The Army is a culture of history, rituals, traditions and story telling. Soldiers tell stories of hardship, often using humour as a medium. Taking the piss out of one another, laughing when things get tough, keeping it real and connecting with each other. One of the things I loved about being a professional soldier and now as a Battalion Commander in the Army reserve is the camaraderie of being part of an Infantry unit. Like minded people, prepared to serve connected by common purpose, experience and at times hardship, overseas and in harms way.
In fact we as humans are genetically hardwired to tell stories. In ancient times in all cultures the art of storytelling was the the “google” of the time. This was how methodology, family history and lessons learnt were passed on to the next generation. It was human connection, the entertainment of the time, education of the time and the essence of tribe.
In the modern world this lives on in movies, youtube, games, the entertainment industry, book etc. In many ways things have not changed even if the methods of delivery might have. As a leadership tool the ability to connect people through stories is a skill that greatly enhances effectiveness. Telling a story is a great way to teach, inspire, influence and connect. The best CEO’s and leaders I know are the best storytellers. I love Tom Peters analogy “Manage by storying about”.
Here is 2 mins on the subject from a recent leadership panel I took part in;
I have just spent several days working with a large listed Australian company at an offsite in the Blue Mountains. They were taking their Strategic plan and consciously building their plan to executethe Strategy. Typically you should spend as much time planning the execution as you do making the Strategic plan and yet this is rarely done.
This is core business for Advisory.Works as our clients know & it prevents one of the biggest frustrations in business today: A lack of execution. Nothing happens…..a great plan is never realised, it sits on the shelf and gathers dust. This is total insanity & so often Business Leaders wonder why their fantastic Strategic plan never ever gets executed. How can it?
Here are a few thoughts on Disciplined Execution from a recent CEO Leadership Panel I was part of in Christchurch.
If a leader is action orientated, future focused, consistent, fair, has courageous conversations, coaches, mentors and cares about those they lead…………. a respect and a bond of trust will be established through shared experience. This leads to friendship over time. It does not mean things will always be happy.
I agree with the quote……..sell ice cream if you want to make people happy.
Strategic execution is all about behavioural leadership. By this I mean that it is all about getting people to change behaviours and to make the important things happen. To execute relentlessly you need to constantly hone your skills as a leader and keep them top of mind.
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!
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.
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.