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

Monday, 21 November 2016

Strategic Vision Drives Organisations Success

Drive Your Vision or Amlessly Drift 

In today’s world, driving your business vision is the only way to ensure you stay focused on where you want to go and not pulled by short-term fads and fashions. 
The words strategic planning used to mean a once a year offsite discussion about where the organisation is headed. That thinking would be turned into an updated business plan with expectations and outcomes to be delivered over that next year. That type of strategic planning the corporate away-day provide very little in the way of strategic thinking and subsequently provided no or very little strategic value. Corporate away days became more a morale booster, with team building and bonding as the only measure of development. The reason why was very simple, if there is no strategic intent, no strategic review or re-evaluation them there will be no strategic outcomes.   

Strategic thinking is more vital today for leaders of organisation than ever before. The need for organisations of any shape and size to be able to determine why they exist and where they intend to exist in their market has never ben stronger. Whether it is new players finding their first footing in their market, through to established players redefining where they are within their sector, the need for leaders to define their vision and validate their strategy to achieve that vision has become more critical than ever. The drivers of urgency are not just those of ever more powerful stakeholder expectation, but more demonstrably the globalisation of every market sector and the transparency of strategy in what it delivers to business. 

Problems with Strategic Thinking

The problem building a long-term strategic plan, the traditional cycle of business planning is that it is too long and therefore slow to react to rapidly changing business environments; particularly the slow speed of implementing traditional business plans, which has damaged the reputation and credibility of strategy. 

The slow pace of organizational change driven by traditional strategic business planning results in strategies which are out-of-date before they ready to deploy. 

The net result of this process is that organizations are sluggish to respond in fast-changing markets, left wrong-footed by new entrants in dynamic, high-growth markets leaving leaders frustrated and impotent in competing with agile, new entrants. In an technology driven world where disruptive online behaviours enable markets and customers to change overnight, thinking strategically can seen to be an outdated way of thinking.     
Developing effective strategies is vitally important because without them organisations become inward looking, focusing on efficiency at the expense of growth opportunity. Without strategic thinking leadership teams becomes operationally efficiency driven rather than customer focused.  

The key element of strategic thinking is the ability of leadership teams to look at what is driving change within any sector. Inspiring vision is about drawing intelligence from scratchy, vague or even 'invisible' data to make informed decisions about tomorrow's market and develop an aspirational strategy to achieve that vision.

Planning for Tomorrow

What do we know about what tomorrow will look like and what opportunities it will offer? Here are my five defining statements about the need for strategic thinking:- 
  1. It will happen whether we like it or not.
  2. Markets are always changing, new opportunities are always arising.
  3. If organisations strategically plan ahead they can successfully compete, rather than just survive by being a me too player.
  4. Strategic thinking has to be achieved and implemented faster than a market is developing if players wish to stay or move into more profitable, growing and sustainable market segments.
  5.  Without strategic thinking every organisation will go backwards in its market.

The Strategy Gap

The strategy gap: the lack of proactive strategic thinking is most often blamed on the lack of hard data 'facts' as the basis of making defined decisions. This has always been a factor in undermining the confidence leaders have in making plans for the future. 

As a result, strategic planning often focused on predicting the future based on historic trend lines, over-invest in gathering all available data, and produced a small number of safe directives often focused around the very near future, for the rest of the organization to execute.
This safety first approach to strategic planning leads to little steps, but is not really strategic thinking.  

"Genuine strategic thinking requires leaders to think of the future not based upon the past, but based upon the future market potential".   

With the advent of the internet there is now huge amounts of easily accessible affordable good data which is instantly and cheap to acquire. The world today has become a turbulent place, speed of change is no longer slowly evolutionary, but has become rapidly revolutionary in virtually every market. 

This has left the traditional strategic planning process with a fundamental problem, since the trusted, traditional and slow approach to strategic planning is based on assumptions that no longer hold. The static strategic plan is dead.

So why do strategy at all?  

Strategy is therefore under pressure as a process unlike never before.  If the outputs from traditional strategy, a traditional business plan with incremental evolution are no longer valued, then the value of strategy is being rightly questioned.  

The reason why strategy is not dead is that the strategic process, the way strategy is developed is essential in learning what is ‘right’, what is the future in a business sector.  This strategic approach to step out of your organisation and look at the market, defining internal aspirations and building the steps through experimental activity and forward pattern development enables shift culture to occur enabling agile strategy to be deployed. 

There are many renaming ceremonies for today's strategy process, all focusing on the move to redefine the strategic planning process, away from the traditional top-down long-term evolutionary strategic planning process to quicker, dynamic and responsive strategic thinking culture. This systematic and seismic shift in thinking away from process driven top down command and control process to one of continual strategic thinking culture. 

To make this shift to modern strategic thinking, leaders need to move away from traditional predictive planning to rapid prototyping supported by multifaceted experimenting.     

The second shift is that of 'frontline first' where leaders must enable the frontline with real decision-making authority. Successful strategic thinking requires objective and direction setting with a whole team focus.  Instead of a plan, the planning process is about whole team involvement in the mindset of goal achievement.              

The third and final major shift leaders need to focus on where the organisation is adding value to customers. As markets and customers rapidly change, who would have thought Google, the online search engine would be producing driverless cars, or Apple the IT company is managing middle-class health. 

What value any organisation customers value and are looking for is one of the major shifts which today's digital age is driving.   

Saturday, 12 December 2015

How to move forward as a leader

Leaders Must look beyond the Horizon for Success: 

(Five Tips For Moving Beyond Certainty in Business)

It is always easy to look backwards and see how a business has evolved to where it is today, than to look at where a business is today and predict where it will go in the future. Looking backwards from essence of an idea, to the formative stage in which it was created and how it has evolved to where it is now, journeys look logical and rationale. When leaders look at their business, the rational behind the direction setting they took seems obvious today and makes perfect sense, but the truth is that at the time of making those vital decisions it was not.  

Making decisions about the future is never easy and certainly not simple. The lack of information about the future, the uncertainty of what will happen within any sector and the singularity of ownership of the big decision weight on leaders minds often leads to procrastination and delay.

Seeing beyond the horizon, to what the world will look like in three to five years time requires leaders to look beyond today's certainty over the horizon into uncertainty if they wish to succeed. What makes some leaders succeed in moving beyond the known is not just having an idea, but to create sustain and drive towards their passion. Being willing and able to think beyond the known an visible to see a world which does not yet exist.

I am sure you have seen the list of six famous failures, from Albert Einstein to the Beatles. All of whom ended up succeeding, but at the time of their big decisions they were unknown, from Walt Disney who was fired from newspaper for "lacking imagination" or Oprah Winfrey who was demoted from being a news anchor because she "wasn't fit for television".  If they had listened to only those voices where would they be today. Would the Beatles have bounced back from Decca records, would Steve Jobs have fought back to success having been fired from his own company by the man he hired, had they not had the determination, advice and courage to make tough decisions about the unknown future.    

Michael Jordan, Albert Einstein, Walt Disney, Steve Jobs,

There is a simple phrase which I often use when talking with directors as a mentor, "What's your Vision" and within that simple three word question I am asking a whole series of questions about the leadership I am talking with. Who are they, where are they going and most importantly of all why do they think they are right?

Here are five business tips to help leaders move beyond the certainty of their role.

Five Business Tips for Moving Beyond Certainty

1. Create your Vision!  (Define your destination, goal or dream which you believe you can deliver)

2. Collect people to believe in you and your passion and abilities. (Successful leaders surround themselves with people who believe in them, challenge them and keep them on the ground throughout their journey)

3. Keep being curious and challenge the status quo. (Its Not why, but why not?  Success as a leader is always about challenging, to see new and emerging opportunities).

4. Stretch the limits and push beyond your comfort zone. (If you believe in something you must push beyond the known to open up new possibilities, you can only do this if you stretch yourself)

5. Keep researching your vision (Leaders too often create a vision and then stop developing, stop redefining and stop seeing how the market is changing until their vision fails)

These five #businesstips will help leaders see and move beyond the certainty of what they can see in business and develop the #mindset and #robustness as a leader. Leadership is not a natural gift, its takes time and continual investment in development and redeveloping your skills to face and succeed in leading people to face new challenges beyond the certainty of what already exists.


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:-

Sunday, 12 October 2014

Leadership is about YOU

Leadership is about YOU

Change is the law of life and those who look only to the past or present are certain to miss the future.” John F. Kennedy

Your brand is what people say about you when you're not in.
Who you are as a leader

When ever I look at any organisation I am in effect seeing the style and type of leader who runs it, their character shows through.

From the first online impression the brand portrays, to the real impression I feel when I walk through is front door and meet the people, the impact of the leadership is everywhere. Good leadership makes a good impression throughout, it should be seen and felt at every level.

I recently arrived at a new client to see that their disabled parking was at the other end of the car park from the front door, while the executives had named parking bays right next to the front door.

My first question to the directors was why? Followed up with the obvious second question, what first impression do you want to make to people about your values as a business? After a pregnant pause (and implausible excuse that HSE said we needed to keep the front area easily clear so the fire brigade could quickly be deployed), the directors looked at me and said 'we do have a written equal opportunities policy in place' and 'no-one has ever complained'. I then asked what impression this first impression gave to their staff, customers and suppliers? They said 'no idea, but now you mention it there are always a few staff comments when it rains about them and us culture'.

I often see great leadership happen through the delivery of small details which great results can be achieved. For any leader making change happen successfully relies as much on the big picture plan as the implementation of the minute detail. That detail delivery can only be achieved through the character of the leaders themselves. Recognising and using that individual style to mould and shape how leaders decide to lead is fundamental to leadership success.

Great leadership is about making change by demonstrating character-based leadership skills, in other words, leading from “who you are” and not from power or position. Everyone is different and that makes every leader different. Who you are is something you cannot change, successful leadership is about developing your style, based around who you are not on trying to be something you aren't.  Trying to be someone else, from Richard Branson to Steve Jobs maybe fashionable, but its not who you are, so learn from them but don't try to be them.

The idea of character-based leadership resonates with leadership advisors today. Why? Well in my example earlier the leaders were impressed by vehicles, thats how they valued their status, hence their focus as leaders was on highlighting that attribute of who they were. When they thought about what was really important to them they immediately realised what impression they wanted to provide and the impact their current focus was making. Reflecting to my observation and then positively responding to it, told us more about who they are and what was really important to them.

By the time a visited my car obsessed customer the following week, the personalised director parking places at the front door had been replaced by disabled parking area, and the directors cars were parked alongside everyone else in the general parking. They recognised their characters as leaders were being reflected in their business, and not for the best. The result of that simple change was that staff started to engage with them more openly and the staff survey a few months later reported that people felt more valued, when questioned further staff reported that everyone was now seen to be treated equally. 
Great leadership is always about change, not just making it but really understanding it and how to pre-empt where possible and react where necessary to it. Forward planning is the most obvious way in which leaders pre-empt their market. Planning for tomorrow as an inherent culture is one key attribute which sustainable successful organisations possess, but it has to be matched by a culture of implementation. Planning is only a dream if nothing changes. The ability to see that and make that simple immediate change, reflects an openness to change and an approach to listening and implementing change, not just talking about it.

What changes?

In business, everything changes all the time, innovative new products and services become mainstream, then classics then legacy then discontinued. Change is the law of life as John F. Kennedy said, great leadership is about looking for change.

Some changes can be strategic, such as new markets or new products etc but play to who leaders are come from soft leadership skills by playing on who you are as a leader. Playing to you and your style is often as important in delivering effective leadership.

Like to know more about how to lead your business successfully? then see How to Take the Guess Work out of your Business Success

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