Thursday, 18 February 2021

What Will Business Look Like After Covid19?

What will Business Look Like After Covid 19?

As we've reach the point where we have been living with (or locked down by) Covid 19 for a year it is difficult to remember what impact the pandemic has had on all of us. We have become conditioned to living in lockdown. What started as a novelty, the no commute working lifestyle of Zoom and Teams, became a slight inconvenience, then a limiting way fo life. 

Business post Covid19 bounce back, strategic advice from Richard Gourlay strategy Consultant, #dumfries and #Galloway, #Scotland, #Uk.

I've been working with people across multiple business sectors, from public sector to senior leaders in both PLC and SME leaders throughout, supporting them through the unforeseeable pandemic challenges.  As governments clumsy responded to the emerging pandemic, so business tried to keep everything running as normal as possible throughout the turbulence. 

Business leaders like stability, normality and predictability, it lets leaders work within the known parameters of a market and deliver results accordingly.  So uncertainty creates a whole series of challenges for business leaders depending upon their sector. Some where shut down over night, others were not immediately affected at all, but most fell somewhere in-between left to pulled back to a survival model or  tried to pivot into this new market reality. 

Uncertainty unsettled all. Every basic business assumption overnight was challenged. Leaders were left with shifting foundations of their business. What was solid and certain, became quicksand and uncertain. Were order books valid? Were orders still able to be honoured or delivered? Where had customers (b2B and B2C) gone? Confidence took a hit and business assumptions evaporated.  

The debate and planning for Brexit had taken years of analysis and scenario planning across every business sector, while many businesses had no time to plan their response to the Covid pandemic. We watched what was happening in Wuhan and elsewhere for months without fully understanding its impact on our business environment. 

Covid 19 Impact

UK business was suddenly trying to deal with the complete unknown, and even worse than that, ever changing business scenarios. From complete shutdown and furlough staff, to the yoyo open, shut, partly open and shut again, through to the carry-on your essential workers, to adapt and onto expand as you are now the future.  

Many sectors such as travel companies have shut down (nearly full hibernation), the high street (bricks only) through to events and leisure sector. These casualties of the pandemic are now about to reopen as the vaccine reaches the tipping point, but are they opening just as they shut, or will they have seen the shift in the market. The Government may provide a prime pump investment to kick open these markets (and significant pent-up demand and money exists), but will it be 'business-as-usual' or will the real shift be understood by these sectors? 

Other business sectors which has operated and thrived (yes there are sectors which have seen significant growth from home improvement, builders, home deliver and technology companies) who have seen exponential growth such as those involved in every aspect of lockdown Britain. 

Business did not stopped, but it has changed and here is what we know so far.

There's No Going Back To Normal after Covid19

The impact of Covid has been to jump the economy 5 years forward from its natural evolution for nearly every sector, and for some that could well be 10+ years forward.  That's not an evolutionary move forward but huge leap forward throughout society and one that it will not step back from. This is described as a paradigm shift within a market. In the same way a the iPhone changed the world of mobile communication so Covid19 has changed the business world forever. 

As we unlock post covid, many voices just want to get back to normal, book holidays, get back to the office and reopen the high street. These leaders voices are those who have not seen (or refuse to believe any change has happened). The reality is that while a semblance of what was normal may be seen (Government money often puts a short-term smokescreen over reality), in reality each of those markets has irreconcilable changed.        

Will the high street simply return once the lockdown ends? This is unlikely as much of it has been mothballed, some of it permanently, but the impact of a year of lockdowns has changed how society looks at shopping. The customer and business has changed, what and how people shop. Home delivery is now the normal for many people and the sector has changed. Why would it change back?  While segments of the population like the old shopping experience, the high street is not there to support it. It has been replaced by pure online / home delivery coupled with click-and-collect services.  The large format stores have shut up shop permanently or reinvented themselves as online retailers. 

The high street is not just mothballed but has jumped forward. Home delivery of fast food now dominates the market. For example Cinema's once the preserve of the new blockbuster release, must now compete with straight to home services form Netflix, Apple, Now (etc) services.  Huge investments by vertically aligned providers supported by the customer who have upgraded their home cinema experience and new infrastructure of 5G  (and 6G on the horizon). With home delivery of food and drink (you can order anything by Uber/Deliveroo (etc), why go out?     

So this is not a short-term hiatus between the norms, which normal can bounce back from, this is a complete paradigm shift across the entire business world. Let me explain why.


In any market the macro factors which drive the market are defined within the PESTLE assessment of macro drivers.  PESTLE (Political, Economic, Social, Technology, Legal and Environmental impacts) a good as any model to summarise this, defines changes and their impact upon a market. A pandemic does not just impact on one factor for a short period time. A fuel shortage does make people sell their cars, but not needing commuting cars, city centre offices, business HQ's or regional offices through to high street shops, mean that the business world has changed forever.   

What governments' have done to insulate this change through bounce-back loans, furlough payments, tax breaks and deferred loans, will soften the impact, but will not be able stop the change for the normal to return, but soften the rate of change for a new normal to emerge with the least impact that any society can afford. The impact fo Covid is not just on one element of a the PESTLE analysis, but on every aspect of the macro environment within which any business operates. Learn more at: PESTLE

People's behaviours have irreconcilable changed. Let me start with just one simple example: Work From Home will become the normal, it was on a growth curve, now it will be the expected normal for a workplace.  Why commute to an office, if people do not need to?  People are more productive working from home and provide lower costs to the company and less commuting will means that while the office is still needed, it is now somewhere to connect with the team, it is not the place to actually do the work.  

If people are not going to work then the commuter travel, parking, petrol stations, work fast food outlets, shops and support services are all redundant. While some can pivot, the fast food outlet can joint the Just East home delivery network, others such as the large format high street shops designed for high footfall cannot. The later high street features were slowly dying as pure shopping moved online through Amazon home delivery, this shift will mean that the high street will need to look very different.         

Our towns and cities can become something else. Somewhere where people can connect with society, but not somewhere people need to be 5 days a week.  PESTLE macro market factors cannot be ignored by business. PESTLE factors drive markets and create growth.

Where's the Growth?

For business owners in every market sector even those which have successfully pivoted so far, this shift is only the start of this unknown and unchartered new world. Change in business is usually seen at the edges, with a paradigm shift, the whole world shifts, except for the laggards (who just complain louder). 

Looking for growth is therefore a real challenge. Leaders cannot just look to their innovator or early adopter customers, but need to recognise that everything has shifted, new players, substitute products and services and whole markets have sifted overnight. 

The first thing for leader's to recognise is that the people have not gone away, they still exist, and so do their needs and expectations. They have been moving house, upgrading their homes and becoming more self-sufficient at unprecedented rates.  Customers still have needs and wants, it will simply not be the business suit.  Growth will come as the vaccine rollout takes effect, but will companies be ready for tomorrow's growth opportunities. 

The First Bounce of change is happening now across all sectors as a result from the Covid paradigm shift. The growth in markets from house sales, home building is just the tip of the iceberg off the growth that will come from this shift. As change happens so clarity fo the change will be seen and Second Bounce growth will also happen, as new and emerging markets become established and begin to shift into profitable volume.  

Looking for growth from historic analysis will be challenging for business owners. Paradigm shifts require owners to look for horizontal parallel examples rather than linear historical analysis.  Is Covid19 more the the arrival of the internet to a sector rather than your business performance over the last 5 years?   

Uncertainty is the New Reality 

Now is an excellent time to review your business model. We know that markets will open up, but what they open up looking like is not yet certain. For some markets such as tourism (in hibernation during the pandemic) knows that people want to go on holiday and that delayed and latent demand will enable an immediate short-term bounce-back of this sector as people will still want to travel (and probably more than ever before).  

The longer term effect of change for travel will have several major long-term impacts. Business travel will certainly change, why travel around the world when you can click a button and connect to them through Teams?  Couple the introduction fo 5G and the move to SaaS delivery of many services and suddenly established travel models will need to be redefined. Couple all of those factors with people's rapidly growing awareness about the environmental damage which long-haul flights have on their carbon footprint and suddenly safe assumed business models, may not be any more. 

This is true for many markets, every market has become uncertain.  But do remember that uncertainty is always an opportunity for the entrepreneur. It's the entrepreneur leadership mindset, between fixed and growth, do you see the opportunity or see change as a threat?  

Two mindsets by Richard Gourlay business strategy consultant, Dumfries and Galloway, Scotland, UK, GB

Strategic Planning Workshop

Strategic planning enables leaders to review and plan out where they are going and how how they will compete and succeed within their chosen market(s).

Looking for direction, focus and an action plan to deliver success? 

Like to review your business strategy, find growth and develop a growth mindset and look for growth and plan where you re going and where, then why not look at our Strategic Planning Workshop  to support you redefine your market.

Learn more see our other blog posts or see my website for support leaders grow and develop their business at

Wednesday, 20 November 2019

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 is relentless. But successful leaders in any sector, no matter their personality or background, can't be everywhere and know everything. Those that try quickly suffer from stress and burnout. Trying to be everything to everyone is exhausting and futile.

Successful leaders have the ability to focus ON their business rather than IN their business. What that means in reality is that they do not loose sight of their most important role, that of leading their people and organisation. Here are some of reasons why directors get sucked into their business so easily, and what to do about it. 

Working On your business is key for successful leadership, leadership consultant, #dumfries and #galloway, #scotland

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, not doing, and making the future happens successfully. It's 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 why. They must learn that their actions in directing people lead to the results they can see. To change their people's behaviour which leads to a change their activity and outcomes requires leaders to change their behaviours first.

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. Leadership is a action, an interaction in how leaders support and serve their people, not a title but a series of actions which impact upon others.

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. 

Work: ON it! Not IN it!

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 in getting to that destination. 

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. 

While stepping in to pacesetter is a good tool, it most often pulls directors out of their role and means they become a boss not a leader.

Leaders define the business strategy of their organisation, #richard gourlay leadership consultant, #Dumfries and #Galloway, #Scotland

Directors Need to Be Seen to Lead

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. It's 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.  

Understand the difference between a manager and a leader, to lead people, by Richard Gourlay leadership Consultan, #Dumfries and #Galloway, #Scotland, #UK.

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. 

Hidden problems which leaders do not see and how to understand the impact those issues are having on the business performance, by Richard Gourlay Strategy Consultant.

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, business strategy consultant, Dumfries and Galloway Scotland, UK

Monday, 4 November 2019

How to deal with a Toxic Work Culture

How to deal with a Toxic Work Culture


How to Create And Sustain A Positive Workplace Culture

Culture at work and how to improve it by Richard Gourlay #Leadership Consultant, #Castle Douglas,  #Dumfries, #Galloway, #Scotland.

I was working with a new client last week they asked me about how to deal with a poor workplace culture. 

The MD said it had started with a several months ago when he heard a few slights and a couple of individual negative comments between team members Then he looked into it and he saw that this negativity had spread throughout the company, from a minor issue it had exploded into a "real storm in a tea cup." Suddenly everything had become an issue, some people not speaking to other people, or only under duress with backbiting, a general lack of trust and a lowering of morale throughout the whole business.  
He was amazed at how fast this toxic culture had spread and created such a hostile environment in which to work. His first question to me was how do you banish toxic workplaces and foster a positive culture in your business? 

Leadership challenges, how to deal with poor culture by Richard Gourlay Leadership consultant, #Dumfries and #Galloway, #Scotland

Here are some key tips which leaders find as effective ways of resolving toxic cultures.  

Take ownership of the Problem.

Culture starts at the top. It is caused by leaders not leading. Owning the company culture is at the very heart of leadership skills.  That requires leaders to continually feel the pulse of their company culture and not forget that leaders lead people to get results. 

Negative environments need to be resolved by creative mechanisms to hear, take ownership and resolve employees grievances across departments. Identify the relevant real underlying concerns is a vital first stage for leaders to take ownership of the company culture. Leaders need to be seen to be taking charge of the culture and not expecting it to be someone else's responsibility. 

Find the root cause of the problem

Root problems are not usually the people, but situations which drive the wrong behaviours in those people. How those root problems manifest themselves in establishing a negative culture are the symptoms which you can see and feel. Identifying common root causes fostering and driving a toxic culture enables leaders identify and correct their leadership style while developing an appropriate action plan to change the cultural environment and build morale through positive actions.   

Positive action must start from the top. It starts by leaders taking ownership for the current culture. Changing the dialogue at the top, and throughout the organisation, is the first stage of culture change. Change has to start with the leadership, this is the essential part of leading change, but it takes everyone to step up, but do not do it until you have all the staff, particularly senior staff to be fully engaged. 

Staff engagement is the ultimate solution

Ensuring engagement throughout the organisation is the cornerstone to shifting cultures. Not just engaging with department heads and the 'vocally aggrieved.' Staff engagement requires everyone seeing the impact of a toxic culture and how it impacts upon their personal and the whole business performance.  Key to this stage is engagement with the solent majority, not letting the client or directly unaffected duck out of making change happen. 

Don't tell, always sell the solution to the problem. Ensuring that everyone is bought in to change is best achieved when it is the people inside the organisation who come up with solutions, which resolve issues. Moving workloads, skills development, shifting responsibility for outcomes down the line all support culture shifts as it is employees who are driving change, but those actions only happen if people are engaged and understand why those changes will benefit everyone. That ownership and engagement, even the collective recognition of the need for change ensures that you have whole team engagement with your desire to make change happen. 

Make a plan of action

Now you have everyone onside with removing the toxic culture it is now the time to devise a plan. Involve everyone in making a small first step (quick mentality) this promotes engagement, supports action and delivers change. It is in effect a team building exercise ensuring everyone is part of the solution. 

Don't do the hard stuff on day one, build up changes in behaviour you want to see. Start with the end in mind, but don't expect a one day team building exercise to change the culture of an organisation. It could be something as insignificant as instigating a clean desk policy (led by the leadership team) through to supporting a charity event throughout the company. Whatever it is it must be a step together in the right direction, that everyone sees and feels.

Owning behavioural standards 

Once you have the first step forward together, then it is the time to to lead the culture shift. This is where you carry the momentum forward with energy and enthusiasm to shift how the company behaves. How people treat each other is at the heart of a positive cultural shift. That starts and finishes with the leadership team.

Own the behaviour means that leaders have to walk the walk with everyone and show them how to behave both publicly and within private groups. Thinking about the impact a leader wants to make is at the heart of leading culture change. Do as I do is vital in building trust in a new culture.  

What does good culture look like and feel like needs to be clearly experienced. It is not an email or a piece of wall art, but a feeling people experience. Managers need to be managing to the positive culture and recognising in their people good cultures at work, what is called soft skills analysis and measuring that, not just the hard KPI's of department. People falling short must be brought to account immediately, privately and given guidance and support to achieve the behavioural standards that have been established.

Poor management issues in Leadership by Richard Gourlay leadership consultant, #Dumfries and #Galloway, #Scotland

Positive behaviour role models

Identifying champions of change is an exemplary way of driving change. Creating champions within and across departments to take ownership and drive individual initiatives ensures that change can be embedded at a local level. 

Enabling these people to support (not drive) culture change means they need to be recognised as role models in delivering good behaviour. This recognition by everyone to see the positive behaviour standard and measure themselves against it. Leaders need to provide recognition for role models who are leading the change in behaviours within the company. 

This shift is at the heart of driving positive cultures, from the top down, so that effective leadership behaviours cascade down to sub-ordinates and across departments. 

Establish strong company values

A company's core values need not only exist, be seen and lived from the top down.  The fundamental beliefs of any business need to be clearly defined and relatable to everyone's individual role and reflected in their behaviours. That correlation between those core values and people's personal positive behaviours have to connect. 

To make values stick they need to be transparent across an organisation. That requires people to see those values in other people so that they can feel that everyone is living those fundamental values. That shared appreciation of values ensure that they exist in every else's role. 

Company values are the guiding principles that govern how the business operates, an unseen language which everyone shares. Strong values matter, but they need to be more than a lip service or wall art. They need to be lived, re-enforced and therefore owned from the top down. 

Traditionally that meant when people were not following those behaviours they were held to account by their senior management, today that has been reversed so that people self diagnose what the right behaviour and their colleagues guide and re-enforce them.    

Bring those values to life

Living values, bringing them to life every day is something which leaders need to focus on. Leadership teams need to define clear touch points with employees on how can they demonstrate the values they want to see in others. Living company values matters today more than ever before.  

Connecting company values to everyone's role seems an extravagant exercise, but it is an essential investment. Positive cultures have to live within an organisation.  So creating tangible touch points for values brings them to life.

Keeping values alive requires total involvement of employees, in reviewing their living of those values in ensuring they are kept alive.

Measuring what Matters

Removing negative behaviours requires people to measure what matters in culture.  Leaders need to ensure that what they expect the organisation to do does not conflict with but actually compliments those values. 

Often measuring the wrong outcomes means driving the wrong behaviours. Classic errors include bonus payments and other incentives for individual performance which may be detrimental to the company culture. Growth drivers particularly those around sales are often the most damaging to company cultures. 

Measuring what matters requires leaders to focus on the long-term culture and strategy, not the short-term tactical drivers. If leaders focus on short-term tactical goals, it is often at the expense of culture, damaging the long-term success of the business.

Culture has to be measured, how do people feel, how much do people work for each other, is everyone pulling together. It is often the quiet and unsung people who set the tone of how a culture is being lived throughout the organisation. 

Leaders must measure the culture throughout the organisation and ensure that strategies and tactics fit within the cultural framework you have, and how leaders implement new strategies within the positive culture framework you want to have.      

Leadership: the importance of soft skill development

Creating and instilling behavioural standards of what leaders and managers need to demonstrate in every action and interaction is the essential soft skills development leaders need to invest in. Creating clear demonstrable standards of positive culture they need to sustain to ensure that best practice by everyone is driving and supporting that culture. 
Cultural behaviours should also be linked to your appraisal process, so that their role and personal objectives are tied to developing and and supporting others in driving a positive culture.

Like to know more about improving workplace culture then get in touch with Richard here or learn more at

Wednesday, 17 July 2019

Do LESS Be MORE As A Leader


Do less be more as a leader by Richard Gourlay #Sheffield leadership development consultant and trainer, mentor and coach.

The Art of Leadership: do less and BE MORE

The challenge for leaders today is that expectations about leaders are so high. They are in charge, and that means that they must know everything that is going on, be able to wave magical wands to fix anything at a drop of a hat and have answers to unforeseen issues. This expectation puts unbelievable pressures on leaders, pulling them into operational doing inside the business rather than leading their business. 

Leaders to stay focused on leading, must therefore member the golden rule that any business is a group of people delivering something. If you want them to succeed then the leader must create the successful conditions for that success to happen. Leaders therefore must design and build the environment for success, and then make it sustainable, so the environment becomes a stable one to continue that success. 

Leaders need to therefore focus on their people leadership skills, not task or output.  

Leadership skills by Richard Gourlay Dumfries and Galloway, Scotland learn how to lead better.

Leadership Vision 

For leaders to lead they must first identify their core purpose in leading, or as Simon Sinek calls their WHY, why are they running this business? What is their vision for their business, which defines them as a leader, who are they, what do they stand for and ultimately what difference do they intend to make. That clear and shared vision drives the purpose and establishes the direction of travel for everyone. Without a clear vision and purpose leaders are often left dealing with internal politics between differing factions pulling the organisation in differing directions. 

Creating balance between work, home and self is an important aspect of leaders. Avoiding being overdriven, having time to think and reflect is vital for leaders to be able to research opportunities, evaluate options and balance their work within their life. Taking on too much, juggling too many competing elements will lead to poor leadership decisions, personal pressures and often leads towards burnout.  Balancing your life is a key skill in being a effective leader.   

Two Key Skills in Stepping Back

The first key skill of all leaders (except the one-man band business) is that you need to make yourself redundant from all operations. This statement often shocks leaders I work with, but if you are in the business you cannot be working on it, and you cannot be leading it effectively. Do less within the business enables you to do more for the business.

If the business can operate fully without you then you can lead it effectively. This means ensuring you are not critical to how it works, from sales to delivery, from operations to overtime you must not be essential. That means empowering your people to run everything, with the autonomy and responsibility to deliver what the customers needs. The more you empower the simpler the business becomes, and the more rewarding it is for its employees. 

Empowering people and letting them fly in their role, frees leaders to walk the floor and see how their people are performing, removing the blockages of the flow (the smoothness of operations) is an important first leadership stage in what is called the servant leadership role. 

The second is in looking at developing people, from praising people for doing a good job, and challenging them to develop their own solutions to their problems. Called safe failing, it is allowing people the freedom to try solutions and see what works rather than having to wait for something to fail before it is escalated up to the leadership. While praising people is a positive human touch skill, challenging people to solve their own problems within safe boundaries is a real leadership skill. It takes trust and a changed mindset to encourage people to try to create solutions rather than always asking what to do.  

Leadership skills delivered by Richard Gourlay, Dumfries and Galloway Scotland.

Challenging people to come up with solutions to improve their role, changes the dynamics of employees perceptions of their leaders. How many solutions have you tried is a great way of suggesting that they have not yet find the right solution, and even better might be to  point someone in the right way by offering them a resource to go to, or providing a mentor to support their development into a solution. 

Leaders work through their people, so how a leader positively influences them is the success of their leadership of that person. Developing a variety of ways to influence people is a key skill of leaders in today's world. having a variety of ways and tools to influence people requires leaders to keep learning how to influence people to drive and support them to do try and do new things. 

Leaders must therefore build an effective management team around them who can deliver that vision. Developing an effective team is vital if a leader is to succeed. 

Leadership Focusing on the Future

Leadership is about being future-focused, hence the requirement to create and sustain your inspiring vision as a leader.  Leaders are always looking forwards, assessing tomorrow's market, where and how it is changing and then engineering the business to exceed within tomorrow's business environment. 

Leaders are visionary architects, focusing on the big picture and the long-term future. It is for others, the management to do the building. Leaders create the problem, here is where we are going and why, now get us there. It is for the managers and Senior Leadership Team  (SLT) to develop the execution.   As your business grows and you have employees it has different needs of you. The proportion of your time spent on doing is likely to need to decrease as the business grows.

Many business owners find it difficult to let go of the control and to pass on the operational doing to others enabling everyone to learn and grow. Letting go means that you are sustainable and thriving in your own role as the leader and are able to create the conditions for others to thrive as your business grows.

When you create the time to lead you are able to stand back from being involved in doing and identify what the business needs to continue to be successful in the future. Thinking about the challenges ahead and orientating the business to take advantage (or avoid) of them is the ultimately role of a leader. 
Stepping up as a leader first requires you to trust yourself and secondly to trust others to deliver instead of doing it all yourself. Doing less and being more is a mindset which leaders must develop. As you build trust in the capability of the person you are empowering and as they become more confident in the task they are being empowered to do, your involvement will become less. This frees you up to grow as a leader and add more value to the business.

Growth Mindset

Having a growth mind-set is key to sustainable leadership. If you and your people don’t continue to grow as the business grows there will come a stage where the business has out grown your capabilities. So making time to be coached and to coach your people so that they develop and grow creating the space for you to grow is vital. 
As a leader you need to take people on the journey with you in such a way that they feel they have played their part and that the outcome is one of mutual success. Carrying people forward is a key part of what makes a leader successful, they must be able to create, share and carry people forward with their vision of where they are going and WHY.  Overcoming stagnation is a major challenge for leaders in shaping the future and making changes to achieve that future.  
Leadership skills are not about being busy but being effective, visible and steering your ship, by Richard Gourlay lbusiness leadership consultant, Galloway Scotland.

Growth is not a single action, a one-moment activity. Leadership requires leaders to continually scan their market for new opportunities then assess them as to their potential for their business in terms of fit and Return On Investment (ROI) compared to other options.  To keep looking is a mindset, not a single action. Working out what an opportunity might look like to a business and if and when it should be researched requires leaders to keep scanning and develop ways of assessing, good fit criteria, cost to undertake and likelihood of success within their market, which comes with experience and by developing systems of assessing good ideas.   
Assessing opportunities requires leaders to develop a robust assessment process that buys in the team to the opportunity from a number of different angles. The growth mindset requires carrying people forward into making change within a company. So if they can see what change those opportunities might mean.   Bringing people with you in assessing an opportunity and modelling up what change will look like, its impact and how different departments and customers might respond. 
Change is emotional. It is often seen as a threat so people go into fight, flight or freeze modes, and many employees will resist change. Your job as a leader is to connect with them at an emotional level and help them to identify their own reasons as to why the change is necessary. Move everyone forward,  not just the laggards, but the whole body forward together, so that they can all see the trajectory that they need to follow.  Your role as a leader is to steer the ship not run round being a busy fool.
So as your business grows are you doing less and being more, if so you maybe on your way to be a successful leader.
Looking for mentoring support by Richard Gourlay then get in touch with Richard today here.

Wednesday, 10 April 2019

Successful Leaders Measure Outcomes

Successful Leaders Measure Outcomes 

Many leaders struggle with leading people effectively. While I come across many different issues one which is prominent is that leaders do not set the right environment for people to work within. Too often leader's focus on outputs, not on outcomes. The challenge that leaders struggle with is in creating a results focus cultural attitude that measure outcomes instead of outputs.  

So what is the difference between an outcome and an output? Why does that matter and why is it difficult to differentiate between the two? And finally why is it crucial for leaders to focus on key results measures of outcomes and not just outputs?  

I recently had a client who called me in because his sales team were not following the sales process they needed to undertake. Each one of them has developed their own way of doing through the procedure, reinventing it or tweaking it (their words) to make it work for them. They were all busy doing things and their management and leadership teams could see the stress on the workload, the impact on the processes and on the customers, and on the results. Working with  them I could see that they were focused on being busy creating new steps and explaining why things could not be done when the customer wanted. The team had become busy being busy, but not focused on the customer, and the management response was to look at how busy they were through CRM micromanagement, which demotivate the team and the support functions rather than focus on what they were achieving.    

This is the challenge for leaders. They deploy a plan and step back and mange outputs through CRM KPI's, not on outcomes for the business, the employees or the customer. Here's this issue visualised in a chart by Burns and Bass, outputs v outcomes.  
Leadership Skills Getting Results by Richard Gourlay #Dumfries and #Galloway, #Scotland

Outputs vs Outcomes

An output is something that people do, while an outcome is something that happens as a consequence of that doing activity.  “I have made 50 calls to prospective customers” is an output, “I’ve closed a new customer” is an outcome. Which one is more important? 

Measuring the activity, the output, tells you how busy someone is, while measuring the outcome, the result tells you have effective they have been at the task in hand. Outputs, being busy always start out as the simplest measure to activity, but they are a false measure of success. Outputs are activity measures, while important in their own right, they are not what leaders should be measuring, these are measures which management should measure activity through. 
A strategic thinking leader might ask to their line manager, “Why have you made 50 calls and not generated  new customer from those calls? What are you saying to people?”

Being busy is simple; being effective is what matters for a successful leader. Strategic leaders focus measuring outcomes towards the end goal. Effective leaders start with the end in mind, measure what matters, is what differentiates successful leaders in leading their organisation from others.    

Most people naturally focus on outputs, being busy. It’s relatively easy to come up with a list for what you need to do today, this week and this month. However, as Stephen Covey explains in his book The 7 habits of highly effective people, outputs always come last. In order to be successful, you need to start with the end in mind, by focusing on the outcomes you want, and then work backwards to outputs that lead to the outcome(s) you are focusing on.

For example if you want a new customer, that is a outcome. How you achieve that is to identify what are the steps to getting a new customer. 

1.     Defining a target audience.
2.     Prospecting that audience with a call to identify likely suspects
3.     Gain a meeting with suspects, present a solution / offer.
4.     Close the sale and confirm the customer is on-board.  
5. Pass onto the customer retention team and start again.

The objective, one new customer is a clear outcome. The outputs to get there, steps 1 to 4 above are all activity-based outputs, which the team focuses on delivering towards that outcome. The outputs are measurable activities, which are supported by operational initiatives, such as who is going to do what to deliver them. 

Leadership Strategic Approach

  1. Where do I want to go? Is an OBJECTIVE: the outcome.
  2. What are the results that lead us to achieve in order to get there? KEY RESULTS outputs towards the outcome, steps 1 to 4 above.
  3. What do other people need to do to achieve those results? Theseare the operational INITIATIVES, task activities.

If leaders start with activities (i.e. the Initiatives) they take themselves out of control of where they are going. Leaders must focus on the objective, the outcome to be accomplished. Anyone can be operationally busy, but it leaves the operation unfocused on the end objective. Initiatives such as writing the script, recording the stages in the CRM system and who to call back are all operational activities, which are important to achieving the objective, but are overseen by the management not the leadership.  

Successful leaders define the outcome and resource the outputs to their management team and then focus on leading the team to achieving the outcome.

Activity-based or results-driven?

Leaders must obsessively focus on the objective, from its inception through to its completion. By focusing on the outcome leaders, lead their people relentlessly towards the objective. Define the outcome you want to achieve before you define the outputs that will get you there. 

For many leaders, focusing on outcome achievement instead of outputs requires a significant shift in culture and thinking. Defining outputs is easy, focusing on doing things. Doing something makes people feel good, but doing the wrong thing can still feel good until someone steps back and sees that they have not moved towards the objective, they have just been busy. 

Doing things to achieve a specific outcome is a lot more complicated, and now success is not measured anymore by, being busy or by the percentage completion of your output, but by progress towards the end goal.

This shift can be a challenge for many leaders, but the results demonstrate the consequences of your actions and learn what you can do to achieve certain results. The faster you learn, the better you get, as an individual, a team, and a company.

Leaders must measure performance towards objectives within your business? Are you activity-focused or results-driven? Are you happy when 50 prospects or 100 prospects have been called this week or is what really matters to you how many customers you closed? The latter measure of outcome achievement is more informative to the business KPI than the former. As long as Key Results are on track, leaders should not get involved at the Initiative-level. If the business is off-track, then it is sensible to review the initiatives with the relevant management and operational staff to ensure they have a clear output plan that supports the objective outcome. This is where leaders can help the team to figure out what or why it’s not working, and brainstorming what other initiatives we could try to get things back on track. 

KPI’s: measure outcomes

KPI’s (Key Performance Indicators, just in case you don’t know) are the reporting  indicators which drive decision making. For KPI’s to drive business results then they must indicate outcome performance, not work rate outputs. 
Key Performance Indicators KPI's drive business activity if designed and managed well, by Richard Gourlay leadership consultant, business advisor, NED, in Dumfries and Galloway Scotland

One big advantage for leaders of measuring outcomes rather than outputs is that it enables them to step back and allow management to manage more effectively. Giving space for managers to manage, removes the accidental tendency to micromanage operations. The risk for leaders in any organisation is that they struggle to define where they should get involved and where they should not.  By stepping back leaders can retain their overview rather than being drawn into operational activity.

To improve your organization, then leaders need to focus the whole team on outcomes instead of outputs. Focusing on outcomes puts the end in mind first, tracks the progress of what really matters, and enables the leadership to learn about company capabilities.

Focusing on outcomes will not only boost performance, but it is also a natural protection against micro-management. Don’t tell sales reps how many outbound calls they need to make today (output), instead make them responsible for closing a certain amount of customers each month (outcome).

Like to learn more about leadership? Then buy the book Strategy: the Leader's Role by Richard Gourlay 
Strategy The Leaders'  Role by Richard Gourlay, book on strategy and business advice, how to develop your business strategy

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