Showing posts with label directors skills. Show all posts
Showing posts with label directors skills. Show all posts

Friday, 11 December 2015

Working ON Your Business NOT IN Your Business

Working ON Your Business not IN Your Business

The pressure on directors and leaders to be not only great role models but also to be involved in every aspect of the business. But successful leaders in any sector, no matter their personality or background, always have the ability to focus ON their business rather then IN their business. What does that mean in reality and if it is so successful why do directors get pulled into their business so easily, and what to do about it. 

Directors: Being Pulled from Pillar to Post

The urge for directors to jump in to your business as the chief fire-fighter or executive management is the most natural reaction any director or owner has when it is under pressure to demonstrate their leadership. 'Keep calm I'm in charge' is the key message leaders want to portray. That position of fire-fighter extraordinaire (superman without the lycra) the man (mainly) who can, is a powerful pull to keep leaders hands on, but its also one main reason why companies don't succeed.   

Directing is what a business expects directors to do in demonstrating their leadership skills. From making the big decisions through to setting an outstanding example to others, the pressure is always on to be seen be in the control and to be the ultimate arbitrator of problem solving. The problem is that while firefighting looks and feels vitally important, spending time working out why things have gone wrong is actually what is ultimately important, and what we directors should be investing our time and energies on solving.   

The hardest task in doing the right thing as a leader is to know how and when to stand back and not get drawn into the day-to-day stuff in any business, by ensure they stay directing and making the future happen successfully. Its always easier to pick up someone else's ringing phone rather than educate them to do do it, but in doing so you've just become a firefighter rather than a director directing. Successful leaders have to learn how to stand back and understand what is happening and how to direct people to change their behaviour to change their activity to change outcomes.

Being a director is an official role, often a badge of great success and a role of not only legal significance but also as a role model of leadership. Leadership, the act of leading is about directing others towards an agreed shared goal, and that is where leaders deliver results. 

The best leaders are the not the ones people see, but like great teams, from sports teams to kitchen chefs, where everything happens as if by magic and no-one can see how it is done, but like a great orchestra everyone knows their place, their role and how they contribute to the overall success of the business. 

Directors: On It! Not In!

Working ON the business, deciding where the organisation is going and why rather than IN, getting stuff done, is where people really see the value of an effective leader. That requires leaders to focus on both where they are going as well as how they a business is operating. 

The biggest mistake leaders can make is wanting to be seen to be busy in the business. Being seen as doing something within the company process, directly adding to the value chain, while it is being seen can lead to the leadership looking sight of its real role, that of leading not working in. Being a 'hands on' person is one of the classic perceptions which people inside a company feel they need to deliver to be valued.

Directors Need to Be Seen 

I've just worked with an advanced manufacturing client to develop an operations director who said in response to my suggestion "I can't be seen to sit down and read how to do something new, I have to be busy doing something so all my people can see me working hard." This classic trap, of having everyone working IN their business leaves no-one working On their business. Its an example of the classic challenge for leadership of being seen and being seen to be busy.

Being seen and involved in everything is part of being in charge, and able to offer advice, make decisions and drive people towards their objectives. The effect of having to be always seen is that directors have to be first to arrive and last to leave, draining the batteries of many directors particularly in rapidly changing companies.

Where being seen becomes the culture of leadership, suddenly everything has to be run past them which leads to vertical management structures, creating a lack of empowerment throughout the organisation which results in reduced moral and hierarchy control, putting further pressure on directors and undermining ownership as deference to authority becomes the normal acceptance. This change makes all decision making hierarchical, creating control and in result reducing flexibility to respond to changes, which no-one, the leadership, is now looking out for.

The other common problem with being seen all the time, having your door open at any time is that directors become the only people able to make decisions, resulting in increased pressure on directors to know what is going on. This pull factor into the day-to-day and the politics of micromanagement eats resources and kills innovation.  

Successful leaders understand the importance of being seen effectively in business today is more about communicating when you are available and that you are available to them to provide dedicated support not just being there for people. Being seen therefore in today's business world is about being able to provide quality of time support not just volume of time. Keep your distance from the day-to-day, don't walk all over the management process and respect people's talents to solve problems rather than tell them how to do things.  

Leaders must 'Know What's Going On'

Directors have to know what's going on, but the danger is that if you are working in your business as a director, then you can be a bull in a china shop, wildly spinning round treading all over other people, who aren't directors, and their roles.

Directors getting involved in every detail of every process within the business can lead to a culture of  micro-management. Micro-management, where every decision is analysed and scrutinised by directors, not only undermines good employees but often leads to reactionary and damaging over-rullings of effective processes and procedures. Which leads more often than not on the process breaking down.                                                                                                                                              

Knowing the process and how it works is vital for success, but micro-managing processes often lead to confusion on decision-making and the over-ruling of the existing tried and tested process.

What makes successful knowledge of what's going on, is the ability to see the process happening and recognise where it is under-pressure and where it needs resources to deal with the pressure points.

Being able to step back and see what is happening while not being dragged into the process is a vital ingredient for directors to lead from a position of overview knowledge not micro-managing detail, leave that to those who run each section. Let them own their area then they will care about it. Review how people are delivering and working out what support they nee rather than walking all over what they are doing unless things are going seriously wrong is the best behaviour leaders can demonstrate. 

Leaders MUST Lead By Example

'Lead from the front, lead by example,' is first rule of any leadership development course.  But it is also a phrase which is poorly understood, here's why:

'Leading by example' is one of the most commonly misunderstood terms leaders fail to appreciate and causes the biggest mistakes directors make in doing their job. When directors are told to lead by example they look at  the role of the person they are demonstrating their leadership skills to and then they lead them by doing that person's role, not theirs. That 

In doing that person's role they are not leading but replacing that person in doing the role. The result is that in leading by example directors do, but don't lead. Doing someone else's job is not leading or directing it is doing, the trap which anyone can of fall into, particularly when we are busy, under pressure or when we see someone not doing it as they should.

'I'll do it so it gets done,' mentality is the quick fix, but not the right solution. How will they learn unless they do it, not only in theory but day-to-day. The best help you can give someone is to train them how to do a job and ensure that they know why they are doing that job, reward them for doing it and motivate them to do it even better, but don't do it for them (unless you want to swap roles).

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many thanks

Richard Gourlay

Wednesday, 1 July 2015

Deconstructing Leadership Development

Developing leadership is the most effective investment any enterprise can make in its people. It is the most effective investment any organisation can invest in, but it is also one of the most misunderstood investments organisations often make. 

For organisations to achieve success across the complete basket of performance measures, from top-line sales growth, operations through to shareholder returns, developing the current and next generation of leadership is the core driver of tangible and intangible success.

The challenge for organizations is to understand the context of the leadership they need which varies over time. This is one of the key challenges I face when working with organizations, what type of skills do they need to develop within their organization; all depend upon where they are today and where they are trying to get to tomorrow. That context defines organizations immediate and foreseeable skill needs in its leadership, which once delivered, will open up the next set of leadership skills, which an organization then needs to deploy.

There are a huge number of leadership skills which leaders will need and use at differing times, these can be broken into three main groups.

Strategic Leadership Skills

The traditional skills leaders are most often selected for by shareholders to deliver and therefore need to develop are in defining the vision of the organization and in shaping the organization to achieve that vision. These primary role of the leader as a strategic business developer are often the most challenging to leaders as it is the most difficult role to deliver, mainly because it is the one undertaken the least and the most high risk to undertake.

Operational Leadership Skills

The second set of leadership skills based around day-to-day operational skills include acting as a role modeling, decision maker, situational leadership, and shaper create leaders who are good at adapting to changing circumstances.

Advanced Leadership Skills

The third set of leadership skills often defined as the soft skills, which always include communication at there core, are have been defined under skill sets such as emotional intelligence, motivation skills and succession planning. These skills, often seen as higher skill sets are often the defining ones in what makes leaders stand out in their field and why some organizations become benchmarks of success.

By redefining leadership skills into these three sets of strategic, operational and advanced skills, it helps leaders see what skills they need to develop to be effective in context to their needs and the organisations requirements. Leaders are not only real people, but they operate in real time within their organizations business cycles. Where the business is in that cycle drives the types of key performance characteristics, which the leadership skills need to deliver. That makes the definition of what skills a leader needs to deliver harder to define; it all depends of where the organization is in terms of performance results.      

Too many leadership support programs are sheep dip sessions of theoretical skills rather than bespoke packages focused around defined needs at stages of organizational and person needs.  This is often why leadership and development programs don’t deliver the anticipated results. The second reason why many leadership programs not deliver results is because they are theoretical in nature, rather than practical in application. So leaders don’t get to apply what they have learnt relative to their precise situation. This is compounded by a third failure of leadership development programs is that too many are in reality mutual support clinics, piling leaders into a mixed group of leaders and potential leaders all with differing skill development needs.

In constructing leadership development programs it is therefore important to put the context of where the organization is within the business cycle as well as the individual needs to the leaders themselves. The range of skills which leaders need across the three types of skill sets are significant, and while all are important, recent studies by McKinsey and others show that the most effective four skills that ultimately define leadership effectiveness are:-

1. Diverse Network Perspectives   

Successful effective leadership relies upon being outward looking by establishing effective networks with other leaders in differing sectors, differing cycles, sectors, and personality types, this provides leaders with the ability to base their decisions on sound outward viewing analysis and avoid the many biases to which inwards decisions are often prone. 

2. Being Results focused

Nothing succeeds like success in business; successful leaders follow through their plans with a passion and determination, by being results orientated leaders drive their people forward improving other aspects of their organization to support results through efficiency and productivity towards those results.  

3. Effective Problem Solving

The skill in in gathering relevant information from the tidal wave of data and converting it into intelligence necessary through effective analysis to be able to solve problems effectively is a vitally effective skill. This skill set enables effective leaders to take control of situations with one touch decision making.

4. Supportive Leaders

Giving time to listen to others, with an open mindedness to understand others challenges builds trust and is seen to inspire subordinates in their performance. Investing time in people and teams providing them with ideas to overcome blocks and supporting progress, is the final vital skill leaders need to have to be effective.  

These four core skills make the biggest impact upon leadership effectiveness, but do not distract for the need to focus on the context in which the leadership operates.  Different business situations require different styles of leadership, but the four core leadership behaviours above are a constant across all leadership situations and transcend the three sets of leadership skills which all leaders face in their role, strategic, operational and advanced. 

By developing diverse networks leaders build core skills in understanding strategic perspectives. While both being results focused and effective in problem solving leaders drive their operational skill sets and through being supportive as a leader, they enable themselves to develop their advanced leadership skills in getting the most out of their people at every level. So these four core skills drive the top-line behaviours of leaders under which all other skills can be developed and delivered. Without these four core skills todays and future leaders will struggle to be truly effective leaders.

If you are looking to develop leadership skills then click here 

Wednesday, 28 January 2015

What Great Leaders DO Differently

Peter Drucker's iconic quote above defines the need for leadership, but what makes a great leader? Is the question which people placed in any position of authority, want to know. 

Leadership is often described in terms of being the figurehead, the ultimate power and the final authority.  

While there are many excellent qualities which people can identify in good leaders, these traits are the outcome of leaders being bale to work well with people inside their business. What makes the exceptional leaders is not people doing all of them better than average, but being able to do a few of these core skills to an outstanding standard, making them great leaders. Great leaders play to their strengths, not trying to do everything, just the things that matter, those which make a real bottomline difference in performance. 

Leadership skills, those personal attributes which people recognise as able to inspire others, are always built upon the ability to motivate other people. All leaders must be able to inspire, to keep people driven and focused on their goals. 

There are a number of ways in motivating people, for some using their charisma and energy can be great motivators, their personality drives people to follow them. This type of charisma leadership is often focused around the culture of the personality, the successful sales person, the inspiring leader, using their relationships with staff and often key customers, they lead through the force of their personality.   

For others their technical knowledge and expertise within their field provides the inspiration for others to follow. Their ability to foresee and create products and services which meet target customers needs and exceed expectations open up markets and generates business through the leaders insight and forethought. This type of leadership, the technical leader, relies more upon their ability to achieve results rather than to personally motivate.   

Being a leader, either by be placed in a position of leadership or by the accident of assuming the role, either as the inspirational or technical leader within an organisation, puts pressure on leaders to perform. Being the focus of attention, the decision maker, requires leaders to develop a range of skills to lead in a number of situations and to lead different types of people.  

There are no definite way of stating 'do this to be a great leader', everyone can be a leader, it all depends upon the circumstances, but what makes great leadership, is not just the ability to take decisions,  but a few specific factors often grouped into three areas which separate great leaders from the rest. So here's what I see great leaders do differently.  

The first thing great leaders do differently is create diverse and strong networks of contacts. If you always listen to the same people you will always be limited to their views. Most leaders listen and make decisions based on a small group of trusted advisors. 

The weakness for leaders of always listening to the same inner group is that as change happens to our business, as it grows, as change impacts on our markets this inner circle becomes outdated, not fit for purpose. Those people that leaders listen to when they are starting out, for example you first accountant, maybe a compliance account (keeps you legal) as your business grows you need new services and expertise (expansion funding, tax advice, etc) outside that persons skill set. Great leaders recognise they need to add to their advice panel, good leaders often don't.

Investing in your trust network is a core skill which great leads do, they sharpen the saw as Stephen Covey phrases it. Always be learning, sharpening your skills by working with the right mix of people who you trust to take advice from. This investment by great leaders is about having a diverse set of trusted advisors who provide the balance and foresight which great leaders need to think ahead with the right sources of information. The great leaders I have seen often introduce Non-Executive Directors, new experienced people from different industries and widening the trust network with greater diversity of views.

The second thing great leaders always do is the ability to stand back and see the big picture of your industry. The role of being the general commanding your resources. Great leaders not only command today's activities, as the ultimate controller, but are always looking at develop fresh understanding what is driving your industry, the change making factors. 

"Where you are is not as important as knowing where you are going and why." Great leadership is about creating the tomorrow you want to achieve.  It is looking for the drivers of change within your business.  It is one of the hardest skills which great leaders have to master. It takes time, effort and resources, often with blind alleys and a high degree of uncertainty. 

The struggle for busy leaders is to value doing enough of the right research to create clarity in an unclear future, which changes matter and what impact do they make on the future of your market, your customer and your future as a organisation? These are the most important and valuable questions any leader can and must answer. 

The importance of understanding the impact change and using it to create your forward strategy is one of the defining characteristics of great leaders. Great leadership is about focusing on what you can change the future, not fire-fighting todays problems. Not only is it more productive but it is also the only way to be effective as a great leader. 

The third and vital attribute of great leaders is that they make change happen. Sometimes seen as being ruthless to make change happen, great leaders are proactive in making change happen. This pro-activeness in making change happen, can see to others as utter ruthlessness, because great leaders can see why the change is needed, while those elsewhere in the organisation see the change but not the drivers of why leaders are making that change happen then and there.

Great leaders are not frightened of change and when I say change, I do not mean evolutionary or organic changes, but revolutionary changes.  Great leaders make bold changes at the optimum point for sustainable success, when do we need to make the change to succeed in the long-term. 

Good leaders make changes, but often only when they have few other options, or are forced into making that change, they are often reactive change, Great leaders on the other hand make proactive revolutionary changes because they can see the long-term benefit.

Each of these three great leader attributes support and drive all those other skills which good leaders often portray, and this is what makes some leaders great at leading their people and their organisations. 

By creating diverse trust networks it enables leaders to find better information about the future and the changes they need to make. This virtuous cycle is what makes some leaders great and very different from those who rely upon gut feel and reactive enforced decision making.   

If you would like to know more about what makes a great leader, you can read more about my work in working with great leaders or click the link below to see my free video on How to take the guess work out of your business success:-

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