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General Interim Management & Executive Support

Starting the day right helps effective leaders to stand out

starting the day Starting the day right can take as little as two minutes and will make a difference to the rest of your day.
Thought leader @Guy Kawasaki recently highlighted one approach on Facebook, the two-minute routine, based on writing down just three simple statements with which you identify:
 

  1. I will let go of ….
  2. I am grateful for ….
  3. I will focus on ….

The idea is that we all wake up with thoughts swimming round in our heads that crop up to distract us, even if they are only in the background, as the day progresses and that to function at our most effective we need to settle and let go of these thoughts.
There are always massive demands on the time of busy executives and so starting the day with a clear mind and focus is important as is scheduling the day and being able to stick to tasks without distraction.
This simple technique also allows you to acknowledge concerns that are on your mind by considering them and then put them in a box so you don’t obsess over them and they don’t intrude when dealing with other matters. This is also a great tactic for dealing with anxiety albeit the subject of previous blogs.
There is no one way to set up your day, it is simply a matter of finding a routine that prepares you for being productive. Indeed writer John Rampton advocates using productivity tips and creating and sticking to an efficient daily schedule. He says, it is more than just simply making lists. It starts with understanding your “Why”, setting priorities and estimating how long the tasks will take.
The result will be that you work smarter, not harder and ultimately accomplish much more.
Rampton quotes the example of Hal Elrod, author of The Miracle Morning, who argues ““How you wake up each day and your morning routine (or lack thereof) dramatically affects your levels of success in every single area of your life. Focused, productive, successful mornings generate focused, productive, successful days.”
For Elrod starting the day right meant waking at 5am each morning to spend time in silence, meditating, reading and exercising.
For others, as in the two-minute example above, the routine for starting the day may be different, but what they all have in common is that they are quiet times alone to focus and help to declutter the mind before the demands of the day begin.
When I was in the army we had something similar referred to as the 6Ps: Prior Preparation and Planning Prevents Piss Poor Performance. Yes it was still called the 6Ps.
 

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Business Development & Marketing Finance General

Purpose oriented leadership gives employees a reason to be engaged

purpose oriented leadershipPerforming tasks to order is not enough to motivate 21st Century employees and instead they need purpose oriented leadership to understand the “why” of their organisation.
The purpose needs to be defined and made meaningful in a way that simply stating “making a profit” or “increasing sales” do not.
Generally, workers will perform more effectively if they believe in what their company is doing and how it is contributing to the common social good. This has been described as having a higher-oriented purpose. 
But this means that the most successful leaders need to be able to communicate their vision and to have good narrative skills in order to do so.
Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos, for example, has banned PowerPoint in executive meetings. Instead, he believes that “narrative structure” is more effective because human brains are wired to respond to storytelling.
good example of effective purpose oriented leadership is Gerry Anderson the president of Detroit-based DTE Energy, which supplies electricity and gas to South Michigan customers.
An article in the Harvard Business Review describes how, after the 2008 Financial Meltdown, Anderson realised that DTE employees were not very engaged and could not seem to break away from tired, old behaviours.
He commissioned a video that “showed DTE’s truck drivers, plant operators, corporate leaders, and many others doing their job and described the impact of their work on the well-being of the community — such as on factory workers, teachers, and doctors who needed the energy DTE generated”.
These stories effectively demonstrated DTE’s statement of purpose: “We serve with our energy, the lifeblood of communities and the engine of progress.”
Purpose oriented leadership is becoming ever more crucial for engaging employees in 21st Century business.
A PwC study reported in Forbes magazine in 2018 revealed that millennials who have a strong connection to the purpose of their organization are 5.3 times more likely to stay but only 33% of employees drew real meaning from their employer’s purpose.
Similarly, new data collected by PR Week shows that customers view purpose-driven brands as being more caring and, as a result, are more loyal to them. It reported that 67% of respondents said they feel companies with a purpose care more about them and their families and ~80% of respondents said they’re more loyal to purpose brands, while 73% said they would defend them.
I have mentioned in previous blogs that there is a growing shift, among investors, consumers and employees, towards more ethical businesses, partly, but not only, down to the rising concern about climate change.
Clearly, business leaders are going to have to think more deeply about the purpose and goals of their organisations and to define them more specifically. They also need to communicate the purpose and goals if they are to survive since this involves nurturing loyal employees and customers.
 

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Business Development & Marketing General Interim Management & Executive Support

How do businesses develop managers to become good leaders?

good leaders helping othersAmbitious people often aspire to becoming senior managers in their organisations and some achieve their goal, but how much thought is given to whether they will be good leaders?
Training is essential for many professions but in many businesses, it is often the case that people are promoted into management jobs because they were good at something else.
While the individual may have been a top performer in their role, it is rarely asked whether that makes them capable of managing other people performing those roles.
Unfortunately, the skills required to manage people well are often a completely different to the skills needed to get on the job ladder and show promise early in a career.
Good leaders need both people skills and strategic sense. They need to be well-organised, know how to prioritise without micro-managing, know how to recruit and motivate the right people and how to handle difficult conversations and decisions.

A two-day management training course is not enough

Business profitability is dependent on management for setting goals, planning and implementation. Getting support for achieving the goals and implementing the plans involves people skills, to engage and communicate with others and motivate them in pursuit of the productivity they assume.
Such people skills are rare and not innate to even the most skilled operator in their chosen field.  They have to be learned, developed and practiced, ideally without causing too much damage although mistakes will be inevitable.
Often, managers are thrown in at the deep end with little support and even where there is some acknowledgement that training is needed two-day management training courses are not enough.
Business culture is also a major factor when developing leaders. Given that mistakes will be made, a blame culture will discourage initiative or even decision making so embracing mistakes as an opportunity for learning is imperative. It might however be right not to tolerate making the same mistake more than once.
Therefore, if a business wants good leaders it needs to create the right culture and invest time and effort into helping develop leadership skills.
There are any number of leaders who have published details of their daily schedule, which invariably includes everything from getting up before dawn, fitting in some exercise or yoga, a healthy, energising breakfast drink, to detailing precisely the time it should take for every activity in the diary for that working day as well as extra-curricular time spent on worthy activities “giving something back”.
What is often missing is how they developed their people skills and allocate time for ongoing personal leadership development, for reflection on their own performance, for learning and crucially time spent learning from others whether role models, senior managers, colleagues or subordinates,
Good leaders, in my opinion, need training and practice with ongoing support and mentoring long after taking up their first role as a leader. This will be painful as it involves acknowledging mistakes and feedback on how effectively they have managed situations.
Like most rewarding achievements, effort and pain will reap the benefits of success so long as achieving goals, self-awareness and awareness of others are incorporated into the skill set. This is not for everyone.

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Business Development & Marketing Finance General Turnaround

Leaders: Can you imagine turning off your phone when on holiday?

enjoy this tropical sunset more by turning off your phoneIt is well-known that a third of SME business owners take fewer than 10 days off per year and on average work at least 50-plus hours per week compared with the average of 37 hours for employees.
Even those who do manage to take a holiday often keep in touch with their offices and would not dream of turning off the phone.
This is hardly likely to please your family or whomever you are holidaying with, but have you thought about the damage it may be doing to you and your business?
 

Why you should consider turning off your phone on holiday

The most obvious reason is that you need time to relax and recharge your mental batteries. You are hardly likely to be able to do this if you are constantly attuned to the possibility that you need to be available to answer questions by phone or email.
Many business owners also suffer from a need to be constantly in control of every aspect of their operation and find it hard to delegate to others in their organisation. This means that too many are working in their business rather than on it and may be missing out on opportunities and ideas for growing and developing the business.
This focus on maintenance instead of strategy can lead to stagnation instead of growth.
This relates to the main reason why you should consider turning off your phone. You can relax properly. An uncluttered brain thinks subconsciously and can bring a perspective to problems. It affords you the time to reflect and through the process of reflecting on past successes and failures you come up with new ideas for the future.
You really ought to have the systems in place and sufficient back up to allow yourself to switch your phone off without anxiety. You should be able to reassure yourself that the business will continue without you, albeit only for a few weeks.
If however it really is impossible to be completely cut off from your business while on holiday, there are several things you can do to better manage that contact and carve out time to relax, refresh and reflect.
You can engage a call handling service that you can brief properly so that they can handle your calls in a way that only critical ones are passed on. Another option is for you to receive a daily report with details of anything that needs your urgent attention. You might schedule a daily 15-30 minute time slot to deal with anything that emerges knowing you can switch you phone off outside here calls.
If using a virtual assistant/ call handling service is not right for your circumstances you can identify someone to whom you can delegate to operate a similar system.  It may be that this will also help to identify areas that can be perfectly well handled by another member of your team in the longer term and free you from the need to control everything as well as from the fear of letting go of at least some control.
If you are planning a holiday and are willing to risk turning off your phone for most of the time it is wise to make some simple preparations such as informing all clients that you will be away and giving them the name of a person to contact with anything urgent in your absence. You will also need to explain to that person what they need to know about any current issues clients are facing.
Consider such preparations as business continuity planning just in case you need to take time off. What happens if you are ill?
If you really want to, you can resolve to take your break and relax reassured that it will be in the best interests of your business to do so.

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Business Development & Marketing General

Leaders with self-awareness are more effective

great leaders Nelson MandelaAnalyses of the characteristics of a good business leader have tended to focus on qualities like toughness, determination, intelligence and vision.
However, there has been a growing body of thought, first pioneered by American psychologist and author Daniel Coleman in 1995, that the truly great business leader is one who also possesses emotional intelligence.
Emotional intelligence is a combination of empathy, social skill, self-awareness and self-discipline, the so-called soft skills that distinguish the most effective business leaders from the merely good.
It should be no surprise that the business leader with self-awareness is the one most people would like to work for and the one who is generally the most productive. It is obvious that people will go further and work harder for someone who, they feel, listens to them, respects them and shows that their contributions are valued.

Developing self-awareness requires honesty

Using a SWOT analysis of yourself can be helpful as a way to identify which soft skills you have and which may be lacking or need more work.
While you may find that one of your strengths is to be a good communicator, for example, and therefore able to get your message across, are you also a good listener?  This could be a weakness that might need further developing.
How about your ability to negotiate? Managing conflict and producing a successful resolution is a key skill for effective leadership.
It may be that some of your behaviour goes back to incidents or past experiences, even from childhood, that have resulted in self-protective behaviours that you may not even be aware of. It can be useful to think over significant incidents in the context of the SWOT analysis and see whether they represent weaknesses or threats to you that have resulted in blind spots or destructive emotions.
While some of this analysis may be painful, and all of it requires you to be honest with yourself, once you have identified your weaknesses and threats, practise will help you to develop those areas where you feel you are lacking.
If you want to be a truly effective leader cultivating, refining and developing your self-awareness to improve your communication, management and motivational skills will be time well spent.
Remember, she, or he, who shouts loudest or is the most ruthless doesn’t ultimately get the best results.