“Male, Pale & Stale”: The Diversity Challenge

Chances are your company will be led by a group of middle aged men with 30 + years of experience. The vast majority of established companies tend to be. Most won’t use or understand digital tools and they will struggle to understand why and how social media can used to grow their brand, sales and networks. They will be quite set in their ways, used to thinking and doing things in a certain way and change, new innovative ways of operating and motivating others will seem very inconvenient. Lets just say they won’t embrace change!

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Don’t for a minute think that I am not advocating the importance of experience (it is very valuable) but if this is all you have chances are you are being or are about to be taken out by an up and coming company that embraces diversity of thinking.

I work with a diverse range of established companies across many industry’s and it staggers me the amount of linear “group think” that needs to be disrupted. That age old culture killing quote “Thats the way we have always done it” which extrapolated out leads to “we get the same results….over and over again” is alive and well.

Working with diverse Boards, reading the latest leadership research, attending Singularity University, Institute of Director training and teaching young leaders at both the University of Florida & Canterbury, I know that the inclusion of young smart people of various genders, ethnicity and backgrounds will lead to better ideas, execution and outcomes. So what can you do to rid yourself of the “Male, Pale & Stale” brigade? A few ideas;

  • Disrupt your own business as usual in a good way by including younger people in key projects and planning sessions. Challenge thinking, have robust conversations and debate.
  • Bring externals into your team to change dynamics and conversations. Clients, consultants, students, people from outside the industry. This will lead to different outcomes.
  • Find talented young people who can reverse mentor by teaching older, experienced leaders their way of thinking and why they might think the way they do. Get them to share the tools they use and why they believe what they believe.
  • Ensure your next hires bring new ways of thinking and working to the organisation. Recruit for it, have a robust process to ensure you don’t bring on yet another clone who believes what you believe is the only approach.
  • Make ongoing education around change, technology and leadership a major part of the culture of your organisation and senior leadership team. Build on the formal education of the 1990s with ongoing learning, skills training and frameworks.
  • Get closer to your clients. If they are increasingly diverse and changing then you also need to be as a company and team to adapt and succeed in the future.
  • Be wary of the new data driven, technology savvy start up. They can really hurt you and will be a common & increasing threat over the next few years. A sobering message delivered by Singularity University was “Your biggest competitor in 2025 will be a start up company in 2024.”

Stay nimble. Ensure you lead your organisation to change adapt and pivot to ensure it thrives in the future.

Leadership Lessons From 200 CEO’s

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About this time every year for the last four years I have sent out a two question survey to over 200 CEO’s. These are senior leaders not only in my own network but across all of our consultants networks also. This year (as he did last year) our business partner John Spence also sent the survey through his US & global network of US based Chief Executives and business experts.

The results of this survey are a barometer of how senior business leaders are feeling & what they are facing in todays dynamic business environment. As you can imagine a huge amount of information was provided and it took some time to distil the information & to identify the patterns. Here are the results of this years survey;

Question 1: What were the three biggest leadership lessons you learnt in 2016?

  1. Change is constant & becoming even more so. This has increased the need to make faster decisions & to effect change faster. An interesting pattern was that some felt that resistance to change within their company can actually be due to ambiguity i.e. the lack of clarity on what needs to change which can result in people resisting the change.
  2. The culture of the company is a critical success factor. Many felt there was a need to act fast to preserve the culture, there was a need to have a culture of high trust between those in the team. It was important to attract & retain people who fit the culture of the company on the team. A culture of coaching & teaching team members to get better in their role was an emerging trend.
  3. Effective communication is critical to success. It needs to be clear & simple. Issues arising need to be confronted with urgency.

Question 2: What are the three biggest challenges you will face in 2017?

  1. Leading in continuing change and managing the tempo/pace of this change. Leading “culture” change as companies look to change how they do things. The challenge of proactively staying ahead of change rather than being reactive to it.
  2. Staying profitable whilst navigating the uncertainty created by ongoing change, global influences, political uncertainty and the impact of global markets.
  3. Understanding what clients really need. Understanding the opportunities in the market. The challenge of standing out as a brand and getting cut through with important marketing messages.

As you can see there are some big themes around the challenge of leading in ongoing change & the impact this has on culture and profitability. Without question the modern CEO is a change leader and this will be a continuing trend as disruption and complexity increases over the coming years.

Those leaders who are constantly up skilling themselves, keeping abreast of the emerging technology, building resilient leaders within their company will be able execute and thrive in the future. Those who fail to adapt fast enough will not do as well, if they survive at all.

You can look back on last years results (and previous years) to compare trends by clicking this link.

It has been a busy and exciting year to lead in business and there will be no shortage of challenge in 2017. I write this in Atlanta as I wait for my return flight to New Zealand having just spent some time working with clients in Florida and New York. The world is now a very complex & connected place – connected by technology, systems, relationships and markets.

The role of a leader is to lead change with certainty and we look forward to continuing to support our clients as their Strategic Execution Partners as they seek to simplify their business.

I wish you a Happy New Year.

www.advisory.works

Adaptability is the New Success Indicator

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I recently attended the 3 day Singularity University Summit in Christchurch. A 36 hour fire hydrant of the latest information looking at the mountain of change all of us on this planet face over the coming years. It was at times overwhelming, often daunting, incredibly exciting and certainly full of opportunities.

As businesses face the prospect of disruption through technology change I am struck by the two most common responses. Either;

  1. They know it is coming but don’t know where to start planning for it and how change might impact their business. So they don’t start the journey to understand what they don’t know yet.
  2. They are so inward focussed on their own business they simply have no idea things are even changing around them.

Some actual recent scenarios I have had working with the Senior Leadership Teams from a range of industries ($10m revenue companies through to $1Bn plus) as they lift the horizon of their planning to beyond the next 1 – 3 years. In the last few months;

  • A manufacturing company who thought robotics & automation would not impact their business in this decade but after research & discussion realised the impact on their plant, equipment, people is less that 2 years away.
  • The company who realised that their business model would probably be totally obsolete in 15 – 20 years but were not doing anything about it because none of them would be in the company then and they never looked that far ahead nor had any sort of agenda to discuss it as a group. When we led the discussion they have totally changed this view point as leaders of a large organisation.
  • The transport company who as a senior team felt that automated vehicles are 10 years away but after committing to explore this & visiting Europe they discovered that not only will their whole fleet and drivers be impacted significantly, it will start in Feb 17 when their next 3 trucks are delivered with a driverless capability & already they can see that their insurance companies will reduce premiums because this technology is safer. This will drive the change faster across the industry.

I could go on. My point is that this will be the biggest leadership challenge any of us leading in business over the coming 5 – 10 years will face. We can’t duck dive the wave of change but we can choose to consciously start to understand how it will impact us and our organisations. I am reminded of a quote I once heard “You might hate change but you will hate irrelevance even more.” Ignoring it is not an option and the sooner you start the easier it will be to adapt.

At Advisory.Works we believe that leaders and organisations must adapt & constantly change in the future so that they can thrive. There is massive business opportunity within this change and for many “what” they do may not change but “how” they do it certainly will. Those of us leading now must build the Adaptability Quadrant (AQ) of ourselves, our people and our organisations. Moving forward AQ will become a key predictor of success much as IQ & then EQ did.

Leaders and organisations must be adaptable so they have the resilience to constantly adapt, iterate and evolve. Now more than ever leaders must invest in professional development and this start with an awareness of what they will face in the future.

Without this you will simply just hit a brick wall as an organisation.

 

As a Leader you need to “Slay Dragons”

Are you slaying dragons?

We use this video on our Executive Leadership Program. It nicely tells the story of the soft (EQ) skills that are so important as a modern business leader. In fact to move beyond transactional type management and to develop as a leader who can adapt, flex and grow a business in todays disruptive environment these are the skills to develop.

It constantly amazes me how many professional leaders don’t invest in their own ongoing professional development. Those who do achieve a major competitive, they consistently out perform competitors by having a highly engaged confident team delivering exactly what clients need. They pivot through disciplined execution to stay ahead and they are highly profitable.

They have clarity.

Rob Fyfe: Dare to be Different

I really enjoyed watching Rob Fyfe give this presentation recently at UC. I really learnt a lot from his stories and enjoy his approach to leadership and culture. He is very real, authentic and has some great stories of his background, training as an Air Force Engineering Officer, failures, successes and lessons learnt. There is no doubt in my mind that he really took Air New Zealand from good to a great company and airline brand.

Here is the video of the presentation which I highly recommend for CEO’s and Executive leaders to watch and reflect on.

 

A big Month: An AUT Business Award, New Name, New Framework & a Global Partnership

Earlier this month we won the AUT Business Excellence Award for Management Services. It was a fantastic night and the culmination of months of work as we provided client and business data to show the results our company and team were achieving as we actively make a difference.

As with any team it is important to pause, celebrate the win and regroup as we move forward. Our clients are fantastic and trust us to provide true trusted Advisory in the area of Strategic Execution and Executive Leadership Development.

The same week we changed our Company name and logo after 24 years as we continue to position ourselves as category leaders as we disrupt the Business Advisory Space.

 

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Proud to lead a team that won this award.
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Some of our team celebrate the win at the 2016 Awards dinner.
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The summary/average of data taken across all our clients as at 1 April 2016.

A new partnership with Leadership Expert and Business Influencer John Spence which he outlines in the video below.

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Our new Research based Framework as taught at a number of Universities.

Smashing the Norm: Business Advisory

We are passionate about disrupting Business Advisory.

In fact our Company Mission is to totally disrupt Business Advisory by 2020 as we continue to evolve a premium Advisory Brand focussed on Disciplined Execution and High Performance Leadership.

Why?

Lets face it the current status quo really has to change to meet the demands of modern business leaders who seek support in solving complex problems. Problems created by the increasing pace of constant change and disruption.

Too often conservative middle aged men sit in judgement, dispensing advice backed by education and professional development that ended in the 1990’s and talking about solutions that have worked historically.

At its worst traditional Advisers expect to charge a premium for this advice and yet they have never walked in the shoes of those they seek to influence. They have never led a business, never risked all as an entrepreneur and they don’t have the scars, stories and lessons learnt from experiencing failure, success and from practical application. They are not people leaders and yet they seek to advise, develop & influence leaders who are.

Worse still they don’t typically ask their clients for any feedback nor ensure that what they are doing is effective & of value value. They struggle with practical application of theory & struggle to get clients to execute their advice. Often there is constant muttering & frustration as to why this happens.

I personally have worked with many professional services companies who openly state they are client centric and yet they seek no client feedback. Their fees are dropping so they finally forced to react and seek change.

In one case it had been 12 years since a company had completed any feedback survey of their clients. Think about the arrogance of that. They assume they know what it is their clients need but never go beyond individual opinions.

When surveys are finally deployed they discover to their horror that their current reality does not match their assumptions and that they have a huge training, R & D and leadership development gap to close. Too complacent and comfortable to really care about their clients needs.

Many times I have challenged an absurd desire to spend time refocussing on their client relationships prior to measuring client loyalty or engagement because they fear the results.

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Wait until you hire an amateur…..makes you realise the value of having a professional on board.

Business Advisors of the future must;

  • Be experienced leaders who lead by example with their own Business practices and actively see themselves as leaders and influencers. Advisors who make things happen, can influence people through real stories of practical application and who can coach, mentor and guide other clever people. They must have people skills (EQ) and empathy.
  • Own the voice of their customer. They must have an up to date (& data based) understanding of what their customers really want and need. In fact the top advisers are pro-active and bring solutions to their customers before they know they need them. They anticipate needs rather than react to immediate situations.
  • Have humility and respect always.
  • Be future focussed and have a passion for lifelong learning. If you are as good as you will ever be it’s just not going to cut it. Academic qualifications are table stakes and the start point not the end game. They must provide clarity and inspire confidence for those they serve by constantly up skilling and learning.
  • Bring researched frameworks & networks of like minded people. The day of the individual guru with all the answers is gone. Business today is simply too complex to know everything. The best Advisors will connect customers to other leaders, professional advisors and collaboratively bring unique solutions to complex problems.
  • Measure and manage & clearly demonstrate massive value. This will not always be financially driven either, rather it will vary from customer to customer.

So thats why we do what we do. These are but some of the reasons we are on a mission to disrupt Business Advisory. Business leaders expect and need more and this is not opinion….. we ask them regularly and have done for many years.