Tag: leaders

 

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.

 

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.

 

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.

 

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 LEAPYou may wonder what the mentor’s role is when investing in a leadership and management development programme for your company, such as the futureSME programme. Managing directors need tangible results that will boost performance across all areas of their business, from daily operations to profit margins and market share. LEAP’s Mike Gaffney explains the role of the mentor on this programme and how it affects overall business performance.

Mike, what’s the purpose of a mentor on the future SME programme?

Well futureSME provides many proven business practices, tools and disciplines that can be applied to your business. The role of the mentor is to help the individual identify how to actively apply those tools to his or her given situation. Mentors are steeped in the best practices of futureSME and how they can be applied. They work closely with the owner to ensure they are applied in the most relevant and practical way to suit the particular needs of the company.

How does that benefit the company?

From the outset of the programme the focus is on practical application and tangible results.  This is a programme that uses theory to drive changes and secure results.  The mentor has that focus clearly in mind and ensures this is happening at each step in the process.  The mentor works with the owner to complete the company diagnostic at the start of the programme and again at the end of the programme so there is a clear comparison – evidence of change, evidence of improvements.  So mentoring is a critical component of the overall programme.

Is the mentoring process the same for every company, or does it differ by industry and size?

There are some common threads to the futureSME solution, like a visual strategy, and the application of visual management tools. The essence of futureSME is to enable the company to develop its strategic, managerial, operational and adaptive capabilities. What is applied to the organisation often depends on what is most critical to their specific needs.

For some companies, getting the operational side of the business right is the most critical issue. For others it could be having a clear strategy or better managerial capabilities. So the mentoring process is not the same for everyone. There is the same outline regarding the disciplines and practices that are put in place, but how they are put in place, and which areas are prioritised, is very much company specific.

What kind of ROI can a client expect from the mentoring side of the programme?

Business is tough for any organisation so there has to be real tangible benefits, be it increased turnover or profitability, increased market share or new customers. There has to be tangible business performance deliverables. The best example I can give is ourselves; LEAP has applied the futureSME methodology and we doubled our turnover in 2013 compared to 2012. So it’s important for any company engaging in futureSME that they clearly state what business performances they need to see improved, and how that will be measured. We are very comfortable with measuring the implementation of futureSME in a company against tangible financial performance, and other core performances, that the company determine.

 

“The best way to predict the future is to create it,” said Peter Drucker, a man who knew a thing or two about management theory and practice. We are currently hearing some commentators speak of the  green shoots of economic recovery, which beckons some crucial questions for small to medium enterprises (SME). Are they in the right position to avail of the economic recovery? Are the managing directors and senior managers busy creating their company’s future, or are they stuck in fire-fighting mode? LEAP’s Mike Gaffney explains why a lack of clarity regarding business goals could be the biggest threat to recovery for many SMEs, and how the futureSME visual strategy methodology can solve this problem. But what is the futureSME visual strategy?

Mike why is it so hard to apply proven business theory to business practice?
A good friend of mine who has been in business for many years, said to me ‘Mike the theory is fantastic but how do I work around my lack of discipline?’ In essence the challenge he is faced with is that he has certain ways of doing things, some effective some ineffective. He has certain habits and his management team work around his habits, to the detriment of bedding down best business practices and disciplines in the organisation. So the challenge is to build the disciplines and practices independent of the managing director of the company.

What exactly are best practices?
There are literally hundreds of business methodologies, tools and techniques that can be applied to business. Recently LEAP commenced collaboration with futureSME, a European-wide research project, whose purpose was to right-size proven business methodologies that have worked in larger organizations, and make them applicable to the SME sector. The futureSME methodologies are a very effective way to enable organisations to apply disciplines, and develop new habits through application of those disciplines, that bypass the nuances of the senior people in the organisation, particularly the owner.

In terms of best practice what are business owners doing wrong?
The biggest challenge they have is keeping a strategic focus and how to develop the business on an on-going basis to make sure the business is progressing.  The owner is in fire-fighting mode, the senior team are in the same place. There is no head space to ask are we doing the right things, and can we do things better?  There is plenty of energy and commitment by the team, but there is a lack clarity and a corresponding lack of application of best business practices.

So how can the MDs and management teams help themselves to change their behaviours? They have to develop new habits, and the best way to do that is to apply methodologies that fit easily within the business. Over time these methodologies will engender new disciplines, and new ways of conducting their business which will lead to a positive cycle of improvement.

Is futureSME a one-size-fits-all model for SMEs?
Through futureSME a foundation programme has been developed with the specific intent of pulling business owners, and senior managers, away from day-to-day operations. It uses visual strategy mapping as a key component in getting them to see their business in a new light. To develop disciplines regarding strategy in a visual manner that helps to create momentum in a more productive manner than the current ad-hoc, fire-fighting approach.

Is visual strategy mapping something new?
It’s not new but what futureSME has done very well is bundle a number of different methodologies into one strategy map, with a supporting implementation plan as well. This bundling of existing methodologies is right-sized for application to the SME, so after just 6 half-day workshops there is a clear on-the-wall visual strategy for their business. Clear goals are identified with specific actions attached to each goal; again it’s on the wall, its visually alive, which ensures that the MD and the management team can’t dodge the bullet of implementing the strategy that has been defined.

How will futureSME benefit company owners and senior managers out there?
The number one thing the leader has to provide is clarity. The visual strategy map provides that clarity. Where we go with the business, how are we going to get there and who does what. It’s not just a compelling vision, we also go through the business model canvass which addresses every business dimension from customer segments and types, to channels to key resources, activities and partners.

But we do a very rigorous appraisal of where the business is as well. We clarify where the business wants to get to, we get the decision makers to commit to clear values and a mission statement that is real and not just aspirational. Then back up that top level with specific goals that will progress the company to achieve this vision and support those goals. What are the actions, who will do them and by when?  It’s a very powerful mechanism to keep the wheels of the business turning towards an agreed vision for where the business needs to get to within a stated time-frame.

So it’s about helping businesses thrive in the long term?
Absolutely, if all you have been doing for the last five years is fighting to survive, there comes a point where that’s all you understand. All the habits and disciplines are built around how to survive. How to thrive can get lost, because the training regime and best practice habits are not geared for growth.

We forget and underestimate that the human brain is a self-patterning system. It will see its perception as reality. If it perceives things are a certain way and has to stay in survival mode, it will never look for a broader perspective in terms of opportunities to grow. Companies that have gotten this far are now in a good position to avail of the growth opportunities that are making a faint appearance on the horizon.