Don’t want to Change? Just Wait it out……

A fantastic quote from All Black Coach Steve Hansen that applies as much to business (and the change ahead) as it does to Rugby, England 2015

This blog on Linkedin by Ziyad Jawabra delivers a very powerful message (Link Here) about Nokia. A global company & well known technology brand recently acquired by Microsoft. The CEO tearfully announces “We didn’t do anything wrong but somehow we lost!”

Powerful why? Because change is constant and ruthless to those who ignore or can’t navigate it. In fact it is worse than that, knowing change is needed is very different to actually leading or executing it. Earlier in the year I published my 3rd annual survey results whereby I asked over 200 CEO’s what they had learnt as leaders in 2015 and what they think they face in 2016 (Link Here: CEO Survey) and as you can see it is all about the challenge of change. The impact of constant change, changing fast enough to meet market and competitor moves and most important of all change to meet client expectations. On top of that staying profitable and having a culture that builds resilient people because change is tough.

We work as the Strategic Execution Partner in our clients businesses and are their most trusted adviser supporting strategy and leader development. Most importantly we are enabling Strategic Execution i.e. the doing bit. Working across dozens of industries with a vast number of clients I can assure you the problems are the same and simplicity is needed. Change is now constant, adds to complexity and requires agile thinking & speed of action. Make mistakes and fail fast (iterate the plan fast) is what my Chairman tells me as Chief Executive and this too applies to all leading.

The next 5 – 10 years holds more change, technology innovation and industry disruption than we have ever seen in business so it is a skill every leader must master to prevent the situation we have just seen a Nokia. The alternative is to sit and wait and let the wave of market change pound you.

How do you keep it focussed, simple and lead in constant change? That takes commitment to intentionally  learning new skills.

High Performance Teams: Foundations


High performance teams…….great buzz words, a great aspiration, we’d all love to be a member of one and to lead one, but how do you actually achieve it? How do you take the concept and turn it into reality? I am lucky enough to be a part of one and to lead several. I also work day to day supporting and coaching High Performance CEO’s to develop, lead and enable their Senior Leadership Teams. There is a link to high performance sports teams and to tight military combat teams and there is no shortage of information on the subject. What are the foundations of a High Performance Business Leadership Teams? Patrick Lencioni’s book “The Five Dysfunctions of a Team” is a great read and outlines some great concepts. But how do you really do it? Here are the 12 foundation stones of developing a High Performance Business Team;

1.  Lead yourself well. It all starts with a team leader being prepared to be vulnerable. To be self aware, open to change, being comfortable with their own strengths and weaknesses and to have the desire to change and get incrementally better as a leader. They admit mistakes and learn constantly from them. They model behavior for their team.

2. High Trust is key. High performance teams trust each other. In fact I believe they actually like each other and hang out together. They know how the team works, their part in it and constantly get to play to their strengths. Constantly communicate.

3. Set the Culture. High performance teams train and practice together. The leaders create the space for high quality conversations to occur, for high quality thinking to occur which in turn leads to high quality decisions be consistently made. The highest priority is placed on Strategic planning, team time, training and measuring success. During busy times more time is spent in planning and supporting the team.

4. Take the wins. Celebrate success as it occurs. Big and small it is important to recognize the wins, to see the first signs a strategy or initiative is starting to deliver results. Have fun, reward your team, say thank you and make your team members the hero.

5. Embrace failure. If things are not working, constantly iterate the plan and involving the team in capturing the lessons learnt. At Stanford Design school we had it drummed into us to “Go early, fail fast and iterate”.

6. Coach and Mentor. High Performance Teams have the best coaches and a network of mentors that keep them at the top of their game. A High Performance Leader guides, develops, mentors and grows their people or recruits their replacements. Investing heavily in developing the team and the individuals in it is a big job. The best leaders are the best coaches. those in the team are unable to grow or are not willing to engage they need to be removed before they hold the team back. It may be they are not in the right seat on the bus or even that they are on the wrong bus. Addressing poor performance fast is more about protecting your “A players” than anything else. No one at the top of their game wants to be in a team that includes non performers. Remember that everyone in a team knows who is and who is not performing and they are watching the leader to see what they will do about it.

7. Measure and Manage. Measure the right things to keep it on track. Building high levels of engagement and buy in is key to being able to hold people accountable. Check in every week on reality vs targets. Support your team to get and keep things on track. Set stretch goals that inspire and challenge your people.

8. Have a Bias for Action. Be more focussed on getting started and making things happen than talking about it. High Performance Teams make things happen. They love action, challenges and what they do.

9. Authenticity Rules. Be open, transparent and honest. Articulating the Vision, Purpose and Values and bringing them to life is the basis for the teams existence. Good authentic Values align and guide behaviors and allow for scaleable and consistent decision making. Walk the walk and do the hard yards.

10. Be Consistent. High performance Teams are consistent in all they do. Do the basics right and build on them. Tell stories and manage by walking around. Build on consistency by basing decisions on the reality of your people.

11. Hire slow. Have a team that is hard to get into and easy to get out of. Recruit for fit, train for skill and induct those joining the team.

12. Lead from the Front. The best leaders are the best managers. Lead, accept responsibility and genuinely care about those in your team. Perception is reality, which means if you are feeling it your team will be too. Constantly look over the fence at what others are doing because often the best solutions and ideas come from other industries and when applied to your own become a game changer.

There are many things that make a team perform at a high level. Many are very easy to do but require the right attitude, approach and the passion to not only start the journey but to continue on through tough times and periods of change and uncertainty. Leadership is the ultimate challenge and leading a team of people who are smarter, better and more capable is very rewarding.

How do you develop your team?

“Good Guys Don’t Win” …….A Tale About NZ CEO’s

Last week Psychologist and Leadership expert Dave Winsborough of Winsborough Ltd (Link Here) spoke here in Christchurch about some of his research relating to NZ CEO’s. Some highlights;

  • NZ business does not scale well.
  • Few NZ Companies go on to be global players.
  • NZ does not grow as fast (GDP) as many in the rest of the world.
  • NZ workers pull long hours but have low productivity compared to other like nations.
  • A good CEO makes a difference of 15% to the bottom line.
  • It is very hard for a CEO to replicate a similar success in another company.
  • NZ CEO’s are highly competitive, don’t do hierarchy and build soft, non competitive cultures.
  • CEO’s around the world are more cooperative than NZ CEO’s.
  • By nature our CEO’s take thing more seriously than their global peers meaning they don’t have as much fun.
  • There is a culture of the 3 B’s. Once a NZ business owner gets a bach, a boat and a BMW there is a culture of “relax”.

Some interesting points were made and backed by some good science, data and research. In fact with 26 CEO’s in the room none disagreed. So what is going on? Whilst some of the comments were deliberately provocative it can’t be denied that most NZ Companies do not become global players. We do seem to be a nation of SME’s, family businesses. In my experience NZ does indeed seem to be a little more relaxed when it comes to thinking big.

My experience (having supported CEO’s and businesses in NZ and oversees) is that we do not invest in the ongoing training of our people, leaders and future CEO’s. Our governance is often ineffective and little more than an extension of the management of the business. Certainly there are challenges for family businesses in terms of growth, leadership, governance and succession. Our cultures are indeed soft and where we like to create a place people love to work (nothing wrong with that) we will often not expect excellence from our employees and leaders in the business.

I’m committed to changing this over time so that NZ does punch above its weight and starts to take excellent NZ brands and products into the global arena.Image

The Art Of Making Excuses

The Art Of Making Excuses

The important things in life tend to be easy to do but also easy not to do. Excuse making is something I come across on a daily basis. Often after deciding that something is really important to do for the business is made a priority it is then not actioned. Often there is a blockage, a story, a reason but the fact remains it does not get done. The most effective leaders I know just “make things happen”. They tend to be the busiest people who time and time again do what needs to be done. They are focussed, committed and consistent.

Meanwhile the excuse makers tend to have that pattern in their life of not doing what they set out to do. Whatever the excuse they just don’t nail it. Often it is someone elses fault or because they ran out of time. They are the victim. In my mind it was either not important, they are not committed or they don’t know how to do it so never start.

Give me someone with a penchant for action over talking about it any day. Give me someone who gives it a go, starts the journey, takes the first step, makes some mistakes, asks for help anyday. They are the ones who will learn, accept responsibility and they will make it happen.

If it is important you will find away or you will find an excuse.

What are your thoughts?

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.

Making High Performance Leaders Better

I do a lot of work with high performance leaders. In fact I have just completed a survey which I will share over the coming weeks about their key learnings over the last 12 months and what challenges they expect to face in the next 12 months to bring.

Executive leadership coaching is a growing part of my practise here in Christchurch that is growing by referral and it involves working with high performance, experienced individuals in key leadership roles who want to get better at their craft. This link (read here) explains why leaders need to be aware of their “blind spots” and how some good coaching can take them to a new level of influence over their teams and key people. Leadership at the senior level is about leading through others. In itself this involves coaching, mentoring, developing and getting key managers better at their game…..better a delivering results, better at leading their own parts of the business.


I work with CEO’s in a number of ways. Firstly to help build their strategy and then to help roll it out across the company. Primarily this is about “Business Execution” or executing the strategy. This is a major challenge in amongst the chaos of “Business as Usual.  I now have a number of high performance CEO’s from prominent companies seeking what I term “professional development.” They work virtually or travel from around the country to invest in their own development. This involves working with them in a high trust relationship to get them better at their craft. It involves the following;

a. Being a sounding board. Leadership is a lonely space so having someone with no other motivation except to see them succeed is something that is of high value. Someone outside their organisation, outside their team and outside of the Board of Directors. I have some who simply want to spend time and talk through key decisions and to help them get clear on their thinking and why they think that way.

b. Challenging their Blind Spots. We all have them and this is an area I have worked hard on myself. Better self awareness, better situational awareness of those we lead, key strengths and how to play to them and how to build the skills in your team to cover weaknesses. Empathy for others and tools for getting the best out of people are generally at the top of the list of these important “soft skills”.

c. Building a Framework = Finding Time. Generally CEO’s are very time poor. Finding time for them is key as we challenge how they might structure their week, month & year. A good cadence of team and one on one meetings, time for strategy, review, lessons learnt and strategic thinking all form part of this along with the disciplines required to actually execute such a framework. One of the biggest things I find is that busy leaders do not take time off. They risk burn out, lack balance between work and family life and few give themselves the time to recharge. As a leader of a large organisation you are responsible for feeding a lot of families. You have an obligation to be at the top of your game so you can make the best decisions and deliver the best results. Time out is critical and the discipline to make it a priority is key.

d. Building on Strengths. The best return on investment is to play to and build on your strengths and to build a team around you to do the bits you are not so good at. I find many leaders who beat themselves up for the parts they struggle with and often they focus on these negative areas. Why focus on things you are not naturally good at and tend to loath doing?

e. Execution. Actually supporting leaders to do what they set out to do. Everyone needs accountability and in a space where performance is key everyone needs a push to get out of their comfort zone and to seek excellence. Real situations require practical solutions and one thing I really enjoy is working with leaders to actually do what they need to do.

f. Seeking Excellence. As in high performance sport any % gained is pure gold. It is easy to lift performance from say 65 – 85%. But every % over and above 85% (or however you like to think of it) takes conscious effort, focus, trial and error and execution with a focus on measuring progress. A leader is only as good at their last game so building on performance, banking lessons learnt and pushing outside comfort zones is key.

g. Providing the Right Network. I certainly do not claim to know what it is all about and I challenge anyone who can. Leadership is a journey (not an event) and having the right peer group, mentors, exposure to research, case studies, stories/examples, academic courses and others who are on the same journey is an absolutely critical part of developing talent and talented leaders. I see my role as providing the right things at the right time to build personal networks.

h. Leading in Change & Enabling Culture. The pace of change is fast and continuing to get faster. Technology, competitor moves, globalisation, client expectations, economic conditions have never involved so much change. How do CEO’s lead in times of constant change and how can they enable a culture that top talent wants to be & remain a part of? The culture of an organisation is a strategic advantage that no competitor can steal so enabling a culture of excellence, that is resilient to change, is innovative and close to the customers needs is critical to growing and leading a business.

Working with high performance leaders is one of the things I love about my role. It is satisfying, challenging and I learn a lot about leadership, different sectors and different companies. The common theme is that no one actually teaches you how to lead people & how to get the best out of them. It is not a University course or a seminar or an event. Everyone you meet can & should teach you something and without doubt it is one of life’s ultimate challenges.

Are you working with someone to help you get to the top of your leadership game?

“When a man die…

“When a man dies a library burns”

Read that quote recently again and it is so true. A little like losing a key long term employee, many years of collective knowledge and learning goes with them. Leaders at the top of their game never stop learning. They commit to the pursuit of excellence and continually look for new ideas, incremental improvements and different ways of lifting the bar.

This week we have a CEO leadership event here in Christchurch with Bruce Cotterill speaking about how he has built culture, achieved success and turned several companies around including Yellow. I am looking forward to many of our clients attending and the discussions that follow of from such an event.

Enabling Leaders: Live to lead

Leadership at the CEO level is about leading through others. In a nutshell this means enabling good people to lead others in the wider organisation to succeed. It is about setting people up for success, supporting, guiding, mentoring, developing your functional heads of department (or whatever you call them) to deliver the agreed deliverables for the company and to ensure they do so consistently.

This means constantly investing in their development and supporting them through the good and the bad.  I have to constantly challenge myself to get better as not only a leader but at how I can enable others working at the top of their game. Last week in my capacity as a Reserve Army officer I assisted the NZ Army to select potential Army Officers to undergo Officer training. This involved working in a close team and assessing candidates over a three day period. I learnt a lot more about what to look for and how to assess leaders and it was my first time in that Army environment where I was not being tested myself. Not only was it a pleasure to see smart young people giving it 100%, it was hard work as part of the assessment team and given we were making decisions about peoples future lives and the Armys future leaders we were pushed to make clear and justifiable assessments.

Yesterday I did some self reflection after going through an hour long debrief with a psychologist looking at the results of my “Hogan” profile. An in depth look at who I am, how I lead and some of the things that I need to leverage and be aware of so as to lift my leadership to another level. Already I have seen a return on this investment through the conversations it has opened up with my team and with clients.

This morning I will be working with a high performance leader for three hours as he invests time into his leadership style, skills and actions. Leadership is a lonely space and those committed to constant and incremental improvement achieve great things for not only themselves personally but their organisations and those they lead. It is a really positive journey of growth and an opportunity to try new things, make mistakes and from that comes the true gold = Lessons learnt!

What have you learnt lately in you role as a leader? How do you stay at the top of your game as a leader? I’d love some feedback and thoughts on this.