I caught up with John Spence today & we reflected on a busy two weeks since we last spoke. A lot has changed in both the USA & in our part of the world here in NZ & Australia. Whilst each country faces a different situation there are some common emerging patterns & challenges that leaders are facing across industries as they lean into the Covid-19 impact.
A short video with Top 50 Global Leadership Expert John Spence on how we each approach Executive Leadership Coaching. There are many approaches to coaching but without doubt if you get the right fit the impact it makes to your effectiveness as a leader is significant. John has been coaching for many years and his approach, although similar, is different to mine.
I learnt through my career as an Army Officer the importance of coaching, mentoring and guiding and was lucky enough to have some very good leaders invest their time with me. Years of practical leadership followed by some post graduate study at Cornell University in the High Performance Leadership space allowed us to develop our framework that we use to work with many to the top CEO’s, Sports leaders and emerging leaders in New Zealand, Australia and the USA.
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.
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.
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.
Leadership is a key predictor of success and the impact leaders have on a group is not only significant but extremely consistent. Leadership is a “Group resource” and groups that are seeking to get ahead tend to want to have the best leaders in place to ensure that outcome. Personality plays a big part and I am often asked questions such as “Are leaders born or made”, “Do leaders have to be charismatic and inspiring to be successful.”
This video from Hogan Assessments is a very good resource and it answers many interesting questions as it explores the science behind personality and the impact this has on leaders. We use Hogan Assessments to support clients on our Executive Leadership Program and really value their research and expertise.
About this time every year for the last four years I have sent out a two question survey to over 200 CEO’s. These are senior leaders not only in my own network but across all of our consultants networks also. This year (as he did last year) our business partner John Spence also sent the survey through his US & global network of US based Chief Executives and business experts.
The results of this survey are a barometer of how senior business leaders are feeling & what they are facing in todays dynamic business environment. As you can imagine a huge amount of information was provided and it took some time to distil the information & to identify the patterns. Here are the results of this years survey;
Question 1: What were the three biggest leadership lessons you learnt in 2016?
Change is constant & becoming even more so. This has increased the need to make faster decisions & to effect change faster. An interesting pattern was that some felt that resistance to change within their company can actually be due to ambiguity i.e. the lack of clarity on what needs to change which can result in people resisting the change.
The culture of the company is a critical success factor. Many felt there was a need to act fast to preserve the culture, there was a need to have a culture of high trust between those in the team. It was important to attract & retain people who fit the culture of the company on the team. A culture of coaching & teaching team members to get better in their role was an emerging trend.
Effective communication is critical to success. It needs to be clear & simple. Issues arising need to be confronted with urgency.
Question 2: What are the three biggest challenges you will face in 2017?
Leading in continuing change and managing the tempo/pace of this change. Leading “culture” change as companies look to change how they do things. The challenge of proactively staying ahead of change rather than being reactive to it.
Staying profitable whilst navigating the uncertainty created by ongoing change, global influences, political uncertainty and the impact of global markets.
Understanding what clients really need. Understanding the opportunities in the market. The challenge of standing out as a brand and getting cut through with important marketing messages.
As you can see there are some big themes around the challenge of leading in ongoing change & the impact this has on culture and profitability. Without question the modern CEO is a change leader and this will be a continuing trend as disruption and complexity increases over the coming years.
Those leaders who are constantly up skilling themselves, keeping abreast of the emerging technology, building resilient leaders within their company will be able execute and thrive in the future. Those who fail to adapt fast enough will not do as well, if they survive at all.
You can look back on last years results (and previous years) to compare trends by clicking this link.
It has been a busy and exciting year to lead in business and there will be no shortage of challenge in 2017. I write this in Atlanta as I wait for my return flight to New Zealand having just spent some time working with clients in Florida and New York. The world is now a very complex & connected place – connected by technology, systems, relationships and markets.
The role of a leader is to lead change with certainty and we look forward to continuing to support our clients as their Strategic Execution Partners as they seek to simplify their business.
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.
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.”
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?
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.
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.