Posts by Mandy Russell

Mandy Russell is the Creator and Managing Director of Mpower International Limited. She has over 23 years experience as a Leader and senior Manager in FMCG who has delivered results through her people. She has been a successful Store Manager, Divisional Executive, Business owner and most recently Author. A influential leader with a ‘can do’ attitude who remains connected and approachable, she will inspire you and your team to make step changes in your business and your lives.

Rebel Leadership – ‘Rebel With a Cause’

Marilyn Monroe

Rebel Efforts Pay Off

‘That is the best damn Store entrance I have ever seen.’

That was the day, the day that she knew!

She had spent her entire career in a male dominated retail environment, her colleagues and peers all assuming that her ‘Senior Store Manager’ position had been achieved by her ‘close’ relationship with her boss.

Why wouldn’t they? She was a girl in a man’s world. Perhaps they didn’t think like Marilyn Monroe:

‘I don’t mind living in a man’s world as long as I can be a woman in it.’ ~ Marilyn Monroe

Making of a Rebel Leaderoverloaded

She had progressed quickly through the ranks because of her results and had moved around the country so nobody really knew her background. She liked it that way.

She knew what worked! While her colleagues were working ninety hours a week, she was working half that talking to her people. Coaching, teaching, empowering and allowing them to evolve as leaders in their own right.

Her shop did not look as good as theirs for the first couple of months, but when it did it was awesome, effortless, and left others gossiping.

Pushing the Limits

She took on additional regional roles, hosted regional meetings and put herself in the firing line. All the time sailing close to the edge (and sometimes beyond) of corporate guidelines.

‘If I’d observed all the rules, I’d never have got anywhere.’ Marilyn Monroe

She carried out team building events that nobody else did, held ‘effective meetings’ and ‘business development meetings’ with her team – coaching and empowering them to drive the business.

The walls were plastered with success story boards, trophies and ‘stars’ of the week.

Fun was as important on the agenda as business, and all commitments made by her team were always delivered on time.

So, on that day, a day when the weekly Store sales had peaked at plus 150% year on year, she had been nominated for Store Manager of the Year and been promoted to Divisional Executive, there was a sound knowledge indeed.

‘We still think of a powerful man as a born leader and a powerful woman as an anomaly.’ Margaret Atwood

I knew the secret to Leadership was serving and empowering others.

I know that there are many women that experience this type of behaviour and manage to rise above it. If you have one, share your stories here. When was your defining moment – the moment you knew?

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Mandy Russell is Managing Director of Mpower International Limited
She helps with Coaching, Leadership and Teambuilding Workshops and Training
EmailLinkedInFacebookTwitterWebBlog │ Skype: mandy-russell │ 07831 1250288

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Leadership Integrity: I Am Responsible!

re·spon·si·bil·i·ty [ri-spon-suh-bil-i-tee]


  1. the state or fact of being responsible.
  2. an instance of being responsible: “The responsibility for this mess is yours!”
  3. a particular burden of obligation upon one who is responsible:the responsibilities of authority.

Why do some people find it difficult, maybe even impossible, to accept responsibility for their actions?

The Blame Game

There are many parents who blame the school system when their children tell them that the teachers are horrible and they would rather move the child than deal with the problem in the child. This is also true in business, there are many that will blame the boss rather than look at their own behaviour and correct it. At what point does this type of person accept responsibility for what they have experienced?

We all like to feel important and valued and for others to admire us. There are some people who develop a view of themselves that is beyond their capabilities.  There is a link here to being in denial (which can create a false perception of oneself) and an inability to accept the truth. When this happens, it becomes painful or impossible to accept that it is normal to make mistakes. And when mistakes are made, this type of person just points the finger at somebody else. This person cannot think objectively and cannot accept involvement for their own actions. This can manifest itself as bitterness and blame.

“Nobody ever did, or ever will, escape the consequences of his choices.” Alfred A. Montapert

The inability to accept responsibility for our actions and behaviours is a result of insecurity. In taking on board responsibility, one may feel they are admitting to being weak, powerless, or an opportunity to lose the respect of others. This type of thinking may result in a person feeling the loss of their own value and importance.

However, it is actually the opposite that is true; accepting responsibility earns you respect.

There is no one that can be perfect all the time. We will all make mistakes. It is when we accept responsibility for our mistakes and take any reprisal on the chin that enables us to improve our lives.Just the act of saying ‘I am responsible’ can be liberating and demonstrates the measure of a persons self-worth and security.

It is a true sign of strength and courage.

The power that can be felt by moving into this acceptance of responsibility and taking action can not only be life-changing for the person experiencing it, but also for those around them. It is empowering and opens the door to growth.

Growing Up – You Decide

Who would you have the most respect for, someone who accepts responsibility for their actions and is willing to change, or someone who continually denies any failings or involvement in situations?

The acceptance of responsibility is a sign of emotional intelligence and maturity.

A Series of Unfortunate Events…

What happens when you fail to take responsibility for your actions?

  • Your brain is in denial and the subconscious mind may sabotage any plans or goals you may have.
  • You may start to cut people out of your life in the blame cycle and not get on well with others.
  • You may stick to a certain number of people who are in the same negative mindset. This in itself may perpetuate the denial and blame.
  • You may find yourself constantly in similar situations continually finding someone to blame or moving job or house to ‘get away’ from people or situations.
  • You may become inpatient, intolerant and demanding. This may result in placing unrealistic expectations on others causing you to become their critic and re-entering the blame cycle.
  • You will experience consistent episodes of self-doubt and your self-confidence will dip to very low points.
  • People will avoid you or gradually lose contact with you because they will find your behaviour false, unsavoury or just difficult.
  • When you are at a low point in self-confidence, your need to be right all the time will be heightened and you will often go over old ground to underline why you were right.

When the inability to accept responsibility is sustained over a long period, you will experience a change in your character more visible to others than to yourself. You may become over reliant on others, unable to function without the approval of those who are still friends, angry, defeatist, unhappy, a quitter, irrational, huffy and defiant.


Lead with Integrity – Accepting Responsibility

How to really say ‘I am responsible’ and mean it!

  • Stop and think. Take some time to genuinely assess how difficult you find it to accept responsibility for your actions and your behaviour.
  • If you have chosen to do something, than you must accept that you cannot blame anyone else for that choice or the outcomes of it.
  • Work on your self-esteem on a daily basis by being authentic. When you know you are good, your behaviour will match your feelings. Then, if you make an error of judgement, you will be able to accept that you were wrong on this occasion.
  • Build up your self confidence by actively do things that give you confidence. You won’t be as defensive when you make a mistake when you have some self-confidence fuel in your tank.
  • Release you fears because they creates insecurities. Fact find, ask questions, practice. But never fear.
  • Accept yourself for who you are, warts and all! If you learn to love you and all that you are then others will find it easier to do the same.
  • Be giving of yourself in time, knowledge and your money!
  • Above all – it is okay to make mistakes. Mistakes are merely lessons in how not to do things. Accept them as that, move on, and make things right.
  • Be humble and show grace. Understand the needs of others around you and accept them for what they are.
  • Find gratitude! Be grateful for the things and people in your life. Look for the good stuff instead of the bad and acknowledge it.

Taking responsibility can change your life for the better! So go and set some goals, forget the past, and concentrate on your successful new future.

I have had personal experience of this in the last year and had to accept responsibility for some failures. I’d love to hear from you.

What has been your most difficult time in taking on responsibility? What were your biggest learnings from this acceptance? How did it make you feel? How many people do you know and recognise from the text above?

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Mandy Russell is Managing Director of Mpower International Limited
She helps with Coaching, Leadership and Teambuilding Workshops and Training
EmailLinkedInFacebookTwitterWebBlog │ Skype: mandy-russell │ 07831 1250288

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Leaders: Abandon Ship or Row to Shore?

What is it that makes a high performing team?

Imagine this…

You have just started your new job post and you are about to meet your new team. If it feels like the first day at school for you! But take moment and think about your team. Just imagine how they are feeling. Is it  a good feeling, or another one?

When you glance over at your new team, they are watching your every move. They are awaiting with anticipation your words of wisdom that will engage and inspire them.

The Audience

There are the usual suspects: the one who wanted your job; the one who already knows it all; the three who have seen it all before; the two that are excited and open-minded, and the rest that are terrified but feeling positive about change.

Never has what you say and how you say it been as important as those first two paragraphs that you deliver to your new team.

So how do you make an impact and take this group of people on a journey to becoming a high performing team.

STOP –pause for a moment and ask yourself:

How can I provide relationships which these people may use for their own personal growth?

How can I, as the leader create and nurture relationships that will encourage my team to grow in skill, motivation, self belief, confidence, attitude, responsibility and purpose?


Sink or Swim: It’s OARS & ARMS

So here is where you need to find your OARS and focus on building trust.

O – Openness

A – Acceptance

R – Reliability

S – Straighforwardness

Openness -

create this in people by encouraging them to gradually reveal more about themselves and share information that is relevant to each other. Communicating with each other by being open about how they are feeling and by giving and receiving quality feedback. Create team openness by having adequate access to each other via meetings or other forms of communication. Keeping each other informed, telling others more than they need to know. Having no secrets, including an overview of the bigger picture and being prepared to discuss feelings as well as information.

Acceptance -

can be achieved by nurturing a non-judgemental attitude where people accept each other for who they are as people. A mutual respect for roles and ability as well as for differences such as ideas, values, beliefs and lifestyles. The team have input into decisions in an environment where people listen and it is OK to make mistakes.

Reliability -

is created by all individuals doing what they say they will do, keeping promises and being dependable. Consistent consequences are the norm both rewards and punishments. All members of the team can count on each other, fulfil meeting commitments and offer support when it is required.

Straightforwardness -

is encouraged by people saying what they mean and meaning what they say. Actions and feelings match, nothing is hidden, no ulterior motives. There is adequate confrontation, a method for conflict resolution and a level of team self-discipline that is understood by all members. Adequate analysis of mistakes is underlined by clarifying expectations with no hidden agendas.


In order to use the OARS and influence your team’s performance and growth first you need to be there for them both physically and emotionally.

Your job is to get them to use the OARS with powerful ARMS.

A – Attitude

R – Responsibility

M – Motivation

S – Self Belief

Attitude –

a little thing that makes a big difference. Choose you attitude daily, this is one of the four cornerstones of the FISH philosophy.  Make an ally of discipline for an unshakable attitude for achievement. There will be bad days when the going gets tough, there will be failures, but there is no such thing as failure, only learning. Your attitude and that of your team is what will always pull you through.

Responsibility –

all team members take responsibility for their actions, their decisions and for all the outcomes for the team. Challenge everything, have proper rituals, reflection, critique – this is necessary for the team and people to create new ways of thinking and negate barriers and assumptions.

“The price of greatness is responsibility.”Winston Churchill

Motivation –

what is the vision, purpose for your team. Is everyone involved in creating a compelling vision and strong powerful actions that will deliver results. Is the future brighter and more exciting, so much so that everyone wants to be a part of it. Do you have some ‘fun’ whilst on your daily journey.

Self-Belief –

how worthy do you feel? What about the people in your team, how good do you all KNOW you really are? Is there any doubt, if so who and why and how can you as leader support the people and the team? Are all team members able to face themselves, their weaknesses and the skill gaps within the team? Take the responsibility for noticing and interacting with all team members to create unwavering self belief in both themselves and in the team goals.


Those first days/weeks/months with a new team may feel like stormy waters, however with strong ARMS and good OARS you can make it to the most distant shore. Leadership is all about relationships and the bridges that you build to cement those relationships. Just remember that it is always the leader who starts building first.

“The only safe ship in a storm is leadership.” ~Faye Wattleton

What experiences can you share about building high performing teams? How much impact do you think trust has in teams? How do you feel as a leader working with a highly motivated team? What experiences can you share that involve lack of trust in a team?

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Mandy Russell is Managing Director of Mpower International Limited
She helps with Coaching, Leadership and Teambuilding Workshops and Training
EmailLinkedInFacebookTwitterWebBlog │ Skype: mandy-russell │ 07831 1250288

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Leadership Balance: It’s About Spinning Plates!

“Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance you must keep moving.”  Albert Einstein

Leadership is about spinning plates, both in the workplace and outside of it. as a leader, our daily business goal is to create compelling vision and allow our future leaders to devise stretch-goals that drive business growth. We motivate, inspire, develop and encourage business and personal growth in our teams and reap reward from doing so. And just like being successful in riding a bike, we have to keep moving to keep our balance for ourselves and our teams. If we don’t, our leadership can stumble, fall, or run into a tree. Ouch!

And many leaders do suffer from not keeping balance in their lives. You can see symptoms such as high stress, poor health, limited time for family activities, and precious little time for self.

Where did we catch this disease? Did we catch it or was it self-inflicted?

A Better Way for Balance

Leaders are individuals. Consequently, they all are different, unique, and actually quite special. And what makes you special as a leader will be the very thing that defines what makes you special, unique, fulfilled and balanced in your life. The key to success in creating a path for our personal growth and then for those we lead is to first know and understand what makes us who we are. Armed with that information, we can then begin to weigh and categorize the things in our lives that we need to balance. Without doing this, our spinning plates don’t have a chance to stay spinning on their poles. And we need to take the needed time to understand what we are dealing with.

Ask yourself this: “Do you take enough time to weigh and categorize the things for which you are responsible in your personal and professional life?

For that matter, do you know ANYONE that really invests enough time into their own professional and personal development to deliver the perfect set of spinning plates?

If I asked for a show of hands on how many invest as much time into planning life and professional development as they do in planning and goal setting in the workplace, what do you think the results would be? (I’m guessing the goal-setting wins…)


I have worked with many senior leaders in large corporate organisations who are fantastic at goal setting and planning but whose personal lives are a disaster!

How many of us planned to make our first million or become a senior executive by the age of 30? How many are now surrounded by dysfunctional relationships, divorce and estranged children?

Who was artistic when they were young and now ‘can’t fit it in’ because they have a ‘proper job’?

What if I said that investing some time now in seeking true self-awareness, getting to know who you are, where you are and where you really want or need to be could give you life-changing results, would you be interested?

Even if you think you plan, think you have goals and think you are happy, I would challenge you to look at every area of your life and ask – what does good look like?

Find a job you love and you’ll never work a day in your life.~Confucius

When you want balance in life then you should consider every area:

  • Health – Is my health good enough? Do I sleep/rest enough? Do I eat well and exercise? Do I have minor complaints that I am ignoring? What could be better?
  • Wealth – Where are you now? Where do you want to be?
  • Career – What do you truly want, what would make you leap out of bed every day to get to work?
  • Professional – (Intellectual Development)– What are you studying? How are you growing personally? Who is your mentor?
  • Family – What activities do you do together and how often? Do you actively participate and involve everyone in planning?
  • Creativity – What do you do to engage your right brain? Writing, painting, crafts, DIY, design, fill in the blank…?
  • Social – What does your social calendar look like? How often do you socialise with people you really like and engage in like-minded discussions or activities?

Once you have it on paper, you will need to make sure that your goals are achievable and stand up in terms of tangible actions and measures.

  • Area – The area of your life that you will address.
  • Goal – What good looks like to you.
  • Action – What positive steps you will take to achieve the goal.
  • ARC – Who is accountable, responsible and in the communication chain.
  • Measure – How will you know you are there or on the way.
  • Timescale – How long – stretch yourself – review and change if you need to.
  • Follow up – How often will you review and change/adapt your plans.

Most importantly, stretch yourself. Walk tall, don’t fear change – embrace it, and when the unexpected happens change your plans,  something in the unexpected could turn out better than what you had planned.

In the absence of clearly defined goals, we become strangely loyal to performing daily acts of trivia. Unknown author


Plates From My Cupboard

In 2009, despite some major health and personal obstacles, I managed to do more than ever before, amazing all around me. I did it by setting the most detailed and stretching life action plan I have ever attempted.

In 2010 I am doing more of the same. And so can you! Never underestimate your power and the sense of achievement when you manage to land things that you never imagined that you could.

You can steer your life and open the floodgates to success by learning to spin all the plates equally at the same time.

I believe that you can do it, you should too!

How do you plan work life balance? What motivates you to spin all of the plates in your life? What tips can you share to help those who don’t plan? What difference has creating a ‘life plan’ made to the quality of your life? How has planning you life made you a better leader? How do you share your learning with your direct reports to help them to grow?

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Mandy Russell is Managing Director of Mpower International Limited
She helps with Coaching, Leadership and Teambuilding Workshops and Training
EmailLinkedInFacebookTwitterWebBlog │ Skype: mandy-russell │ 07831 1250288

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On Leadership, Courage, and Ruby Slippers

How far does your courage stretch?

As Leaders, we often have to make unpopular decisions that can have a devastating impact on the lives of real people.

I have dealt with my fair share of disciplinaries which have resulted in dismissal, or redundancy situations where human beings that I have cared about have had to go. But even though you tend to toughen up over time, it is never easy to carry out any of these necessary business actions. It remains a difficult task to make decisions that impact real people with negative consequences.

Whose Fault?

Sometime the stark realities of business decisions come from marketplace conditions that force us to make cutbacks that affect real people. Other times, it is the people themselves that cause their own demise. Although letting people go for marketplace conditions is truly difficult, it seems much harder to let them go when their demise is a results of their own behaviors. Or maybe it just seems that way because the person I had to fire was my sister.

Back Story

It is a fact of life that we will all make mistakes. And some people will make mistakes that may put the safety of others at risk or pose a business, financial or PR threat. When these incidents occur then deal with them we must. No matter who they are.

So what if you have helped a close member of your family to achieve their dream?

You have put all of your leadership skill into negotiating and financing a business deal that will give your beloved family member a great start. They are grateful and motivated and will ‘pay you back’ and ‘work hard’. So, led by your heart for a change you go ahead and think that you are doing some good.

Then twelve months down the line the ‘family’ business deal to which your name is attached is so far down the proverbial ‘Suwannee’ that you have to step in to rescue it and sack your beloved family member and make them homeless!

Sound like your worst nightmare?

Well, guess what, I was that soldier.

When I write it down and read it back I find that I am questioning the judgement of the person that would do this. But then I remember it was just me, trying to help the sister who had not been as clever or as successful. Maybe my motivation was guilt for being more clever?

Whatever logic I use to justify why I did it will never wipe away the pain of the steps I had to take to fix it, and there lies the learning.

Pick Your Pain

We must all suffer from one of two pains: the pain of discipline or the pain of regret. The difference is discipline weighs ounces while regret weighs tons.” ~ Jim Rohn

This is a lesson that I may never have learned any other way. The guilt and pain you may feel as a leader in an organisation having to carry out a business decision can never compare to the guilt and pain in having to make this business decision. It was and still is the hardest business decision and action I have ever had to make and take.

What I would have done to have been able to tap my ruby slippers together and wish to go home!

Instead I approached this tough decision with the logic of a leader, making the best decision for all parties involved. Weighing up pro’s and con’s and potential outcomes with each strategy and scenario.

Then, summoning up the courage the action was taken and the backlash was as expected. As a leader I had prepared myself for the all potential outcomes and accepted that I would be unpopular for sometime. I had accepted that this particular relationship may not be repairable and I had taken responsibility for my actions.

How far does my courage stretch? Further than I thought and as far as I need it to in any situation.

Facing up to every challenge that comes your way is the legacy of leaders no matter if they are great or mediocre, and I am sure that where they are pitched is always a matter of opinion anyway. Unpopularity goes with the territory!

So, although there is one person that would question ‘if I had a heart’ and I may ask myself ‘if I had a brain’ there is no doubt that somewhere along the line my experience and training enabled me to interact with the wonderful wizard and find a credible amount of courage.

Having made such a decision, how do I sleep at night?

I sleep better than I would have if I had not dealt with the problem, and in this situation I think that is as good as it gets.

What lessons have you learned from working with family members? What decisions have you made that have given you your greatest learnings as a leader? Who have you had to deal with that has had a lasting effect on your leadership style? I’d love to hear your story!

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Mandy Russell is Managing Director of Mpower International Limited
She helps with Coaching, Leadership and Teambuilding Workshops and Training
EmailLinkedInFacebookTwitterWebBlog │ Skype: mandy-russell │ 07831 1250288

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