Leading Leaders: Thriving in Change

We believe that in order to thrive (not just survive….thrive) in the future and an ever changing business environment, Leaders (and Businesses) need to constantly adapt, change, iterate and to lead their people with certainty.

This mission involves working with Business owners, Board Chairs and CEO’s who are looking to invest in their own leadership skills, grow other leaders & develop a clear strategic execution plan which they can execute continuously. The latter “Execution” piece is the important bit.

This is about getting things done, prioritising the important things over the urgent (disrupting business as usual in a good way) and leading behavioural change. This is getting the people in the business to change and do different things & sadly our world is full of people with great ideas but not people who can bring these ideas to life practically.

This short video outlines some of the work we do with long term clients as we support them to lead in change, succession and execution.

Lessons Learnt From The Army: How to Fight to Win

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Leading NZ soldiers is an incredible challenge, responsibility and privilege.

Much of my working life has been spent as an Army Officer, initially as a regular and later in the Reserves. I have found that the skills I learned and applied leading soldiers are very relevant and transferable for leading teams and driving business execution; especially in this increasingly dynamic and ever changing marketplace.

As you can imagine, the challenge of leading men and women who are working in dangerous roles in challenging environments requires a high level of trust, empathy and teamwork.

The Army places great emphasis on leadership skills and invests heavily in leadership training and development at all levels. Training courses to enhance leadership skills continue right through to those at the very highest ranks of the Army.

Here are six key things that the Army teaches their leaders in order to “fight to win”:

1. Remain calm under fire.

That’s not to say that fear is not present, in fact it is. However, to “keep calm and carry on” regardless of the situation is something you can learn. It is the golden rule for keeping your head and working through a logical process in order to respond to a hostile or changing situation. Being calm and thinking clearly are essential requirements to evaluate what is happening and to make effective decisions.

2. Any plan is better than no plan.

Without a plan you cannot inspire others to follow you. Having a plan is the starting point for successful execution. Even if the plan is not the right one, making a decision and creating a plan will save lives and generate positive activity. A good team will back itself to quickly adjust a plan so that it is effective.

3. No plan survives the start line.

The Army recognizes that in every situation there is another party that can influence the situation. Not just the enemy, but terrain, equipment, weather, civilian populations, and even animals can influence a plan. All the various scenarios that might happen should be considered and planned for so that the plan can be quickly adjusted if required. The fact a team has planned and engaged together allows it to quickly iterate the plan as needed.

4. Maintain momentum.

In any situation there needs to be swift action, and momentum needs to be maintained to ensure successful execution. Slowing or stopping any operation means it is difficult to get going again. It reminds me of the saying “When going through hell….keep going!”

5. Teamwork is a defining factor.

A group working together and supporting each other to achieve the defined goal will greatly lift the chance of success. Training together, working together, getting to know one another, and building trust all help to build teamwork. Good teams keep going when the going gets tough, and they overcome blockages in order to win.

6. Time is seldom wasted in planning or recon.

Taking the time as a leadership team to plan ahead for future operations, alternative scenarios, routes to be taken, areas of interest, and likely courses of action is seldom wasted. Planning and reconnaissance actually saves time, saves resources, and in many cases, people’s lives.

There are many situations in business where these skills can be applied. Strategic thinking, strategic planning, working together to build teamwork and trust, as well as incorporating a planning cadence that allows a business to quickly alter a plan and then change direction as required – are things a smart business leader does.

Influencing and inspiring people gets stuff done. That’s called “business execution” and by applying these six lessons from the Army you too can inspire your team to “fight to win.”

Average “Pisses” Us Off: Why we do What we do

I am often asked what we do and why we do it. A few weeks back I spent some time working with my good friend & Leadership Expert John Spence in Florida. We took the opportunity to shoot a few videos and I thought it was time to articulate this starting with this Introduction to The RESULTS Group.

Why do we do what we do?

The RESULTS Group exists to make an “intentional difference” to peoples lives. We love what we do and are very good at it. We work with leaders across many organisations and industries as they seek to make a true difference in their lives and the lives of those they lead. We work with good companies seeking high performance results. We keep them ahead of disruption and support them to grow capability and capacity……to execute the important things. The connection we have with people inspires us to go that little bit further, to do what it takes to make a significant impact on people and the organisations they choose to lead and to be part of.

Our Mission (Big Hairy Audacious Goal) is to disrupt Business Advisory (to redefine Advisory in a good way) by 2020 for High Performance Businesses and Leaders.

What gets under our skin?

We hate that Advisers provide average advice and charge a lot of money. We are sick & tired of the fact that the advice is generally just Accounting advice from people who have no understanding of how to implement change or to apply the advice to real life situations. These same people are being significantly disrupted in their own industry and are often not living what they are teaching.

Other advisers make it a dark art and seek to charge as if they have the “magic bullet.” Often their work is not tangible nor the difference they make measurable. Sometimes their clients struggle to apply it and in frustration don’t get the break throughs. Further those dispensing the advice have not led at a high level themselves. They have not made real life mistakes, earned a few battle scars nor dealt with the behavioural challenges of leading people. They can’t tell real stories that bring things to life.How can you give advice if you have never done it? Worse still these advisers rarely ask for feedback from their clients.

It is not good enough and we are doing something about it.

What do we do?

We work with good Companies to support them to execute their strategy. We are their “Strategy Execution Partners.”  We collaboratively work with our clients as the “generalist” in their business. They are after all the experts and have achieved a lot over many years.

We ask the questions, we create the discussions within their teams, we apply a framework to bring it to life. Further we don’t keep it a secret. In fact our frameworks and tools are freely available and based on the research of the worlds experts. The value is not in the tool but in the discussions and alignment of the leaders in the business. It lies in the application of theory into the current business reality.

Our clients are privately held established Companies seeking to intentionally get better at what they do.

Core Business is getting the important things done which means supporting Business Leaders to disrupt the day to day Business as Usual Operations of the Business to grow capability & capacity. This means supporting them to change and adopt new ways of leading and focus. We help them to “Simplify their Business” by ensuring they have a simple Strategic Plan that their people can execute.

Often we support Leaders to develop their skills to lead at the next level or to grow and develop the leaders in their organisation so they can step back or bring the Company under management. This may be at the Governance, Advisory Board, CEO, GM or Senior Leadership Team level.

It sounds simple (and it generally is) but it is never easy to make a commitment to incrementally get better & better in an ongoing way. It takes focus and requires the important things to be done rather than the urgent.

This is about building a culture of high performance, learning, growing and coaching. The best leaders are the best coaches, managers, mentors and life long learners.

We know it works too. Our clients tell us each 6 months exactly what difference it makes in their lives & businesses. We also measure it so we have the data to show a very good return on their investment of time and money. There are no magic bullets either. It takes focus, hard work, clever thinking, tough discussions and a “try new things, fail fast & iterate the plan” approach to leading smart people.

Taking a long term approach to working with client companies we know they never leave our networks. They may disengage as a paying client but they re engage when they need us. We often work with clients for 3, 4 or 5 years (longer with many) and they come back as they need to grow to another level.

We also have fun, apply the same frameworks to our own business and live our Purpose and Values each day. Our people have been there and done it. Sure they have the academic qualifications but more importantly they have the real life experience of leadership & they love what they do. We make a difference & that it is valued by those we choose to work with.

But don’t take our word for it either…….ask any of our clients & as you join our networks there is plenty of opportunity to do this. 

Do Something different
Get a different result rather than learn the same thing again.

 

 

The Power of “Lessons Learnt” & “Reflection”

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The definition of insanity – Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.

There is a lot of research that shows the best lessons are learnt through experience and from failure. Failures can be big and small ranging. One of the leaders I admire is Winston Churchill. I have read so much of his writing and the various biographies and speeches. He had some of the most fantastic failures and also some biggest successes. His early years were a disaster and yet he went on to lead Britain and the Commonwealth to victory over Germany in the second world war. He adapted, reflected and used what he had learnt and the resulting resilience he built.

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When going through hell keep going!!

Most long serving Business Owners and CEO’s have made some big mistakes over their career. Economic changes, currency fluctuations, competitor moves, technology changes have taken most close to the brink at some stage and we add to that the complexity of some bad decisions, no decisions or not changing fast enough. In fact some would say if you haven’t pushed things a bit then you are not even close to peak performance.

The ability to see mistakes early comes from that skill of being able to reflect. As a leader at any level you need to consciously build on that “gut feel” to really understand and reflect on what you are seeing; in the work place, after a meeting, in a project review, after a client discussion, during a Strategic Execution review etc. So often the skills a high performing senior leader seeks to intentionally develop is that ability to self reflect, to be able to change a bad situation, a failing plan or iterate on an initial decision. To be able to understand the impact he or she is having, needs to have and who/what needs to be influenced to achieve success. This allows a Company to move faster and to build on performance.

The ability to understand and interpret (make a professional judgement) what you are seeing, validate it by seeking feedback in many ways and to constantly learn lessons is a very valuable skill. It is especially challenging when it is “cultural/the people” stuff we are needing to interpret especially to support change. I enjoy coaching these skills and you never stop learning from others.

So some of the best leaders also have the best battle scars and the best stories to tell about the lessons they have learnt. They have adapted and overcome big challenges. The ability to tell the story, to reflect on what happened and why and how they have applied the lessons they have learnt is where the true gold lies. In fact the CEO Leadership Round Table Groups I chair in Auckland and Christchurch are based around current Executive leaders telling their personal leadership journey and generating discussion around their reflections.

In fact having to speak about your personal journey forces a significant amount of self reflection as you articulate who you are (background & history) and why you have taken the journey you have as a leader. The lessons learnt and the things they got wrong are where the gold is and it gives us the personal connection and insights.

Try writing your own story.

If you need some inspiration consider being a guest at one of our Business Round Table Breakfasts and hear some great stories.

 

 

 

The Importance of Action

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When I did my officer training in the Army our instructors drummed into us the importance of making a plan. Any plan, just have one, engage your people to take action (or die) and alter the plan as you roll it out if needed. I didn’t know it at the time but it made us leaders of action. We had the confidence to make a decision fast, with the best information available and then to change it if it was not going to work or if the situation changed.

It turns out that this skill is a critical on in business. Too often no clear decisions are made, there is a fear of failure (or getting it wrong) and beyond a lot of discussion nothing happens. I often find myself listening less to the words and watching the actions being taken because this is the important bit. Talk – Action = Shit

7 Deadly Sins of Ineffective Governance

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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?

Guiding Others to Lead & Succeed

Simon sinek

My role as Chief Executive requires me to lead some super smart and talented people to lead functional areas of our business. This challenges me significantly. Like many of the Chief Executives that I am lucky enough to work with & coach as part of our Executive Leadership Program, it is easier (short term) to just get stuck into a project or task that needs doing and to take it over. As the quote by Simon Sinek highlights, it is a far more effective goal to help people to shine, to step up and do a fantastic job and to then leave those skills within that person. This will help you lead the many areas of the business and will get people playing to their strengths. Long term it will allow you to build a sustainable, scaleable and growing business!

Leading talented people is the ultimate challenge especially within the complex and fast changing world of business. How do you do this? Whilst there is no template there certainly are a few steps that can help you along the path. Here are the 10 steps I use and coach to;

  1. Know yourself well. Be comfortable with your own strengths and weaknesses and build a team around you that are good at the things you are not. Constantly learn and try new things. When you get things wrong be brave enough to own up and say “I got that wrong” or “that didn’t work and here is what I learnt”.
  2. Know your people well. Seek every opportunity to get to know what makes them tick. How do they think? Like to learn? Like to be rewarded? What do they do in their spare time? Who are their family? The best teams know each other well and when they know each other well trust can be established.
  3. Have good one on one meetings with your talented people. Use the time to get them better as leaders, in their role, to clarify their thinking, to encourage their hearts & passions. This is your number one tool for leading clever people in the way they need to be led.
  4. Get out of their way. It is easy for a Chief Executive to get in the way of progress, to slow them down. They need to know what you need from them to report to the Board of Directors, to share with the wider team, they need clear expectations from you and they need to know what they have autonomy to do.
  5. Have tough conversations. Give them ongoing feedback and encouragement. Confront issues fast before they become too big or impact on their effectiveness. If you are having regular and ongoing 1 on 1 meetings with your key staff it is unlikely that there needs to be too many of these. You are not their friend, you are their boss and to lead people effectively they need to know that you are on their side. You are there for them, in their corner, part of the wider team and their biggest champion they need to know they are part of a wider high performing team.
  6. Use others in the team (peers) to help you coach, guide and mentor. Use their skills and style to help them push through blockages and to build confidence. Leveraging the skills of others is one of the best levers you have to pull in a talented leadership team. Business and leadership is complex enough and as many smart minds on the job as possible.
  7. Celebrate their wins. Small break through to big successes, make sure you recognise their efforts, bravery and achievements. It is too easy to see what didn’t go well, the things that did not work that we forget the good stuff. catch people doing great things.
  8. Make mistakes fast. The Chairman of my Board (of Directors) coaches and mentors me each month and he actively encourages me to try new things. His mandate “Make good decisions, try new things, if they don’t work change them fast”. This gives me a lot of confidence to do great work but recognises that not everything will work. If you get everything right you are not pushing hard enough!
  9. Bring people back to the numbers. Always use numbers to measure what has been achieved and what success looks like. No one can argue with good clear metrics and it takes emotion and opinion out of the important stuff. have good team meetings with numbers and individually coach your team members to hit them and kick them right out of the park.
  10. Have fun & make things happen. If you are not having fun go and get a job that is fun. If it is fun then you will love doing what you do. If you are having fun your team will be having fun and in turn your clients will too. Laugh, don’t take life too seriously & keep it real. As Tom Peters says “Leaders do people”. If you don’t like working with people and leading people then you are in the wrong job. It is as simple as that. Leaders make things happen and get things done.

This by no means is the complete list but it is 10 of the important things. Getting things done is by far the most important thing. When John Spence was out in NZ in March he drummed into me that there is no shortage of really smart people in the world with fantastic ideas. There is however a really big shortage of people who can make things happen.

Get out there and make things happen by employing super smart people and then coaching them to be the best they can be. It will make your life a lot easier and means you don’t have to try and be a super hero and do everything on your own. It is not possible to do it alone!

Want a fantastic video to watch? Check out Simon Sinek in this 12 minute clip called ““Why Good Leaders make you Feel Safe”.

Leadership: The Importance of Time Out

I work with many CEO’s and Founding Directors & consistently they are the people least likely to take their holidays. I have written about this in several earlier posts e.g. The Art of Being too Busy & Leaders Must Take Time Out.  Those that do take time off will be just a cell phone call, text or e-mail away. They are active & online monitoring business, staying in touch with staff & projects……they never disengage long enough to recharge.

Fiordland National Park, New Zealand. One of the natural wonders of the world & a place to reflect of the important things in life.
Fiordland National Park, New Zealand. One of the natural wonders of the world & a place to reflect of the important things in life.

The Harvard Business Review article entitled “Rules For a Vacation Thats Truly worth it” really is worth a read. The value of spending time totally disengaged with your day job, experiencing new (& physical) things with different people can really encourage innovative and creative thinking. It can allow you to get out of the day to day and do some thinking “on” the big things that need to or should happen.

Personally I try and take four good breaks over the work year so that there is time to recharge and pursue other things in your life. a time to reconnect with family, friends and to schedule some time for myself. I totally agree that the mix of a restful holiday on one of them followed by a new “experience” or a trip to somewhere new really (into the outdoors) keeps life interesting and is a catalyst for new ideas & dreams.

When did you last take a decent holiday and more importantly when did you last disconnect from your e-mail, phone & text? Are you one of those people who is too busy ( = needs to plan more & focus on the important things) or too important to the business (= doesn’t see the importance of training & trusting your people) that others can’t step up and do your job even short term?

Seek help………………. Now……fast!

Some Big Technology & Retail Trends: Do you Know Your Stuff?

This video on the future of technology companies and the trends in retail really is worth a look. OK he speaks at 100 miles per hour but if you pause it and watch it several times the research around what he is talking about starts to sink in! I have shown it to several clients as they look to review and build their strategy and it has totally changed their outlook.