage payments. As a single parent of three for twenty years, I know this only too well.

Yet I had to find a way through the forest and lay claim to my own desire and capacity to contribute, and continue to learn and grow. As a corporate gypsy who has moved country seven times!! I had to find a way to thrive. My answer was to develop a very resolute mindset. This enabled me to rise above my fears and take decisive action to attract opportunities that would create the future I wanted. The stronger my mindset and the clearer my view of the future, the luckier I got.

My Story as a Corporate Gypsy

For instance in 2000, my life was a mess. I had divorced five years earlier and had been trying to do everything myself, It’s not easy when you have three young children and you’re running your own consulting business! I was totally exhausted, had to close my business, sell my house and ask the father of my kids who lived in Singapore to have them for a year. I had become depleted and needed time-out to resuscitate.

And then I did something even crazier. I moved to London! I so much wanted a change in scene that all I could think was: “I’ve got to get out of here!”

My resolution however paid off. When you move, take action and trust your intuition, new things happen. After doing some consulting work I ended up working with Shell, got my kids back and traveled all around Latin America and Africa for a couple of years as a Regional Strategic HR Manager.

Then when I decided to move back to Sydney, something else amazing happened. I had set up a meeting with Korn Ferry before leaving London as I had connected with the firm there. When I walked into their offices I was told by the Head of the Leadership Capital Solutions business that she had resigned the day before. After a few interviews I was offered her role instead. I literally walked into the job!

A similar thing happened a few years ago. I’d just finished an international Management Assessment assignment but had been unimpressed with the corporate cavalry. I had been the only woman ~ which always feels a little odd, and their methodology fell short of my expertise. So I wanted something new.

As soon as the assignment was completed, I remember asking the Universe, “What next?” I received a call the very next day from Hudson who needed Assessors for their Leadership Development Program sponsored by the PSC. This led to building a significant coaching practice with Hudson where I ended up coaching over 50 Senior Executives during the last 2-3 years and was able to do a PhD in the psychological drivers of leadership transformation.

Dreams and Dramas, Manifestation and Sabotage

When I reflect back on my itinerant life, I’ve come to realize how important it is to take charge of our minds, follow our dreams and make decisions and take actions that are clear and resolute! It seems to me that the more committed we are and the more action we take, the more the universe pays attention and delivers what we need.

However this level of resoluteness does require an open and clear mind, lots of proactive effort and a great burning desire to serve and grow. Having done quite a lot of coaching in Career Transition for various clients over the past few years, I’ve realized even more clearly the immense power of the conscious mind to manifest and the subconscious mind to sabotage.

Life is both a Mirror and a Movie!

It mirrors your subconscious that carries emotional wounds from the past. These get triggered when someone steps on your toes. This is actually a signal that those old hurts are ready to heal. As you release old hurts with an open heart, the voices in your head disappear and your mind clears. As a result your life becomes more of a movie where you are the star, director, producer, casting director, costume designer, special effects director etc of the movie that is your life!

I’ve put this holistic view of life to work by compiling a 7-step process that will transform your career transition. Instead of just seeing it as: “a need to get a new job”, we shift the conversation to: “What is it that I really want? How can I contribute to the highest of my potential?” And “What in my emotional history and habits of thought are getting in the way of manifesting what I really want?” These questions demand reflection and insight.

By taking this approach, you can Transform Your Career rather than just make a transition! The seven steps are:

  1. Defining crystal clear goals in terms of purpose, vision, values, unique value proposition and promise
  2. Creating a compelling Resume and Profile that puts you in the “yes” pile
  3. Learning how to promote yourself authentically and persuasively with succinct soundbytes
  4. Developing a confident mindset to move forward with courage and conviction
  5. Articulating your experience and desire to serve in a clear and convincing way
  6. Rehearsing your soundbytes against 50+ interview questions so you know exactly what to say
  7. Networking widely and connecting in person and online to identify new opportunities

The videos and accompanying templates for the first few modules are ready now! This online program also includes support and advice through the course of Fortnightly Group Coaching Webinars. You can email me questions, ask me to review your Resume and nominate yourself for an Interview Crunch Hot Seat so that you get the chance for interview practice and feedback. I’m committed to your success!

If you wish to take your career up a whole new level or you’re a coach with a portfolio lifestyle who wants to take their business up to a new level, then I highly recommend a coach. Your coach will need to be a Transforming Executive Coach – someone who has the breadth and depth of perspective to enable you to become aware of your highest aspirations and hidden shadows. Their liberating presence alone will enable you to express thoughts that have been buried deep within and you will be able to see the dynamics of your life in a much more enlightening and empowering way.

Right now I have 10 spots open for new clients who are committed to Transforming their Careers in the next 6 months! It’s an intense journey where we will

  1. Get crystal clear on your highest aspirations for your life, your purpose, vision and values, and the value proposition you offer in terms of the promise to your prospects
  2. Explore the deeper dynamics of your life’s patterns, intergenerational influences and emotional undercurrents for you to both resolve and heal obsolete habits of thought and behaviour that do not serve you
  3. Free your mindset to envisage new possibilities so you feel reenergized, uplifted, elevated and inspired to use your authentic personal power to transform your career, your business – and your life!

If this is for you, why not make 2016 your best year yet and give yourself an early Christmas present. Imagine the impact that realizing your potential will have on your colleagues or clients, partner and family – over generations!

Once a dynamic is understood and resolved at a broad cognitive and deeper emotional level, it loses its power. Moreover, you gain the perspective to coach others through the same dynamic and heal a pattern that otherwise will become an intergenerational pattern in your family at home and will keep appearing in your colleagues or clients at work.

Book a free initial Coaching Session with me here.

  1. We’ll get crystal clear on your aspirations and goals, challenges and dilemmas
  2. We’ll look into the reactive patterns in your life that have held you back and
  3. I’ll take you through my coaching approach to see if it resonates with you.

These free Coaching Sessions will run out! As soon as I have my next set of Coaching Clients, they will no longer be available. Act now if you’re interested in making 2016 your best year yet!

Or if you’d like to find out more about my coaching methodologies and packages first, click here.

If you’d prefer to get started immediately with the Online Program to Transform Your Career so you can map out your future, create the collateral and take decisive action to bring it about, click here! The first three modules are ready now at a very Special Introductory Offer of just $297!! And you can keep attending the Fortnightly Group Coaching Webinars for as long as you like!

So those options again are:

  1. Click here for a Free Initial Coaching Session with me so you can get started on Transforming Your Career and Life now with One-on-One dedicated Transformational Executive Coaching.
  2. Click here to find out more about my suite of Coaching Methodologies so you can see the bigger picture of what’s possible.
  3. Click here if you’d like to get started with my online Program and Fortnightly Group Coaching Webinars to Transform Your Career and Life now!

Why not make 2016 the best year ever and instigate a transformational turning point in your life? The benefits are enormous and your accomplishments will be beyond what you can even imagine today. That’s what my clients say! They’ve become industry thought leaders, led global $1b+ programs without a hitch, led regional community forums with 300+ inter-sector participants and resolved complex family dynamics to transform and renew their lives. Now it’s your turn!

I hope you enjoyed this post. It’s my intent to enable clients to make the quantum shift to becoming empowering inspiring strategic leaders so they can live to their highest aspirations, create an amazing career and generate awesome results. 

If you would like to keep track of my posts and updates, please click follow and connect with me on LinkedIn and Twitter 

And you can join the Strategic Holistic Leadership Group to continue the conversation.

Wishing you all the very best as always,




Become a Transformational Leader and Transform Your World!

What do we know about high performance?

We know it requires high people engagement. Aon’s Research shows that a 5% increase in people engagement is linked to a 3% increase in revenue growth in the following year and can lead to a 29% increase in operating income. Imagine what a difference a 30% increase in people engagement in a single year would do for your business performance?!

To achieve this is eminently possible! If your organization is largely based on a hierarchical matrix structure then you too have the opportunity to lift business performance significantly by investing in people engagement. Highly engaged employees deliver exponentially more value than even moderately engaged people.

What do we know about people engagement?

Engaging leaders who engage others is THE KEY INGREDIENT to creating a culture of engagement. Organizations that invest in Leadership, their Employment Brand and have a transparent focus on Performance enable their leaders to engage others in a meaningful and fulfilling way that leads to extraordinary outcomes.

However according to Deloitte’s Global Human Capital Trends 2015 Report, Culture & Engagement and Leadership are the two top issues, and the Leadership Capability Gap is widening! A bold new approach to leadership development is required to genuinely raise the leadership capacity in organizations to create an engaging culture.

What do we know about leadership development?

“The fastest growing trend in leadership development today is Stage Leadership”, says Nick Petrie at the Centre for Creative Leadership.

Stage Leadership is all about expanding capacity rather than extending capabilities. It takes a leader from being an Achiever focused on results, to a Catalyst focused on engagement and a Strategist who is able to lead and sustain business transformation while feeling comfortable collaborating widely on the wicked problems we face in the world today.

According to PwC the problem is that we have far too few Strategists leading organizations. It explains the “aspiration-action” gap identified in their 2015 CEO Survey and also why most business transformations fail. There are currently just 8% of executives (of all executives invested in Stage Leadership Development with Harthill Consultants) who calibrate as Strategists.

Can we accelerate stage leadership development?

While shifting one’s action logic, mindset, way of thinking or perceiving the world is a significant developmental shift, it can be accomplished in a single year. In my Ph D Research Study of 9 Senior Executive coaching clients, every single Senior Executive moved a full stage in a single year. Most went from Achiever to Catalyst, and one directly to Strategist with another knocking on its door.

Further running a leadership development program for the top 75 leaders in a 1000+ person organization led to an increase of 20% in Leadership Effectiveness from the 60th to the 80th percentile in a single year, as measured by the Leadership Circle Team Culture Profile. Moreover, a Strategic Holistic Culture Transformation Program in a similar sized organization led to an increase in People Engagement of 30% in just 6 months!

We need to create more transformational leaders and generate higher people engagement to lead to a high performance culture and enable you to produce extraordinary transformational results!

So we know why and we know it’s possible …

The next big question is How?

First, it’s critical to take an integrated concerted channel approach. With my 25+ years’ experience leading People and Culture, generating Leadership and Culture Transformation and coaching Senior Executives, I’ve realized that it takes a full spectrum approach to engagement channels to build momentum and realize rapid results.

  • One-on-one coaching for the Senior Executive Team so that they accelerate their development as Strategists and model the way for others
  • Group coaching for the top 50-100 Senior Leaders so that they also lift their leadership capacity to Catalysts and genuinely engage and empower their people
  • Online training resources and webinars for Everyone in the organization so that everyone has the opportunity to learn and grow
  • Annual measurement of the Leadership Effectiveness of the Senior Executive Team and Senior Leaders, and of People Engagement

Secondly, it’s important to place transformational content into the channels. In terms of Leadership and Culture Transformation, I’ve developed a methodology that works! It’s a Strategic Holistic approach that offers a unique blend of “outside-in” and “inside-out”.

Step One         Set up a Strategic Operating System

The first step is the creation of a Strategic Operating System that takes the lid off the inhibiting pressure cooker environment in most organizations today. This “outside-in” approach provides the vehicle to create the space for growth as a Catalyst/Strategist, and the opportunity to rise above the noise and take charge as a strategic leader. There is no point planting a young tree in a smaller steel-walled container. Yet that is what we’re doing in organizations. So the first part of the methodology is to ensure that the space is available for growth!

There are seven steps to creating a Strategic Operating System. They are:

  1. Run the Schedule with a Dynamic Diary Rhythm to Master TIME
  2. Define the Scope with a Transformational Strategic Agenda to Master VISION
  3. Set the Scene with a Major Milestones Roadmap to Master FOCUS
  4. Create the Style with a Values-based Leadership Culture to Master VALUES
  5. Know the Score with Cascading Team Charters to Master ALIGNMENT
  6. Step up on Stage with a Compelling Signature Presentation to Master VOICE
  7. Leverage Scale with Orchestrated Stakeholder Engagement to Master COLLABORATION


Step Two        Develop Holistic Leadership Capacity

The second step is to realize that we are the masters of our lives or the star, director, producer, casting director, special effects expert – playing all the roles that lead to the movie that is our life. We either have the dream or the drama depending on whether our conscious mind or subconscious mind is in charge. By taking a mind-body-spirit approach to aspiring to the highest versions of ourselves and healing our reactive patterns that hurt ourselves and others, we can speed up the process of Stage Leadership Development.

Again there are seven key dimensions that lead to Holistic Leadership Capacity.

  1. Appreciate Identity to deepen Self-Awareness and understand our EGO
  2. Exercise Influence by navigating the orange light zone and opening our WILL
  3. Mutual Inquiry to recognise and eliminate emotional triggers with our HEART
  4. Clear Intention using mindfulness and purpose to follow our INTUITION
  5. Courageous Integrity setting standards, boundaries and priorities with MIND
  6. Deepen Insight by learning to trust, listen within and embody GUIDANCE
  7. Lead to Inspire by creating a caring world and peaceful planet with SPIRIT


Step Three      Integrate Innovative Networked Talent Management

The third step is to transform HR strategies, policies and practices with respect to the way work is carried out. It is essential to create a default culture of trust where rules are set for the many interested in the greater good rather than the few who act only out of self-interest. This requires a revolution in thinking relative to traditional HR! Read about the The Rise of HR here, a compilation of short articles put together by Dave Ulrich.

These 7 Steps have yet to be codified. They incorporate creating a lattice organizational structure where we proactively diversify amongst gender, generation, location and culture in networked communities across and beyond the organisation to collaborate and innovate. People now wish to decide the time of work, place of work, weight of work and type of work they undertake. We need to adopt more voluntary practices that give people more freedom and power to shape their lives as a whole and enjoy a greater sense of wellbeing and community while continuing to contribute and grow.

We need to create more Transformational Leaders to generate higher People Engagement which will lead to a high performance Culture and enable you to generate extraordinary business results!

Leadership is at the Heart of Transformation.

By adopting this proven methodology and stimulating wide engagement, you will reap an amazing return on your investment!

The time has come to invest in Leadership and People Engagement in order to release the vast reservoir of talent you have turning up each day for work.

As you develop Transformational Leaders, you will be able to collaborate widely to create innovative solutions to our most wicked problems!!

Don’t bother with another restructure or change effort, take the quantum leap to TRANSFORM instead!!!

If you’re inspired, please contact me. I’m looking for a few Senior Executive Leaders who would like to invest their energy in the TRANSFORMATION of their People and Culture. I’ll help you and your Executive Team become Transformational Leaders at Strategist, and your Senior Leaders become Inspiring Leaders at Catalyst, so that together you can make a quantum leap in people engagement and transform your world!!

I hope you enjoyed this post. My purpose is to enable people to realize their potential and organizations, their aspirations.

It’s my specific intent to enable Senior Executives to make the quantum shift from effective business operations management to inspiring strategic transforming leadership so they can bring their Vision, Values and Voice to life, create an amazing workplace, tackle the world’s most wicked problems and generate an amazing new world. Click here to find out more or watch a video to get a quick rundown.

If you would like to keep track of my posts and updates, you can follow and connect with me on my websiteLinkedIn or Twitter.

If you would like a more detailed outline of this post, click here.

Please join the Strategic Holistic Leadership Group to continue the conversation.

Wishing you all the very best,



Antoinette Braks is an Executive Coach in Strategic and Holistic Leadership and a Designer and Strategic Facilitator of Culture Transformation with 25+ years international executive experience. She has led People and Culture with Shell in Latin America and Africa, and Leadership Capital Solutions with Korn Ferry Asia Pacific. She has an MBA from London Business School and is currently completing a PhD in the Psychology of Leadership Transformation at the MGSM.

Antoinette is also the Author of Executive SOS.

How Organizations Rob Us Of Our Personal Power

Employee Engagement is Lacking

The lack of Employee Engagement is the number one issue in Deloitte’s 2015 Human Capital Trends Report. People Engagement just edges out the dearth of leadership at number two. According to Gallup, only 13% of the global workforce is “highly engaged”.

Rather than separate these two dire issues, it seems to me that Engagement and Leadership are directly connected.

When people are “engaged”, they’re passionate and enthusiastic, they share their ideas widely with others to create new solutions, and they’re open to both the challenges and joys that work brings every day as part of their learning journey. People are able to be their best self at work and enjoy building authentic caring relationships with the people around them.

It is their leaders who inspire them to participate, contribute and grow in this way. When leaders establish a strategic framework that invites ideas and views about what to do to realize aspirational goals, people naturally engage! They open up to learning and collaborating to find new ways to add value and create an experience for customers that they love us for.

The 7 Key Ways Leaders Lose Engagement

Many executives in leadership positions bow to conventional organizational norms that rob us of our power. Here are 7 key ways we lose engagement in the business and stunt our own growth as leaders.

1.  Boring, Unproductive And Dismissive Meetings

When we regiment people to show up at certain times for unproductive meetings where they simply have to listen and be quiet, follow instructions and behave in line with the group norms, we disengage them. They give us the appearance of being part of a group or a team, yet we fail to engage their hearts and minds in their work and who they are as people or altogether as a community. They’re physically present but often mindfully absent.

2.  Codes of Conduct Are Inadequate For Genuine Relationships

Bullying takes place in insidious ways. Often because of the bully’s positional authority and the victim’s tendency to please others, the behavior gets overlooked for some time. While it starts with very small infringements on a person’s sense of safety and self-esteem, the longer it goes, the worse it gets. Until finally they must speak up or be lost. The codes of conduct in many organizations do not meet the minimum standards that would provide people with the foundations to build genuine, authentic and respectful relationships with each other. Another leadership opportunity!

3.  We Rely On Positional Authority Rather Than Personal Authenticity

Many of us have had the experience of being ignored or overruled on decisions that don’t make any sense to us, even though we’re chiefly occupied with the work and committed to making it a success. This makes us feel that we’re not important which of course results in disengagement. Therefore if we don’t invite our people to participate and join in the conversation or make those decisions that immediately affect their work, we’re actually reducing them to being mindless machines working under instructions. Very disengaging.

4.  Work Is Delegated By Way Of A Set of Activities Or Processes

Being charged with “doing” work, without any “thinking” or creative work prior to the plan of activities being set, is another form of disempowerment. When we don’t give people the opportunity to use their individual ingenuity to collaborate with others on how best to achieve the desired results, their minds begin to close down and their spirit deflates. The scope of their discretion becomes much smaller and they have little chance to learn and develop their opportunity to contribute in a more meaningful way. Wasted talent!

5.  Everyone Is Measured Individually On What They’ve Done

Individual performance management sets up silos and separation. It also sets them up for failure, as there is little interest in helping one another out when they have jobs of their own to complete. As most jobs require more than what we can handle at times, and also don’t always mirror our individual strengths 100% of the time, it makes much more sense to work as a team. Team performance creates unity through shared goals and shared resources so that everyone contributes to their best to achieve the desired outcomes. Teams engage!

6.  There Is Very Little Or Sporadic 121 Contact With Team Members

When 121 meetings are overlooked by many a busy Senior Executive, people lose their individual identity. If they have no-one who mentors or guides them, coaches them to grow, learn and see wider perspectives, or is sufficiently trustworthy to support them during tough times at home or at work, people disengage and even begin to dissipate. To care about their work, people need to feel cared for – in the most professional and personal way. They need to know that their leader is on the lookout for their individual growth, career advancement and personal wellbeing. This requires regularly scheduled 121 meetings focused on their work, themselves and their team.

7.  The Tide Of Negativity Is Allowed To Pervade The Workplace

Things will always go wrong, as often as they go right, until we find the balance within ourselves that enables us to row down the middle of the river living in tune with our authentic purpose and learning from both lessons and successes. This requires a positive outlook, realistic expectations and amazing aspirations. Negativity, blame, personal criticism, an ‘us and them’ mentality is toxic to a high performance corporate culture. If these views are allowed to go unchallenged, unaddressed and unresolved, if there is no avenue for open dialogue and no commitment to finding a better way or even just accepting that this is the best that is possible for now, people will disengage and the organization will not thrive.

As A Senior Executive You Can Create Your Own Culture!

In my experience coaching Senior Executives over the last few years, it’s become evident to me that as a Senior Executive, you must choose to consciously rise above your conventional organizational norms to establish a strategic framework that engages, empowers and uplifts your people.

You have the power to build what I call the strategic scaffolding that creates the safe and secure container for individual ingenuity, respectful relationships and team performance to realize aspirational goals in partnership with other stakeholders. You can create your own culture provided you decide to become an authentic, inspiring, strategic leader who empowers and trusts your people.

It’s a bit like flying above the ground so that you no longer need to concern yourself with the highways and byways, red lights and sentries, or clutter and clatter. Instead you create an expanded strategic frame by implementing the following proven 7 Step System captured in 7 S’s to establish your own Strategic Operating System – Executive SOS.

  1. Master Time by Running Your SCHEDULE with a Dynamic Diary Rhythm
  2. Master Vision by Defining the SCOPE of a Transformational Strategic Agenda
  3. Master Focus by Setting the SCENE with a Major Milestones Roadmap
  4. Master Values by Creating the STYLE with a Values-based Leadership Culture
  5. Master Teamwork by Knowing the SCORE with Cascading Team Charters
  6. Master Voice by Stepping Up on STAGE with a Compelling Signature Presentation
  7. Master Collaboration by Leveraging SCALE with Orchestrated Stakeholder Engagement

Find out more in my book illustrated with a number of client success stories. Please contact me if you’d like to rise above the noise, transform your culture and create and realize strategic aspirations that would be more meaningful for you. If you need a business turnaround, need to renew your strategic focus or just want to focus on realizing the potential of your people, I’d be delighted to help you. Find out more here.

100% of the clients who participated in my PhD Research Study made the shift to becoming an inspiring strategic leader in just one year instead of several (mostly from High Achievers to Catalysts); Leadership Effectiveness lifted by 20% from the 60th percentile to the 80th in one year with a 1,000-person client organization; and People Engagement lifted by 30% within 6 months of launching a Culture Transformation Program with another similar sized organization.

If you are an aspirational Executive Leader who would like to transform your workplace by collaborating with someone with a proven track record, please contact me at antoinette@antoinettebraks.com or set up a time for us to talk here.

I can work with you in a number of ways:

  • Executive Coaching and Group Coaching
  • Facilitating Executive Team Strategic Off-Sites
  • Holistic Leadership Development Programs
  • Strategic Culture Transformation Programs

To find out more by video, click here, or for a pdf, click here.

If you would like a Complimentary Coaching Meeting with me to talk through your situation, please book a time here.

It’s my intent to enable clients to make the quantum shift from operating under conventional business management norms to become inspiring strategic leaders so they can bring their Vision, Values and Voice to life, create an amazing workplace and generate awesome results. Click here to find out more.

If you would like to keep track of my posts and updates, please follow and connect with me on LinkedIn or Twitter.

Please join the Strategic Holistic Leadership Group to continue the conversation.

Wishing you all the very best,


Antoinette Braks is an Executive Coach in Strategic and Holistic Leadership with 25+ years international experience. She has led People and Culture with Shell in Latin America and Africa, and Leadership Capital Solutions with Korn Ferry Asia Pacific. She has an MBA from London Business School and is currently completing a PhD in the psychology of leadership transformation.

She loves her work as an Executive Coach, leading strategic off-sites for Executive Teams and running Leadership Development Programs in organizations to uplift People Engagement and transform Corporate Culture.

4 Critical Steps So You Can Step Up From BAU!

Are you tired of trying to run faster and faster on the treadmill of everyday executive life?

Would you prefer to be a more strategic leader who honours your aspirations, lives by your intrinsic values, consciously creates a more empowering workplace for your people where they can learn and grow, and brings more awareness to how you can create a better world for the customers and communities you serve?

In BAU we always seem to be on the run. There are continuous meetings to attend, deadlines to meet and decisions to make. This leads to anxiety, stress and ultimately burnout or a sense of giving up and just getting things done as needed. Either way we become numb to the people around us and settle for living an exhausting daily life full of hustle and bustle.

But what if you could rise above the noise and operate much more strategically?

What if you could liberate your real potential to become the inspiring strategic leader that is latent within you and desperate to breakthrough?! This would enable you to enjoy a more meaningful and fulfilling life, make a bigger difference and really leverage your capacity and talents to do the really valuable work that you’re truly energised by and make your life worthwhile.

In my PhD Research Study with nine senior executives amongst some 50 coaching clients – all of whom made a quantum shift in their leadership capacity inside 12 months (find out more here), they found that they could create their own leadership culture within their organization, notwithstanding the cultural norms around them.

By blending their positional authority as a leader of their division with their own personal authenticity, they stopped mirroring the reactive behaviours around them, and instead, modeled their own take on how to operate as strategic and inspiring leaders. They created a new “normal” that led to quantum leaps in people engagement, productivity, creativity, wellbeing and overall performance.

Here are the four critical steps.


1. Create a Transformational Strategic Framework

Create a transformational strategic framework for your division by setting an inspiring purpose, vision, values and measurable strategic outcomes with your people as well as identifying the transformational shifts in performance and culture to realize your vision, the key principles to guide decision-making and the key strategic initiatives that will enable the desired results to be achieved.

These elements have the effect of:

  • Empowering your people to make decisions and take accountability
  • Lifting your perspective from monitoring activities and projects to overseeing the overall program of work and outcomes to be achieved
  • Making your work become much more meaningful and valuable when viewed in the light of purposeful aspirations and meaningful goals.


2. Create a Dynamic Diary Rhythm

Create a Dynamic Diary Rhythm in your schedule so that you are running a series of channels or highways systematically based on the people you need to engage with, rather than focusing on the activities that you are concerned with. Once you have the channels or highways all set up, the work will naturally flow through them and you will be not be mired or overwhelmed by the volume of work. Your channels will automatically ensure you give attention to your strategic priorities.

Taking this approach enables you to

  • Rise above the noise and operate strategically!
  • Give attention to coaching and mentoring your team, reporting to your leader on progress and challenges, engaging with your colleagues and other stakeholders to share perspectives on the work before you so that you are truly collaborating
  • Save an enormous amount of conscious energy that is otherwise spent on navigating a changing schedule week-by-week and day-by-day! You can use this bonus of conscious energy on the strategic issues and interpersonal dynamics that require your attention. Find out more here.


 3. Become Mindful of Your Leadership Behaviour

Become mindfully aware of your behaviour as a leader in terms of the impact of every thought, word and action on your own sense of wellbeing and on all the people you interact with. Inspiring leaders take a humanistic approach to leadership in that they genuinely respect others by consistently extending kindness and encouragement to them. This requires being positive in all forms of expression and showing gratitude for all elements in your life.

Becoming mindful requires

  • Deleting negative thoughts and overriding them with new positive thoughts so that you reprogram your brain – generating positive empowering thoughts repeatedly will rewire your brain
  • Appreciating that every interpersonal dynamic or life experience is either a needed lesson or a well-deserved blessing. If you can interpret any unwanted dynamic or event in terms of what it is showing or teaching you about yourself, and then changing your own approach to the situation, everything around you will change.
  • Understanding that anything that triggers a negative emotional reaction within you, is simply your signalling system that an old hurt is ready to heal. By finding the source of the behaviour in your past, identifying what you resent or regret, and then offering forgiveness, the hurt will heal and your emotional triggers will dissipate. This heart-centred process gradually leads to peace of mind.


4. Create a Safe Haven of Mutual Respect

Create a safe haven for all your people by inviting everyone to lift their standards of self-expression to the same high standard of excellence you hold for yourself. These high standards can be based on your selected set of values. Find out more about creating a values-based culture here.

The key is to speak up in the moment whenever you see any conversation or behaviour that is “below the line” and ensure your team of managers do the same. This will make everyone feel safe and respected and lead to the development of mutual trust. In this type of culture, people develop confidence, innovate and collaborate.

Courageous Caring Conversation

The best way to speak up is to hold what I call a Courageous Caring Conversation. It involves the following three steps, with a pause between each step to enable the other person to respond.

The first time you do this can be personally challenging. You may feel anxiety but you can channel this fear into realizing that this is exactly the type of exhilarating turning point that you need to create your leadership culture. Each time you do this it gets easier and once you’ve spoken up courageously three times, your brain will be rewired and the anxiety will have dissipated.

Here are the three steps in a Courageous Caring Conversation (TIP):

  1. Speak the TRUTH about the style of communication in an encouraging way e.g. I think we could talk about this in a different way. Speaking like that makes people feel … but if we take this approach then …
  2. Talk about the IMPLICATIONS of continuing the undesirable behaviour e.g. If we continue to blame our colleagues for this, we’re going to create an “us and them” situation where we won’t get the support we will need from them in the future … we’re all in this together …
  3. Create a turning POINT that is either a decision or action that must be taken instead e.g. From now on let’s not blame others and instead appreciate them for doing the best they can do and focus on how we might be able to improve the situation so that we all benefit …


Bring Your Vision, Values and Voice to Life

These four critical and significant steps are taken from the 7-Steps to create a Strategic Operating System and bring your Vision, Values and Voice to life, and a 12-step framework to develop your holistic leadership capacity in terms of self-awareness, emotional resilience, mindful agility and spiritual intelligence.

They provide a platform for you to blend your positional authority with your personal authenticity and enable the people you lead and connect with to enjoy the three intrinsic human needs for personal autonomy, the opportunity to serve others, and the ability to grow and develop so that we realize more of our own unique potential to make a difference in the lives of others.

If you’d like to boost your capacity as an inspiring, strategic leader, connect with me today. I’d love to hear from you as I’m very excited about working with some new coaching clients. To find out more about my coaching methodology and successful track record in coaching senior executives, click here.

I hope you enjoyed this post. I’d be delighted if you clicked on LIKE and please COMMENT below to share your view.

It’s my intent to enable clients make the quantum shift from business operations management to inspiring strategic leadership so they can bring their Vision, Values and Voice to life, create an amazing workplace and generate awesome results!  Click here to find out more.

I’m excited about working with some new clients! If you’d like a Complimentary Coaching Meeting with me, please click here

If you would like a pdf of this post, click here.

If you would like to keep track of my posts and updates, you can follow and connect with me on LinkedIn and Twitter.

Please join the Strategic Holistic Leadership Group to continue the conversation.

All the very best,

Antoinette Braks is an Executive Coach in Strategic and Holistic Leadership with 25+ years international experience. She has led People and Culture with Shell in Latin America and Africa, and Leadership Capital Solutions with Korn Ferry Asia Pacific. She has an MBA from London Business School and is currently completing a PhD in the psychology of leadership.

Antoinette is also the author of Executive SOS.

She loves her work as an Executive Coach, leading strategic off-sites for Executive Teams and running Leadership Development Programs in organizations.


9 Key Steps to Lead Your Life By Design

As an Executive most of us get into the corporate game in our 20’s with little awareness of what life is all about. We appreciate the basics: work we enjoy and a career ladder to climb, a nice home and a good income, a life partner and a happy family – and then one day we wake up and look back and wonder where all the time went.

What have we been doing with our lives?

Have we reached our goals?

Are we leading our dream life?

Or does life feel a little hollow, without real meaning or purpose?

Have the many thousands of hours been worth it?

Do we even understand who we are and our personal mission in life?

We begin to realize that we seem to have largely got lost in the shuffle of meetings to attend, targets to reach and restructures to deal with. Who we are remains a mystery. We’re operating as a human resource in a time capsule called a corporation. And yet, within us is a spiritual pull that yearns for us to be authentic to who we are, learn from our mistakes and evolve as a more compassionate and wiser person.

We probably know our strengths and know that we’ve made a difference. But have we evolved? Have we learned to build positive, nurturing, collaborative relationships with others? Have we enjoyed some awesome life experiences? Do we have genuine personal confidence and trust in ourselves and others? Are we really happy with the way we are and how the world is?

It’s these sorts of questions that we must ask and address, if we are to create a better world. It can only happen through us. And with the advances in quantum and neuroscience we now know that we have much more power to lead a life by design instead of settling for one by default!

This week I’ve decided to reboot the program of limiting beliefs and painful memories that’s still running in my autopilot. I’m happy with some elements in my life but not with others. And I want to accelerate the appearance of my dream life. If you’d like to reboot too, take the following steps.

1. Decide to Install a New Program

Research in quantum and neuroscience tells us that we can reprogram our brain by holding and repeating new thoughts with enthusiasm so weautomatically take action based on liberating beliefs instead of limiting beliefs. It’s our limiting beliefs that hold us back and new liberating beliefs that chart our way forward.

We can use our mind to revise past events and rehearse future events. We can release unpleasant memories and imagine wonderful new possibilities. Our mind doesn’t know the difference between what is real and what is imagined, either way creates a memory or imprint on our brain. We have the power to master our mind. Commit to giving it a go.

2. Create A VISION Of Your Ideal Future

Decide absolutely on what you really really want in your life. Look to your horizon. Make it clear, make it as specific as you can, quantify elements and make it highly descriptive so that you can touch, sense, smell, see and hear all this taking place for real. Add in the memorable thrill and excitement of one of your life’s highlights so that you connect your new goals with an awesome memory and existing neural network.

This story is YOUR VISION of your life in the future. It gives you direction and purpose. Create a Vision Board of your ideal life so that you can see it every day! Seeing the same pictures over and over helps to program our subconscious. I’ve used Vision Boards over the years to great effect – in some areas of my life! Others need more work.

3. Leverage The Power Of INTENTION


To take this up a notch, think not only of the things, relationships and experiences you want in your life. Expand your mind to how you’d really like to contribute to the world, how you’d like to be of service. This has the hallmark of an INTENTION. Wayne Dyer’s written a terrific book with this very title.

Intention resonates at a higher frequency than DESIRE. Together they are extremely powerful when it comes to creating a very focused commitment on how you wish to give to the world and the enthusiasm and unbridled joy that accompanies how you wish to live in the world.

What is the actual difference, precisely put, that you’d like to make in the world?

Or how will your contribution specifically make the world a better place to be?

Intention takes you into the post-conventional world of the Catalyst. As Gandhi said, we must become the change we wish to see in the world. Inner change and outer change work hand in hand.

4. MIND THE GAP! In Your Current Life Experience

Wherever there are gaps between our present reality and our future vision, there will be subconscious limiting beliefs in our autopilot, even if you’re not aware of what they are. To address this, create a declaration that affirms the opposite for every major gap you currently see between your present reality and your future vision.

“I am an extraordinarily inspiring and strategic Executive Director.”

“I earn $… pa and live an abundant life.”

“I enjoy great relationships with all of my family.”

“I have a fulfilling life-long relationship with a wonderful, caring partner”

And then add a few generic ones along the lines of:

“I easily achieve all my goals and dreams.”

“I live each day with passion and purpose.”

“I deserve happiness, health and wellbeing.”

According to John Assaraf, best selling author of The Answer, convincingly reciting personally relevant liberating beliefs while connecting them to the joyous feelings that accompanied a previous personal highlight, 3 times a day at the same time morning, noon and night for 30 days, will rewire your autopilot. Clarity, relevance, emotion and repetition are key.

Your brain will literally change its perception and interpretation of what you see after that time as new neural pathways create new lenses on your world.

5. Tune Into Your New RADAR

Having a VISION of your ideal future, the INTENTION to be of service and a set of LIBERATING BELIEFS that will reframe limiting beliefs to support you to give and live into your dream life, sets up the energy field of the Emergent Future. This puts you in the “present” where your subconscious moves you into “flow”.

This special blend has the effect of creating a new RADAR that will highlight relevant opportunities and resources that are appropriate for you. Your Radar is a reticular activating system that works like a google search engine. You enter your dream life along with liberating beliefs and your Radar seeks out the means to achieve it.

It’s certainly worked for me. Upon realizing that I was choosing to lead a rather unconventional corporate gypsy lifestyle moving repeatedly between Sydney and London and occasionally back to Auckland, changing jobs every time, I decided that a new and better career opportunity would meet me at every turn. And it always did. Every time.

The most astonishing time was the day I walked into Korn Ferry’s offices in Sydney after working with Shell in London. The head of their Management Assessment Division had just resigned that very day so they needed a new expert instantly. I happened to be already familiar with their distinctive Leadership Assessment instrument and took up the role the very next week!

6. Feel The Fear and Do It Anyway

Your new Radar will change what you “see” and then it is up to you to recognise you are changing course and take action – by feeling the fear and doing it anyway, as best selling author Susan Jeffers put it.

Once our subconscious mind, our autopilot, is redirected to set a new course by our conscious mind, we can and do change our reality. Of course it will want to take the familiar routes it’s accustomed to and will raise a red flag whenever we veer off our customary path until it’s better acquainted with our new one.

This is our psycho-cybernetic mechanism that works like a thermostat maintaining the same temperature. It wants to keep things as they have been, to stay in our comfort zone as opposed to moving into our growth zone. It sets up the robot’s caution from “Lost in Space” (a children’s program that had me hiding behind the curtains!) of “Danger, danger.”

But if we acknowledge that this resistance is simply mechanics, we can override any doubt and anxiety that comes up by reassuring our old self that it’s all okay, we’re on an adventure to something new.

If we embrace the fear, receive it gratefuly as a signal that our change in course is working, then we can move rapidly forward into our new life by design rather than settling for the one we have by default. Navigating our way in the growth zone is uncomfortable. We need to eagerly look out for our next alert and discern, is there really danger lurking or is this the great unknown where my new adventure lies?

7. Delete your ANTs and Override “Not Good Enough”

The other thing you must do is to delete the negative thoughts that come up in your mind. Dr Daniel Amen, Author of Change Your Brain, Change Your Life, calls these “automatic negative thoughts” or ANTs.

They are often not even our own voice but the voices of teachers, parents or classmates who were also subjected to negative programming and automatically transferred the same onto us without thinking.

Whenever you come across an ANT, delete it in your mind and replace it with the opposite. Or, easier still, decide on one single succinct declaration that has the power to supersede all ANTs.

“I am a powerful person. I can do and achieve anything I set my mind to!”

“Be quiet. My highest self is in charge.”

I think the most disempowering belief in the present world is the thought of being “Not Good Enough.” This is part of our twentieth century culture and is conditioned within us at a very early age. It is critical to override it!

Oh, and by the way, if your outward expression is negative in tone or language, then you’ll have to change this first. Any negativity, particularly throw away lines which you may not even be aware of, will keep you entrapped in that very dynamic.

Complaining and criticising is like a virus that anyone can become immune to if we stop giving our power away by being compliant and we set our own frequency onto a purely positive channel. This does not mean rose-coloured glasses, but a dispassionate, compassionate view of reality expressed in a clear, kind and understanding way using positive language. It’s very easy to replace “poor shot” with “not the best shot” to maintain a positive vibe.

8. Create an Aspirational Leadership Brand Declaration

I’ve coined the above in relation to our life as a whole. In my holistic coaching work we focus particularly on creating and fine-tuning an Aspirational Leadership Brand Declaration (ALBD). This focuses on your identity – who you design yourself to be in the most authentic way you know how. Here’s a generic example. You can start with this and then fine-tune it to make it your own unique value proposition in life.

“I am an inspiring strategic leader who makes a significant difference in the world to make it a better place.” [Always in the present tense starting with “I am”]

9. Use The MAGIC Formula!

This might sound a bit crazy but honestly, programming your mind as set out above can and will make a big difference in your life. I do believe there is more to living a full life which involves healing with the heart and tuning into spirit to complement reprogramming with the mind, and I will talk to that another time.

In the meantime I’d like to share with you my first ever MAGIC formula which is phenomenally powerful because it includes the whole array of mindfulness, heart, affirmations and spiritual intent all in one!! This formula is not designed to just say, it’s designed to create a Movie of your Life in your Mind and Heart. Remember you are the Star of your Movie, its Director, Script Writer, Producer, Casting Director, Special Effects, Costume Designer etc

M is for Mastery. I am the Master of my destiny, the Captain of my ship.

A is for Abundance. I live an Abundant life where everything I need and want comes to me at the perfect time.

G is for Gratitude. I am grateful for the sun and rain,  … [create your own list]

I is for Imagination. Take the time to dream up your ideal future life, scene by scene in your imagination. Make it as real as you can in your mind like a movie.

C is for Celebration. Finally raise your spirits to feel jubilant and exhilarated, on top of the world, as you celebrate the highlights in your life to date and the amazing things you accomplish in the future as if they are already done!

Questions For You

Is your current life all you want it to be? If you could realize your full potential to grow into the greatest person you have the potential of becoming, what could your life look like?

Life is precious. We must learn to spend it wisely and create it mindfully with an open heart. Practice each step persistently and patiently. Your time will come.

Have you used some of these techniques to change your experience of life to one that is truly magical and uplifting? Would love to hear about your magical moments in the comments below!

And if you’d like an Executive Coach to support you to navigate the new terrain that will lead to living the life of your dreams, click here. I’d love to help.

I hope you enjoyed this post. It’s my intent to enable clients to make the quantum shift from business operations management to inspiring strategic leadership so they can bring their Vision, Values and Voice to life.

 If you would like to keep track of my posts and updates, you can follow me on LinkedIn or Twitter 

If you would like a pdf of this post, click here

Please join my Strategic Holistic Leadership Group to continue the conversation

If you are interested in a Complimentary Coaching Meeting with me, pleaseclick here to find out more about my coaching approach and make a brief application 

All the very best,


Executive Coach in Strategic and Holistic Leadership

The 7 Key Transformations in Leadership Capacity

There are seven key transformations in executive leadership capacity in the world today. They form the progressive stages in adult maturity or Vertical Learning, in contrast to horizontal learning that takes place within a stage. The seven transformations are:

  1. Opportunist
  2. Conformist
  3. Specialist
  4. Achiever
  5. Catalyst
  6. Strategist
  7. Alchemist

As we progress through these stages of development we take the positive attributes of each with us and gradually release our shadow or personal reactive patterns based on the ego’s sense of insecurity and feeling “not good enough”. The stages of development form a holarchy where each stage is included in the following stage. As we develop our leadership capacity, we grow in consciousness and gradually embrace all of who we are with awareness, understanding, kindness and compassion.

Let’s look at each stage in turn.

The Opportunist

The Opportunist is concerned with survival and security, Maslow’s first two needs. They are self-interested, relatively isolated and will get away with whatever they can. They operate on a day-by-day or minute-by-minute basis without a care for consequences. Their view of the world is that it is unsafe and everyone else is assumed to be an enemy. They play only to their own advantage.

The Opportunist is also deceptive and manipulative. They are the executives who steal your ideas without recognizing their source, who always blame others when things go wrong, and seem to be unavailable when immediate help is needed. They will also attack first in order to defend themselves when feeling threatened. They are completely averse to feedback.

The Opportunist lives in fear, trusts no one and largely operates in fight, flight or freeze mode. Some 4% of the Executive population are anchored at Opportunist. This view of the world is their Autopilot. Whenever our safety and security is threatened in the succeeding stages, it is relatively easy to regress back to the level of the Opportunist and resolve our situation based on self-interest alone.

The Conformist

The Conformist decides to play it safe. While they still view the world as a very challenging place to be, they believe that if they abide by all the rules and do what people in higher authority ask or tell them to do, they will be safe. They conform. They are risk averse and will only take action if instructed to do so. Most will also need a step-by-step approach mapped out for them. Their level of voluntary participation is relatively low.

In complying, Conformists give away their personal authentic power to positional authority. This leads to a sense of personal ineptitude that moves them to complain. In other words, when we give our personal power away to comply with others, we address this imbalance by complaining about others. If you know anyone in your workplace who complains a lot, they will be operating from aConformist mindset. Some 9% of the Executive population are anchored atConformist and it is a common fallback position for succeeding levels in times of stress.

Conformists use reactive emotional strategies to get what they want. The three key strategies are appeasing others by being nice and bending over backwards to fit in – usually towards more senior people; controlling others by criticizing, berating and offending others – usually towards more junior people; or otherwise withdrawing from people by avoiding all communication and even eye contact.

All are unconscious emotionally manipulative techniques that produce workplace drama in the form of passive-aggressive behaviour manifesting in bullies and victims. We subconsciously base our boss-subordinate and peer-based interpersonal strategies on those we employed to get what we want as a child within the comparable context of parent-child and sibling dynamics.

The Specialist

The Specialist devotes themselves to their work. They wish to develop their skills, perfect their craft and focus on the details to get everything absolutely right. They switch their primary focus from being compliant and fitting in, to standing out through the course of their work. They are experts in their field and strong contributors dotting i’s and crossing t’s for as long as it takes to get something perfect. They make up some 38% of the Executive population.

Specialists largely work individually and are focused on the quality of their work and mastery of their craft. They will drill down to the detail and ensure complete accuracy taking a comprehensive rather than pragmatic approach. A micro-manager is typically operating at the Specialist mindset. Their personal identity merges with their work so they take feedback very personally. They tend to be emotionally reactive on the receiving end of constructive feedback and emotionally responsive to recognition and praise.

While the reactive behaviours are still present, they are now more associated with their work than trapped within the power struggle of the endemic parent-child and sibling dynamics. They are driven by the need to perfect their work, which is a quantum step up the spiral from Conformist. Focusing on increasing the quality of our own work based on our own albeit critical view of self and others, leads to continuous improvement.

The Achiever

The Achiever is a pragmatist rather than a perfectionist. Their goal is “fit for purpose” rather than perfect. The Achiever begins to consider how their work meets the needs of colleagues, customers and clients. Their focus extends to the impact of their work rather than just the work itself. They are open to feedback on their work, can manage change, drive projects, meet deadlines, produce results and heed the customer. They make up some 33% of the Executive population.

Achievers also shift from working individually to working effectively with others as team players. They enjoy being in the driving seat and driving initiatives forward. They are competitive, strong performers, will do what it takes to win and enjoy the glow of success. Achievers can also be very black and white. This enables them to be decisive and proactive albeit somewhat shortsighted compared to more advanced stages of development when life becomes shades of grey.

Customer-centric organizations try to adopt an Achiever mindset to create feedback loops and generate accountability for customer interactions and the customer experience. The introduction of scorecards to drive results and address the gap supports the Achiever’s competitive worldview.

The world is made up of winners and losers and theAchiever’s primary focus is to strive for more. This keeps them on the treadmill of doing more, wanting more and getting more. What they have is never enough. This vicious circle is extremely stressful!


The Conventional World

Opportunists, Conformists, Specialists and Achievers are all mindsets in the conventional world. They operate within conventional organizational norms. Altogether they make up 84% of the Executive population. Specialists andAchievers who account for 71% work extremely well in the world. These percentages are based on the work of Bill Torbert, co-developer of the Global Leadership Profile.

However at these stages of leadership development or conscious awareness, we are not able to work on the world. We are not able to introduce and sustain transformational change that will create a better world. To do this we must make the shift to post-conventional leadership. While this “new” world is uncertain and ambiguous, by developing our conscious capacity to navigate it, we are able to redeem peace of mind and restore personal wellbeing.

The following three transformations in leadership development operate within post-conventional norms. The Achiever tends to be very hesitant before they make the leap into what appears to them to be the great unknown. They must make the shift from the external world to their inner world. It is often at this point that the guidance and encouragement of a later stage Coach is invaluable to them.

The Catalyst

The Catalyst is the first post-conventional stage. It represents a step into a new growth zone and an unfamiliar world. At the individuation phase of the Specialistwe were focused on perfecting our work. At the individuation phase of theCatalyst we are focused on understanding ourselves: our thoughts and feelings, motives and fears, reactions and responses, and our deepest desires and aspirations. We ask the questions: “Why?” “Why am I here?” “What is the meaning of life?”

At this stage, we move into our personal growth zone where growing and evolving becomes 
our natural way of being. Even though the challenges we encounter along the way may be unfamiliar and disconcerting, for the participant, life is forever enriched. We shift from being satisfied with a life based on cause and effect to feeling our way forward in the world despite uncertainty to lead a purposeful and fulfilling life based on conscious intention and committed action.

Executives anchored at Catalyst number just 9% of the Executive population.Catalysts are focused on engaging others, igniting change and working across boundaries. Their focus turns from the impact of their work on customers and clients to the input into the design and nature of the work itself through active early genuine engagement with all stakeholders. They are attuned to leveraging strengths, fuelling personal growth and collaborating with others in order to exercise mutual power to co-create the best possible outcomes for the whole community.

The capacity to genuinely innovate and collaborate is initiated at Catalyst. At this mindset the inner world of the individual becomes more important than the external world within which they operate. In other words they heed their intuition and feelings to make decisions and generate new insights and ideas. They also listen from a much deeper place of inquiry and can therefore create a deeper connection with others and develop the ability to build real trust with others.

Many words beginning with “in” are associated with the Catalyst worldview: insight, innovation, intrinsic, innate, inquiry, introspection, intricate, inclusive, inquisitive, interest, intimacy, intuition and inspiration.

The Strategist

Executives anchored at Strategists number just 6%. At this point in their leadership development they have become self-aware and other-aware and have the ability to be discerning and self-validating. They do not seek approval or permission from others. They have developed strength of character.

Strategists have the vision, courage and presence to generate and sustain transformational change. They have adopted the mantle of personal authentic power in the interests of serving their whole community and not just selected interest groups. This represents a shift from ‘not good enough’ atConformist, looking good at Specialist, doing well atAchiever, doing good at Catalyst and onto focusing on the greater good for all concerned at theStrategist stage.

When led by a Strategist, the organization shifts from being customer-centric to community-centric. It succeeds in achieving medium-to-long term sustainable outcomes that make a real, significant and beneficial impact on the people they serve and affect now and in the future. They generate a new world through their convictions and intentions, living by their principles and in tune with their life purpose while embracing others with compassion and enthusiasm.

The mature Strategist is an authentic, inspiring and strategic leader. They lead confidently from the ‘inside-out’. They are able to consistently stand and hold their ground while holding and nurturing the space for the emergence of a transformed world. They are extremely mindful, highly considered and passionately articulate in their advocacy for a better world and are able to take purposeful action in the moment to keep everyone on course.

The Alchemist

The final stage that can be observed and calibrated in the post-conventional world is the Alchemist. They number 1%. The Alchemist can have a far-reaching impact on their world. They are the iconic leaders who ignite and generate social evolution as well as transform global industries. Illustrious figures such as Nelson Mandela, Oprah Winfrey, Richard Branson, Anita Roddick and Bill Gates would appear to have realized their potential as Alchemists. However there are alsoAlchemists who are amazingly effective behind the scenes in niche markets and uniquely tailored roles.

The Alchemist embodies their own intuitive guidance and employs mutually collaborative power to generate transformational shifts in the world that respect common humanity and all of life. They are able to hold and embrace wonderful future possibilities while standing firmly in the present and being cognizant of all that has preceded and led to the current situation. They look at events symbolically and value both the shadow and the light in the psychodynamics of common human interactions.

The Alchemist has released the shadow of the ego through grief and forgiveness, and surrendered their personal will to be an instrument in the divine orchestra on earth. They live to evolve in tune with the cosmos listening into the dark and the deep recesses of their soul’s voyage in life. They feel free to be uniquely themselves, liberated from any social or cultural conventions, and can feel both delighted and tormented as they perceive, attend to and process the vast cacophony of thought and emotion that swirls around them. They are able to be fully vulnerable yet vitally alive and vigorous as they give their conscious, compassionate attention to the dynamic interplay in each and every moment to exercise wisdom in action.

The Post-Conventional World

In order to shape a better world, we need more Executives to shift to the post-conventional stages of Catalyst and Strategist and indeed, Alchemist.

In my recent PhD Research Study 100% of the participants surprisingly all shifted a full stage in leadership development in a single year, most from Achiever toCatalyst. One shifted two full stages to Strategist with another knocking on its door. This is in direct contrast to the commonly held view that it takes several years to make a vertical shift in Stage Leadership Development.

The participants were all engaged in an Executive Coaching Program with me focused on strategic and holistic leadership development. In future posts I will explain how the blend of “outside-in” and“inside-out” coaching transcended conventional organizational operating norms and cultivated their latent, emergent potential as inspiring strategic leaders.

My single most significant finding is the extent to which conventional operating norms are stunting our leadership development. To my mind there is not a dearth of leadership in most organizations today, there is simply a very tight lid on the container for growth. Instead of providing the opportunity for executives to become more aware of their role in the interplay of life and the freedom to express themselves more fully and make decisions that will create a more sustainable world, organizations have become pressure cookers.

Thus the value of later stage executive coaching for senior executives and aspiring future leaders to transform their perspective on life and become fluent co-creators in shaping their organization and the communities they serve is enormous. Post-conventional leadership development enables us to realize our potential to generate transformational results, redeem peace of mind and restore personal wellbeing.

The higher our self-expression and the deeper our self-awareness, the richer our life experience and the greater our soul evolution. ~ Antoinette Braks

To find out more about Proven 121 Executive Coaching in Strategic and Holistic Leadership for Senior Executives and Aspiring Leaders, Click here

If you would like a pdf of this post, Click here

If you would like to keep track of my posts and updates, you can follow or connect with me on LinkedIn or Twitter

Please join my Strategic Holistic Leadership Group to continue the conversation.

If you are interested in taking up a coaching program with me, Click here

All the very best,


Email me for more information at antoinette@antoinettebraks.com

The Power of Memorable Moments to Inspire Your Best

My Dad died on 9 July. It was a peaceful and timely departure for him.

His passing made me think about the conversations we had had. He was the strong, silent type so there were few, but each had great significance for me.

The Importance of Challenging Questions

The main conversation that came to mind very vividly was when he found out that you could do an Honours degree in Law. He then challenged me: “Why aren’t you doing Honours?”

I had no answer for him. The next day I went to see the Dean of Law School and asked if I could do Honours. I was duly admitted and later graduated with Honours. This created a turning point for me where I started to put myself forward again.



What Happened When You Were Young?

On reflection, the interesting thing for me was that I had not myself sought to do the very best I could. I had been flying under the radar for many years following an incident on my first day at high school.

I was a country girl attending a private city school. When the best friend of the only girl I knew of, someone who had come from the same town as myself, basically insulted me for doing well in a Maths test on my very first day at the new school, I crept for cover psychologically speaking.

What Life Pattern Emerged as a Result?

From that point onwards, I followed precisely the same pattern. Whenever I started a new course at a new institution, I would actually top the first exam and then fly under the radar from that point on.

In a totally unconscious way, I would study hard to grasp the content, sit the exam and then see where I sat alongside my fellow students. Even though there were no other offensive comments ever, after the first test I just did enough to do well rather than doing my very best.

And I didn’t realize this until a few years ago when I finally saw the pattern. I found myself with a new group of colleagues during the course of my MA in Management Research because I delayed my enrolment in the final paper by a term. So what did I do? I tested myself again against this new cohort and aced the paper.

How Mindful Are You In What You Say?

It’s amazing how a few unconsciously rendered disparaging comments by someone we barely know can create a pattern over a lifetime where we do less than we are capable of.

And how a challenge laid down by someone important to us, someone who cares deeply for us, can encourage us to realize more of our potential.

This is particularly potent to me, as it has been my life purpose, understood and articulated when I was 30 years old, to enable people to realize their potential, and organizations, their aspirations.

What’s The Reactive Pattern In Your Life?

It seems to me that if we review our life for patterns of over and under-achievement, we can find their source in a childhood incident. A situation where we were feeling vulnerable, were hurt emotionally by someone who did not have the conscious awareness to appreciate the emotional impact of their words or actions, and we reacted with our reptilian response of fight or flight.

My predominant reaction is clearly flight. To fly under the radar so that I would not be noticed and therefore not attract nor warrant any offensive remarks.

For others it is to fight, attack being the best form of defence. Again this becomes an unconscious repertoire of the bully who speaks out in a derogatory way, however minor, to acquire the acquiescence of others.

Without positional authority or personal authenticity, we often do not have the wherewithal to stand our ground.

The Value of Guiding Principles

I concluded Dad’s Eulogy by sharing three guiding principles that I believe he would’ve wanted us to know. The first was to do our very best in everything we undertook.

The revelation since for me was that even after I had already recognized my own sabotaging pattern, the guiding principle had only just dawned on me.

Despite the example of my parents in my life who modelled excellence all their lives, I was still undercooking myself. If I had led my life by following the guiding principle, and giving it more attention, more power, than the emotional hurt, perhaps my life experience would have been different.

Without conscious awareness of our reactive pattern or conscious attention to higher guiding principles, we become paralysed in the dynamic in order to stay safe, to stay out of harm’s way. And in the meantime, we undercook our own potential to realize higher aspirations and contribute more meaningfully to the world around us.

The Three Elements that Change Your Life

This dynamic can be overturned if we are challenged by someone more senior or influential to do better, to contribute more, to realize higher goals, provided they also offer us the faith and confidence that we can! Their encouragement is the fuel that ignites our potential.

Second, if we undertake a Life Review to appreciate obsolete patterns of behaviour that do not serve us or others and identify their source, the moment when we were emotionally hurt, they lose their power over us. Once seen, our shadow moves into the light. In other words, once we are consciously aware of our inner psychological drama, we can change the script.

And third, if we articulate and appreciate the guiding principles that will empower us to aspire to our greatest potential to give our best to contribute to the world around us, then our spiritual capacity often has the power to transcend emotional hurt in the moment and save us from unconsciously creating disabling life patterns. This unleashes the power of mindfulness.

The last conversation I had with my Dad is my most treasured and cherished memory of him. We spoke to each other from the soul. While he had already lost much of his former fluency, he was still highly perceptive and was able to share a new truth with me that has since and continues to open up new frontiers in my life. Thank you Dad. I love you. Rest in peace.

In summary:

  1. Challenge others to do and give of their best so that they feel encouraged to try. Note that this is not a carrot or stick approach. It is a transcendent approach that seeks to realize their intrinsic latent potential to become more.
  2. Undertake your own Life Review to identify your own sabotaging patterns. Not just those that undo you – but those that prevent you from becoming all that you can be and give. Then release the hurt and go for gold!
  3. Articulate the guiding principle that has been thwarted by the reactive pattern. Once this is clearly understood, you will have the mindful focus and the spiritual fuel to enable you to realize your full potential to serve others.

Antoinette Braks

I hope you enjoyed this post. Please click like and comment below to share your own experience.

If you would like to keep track of my posts and updates, you can follow me on LinkedIn or Twitter 

And please join my Strategic Holistic Leadership Group on LinkedIn to continue the conversation. 

It’s my intent to enable my clients to make the quantum shift from business operations management to inspiring strategic leadership so they can bring their Vision, Values and Voice to life. Check out my book Executive SOS here.

To find out more about Executive Coaching in Strategic and Holistic Leadership, click here.

All the very best,


What is Culture and How Do You Improve It?

What is Culture?

Culture is often described as “the way we do things around here”. It’s largely unconscious and unscripted, something that happens on autopilot based on copying the behaviours of the people in the organization around us and particularly the most senior leaders. “Monkey see, monkey do”. This is how we are hardwired as human beings to stay safe and out of trouble so that our job is secure and we develop a sense of belonging to the tribe we have joined.

Culture is thus an outcome of how we behave and express ourselves in an organization. It is a legacy of past leadership and a reflection of current leadership. There are certain standards we need to comply with to fit in, and also many things we can get away with because there’s an absence of appropriate standards or boundaries. Rather than have a culture by default, we can however create a new culture by design.

The Style of a Culture

First let’s look at the style of a corporate culture. All cultures typically have a certain style or preferred modes to realize their goals in the market or serve their customers and communities. The easiest way to view the Style of an organisation’s culture is to distinguish between:

  • Doing ~ Action Orientation AQ
  • Relating ~ Emotional Awareness  EQ
  • Thinking ~ Mindful Agility MQ
  • Creating ~ Innovation Capacity SQ

As people we are generally strong in two of these dimensions – they reflect our strengths and what we most enjoy doing. Imagine each dimension is like a suit in a deck of cards and we receive a unique hand of cards at birth. Our natural tendency is to spend time in the suits where we hold the most or highest cards. If we have lots of hearts, we spend time on relationships. If we have more spades, we prefer to get on with tasks and activities. I’m a Creative/Doer – I enjoy inventing new things and have a preference for taking pragmatic action.

The same is true for the culture of an organization. The nature of the industry has a lot to do with it. For instance a company like Apple is clearly high on Creative while Fed Express focuses on timely delivery – Doing.

As we develop we can interchange our hand of cards with higher cards in the same suit, but not with cards in different suits. Our personal preferences tend not to change through life although we may well make a significant effort in raising our capacity in a third dimension if it is essential to us to continue to progress in life.

The Stage of a Culture

Our corporate culture can evolve in the same way. It also reflects distinctive stages in evolution that reflect the progressive stages in adult development.

In an “Opportunist” culture everyone is focused on self-interest. Individuals must compete for the spoils. Richard Barrett describes this type of culture as one based on “Survival” reflecting our first need for security in Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. We value Opportunity and Effort but also overlook the reactive behaviours associated with win-lose such as rejection, deceit and betrayal.

A ‘Conformist’ culture is very rule-ridden, bureaucratic and process oriented. Everything must be done in a certain way and signed off by someone in greater authority. Richard Barrett describes this type of culture as one based on “Relationship” reflecting our second need to belong to a tribe. While we value family, friends and colleagues, we also see the world in “us and them” terms casting blame on others.

A ‘Specialist” culture is very task-focused where everyone focuses on their main field of expertise. This is typically found in an academic and professional setting where everyone works largely independently. Barrett describes this step as the emergence of Self-Esteem. We associate with the tribe but also want to claim our own independence. We value Excellence and Continuous Improvement although our world is still largely competitive.

An ‘Achievement’ culture is strong on goals and targets, and the more mature the culture at this stage, the greater the focus on broader outcomes in terms of customer satisfaction and people engagement, rather than productivity, financial and efficiency targets relating to the work itself. Teamwork comes into play at this stage and generally includes the “work hard, play hard” culture. Barrett describes this as the stage of Transformation because this is the turning point from focusing on our safety needs to our growth needs.

A “Catalyst” culture is much less job oriented and more organic in terms of ensuring that the customer experience is wonderful and their corporate reputation is well regarded and trustworthy. Roles are more flexible and adaptive to what’s required to enrich their services and generate greater value for the people they serve. Wide stakeholder engagement comes into play to develop shared solutions and there’s a sense of what Barrett describes as Internal Cohesion. Everyone’s on the same side and there’s an endeavour to meet the needs of multiple diverse interests.

A “Strategist” culture is oriented towards transforming the world around them by “Making a Difference” in the world. These organizations focus on developing and delivering innovative approaches by giving attention to environmental sustainability, conscious capitalism, care of future generations and ensuring that the whole community is served by their organization so everyone is better off and the less privileged receive special consideration. Everything works much like an orchestral performance.

And finally the “Alchemist” culture is one where we are simply there to serve humanity and generate social evolution.

Three Things Change as the Culture Evolves

The perspective of the leaders at each stage of the culture broadens to accommodate more people in the system or networks we live in and ensure better outcomes for all concerned.

The standards of behaviour are set progressively higher by the leaders at each stage of the culture in order to facilitate stronger relationships, greater authenticity and care for individuals. There is more freedom for the individual and teams to fail and learn in order to lead to more innovation and longer-term sustainable success.

And the values the leaders hold are increasingly more concerned with doing good and the greater good of all rather than winning the prize accolades. We become more and more people-centric as we evolve realizing that we are a community of people on the planet and we need to care for each other in symbiosis with all of life in order to thrive as a society.

What comes first? Culture, Strategy or Leadership?

Up to and including the Achievement culture, strategic goals and objectives serve to stretch us. So strategic direction or our Vision of the future takes the lead, and we strive as people to achieve the goals we set and outcomes we desire. We value Accountability and Accomplishment.

Beyond the Achievement culture, our growth needs as people become paramount. While there is a Vision of the future, our Values, how we do things around here, drives our development as we wish to become the best version of who we are. We want to be more authentic, more purposeful, do more meaningful work, do no harm to others and realize our full potential to make more of a difference in the world.

This is where we become more vulnerable as begin to express our Voice more openly and kindly towards others. When we start to question conventional ways of doing things and seek greater transparency and trust that we will make a valuable contribution. The culture beyond Achiever becomes increasingly innovative and collaborative with a view to at least understanding the drivers and levers of the “wicked problems” we must face in the world.

Bringing our Vision, Values and Voice to the world is the 7-step framework I use in Individual Executive Coaching Programs to enable you to set up a Strategic Operating System to uplift your leadership capacity from ‘Achiever’ to ‘Strategist’. You can find out more in my book Executive SOS where each step is explained and illustrated by the success stories of clients.

How to Shift a Culture

The most effective way to shift a culture, the “how” we do things around here, is by introducing a set of corporate values that uplift the culture at and beyond Achiever. The identification and demonstration of selected values will serve to induce greater authenticity and openness in the organization.

But it’s easier said than done as a great deal more conscious awareness needs to be brought into play – in other words creating a values-based culture is to embark on Stage Leadership Development or Vertical Learning. New skills, knowledge and competencies at a horizontal level will not serve to uplift the culture. Only the development of conscious awareness through the growth stage of ‘Catalyst’ (also called Redefining or Individualist) will enable the emergence of a values-based corporate culture.

Becoming AWARE

I recommend 5 courses of action that are neatly captured by the word AWARE.

A is for an Acronym

The set of values selected must include higher order values such as Courage, Collaboration, Innovation and Trust, and come together in an acronym so that they are remembered. For instance I CARE stood for Integrity, Courage, Accountability, Responsiveness and Energy.

W is for a Whistleblower

It is impossible to increase conscious intention without there being a requirement for everyone to become whistleblowers on obsolete ways of expressing themselves, their behaviours and actions. This can be most easily accomplished with a tag-line of sorts such as “that’s below the line”.

A is for Attention

Those of who read my post on How to Get Off the Treadmill So You Can Be a More Strategic Leader will know that I am a big fan of a regular cycle of meetings. I strong recommend a monthly Culture Meeting giving attention to one Value at a time. Cascading this meeting throughout the organization in a timely way will activate a culture shift.

The Culture Meeting Agenda is very simple:

  1. What does the Value mean to each person?
  2. What do we need to Stop Doing?
  3. What can we Keep Doing?
  4. What do we need to Start Doing?
  5. Then connect the Stop and Start behaviours so that one replaces the other e.g. When we disagree INSTEAD OF just advocating our own point of view we will ask a question first to better understand the other’s point of view.
  6. Decide to commit to the one biggest change from Stop to Start that will be a stretch and will make a significant difference.

Shifting a culture is a progressive thing. It starts slowly and then builds momentum over time provided Attention is given to this regularly. The replacement of each reactive behaviour with a values-based behaviour has a ripple effect on other similar shifts.

R is for Recognition

A Values-based Recognition Strategy is one of the most valuable and economical ways to affirm and appreciate the new behaviours and accomplishments in the organization. It’s also a great way to share success stories so that people gain a better understanding of what the Values mean in practice.

E is for Executive Coach!

Leadership Culture Workshops are ideally led by an Executive Coach who specializes in Stage Leadership Development and operates from the elevated perspective of a ‘Strategist’. They will already have embodied many of the higher order Values that are being brought into play and can therefore bring a deeper inquiry into events and situations as well as a broader perspective of interpersonal dynamics.

Whereas the Individualist masters communication with colleagues who have different action logics, the Strategist masters the second-order organizational impact of actions and agreements. The Strategist is also adept at creating shared visions across different action logics – visions that encourage both personal and organizational transformations. According to the Strategist’s action logic, organizational and social change is an iterative developmental process that requires awareness and close leadership attention. Strategists deal with conflict more comfortably than do those with other action logics, and they’re better at handling people’s instinctive resistance to change. As a result. Strategists are highly effective change agents. ~ Rooke and Torbert in The 7 Transformations of Leadership HBR

Ultimately Culture is the manifestation of leadership. The more conscious and mindful the leadership capacity demonstrated by the Senior Executive Team, the more encouragement, empowerment, enthusiasm and enjoyment in the organization to serve customers, clients and communities, and create a better world in symbiosis with the sustainability of all of life.

I hope you enjoyed this post. It’s my intent to enable individual clients and executive teams to make the quantum shift from business operations management to inspiring strategic leadership so they can bring their Vision, Values and Voice to life.

If you would like to keep track of my posts and updates, you can follow me on LinkedIn or Twitter 

If you would like a pdf of this post, click here.

Please join my Strategic Holistic Leadership Group to continue the conversation: 

If you would like to talk, please email me antoinette@antoinettebraks.com or set up a meeting with me at: https://executivesos.acuityscheduling.com/schedule.php

All the very best,

Antoinette Braks

How to Develop Leaders to Entertain Future Possibilities

The Challenge of Leadership Development

There are two types of leadership development: horizontal and vertical learning. Horizontal learning is more skills, knowledge and competencies, thinking from the same perspective. Vertical learning is to develop more complex and sophisticated ways of thinking – to develop an elevated perspective that is more inclusive and embracing of multiple diverse points of view.

When we develop more skills, knowledge and competencies, we can become more effective leaders. However when we develop a broader, more open mindset, we can become inspiring strategic leaders who have the power to create a better tomorrow.

How to Foster Vertical Learning

The second thing is to better appreciate how vertical learning takes place. It does require a coach with a higher order perspective or later stage action logic. They can hold the space, internally and externally, to embrace multiple perspectives and ask provocative questions that challenge a more conventional mindset. And they have faith that we have the latent capacity to engage in the co-creative emergence of a better future.

Thirdly the consideration of complex issues, wicked problems and the entertainment of future possibilities that create a better and more caring world for us in symbiosis with the natural world, requires an open mind AND an open heart.

Our heart holds the past patterns of personal hurts. Until they are understood, we continue to attract emotionally reactive situations. However once these hurts are understood and forgiven, the voices in our head disappear and our mind clears.

Healing of the Heart Leads to a Clear and Open Mind.

This represents a holistic approach to leadership development.

Vertical Learning or Stage Development

Vertical learning or stage development involves a progressive series of mindsets or action logics in adult maturity. Here they are in brief.

Opportunists are focused on their own self-interest. They play win-lose and believe they are at risk in the world. Their strengths are seeing opportunities and taking action on them.

Conformists comply with the instructions of others in more senior positions. They give much of their personal power away through compliance and are sometimes described as good team players because they follow up and follow through.

Specialists are focused on the development of their expertise and skills. They are perfectionists and do quality work. However they identify with their work and therefore tend to take any feedback very personally.

Achievers focus externally on results, creating value for customers and genuinely thrive through teamwork. They are pragmatists rather than perfectionists. They enjoy the feedback loop on their work in order to achieve more. The shadow is that they confuse being constantly busy with being productive, and doing/wanting more with becoming happier.

Catalysts activate change in the workplace by exercising personal authenticity rather than positional authority. Their strengths are listening between the lines and engaging genuinely with others. They have ready access to their intuition, use the power of mindful intention and are prepared to be vulnerable and open with others.

Strategists have an expanded sense of consciousness and can hold the space for the emergent future. They are comfortable with ambiguity, conflict and complexity and feel safe exploring below the waterline to better understand and appreciate the diversity of multiple perspectives. They tend to become gracious and kind, and innovative collaborators.

Alchemists have the power to lead social and cultural evolution.

Developmental Approach

Having run various leadership programs in organizations as well as coaching many executives in recent years, I have arrived at the conclusion that an ideal leadership program to develop vertical learning is organic, peer-based, voluntary and aspirational.


By organic, I mean that the engagement process is deep and emergent – Theory U style. While there are specific cognitive frameworks to share and learn from, it’s actually the engagement process in relation to the frameworks that fosters embodied learning and new ways of seeing ourselves and the world.


By peer-based, I suggest that a small group of say 15 peers, colleagues scattered from across the organization who do not have a reporting relationship to or with each other, gather together to engage in a mutual developmental process. This brings together a microcosm of the macrocosm to facilitate the exploration of multiple functions, disciplines and perspectives. Representatives from external stakeholders could also be invited to join in.


The third aspect is that participation must be voluntary. If people feel they must join in and must develop, they become resistant. Instead they need to be willing to participate in order to meet a strong desire for personal growth. It is valuable for the organization to sponsor accelerated career advancement of program participants to recognise their investment of time and energy and provide a stretch working context for them outside of the Program.


Fourthly, the program needs to focus on the emergence of new insights, new possibilities and ultimately new solutions over time. Just to see each other and themselves in a new light, from a more conscious, discerning perspective is demanding in and of itself. But to need to do so in order to realize aspirational, seemingly impossible, outcomes, gives the personal development purpose and traction.

In general terms I suggest a four-part methodology: Disrupt, Discern, Distill and Discover to reflect the inner and outer exploration process.

Disrupt with new aspirations to face a complex set of challenges

  • The art of identifying a significant shared aspiration to realize over a 1-3 year period will set the scene for unknown challenges and conflict to stimulate vertical growth.

Discern with deep listening to feelings and values, beliefs and assumptions

  • The group dynamic will bring the complexity and the colliding perspectives into the room while the coaching inquiry from a later stage perspective will instigate new ways of seeing the situation leading to new insight and powerful individual action.

Distill polarities through a five-step process of: see, map, assess, learn and leverage

  • As we inquire into a series of seemingly impossible challenges or discords and begin to explore it from multiple perspectives, we develop our authentic leadership capacity. A larger, more advanced worldview emerges and in time, stabilizes.

Discover the systemic influences and new pathways to emergent possibilities

  • The act of taking accountability for complex situations generates new ways of thinking into situations. When we discover that our current way of making sense in the world is inadequate, our mind will start to search for new ways of thinking.

For more information on how to develop vertical leaders, take a look at the articles on Stage Leadership here: http://www.antoinettebraks.com/stages

I hope you enjoyed this post. I coach to enable executives make the quantum shift from business operations management to inspiring strategic leadership so they can explore, articulate and bring their Vision, Values and Voice to life in the world.

If you would like to keep track of my posts and updates, you can connect with me onLinkedIn and follow me on Twitter 

If you would like a pdf outline of the Holistic Leadership Program, please click here.

And you can join my Strategic Holistic Leadership Group to continue the conversation.

If you would like to meet with me, please email me:antoinette@antoinettebraks.com or go to:https://executivesos.acuityscheduling.com/schedule.php to set up a phone call.

All the very best,


The higher our self-expression and the deeper our self-awareness, the richer our life experience and the greater our soul evolution. Antoinette Braks