How do you experience yourself? How do others experience you? Or in Julie Treanor’s words: What’s your YOU-X? Entrepreneurial Leadership coach, Julie Treanor works closely with the Creative HQ team as well as Lightning Lab and innovation workshop participants to scale their leadership skills. This work helps them build high functioning teams. She is a highly skilled, very personable, leadership developer, facilitator and performance coach who specialises in designing human-centred leadership that sparks enterprising, creative and entrepreneurial minds.

We had a no-holds-barred chat with Julie where she filled us on her leadership and coaching experiences so grab yourself a cuppa and soak up this imperative expert knowledge.   

What’s your background in coaching & leadership and why is it important to you?

Every job I’ve had has included some form of leadership, coaching and supervisory management, My first was when I was just 17 years when I ran a 6-week play scheme for kids during my summer holidays from sixth-form college.  It was fun but pretty riotous keeping scores of kids occupied with a team of three play supervisors. After Uni’ I climbed the management ranks over 20 years ending up as an Executive Director of Communications and Corporate Affairs in NHS Direct, England’s telephone and digital health information and advice service.

Throughout my career I learned, often the hard way, the importance of having strong leadership in a company and being a people-focused leader. Without a clear agenda, goals and ways of working, an organisation can meander without purpose and operational anarchy can break out. People can feel confused, frustrated and neglected so they don’t do their best work.

Thankfully, I’ve benefitted from working with pretty good leaders who nurtured my leadership talents and encouraged me to do the same for others. I enjoy people-leadership so much, I trained and qualified as a professional coach over ten years ago. Since then I’ve coached and mentored hundreds of New Zealand leaders and managers at all levels seeing leadership from the inside-out.

I know the profound difference it can make having a great manager and mentor on your side. And, I know the human suffering that happens when good leadership is missing. What’s important to me now is to help people starting and growing early stage businesses bake leadership into their companies so that they can start strong, and stay strong as a company and business leaders.

What does good leadership look like?

To me, good leadership looks like people showing up and levelling up, in life and work. When I see people who know what they’re about and making a positive difference in the world and helping other people do the same, that’s great leadership. In my experience, there is leadership, there are leaders and then there are people who just lead. Good leadership is not about hierarchy or titles, it’s about achieving something that’s bigger than you – a greater good – and helping others to make leadership happen for them.

Why is leadership such an important skill for entrepreneurs to learn?

Without leadership nothing gets started, nothing changes and nothing gets done. So, if you want to be an entrepreneur you have to cultivate your leadership abilities. Entrepreneurs do better when they co-lead with others. That way they enrol people towards their entrepreneurial idea and cultivate ownership and accountability within the business. It also means that they share the leadership load multiplying the likelihood of success and maximising the learning as they start and grow their business.

How important is “openness/open mindedness” to succeed in business leadership?

Successful businesses are driven by creative thinking and clever problem-solving. They also focus on the needs of their customers. To do any of this you have to be open-minded to other possibilities and other people’s point of view. If an entrepreneur fixates on their great idea or way of seeing the world they’re unlikely to tap deeply into what people want or finding clever ways to design and grow their business. I always say that leadership is not about you, it’s about other people.  When you connect with other people at a human level, that’s open-minded leadership in action.

Tell us a little more about the 4 key human skills (collaboration, creativity, productivity and relearning) that you teach entrepreneurs in programmes. Why are these skills important to develop as a leader?

Knowing what it takes to build and grow a business is useless if you don’t make use of all that know-how. And that means, taking the leap and doing the work to make your business real. People often underestimate how much it takes out of you personally to build a business, especially if you are starting from scratch. It’s like an extreme form of self-development. The life of an entrepreneur is action-packed, fast-paced and fraught with fear and failure. At times, it’s exhilarating. Other times, it’s terrifying. Doing everything on your own is hard, if not impossible, and it can be terribly lonely too. That’s why the best entrepreneurs look after themselves and develop better ways to perform as a business leader. They know they can’t scale and grow a business without improving themselves and their team too. At Creative HQ, we take the human-side of business building seriously.

We focus on 4 core human skills that help entrepreneurs go further, faster in their business building;

1. Being adaptable: When you start a business you have to do a lot of learning and relearning. This is much easier to do when entrepreneurs to really understand what makes them tick, know their personal strengths and fully appreciate how their behavioural tendencies can help or hinder them. We teach people how to frame a positive, learning growth mindset and ways to turn their fears and anxieties into productive creativity.

2. Having high levels of productivity: With so many things to think about and do, the workload of an entrepreneur can get overwhelming very quickly. We help people design ways to juggle the multitude of priorities, stay focused and being highly productive. Normally this involves changing our working habits so we can work smarter, not harder.

3. Staying creative: Staying inspired, energised and stimulated by ideas, options and possibilities will generate more creativity in people. But maintaining this level of creativity is hard when you’re under stress and pressure. So, rather than letting people wait for their creative muse to turn up again, we help them be creative by staying in action. Creating experiments, framing challenges and generate creative momentum by making stuff happen. We also make sure that they look after their health and well-being so that they are physically, mentally and emotionally attuned to be creative business leaders.

4. Building tight teams: People need to know, like and trust each other to work well together. We help teams build a foundation of intimacy and mutual respect where everyone’s success is important to everybody. This team bonding helps people to really pull together as a collective with clear roles, rules and rituals to guide the team culture and boost performance.

What is co-leading?

Co-leading makes leadership everyone’s business on a team. Everyone takes ownership, responsibility and accountability for the performance of the team as a whole. Each person will also take a lead role in a specific area of the business, for example, product development, customer experience, business strategy. It does not mean that they have to do all the work in their area of leadership but craft strategy, drive progress and decision making getting input from others. I call this the “first amongst equals principle”. Tight teams that co-lead tend to have conversations with greater clarity, make better decisions, move faster and are more satisfied as business leaders.

What’s your top piece of advice for someone wanting to develop leadership skills?

When people ask me how to be a better leader, I advise them to learn deeply about how they experience themselves and how other people experience them (I call this your YOUx). This means learning how you think and feel as well as the impacts of what you say and do to others. Knowing and understanding yourself better makes it easier to understand and learn about other people.

This is leadership for humans.

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