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.

 

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.

University of Canterbury: Leading in Constant Change

I am lucky enough to guest lecture at the University of Canterbury at the School of Business and Law. Supporting Masters level and MBA students with access to real life business opportunities and thinking is something I am passionate about. In July I introduced my good friend John Spence (Find out more about Top 100 Business Thought Leader John Spence here) to UC to speak about “Leading in Constant Change”. Here is his presentation.

Benchmarking Leads to Mediocrity

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I hate that word “benchmarking” and all it stands for around industry or competitor norms. Sure it is head and shoulders above the term “best practice” which reeks of theory & academic know how. It is very useful to know what others do, what industry norms are & what the theory is but too often this is what leaders and their businesses settle for. Average. Mediocre. Knowing they are on track because they deliver the same or slightly better than competitors or other leading brands.

I was recently in an interview situation where I was continually asked how this or that could be better benchmarked.

“How could that be better benchmarked?” I was asked many times. In the end I had to say we are just not in the game of better benchmarking. “To be honest we are in the game of excellence and all of our clients are generally performing when they become clients & they are seeking to get even better. We measure their financial performance, their growth, their staff engagement and their client loyalty and we help them build fantastic metrics that predict outcomes & we know their industry norms but we are not a company that develops and focuses on benchmarks, we help them to achieve much more.”

I have previously written about the “Pivot” or consciously changing and executing a strategy to stay ahead of the crowd before they catch up. This is hard to do and takes very strong and focused leaders who actively disrupt the “business as usual thinking” of the business in a positive way to get different and better outcomes.

In professional sport the All Blacks are a living example of this. The culmination of ongoing succession planning, investing in the future (what could be), strong leadership, a culture of humility incremental excellence and disciplined execution on the field has allowed them not only absorb the loss of many experienced players, but to take things to a whole new level. To go beyond past performances and to deliver better outcomes in different ways and in doing so staying ahead of their competitors.

I am lucky enough to work with many high performance Chief Executives and their teams and they all have two things in common;

  1. “Restlessness” : A hunger and passion for continually getting better and better as leaders, at execution, at trying and iterating new ways of doing things, and
  2. “Grit”: The toughness to carry on, to push past the comfort of status quo and to lead change with certainty to lead the way.

None of them have ever been happy to settle and accept that what is being currently done will ensure success in the future. Some actively start from a position that the “status quo” is broken (even when benchmarking shows they currently significantly out perform their competitors and industry) and challenge the senior leaders to lift it another level.

This summary shows what our clients have collectively achieved over the last financial year and whilst does offer several benchmarks, the real success story is in their ability to execute their Strategic plan. To be nimble, disciplined and to stay far ahead of their opposition.

Leadership Panel:Gainesville Florida

This is an edited version of a leadership panel I took part in during a recent visit to Florida. It involves leaders from Infinity Energy, Santa Fe College & the University of Florida and covers the topics of Leading in Business today, change, disruption, execution and the challenge of leading people. The audience includes 135 business members from the Gainesville Chamber of Commerce. I learnt a lot taking part in this and it makes for some interesting topics.

The Pivot: Staying at the Top of Your Game

How do the top performing teams in the world stay at the top of their game? Sports teams, racing teams, leading brands, innovative teams, military teams and many others? What do leaders at the top of their game do to stay at the top? What does this mean for business?

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The best teams change before change is needed. They pivot and iterate to stay ahead of the crowd.

Right now things in business are going pretty well. There is uncertainty in the medium and longer term as to what is going to happen in money markets, commodity markets, the Chinese/US or EU economies. There is a lot of technology disruption starting to show up on the fringes of even the least tech savvy industries. Change is coming and whether it is disruption, a softening economy, a total global meltdown or even a major political event we will all need to navigate it.

The RESULTS Group work with good companies and proactive leaders who want to get better at what they do. Our clients tend to be the long term brands that over decades have performed exceptionally well. They are actively seeking to stay at the top of their game.

In the next 5-10 years all of us leading (me included) are going to face more change than the world has seen in the last century. It will be fast, ongoing and relentless and will be an exciting and challenging time to lead. Some commentators say we are in year 2 of a 35 year technology disruption. How true is this and how will it affect our own business is open to interpretation but we are all starting to see the wave of change.

To stay at the top in any professional environment there is a need to develop a culture of continuous learning. If we look at the All Blacks (the most successful global high performance professional sports team/brand with a winning record of 86%, two back to back world cups & recently voted the best team in the world across all codes). In James Kerr’s book “Legacy: What the All Blacks can teach us about the business of life” you will see Chapter 2 is entitled “Adapt”. In essence the commentary is all around “When you are at the top of your game, change your game.” This is about changing consciously before you need to, in order to stay ahead of the competition and to remain the best of the best. To keep an edge or a sustainable point of difference.

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A summary picture of the key chapters & topics of the book “Legacy” by James Kerr.

I like to refer to the term “pivoting”. I saw this in action during some work I recently did at the University of Florida, assessing entrepreneurial engineering teams and the projects they were completing for private business. They were presenting what they had achieved and were seeking feedback so they could iterate and improve their project. They were seeking a “pivot” through good insights and application of ideas.

The best leaders and companies we work with are already pivoting at a time when they are performing well. They know through experience that the good times won’t last. To stay ahead of their competition and to navigate change they must understand what success continues to look like. How do they do this?

Those CEO’s proactively keeping ahead of the crowd prioritise the following;

  • They invest in their own development and leadership skills so they can lead smart innovative people in a collaborative way.
  • They spend time in strategic and operational planning with their teams, senior leadership teams and functional teams. They continuously define the priorities and focus of action.
  • Actively build an aligned plan to execute continuous change and constantly reflect on it, revise it and iterate it to make it better. They empower their people to lead parts for the execution.
  • Focus on execution and getting the important things done.
  • Seek the best advice on technology disruption, the economy, competitors, new entrants and possible substitute products and services.
  • Stay very close to their clients and know what they value, expect and want improved. They build collaborative and close relationships through many channels including social media.
  • Invest in leadership development (and education) and focus on increasing staff engagement to build resilience and an ownership mentality. This aids the change process and brings innovative and collaborative thinking to the fore.
  • Focus on the numbers. What gets measured can be managed.
  • Actively disrupt the companies “business as usual” in a positive way so as to build capacity and capability in a continuous way. This allows the organisation and the team to scale up in a long term sustainable way.
  • Make the tough decisions early.
  • Learn the lessons of previous economic downturns and change projects so as to ensure the same mistakes are not made again, and
  • Recognise success and continue to have fun along the journey.

This all sounds simple (and it is) but it is not easy. It takes focus, good strong proactive leaders committed to ensuring the important things happen and not just the urgent things of modern business. It is about going beyond reactive firefighting and consciously picking & executing the plan for/route to success.

Staying at the top of your game is about changing before you are forced to change. This means having a good team committed to getting incrementally better at what they do.

It is about confidence and momentum.

Just start the journey.

 

The Ever Powerful: Purpose & Legacy

Last week I spent time in Florida doing some work with Top 100 Leadership & Business thought leader John Spence. I spent time working with him and a number of other business leaders on “Purpose”. Most people (and organisations) know “What” they do and many know “How” they do it. Not many take the time to work through “Why” they do it.

Even more importantly very few people take the time to talk this through with their business team. This process starts the alignment process & inspires like minded people. It is the beginning of “Tribe” and the “Being of team.”

A great start point is the book “Legacy” by author James Kerr. In this video John Spence talks a bit about the subjects.

 

Don’t want to Change? Just Wait it out……

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A fantastic quote from All Black Coach Steve Hansen that applies as much to business (and the change ahead) as it does to Rugby, England 2015

This blog on Linkedin by Ziyad Jawabra delivers a very powerful message (Link Here) about Nokia. A global company & well known technology brand recently acquired by Microsoft. The CEO tearfully announces “We didn’t do anything wrong but somehow we lost!”

Powerful why? Because change is constant and ruthless to those who ignore or can’t navigate it. In fact it is worse than that, knowing change is needed is very different to actually leading or executing it. Earlier in the year I published my 3rd annual survey results whereby I asked over 200 CEO’s what they had learnt as leaders in 2015 and what they think they face in 2016 (Link Here: CEO Survey) and as you can see it is all about the challenge of change. The impact of constant change, changing fast enough to meet market and competitor moves and most important of all change to meet client expectations. On top of that staying profitable and having a culture that builds resilient people because change is tough.

We work as the Strategic Execution Partner in our clients businesses and are their most trusted adviser supporting strategy and leader development. Most importantly we are enabling Strategic Execution i.e. the doing bit. Working across dozens of industries with a vast number of clients I can assure you the problems are the same and simplicity is needed. Change is now constant, adds to complexity and requires agile thinking & speed of action. Make mistakes and fail fast (iterate the plan fast) is what my Chairman tells me as Chief Executive and this too applies to all leading.

The next 5 – 10 years holds more change, technology innovation and industry disruption than we have ever seen in business so it is a skill every leader must master to prevent the situation we have just seen a Nokia. The alternative is to sit and wait and let the wave of market change pound you.

How do you keep it focussed, simple and lead in constant change? That takes commitment to intentionally  learning new skills.