At this time of year many people begin the process of making individual, business or corporate plans for the forthcoming year ahead.
Greater success comes to those who take time to carefully consider, plan and make goals for the future. Even greater success comes to those wise few amongst us who write those goals down, track and measure them every week/month, review and adjust our strategies/actions accordingly, never losing sight of the goal we have set ourselves.
The combined process of positive thinking, leading to positive action is the cornerstone to transforming the results you want in your personal and business life.
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Light The ‘Blue-Touch Paper’ On Your Business:
The life of an entrepreneur can be a lonely one, but what if…
• You were part of a community of other entrepreneurs who were devoted to supporting you to be as successful as you can imagine.
• You had the opportunity to inspire and motivate others and, in turn, be motivated and inspired.
• You had a team of like-minded people to challenge you, to learn from and to help maintain focus and drive.
• You had access to the best methodology and tools for producing extraordinary results.
• You had training in coaching, mentoring, influencing and motivating others.
• You had access to angel investors and venture capitalists and the space to hone your business plans and business models to ensure you present yourself in the best possible light.
• You had access to some of the most experienced business coaches in the country.
If you had all these things how would this increase the chances for you to have Your Best Year Yet?
Are people more complex than they used to be in our Grandfathers day? Or during our Fathers working lives? What do you think? Or is it just that people are savvier than they ever used to be? Are the waves of technological change that engulf us, advancing or confusing us?
We are living in a moment of flux. There is a new economy – a global, diverse and multicultural melting pot of disaster and opportunity combined. At the same time, there is a workplace revolution taking place. Out go the jobs for life, loyalty and dedication; in comes insecurity, change and manipulation. And the pendulum swings between employer and employee as to who is manipulating who?
So why do so many leaders fail to see the writing on the wall and keep up with this pace of change? Because they are confused, ill prepared and using out of date leadership models and leadership practices to deal with the ‘new world’ situations they are now facing. They think they have all the answers and they operate under the misapprehension that their employees expect them to have all the solutions. Power takes hold. Greed fogs the mind and social responsibility goes out the window. But this kind of leadership from on high in a hierarchical command and control structure is obsolete – dead, buried. So too is the ‘house of change’ – used as an excuse by leaders to blame and make excuses for the apparent poor behaviour of their employees.
What leaders don’t seem to be grasping is the amazing ability of the worker to adapt, survive and embrace both technological and corporate change.
Yes. More and more people are experiencing the power that comes from grabbing hold of their working and social life by the scruff of the neck and taking individual responsibility for their personal and professional lives. As Peeta proclaims in the film ‘The Hunger Games’ “I won’t let them change me”. Leaders have forgotten that employees think – we are like the ants that rebel against the grasshoppers in the film ‘Bugs Life’. Workers are beginning to see more of what’s going on in the world. And what we see we don’t like:
- Crass leadership decision making which has flushed many previously great organisations such as General Motors, Royal Bank of Scotland, Kodak and Woolworth down the toilet.
- Corruption in organisations such as Lehman Brothers, News Corporation and FIFA to the extent that there are no longer any institutions exempt from scrutiny for their strategy and their actions.
- A dangerous tussle is taking place where employers or employees are seeking to impose a pace of ‘continuous improvement’ when what’s needed today is wholesale, cataclysmic change if old generation organisations are to keep pace with new entrants on the world stage.
- At a more local level, overloaded leaders are failing to delegate effectively, because they don’t trust their own people and then they fail to make decisions, holding endless committees, with meeting after meeting. To justify their existence they wrap their employees up in countless email traffic, action plan upon action plan and top down communication dictates.
- As the world marches on and leaders are then forced into making decisions (which usually affect the employees or customers first!) they do so with ill conceived, knee jerk reactions.
- One of the most profitable professions emerging in the world is that of the employment law lawyer – the courts are bulging at the seams with case after case and fundamentally the reason they got this far is due to a total failure of leadership use the full repertoire of leadership styles needed in todays complex and diverse humanistic environment and address issues in the right way, by simply treating people like human beings.
In the words of Tom Peters Re-Imagine! “Free the cubicle slaves!”
What does Simon Teague think?
Surely, the primary role of the leader of any organisation, establishment, business, college or team should be to create a culture where people are inspired to deliver their very best, develop their skills and collaborate to win, every day. Such leaders will focus on 3 key measurements:
- Living and breathing the vision of the business to such a degree that every employee, partner and customer of the whole organisation can feel it and want to be a part of it.
- Delivering staggering results by creating a high value, high performance culture and building unstoppable teams.
- Creating a legacy for long term sustained success through the development and nurture of even greater leaders than the leader himself/herself. Jim Collins Good To Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap… and Others Don’t calls this ‘breakthrough’.
I have no doubt that when it comes to ticking these three boxes, 95% of leaders will say “Well, of course, I’m doing all these things.” The reality, sadly, is that less than 5% of our current leadership teams globally really measure up. In most cases, all I can hear are leadership teams who blame their staff for under-performance and not living the vision and values of the organisation. Many leaders tell me they are bereft of talent within their company and until they can get the right staff today, they struggle to think further ahead than the current financial year.
Many leaders can’t actually answer the question: “Where does your immediate leadership team stack up against the three key measurements above?” Consequently they do not know where to begin when it comes to addressing these three issues, so they focus on the most pressing one at hand, which is usually the delivery of results (short term ones).
So, how do you know if you are doing a good job and you are heading in the right direction when it comes to bringing to life your vision, delivering sustainable results and nurturing your people? How do you measure up against the five success criteria outlined below? I would encourage you to assess:
- Which boxes would you currently tick?
- What do your immediate leadership team think?
- What’s the view of all the rest of your staff (this view is likely to be closest to reality)
Poor Leadership and Dysfunctional Teams:
The vision lives on a poster or intranet but very few people can articulate it, let alone live it. Ask your immediate leadership board how do they and their immediate teams bring the vision to life in their day to day actions. There will only be a handful of tenuous examples.
The senior leader team cannot articulate the values and there are differences of opinion as to what they are. Few people in the organisation know what they are and don’t buy in to them. This creates dysfunctional behaviour at every level. Meeting agendas rarely focus on strategic values – they mainly focus on tasks and consequently teams are wrapped up in meeting after meeting, achieving little progress.
There is a blame culture, usually senior leaders pointing their fingers at subordinates, peers or other divisions. The organisation is wrapped up in emails. Things don’t get done. Most people are working in the ‘Urgent but not important box’. This is a team of busy fools. Stress is prevalent and there are capacity issues through high sickness, high staff turnover (above 8%) and inefficiencies. HR is ineffective at driving capacity improvement. Action plans have far too many actions on them causing inaction.
The autonomy to make decisions has been removed, because the senior leader team believe they are the only ones with the answers and they want control. Staff work for the leaders. However, they feel disengaged and dis-empowered. Staff meetings are top down cascades. Eventually the best people leave, because this is not an environment in which they can thrive. The leadership is creating a culture of followers who ‘do as their told or face the consequences’. There is an insufficient budget to develop and improve staff skills and what little training that takes place is force fed (mandatory!) and plans for continuous improvement are ineffective. Indeed, leaders feel like they keep asking the same questions over and over again and the organisation is going round in circles.
There are very few decision makers because there is very little delegation from the senior team who don’t have the confidence in their people to ‘let go’. Staff feel they are working in a dictatorship where the consequences of speaking up are dire. There are large numbers of grievances in this organisation and many go right to the very top, wrapping the senior team up in far too many ‘HR issues’ which increase their mistrust of the staff as a whole. Whilst the senior leader team may be doing a good job at convincing stakeholders all is well (because they in turn often only want short term results), there are cracks and flawed strategies everywhere and staff do not feel their leaders are doing a good job. If they could they would fire the boss.
The environment looks like this:
Good Leadership and functional teams
The vision is clear, visible and well communicated at every opportunity. The outcome of all meetings is vision focused. Leaders are constantly asking themselves, how can we bring the vision to life for everyone who touches our organisation? Staff believe in the vision and want to play a part in the organisations future success.
The senior leader team and middle management can articulate the values, but it usually doesn’t go any further than that. There are gaps and misconceptions regarding the future, but there is an awareness and desire to rectify issues and bring everyone on board. There is a real understanding that it is through the vision and values that a high value, high performance culture is developed and a long term legacy is built.
In the main people work together and work towards team interdependence is under way. Everyone is aware of the importance of their roles and responsibilities in such a way that they are encouraged to be creative in finding solutions and taking calculated risks to move the business forward. Staff want to come to work and there is an environment of continuous improvement and fun as well as peer pressure for people to raise their game. Levels of stress are manageable and HR are proactive in supporting and getting the best out of individuals.
Everyone has spans of control. And over 80% of decisions are made quickly, without going through a referral process. People base their decisions on achieving the vision and values and driving continuous improvement. The leaders work with the staff. There is good staff engagement with regular 2 way communication meetings and staff feel they are having a real say in the direction of the business and want it to succeed. Improvements are being made at pace and there is a sense of urgency at every level to want to make things better. Meetings drive change although everyone agrees there are still too many actions to deliver effectively. There is regular training and development opportunity and talent management. Keywords, competitiveness, openness, development.
There is good delegation across the organisation enabling people to learn and grow. There is a culture of openness and the sharing of best practice. People know who the senior leader team are and they feel they are doing a good job at driving the organisation forward. There are few grievances as issues are discussed in a spirit of openness and trust and resolutions sought in an effort to maintain a balance of harmony and commitment. HR over 50% of HR time is spent on positive HR issues such as promotions, awards, development programmes and talent. Staff feedback survey results are shared openly and champions appointed to deliver positive change.
Great Leadership and Unstoppable Teams
The vision is powerful. ‘Making a dent in the universe’ or ‘Putting a man on the moon’. Everyone has total belief in it and wants to be a part of it. Everyone knows the role they have to play in bringing it to life. People who walk in the door for the first time, feel the vision and can articulate it themselves within a few moments. You know as soon as you walk in the door you have entered the realm of an unstoppable team.
The vision and the values are inextricably linked through the daily attitude and actions of every member of staff. People passionately believe this is the best company to work for. They love working here. There is a strong sense of community. Few people leave. Visitors can sense the values through the consistent behaviour of every member of staff from the top to the bottom of the organisation.
Interdependence and mutual understanding are the cornerstones of the success of this organisation. Staff are operating at their peak and there is a strong desire for everyone to experience their best year yet, year after year. This team works hard and plays hard. However, working harder does not mean working longer. In fact the ability to work in 5th gear stems from not working any longer than 40 hours per week. There is a healthy work life balance, with regular social activities, celebration ceremonies, recognition schemes and public ‘pats on the back’.
People base their decisions on whats right for the organisation. There is a culture of learning. The leaders work for the staff. 360 degree feedback is the predominant model for driving change and staying one step ahead of the game. Leaders are outward facing – keeping a close eye on the competition and reporting back to staff if competitors develop and edge. Staff have a say in the strategic direction, forming internal boards to champion and drive key areas of the business. Meetings are results and time focused. Consequently the average meeting time is 1 hour. Actions are few. This is a team of snipers – there is no scattergun approach to this organisation – they know what they want and how to get it. There is significant investment in training and development.
This is a bottom up culture thriving in an atmosphere of challenge – stretching people to their full potential and recognition – celebrating success at every opportunity, thereby leaving people want to experience more and more success. This company is recognised externally as one of the best companies to work for in the country, with many awards in this category. This in turn attracts the very best people. There is absolute clarity regarding the strategic aims and objectives which all staff can articulate, knowing the role they play in bringing it to life. The senior leader team have won over peoples hearts and minds and people feel the warmth of success.
The environment looks like this:
Most organisations are on a journey in an effort to become more efficient, results orientated and an outstanding place to work. The leaders of the organisation set the tone and there are huge differentials in leadership skills and performance. The culture is created by the senior leadership team. If, like me, you are a humble servant to the company, feel free to share this article with your Executive – for better or for worse…
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Anyone can captain a ship through calm waters (well unless you’re a captain of an Italian cruise ship that for the purposes of this argument shall remain nameless).
However, it takes a very special kind of leader to charter through rough seas. The past few months have seen, at best choppy and at worst tumultuous seas around the European Union. With Greece and Portugal adopting maverick financial accounting procedures and being exposed to the consequences of bad financial management at the height of a global financial crisis, one could argue (and I shall!) that it is Great Britain who are endeavouring to lead the way to calmer waters. Indeed, comparisons can be drawn to the actions of 18th Century sailors who would be pulling in the sails and battening down the hatches in stormy seas – the equivalent today is firm, prudent and uncompromising austerity measures.
Attempts by Chancellor Merkel of Germany and President Sarkozy of France are not presently giving the passengers on board (all of us Europeans) very much comfort. The reality of the situation is simple. Until whole countries can learn to manage their economies in the same way you and I manage our household budget, ie live within our means, balance our books and, if possible, put a little aside for the future, then the problem will not go away.
It takes decisive, authoritative and inspirational leadership – the qualities of a good captain steering his ship through ‘the perfect storm’ to transform Europe into the financial powerhouse Brussels wants it to be. But, love him, or hate him, David Cameron, the British Prime Minister, is displaying strong leadership characteristics and placing himself in the position of the proverbial coast-guard, pulling up alongside the stricken European tanker and offering a lifeline of guidance, support and (more importantly) leadership by example in the tight fiscal management of the British economy, in addition to calls to “get really serious” about repairing the EU’s economic fortunes.
Last week Britain was joined (for the first time) by the Czech Republic in refusing to sign up to a fiscal treaty to attempt to enforce budget discipline, but which arguably fails to tackle the root cause of the problems. There’s no point trying to take hold of the helm of the Tanker if the rudder is broken. What’s needed are urgent repairs and maintenance to the Tanker first. In other works – WORK. The Tanker (and millions of people across Europe) needs work. In Mr Cameron’s words, “We need to get really serious about the growth agenda in Europe. We need to complete the single market, agree trade deals and make serious efforts to deregulate small business”. Europe must stop adding more and more bureaucracy and stifling trade in the way Brussels has been doing relentlessly over the past 10 years. Decisive leadership action is needed to free up economies through a back to work agenda.
European leaders fully agreed a statement last week which read: “We have to actively enhance growth and competitiveness, so to create jobs, preserve our social models and ensure the well-being of our people.”
The result? Markets dropped, our hearts dropped – this is the power and the consequence of indecisive leadership. What we all need are Captains and Leaders of our respective nations who would be bold enough to sign up to a statement that begins with the words:
“We will actively enhance growth and competitiveness …..”
Do you agree? or not? What are you views. I would love to hear from you. Leave a comment and I will enter you into the draw to win one of the 50 leadership tool-kits I am giving away at the beginning of 2012. You will also get an entry for liking Leadership-expert on Facebook or by Subscribing here.