Company culture plays a more significant role in strategic planning than some people realise. Managing directors and team leaders need to ensure there is clarity regarding expected behaviours of employees. Most employees want to contribute to the long-term success of the business but how you get there is just as important as the end goal as Mike Gaffney explains.

Definition of strategy by Oxford: a plan of action designed to achieve a long-term or overall aim.

The word strategy frightens some business people but strategy is simply a game plan. This plan is a road map to secure your future. Strategic planning and company culture go hand in hand. The plan must address what sort of culture you will have in the organisation for it to be successful. That should be a key part of the plan in order to build a better future.

What is company culture?

A culture is the collective way that the organisation works both internally and within the marketplace; it is how we behave. In developing your plan for the business, the strategy will be driven by the people in the organisation, in other words the success of your strategic plan depends on the kind of company culture you create.

A key question is ‘what drives our behaviours?’

The answer is our values. These are the attitudes and beliefs we have that influence our behaviours every day – honesty, integrity, authenticity, passion, commitment. Behaviour is also driven by our ambition to be successful and our need to feel significant and relevant in what we do. All of these things make up the culture of an organisation.

The strategic planning challenge

The strategic planning challenge then is how to tap into the key motivations of individuals within the organisation. For example, a company may have a clear set of compelling values like honesty, respect, support, innovation and a can-do attitude. This is their reference point; it’s what they hire and fire by. Teams within such organisations are not focused entirely on profit margins but they also want to know if they have a long-term future with the company. Do I respect the company values?

Do those values protect me and help me progress and feel respected within the organisation and within my team?

Operations ManagementA company culture that drives employee engagement

In relation to the company’s vision and mission, culture is what will drive engagement in the workforce. All the planning in the world will fail if the plan does not outline how you are going to engage the workforce and make them feel valued. So creating the right organisational culture is pivotal to the planning process. The plan will contains goals, objectives and tactics but without a culture of engaging the team the plan will fall flat.

Also bear in mind that strategic plans are fluid; it is a statement of intent by the organisation as to where they want to get to and how they are going to get there. As you progress further in that journey you gain greater visibility than you had at the start, so naturally it will need to be adjusted and fine-tuned. It should also be used as a mechanism to challenge the original premise on which the plan was based. Are we as a company moving in the right direction, or does the plan need to change? Perhaps it does but the core values of the organisation should remain regardless of any changes in strategy.

Honesty, respect, integrity, passion and a supportive environment – these things still matter.

Product lines and services may evolve, internal operations may also change but a positive company culture based on your value system should remain in place.

Mike Gaffney , MD

Mike Gaffney managing director at LEAP

 

 

 

 

 

Mike Gaffney breaks down the differences between leadership styles V leadership skills and discusses the role both play in helping business owners and team leaders build successful organisations. As Mike points out, it is essential for leaders to understand their audience but it’s also crucial for leaders to be honest and authentic and avoid ‘putting on an act.’

Leadership Styles

Goleman describes different leadership styles – coercive, authoritative, democratic and so on – but essentially there are two factors that will affect business leaders and their leadership style. One is the circumstances of the situation they find themselves in. For example, if you’re a sports coach leading the under 10 football team, the leadership style you would use with children of that age would be very different than the style you would use with senior county players. So you have to choose a leadership style that is appropriate to the audience you are working with.

The second thing is that individual leaders need to understand their own capability in terms of the audience they are best suited to. Again, using the sports analogy, you could have a coach who is brilliant with leading adult teams and achieves great success with them but is utterly lost when it comes to leading children’s teams. That coach just doesn’t know how to connect with the young team and of course it happens the other way around too. Some coaches may have a real flair for inspiring and leading youth teams but may not be effective at all when faced with an adult team. So when it comes to leadership style, the leader must first understand the audience that he or she is dealing with and they must be confident that they can successfully apply their leadership style to that particular group.

The Authentic Leader

To put on a style that isn’t you would be a huge error because the most important quality in any team leader is authenticity. Employees want to see a leader who is comfortable in their own skin and is genuine and is not putting on an act. People would rather have a leader who may stumble from time to time but they are genuine, rather than a leader putting on an act that they think their audience wants to see. People can see through that act, they know it’s false and that’s when the leader loses all credibility.

So authenticity is crucial for any leader, be it a business owner or team leader within an organisation.

People generally warm to those leaders who are natural and comfortable in their own skin. They don’t necessarily have all the answers and don’t pretend to. Showing ourselves to be human is actually a strong trait in a leader. If you hear employees describe their boss as a ‘natural leader’ they are describing someone who is really just being themselves and not putting on an act.

Leadership Programme DublinSo a great leader doesn’t have to fit the stereotype of a tough military-style, aggressive leader?
Not at all, that’s more of a lazy media representation of leadership, like the brash and egotistical image of Donald Trump. Actually, the most effective business leaders out there are the quiet types who are working away in the background making their businesses work successfully and they don’t seek any attention for what they do. These are people with a genuine passion for what they do; people who have built up a level of expertise in their field and who are very persistent. Employees and management teams trust them. The tribe will always follow somebody that they believe will help them create a better future for them and their family. They will trust the company where they feel safe and feel they are looked after in terms of confident leadership, promotion opportunities and job security.

Leadership Skills

There is a tendency, particularly in the corporate sector, for people to think that the more senior the leader the more skills they have to have. So if you are junior manager you might be good at communication or good at time management, but as you move into more senior roles you must be a great communicator, be more charismatic, be an influencer or have high motivational skills. The list of requirements gets longer and longer. When you look at it, the Richard Bransons of the world and some politicians, haven’t got a wide range of leadership skills. They have a few skills that they are particularly good at. For example, Richard Branson is a great PR man and he just keeps applying that skill to promote the Virgin brand.

Take great political leaders like Harry Truman. He was an ordinary man from Missouri and he is widely considered to be one of America’s most effective presidents after Washington and Lincoln. He was a farm boy, never went to college but he had honesty, integrity and decisiveness. He trusted his instincts and people trusted his leadership.

His skill was in taking ownership of his responsibilities and handling the pressures of the office of president.

He listened well to others but he also trusted his gut and made clear decisions. OK some decisions he made were wrong, he didn’t always get things right. But he led his team and he wasn’t afraid to make difficult decisions or to accept responsibility for the outcomes. There are a lot of people surrounding the leader who would not like to be in that position of having to make the tough decisions. The pressure and responsibility of that would be too much for many people.

 

 

We already know many of the stereotypical characteristics of great business leaders. Many of them have become engrained in our culture such as steely determination, fearlessness, aggression and being thick-skinned. Most people don’t think of ‘detachment’ or ‘reflection’ as major features of effective leadership.

Here, Mike Gaffney discusses these skills and offers leadership advice for those who want to be leaders and how to get others to buy into your vision.

Reflection – create the space to reflect on your vision

Most business owners have a good grasp of the daily activities and operations involved in running their business. The first challenge for them in becoming more effective business leaders is to create the space where they can step away from the phrenetic daily activities and spend time reflecting on where the business is at, and where it needs to get to.

What is their vision for the future of the business? How well do they understand that vision and can they explain it in basic terms to their staff, customers or investors?

Detachment – remain focused on good business decisions

The second challenge for a business leader is to develop a strong sense of detachment. Too many times we have seen business owners become too emotionally attached to the idea of the business, or the location of the business. They see their own self strongly reflected in the success of the business. This lack of detachment can adversely affect their ability to make logical decisions regarding the direction of the business.

Whether its economic contraction or some particular loss-making component of the business, or addressing individuals in the organisation who are not making the required contribution, they get stuck in the mind-set that says ‘this is the way the world is.’ They then just try to work harder and hope they can work their way out of their problems.

Don’t delude yourself into thinking something’s working when it’s not, or you’re gonna get fixated on a bad solution – Elon Musk

To be a good leader it’s important to develop a sense of detachment and be able to look at the business in a cold logical way to determine what is working and what isn’t and then make decisions accordingly. Once a sense of detachment has been developed there is really only one more thing the business leader needs to address.

Clarity of vision – your team needs to know where the business is going
Clarity of vision is vital for bringing others with you as you move your business forward.

You need to provide clarity in terms of where the business is heading and how you are going to achieve your stated aims. Unlike management, business leadership taps into the emotional triggers of the team as to why they want to invest their time and energy in the organisation. The reason clarity is so important is because people will only follow the leader who can provide that clarity of vision and knows where their future is. People want answers to pertinent questions regarding the future and your vision for the organisation.

If I stay with this company…

• Can I develop myself through further training?
• Will there be opportunities for promotion?
• Can I earn more money?
• Will I be able to put my kids through college or pay off my mortgage if I stay with this company?
• Is this company clear about its vision and how it’s going to achieve it?

You don’t have to be an amazing public speaker but you must explain your vision in a way that will make sense to others, so keep it simple – Mike Gaffney

Sometimes the leader thinks they have to be great communicators or be a good ‘people person’ and sure, they are good skills to have. However, even without those skills, if the leader can provide a simple, clear and compelling vision that the whole team can understand and see the merits of, both for themselves personally and in terms of the organisation, then that’s your primary job as a leader achieved.

You don’t have to be an amazing public speaker but you must explain your vision in a way that will make sense to others, so keep it simple. When they get it they are more likely to buy into that vision.

Think of leadership as a skill set to be learned

There is a lazy logic that exists which says ‘leaders are born, not made.’ Well, rocket scientists are not born with their knowledge; they are made through years of study, training and development. So too with doctors, engineers or any professionals. There are management training programmes for junior, middle and senior managers.

Why should it be any different with business leaders?

Leadership is another skill set, another perspective on how to act and engage with the world around you and yes, it absolutely can be thought and it can be learned. A lot of effective leadership hinges on the old Greek philosophy of self-awareness, or as Socrates said – know thyself. Great leaders develop a high level of self-awareness.

They know when they are having a direct positive impact on others and when they are just getting in the way and need to step back, and that takes real awareness and discipline.

 

What do business leaders really want from their managers? Is it their experience, knowledge and technical expertise?

These things are important to business leaders when they recruit people into management positions. However, as LEAP MD Mike Gaffney explains, what leaders really want from managers more than anything else is for them to take ownership of the role of manager. That means making decisions, fully committing to them and taking responsibility for outcomes.

Take Ownership
The number one requirement that leaders want from managers is for managers to take ownership for their area of responsibility. That means making decisions, dealing with the problems in their area and generally getting on with the job and delivering on their department’s objectives.

They want managers to stop looking over their shoulder waiting for approval or permission to make decisions.

Be Decisive
There is an old saying that many leaders and managers are familiar with that goes ‘seek forgiveness rather than ask for permission.’ It’s vital to be decisive in your role as manager. Make a decision, look for the best outcome and if it works out great. Make sure you are able to explain why it worked out so it can be replicated.

If it doesn’t work out, dust yourself down and get on with the job because that’s your responsibility.

Commit to your decisions
So ownership is by far the biggest requirement leaders are looking for from their managers, but decisiveness is also a crucial factor. Another key element leaders look for is commitment. This simply means following through on decisions and ensuring that others in the team do the same until company objectives are met.

If managers take ownership of their area, and are prepared to make clear decisions and fully commit to them, then leaders can focus more of their time on doing what they do best – leading the business.

So the message for managers is clear: take ownership, make decisions and fully commit to them.

What if I as a manager make a decision and it turns out to be the wrong one?
If the decision goes wrong for the manager, it might cause problems and tempers may get frayed because of it. However, you are actually delivering on what you were hired to do. You were hired to take responsibility for a particular area of the business, to make it work as best you could.

If you don’t take ownership or you can’t make decisions then you are not managing.

You might get into hot water from time to time but when things cool down, the smart business owner will realise that you took ownership and you were decisive and you fully committed to your decision. They can see you are doing your best as a manager. That shows you take responsibility for your actions and that is something they can respect.

What they cannot respect is a lack of responsibility or ownership of decisions and outcomes.

So managers should be prepared to make decisions rather than asking the business owner for permission all the time. The outcomes may reveal that the role was beyond you and your capabilities but it won’t be because of a lack of commitment or indecision on your part.

 

Executive coaching programmes can benefit business leaders of all kinds whether you run a small, medium or large company. An executive coach can offer a business owner or senior manager an objective view of their performance as team leaders as well as offering fresh perspectives on their vision for the business and where it is going. Executive coaches don’t tell business leaders how to run their companies but they do give them open and honest feedback that they can use to their advantage to improve both their individual performance and the overall performance of the business. Executive coach John Raftery outlines 3 reasons why you need executive coaching and the role it plays in effective leadership development that benefits the whole organisation.

1. Executive coach as a sounding board

The first reason it works is because to a large extent business leaders don’t get an opportunity to talk in a confidential and safe environment. The key thing is that they can use the executive coach as a sounding board. Just trying to articulate their own ideas can be a challenge for business leaders. To a large extent business leaders live inside their own heads. Then they try to communicate with their staff and it can be difficult for staff to interpret what’s in the leader’s head. Communicating ideas to staff can be challenging. They may be cautious about articulating certain issues or concerns that they might have. So the first thing executive coaching does is it gives people the ability to try and articulate what is going on inside their own heads.

2. Provide feedback

The second thing an executive coach does is provide feedback, and ask challenging questions of the leader as well. It’s important that the executive coach has experience, has some knowledge or background in business so they have credibility with the leader in terms of giving feedback and acting as a sounding board.

3. Inspire action

The third thing an executive coach can do is inspire people to take action or prevent procrastination. A lot of leaders have particular issues that they know they need to address. But as long as it stays in their head they will never get around to actually dealing with it. But an executive coach will listen to you and challenge you and encourage you to take action. To start implementing a plan of action and set deadlines to deal with issues, and be confident that once you deal with those issues you can give further feedback to the coach. You then use that feedback to see how things have gone and decide where to go next.

It’s important to point out that executive coaching is non-directional. It’s a process that allows the business leader to make up their minds and come to their own conclusions. You’re suggesting ways forward, you’re asking the leader ‘what if’ or what are the alternatives. Is there another way of looking at this or how do they feel about approaching a problem in another way? What do they think the outcome would be if they tried an alternative solution? You are not saying to the leader ‘this is what you should do.’ You can offer advice and guide people in a certain direction but ultimately the business decision rests with them, they must come to their own conclusions. So really executive coaching is about providing the space for business leaders to explore options they may not have otherwise considered and then letting them come to their own conclusions. That way they take ownership of their decisions rather than passing responsibility to someone else. They own the decision and if they own it they are far more likely to follow through and implement it.

John Raftery is Executive Coach at LEAP

John Raftery

 

 

 

 

 

How damaging can a negative company culture be to a business?

Working with companies throughout Ireland, it’s evident we underestimate the effect bad habits and practices have on business performance. Companies are coming out of the recession and want to kick on. They are looking to make the most of the improving economic conditions. Business leaders want to develop new approaches to driving the business forward and managing the teams who will need to deliver the results. However, unless the leader takes a detached perspective and looks seriously at how people think and act within the business, then all the commitments to change won’t take hold. Those underlying negative habits (largely invisible) which have become ingrained in the day-to-day activities of the business must be addressed.

To change the company from within requires an understanding of how individual and collective habits are developed.

First of all developing habits is natural, the human brain, (and animal brain – just watch what your dog does when he thinks you are taking him for a walk) is programmed to develop habits like driving a car. The first time it’s awkward and clunky. With experience and practice it becomes a subconscious behaviour, and that’s how the brain works, it actively looks to create habits. So if you’re going to make serious changes in your business with a view to maximizing new opportunities, you need to recognise the subconscious habits and often limiting behaviours that are holding the organisation back. Without recognising and addressing them you won’t achieve the changes that are necessary to transform the business.

What should business owners do to change negative habitual behaviour?

It was Einstein who said ‘we cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.’ The big issue here is a lack of recognition of underlying negative habits and behaviour by the business owners and management team. Making statements to staff such as ‘we need to change’ isn’t good enough. Yes you can map out a new strategy for the business, but that won’t work either if you don’t address people’s negative behaviours. A fundamental change in behaviour must occur for any real progress to be made. Effective businesses recognise that they need three things to work in tandem to enable them to be successful (as strongly advocated by Jim Collins in ‘Good to Great’ a number of years ago).

Developing Winning Company Habits

That sounds great in theory. In reality the company is where it is with the existing team, so how can an existing company successfully adopt the above disciplines and thereby replace legacy habits and behaviours. It can be done by individual and collective re-framing as to how it thinks and acts. To effectively make this level of internal change requires an understanding as to how change is internalised. We look to Willian Glasser’s ‘Retention Triangle’ as outlined in the diagram below.

We retain/ remember:

Glasser's retention triangle

Now in line with Glasser’s retention triangle, as a business owner I want to have disciplined people, thought and execution in my company. If I can get my core team to interact and develop something collectively which they will then communicate (educate) to the full team, then I have a strong possibility of bedding down the three disciplines.

Are there any practical tools that businesses can use to bed down the three disciplines?

Yes the futureSME methodology which uses visual management tools to map a company’s strategy and the lines of action to execute the strategy, and the KPIs to ensure strong operational performance is delivered. The team also develop effective business disciplines through the ongoing execution and focus on the strategy. It is a powerful and underestimated management tool to prevent us from focusing on one area and neglecting other equally important ones.

The futureSME methodology was derived from an EU Framework 7 programme managed by the University of Strathclyde with 23 EU partners. Its remit was to identify best practices in highly successful businesses and determine how they could be applied successfully in the SME sector. The futureSME methodology is proving its impact in Ireland with over 50 companies having deployed the futureSME foundation programme successfully. futureSME is an approved programme within the Action Plan for Jobs 2015 and its deployment is managed by ManagementWorks.

Mike Gaffney, Managing Director LEAP

Mike Gaffney managing director at LEAP

 

 

 

 

Choosing the right people for leadership positions within your organisation is a critical process that will determine the future of your company. Regardless of how well your current senior management teams perform, they will move on at some point either through career change or retirement. Mike Gaffney discusses the importance of behavioural traits when identifying the right people to take over senior leadership positions, and why these traits will continue to drive growth and protect company values.

Mike what is leadership effectiveness in an organisation?

In time there will be a need for managers to move into a more senior leadership role. Senior staff will target them for senior management positions. These managers have the skills and knowledge to manage effectively, however the challenge now is not about skills and knowledge, but about behaviours.

The biggest difference between a leader and a manager is the leader’s ongoing adherence to certain behaviours that are mandatory in the organisation. These behaviours are testament to the core values of the organisation. You can be the best manager in the world within your given area but if you don’t display the expected behaviours of the company – be it flexibility, adaptability, positive attitude- then you are not leading by example which is key to effective leadership. The leader must live those behaviours consistently, and to do so requires the following:

• a significant level of self-awareness
• an honest assessment of your current performance
• a gap analysis showing where you need to be
• a commitment to take the necessary steps to achieve optimal performance

How does LEAP help companies prepare their employees for leadership roles?

In that context LEAP’s Leadership Effectiveness programme uses an executive coaching approach. We will sit with the individual and review feedback from their peers and colleagues. It’s a 360 assessment incorporating the views of those that report to them, those on the same level as them and from their superiors that they report to. We also do rigorous personality profiling to identify the normal disposition of the individual, what motivates them.

We also assess the company’s values and the required behaviours to drive those values. With that starting position, the individual and the executive coach will map out a personal growth plan typically covering a 6 to 12 month time frame. This plan will outline how they are going to progress to the required level of performance.

What is expected of each participant?

At the start of the programme it will be explicitly stated what that required level of performance is upon completion, then we typically set 3 month milestones where certain behavioural targets have to be reached. This is very much about the individual working with the executive coach within a structured framework. It challenges the participant to improve behaviours, to increase self-awareness, to take ownership of existing performance.

There is consistent reviewing of their trial and error efforts throughout the programme. For this to work it’s critical that the individual’s manager is also fully committed to the process. He or she must agree with the profile of the individual’s current level of performance, and also agrees to sign off on the gap analysis, and where the individual needs to get to within the agreed time frame.

So this programme is for people already in leadership roles?

Yes it’s about developing people already in management roles to go to the next level within the organisation where they are now in a senior management position. At this level their behaviours and their ability to engage as part of a senior management team is critical. This includes their ability to make strategic decisions, and to think for the benefit of the whole organisation not just their own immediate area of responsibility. In stepping out of the functional role of the middle manager into a broader role of the senior manager, the individual must ask themselves ‘how do I contribute to the team? How do I make sure the organisation grows and improves its performance on a continuous basis?’

How important is innovation and creativity in the leadership role?

Different people have different capabilities. It’s more about demonstrating the right behaviours as one of the leaders within the organisation. It’s about your ability to work on yourself to perform as an effective leader, to ensure that as a leader you are contributing fully to the decision making process of the senior management team.

In a way every worker is a leader because every worker can lead by example. But there are specific requirements that people need when moving into senior management roles. The higher up you go in the organisation, the more critical your leadership skills and capabilities become. The danger is you can have very good managers who aren’t good at leading because they don’t reflect certain behaviours, or because they don’t fully engage with the decision making process. So the higher up you go in the organisation the more you have to deliver based on your leadership capabilities rather than on your managerial expertise.

What are those leadership capabilities?

A lot of organisations have leaders who are naturally enthusiastic and great communicators. They are energetic and very strategic in their approach, always looking for new opportunities to explore in the marketplace. Their leadership style infuses other people with the same kind of positive energy. But at some point those leaders will need to be replaced. When it comes time to replace them you have to be careful that their replacement is not someone who relies on their managerial expertise, but lacks those vital leadership qualities and behaviours. Leaders move beyond just skills and management capabilities and into the role of strategist.

Is the programme partly an assessment of managers to gauge their suitability as senior managers?

No, their suitability has already been decided before they come to us. The organisation believes you are the right person for the senior management position; the question for them is ‘how do we support you at this senior level?’ That’s why we start with the question ‘where are you now, and where do you need to get to?’ Then the gap analysis and the personal growth plan are agreed and signed off by the individual and the senior manager. The executive coach is there to bring the discipline, the objectivity and the expertise needed to help the individual progress and succeed at each stage in the programme.

Blog Awards Ireland 2015Best Company Marketing and Communications Blog

We are delighted to announce that LEAP have been shortlisted for the Best Company Marketing and Communications Blog category for this year’s Blog Awards Ireland 2015.

The blog’s theme is leadership and management and focuses on ways to address common issues faced by new and established managers, and also the leadership challenges facing business owners.

The PUBLIC VOTE is now open for the 2015 Blog Awards Ireland!
Voting will be open for TWO weeks from Monday, 7th September.
LEAP would really appreciate your vote!

You can check out the Blog Awards Ireland website at http://www.blogawardsireland.com/

Thank you for your time and your support.

Regards,

The LEAP Team

 

Recently the Bank of Ireland approved €1.2Bn in new credit for SMEs in the first quarter of the year. But businesses need to stay in shape to qualify for loans in terms of structure and strategy, as well as being efficient in their daily operations. Business advisor John Raftery explains why focusing on the bigger picture is crucial for companies seeking funding to grow their companies.

John why is it important for businesses to be in good health all the time to access funds?

Many companies don’t think about getting themselves into the right shape until they want to access funds, or put themselves on the market to sell the business. I would argue that companies need be in the right shape all the time, right throughout their lifespan. By that I mean companies need a very clear set of performance metrics that drive the company’s performance. These KPIs need to be visible and shared with as many of the staff as possible, if not the entire workforce.

In order to get to that point quite a lot of work needs to be done to make sure you are measuring the right things i.e. your KPIs are the correct ones. This goes back to what I’ve learned from working with SMEs throughout Ireland; that information is assumed to be available but often the information is in people’s heads or it’s stored away on laptops or in spreadsheets. Various individuals have certain pieces of the information, but there isn’t one overall document or format containing all the information for everybody to follow.

A lack of focus on the big picture

A lot of companies are very busy with day to day operations delivering their products and services. This ‘busy’ environment results in a lack of focus on the big picture. I think innately companies know they need to address that issue. They are aware they need to be better organised and create more efficiencies and focus more on the bigger picture, and they need access to information more readily. It’s always in the back of their minds to do that but they never get around to doing it because day-to- day activities take over and a lot of firefighting takes place. One of the reasons so many companies end up firefighting problems is because they don’t take the time to stand back and look at the bigger picture, and get themselves organised and more focused.

What are the consequences for companies who don’t share information like KPIs?
The consequences are more and more inefficiencies, a lack of communication between people and tasks getting completed with the same issues and problems arising again and again. A lot of companies are solving the same problem repeatedly without ever taking the time to do some root cause analysis. Information is often misinterpreted; people assume that what they are doing is the right thing.

For example, I was working with a white goods company who had a team of engineers taking care of service repairs. But the information regarding each engineer’s call out performance was not relayed back to management. It turned out that the first-time repair rate of the engineers was very poor, somewhere between 55 – 60{aa1e4c34c9c0f46e0a1f04e30c2eb1b9efaea7a47ed6ca6f324476e114da37f4}. The company owner never took the time to step back and examine that first time call-out rate because he was too busy firefighting problems within the business. As a result there were a lot of issues around this from customer complaints to rescheduling of visits, wasted time and problems with availability of materials. The company was very busy but unless they share information and step back to analyse and understand that information properly, and understand the issues that are causing the poor performance, they won’t be able to find the right solutions.

So companies can appear to be very busy but they‘re busy doing all the wrong things.

Yes, ‘busy fools’ is a term often used to describe companies in that situation. I always get uncomfortable when I see a company whose staff are doing a lot of firefighting. Now firefighting may be understandable sometimes when a business is going through a particularly busy period, or something dramatic has happened to the business. But firefighting should only be carried out for a short period of time. Then it should be back to normality, back to the organisation’s disciplined behaviours by everybody in the business. Unfortunately some companies are firefighting all the time. Some people even derive satisfaction from firefighting; they say a good firefighter always carries his own box of matches. There are people who think of themselves as heroes – MacGyver types – who like dramatic solutions, rescuing a situation and pulling it out of the fire.

Company Culture

It’s all to do with the culture of the organisation. You can walk into some businesses and everything is very calm because it’s very well organised. People know exactly what they are about and what they are required to do. If you ask them to report on their activities they can articulate exactly what their roles and responsibilities are, and tell you the performance of their department in relation to the overall performance of the business. You go into other companies and they tell you their tale of woe, how busy they are and all the hours they’re working, how they can’t take a holiday, the stress etc. But they are all over the place, there is no central core in the organisation to keep them focused and no disciplined approach that gets them to report back on a regular basis.

What solutions can you offer companies that are stuck in firefighting mode?

Well LEAP has a product called futureSME which is a business solution developed by researchers at the University of Stratclyde using European Union funding. It takes the best practice methodologies of the most successful large companies from around the world and applies them to small and medium enterprises. The futureSME method is the ideal tool to help businesses achieve clarity about their current performance and their vision for the company.

The methodology is divided into two sections

1. Visual Strategy
The first section looks at visual strategy which is about creating a vision for the company, and understanding what the company mission is in terms of its values and behaviours. It also examines the business model by performing a SWOT analysis to help business owners and senior managers create a clear strategy for the business going forward, and understand what their priorities are.

2. Visual Management
Once that company vision has been clarified you can move to the second step which is about visual management. This is where you set four or five goals for the company and those goals have to be succinct and clearly articulated and, most importantly of all, they must be measureable. Without measurement the staff and management teams won’t be able to gauge if progress is being made or not. You then need to create lines of action which prioritize various activities of the company. You assign owners to those activities and set timelines for completion of activities and outcomes. You also look at what type of results those activities will bring you in terms of efficiencies or cost savings. You will then be able to measure progress against your goals by using those lines of activities. Most importantly you will be able to use KPIs that will tell you if you are on track or not. Visual management will allow you to see where you are successful, but also tell you where you are falling behind and who is responsible.

Management Discipline

Once you have a clear set of KPIs they will drive performance of the company. But what you really need to underpin all of that is management discipline. The management team should meet on a regular basis, weekly or monthly, to review overall performance using the visual management tools. They should review the same things each month like their sales pipeline, their customer service performance, financial performance, operations and staff performance.

You have to have a very disciplined approach to it so that you are continuously monitoring your performance and progress in relation to your goals. If you want to approach a bank to raise cash then the bank can see very clearly how the company is performing. They can see what its direction is, what its goals are, what its strategy is. Rather than deciding that you need money and then creating more work for yourself by developing some business plan on-the-fly to get funding from the bank. That is not the most effective use of people’s time.

Are companies more likely to qualify for loans if they provide evidence of a visual strategy?

Well it’s not the only factor. They also take into account the market the business is in, that also has an influence. But if you require the money for investment because you believe you can improve your business performance, then you will need to be able to articulate what your strategy is, what your current performance is, what your goals are and what you are tracking to measure those goals. So it’s not the only factor but it’s a vital one to get right.

Why should business owners contact LEAP before trying to access funds?

We help businesses get into the right shape so they can access the funds they need to grow. LEAP is the sole licensed provider for delivering the futureSME business model to companies in Ireland. We have an excellent record of transforming businesses particularly in the SME sector. The tools we use were designed specifically for SMEs, and we have a very experienced business team who have worked with a wide variety of companies around the country.

You may have heard the term Personal Effectiveness Programme or Personal Development Programme, but what exactly are they and who are they for? Is there an employee at your company you feel has the potential to contribute more to the organisation? Maybe they have the key skills to do their current job but lack the confidence to move up to the next level within your organisation. Mike Gaffney is adamant that with the right support system in place, those employees can learn new skill sets that will increase their personal effectiveness and help them transition into a leadership role.

Here’s where a personal effectiveness programme comes in.

Personal effectiveness programme for your workforce

When we discussed the Capability Development Framework (CDF) with business leaders around the country we looked at the area of personal effectiveness for the general workforce. They said ‘yeah we should do something there,’ but they were a little hesitant. However once they introduced the idea to the general work force, universally the response was fantastic.

The sentiment is ‘finally we get a chance to develop our skills and knowledge.’ They also appreciate the fact that it’s a certified training programme, assuring them that the programme is run in a very supportive and professional manner. During the workshops time is allocated to help people acquire the certification, so the enthusiasm and commitment of participants in the general workforce on these programmes is a joy to behold.

When it comes to motivated and engaged workers it’s not about the amount of money they get. It’s about addressing key questions; am I respected here? Are my thoughts and ideas being listened to? Do I belong in this organisation?

The Personal Effectiveness programme is saying to them; not only do you belong but we want you to develop your skills, your knowledge and your capabilities and become a critical and important contributor to the ongoing development of our organisation.

Who is the personal effectiveness programme for?

The usual participants are the people directly below the first management tier. They are people with potential who could, in a relatively short length of time, progress into a management role. They are key people in the organisation who have important responsibilities, but are not in a management position yet. They are the most common type of employees that companies are sending forward for the Personal Effectiveness programme.

So staff members with the potential to be future managers of the business.

What they currently do as individuals is critical for the organisation, but management have recognised their potential to contribute even more and progress further within the company.

What will the programme do for participants and their organisation?

It will greatly increase their confidence and their willingness to actively contribute ideas to the organisation. For some people there may be great potential but also a slight lack of confidence in stepping out beyond the boundaries of the role they currently have. This programme addresses that lack of confidence.

Why should an organisation invest in a personal effectiveness programme?

Because despite our best intentions, each of us can become stagnant or stale in our current roles. We see the world in a certain way and we become comfortable with the way things are, because this is how they’ve always been done. We tend to slow ourselves down with these artificial constraints we place on ourselves. The programme helps people to freshen up and learn new approaches, new ideas and new skills. It’s a more natural way to re-commit to a company and re-engage with the daily activities in a more thoughtful manner.

The programme will:
• Increase your confidence when moving into a new role in the organisation
• Increase your skill set to effectively manage the new role
• Engage more effectively with your team and senior management
• Re-energise yourself within the organisation
• Help you develop a greater awareness of your own behaviours and how you impact others

Is the programme accredited?

Yes, it comes with the Quality and Qualifications Institute (QQI) Level 5 certification.

What is the structure of the programme?

There are typically 4 one day workshops covering the key areas; managing self, time management, working with internal customers, and effective team player. Running in parallel to the workshops there are specific assignments that have to be completed. There is also ongoing mentoring support from LEAP’s business advisors and executive coaches, to ensure each participant can successfully submit the body of work required for certification at QQI Level 5.

 

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