“Excellence is never an accident. It is always the result of high intention, sincere effort, and intelligent execution; it represents the wise choice of many alternatives – choice, not chance, determines your destiny.”
We recently hosted a well attended panel event for the Canterbury Institute of Directors which included a mix of experienced directors with diverse & extensive governance experience.
Directors are mandated to work in the best interests of a company and to ensure (among other things) the entity is purposeful, successful, compliant, safe and future focussed. Inherent with this is the challenge of successfully navigating growth pains and the uncertainty of executing new or innovative strategic initiatives. As a company evolves and grows it will need access to different advice at various times in order to mitigate risk or to manage/navigate complexity.
The 10 key insights outlined by the panel included;
Whilst there is real value in long term advisers who deeply know the business, a company can outgrow existing advisers for a variety of reasons. A key indication can be where they no longer really challenge ideas nor present alternate solutions/insights.
Many new advisers will be introduced via the network of independent directors and certainly referral is the most common approach. That said a board should not discount going to the market and seeking advice from outside an immediate network.
Advisers can support board sub-committee initiatives/projects and join a board for select agenda items. This adds real value and expertise whilst also changing the conversation.
It takes courage for a company founder to form a board and to then seek advice on a regular basis. Those that do tend to get business break throughs and lift the growth trajectory of the business.
Specialist advisers can address sensitive topics in an un-emotive way backed up by data and examples which allows the topic to be explored in different ways. Clever/experienced leaders often need to be gently reminded of the options to ensure the best decision for the organisation is made.
It is important to note that Advisers cannot resolve all the issues a business faces. Sometimes there is real value in the organisation working through challenging topics and reaching the solution internally.
There are times a long term adviser might be conflicted ie where they advise shareholders/family trusts. As a company grows a board can feel the need to seek independent/unencumbered advice for the directors.
As advisers are engaged they should fit the business culture, understand the business and earn the trust of the board. There are times it is more appropriate for advisers to be engaged/retained by the board vs by the CEO/management team.
Candid discussions are often required to add real value whereby an adviser challenges ideas and is prepared to push back on status quo thinking to ensure new ideas are explored fully. Those who can “straight talk” often make a real impact.
Every board and company situation is quite different and a mix of technical expertise, judgement and EQ skills are essential for a skilled adviser.
Without a doubt there is real value in accessing the right advice at the right time to actively contribute to key break throughs or important decisions. Some advice can be quite transactional, project based or specialist whilst other advisers may need to work alongside the company longer term complementing the board of directors.
Regardless of the type of advice or length of engagement this is an effective way to inform key decisions or to maintain momentum or speed of execution.
Anyone can lead in good times, it’s when things are tough that you really see the best leaders in action. At present we are seeing decades worth of change occurring in days as the economic, social & health impacts of Covid-19 reshape whole industries, relationships between countries and the purchasing habits of people globally.
Without a doubt what is setting those businesses with a real future apart from those who are dead in the water are the people leading them. The strategic & proactive boards of directors, the inspiring CEO’s and the tight leadership teams supporting them to deliver change & business outcomes. The great news is that even in constant change some things never change but they are now even more important;
Inspiring a vision for the future: Leaders must be able to show a brightness of future by articulating a Vision for success. The road leading there might have pivots and turns but being able to quickly paint the future and to sell it to those you lead is the basis of inspiration. People want to be inspired & well lead. Keep the Purpose of the Company at the forefront of all you do and live the values.
Team first: Your team composition, sense of tightness, professional skills, engagement and focus will ensure your clients are well looked after. Your team always comes before clients. This means team meetings, one on ones and planning sessions are priority number one. Have fun, live the values, over communicate & ensure the tough conversations are on the table.
Being close to your clients: Know what is going on with them, what they need, what they value & how you can help them. Call them, video them, survey them and focus on their success and wellbeing. There has never been a time that this is more important. Solve their problems by knowing what keeps them awake at night.
Partnerships: Partner with the best suppliers & collaborate with competitors & other like minded organisations within your supply chain. Long term & win/win solutions that keep clients at the centre of all you do add massive value to your business ecosystem.
Plan, Plan & Plan: Contingency planning, involving the collective skills of your Board of Directors, Advisory Board, external Advisors and leadership team often and regularly keeps you ahead of the curve. Having had difficult discussions and having modelled financial scenarios allows a fast transition as the situation evolves. Bank the lessons learnt and constantly challenge the status quo – reimagine what is needed to deliver success in the future. Make good clear decisions & iterate them as the situation changes.
Ask for Help: Seek Support & Coaching: Any leader at the top of their game needs an eco-system of people around them whom they can ask advice, share reflections with and in many cases share ideas. Some of these are coaches you pay for but most are peers and people in your network whose advice you value. Hang out with them often and shoot the breeze. You can’t get it all right but with a good network it is hard to get the big stuff totally wrong.
Invest in yourself: Keep fit, sleep lots, hang out with family/friends & find time to read, watch videos and learn. Reflect in writing and revisit these ideas and reflections often as you plan.
In tough times those who can adapt, learn, inspire others and who take action early will have the resilience to succeed.
“Anyone can lead in good times” – You earn your money as a leader when times are tough.
I am looking forward to hosting my good friend and mentor John Spence (www.Johnspence.com)down under in August. we will be working with a number of clients in Australia & New Zealand as we prepare them to lead in tougher times.
‘Leaders have relentlessly high standards – many people may think these standards are unreasonably high’ – Jeff Bezos
In any organisation the leadership team set the standards. How this team operates sets the environment for the rest of the people in the wider team.
Many organisations have very talented people, great ideas, awesome tools of the trade to get the job done and a real mission but never get anywhere near their full potential. I have lead in several high performing military and commercial environments & currently professionally coach and support some fantastic CEOs, military officers and emerging executive leaders & there is no easy path/short cut to achieving success.
The standards & expectations you set as a leader will define the success of your team. As the leader you create the environment and the momentum to win in a tough environment.
The key drivers of leadership success;
Growth Mindset. Experience and technical skills are critical but a growth mindset is the game changer. Leaders with a growth mindset ( as in high performance sport) believe they can learn and get better and better as a leader and as a team.
Pick your team carefully. Most teams in business are long term so ensure those in key roles fit, have the desire to lift the game and are people you enjoy working and hanging out with. Surround yourself with good buggers.
Diversity of thought rules. A range of different thinkers and backgrounds is a key to success. People who think differently and who are prepared to challenge your opinions and ideas can be confronting to many and a challenge to lead and align.
Park the ego. If you want to achieve things the organisation has never done then you will have to be a better leader. More open to ideas, a driver of change, a facilitator of courageous conversations, better at alignment of your leaders within the team. Be prepared to adapt & iterate plans.
Future focussed. A vision of the future drives inspiration, aligns decision making and provides a mandate for change ie doing what we do now with the structure and talent we have will not get us there.
Expect more, far more. You have to be 20% better every year just to stay the same. Train together, have tough conversations, coach your people, get coaching yourself from professionals, seek mentors, hang out with peers, seek input from those who have done it, read, listen and apply things into real situations.
Behaviours and meetings. Your ability to master the soft skills, to coach, to lead good meetings, to play with horizons and agendas are your best tools. Disrupting business as usual constantly in a good way is the role of a leader.
Set and maintain high standards. This will at times be criticised and uncomfortable but those leaders who are courageous will get the respect of their teams by executing the important things that set the organisation up for future success.
Anyone can lead in good times but sadly not many can effectively lead and execute change in tough times.
Annually since 2013 I have surveyed over 200 CEO’s across the USA, Australia and New Zealand to seek feedback on two key questions relating to what they have learnt and what challenges they feel they face over the coming 12 months. As you can imagine it creates a huge amount of information which takes some time to distil down to the key patterns that show up across all the replies. It is also a very interesting document to read because these busy business leaders have taken the time to reflect and answer the questions.
The trend over the last five years has been the impact of constant change, the challenge of developing teams who can perform in change and who have the resilience to perform under pressure. There is much more awareness of the importance of a good culture of engagement and the need for governance, mentors and coaches to stay ahead of the crowd (competitors). I do note that the CEO’s surveyed are leading high performance companies that perform year on year despite market conditions and competitor moves so they are adaptable and already good at execution.
Question 1: What are the three biggest leadership lessons you have learnt in 2017?
Disruption affects all businesses. Change is constant and getting faster and regardless of what industry you are in technology change with have a significant impact on how you lead. Developing change leadership skills is critical.
Behaviours make a big impact as you develop a team. Take the time to define the values, team behaviours (& expectations) so you can expect and demand more of your people. It also provides consistency and builds culture of trust through clarity and communication.
As the CEO I cannot be indispensable. I have to allow others to step up and lead in order to develop future leaders and successors.
Question 2: What are the three biggest challenges you will face as a leader in 2018?
Developing depth in my team to reduce risk and workload i.e. Talent/bench strength both in the senior management team and across other key leaders (Succession, coaching, training).
Implementing good/effective governance and trusted external mentors, advisors & specialists to cover my blind spots and those of our company.
Velocity of execution. Getting the important things done that will ensure the future success of the business, whilst maintaining annual growth and the complexity of the day to day churn of the business.
So often the topic of succession is ignored or seen as negative. The reality is that it offers a big opportunity to ensure business continuity, a legacy to be realised or an investment to be realised. A culture that invests in leadership assists greatly in ensuring that a business will thrive beyond its current leader (be that a founder, owner or professional CEO).
In this video John Spence and I discuss the topic and some of the challenges and opportunities.
Each week we are delivering valuable services as true trusted Advisors throughout New Zealand, Australia and the USA to High Performance Businesses and Executive Leaders looking to Execute, simplify their business and to increase their influence as professional leaders. A snapshot of the team in action.
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.
Shaun Maloney is the CEO of ARANZ Geo, a finalist Company at the recent New Zealand High Tech Awards in Auckland. Shaun is a recipient of the Prime Ministers Leadership Award and has been a client of Advisory.Works for a number of years as his Company grows and scales. Here is a 2 minute video with him outlining why he works with our company in the Strategic Execution and Executive Leader Development areas.