Anyone Can Lead in Good Times


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.


Data Wins Arguments: Less “Think” More “Know”

unnamedIn the busy world of business seniority tends to over rule in decisions that have no data. The more experienced and senior members of teams have more sway in decision making as they offer opinions and ideas and too often they are incorrect. They are assumptions based in history, bias or a lack of new thinking.

I work with senior teams all the time and see this pattern. The founder, CEO or “old heads” will refer back to what happened or didn’t happen in the past or what they think. This is often driven by the desire to avoid change because as humans we all hate having to get uncomfortable. New team members voice their views and ideas that are worth exploring but are simply dismissed and at its worst this creates a culture that resists change. It creates a significant risk that the organisation will be irrelevant in the near future.

At its worst countless hours are spent talking about opinions as if they are facts. One of the lessons I have learnt is that “Data wins Arguments”. Data takes the discussion from “I think” to one of “Let me show you”. It shifts the conversation to one that will get a good solid outcome. It takes emotion and bias out of the equation. It leads to data driven and robust business decisions. The role of a leader is to disrupt business as usual in a good way so that the company adapts and thrives in the future. Data can create a huge mandate for change by exposing current & future reality.

This is the impact of KPI’s, financial trend graphs, research, analysis of patterns and numbers. A simple exercise of graphing the monthly, year to date and lifetime revenues of your top 20 clients and having your team sit together and discuss what they see can have a huge aligning effect and can completely shift thinking, perceptions and provides clarity of the actual reality.

This video is worth watching as it outlines just how wrong we get it if we don’t seek data about what media shows us. The gap can be huge and in fact chimpanzees can be more accurate if we don’t look for the numbers and validate our perceptions.

High performance leaders go well beyond emotion, perception. They are aware of the impact of data and seek it to get better business decisions.

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.


Proud to lead a team that won this award.
Some of our team celebrate the win at the 2016 Awards dinner.
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.

Our new Research based Framework as taught at a number of Universities.

7 Deadly Sins of Ineffective Governance

Good Governance takes planning, good agendas and skilled forward thinking Leaders who can contribute to the future direction of the Business.

We get to work with many Advisory Boards and Boards of Directors as we facilitate Strategy & support Strategy Execution & support business owners to either initiate, restructure or optimise their Governance. This requires us to facilitate meetings, sit on a number of Advisory Boards and I currently act as Chairman on one Board of Directors. Sadly I would have to generalise that Boards are, in the main,  either ineffective or not as valuable as they could be. In fact one of the big opportunities that will ensure Business success I see is to successfully implement highly functional governance. Those that do have it in place have the opportunity to get the maximum return on their investment by taking it to the next level.

Here are what I call the 7 deadly sins of Ineffective Governance;

1. Undermining the CEO: Unknowingly they get in the way of their CEO by getting involved in the workplace, not supporting or trusting the CEO’s recommendations or initiatives. In fact  many do not trust or have confidence in their CEO full stop and worse still do nothing to address it.

2. Discussing the “how” but never defining the “what”. Many Boards Spend most of their valuable discussion time dealing with management decisions ie How should this be done? Yet they never pose & define the big questions such as what are we building? Where are we taking this? What could and should we become as a Business?

3. Not understanding the sacred relationship between Chair and CEO. It is a special relationship and the most critical one. It is an employment relationship and one in which the Chair should coach, mentor, guide and support the CEO to succeed. This includes professional development and tough conversations around delivering outcomes. It involves building trust and confidence and aligning the Board to support their CEO.

4. Never altering the composition. The Board should regularly change or include leaders with the skills the company needs as it develops and grows. As the company grows and evolves so too should the BOD as they keep the CEO and Management ahead of the game.

5. Sweating the small stuff. Particularly prevalent in family businesses is the tendency to never get breakthroughs on the sacred cows. The same conversations, fears, egos repeat at every meeting. The elephants in the room are never addressed and therefore they never go away.

6. Focussing on the negative. It is very easy to see what is going wrong but never acknowledging what is going right. Negativity kills culture and creativity. Problems must be addressed but seeing the good stuff and encouraging more of it is a key role of any leader and Directors are leaders. Negative meetings that focus on what has not worked and never inspire what could be great are unfortunately common place.

7. Not defining success. Clever strategy, KPI’s & metrics must all be measured and success defined so the CEO knows he/she is on track and so that management measures can also be clarified. Too much time  in Board meetings is dedicated to historical results ie they can’t be influenced. Whilst reviewing the results and banking lessons learnt is very important, so too knowing the business is on track for the the future is arguably more important and productive. You can’t influence the past nor be inspired by it. The role of Governance is to take a business forward and to help Management to navigate the ambiguity of the market.

By getting the agenda right, tweaking the composition, by becoming future looking and building complete trust in the CEO, a BOD can very quickly make a massive impact on business performance in a very short timeframe. Sadly it is poorly done and this inspires mediocre results.

How is your Governance? Do you have any? How effective is it? What could it achieve for your biggest investment?

The Lessons I have learnt as a CEO & Consultant to CEO’s in 2014

This year has been a very busy and professionally rewarding year. As a Company The RESULTS Group has grown and moved into a different area. Our core business as “The Business Execution Experts” has remained the same and we have proven our “5 Pillars” framework (Vision, Strategy, Engagement, Accountability and Cadence) across every industry and every sized company imaginable. Ranging from the small 20 person company, the family held medium sized company through to larger NZ & foreign listed Companies, Government organisations and into several big organisations with a Billion or more in revenue. From the straight forward to the incredibly complex, from construction to the professional services (law, accountancy, survey, HR, Banking) to the technical world of IT and fast growth IP.

Ambiguity leads to mediocrity but then so too does continually benchmarking and being realistic.


Our consultants have been challenged and pushed as they have focussed on our purpose of “Making a Difference” and ensuring our clients get the clarity so they they can execute their plans and lead change. It has been a year of change for us as a company and we have truly lived our core value “Live What we Teach” as we have sought to execute our own plan in amongst the busyness that “Business as Usual” presents. We have had to challenge ourselves to focus on the important rather than just the urgent which is the constant challenge of every CEO. So what have been my big lessons across 2014 as a Consultant, Executive Leadership Coach and professional CEO? I keep a journal reflect on the work I do and what I have learnt most days which makes it easy to look back and to reflect on the important stuff over the year. In no particular order;

  • Better, faster, cheaper: These are  most common approaches that Companies have. These are not Strategies. Own the voice of your customer and look after them. Ask them often for feedback and listen to it. The magic will start.
  • Hope is also not a Strategy. You have to be deliberate and decisive in order to avoid being a victim of the market or dealt to by competitor moves.
  • A CEO adds at least 15% to the bottom line. (Research shared by Psychologist Dave Winsborough) by being inspirational, creating culture, expectations, a Vision and driving execution. The impact of good leadership is huge and measureable.
  • The number of senior leaders seeking to leave Corporates and the Public sector so they can have autonomy and so they can actually make a tangible difference is truly staggering!  A sense of purpose is critically important to people.
  • A lot can happen in a year. Good & bad. Roll your sleeves up and make good stuff happen.
  • CEO’s are often afraid to be human. The soft skills, the least talked about and trained for are the most important ones. Being able to be vulnerable, to make mistakes and learn from them……so important for leaders and so often missing.
  • Making clear and concise powerful decisions is often a missing skill. Making good decisions based on the best information at the time and backing yourself to alter them if they need it is a really critical skill especially in times of constant change. Just make a decision!
  • The potential talent pool in women leaders is massive. I feel this is one area that is truly undervalued. We created a woman leadership group this year to address and discuss this and have also included a woman speaker (Melissa Clark-Reynolds) at our John Spence” Leadership event planned for 25 March 2015 in Christchurch (Link here for details).
  • The value of having a massive network of people who you can support, ask for advice, learn from and add value to is truly priceless. I have so many people who support and contribute to our business and it is humbling to be able to support them in their roles and in their companies.
  • Any leader needs many mentors. Business and personal to grow in the complex world of modern business.
  • Formalising network Hubs or groups of people who can give you ongoing referrals and support is of high value.
  • John Spence taught me “you become like the 5 people you hang out with the most” Choose them carefully.
  • Hang out with those who know and ask a lot of questions. Learn from people with experience and acumen.
  • Lead from the front. Just lead and learn. People want to be led well. Make it a passion and never stop getting better at it.
  • As a CEO you need to make the big things happen. Get the rocks or cornerstones in place and make the things happen that move the Company in that direction happen. This is what CEO’s do.
  • Don’t seek to change people, seek to influence their activity, their behaviour and how they make their decisions. Seek to create an environment whereby they make consistently good decisions.
  • The art of reflecting and making clear observations and to be able to take an overview of the situation allows for better clarity. Practice it or have your team challenge you to do it.
  • Be tough. Firm, fair and consistent, but be tough in your standards and expectations of people. Be restless, seek excellence and constantly ask “Have I done enough?”. If the answer is no then step up and do more. Be the toughest on yourself……with power comes great responsibility.
  • Culture is king and Cash. No one can steal your culture. In fact thought leaders such as Tom Peters, Collin Powell, Richard Branson and John Spence all say that your culture is really your only truly defendable and significant point of difference. No one can steal it and if you get it right it will attract and retain top talent who in turn will look after your products, services and deliver excellent service to your clients. get that right and the magic begins!
  • Sadly in most companies the culture is just adhoc. No one plans it, discusses it and if they get it right it is by getting lucky. The best cultures in high performing companies are planned, a priority and protected by selecting only the best and by dealing with mediocrity very quickly. Leaving your company culture to luck means you are leaving a critical component of your “mission” success to chance.
  • Planning the year ahead in detail on a year planner (Sounds basic but try it) remains one of the activities that CEO’s rate as “most valuable”. Map out key dates, board meetings, reviews, training, holidays etc and plan the year ahead. Insist your team plans and gets clear around the year ahead.
  • Meetings are your number one leadership opportunity. Make them high value, fast, refer to good data/KPI’s and have fun. Most meetings in business today sap the energy from those who attend. Flip that around because leaders do people, leaders communicate and meetings are your number one opportunity to influence and live your culture.
  • Have more fun. Enjoy the ride. Its not a rehearsal.

Its been a big year and I have loved every minute of it. I’d like to thank my team and our awesome clients for everything. I can’t wait to be a part of the work we do in 2015 and all the challenge, fun and learning it will bring.

Keep safe out there.

Feedback from 200 CEO’s: What They Learnt in 2013 & What They Face in 2014

I have been working on the Strategic plan for the Results Group. One of our core Values is “Live what we teach” so it is important to Imagehave a framework in place of quarterly & annual reviews. Any business needs to understand what their clients need and face. I recently wrote about the framework for “Making High Performance Leaders Better” (link here) and something I have spent a lot of time facilitating this year which is “Owning the Voice of the Customer” (Link here). Any company who regularly invests in owning the Voice of their customer not only develops products & services that are of high value but they maintain a Strategic advantage over competitors. This means speaking directly with them often and really hearing what it is you do well, what can improve. It takes an approach of seeking excellence by incrementally getting better & better at core business.

The Results Group helps CEO’s (Business Leaders) to “Lead Change with Certainty”. As part of my research I undertook to ask as many CEO’s to help me as I could. I went out to as many networks as I could. I asked questions on Linkedin, on my blogsite, in person, via e-mail and through both my team and other professionals who work with CEO’s. The result was feedback from just over 200 CEO’s. Many in Canterbury, most from within New Zealand and a decent number from Australia, the USA, Canada and beyond. Many are clients but not all. They are leaders I work with in primarily the world of private business but also there is feedback from the Public sector and larger Corporates. They all lead organisations and people and are CEO/Business Owners. Here are the results which took considerable effort to pull together into key themes. There were many answers as you can imagine so I spent time understanding the key themes/patterns that were common. I asked for the top 3 but feel there are 6 key areas that came through so I have included all 6;

The first question I asked was “As a leader what did you learn in 2013?”

– The importance of Leading by Example: In all you do be genuine, set standards you want others to follow. Be fallible and show that you make mistakes and learn from them, be tough with your staff but ensure they understand what you expect and then that they deliver it. The single most important thing to come through was the importance of being consistent as a leader & in how you deal with people & decisions.

– Empower your People to succeed : Invest heavily in developing, mentoring and training them. Ensure they have not only a clear role that defines what success looks like, but the autonomy to to do the job. Delegate to your staff. Keep them on track often and regularly. Celebrate the wins when they happen (big & small this was a key comment).

– Create a clear Vision & Values Structure: This is especially  important for consistent decision making. It was also critical for the times when the way forward was not “obvious”. It gave a framework for making the important decisions. Speak about “Vision” all the time, make sure the team understand it and align with it and make sure the Values are alive in stories and awards.

– Communicate Clearly & Often: This came up in almost every reply. Be clear in your communications as a leader, set expectations, communicate them often, give good timely and direct feedback so people understand where they stand. Many said they had learnt the importance of communicating the same thing many times to ensure people “get it”. This applied in both large organisations and small ones.

– Have Good Mentors: Mentors internal and external to the business. Have good networks of professional people who want to see the business and those in it succeed. They keep you “real” and things on “track”. Most importantly it keeps you honest as a CEO. The need to ask for and take good advice was a central pattern of comments.

– Include Your Team: This related to including people in both building the plan and in how it will be executed. The need to trust people with information was a key learning as was the need to engage people in the plan. Seeking  feedback on progress, opinions, ideas and on how things could improve was also a central theme.

The Second question I asked was “What are the Challenges you will face as a leader in 2014?”

– Building a Strong Culture: This was a very common theme. The need & desire to build a culture that attracts and retains top talent. In Christchurch this is definitely the number one challenge given that it is a tight labour market. Building a culture that is balanced between high performance and fun, a culture of achieving results. A culture that is a major point of difference over competitors were key challenges for 2014.

– Building Brand: This related to having a clear and strong brand in their particular markets & industry. One that stands for something and is well known. Getting clear on what their brand is and should stand for and being consistent in branding and marketing activities were key actions that needed to be addressed in 2014.

– Recruitment: Of key people. This tied into “Culture” but mainly related to the need and desire to have a good process in place. Challenges included the need to recruit top talent, the time and effort taken to actually run a good process that delivers a skilled recruit that fits the culture & who should be involved. Something mentioned by many CEO’s was the challenge of “understanding young people” and how how to lead them. Sound familiar?

– Leading Change: Change was on the radar for all those responding. The challenge of helping their team to change and to lead the change. A lot of technology change is on the agenda for 2014 i.e. implementation of new systems, software and technology. Changing the business structure also featured abundantly. The need to stay competitive, achieve high levels of staff productivity, introduce and develop new products & services. A key concern was how they were going to do this “when light on details” (plan) or where there was uncertainty on the process needed. Some talked about the “courage” needed by all leaders in the Company to implement change.

– Free up Time: A central theme was the need to delegate to staff more in order to free up time to lead and work on the business. Most were seriously time poor and needed to alter priorities in 2014.

– Learning not to Sweat the Small Stuff: There were many comments about learning to be comfortable leading when there can be no “perfection” and being comfortable with that. There was a recommitment to “bringing back the fun” and a desire to “not take it all so seriously”.

Overall this was a very interesting exercise. It not only engaged a lot of CEO’s to reflect on what they have learnt and on the year ahead but it was the first time I have done this on a large scale. I found leaders genuinely keen to help, to offer their thoughts, who wanted to engage in wider conversations and I learnt a lot. I saw themes & patterns common to all leaders (regardless of the size of the team or organisation they were leading) and themes & patterns relating to Canterbury (with the current post earthquake rebuild) and wider across industries.

The answers above largely tie in with what I have observed over a busy and challenging year closely supporting leaders in change. The desire to build strong cultures that attract and retain top talent being one I certainly have as the number one challenge on the radar for 2014.

What are your thoughts or comments? More importantly have you taken time to reflect on what you have learnt in 2013 as a leader and to define what it is you think you will face in 2014? How will you address the challenges? In my mind leading organisations and leading through others is and remains one of life’s biggest and most rewarding challenges you can face.

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