Laura Ashley-Timms | 40 Outstanding global women 2023
As part of our Think Women Outstanding Global Women series, we spoke to Laura Ashley-Timms, one of the UK’s top Executive Coaches and CEO of Notion. She believes in the transformational power of communication and is on a global mission to deliver impactful behavioural change in leaders across a range of organisations.
“The goal isn’t to become more skilled at asking difficult questions, it’s about reading the conversation and the person, and then selecting the type of question that will serve them best in the moment.”
Laura Ashley-Timms, Executive Coach and CEO at Notion.
Laura’s work with London School of Economics suggests that the answer to relieve much of the executive burnout and stress is as simple as changing the way you communicate in order to empower your team.
There has never been more pressure on leaders and managers of global teams to achieve more with less. Post-pandemic, managers have less time, fewer resources, more pressure and a hybrid work force. Yet many managers have had scant training in people skills and are expected to learn on the job.
“Larger organisations are starting to understand that until we properly support and address people management capability, these issues aren’t going to go away,” says top executive coach Laura Ashley-Timms.
A perfect storm of reduced time, resource and people-skills
“It’s come to a perfect storm.” She recently conducted a study with London School of Economics on management techniques and how to raise engagement, capability, recruitment and retention in large organisations. She suggests that the answer to relieve much of the executive burnout and stress is as simple as changing the way you communicate in order to empower your team.
“Expectations have changed,” she says, explaining that the old ‘command and control’ style of leadership has long been out of favour in progressive organisations.“If you don’t make that shift, you are going to have issues with retention and engagement,” she says.
“Nobody now wants to work with somebody that treats them badly or that doesn’t respect them or want to engage with them.“
The current market trends and social expectations have come together to make this an imperative and if people don’t start addressing this now it is going to really impact the organisation’s success. We’ve noticed that trend even in the last 12 months, with management capabilities coming to the top of the agenda.”
Her company, Notion, has first-hand experience working with companies such as Sainsburys and Royal Mail. Notion runs a virtual development programme, STAR® Manager, which has been launched in 15 countries including the UK, USA, Canada, Dubai, South Africa, Hong Kong, Japan, India, Croatia, Czech Republic, Spain, Portugal, Italy, Finland and the Netherlands. The company has an office in Shanghai and provides coaching in multiple languages across Asia and Europe.
How asking the right questions can empower your team
She says that to be really transformational in your role and demonstrate your talent, you need to learn and instil an enquiry-led approach into your everyday life and work.
“The one key skill to develop over all others is the ability to ask powerful questions for the benefit of those we are talking to and actively listening to their answers,” she says.
“This not only strengthens working relationships it also opens up ideas, creativity, innovation, engagement, productivity and performance. In doing so, you create the space to support, challenge and grow the capabilities of those around you. This results in colleagues that are more engaged, recognised and rewarded.
”When working with large organisations, she has found that this fosters competency and confidence in teams. In turn, managers have up to 20% more time to concentrate on their key tasks and strategic responsibilities because they do not have to be the sole problem solver in the team.“When people learn to move from a ‘command and control’ culture, that can be a lightbulb moment,” she says.
“As a manager, it is fantastic to have a high performing, engaged team who come up with solutions not with problems and are capable of doing higher value work. We are so stressed and overwhelmed as managers and we are working so hard at the moment. That one shift in your behaviour can unlock so much potential so makes your life so much easier and it is a skill worth learning.
This one shift in behaviour can drive productivity and increase engagement
”Regardless of where your skills lie, learning how to retrain your brain so that it is permanently on alert to incorporate more powerful questions can impact engagement at both the organisational and individual level as individuals take ownership. In turn, this drives capability and productivity.
“The goal isn’t to become more skilled at asking difficult questions, it’s about reading the conversation and the person, and then selecting the type of question that will serve them best in the moment,” she says. She is reluctant to stereotype gender attitudes to management, having worked with a huge variety of managers.
“There are plenty of strong opinionated females who can have a very direct command and control approach, and there are plenty of male leaders who can have a fantastic inquiry led approach and can be very inclusive and open in their in their style,” she says. “Every race, gender, age and level of management can learn this skill and change the way we all communicate.”