Tag: business leader

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.

 

The primary goals of an Executive Coaching Programme are to support business owners by helping them to clarify their vision for the business, delegate more effectively, and to create the space necessary for innovation in order to drive the business forward. In this video John Raftery, executive coach at LEAP, addresses 4 main questions regarding leadership development for business owners.

  • What is the role of an Executive Coach?
  • What are the 3 most common problems faced by business owners?
  • How does an Executive Coaching programme impact on the business?
  • How can business owners benefit from an Executive Coaching programme?

Gain valuable insight into the role of the executive coach, how business owners benefit from a leadership development programme and crucially, how these programmes help your business become more profitable.

At the core of the executive coaching programme is the theme of personal development. To understand more about this see  5 Key Factors in Personal Development for Managing Directors where John delves deeper into the kinds of skills and traits that successful business leaders spend years practicing and developing.

Please feel free to leave a comment on the video using the box below. Thank you.

 

Leadership development is about developing the right habitsIn 2000 Mike Gaffney, along with co-founder Tricia Cunningham, established LEAP as a leadership development and management training consultancy. Armed with twelve years experience working at Nortel Networks he embarked on a new role as an executive coach. Over the past thirteen years he has developed substantial leadership programmes for owners of Irish and international companies.  Mike’s philosophy is that leadership skills can be learned like any other skill.  Here he discusses why leadership development is about developing the right habits, which ones have served him best as managing director, and the person who influenced him in his role as an executive coach.

You’re a business leader Mike. What leadership habits have helped you the most?
I think the most important thing I’ve learned in my journey is to be self-aware. It’s crucial to be aware of how you behave and keep that awareness to the forefront of your decision making, particularly in interactions with your team and with your customers.

Can you give an example of self-awareness as a business owner and leader?
I learned a valuable lesson one August a number of years ago when I came back into the office after getting some business from a new client. My team asked me ‘who is going to deliver the work?’  I said I talked to the client and I volunteered myself after having sat down with them for a couple of hours and gone through their challenges. One of the team then said to me:  ‘Mike , we have a problem. You don’t trust us.’ I got on my high horse, I was annoyed at the comment. Of course I trust you! But they were right. When push came to shove I didn’t trust anyone else in the business to do as good a job as I could do.  As I have since learnt: Ego is a poor Amigo.

What was the leadership lesson learned there?
As a leader, I had to stop thinking that if I don’t do it, it won’t get done properly, because that’s not leading a team. I’m just playing the role of the hero with the hundred helpers, which is unfair on the helpers, and it hugely limits the capacity of the business to grow. So that myth I was telling myself, that if I don’t do it, then it doesn’t get done properly, had to stop. Unless I found a way to leave that out and move beyond it, I could not grow LEAP as an organisation. You have to be willing to trust your team, that’s the lesson.  As Harry Truman put it so eloquently: “If you don’t mind who gets the credit, you can achieve great things.”

So self-awareness plays a key role for leaders when growing a business?
It’s critical. Without it you keep making the same mistakes. Particularly if you are successful, the skillset that made you successful will need to be fine-tuned to get you to the next level. Take sport for example. What drives a team to win their first All-Ireland will not work second time around. They will need something more if they want to win back-to-back, because the same hunger won’t be there. They need to frame their challenge in a new way and they need to tap into new approaches in themselves to make that work.

The same thing applies to a business leader who wants to grow the organisation. The skills that get you to succeed initially in the start-up stage can be the same skills that hinder you as a leader. Your own drive to be successful – doing it your way -may work in the early stages, but that can hinder you in the later stage in the context of managing a team and growing the business. The challenge as a leader is to let your team be themselves identifying areas where th ey can apply their strengths, which is where their contribution can be maximised for the company. Then give them space and support.

What are the skills that you have developed that have served you best as a business leader?
For me it’s being creative. We are a consultancy service in leadership and management for businesses, so providing creative and practical solutions for our customers is a good selling point. That’s a natural flair I have that has served me well as a leader.

But I think behaviours are more important than skills and a key behaviour is persistence. In times of recession there are going to be challenges but the longer you stay in the ring the better chance you have of landing that knockout blow, and maybe more importantly you are still standing.

What trait as a business leader has served you well?
Persistence; to keep going when it looks easier to give up and it feels like you’re pushing a stone up a hill, to trust in yourself and your team and keep going and keep looking to improve.

What leaders have influenced you, who are the people you admire?
I had a very good friend who passed away last year: Tom Touhy. The two of us coached rowing in the NUI,Galway for 14 years. He was the recognised front man and rightly so. I learned from Tom how best to support the leader, and advise him and steer him (when needed) and that has stood me in good stead.  I was becoming an executive coach without realising it.

Being the leader is a lonely place, having someone who can eye-ball you and call a spade a spade, is a great help. My time as a rowing coach has helped equip me with a framework to work with business owners and leaders in an unobtrusive and supportive manner. This enables them to be themselves, while having someone to question them in a constructive way regarding they’re thinking and decision making.

In interview with Des Kirby
Are you a company owner or team manager? What are the leadership traits and skills that serve you best. Leave a comment in the box below.

LEAP’s Make Leadership Happen Programme was designed by Mike and his team specifically to support company owners in growing their business and helping them get the most out of their teams. Contact us to find out how we can help you take your company to the next level.

In part 1 of this interview with John Raftery we addressed issues of micromanagement, and the detrimental effects it can have on business leaders and their staff. In part 2 we address the task of reclaiming your role as a business leader. This task may appear daunting at first, but with a practical and methodical approach it’s possible to reassert your position as innovator, visionary and business leader.

How can a business leader reclaim the leadership role?

You’re talking about changing behaviour and that’s one of the most difficult things to do, whether it’s giving up smoking or losing weight or cutting down on drinking. These are all behaviours that are very challenging and we often need external help to tackle them. When we talk about changing the behaviour of your team, or how you reclaim the leadership role, it’s difficult to do but it can be done through a programme where you identify and articulate what the issues are.

Why is there a lack of confidence or performance?  What are the capabilities of the management team? What’s the level of trust between the management team and the business owner?  What’s the level of performance versus the level of potential? All of these things are in the mix, and from that you have to try and reshape the management team, and at the same time get the leader to change their behaviours and their way of managing.

What are the first steps in reclaiming the leadership role?

It will have to start with the relationship between the business owner and the senior management team. In an organisation where the owner is there every day, there is a lack of clarity about the role of the senior managers. It’s very up in the air. Responsibility is spread across a number of people. Those organisations are not good at structure, clarifying roles or measuring the impact of each department and assigning accountability to senior managers. Or getting them to report regularly, weekly or monthly, so you get a clear insight into business performance. Or get clear accountability so you can assign performance to individuals. You have to create that environment.

When you create that environment the owner should then be able to step back and look more at the bigger picture, the bigger issues. The big issue could be one or two managers who are just not capable of performing at the level required. They can step back and deal with those bigger issues. A lot of SMEs just get stuck into the work and build up a lot of knowledge about the product or service, but they don’t get any formal training in managing people or management methodologies.

You can get away with that to a certain level, but it can eventually undermine the business, so you have to determine if it’s a capability issue or a training issue, or is it just the wrong person in the wrong job. The management team have to know what their strengths are and play to those strengths. Some managers end up becoming involved in areas they should not be involved in.

How can LEAP help business leaders reclaim the leadership role?

Over the years I have seen a lot of people in leadership roles observe problems in their organisations but they don’t know what to do about them. So they often go and decide there is a problem with a particular supervisor or department. Then they go out and get them a training programme and hope the programme will address the issue and they don’t really look beyond that.

But very often we find the issue is not really with the supervisor, it might be with a senior manager or even the owner, but they don’t see that, so there is a great benefit to getting someone external to see what exactly the issues are within the whole organisation. Going back to what I said earlier on about changing behaviours, you do need an external force to help you change behaviours. It’s very hard to do it on your own.

Does LEAP act as that external force for business owners?

That’s what LEAP offer, a sounding board. LEAP can act as an honest broker between people and give a non-biased view of people and situations where there’s no vested interest. A lot of people would be afraid of upsetting the apple cart, acting very cautiously and that gets in the way of real honesty. People’s motives are not as clear as they should be and cultures build up in a company, like a culture of fire-fighting, or a blame culture, and that can spread right throughout the organisation.

It’s very hard to get it out and it can have huge detrimental effects. Sometimes people within the organisation can’t see it because they are the culture. But someone external can see it straight away and challenge it, and also figure out how they are going to help the organisation rid themselves of that culture, and replace it with something more positive and beneficial.

If I’m a business owner struggling with these issues why should I call LEAP?

Because of our depth of experience; we have undertaken very transformative programmes with companies where we have had a serious impact on their business. Another reason is the level of integrity. If we feel that a client is not on board with us, if we feel there is a lack of honesty, we would walk away from an assignment if we felt it wasn’t right for us, or for the business owner. Integrity is huge and I think people pick up on that when they meet us, that we genuinely want to help clients. We have the knowledge, the experience and we have the track record of being able to help.

 

‘Managers are people who do things right, while leaders are people who do the right thing.’ So said Warren Bennis over 20 years ago, but micromanaging is still one of the most common bad habits of business owners today. That is, getting bogged down in the day-to-day operations of their company, when they should be focusing on growing their business.  I talked to John Raftery  about leadership skills and how great business leaders avoid micromanagement in order to create the right environment to grow their companies.

Why do some leaders end up managing instead of leading their companies?

If you look at the evolution of businesses, particularly in the SME sector, what you find is that when people start off a business they take on a lot of the roles themselves in terms of sales, deliveries and operations and so on. As the company grows that’s fine, it works for a while, and they bring in more people. They continue on as they were, but eventually the business begins to plateau. The potential of the business isn’t realised, because they are now doing more and more and running around dealing with the day to day stuff.

So when they reach this plateau this is the critical point for them to move on to really try to grow the business. They have to put the systems and processes in place to help them move to the next level. The biggest thing that prevents people from doing this is that they are not very good at delegating, and also they don’t have enough trust in the people that work for them. And even if they do trust them they haven’t got the systems in place that can actually monitor and measure the effectiveness of their management team.

Leaders need to focus on growing the business, but what does that mean in practice?

For a lot of people I come across the big frustration is they don’t spend enough time meeting their customers, finding out what they want and developing new products and services. In order to grow the business, that’s where they need to focus their attention and spend their time.

Usually they spend their time playing catch-up, or making sure the day-to-day stuff is getting done adequately. Then there’s no time left at the end of the day to address the potential that could create the growth for them. Like spending time with customers, developing new products and services, meeting new people and getting ideas, and spending time looking back at the team who are running the business day-to-day. Figuring out how well they are performing, what their issues are and trying to come up with solutions that they can implement.

It’s a skill that a lot of business owners don’t have, they might be good in some areas but they are weak in other areas. And the weaknesses trip them up. No business leader is good in every area, if you really want to be a good business leader you need to identify what areas you are weak in, and then identify people who can support you in that area and get them to work with you.

So the leaders true skill is the ability to delegate?

Yes…and driving innovation and growth. The leader’s vision is about the future and trying to achieve some vision they have for themselves and their business. Delegation is an important part of it, because in order to achieve what they need to achieve they have to bring people with them, they can’t do it on their own.

It’s also about communicating exactly what they require, it’s about having the discipline to follow through, it’s picking the right people, it’s a whole series of boxes that need to be ticked to achieve what you want to achieve. But essentially it’s about getting other people to use their energy to help you to achieve your vision and that’s the skill. Having the vision is one thing but being able to implement it and realise it is another thing. And that’s the difference between management and leadership.

It sounds like leadership requires a lot of trust?

Well trust and integrity are vital ingredients for any leader. I think we can all agree on that. If a leader loses integrity and people lose trust in him or her, then they have no role. And trust is simple to build. Essentially it’s doing what you say you are going to do. And people have huge sensitivity, they’re antenna is out all the time, and they are watching how leaders perform every minute of the day. And if at any stage what they say and what they do is not congruent people spot it immediately.

Trust is vital in a leader, but likewise leaders have to be able to trust the team to deliver. That trust is built up through a steady performance of delivery, through mechanisms that can monitor what their inputs are, how accountable they are and how effective they are. If all those boxes are ticked then the leader becomes more trusting of the management team, and stays out of the micromanagement that some leaders get involved with. So there is this continued tension between letting the management team get on with it, and at the same time observing and monitoring what they are doing as well, so it’s a fine line.

Micromanaging can damage that trust?

If a management team feel they are being micromanaged by the leader, it undermines their confidence in themselves and in the leader as well. It can be very detrimental. So trust is easy to say but it’s hard to achieve it, because it’s not something that can be measured with a slide rule, and say ‘this is the level of trust that has been achieved.’

It’s about people’s views and opinions and some people find it difficult to articulate what the levels of trust are. Or what the factors are that undermine trust, but it’s evident to us who come in externally, and have experience of looking at effective leadership and management team performance. You can pick up on it fairly quickly if you have enough experience and you know what you’re looking for.

The Challenge of Leadership

Why is it that some weeks you are a focused, energetic leader and other weeks you feel like you are swimming through mud? Maybe it is because you are much more effective and energised when you are doing things that play to your personal strengths, and you are much less effective when you are doing things that are NOT playing to your personal strengths.The Challenge of Leadership

So, what do you do?

  1.  Keep reminding yourself that you are a leader and that you have a responsibility towards yourself and others.
  2. Define your strengths and identify how you can best align your role as leader to those strengths
  3. Recognise when you have some tasks to do that are not aligned to your personal strengths
  4. Ask yourself whether those tasks can be delegated to others – if they can, then delegate them (ideally to someone who has strengths in that area)
  5. If you, and only you, can do the specific tasks then do them as quickly as possible and then get back to what you do best. Your heart and your business will thank you for it!

Leadership is about spending as much time as possible being focused, energised and therefore far more effective and as little time as possible swimming through mud (unless you like to de-stress by doing some bog swimming!)

The most dangerous leadership myth is that leaders are born – that there is a genetic factor to leadership. That’s nonsense; in fact the opposite is true. Leaders are made rather than born – Warren Bennis.

And remember – we don’t get it perfect all of the time. It is the endeavour….the starting afresh over and over…that eventually creates the habit of leadership….and THAT is the true prize.

Maureen Grealish