A great read (link here). The more I hang out with successful people the more I understand that doing the basic things extremely well (i.e. better than the average person), finding a role you are extremely passionate about and having a good balance of work (family, friends and your own time) are the key to making it a reality.
I do a lot of work with high performance leaders. In fact I have just completed a survey which I will share over the coming weeks about their key learnings over the last 12 months and what challenges they expect to face in the next 12 months to bring.
Executive leadership coaching is a growing part of my practise here in Christchurch that is growing by referral and it involves working with high performance, experienced individuals in key leadership roles who want to get better at their craft. This link (read here) explains why leaders need to be aware of their “blind spots” and how some good coaching can take them to a new level of influence over their teams and key people. Leadership at the senior level is about leading through others. In itself this involves coaching, mentoring, developing and getting key managers better at their game…..better a delivering results, better at leading their own parts of the business.
I work with CEO’s in a number of ways. Firstly to help build their strategy and then to help roll it out across the company. Primarily this is about “Business Execution” or executing the strategy. This is a major challenge in amongst the chaos of “Business as Usual. I now have a number of high performance CEO’s from prominent companies seeking what I term “professional development.” They work virtually or travel from around the country to invest in their own development. This involves working with them in a high trust relationship to get them better at their craft. It involves the following;
a. Being a sounding board. Leadership is a lonely space so having someone with no other motivation except to see them succeed is something that is of high value. Someone outside their organisation, outside their team and outside of the Board of Directors. I have some who simply want to spend time and talk through key decisions and to help them get clear on their thinking and why they think that way.
b. Challenging their Blind Spots. We all have them and this is an area I have worked hard on myself. Better self awareness, better situational awareness of those we lead, key strengths and how to play to them and how to build the skills in your team to cover weaknesses. Empathy for others and tools for getting the best out of people are generally at the top of the list of these important “soft skills”.
c. Building a Framework = Finding Time. Generally CEO’s are very time poor. Finding time for them is key as we challenge how they might structure their week, month & year. A good cadence of team and one on one meetings, time for strategy, review, lessons learnt and strategic thinking all form part of this along with the disciplines required to actually execute such a framework. One of the biggest things I find is that busy leaders do not take time off. They risk burn out, lack balance between work and family life and few give themselves the time to recharge. As a leader of a large organisation you are responsible for feeding a lot of families. You have an obligation to be at the top of your game so you can make the best decisions and deliver the best results. Time out is critical and the discipline to make it a priority is key.
d. Building on Strengths. The best return on investment is to play to and build on your strengths and to build a team around you to do the bits you are not so good at. I find many leaders who beat themselves up for the parts they struggle with and often they focus on these negative areas. Why focus on things you are not naturally good at and tend to loath doing?
e. Execution. Actually supporting leaders to do what they set out to do. Everyone needs accountability and in a space where performance is key everyone needs a push to get out of their comfort zone and to seek excellence. Real situations require practical solutions and one thing I really enjoy is working with leaders to actually do what they need to do.
f. Seeking Excellence. As in high performance sport any % gained is pure gold. It is easy to lift performance from say 65 – 85%. But every % over and above 85% (or however you like to think of it) takes conscious effort, focus, trial and error and execution with a focus on measuring progress. A leader is only as good at their last game so building on performance, banking lessons learnt and pushing outside comfort zones is key.
g. Providing the Right Network. I certainly do not claim to know what it is all about and I challenge anyone who can. Leadership is a journey (not an event) and having the right peer group, mentors, exposure to research, case studies, stories/examples, academic courses and others who are on the same journey is an absolutely critical part of developing talent and talented leaders. I see my role as providing the right things at the right time to build personal networks.
h. Leading in Change & Enabling Culture. The pace of change is fast and continuing to get faster. Technology, competitor moves, globalisation, client expectations, economic conditions have never involved so much change. How do CEO’s lead in times of constant change and how can they enable a culture that top talent wants to be & remain a part of? The culture of an organisation is a strategic advantage that no competitor can steal so enabling a culture of excellence, that is resilient to change, is innovative and close to the customers needs is critical to growing and leading a business.
Working with high performance leaders is one of the things I love about my role. It is satisfying, challenging and I learn a lot about leadership, different sectors and different companies. The common theme is that no one actually teaches you how to lead people & how to get the best out of them. It is not a University course or a seminar or an event. Everyone you meet can & should teach you something and without doubt it is one of life’s ultimate challenges.
Are you working with someone to help you get to the top of your leadership game?
Congratulations to Dave Fraser and Phil Benton (and their team) at Phil Benton Builders for winning the overall “NZ House of the Year Award” for their CHCH clients house (Details here). This won the Canterbury Awards earlier in the year. A massive achievement. If you need a builder with the skills to build architectural homes and with a very high level of detailing and finish check them out at www.philbentonbuilders.co.nz.
“Great spirits have always encountered violent opposition from mediocre minds.”
An interesting blog (link here) about how Military Veterans need to plan for their transition into the business world. Being one myself who has made the jump into the commercial world after 18 years as a professional Army Officer and having supported a number to do the same I do tend to agree. The Army gives you some of the best academic, strategic thinking and leadership training on the planet. On top of this, from a very young age (19 in my case) you are leading soldiers around the world to do some pretty challenging things. The Army teaches systems, processes and training and exposes you to a wealth of situations.
What it does not teach you is the commercial realities of running a business and in particular the sales and marketing, cash flow and financial skills needed to lead complex, fast moving organisations. That said some of the best Business leaders I know have a military background and many of my friends are doing some amazing CEO roles right around the globe. With good planning, good mentors and some opportunities to make the transition it can be easy, albeit requiring good self awareness. Businesses seeking good leaders who can develop & execute plans can also pick up top talent that will grow their culture.
Story telling is a powerful way to get ideas across. We are genetically wired to enjoy them. The best leaders “manage by storying about” and it is a great talent to be able to highlight things through real life examples. This blog (link here) is worth a read because it touches on storytelling and why is is important.
Last week I had experienced CEO & Change Consultant Bruce Cotterill speak to many of our Christchurch based clients. Speaking mainly about his experiences in leading and growing large Companies he outlined his leadership framework. Telling a number of stories about his life as a CEO, Change consultant and Board Chairman to highlight his thinking. Feedback was great from those attending. Everyone took away some key things to apply to their own business situation. The conversations that followed over a couple of beers was very valuable. Personally I think you learn something from everyone you work with and Bruce is certainly someone I value and enjoy working with and learning from. Leadership is a journey not an event and high performance leaders should always be seeking ways to get better at their craft. Leading people in a fast moving, competitive business environment is the most challenging and rewarding space you can work in.
An old military adage but when I saw this I immediately recall what we were taught in the Army. No plan survives H-Hr or the start point. But if you have done the planning, all those in your team are engaged, understand it and have the autonomy to adapt as they go you can “knock the bastard off” (copywrite Sir Ed Hilary post climbing Everest for the first time ever). The picture paints a thousand words of the traps, mine fields, swamps and challenges that business and life will throw at you as you pursue your dreams and goals. all part of the journey.
I am doing some research at the moment for a project and would like your feedback. Are you a CEO or Business owner? If so could you please e-mail me the answers to these two questions;
1. What are the 3-5 things I have learnt about leadership in the last 12 months?
2. What leadership challenges do I face in the next 12 – 18 months?
My e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
I’d really appreciate your help and input.