Leadership – the buck stops with you

Effective leadership will take many forms – but at its core, it necessarily includes the ability to:

  • Articulate a vision and overarching strategy
  • Establish guiding principles
  • Achieve commitment to goals, plans and actions from beginning to end – with good governance enshrined
  • Make decisions quickly, efficiently and effectively
  • Earn the trust of your people, include them in the process, treat them fairly, keep them informed and accountable
  • Engage people, to positively influence by effective, appropriate and courageous communications
  • Keep the organisation focussed on the positive outcomes
  • Display clearly your own brand of charisma or ‘presence’
  • And above all else, when you look in the mirror each morning, remind yourself the buck stops with you – holding yourself accountable, personally and professionally, as leader for not only your career, but your organisation

Therefore a definition of Leadership – “To maximise the expectations, the positive hope of the outcomes that come from change – while minimising the fear of change for those involved.”

Why are Australian Companies not investing in their People?

One of the most compelling experiences we are confronted with as members of an Executive and Business Mentoring firm is that companies, generally speaking do not see the need to invest in the leadership and professional development of their people. Why you may ask?

Quite simply this is regarded in C-suite as a cost.

We put it to you in one simple assertion – it is an investment in your organisation’s prosperity into the future – through your people.

We all recognise that in recent times, general business confidence is down – hence numerous developmental programs, to put it bluntly, have been ‘axed’ or indefinitely postponed. We hear it – day in, day out.

So please consider the following.

At a time when companies are looking for every source of competitive advantage, the workforce itself represents the largest reservoir of untapped potential. Roughly speaking, 25% are engaged, 25% are actively disengaged and the other 50% are just doing enough to keep out of trouble. This is costing Australian industry over $30 billion per annum off the bottom line.

So what actions need to be taken to ensure employees are highly engaged? Here are what we believe to be the critical factors Read the rest of this entry »

Retaining Top Talent – an Imperative

“The Renewed Challenge that really should never have gone away”

There is little doubt that financing was a key area for organisational competitive advantage before the global financial crisis (GFC). For directors, the challenges now appear to be around the management of human capital and the fight for talent in organisations. As directors become more in tune with this, it is inevitable that boards will seek human resource information with the same degree of integrity as that expected of financial information. Systems and processes will become vital in establishing data that enables boards to proactively manage human capital – real people!

The US experience after 9/11 and after the GFC-driven downturn provides the “canary” for Australian directors. The thought of a W-shaped global growth pattern and the emergence of potential downturns in Australia only heighten the need for directors to become focussed on retaining top talent.

Recent reports have indicated that nearly 50% of US workers are dissatisfied with their jobs. While the largest group of unhappy workers seems to be the under-25 “Generation Me” crowd, the sheer number of unhappy employees is quite troubling. Amid the signs of improving labour markets and employment rates, this news should be downright disturbing to business owners, directors and managers. Now is the time to prepare to help prevent the loss of talented people who may “jump ship” when the opportunity is right – for them.

Studies have shown that only companies that change their management approach survive for more than 18 months post recession. If you want your company to survive the recovery, it must embrace change and find new approaches that reflect the new business and cultural environment.

As it relates to HR, there are few new approaches to measuring business performance and employee engagement. Read the rest of this entry »

Article from news.com.au – 12 ways to stop procrastinating right now

“WITH Facebook, email and Tweets it has never been harder to get things done, but if you are a procrastinating executive you could be standing in the way of progress for your entire organisation. “There seems to be an addiction to emails and social media,” says business and executive mentor Paul Smith from Carnegie Management Group. “And that can mean key decisions aren’t being made or communicated to teams.”

Read the full article on The Australian website: 12 ways to stop procrastinating right now

Read the full article on The Daily Telegraph website: 12 ways to stop procrastinating right now

Read more of this topic in my article Battling your online addiction

Battling your online addiction

How much time do you spend each day responding to email, checking Facebook, sending and reading Tweets, aimlessly surfing your favourite websites and buying things you don’t need? How much time, in other words, do you spend doing stuff online that doesn’t add much value in your life, or in anyone else’s?

Too much, I’m going to guess. Read the rest of this entry »

Leadership into the future

It is often stated – and very true – that before you can lead anyone, you must be able to lead yourself.

To know:

  • Where you are heading
  • Why you are heading in that direction
  • How to get there
  • And finally, being able to fully realise the exceptional outcomes

Therefore having a title won’t make you a leader. Everyone has the opportunity to be a leader if they positively influence others. People of influence who multiply their effectiveness don’t rely on “positional power” but on “personal power.” While the position or title they have gives them authority, it is qualities such as integrity, trust, faith in people, the ability to actively listen and respond appropriately, to empower and understand people that sets them apart.

And most importantly of all – communicate effectively with clear purpose. Read the rest of this entry »

Executive Mentoring & Coaching – Facts and Myths – Part 2

Do you need an Executive Coach or Mentor? Do your managers? Here is a useful framework for thinking about the role of 3rd party guidance.

What Can an Executive Mentor Do for Me?

Is Executive Coaching and Mentoring in Australian companies destined to play a role occupied by psychoanalysis in some movie: a virtual prerequisite for anyone who aspires to be anyone?

It might seem that way at some organizations, at least to the untrained eye. IBM has more than sixty certified mentors (they call them coaches) among its ranks. Scores of other major companies have made coaching, indeed mentoring, a core part of executive development. The belief is that, under the right circumstances, one-on-one interaction with an objective third party can provide a focus that other forms of organizational support simply cannot. Read the rest of this entry »

A Mentor can give you the Edge

It can be tough and lonely at the top, so it pays to have an experienced person to point the way

When Peter James moved from London to Australia, he was surprised at the huge difference between the business environments in the two countries.

James, chief executive of a large professional Industry body, said: “You would think that moving from the UK to Australia would be pretty similar, with the English language, English legal system and so on in common. However, there is a fundamentally different approach here and I needed advice to help me cope.”

In the southern hemisphere decisions were made much more quickly, he said. “In Australia, if you have 80% of the facts you will take the risk and move forward. In the UK there’s more a tendency to keep talking through the issue to get more than 90% or 100%. I was not prepared to push on much faster.

“By moving halfway round the world my old network of support was no longer as valuable because they didn’t understand the new situation. I needed someone I could talk to who understood what was happening in Australia.”

“When you take on a chief executive’s role, people think it’s plain sailing. But many chief executives will talk about the loneliness at the top. There’s a lot of isolation because you have to make the tough decisions alone. You need a sounding board, preferably an experienced one, to help with the many challenging decisions facing you.”

James’ instinct was to find a mentor who could help him manage this change. He got a couple of introductions and spoke to two or three people on the telephone, looking for someone who would not only suit his personality but also provide a confidential sounding board based on his broader business experience.

He said: “It was important to have someone who could understand what was happening in Australia as well as understand me. It had to be someone who was simpatico, someone you could treat as a friend. Picking someone who was a mismatch or with whom you had a prickly relationship wouldn’t help.”

James said that such a relationship would mean a commitment of at least 12 months. And if your role involved implementing substantial change it would probably have to continue for three years or so.

“The time to curtail it is when the mentor says we are beginning to go over old ground and you realize you’re coping,” he said. “A mentoring relationship is enormously helpful because you can focus on all the challenges facing you.”

For example, the mentor would help you get your work-life balance right and ask what you are doing to stay fresh and receptive to new ideas.

People in senior management roles were not invulnerable, James said. “We all need support and help.”

But mentoring should not be seen as something just for chief executives. It is perfectly valid further down the tree, particularly if you have a major change process in hand.

James’ choice eventually fell on a specialist in mentoring chief executives from the Melbourne based Carnegie Management Group. “Geographical location of the mentor was not the issue for me,” he said. “Finding the right person was!”

Paul Smith, Carnegie Management Group’s founder, believes a gap is opening in the ranks of senior management as age catches up with them.

“As more and more people retire, the problem is accentuated by the inexperience of their successors,” he said. “The average chief executive now is 15 years younger than he would have been in the same job 20 years ago. They simply don’t have the miles on the clock.”

Smith believes these executives with limited experience will suffer. “It will be what you don’t know about that will derail you, never what you know about. But a mentor is a great way to reduce the risk.

Having a mentor who can look round the corner and see the risk because he has been there before is a great help. If you work with a mentor who has no axe to grind and no hidden agenda, it’s much safer.”

Research from CMG clients shows 77% of them felt their business model would not stand up to future challenges in the markets they served.

When a group of chief executives was polled about issues that kept them awake at night, they came up with three in particular. The first was that they blamed themselves for a failure to execute strategy they had formulated – somehow the brilliance in the boardroom got lost on the way to the outside world. The second was how to deal in the international village that the world has become. And third was how do you recruit and hold talent.

Get these right and you might not even need a mentor.

The Executive Mentor – an Interview conducted in 2011

“In the space of a fortnight, six different people told Paul Smith they were having a horrible time in their executive jobs. One told him that he wanted to resign forthwith. Another confessed to just having endured the worst month of his business life. A prominent Family Business owner said: “I just want to give up and sell up – it’s all too hard.”

These were not Paul’s employees, bosses or friends. They included corporate or government leaders, business owners and executives who engage him as a business mentor (and coach) and who felt free in a one-to-one setting, to confess how they were really feeling about their jobs. Big pay packets and titles are no buffer to human needs and emotions. Read the rest of this entry »

The boat is already rocking

The GFC and subsequent ongoing financial and economic volatility caused people to focus on what they had to lose, rather than what they had to gain. But without some risk-taking, there is no innovation or growth for you – or your company. To help others embrace risk, pitch ideas in their terms. Show them the horrible mistakes or pitfalls they’ll avoid by seizing your forward-thinking ideas. Position it not as getting out in front, but as not being left behind. People nowadays won’t rock the boat unless you show them it’s going to rock anyway.

Read the rest of this entry »