April 16, 2018
Here’s a story of two new starters on the same day – an intern at a tech start-up and a new CEO for a medium-sized listed tech company, both in the City of London. I was interested to hear reports of their first day and the promises they made or were made to them.
At the internal company briefing the new CEO promises his staff “small” things that make a big difference like listening and asking questions and plenty of big things, like a new corporate culture and strategic direction. He has already worked out, by talking to people in advance of his arrival, what the company needs, which is outlined in his strategic focus on building a customer-centric organisation with greater staff empowerment and pride. This comes with responsibility and he will hold people accountable. He envisages better customer relationships and higher growth. His tone is confident and his manner is one of optimism and high engagement. After all, this final move in his long international career means that his lasting reputation is at stake.
The student intern is delighted by his first day. The welcome was warm, the daily company breakfast “awesome”, he reports of stories and stand-ups (nothing to do with comedy, this is all agile language), of a lack of hierarchy, approachable, enthusiastic employees, and the sense that he is of value (since a senior programmer spent a whole hour of “boxes and lines” meeting with him) and people invested their time in making him feel a part of the team from the start. Like every other employee, he is promised an hour of self-development investment time at the end of every day, to do what he likes. This he thinks shows commitment to independent thought and creativity as well as displaying trust in people to make best use of this time. He has started his new job with a high degree of motivation and this is even before he knows what he will be doing there … that will transpire as specific project needs arise.
In both cases first impressions were very positive and only time will tell whether the promises made will be delivered upon. We think it is really important to be clear about the promises we make to our stakeholders, both internal and external, not least because we need to deliver on them to be successful. We don’t need to look far to see examples of the massive fallout when organisations over-promise and under-deliver. (Carillion in the UK is a most recent one). Are the promises we make consistent to our different stakeholder groups? Have we taken time to consider how our brand (the sum of our external promises) is perceived and how this matches what our customers and employees are experiencing at first hand? What do we “promise” without being consciously aware that we are doing so?
What happens when promises are broken, or expectations of delivery don’t match what we actually get? We can take charge of our promises and our stakeholder relationships by asking these questions and answering them truthfully (from the perspectives of multiple stakeholders). This helps us to measure consistency and take action to address any gaps. Keeping these promises will create and sustain the inspirational, successful climate promised by the CEO and experienced by the intern.
February 16, 2018
Never before have we needed more true and honest leadership to manage the complexity of our current business world. We need 21st century leaders! The reality is that leaders in organisations today have to cope with so much – not just long days, never-ending to-do lists and fighting the balance between short term demands versus longer term strategic direction but also the fragmentation of their teams, virtual working, dis-connection, the unpredictability of their marketplace, their business, the insecurity of their jobs. We often note how the public sector limits the potential for leadership. Many leaders are frustrated by their lack of real executive power and spend endless hours coordinating agencies, trying to eke out limited resources due to lack of funding and dealing with the next government initiative. Press reports for the private sector are often no better, with headlines of self-serving executives being completely disconnected from their stakeholders, both internal and external. (more…)
January 11, 2018
At the start of the New Year we may consider our resolutions – do we remember what we promised ourselves last year? How great was our intention to act on our promises to ourselves and others? Maybe we achieved some shift and we can congratulate ourselves if so, since the vast majority of resolutions do not reach fulfilment. So what’s makes the difference?
Having the vision of success is key – what will the new me look like? How will my relationships be changed? What plans will reach fruition? Can I picture this, not just as a still but as a movie clip in my head – what will I be doing, thinking, feeling, experiencing differently? (more…)
March 4, 2016
A month after we’d covered a module on “The Manager as Coach” one of the participants was feeding back on the impact his new skills were having in his team. He ruefully admitted that he’d become acutely aware of how he’d been doing the work of one particular team member. The team member would say he was stuck to which the manager would say “give it here” and, in this case, mostly write the proposal for him.
His learning from the coaching course had been that coaching is not just a way of being “nice” but of getting accountability. So instead of just taking on the work he began to ask questions: “where’s the problem?” and that question lead to other questions: “what have you done so far?” “how have you tackled similar problems before?” etc. The manager said it was a struggle to change a long-standing dynamic but he’d fundamentally changed his own view that coaching was too long-winded and a luxury – he realised that solving his team’s problems for them had created a tendency for his team to lean on him and that made him, and them, less effective. Default problem-solving mode had somehow kept the team static.
Coaching is about connecting people with their resourcefulness and about developing that resourcefulness with every interaction. Rather than fixing one problem you multiply the ability to deal with many as you leverage learning through questions, action and feedback. The question, “what will you do differently next time?” gives us all a chance to become smarter, repeat what’s worked well and avoid what hasn’t.
October 21, 2015
Transformation is everywhere! In personal development literature, transformative programmes abound- the inference being you may turn up a caterpillar but once you’ve done the course, old skin, will be left dry and inert while a brand new you flutters off into the distance.
Faced with such lofty promises skeptics roll their eyes with weary stoicism at being sent on yet another transformational course. The phrase seems to set itself up for over-promising and under delivery. So used are we to tripping over this miracle-packed word that it can also be discounted or un-noticed. As we go into that transformational leadership course our expectations are muted and measured. The subtext seems to be “transformation” is just the language that goes with the territory- don’t worry, change is not necessarily forthcoming.
September 4, 2015
Why would one hundred leading executives from the Life Sciences in Sweden dress up as knights and compete against each to gather the most treasure and win the appreciation of the crowd and King? This is what happened at the annual Biotech Builders* event, held this year at a medieval venue outside Stockholm.
The idea behind this informal gathering is that by giving people the opportunity to connect and build friendships, new hope will be breathed into a sector undergoing massive shifts in its global competitive landscape and crippled by regulations. Increased collaboration across businesses can power creative approaches and accelerate growth.
April 1, 2015
When MD for a company in a then male-dominated industry I was interviewed in the industry magazine, along with a handful of women, and we were asked the incisive question of what it was like to be a woman! Never having been anything else, I found this quite a difficult question to answer. I had the sense that what was said was taken as representative of all women, which of course is reinforcing prejudice (they all talk the same, look the same, feel the same). I noticed some things that were different however. When people met a young, female MD they wondered what was so special? Why is she in this position? Whereas a man commanded immediate respect (it was his to lose) it was a woman’s to gain.
August 21, 2014
Definitions of leadership abound but implicit is the capacity to take others to a point further on from where they started. So wherever you are, stop and think. Do you know where you’re going and where you’re leading others? Have you an engaged workforce delivering value now and for the future? Have you leveraged and maximised all that potential energy represented by the people of your organisation? Or has lack of leadership resulted in much expenditure of energy and no gained terrain (or worse, a backslide)?
The following activities have one thing in common – high resource expenditure leading no-one anywhere, much less where the organisation wants to go. Do you recognise any of these scenarios?