As a leader communication is a core competency you need to have. Likewise healthy conflict is good as a team collaborates, norms, storms and performs. Ideas are challenged and new ways are discussed. This short clip with John Spence discusses the topic. How do you approach it?
I am lucky enough to work one on one with many prominent CEO’s, Founders and senior leaders across NZ, Australia & the USA. These are highly motivated professional leaders already achieving some amazing things. They seek to be more intentional in their leadership role and to stay ahead of the crowd/competition. The courage to seek external help really sets them apart because the average CEO stops their professional development once they reach the top role whilst the top performers know the journey is just beginning. You are only as good as your last game and as with anything in the high performance space you need to apply top of mine application to it.
One of the biggest challenges many businesses face is that of succession. Too often it is seen as something negative, stressful or is an unspoken topic. Certainly it is one that can be full of emotion especially in family businesses or it can appear to be simply a problem too big to tackle.
It is considered the realm of Lawyers and Accountants and many seek to engage these professionals to “solve” the problem for them. Without a doubt they need to provide good advice but succession is a leadership issue rather than a technical problem. It is one that requires courage, planning, transparent communication, good ongoing advice from a number of specialists and clear decisions. It is a journey, not an event.
Succession is not just about an ageing business founder/owner. The professional CEO needs to develop other leaders in their team to be able to take over the their role when the time is right & any organisation needs to have some contenders who can take on the top role (whether they do or not will depend upon the needs) and this requires a culture of investing in leaders at every level to step up.
Each week we speak to & work with business leaders who are looking to get out of their business. I have personally supported many who have started and successfully completed the journey.
Ten recommended considerations;
Face into the opportunity. Ignoring succession will not make it go away. A compressed timeline or sudden change due to death or illness significantly reduces the chance of long term success.
Select those who will succeed you carefully. Make sure they fit, buy into the vision, care about the mission and people and build trust. Succession is all about people, decisions and change. Lead well.
Plan for success. Have a plan with key milestones and understand the process and journey. Get all the people involved who need to be and get the issue on the table. Build a plan that will iterate and evolve.
Understand that succession is part of the evolution of any organisation, business and family. Change is constant and people don’t deal with change well. Embrace the journey and don’t treat it like it is “negative” or an “event”. It is a fantastic opportunity to evolve your business and to ensure it thrives (not just survives) in the future.
Get good advice. Have external help in getting the plan and issues on the table. Seek good legal and accountancy advice throughout the journey but don’t leave the “people” plan to a tax specialist or legal advisor. This is about people and change rather than just a structure or contract.
Succession is all about the future so a good vision and strategy will be needed and good leaders who can execute change. Succession is about leadership so include it in all your leader development programs. If you don’t have a leader development program get one in place. Little bits regularly can really make a big impact on the future vitality of an organisation.
Make good clear decisions at every stage and map out the decision points & timeline. Document and communicate things & keep things on track.
Implement and invest in key structures that enhance success. Independent Governance (or a Advisory Board as an initial step), bringing the business under management, coaching and leadership development for key current and future leaders, good independent advisors, implementing legal and financial structures and processes based on future plans are all critical as a business moves into a space whereby the business is not reliant on the founder or owner. Many of these take considerable time to implement and re a real culture shift for the business.
Network with those who have done it. Find those who have made the transition and ask questions. Hear what went well and more importantly learn form the mistakes they made as you look to apply things to your own situation.
Enjoy the journey. For those who successfully navigate change and ensure that their business will ensure into the future providing for the next generation the rewards are great. If a trade sale is involved the satisfaction of seeing the business moving to a new level is exciting whilst at the same time providing a new found freedom.
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;
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.
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.
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.
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.
A new partnership with Leadership Expert and Business Influencer John Spence which he outlines in the video below.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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;
“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
“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.
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.