• pic1
  • pic2
  • pic3
  • pic4
  • pic5
  • pic6

New Year’s Resolution…
is there ever going to be a better time to give YOUR leadership style a hard reboot?

Could certain processes and connnections that have served you well for years finally become redundant and now screaming for a refresh? From time-to-time all of us benefit from standing back from our organisations to help mitigate the risk of becoming a dinosaur egg about to hatch.

"Brexit means Brexit." What a year 2016 turned out to be. At least for the particular business community that I serve (from Devon to North Yorkshire and overseas), Brexit is generously perceived to be a 'brave' decision. Personally, I don't have a scrap of doubt that there's to be a harsh three-to-four year negative impact on those 'forgotten families' at the poorest end of our society. Don't expect much upside before 2020 at the earliest. Between now and the end of March 2017, certain of my clients' primary product lines from food to electronics are set to rise by a whopping 12% - 25%+, perhaps providing an indicator of what's in store. Even if we speculate that 2% - 5% of these astonishing price hikes can be discreetly 'absorbed' between overseas manufacturer/grower and UK retail outlet, that's still a game changer. Fortunately, we UK business leaders are an adaptive and resilient bunch so there's got to be a chance that we can turn the UK's lemming-like 52% protest vote into a positive for future generations. As leaders, we all need to remain positive.

So how are relations between you and your employees changing?

IS NOW THE TIME to cascade more decision making to those who hold our detailed operational knowledge?

Decisions decisions… The upside for taking well-considered and timely decisions just gets greater and greater. Conversely, overly delayed or ill-considered decisions can destroy an otherwise solid business in a flash. 2016 produced several interesting opportunities for me to review the aftermaths of leaders (and other senior staff) taking poor operational decisions that they might have got away with unnoticed in previous eras. What can be learnt?

One of my mottos is "If in doubt, do something." In the modernday 'knowledge society' our middle managers hold much of this vital knowledge so fundamental for taking properly considered decisions. In reality there is usually far too great a distance between this middle band of management and the top team. Fractured communication links cost businesses time and money that is dangerous to fritter away. Ground breaking opportunities are all too easily lost; inspirational ideas too easily overlooked. We need to make greater effort to encourage long-term sustainable growth. Many leaders fall into the trap of thinking too logically. Sometimes a seemingly daft idea put forward can prove to be the germ of something genius. Is it time to allow more of your team to test their creative ideas within agreed boundaries (if you believe that any boundaries are needed - sometimes we can be better off without them)? Allow your people to succeed or fail - otherwise the best of your bunch (not the worst) are going to walk. Your people need to feel that they truly matter rather than being treated as a small cog in some gigantic impersonal monster of a engine. Actively encourage collaborative thinking and reprimand those displaying silo-mentality. Indecision or poor decisions can set off organisation-wide morale-destroying bombs. So it's prudent to broaden one's knowledge of different decision making processes - one style does not fit all.

IS NOW THE TIME to perfect your communication channels - internal and external?

Today's workforce and clients/customers are more diverse - certainly more multicultural and perhaps more multigenerational (we are living and working for longer) than ever before, which makes makes strong leadership ever more pivotal. There are so many ideas to share when it comes to effective communications. To ensure that your key messages truly chime with your distinct audiences, be they customers/clients/shareholders/employees/fellow directors/partners, requires a broad range of skill sets that may not come naturally and so need to be learnt. Poor communication is where so many enterprises fall flat on their faces. To sharpen up your message and competitiveness, it is often worthwhile starting out by privately refreshing your own vision, goals and values before going on to articulating, simply, what you need individuals and whole teams to be saying (and not saying) and doing (and not doing). If we stray from providing what our customers/clients need and value, it is almost certain to be game over. It sounds straightforward, though it isn't. So many organisations foul up on their comm's.

IS NOW THE TIME to enhance self-awareness?

Do you know yourself well? Yes, of course you do… It's a trick question since few of us know ourselves as well as we choose to believe. One of the fun dimensions to leadership coaching is providing a rapid factual analysis of one's style that compares you with well over 350 other business leaders. I am confident that our analysis, which has taken 20 years to perfect, is now almost spot on - last year we added more than 50 test results to our spreadsheet and the change to the overall findings varied by less than 0.25% from previous results. The hard evidence that we produce is often a revelation to our candidates, making communicating harder for them on 'Day One', though the long-term benefit becomes powerfully evident after a week or three. All said and done, it's our interactions with people that make or break our businesses, so self-awareness and awareness of the preferred communication and behavioural styles of others has to be near the top of most people's leadership coaching needs.

IS NOW THE TIME to work on your time management skills (and LWB)?

Most of us can draw up a list of our highly particular bad time management practices. In reality, many leaders fail to strike a healthy and sustainable Life-Work-Balance. A certain amount of ambient stress and pressure comes with the territory though we need to take care. 2016 heralded the premature deaths of many celebrities. Who's tombstone reads "I really should have spent more time in the office"? Working with so many top notch business leaders and educationalists puts me in a privileged position to share thoughts that can make a significant difference to life going forwards. Most of us don't devote sufficient quality time to strategic and commercial thinking - that's where most leaders ultimately add greatest value. It's all too easy for leaders to get drawn back into operational fire-fighting. This crucial balance may need to be corrected without delay though change needs to be exercised in the right ways. And talking of exercise… a healthy body = a healthy mind. Gyms are going to be packed for the first two weeks of the year before reverting to normality again. Most human beings are not good about forming sustainable good habits for long without some help.

IS NOW THE TIME to have those 'difficult conversations'?

If a team or individual team member is not performing, take action. There are various choices at your disposal, though doing nothing is not helping you, your organisation or even the individual(s) concerned. There are a range of highly effective approaches for tackling sub-optimal performance and it is often helpful to weigh up different options. Many leaders fear rocking the boat by taking the ultimate action though, done professionally, every side can walk away or come together with heads held high. There is a great art to negotiating and for having those 'difficult conversations' and I have found that most leaders benefit from a refresh in this discipline.

IS NOW THE TIME to offer even greater employee flexibility?

Greater flexibility in the working week can seem alien, disruptive and even unworkable - though the concept is being widely embraced and can genuinely be made to work. To attract and retain the best staff, we all need to embrace a more flexible approach to our employment terms and conditions. Last week I was surprised to be told by a bank we sometimes use that December 30th 2016 had been deemed a "non-working day" (by whom, I wondered) as the excuse for a scheduled payment being delayed - I'd not heard of that one before. As it happened the payment finally came through, albeit late in the day. It caused only minor irritation. I pondered if this fell into the category of flexible working or just mixed messages coming out of the bank's communications team.

IS NOW THE TIME for succession planning?

Not everyone strives to become a leader. Are you spending sufficient time bringing on your next generation of leaders? Most of us don't and that's missing a trick. There are so many ideas to share about effective delegation processes to ensure that people deliver what it is you need them to do by the time you need it. Sharing out responsibility allows your trusted team members to grow in role and that leads to increased loyalty - and it also generates more quality thinking time for you. Many leaders leave succession planning to the last moment and that usually creates all manner of problems. Furthermore, what action needs to be taken for those in our team who stay beyond their sell by date? Fail to address these sensitive matters at your peril.

IS NOW THE TIME to make your workplace fun and positive again?

A receptionist once remarked that she knew whenever I was in the building, even when she missed my arrival, as "more of the bosses had broad smiles on their faces". High quality leadership development that can make a tangible difference to the bottom line of an organisation is certain to be tougher and more direct than candidates expect, though I strongly believe that coaching should also be fun. One of my candidates described me as being a "cuddly shark". I think that was a compliment. Bringing particular challenges into sharp definition can be a constructive starting place. I block out the distracting noises to produce stark reality. However, it is also good to be able to laugh out loud at one's own shortcomings. None of us is perfect. Laughter is therapeutic and helps to unblock stubborn thinking, usually by appreciating the situation from entirely new angles. I am a great believer in the art of positive affirmations and of reframing. Even in troubled times, every leader needs to maintain a positive stance.

"If you don't passionately believe something is going to work, what hope do the rest of us have?"