Tag: business leadership

 

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.

 

Visualise Your Company Success Story

In a new management training series business advisor John Raftery discusses Visual Management, a business methodology that has worked wonders for management teams within large corporate organisations. Here he explains how you can visualise your company’s success story and why this visual approach is more successful than traditional methods, and how small and medium businesses can benefit from the ‘display and engage’ approach.

What is Visual Management?

I work a lot with clients in the SME sector and often when I go into their offices or business premises I see little by way of business related posters, graphs, bulletin boards, Key Performance Indicators (KPI) or business charts around the building. But if you walk into a multinational corporation’s building that’s exactly what you find.

Every type of visual mechanism is being used to try and get the message across to the workforce about what the company represents, how it’s performing and what it’s key goals are and what it’s key performance indicators are on a daily basis. So really visual management is about trying to take that culture from the multinational organisations and try to bring it into the SME sector.

Why is visual management better than traditional methods?

Why is visual management better, or an improvement on, the way companies currently work? The answer is simple; the thing is that for the vast majority of companies I work with the key information is being kept in people’s heads, or stored on spreadsheets on their laptops. Everybody in the organisation then assumes that everyone else knows what’s going on, but in actual fact a lot of that key business information remains hidden away and largely ignored.

Visual management is about trying to extract the most important facets of that business information and make it visual. In other words to display the most vital information on a noticeboard or Gantt chart, or to represent KPIs through the use of bar graphs. You get the information out there and this helps engage people more in the business process.

Management Engagement

It distils the information into communicative, more consumable pieces for management team members and team leaders to track, understand and act upon. Remember one of the most important things about trying to communicate with people; people remember what they see and engage with, they recall very little of what they hear. If teams are fully engaged with the company’s goals and vision they come to understand it and that has a powerful effect.

 

We’re all familiar with the phrase ‘one bad apple spoils the barrel.’ The old idiom is often applied to political organisations and large corporations, but it may be applied to SMEs too. Essentially the phrase refers to negative habitual behaviour that can permeate throughout a group. Mike Gaffney explains why establishing a set of positive core values is vital for developing the right kind of company culture; the kind that both employees and customers can respect. And ultimately the kind that will decide your company’s destiny.

Mike, why are core company values so important?
Managers and business owners tend to focus on things like numbers, and performance this year compared to last year, and how to squeeze more out of the team we have. They often fail to recognise that people are not motivated by the owner’s increased profit or turnover. However, they are motivated by being part of a team where they are valued and respected, and where there are shared company values that they can align themselves with.

Company Culture
In a military context, the use of mantras and expressing values has been used for a long time. For example the motto by the SAS ‘Who Dares Wins’ expresses the type of mind set that they are famous for. So a company’s core value set can reflect who and what they are. We find that some organisations totally ignore, or underestimate, the power of values in changing behaviours to improve individual and collective performance.

How do you define values in an organisational context?
Values are the set of beliefs that guide our conduct individually and collectively within the organisation. For example, at LEAP our core values are:

Collaboration – we believe in collaborating with our clients to ensure the best solution for them
Rigour – we believe in applying rigour to everything we do
Authenticity – we are genuine in our approach
Impact – there’s no point in being great at what we do if it’s having no impact on the company
Creativity – we believe in providing creative tailored solutions for our clients

We hold ourselves to account with those 5 values. It’s a simple, straightforward way to see if we are keeping ourselves on track regarding the standard of performance and behaviour we expect from ourselves, and crucially, how that translates into our behaviour with clients.

Your Company’s Destiny
It’s also important to remember that in business your customers will ask 3 questions of you, and the value set that you define for your team need to reflect those questions. The questions are:

1. Do you have high standards?
2. Can I trust you?
3. Do you care about me, the client?

If the value set that your people live by reflect and answer those questions then your company is on the right track. The main point for Irish businesses is that traditionally in Irish culture, and society, we have a good value set. However we don’t articulate them clearly enough, or reinforce them in the daily activities of the team. In the absence of those explicit values we create a vacuum where different habits creep in; habits that are not in line with our core company values and how we want our teams to behave.

Practicing Core Values, Not Just Preaching Them
So developing teams that believe in, and practice, the core values of the company creates a real sense of ownership and belonging to the company. Ultimately that leads to more successful business performance.

As Ghandi once said:

your beliefs become your thoughts,
your thoughts become your words,
your words become your actions,
your actions become your habits,
your habits become your values ,
your values become your destiny.

 

 

 

Money is not always the motivating factor that drives people in the workplace. Many people are motivated by other things such as praise, training and development opportunities, and taking on different responsibilities. Managers need to understand that offering financial incentives is not always the right way to motivate team members. On the contrary, sometimes financial reward systems create the wrong kind of company culture. In part 1 of this blog LEAP’s business advisor Tricia Cunningham explains the benefits of creating a merit-based culture where individuals are motivated by more than just money.

Tricia, how can managers keep team members motivated without financial incentives?
Managers face a difficult task in trying to keep teams motivated. It often feels like there is little they can do to motivate people. There’s a belief that staff only want more money – everything comes back to financial reward. Particularly in organisations where there are middle managers who have authority over financial rewards. But even leaders in organisations, given the times we have experienced, are probably not in a position now where they can randomly grant increases.

Motivation
And of course this raises expectations anyway when wages are increased for individuals. So for multiple reasons financial rewards for employees need to be given serious consideration before any commitment is given. If a manager links motivation to remuneration, there’s a feeling of helplessness, there’s nothing else the manager can do to motivate staff; that’s a myth. To explode that myth you need to remember that once people’s expectations regarding remuneration are addressed then money is no longer the motivating factor that we think it is. People look for other things to keep themselves motivated and very often those things are within the control of the manager. It’s about a manager shifting his/her thinking; the manager’s thinking needs to be focused on the employee:

1. Do you know the individual? Do you know what they like to do?
2. Do you know what their strengths are, what they’re good at, what they’re capable of doing?
3. Have you aligned their strengths to the results they need to achieve, or the requirements of the business?

Aligning employee strengths with business goals
When you align an employee’s strengths with the business goals and requirements, you’re more likely to have a motivated employee working on your team. Increasing somebody’s application of strengths by 5, 10 or 15 per cent will allow them to enjoy their job more than they currently are. The results will benefit the organisation and the individual. That’s a motivating mechanism within the manager’s control.

So think about the individual, their capabilities, their strengths and think about the results; align them and you will have the individual working towards a common goal that benefits themselves and others. Follow up with employees. Offer them praise when warranted. Remember “thank-you” and “well done” are important to individuals and motivate employees. Discuss obstacles they are encountering and work with them to remove those obstacles. Actively work to involving the employee further in the business. These activities will help you motivate your employees further. They are within your control and require no additional financial investment. They simply require an investment of your time, focus and energy.

Learn About Our Programme for Managers and Business Owners
Management Team Programme
futureSME

futureSME methodology for managers

LEAP’s Tricia Cunningham explains the advantages for small and mediumTricia Cunningham
enterprises (SME) participating in development programmes using the futureSME methodology. This business framework was the result of an €8 million EU research project that was successfully carried out by the University of Strathclyde and tried and tested on SMEs across Europe.

Tricia, how does futureSME come alive in a business?

One of the critical tools that we explore in the programme workshops is ‘thinking as one brain.’ We try to get the leaders and managers to understand what they need to put in place to ensure the team are in sync, and implement this in the workplace. So the teams work through how they can develop the team to think as one brain, and understand what the guidelines are for managing team meetings effectively.  That way they can work through information quickly, succinctly and cohesively.

Meetings become productive and employees walk away from the meetings with a clear understanding of what has been discussed, what has been decided, and they are clear about any actions that need to be taken.

We also explore any issues of dissent; when you are trying to implement the visual strategy there are times when the team will encounter road blocks i.e. challenges that have to be overcome. We explore what you can do to ensure that those obstacles can be overcome.

Implementation is Critical

Many times in the SME sector you are working with small teams because there aren’t that many layers in the organisation. You have the business owner and key employees as opposed to a team of managers. But it’s still vitally important that these key people make it happen.

So the leader and the key people have to decide how they are going to work effectively together, to ensure the visual strategy comes alive and achieves the desired results. Having the visual strategy alone will not ensure success. Having the visual strategy, and working together as one brain, will ensure that you make progress in achieving your business goals.

How many workshops are on the programme?

There are 6 workshops on the programme; the first 4 are focused on developing the visual strategy, and also examining the leader’s role to ensure he/she is functioning properly as a leader in their business. Then we look at the roles of the rest of the team in terms of implementation. So the first half of the programme develops the visual strategy; the second half looks at getting the team on board and moving them along that strategy.

Is there any support system on the programme for participating companies?

Mentoring is an important element on the programme, so at the start of the programme we do a capability diagnostic to assess where the business is today, and that’s completed with the mentor. There are 6 mentoring sessions in total.

On the Business Leadership Programme  they are 6 mentoring sessions for each business owner, and on the Management Team Development Programme there are team mentoring sessions.  So you might have three people from one business and they will have one mentoring session after each workshop.

Why would you recommend this programme over others Tricia?

It’s based on intensive research on large successful corporations by the EU Framework 7 project . These programmes have been proven to work, they’ve been validated. They have been used by large organisations to succeed, and they have been translated in a way that is workable and practical in an SME environment.

It’s also different from other programmes because it comes with qualified mentors. They fully understand the futureSME process, they understand small and medium businesses, and they know what it’s like for a leader trying to transform their business.

They work closely with the participating companies. So you have that individual element in the workshops where people can exchange ideas, share their understanding, and then the individual can apply what they learn to their own company. That’s what makes the difference, and that’s what makes it so successful.

 

 

Mike Gaffney managing director at LEAPA key aspect of great business leadership is recognising and negotiating new business opportunities, and that requires high levels of self-awareness. I asked LEAP’s managing director Mike Gaffney to recommend some reading material with a focus on personal development. His recommendation is one that the entrepreneur can use to increase both self-awareness and business profits.

‘Mike, any recommended reading for busy business leaders and entrepreneurs over the Christmas break?’
The Chimp Paradox by Dr Steve Peters. It is an entertaining, engaging and hugely insightful book. It’s an incredibly powerful mind management model that can help you become a happier, confident, healthier and more successful person.  The Chimp Paradox explains the struggle that takes place within your mind and then shows how to apply this understanding to every area of your life.

We talk a lot about business and leadership and improving your ability to deal with various situations. The Chimp Paradox explains how the human brain works in three basic parts. In each of us there is the reptilian brain of the chimp (emotional), the human brain (logical) and the computer brain (sub-conscious).  Understanding this enables you to recognise how the mind works, understand and manage emotions and thoughts, and manage yourself more effectively in stressful situations.

For example, it explains why when we are in traffic and a car cuts in front of us, the chimp within us jumps furiously up and down and beats its chest. Later on the human brain wonders why we got so excited about it. However, to avoid this, if the computer part of the brain has a pre-programmed calm response to the rude driver, the chimp can be directed by this pre-programmed response to relax and not get excited over a minor event.  Try it.

The book is about understanding this dynamic struggle inside each of us, and how to manage your own chimp, and how to use the chimp to protect you in dangerous situations. It’s an engaging read, both enlightening and humorous, and it does shed light on why we behave in certain ways, particularly when we’re under pressure and feel threatened.”

“You develop practical approaches to being more aware of the situations you are in…which is a much more mature form of leadership.”

Why do you recommend this book to business owners?keep calm and control the chimp
“Business owners are aware that how well they manage themselves is critical to getting the right outcome in their day to day activities. It is not always about being right themselves, it is about ensuring the right outcome is achieved. That can often mean allowing a member of the team to be the hero, as opposed to the leader always having the answers.  We know this intuitively, however it is difficult to change existing behaviours.  The Chimp Paradox helps you address this.

It teaches you how to set up warning signs for yourself; how to get over yourself and your sense of self- importance, and how to avoid always beating your chest like that inner chimp. You develop practical approaches to being more aware of the situations you are in, and how you can better manage those situations to secure the right outcome, which is a much more mature form of leadership.”

New dynamic programme for business leaders & entrepreneurs futureSME  – learn more here

 

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.

 

The Deliberate Leader

Mike Gaffney The Deliberate Leader_leadership developmentLeadership Development

The Deliberate Leader blog has been written to distil the insights I have uncovered in working with entrepreneurs and company owners throughout Ireland. The first insight is to dispel the myth that leaders are born, not made. The skills of leadership are like any skill-set, If you work at it correctly and diligently you can deliberately, step by step, become an effective leader. It takes time and patience, but, most of all, it requires a willingness to observe yourself in thought and action, with a view to actively learning how to improve your behaviours and capabilities.

The second insight, is to be aware of the human’s obsession with certainty. This desire for certainty permeates multiple facets of our existence, from religious/spiritual beliefs, to personal wellbeing, to how to best manage our careers. Playing it safe, ensures survival but not excellence. Beware of certainty – certainty can lead to stagnation and a resistance to change; to preserving with the status quo. Uncertainty maintains the need to keep going; learning and acquiring new ideas and behaviours to successfully negotiate new challenges, which are coming at us constantly.

The Deliberate Leader is succinct and hopefully to the point, because entrepreneurs typically have a low attention span and look for ideas that they can immediately apply as they quickly move on to the next challenge or opportunity. As our immediate history in Ireland is teaching us, there is a significant requirement for both an understanding of leadership and development of leaders if our country is going to grow and to enable each of us to better realise our individual and collective potential.

The Deliberate Leader Growth Dynamic

The Leader’s Growth Dynamic is reflected in the following bullet points which are interlocked, and demonstrate that as you make movement in one area, you are correspondingly bringing positive movement to the other two areas of focus.

  • Have a clear sense of purpose
  • Increase your self awareness
  • Making the journey

The  bullet points below simplify what you as Leader need to focus on:

  • Become more Aware of Yourself
  • Develop and hone your Sense of Purpose; give it the space to grow – Trust yourself
  • Start now – today; make a step that propels you on your journey to becoming an effective Leader

The above three areas overlap and support each other. The human mind likes to put things into discrete categories. This is contrary to the multi-facetted challenge of being an effective Leader. Your level of Self-Awareness is intertwined and overlaps with your Sense of Purpose and with having the discipline to make your Leadership Journey. The interfaces between the three constituent parts merge, which strengthens the overall impact of the three discrete areas and keeps the three cogs moving smoothly, in unison.

For example, the greater your self-awareness as to what you excel at, the more you can align it with and compliment your sense of purpose; which as you make the journey and develop the habits you need to deliver on your sense of purpose – those habits will complement and enhance your level of Self-Awareness.