How to become a great business leader

In a previous blog post I wrote about how many business owners believe they should lead from the front, as “only the lead dog in a dog sled team gets a change of view” or indeed the clearest view. But, in reality, that lead dog is doing all the work and can’t see what’s going on behind them. It’s the person at the back of the sled that has the time and energy to motivate and direct the team. Which got me thinking about what makes a good leader and there are two attributes that great leaders have in common:   Inspirational Inspiring people and enrolling a team is a key leadership skill. Getting people to see your vision and move in the same direction as you, because they want to, not because they have to. A true leader will inspire their team to want to achieve the same goals as them. It’s the multiplier effect; one plus one equals more than two when everyone is moving in the same direction.   Surrounded with a likeminded team Building the right team is another important part of being a leader. The aim is not to create followers, but to create more leaders that share your vision and values and contribute to your company’s culture. But you, as the business owner, need to ensure that the team is achieving goals and milestones along the way. It’s important to understand though, not everyone does share the same values as you. It’s your job to establish who does and who does not!   Not everyone is a born leader, but by having your... read more

How to develop your homegrown managers.

As a business grows it becomes necessary to create a more formal structure and appoint managers to take on some of the responsibility of running the business. Who better than the loyal and trusted employees who have helped the business owner in the early stages of growth to take on more responsibility. Often the business started by the owner is a continuation of their former employment. The experience and skills they needed to start the business were acquired through training and mentoring perhaps even an apprenticeship. Interesting, there is the assumption that with this experience comes a natural insight in how to manage. Somehow the necessary skills will be picked up along the way by just doing the job. Can you imagine the scenario of say an electrician or structural engineer picking up their skills on the job. It just wouldn’t happen. The consequences could be catastrophic! Over the years I have seen so many companies being run by these ‘homegrown managers’. Homegrown managers are the life blood in the early stages of a growing business. They hold the culture, knowledge and understanding of the business. They have their fingers in many pies and by sheer hard work and tenacity they ‘manage’ to get by. However, the business will eventually become restricted and unable to scale up the business will not achieve it’s potential. The business starts to outgrow the ‘homegrown managers’. Feeling more and more out of their depth they resist change to maintain the status quo and protect their position. Often the temptation is to blame the old guard and to look to introduce ‘professional’ managers from... read more

How many plates are you spinning?

Do you remember those circus acts where one man rushed around the ring spinning rows and rows of plates. Skilfully he would get to the slowing, wobbling plate just before it fell off the pole. Then as he got that plate up to speed again he would have to rush to the other side of the ring to catch the next wobbling plate just before that fell and so on. With all the plates spinning happily he would then add in some juggling or magic to keep everyone’s attention. During this distraction the audience could see plates begin to slow and start to wobble precariously but the performer seemed so focused on what he was doing he was oblivious to the telltale wobbles. Just in the nick of time he would notice the slowing plates and then dash around to just arrive at a wobbling plate to avoid a disaster. He worked up a sweat and made hard work of the exercise but always got a rapturous applause at the end of his act. However, if he had kept the plates spinning without breaking sweat it would have been just plain boring. Interestingly, I meet many business owners whose daily routine is just like that circus act. Often getting distracted by unnecessary stuff and then having to dash around to keep everything just under control but never having time to finish anything off. Perhaps, unconsciously looking for adulation from their employees that are watching the show. Let me ask you a question: Are you spinning too many plates at the moment with projects half finished? Without you being directly... read more

Thoughts on leadership

Here are a couple of great leadership quotes I came across recently that certainly got me thinking about the impact of leadership on teams. The first is from Nathan Myhrvold, former Chief Technology Officer at Microsoft: “Leadership is taking people to a place they wouldn’t have gotten to already.” and the second is from the author, Virginia Burden: “Cooperation is the thorough conviction that nobody can get there unless everybody gets there.” Let me explain. There is ‘a place’ which you want to get to – it’s your end-goal, your VISION. YOU have to be able to lead other people towards that place. The people (YOUR TEAM) have to have conviction that, through COOPERATION, the goal can be achieved – you need the right people in the right roles and they have to be ENGAGED in the whole process. So, by way of an example let’s consider how an orchestra works. First of all, an orchestra only comes together if there is someone with a compelling reason to perform, let’s say the vision is to put on a performance worthy of the Royal Albert Hall. To take that vision further, a Director must focus on securing the venue and organising the performance; a Conductor must focus on the musical arrangement and rehearsals; and every individual musician must focus on their own practise sessions as well as group rehearsals. On top of this, there will be people responsible for lighting, sound, publicity, sales and… well I could go on. However, if they are going to stand a chance of facing the critics on opening night, every member of the team... read more

Oh, what missed opportunities!

I was reminded the other day of one of those stories that may or may not have their roots in reality. It maybe one of those classic urban myths but it brilliantly highlights an issue I often come across in businesses today. Let me quickly summarise the story. On the retirement of a long term employee (50years) the Ford Motor Company rolled out their top brass to celebrate the loyal service. The chairman of the day spoke lyrically about the length of service, loyalty and wished them health and happiness in their well earned retirement. After receiving his retirement gift, the retiree said that for those 50 years he had happily given everyday the Ford Motor Company his body and his mind for which he received a fair days pay for a fair day’s work. He just did what he was told to do, nothing more and nothing less but he had been willingly to give so much more – his energy, his passion – his heart and spirit. All the company, the management had to do was ask but they never did! Now after 50 years it was too late. A missed opportunity. Now I have no idea if this story is true but it is a great reminder that sometimes all we have to do is to ask. Today, many businesses still hobble their growth by restricting the engagement of their key resources, their people. Perhaps through out of date beliefs. If you only expect a fair day’s work for a fair day’s pay then that is what you get. But how much are you missing? Do... read more

What we can learn during the election campaign!

With the political campaigning now in full flow, I have to admit that I have a sneaky admiration for the way our professional politicians combine their undeniable intelligence and quick wit with the dexterity and speed of a world champion boxer to avoid being cornered to skip away from every knockout punch question. Even the most skilful interviewer grudgingly allow our professional politicians to sidestep key questions, fail to get firm commitments or to hold them accountable for their past results or current actions which ultimately lets the politician off the hook. It’s a wonderful piece of theatre; like a game of chess. Now what’s this got to do with business? Well, I have witnessed this game being played out in many, many companies. In Board Meetings, Sales Meetings, Production Meetings, in every department at every level, everyday. In fact just as skilfully but probably not so intentionally! Consider your own business for a moment. When thinking about accountability, how do you and your staff react? Do you really embrace it or when push comes to shove do you avoid it? Just like the interviewer do you let yourself and others off the hook? Related Blog: Here’s how to get true communication in a team. So here are a couple of behaviours to watch out for. Although not as blatant as the tactics used by our wily politicians they still effectively sidestep accountability. 1. Smoke screens! When put under pressure to perform a smokescreen is put up so that the issue gets lost. For example, a classic smokescreen may be to question the basis of the numbers or call... read more

Don’t overlook these two essentials affecting you and your business.

The life of the owner of an small or medium business can at times be stressful. I’m sure you will agree, that long hours, financial worries, team problems etc. will over a period take a toll on any owner. It is little wonder that sometimes the combination of the various stresses can become a little daunting. Stress saps our energy and as our energy levels fall problems seem to get magnified adding to the stress. So lets stop right there before this blog adds to that energy sink and give you some business advice!! Take a moment to think how different things look when your energy levels are high. When you feel good, invigorated, full of the joys of spring you are ready to take on any challenge that may come your way. A good night sleep will recharge your batteries and what may have seemed a big issue yesterday seems so unimportant today. But let’s look at things from a slightly different angle. Rather than running your batteries right down everyday and needing an overnight recharge it may be better to trickle charge the batteries all day long so that you can maintain higher energy levels. Now I’m not here to give you a guide on nutrition and fitness as these are readily available elsewhere. I just wanted to consider a couple of sources of free energy that are often ignored. Interesting both have the wonderful property of energising not only you but also multiple team members at the same time. The first is celebrate wins. It is so easy to let things become routine. Don’t allow it... read more

Leave it to the experts!

One of the common themes that I have returned many times since starting this blog is the power of review and change. It is so easy to get caught in the daily doing of a business so that each day rolls into the next that then roll into weeks and then the months fly by and before you know it’s the end of another year. Yes, another year gone but at least in return you have another year’s experience under your belt to add to the ten, twenty, thirty or forty years experience you may have already gained in business. Hang on a moment, is that the case? Have you gained another years experience or just replicated a year which was a replication of one of the last ten. Perhaps it is as if you just photocopied say the first five years of your business over and over again? Hopefully, you get my drift. So take a little time out during all those end of year celebrations to look back on the year just ending. What went well or not so well? What do you learn? How could you have handled a situation differently? What changes happened in your market, business and team? In fact sit down and review all your weekly reviews. If you have not written down your reviews this will be a little difficult. Can you truly remember what you did last month let alone every week of every month of the last year. Choose to change some habits that have held you back. Decide to make a weekly review a positive habit. So to finish... read more

Time to take the helicopter view of your business?

Isn’t it easy to get caught up in the everyday stuff that just sucks all your energy and time. As a business owner if you get too close to the coalface you can quickly lose focus on what’s really important. Who in your business has the time and the ability to step back from the business, to truly see what is going on? Easily said but often not so easily done! So how often do you take a view of your business challenges from 1,000 feet? Let me explain what I mean. Imagine you are on a car journey across a busy city from one side to the other. You set off and all is well but soon you get stuck in a unexpected traffic jam. The good old sat nav has let you down, yet again! So what can you do? Here are three possible choices. Acceptance. Looking out of the windows all you can see are the other cars all around you, to the front, the side and behind you. Everyone else is in the same predicament so you turn off the engine and resign yourself to wait for the blockage to clear. You are at the mercy of factors outside of your control. Make things happen. Frustrated, you get out of the car, immediately feeling better for being active. You look around and eventually stumble across the cause of the hold up. The traffic has ground to a halt at a cross roads a few miles up the road. Seeing the problem, you enlist a small band of willing helpers and you start to direct the... read more

FOUR behaviours seen when forming a team

  Isn’t is so easy to pigeon hole employees based on the behaviour that we observe in the work environment. Their behaviour is dependent on many, many factors but often an accurate reflection of their underlying attitude is highlighted in how they intuitively react to a challenge or task that needs to be completed. Recently, during a business coaching session, I was reminded by a client of four common responses he encountered to a recent business challenge. Over the years I have encountered similar experiences voiced by countless business owners when building a strong, resilient team. I share his insight with his permission. So here is an overview of the four responses. The Willing Helper Who enthusiastically get stuck in straight from the start. Without a moan or a second thought they understand what needs to be done, work on their own initiative and give it 100% until the task is completed. This group are first to offer help, normally without being asked. The Shrinking Violet Who initially hang back but once they see others get involved or are personally invited to contribute become enthusiastically involved. It may take more effort to get buy in but the effort will be worth it. Unfortunately, they are easy to overlook and they can shrink further into the background. The Press-Ganged Who make themselves look very busy to avoid being pressed into becoming involved. May feel put upon or obligated so make sure they do the minimum to say they helped and then escape at the first opportunity having done their bit. The Ghost Who mysteriously disappear at the first sign of... read more