The secret to having it all in business

What would you include on a wish list of business success?

  • Profitability and shareholder returns
  • Commercially reliable and sustainable
  • Successful innovation and change
  • Environmentally and socially positive
  • Regulatory compliance and safe
  • Forward looking with outstanding leadership
  • Collaborative teams and colleagues
  • Great employer reputation
  • Inspiring working environment
  • Purposeful and rewarding place to work

My experience is that very few businesses have been through this exercise, very few businesses have really articulated what success looks like, much beyond short term profitability and share price growth.

This is a problem because, the single minded pursuit of short term gain, creates medium and long term risks.

Risks such as: reduced reliability of operations, lack of adaptability, externalisation of costs to society or the environment, regulatory and HSE corner cutting, suboptimal leadership and culture.  All of these are risks because failure to put sufficient focus on them will lead to failure.

These risks are not just risks for the businesses, but they are risks for all stakeholders, including society at large and capitalism as a whole.  If businesses cannot be successful without compromising the future of society, ultimately it raises questions about capitalism as a model.

Balancing long and short term is a challenge and a discipline, but many of us do master it when we train for sports or learn a language or musical instrument.

The big question is, how do we apply this discipline to business?

How do we create businesses that deliver sustained success, for all of their stakeholders from employees to society?  More particularly, how do we create this in shareholder owned businesses?

At Holos we have been working on this question for years, while at the same time studying business from very close up indeed, as we run leadership and team development sessions for some of the largest businesses in the world.  We have been able to observe similarities and themes that lead to success, and those that lead to failure.  These ideas have been formed not through academic research or theory, but in the crucible of reality.

We have developed a narrative we call the Positive Spiral of Performance.  If as a business you can get the things at the bottom of the spiral right, the outcomes will include all of the items on our success check list.  And more particularly, for businesses under pressure from shareholders, the profitability and growth will exceed that which could be achieved by more conventional means.

This is the secret that enables some businesses to profit and grow for years on end.

The first items at the bottom of the spiral are “forward looking and outstanding leadership” and “effective intentional culture”.

Whatever performance an organisation achieves it is achieved through the agency of the culture.  It is the people and their habits of interaction that will differentiate between safe and risky, innovation and stasis, growth and decline, profitability and loss.  People who are excited, focussed, collaborative and open will be more productive and reliable than those who are not.

Culture happens.  Put any group of people together for a period of time and we will form a culture.  That culture will be disproportionally defined by the dominant individuals in the group – the leaders.  Whether that culture is appropriate for the kind of performance your business needs or not will depend on whether that culture is accidental or intentional.

An intentional culture is one that has been deliberately created and curated to achieve the purpose to which the organisation is dedicated and whose leaders are specifically tasked with and skilled at leading culture in order to deliver performance, rather than leading performance directly.  The culture of an organisation is articulated through the values and behaviours, or code, that it both lives and aspires to maintain.  An example of a really detailed intentional culture “code” is the Netflix culture deck .

At this point it is also worth making clear the distinction between management and leadership.   Fundamentally the difference is change.  Leaders have the ability to get individuals and cultures to change.  Change the way they think, behave and interact.  Managers on the other hand work with what they have to get as close to the required results as they can. Both are important in business and both are roles that each of us individually can play.

Leadership is also a choice, you cannot be appointed to leadership, you have to choose to take on the challenge, you have to study it and practice it to become good.  Leadership is also non hierarchical, you can lead anyone in any direction in a system, however you can only lead if you can get people to follow.

Which brings us to another of the the foundations of our spiral of performance, “Purposeful and rewarding place to work”.  For an organisation to enjoy the benefits of the spiral it must have a purpose and that purpose must offer some external social or environmental benefit.  This idea of “purpose beyond profit” is not some hippy idealism, it is the clear foundation of high performance organisations.

The biggest reason why “purpose beyond profit” matters is trust.  As Steven Covey puts it – high trust organisations enjoy a “Trust Dividend” where low trust organisations pay a “Trust Tax” (see section titled “organisational trust”).  In low trust environments, everything takes longer and is diminished.  In high trust environments performance increases.

If we put purpose into the trust equation we can see why it makes such a big difference.

For a business where the purpose is short term profit only:

Trust = reliability+competence+intimacy ÷ self orientation

For a business that has a purpose with social or environmental benefits:

Trust = reliability+competence+intimacy x other orientation

Purpose is the compelling and inspiring “Why” the businesses exists and as Simon Sinek says – successful businesses start with Why.  A purpose beyond profit is the social or environmental challenge that the business exists to solve.

For this to work the purpose must also be sincere and fully integrated into the business.  This means it must also be measured and a key part of the reward system.

I remember being in a meeting with a senior executive of a drinks company, which had a stated purpose of “helping people celebrate life every day.”  He was introducing us to the business and had given all sorts of financial and distribution figures for the European business.  At the end I referenced the purpose and asked him how many celebrations of life they had helped to create over the same period, he said he didn’t understand the question.

Purpose alone is not enough, sustainably successful organisations will also have an inspiring vision and a clearly stated mission as well.  These terms “purpose, vision and mission” are often used interchangeably, but they have important, separate and distinct meanings and we need to have all three, to give an organisation a “cause”.

A vision is a picture of the ideal destination for the organisation.  Critically a vision is not bounded by what we believe to be possible – it is just the place we want to get to.  It is the tangible effect of delivering on our purpose.

A mission is the financial, physical and human resources that the organisation will need to have or to acquire in order to achieve the vision and deliver on the purpose.  The mission might well include quantification of scale, revenue or profitability.

According to Elon Musk at the launch of the Tesla Model 3 recently the purpose of Tesla Motors is: “To accelerate the transition to sustainable transport”.  This statement includes both vision (sustainable transport) and purpose (to accelerate the transition to…) it is easy to see that Tesla will need a certain level of scale and financial success in order to achieve these things – this is the “mission” part of their “cause”.

This “cause” is inspiring enough to engage employees to incredible creativity and dedication and to persuade hundreds of thousands of people to place deposits for a car they probably won’t see for two years.   It is also enough to persuade investors that a car company that has only just sold over 50,000 cars in total, has such a bright future that it should have a market capitalisation of about half that of Ford or GM – both of which sell that many cars in a couple of days.

If we put all of this together the secret to having it all in business is:

  • A strong “cause” – purpose beyond profit, vision and mission.
  • An intentional culture explicitly defined by a “code” – values and behaviour.
  • The leadership and processes to make it happen reliably and consistently.

The “how” for all of this is contained in the Holos “Sustained Success Matrix”  which helps organisations understand where they are culturally in order to understand what they need to be focussing on in order to get from where they are to a place of sustained success.  You can see more on sustained success in this blog post.

At Holos we have been studying change leadership and leadership training in the crucible of reality for years. We know what great leadership looks like and we know the journey to achieve it. We have developed a suite of diagnostic tools to understand where companies and teams are on this journey and how to take them from there to sustained success.

Holos has a wealth of specialist leadership and culture coaches and consultants with decades of experience working with a huge variety of leaders. Holos can help you or your organisation to upgrade it’s leadership to flourish even in a challenging business environment.

Please share your ideas, comment and discuss here – click on the blog title and scroll to the bottom to find the comment box.

You can subscribe for free at http://www.neilcrofts.com

neil

Neil Crofts
Co-Founder
Holos

+447803 774239
neil@holoschange.com
http://www.holoschange.com

 

 

Posted in Business, Leadership, society | Leave a comment

Authenticity, Trust and reliability in business

Last week I spoke at a conference in Stockholm titled “Corporate Reliability – who can you trust?  The topic ties in very well with the the Holos four steps to Sustained Success and our Swedish partner Time to Performance’s work on Corporate Reliability, which was the inspiration for the conference topic.

The four stages to Sustained Success are:

1- is Fix – for organisations that are in stress after some sort of crisis
2 – is Reliability – creating a culture of reliability which can increase available leadership bandwidth
3 – is Ensurance – understanding and managing cultural and systemic risk
4 – is Adaptability – where organisations are ready to take on the megatrends and create an innovation culture

We find that most  clients are keen to get to “Adaptability” and Sustained Success –  an organisational system and culture that enables reliable and safe day to day running while at the same time embodying the adaptability and innovation to keep moving forwards.

However there is no direct route from Stage 1 “Fix” or  Stage 2 “Reliability” to Stage 4 “Adaptability”.  Organisations have to gradually build up, increasing leadership bandwidth and capability and cultural agility, before reaching stage 4 “Adaptability”.

Stage 2 Reliability is the critical foundational layer of Sustained Success and the topic of the talk last week.

We start with a question: At what point do we consider “others” and “ourselves” to be late for a meeting?  Asking the audience to raise their hands for 1, 5 and 10 minutes.  For “others” the majority choose 5 minutes, while for “themselves” they chose 1 minute, about 25% went for each of the other options for both questions.

So our first observation is that we calibrate reliability differently.

Another calibration is in communication and particularly the difference between “promises”and “aspirations”.  If we agree a meeting time and I hear it as a promise, but you mean it as an aspiration, there is a high probability of disappointment.  If a company makes a statement without being clear (internally or externally) about which it is the effect is the same.

If increasing “Trust” is part of the reason why we want to improve reliability then we also need to understand reliability in the context of trust.  The “Trust Equation” is helpful for this:  Trust = reliability + competence + intimacy divided by self orientation.

On this basis reliability alone is not sufficient to create and build trust, we also need relevant competence and sufficient knowledge of each other.  Perhaps the biggest element of all is Self Orientation.  For us as individuals, this is perhaps less of an issue, but for corporations seeking to build or rebuild trust it can be more challenging.

For this reason corporations whose “cause” (purpose and vision) and culture are directed towards shareholder value or profitability are Self Orientated at a fundamental level and will always find it difficult to build trust with customers and even staff.   Trust will always be easier when “other” orientation is embedded at a cultural level and when profit and shareholder value are allowed to be an outcome of the successful pursuit of that “other” orientation.

Reliability itself is made up of a set of components – Reliability is defined by the difference between what we say and what we do and also the difference between what we actually do and what we say about what we do – The authenticity gap.

For organisations to be reliable there has to be close cooperation between the communication functions, like sales and marketing, and the production and fulfilment functions, such as factories, call centres and shipping.  Historically  over-promising has been part of inter-company competition, often with insufficient commitment do delivery.

Take the story of the Amagasaki train crash in 2005.  Competition between train operators lead to highly ambitions time tabling of commuter trains with strong incentives for punctuality.  A driver trying to make up 30 seconds, arrived too fast at a station and overshot the platform, meaning he had to back up and costing him another 60 seconds.  Now 90 seconds late, he took a corner too fast, the train derailed and hit a building.  162 people died.

With the equipment available the timetable was aspirational and the accident was the consequence of communicating it as a promise.  In order to make that promise the railway would have had to invest in faster trains, better track or other infrastructure that could have made that timetable safe.

In the digital age with tools like TripAdvisor available, companies have to be all the more careful about the promises they make and the tensions between what they say and what they do.  Today we have to assume that transparency is inevitable and design our organisations, incentives and cultures accordingly.

Holos and Time to Performance have developed robust tools and processes to improve promise adherence in organisations.  Promise adherence and reliability start with leadership and also start internally.  A culture that cannot be punctual to meetings or deliver on agreed actions from meetings will find it extremely difficult to deliver on promises to customers or shareholders.

The other key dynamic is to calibrate promises, identify the priority promises we are going to invest in keeping and then make plans, processes and responsible incentives to encourage promise adherence in the organisation.

At Holos we have been studying change leadership and leadership training in the crucible of reality for years. We know what great leadership looks like and we know the journey to achieve it. We have developed a suite of diagnostic tools to understand where companies and teams are on this journey and how to take them from there to sustained success.

Holos has a wealth of specialist leadership and culture coaches and consultants with decades of experience working with a huge variety of leaders. Holos can help you or your organisation to upgrade it’s leadership to flourish even in a challenging business environment.

Please share your ideas, comment and discuss here – click on the blog title and scroll to the bottom to find the comment box.

You can subscribe for free at http://www.neilcrofts.com

neil

Neil Crofts
Co-Founder
Holos

+447803 774239
neil@holoschange.com
http://www.holoschange.com

 

 

 

 

Posted in authenticity, Leadership, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Why do people follow Trump?

It is an almost binary divide, on the one hand the loyal, even fanatical followers on the other a mystified and increasingly concerned rest of society. Of course it is not just Trump, there have been many examples of popular demagogues throughout history.

What is so puzzling, to the concerned opposers, is why would anyone follow someone who is so obviously self-serving and so clearly harmful to others.

Many people have attempted to answer this question and particularly as the Trump campaign has gathered pace. So it is with some trepidation that I add to that canon, but I do think there could be another dimension to this.

Adulthood is challenging and often confusing, the simple answers and apparent certainties are gone. As adults we have to navigate the complexities of the world. As children most of us are insulated from these complexities by our parents. Ambiguities are hidden from us or broken down into simplistic choices and certainties.

So it is understandable that there is a childish part of all of us that is attracted to simple certainties and simplistic apparent solutions to complexities we would rather not face. We want a parent to take these unpleasantnesses away for us, make things better, tell us it is all someone else fault and that everything will be alright.

This is the appeal of the simplistic end of the mainstream media. This is the appeal of the politics of blame and finger pointing. And this is the vulnerability that demagogues tap into, they tap into our inner child and exploit it ruthlessly for their own purposes.

Our individual challenge is to realise that life is full of complexity and to be wary of anyone peddling simple solutions to anything. We have to be willing to grow up and think through things for ourselves, willing to engage our system 2 brain, look at the evidence, debate and work out our own point of view.

In my previous blog I described four different types of leader – the Manager, the Authentic, the Boss and the Ruler. As my business partner, Mark Thompson, pointed out, I missed one out, the Visionary. Like Rulers, Visionaries are relatively rare. Visionaries see themselves in service of a bigger picture, responsible for and driven by some significant cause. Visionaries are uncompromisingly authentic and as a result may have less patience with those who are not as committed to the vision. They will blend their styles in service to the cause, but like authentics they create a culture which empowers others in a meritocratic way because they see the benefits in attracting support as opposed to control. Visionaries recognise the need for power in order make effective change, and will use it, although they tend to use their power with others rather than over them. Visionaries transform whole systems including societies.

It is “Rulers” (like Trump) and “Visionaries” who are most likely to take advantage of our need for simple solutions. Trump with his wall on the one hand and Musk with his cars and batteries on the other. The difference is in the consequences; Rulers largely steal from the future, where Visionaries largely enrich the future.

So how do we, who create leaders by our choices in who we follow, ensure that we choose Visionaries more often and Rulers less often? How do we overcome our anxious inner child and face up to the realties of life’s complexity rather than hiding from them behind the next convenient demagogue?

1 – Don’t be bought off with sweeties – like parents Rulers know that many of us can be “bought” with treats or the promise of treats. We need to realise that the price of these treats can be very high, perhaps not for us, but for someone.

2 – Look for compassion – Typically the someone paying the price for our treats will be an “out group” or a group with little political clout, like workers, migrants or our children. Scrutinise leadership candidates for signs of compassion, if there are none, be wary.

3 – Standing for something – Authentic leaders and Visionaries have a long and usually outspoken track record of things they stand for (or against), Rulers are much more opportunistic and are likely to either be equivocal or even contradictory.

At Holos we have developed a Leadership assessment tool that can be used for coaching, in a 360, for learning needs analysis and to evaluate candidates for promotion. This tool can help individuals how to become great leaders or organisations understand who will make great leaders.

At Holos we have been studying change leadership and leadership training in the crucible of reality for years. We know what great leadership looks like and we know the journey to achieve it. We have developed a suite of diagnostic tools to understand where companies and teams are on this journey and how to take them from there to sustained success.

Holos has a wealth of specialist leadership and culture coaches and consultants with decades of experience working with a huge variety of leaders. Holos can help you or your organisation to upgrade it’s leadership to flourish even in a challenging business environment.

Please share your ideas, comment and discuss here – click on the blog title and scroll to the bottom to find the comment box.

You can subscribe for free at http://www.neilcrofts.com

neil

Neil Crofts
Co-Founder
Holos

+447803 774239
neil@holoschange.com
http://www.holoschange.com

Posted in authenticity, Business, Leadership | 1 Comment

What is your leadership style?

We are all aware from our own experiences of teachers, line managers, politicians and fiction that there are different kinds of “leader”.  Leaders have a big impact on our lives, therefore the quality of those leaders is extremely important.

However, lets not forget that it is followers that make leaders, if no one follows they remain a lone voice.  We create leaders because we need them.  It is important that someone takes responsibility.  By choosing to follow those with the best qualities (and not following those with the worst) we affect the way our organisations and our society are run.

The descriptions below might apply to anyone in any position in any organisation, attitude is not hierarchical, it is when these attitudes are combined with positions of authority or responsibility that they have an impact on others and organisations.

Ruler – Rulers are relatively rare.  We may never meet one personally, but we are likely to be impacted by them anyway.  Rulers believe that they have a right to positions of authority and that those positions exist largely to serve their ambition.  In making decisions Rulers will have their own personal agenda as a key criteria that must be met in order for an option to be acceptable.  These behaviours are so deeply ingrained that the Ruler will not really be aware that they are making a choice to prioritise this way, they will see it as their natural prerogative and as a trade off for their contribution.  Rulers see lives defined by right and those with a lesser right exist to serve them.  Rulers can be very effective at getting things done and can lead organisations to significant success.  Their downside is that Rulers are unlikely to count the human cost or the cost to the future, consequently their success is often temporary, with a substantial cost having to be paid at some point, if they are lucky it will be after their tenure.

Boss – Bosses are common and we will all have come across them.  Bosses will have climbed up through the ranks and worked hard at doing the bidding of their bosses to get where they are.  They didn’t get to their position by right, but by obedient grafting and political savvy.  Having got there Bosses can be insecure, vulnerable to imposter syndrome and both needing of reassurance (from a higher boss) or cautious about taking risks.  Like Rulers their own agenda will feature strongly in their decision making criteria.  Bosses see life as a competitive game, Rulers were ahead from the start and are to be respected for that and the possibility that they might be the route to advancement for Bosses.  In his book “On the psychology of military incompetence”  Norman F Dixon describes a time when Bosses were the norm in the military, his conclusion is that if you promote for obedience, the risk is you get Bosses who lack the ability to think for themselves and that is never good at the top of an organisation.

Authentic – Authentics are less common than Bosses, and more common than Rulers.  Authentics will often be under appreciated  and in more hierarchical/political organisations are quite likely to be regarded as weak and ineffective compared to Rulers and Bosses.  Their free thinking inventiveness can also be perceived as risky and or threatening to the same people.   Those they are responsible for, however, will love them and this can also make them look like a threat to Bosses in particular. Their need to enrol and include everyone before starting a change project can look slow to Rulers and Bosses used to issuing orders, but is more effective in the long term.  Authentics are confident and secure in their own identity and they enable and empower those around them.  Authentics see themselves in service to their team and to the organisation as a whole.  Authentics see life as a journey of learning and development, both for themselves and for others, they see teaching and enabling others as a responsibility.  For more on Authentic Leadership see this post.

Manager –  Managers have usually been promoted because of their technical competence in some area, but lack the training (or the self driven learning) so far, to become Authentic Leaders.  They are confident in their technical strength and can play to that if allowed, but lack confidence in more strategic matters and will defer hierarchically.  The direction managers take may depend on their role model, a Boss might turn them into a Boss or convince them to remain a manager, an Authentic would help them grow either into an Authentic Leader themselves or as a confident technical contributor.  Managers will often want to do the best for their people but will always be constrained or enabled by the nature of the hierarchy above them, who they are unlikely to challenge.  Managers typically manage established processes to deliver strategies determined by others and can be very effective at doing it.

In terms of leadership development , organisations that seek sustained success, will want to avoid promoting potential Rulers or Bosses without significant training.  Once in charge Rulers and bosses will shape a culture to their own ends rather than the greater purpose of the business.  At the same time they will make it more difficult for Authentics to shine and will steer ambitious Managers in the wrong direction.

Accurate evaluation of leadership potential at the time of promotion to first level leadership is critical.  Most organisations place the strongest emphasis on results as the key promotion criteria.  Results are important, of course, but not enough on their own.  As we have seen Rulers and Bosses can be very effective at getting results – but often at an unsustainable longer term cost.

We at Holos are working on a leadership evaluation tool that can identify leaders across these four types and the appropriate type of leadership development to get the best out of them,  We are looking for a small number of volunteers to take the evaluation and give feedback on it.  In return we will give you feedback on your leadership style and most effective development approach.  If you are interested in taking part please email me at neil@holoschange.com.

At Holos we have been studying leadership and leadership training in the crucible of reality for years. We know what great leadership looks like and we know the journey to achieve it.  We have developed a suite of diagnostic tools to understand where companies and teams are on this journey and how to take them from there to sustained success.

Holos has a wealth of specialist leadership and culture coaches and consultants with decades of experience working with a huge variety of leaders. Holos can help you or your organisation to upgrade it’s leadership to flourish even in a challenging business environment.

Please share your ideas, comment and discuss here – click on the blog title and scroll to the bottom to find the comment box.

You can subscribe for free at http://www.neilcrofts.com

neil

Neil Crofts
Co-Founder
Holos

+447803 774239
neil@holoschange.com
http://www.holoschange.com

 

Posted in authenticity, coaching and training, Leadership | 1 Comment

Master Authentic Leadership

Authentic Leadership is the practice of accomplishment through enablement.  It is distinct from the more familiar autocratic leadership which seeks aggrandisement through control.

Everyone can be an authentic leader and the first step is to make the choice and the decision to pursue authentic leadership.  Like a martial art, authentic leadership is both a lifelong study and an intentional way of life.  The choice to be an authentic leader is the choice to pursue its study and its practice.  To examine ones own thoughts, habits, actions and reactions and be willing to learn from them and adjust them.

Authentic leadership starts with the pursuit of personal authenticity.  Personal authenticity is about continually turning the very best of ourself into a full time habit.  It is absolutely not about giving way to ones basest desires.

To be the best of ourself we need to know ourself, so studying our own habits, thoughts, values, beliefs, motivations and purpose, understanding their origins and their value, their light and their shadow is the first stage of self study.

Wisdom is defined as putting knowledge into action.  So having studied and understood our helpful and unhelpful aspects, our skilful and unskilful behaviours we need to not only put them into action, but form them into habits that they are so ingrained, they are our default reactions, even under stress.

As Bruce Lee said – I fear not the man who has practiced 10,000 kicks once, but I fear the man who has practiced one kick 10,000 times.  We need to practice these intentions and behaviours over and over until they are ingrained.  If we have an intention to be supportive for example, we must focus on that one habit, until it is reliable.  Until we never miss an opportunity to be our best most supportive self.  Once we have mastered being supportive, we can move on to our next intention.

When I have set myself an intention to master, I place reminders in my way, like on the lock screen of my phone or on my computer so that I will see them frequently during the day and remember to practice them.

To be an authentic leader we not only need to master ourselves, we also need to master leadership.

Leadership is the ability to influence and enable others to effectively achieve an objective they may not otherwise have achieved.  Authentic leadership combines deep personal authenticity with the empowerment of authenticity in others through the pursuit of an objective.

Perhaps the key skill of leadership is influence.  Influence is the ability to help someone else change the course they are on.  As such influence is a great responsibility with huge ethical and moral consequences.  The aspiring authentic leader needs to also finely tune and calibrate their own moral/ethical compass.

In general and without re writing the book, ethical choices would prioritise as follows:

  • Global over local
  • Longer term over short term
  • Inclusion over exclusion
  • Transparency over secrecy
  • Others over self

Influence starts with trust, as much as is possible in a given circumstance as a leader we need those we seek to influence to trust us, either directly personally or by reputation. If we have been diligent in our pursuit of our own authenticity, there may not be very much extra work or learning involved in building trust.  What we must create in our teams or audience is a sense of psychological safety, they need to feel at ease with us as an individual and with any others who are present, such as team members or colleagues.

To be able to influence others we first need to understand them.  We need to know their motivations, concerns and priorities in order to frame our message in a way that connects with them.  This applies as much to groups as it does to individuals and usually requires us to listen first, to practice excellent listening and make it a habit.

Only when we have trust and understand our audience is it appropriate to share our message.  And by the time we get here our message needs to be so honed, so practiced and so clear in our own mind that we can adjust the language and emphasis to suit our audience.

Another key skill of the authentic leader is coaching, specifically the ability to help others to be true to themselves and also to achieve more than they realise they are capable of.  To do this the authentic leader will continually feed others with self knowledge and self belief.  Helping them understand and play to their strengths and holding them to the best of themselves, while moving away from their unskilful aspects.

A single blog (or book) cannot convey all of the subtle art of authentic leadership, perhaps it can help to distinguish it from other experiences of leadership we may have had and perhaps also it can encourage some to pursue it.

In these highly disrupted times (see Megatrends) – technologically, demographically, socially and politically the one thing we need above all else is exemplary and authentic leadership.  Authentic leadership is not only a smart career choice it is also the smart strategic choice for businesses and other organisations seeking sustained success through the disruption.

At Holos we have been studying change leadership and leadership training in the crucible of reality for years. We know what great leadership looks like and we know the journey to achieve it.  We have developed a suite of diagnostic tools to understand where companies and teams are on this journey and how to take them from there to sustained success.

Holos has a wealth of specialist leadership and culture coaches and consultants with decades of experience working with a huge variety of leaders. Holos can help you or your organisation to upgrade it’s leadership to flourish even in a challenging business environment.

Please share your ideas, comment and discuss here – click on the blog title and scroll to the bottom to find the comment box.

You can subscribe for free at http://www.neilcrofts.com

neil

Neil Crofts
Co-Founder
Holos

+447803 774239
neil@holoschange.com
http://www.holoschange.com

Posted in Leadership, personal development, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

What is leadership?

OK, I know this sounds like the most prosaic of questions, but it is also deeply misunderstood.  So, let’s try to clarify a little of what leadership is and what it is not.

1 – A leader must have followers

Without followers a leader is simply a lone voice.  As in the excellent Derek Sivers video, a leader nurtures followers, empowering and enabling them to be as effective in their own ways as they can be, in service of the agreed cause.

2 – Leadership is a choice not an appointment

Leadership is a big commitment, just being appointed to a leadership position is not enough.  To become a leader you have to make the choice to lead and you have to learn to lead yourself, before you can lead others.  For example a leader has the self discipline and the wisdom to make the right choices in the moment regardless of their own emotional state.

3 – Leadership is an art and a skill not a process

Any great leaders you have ever come across have worked at it.  They will have identified areas for self improvement and worked on them.  As Bruce Lee said “I fear not the man who has practiced 10,000 kicks once, but I fear the man who has practiced one kick 10,000 times.”  By practicing their actions and reactions leaders can free up mental bandwidth for other activities like reading people and situations better.

4 – Leaders enable people to do more than they knew they were capable of

Leaders want the most efficient and effective way to realise the cause.  They know that to find that reliably they need the maximum contribution and collaboration.  Leaders constantly coach, inspire and engage to bring out the best in everyone.

5 – Leadership is a service

A leaders first responsibility is to their followers, the organisation is served by the followers being at their best.  The individual leader benefits as a by product of the success of the team and the organisation.

6 – Leadership is change, change is leadership

Change is part of the distinction between managers and leaders.  Managers are looking for changes to process, leaders are looking for processes to change.  If leadership is happening then things are changing.

7 – Leaders lead culture not performance

Whatever results an organisation achieves – positive or negative, intended or unintended – are accomplished by through the culture.  It follows that to get the intended results an organisation must have an appropriate culture.  It is the role of leaders to create and curate the appropriate culture for the intended results.

And what it is not:

1 – Leadership is not about control, obedience or fear

Many of our role models of leadership, since school, have been “controllers”.  Controllers do not get the best out of people, they impose their own ideas of what is right on people and leave them feeling insecure.  No one performs at their best when feeling insecure.

2 – Leadership is not management

Words are important and these two words are often used interchangeably.  They mean quite different things and need to be used intentionally.  We are all likely to both lead and manage in different circumstances, we might do both in a single day.  In this context managing is about engaging people with tasks or processes and ensuring they are done effectively.   Leadership is about aligning people to change and helping them to go through it effectively.

3 – A leader does not have to be the author of the cause,  the code or the strategy

Many potential leaders get lost because they feel they need to know the answers to important questions like what cause are we hear to pursue, what code of behaviour do we need to follow and what is our strategy.  In truth the role of the leader is to ensure that those questions are answered satisfactorily and to be the most powerful embodiment of those answers, but the answers could come from the team, from other leaders or from the past.

4 – A leader does not prioritise conformity or harmony over effectiveness

Homogenous teams are able to become effective more quickly, but diverse teams are able to be more effective, precisely because they have a broader perspective.  The most effective teams marry psychological safety with diverse backgrounds and opinions and robust debate.  The most effective leaders are able to quickly harness diversity and creative tension into effectiveness.

5 – Leadership is not hierarchical

Another common misunderstanding is that leadership is hierarchical.  Leadership is an activity not a role and it can be practiced in any direction.  It is perfectly possible and often desirable to lead upwards and sideways, the same principles apply, although the approach may differ according to the audience.

6 – Leadership is not lonely it’s a team sport

Another common misunderstanding about leadership is “the loneliness of leadership”  I would go as far as to say, if it feels lonely you are doing it wrong.  Leadership is, by definition a team sport.  Yes, the responsibility ultimately lies with the leader and there will be conversations and decisions that the leader has to take, but a leader’s default should be to share with the team and they should always have support structures, coaches and mentors who can help in the situations where it is not appropriate to involve team members.

It is also worth bearing in mind that leaders are frequently considered to be disruptive in organisations – because they are.  If you are considered disruptive, it may be because you have leadership tendencies, your opportunity lies in investing in that potential, studying and practicing so that you can realise it.

From the other side, perhaps you have people in your organisation who are considered disruptive.  Perhaps now is the time to revaluate them and perhaps even invest in them as the future of your organisation.

At Holos we have been studying change leadership and leadership training in the crucible of reality for years. We know what great leadership looks like and we know the journey to achieve it.  We have developed a suite of diagnostic tools to understand where companies and teams are on this journey and how to take them from there to sustained success.

Holos has a wealth of specialist leadership and culture coaches and consultants with decades of experience working with a huge variety of leaders. Holos can help you or your organisation to upgrade it’s leadership to flourish even in a challenging business environment.

Please share your ideas, comment and discuss here – click on the blog title and scroll to the bottom to find the comment box.

You can subscribe for free at http://www.neilcrofts.com

neil

Neil Crofts
Co-Founder
Holos

+447803 774239
neil@holoschange.com
http://www.holoschange.com

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Google and how to create the perfect team

High performing teams (far more than high performing individuals) are the foundations of any organisational success.

Last week the New York Times ran a a fascinating article  about Google’s disciplined and evidence lead approach to understanding high performing teams.  Through it’s research Google identifies “Psychological Safety” as the key dynamic in the best teams.  They also identified that the key building blocks of psychological safety are that everyone feels their contributions are valued (evidenced by an equality in share of voice) and everyone feels cared for as an individual.

These findings echo Simon Sinek’s excellent book “Leaders eat last” and our own years experience at Holos, that people who feel safe and valued will collaborate and contribute far, far more than those who don’t.

What the article doesn’t say is how you get a team from a place of psychological insecurity to a place of safety.  This is something we at Holos have done many times, helping quite dysfunctional teams in hostile cultures to build trust and performance.

There are two key influences on the levels of safety in a team:

1 – The overall organisational culture

2 – The leadership of the team.

Depending on the size of the overall organisation, changing it’s culture may or may not been within the immediate scope of the team.  However any team that aspires to greatness has to acknowledge the environment they exist within, both in terms of behaviour and systems.  Creating a safe zone for the team may involve finding ways to protect the team from external politics or to mitigate the effects of unhelpful bureaucracy and systems.

Of course achieving this is likely to fall to the team leader, so once again the most critical dimension of team performance is leadership.

Just before we explore team leadership in more detail there are two aspects of leadership that need to be clarified.

1 – Management and leadership are not the same thing.  Both are behaviours and one person can do both.  Management is the discipline of getting a team to follow and refine processes to deliver defined outcomes in a continuous way.  Leadership is the art of getting a team to define new processes and outcomes and deliver them in a continuously adaptive way.

Many organisations that have enjoyed significant periods of high margin stability have a well developed capacity for management and a poorly developed capacity for leadership.  These organisations cannot just switch leadership on in times of change or disruption.  Leadership is a subtle art that needs to be learned, coached and practiced intensively in order to become good at it.

2 – In business few people are promoted to leadership positions because of their leadership skills.  On the whole leadership is so poorly understood that we make the assumption that people who are good at doing something, will also make good leaders.  When people are successful in their tasks, businesses feel they have to reward them, and in hierarchical systems, the most significant reward is promotion.

This approach could work, if those being promoted were given an intensive introduction to leadership (like two or three weeks away from the office being  trained, coached and practicing leadership, where they also have to make the “choice” to lead).  In most cases our newly minted “leaders” come into the office the next day with just a great deal more pressure and expectation on them.

So, given the often challenging cultural environments and poorly equipped “leaders” it is unsurprising that many teams end up underperforming and often quite unpleasant places to be.  It is no surprise that this will affect levels of engagement and performance and that if it goes on for any length of time it will lead to those with choice (the best ones) leaving.

These under prepared leaders will develop coping strategies to deal with the situation they find themselves in.  Over time we at Holos have seem many different coping strategies and they fall into a number of different categories.  I have identified six below and I am sure there are more (please add your thoughts in the comments).  Of course an individual might blend two or more of these categories. as well.

The Controller – The high achiever who has been successful through education and their early career is given a leadership role and they deploy the same disciplined approach to leadership that made them successful as an individual contributor.  A good controller will be able to continue to be successful with a small team, but at great personal cost, it takes a lot of energy to control everything.  Where they start to unravel is as their responsibilities get wider.  At some point trying to control everything is overwhelming.  Control also limits the overall potential of the team by limiting ideas and engagement of team members.

You can identify controllers by their need for things to be done in a particular way and their stress or discomfort with even quite minor deviance.  Also their need to control decision making and outcomes.

The Indulger – typically feels slightly guilty about their promotion and feels more at home as a team member than as the responsible individual.   They are a great team player and will typically prioritise team harmony over team performance, failing to call out underperformance or even poor behaviour.

You can identify indulgers by their habit of diving into the conversation in meetings and failing to take responsibility for reaching a decision or outcome, so that the conversation often circles around the problem without reaching any conclusion (possibly over multiple meetings).

The Cloner – seeks to overcome their insecurities by surrounding themselves with people they perceive to be similar to themselves.  They will recruit, retain and promote people with similar backgrounds and similar psychological profiles, usually without realising they are doing it.  This will create a very narrow team culture with little diversity of thought or approach, which in turn will limit creativity and problem solving ability.

You can identify cloners by the clique of similarity they form around themselves.  Typically they will have a team with quite clearly defined “in” and “out” groups.

The Subsidiser – Comes from a similar route to “The Controller”.  In this case instead of attempting to control the behaviour of the team as a way of delivering results they attempt to do it all themselves and fail to delegate meaningful tasks to their team.  The subsidiser may do this out of a need for personal glory, but more likely it is from a lack of skill at delegation or briefing, coupled with inflexible standards of delivery.

You can identify subsidisers by their excessive workload, hours and stress levels.  You  might also notice that their team is relatively underworked or is engaged in rather menial or insignificant tasks.

The Agent – finds the responsibility of leadership very hard and looks upwards for direction and reassurance.  The agent is very good at doing what they are told by their line manager and this can make them a popular promotion choice by more senior “Controllers”.

You can identify Agents by their unwillingness to take decisions or even come up with ideas without line input and approval.

The Outlier – is quite different from all of the above.  The Outlier might be a highly skilled and capable leader, but suffers “tissue rejection” from the culture they are within.  This may be because they bring challenging ideas or approaches that the rest of the organisation lacks the capacity to accept.  In this situation The Outlier can become isolated and respond badly to that isolation.  This might take many different forms for example: attention seeking, withdrawal, aggression or “empire building”.

You can identify The Outlier by their poor relationships with their peers and their frustrations with them.

In all of the above cases the first thing to realise is that these are systemic and cultural problem not an individual ones, in that the individual was promoted without adequate support.  In each case what the individual needs is the support, training  and coaching that they didn’t get in their transition to leadership.

They first need to accept the challenge of leadership and make the choice to lead and the lifelong commitment to learning, practice and self discovery that it involves.  Once the commitment is made the learning process can begin with alternate opportunities to learn leadership theory and to practice it.

At Holos we have been studying change leadership and leadership training in the crucible of reality for years. We know what great leadership looks like and we know the journey to achieve it.  We have developed a suite of diagnostic tools to understand where companies and teams are on this journey and how to take them from there to sustained success.

Holos has a wealth of specialist leadership and culture coaches and consultants with decades of experience working with a huge variety of leaders. Holos can help you or your organisation to upgrade it’s leadership to flourish even in a challenging business environment.

Please share your ideas, comment and discuss here – click on the blog title and scroll to the bottom to find the comment box.

You can subscribe for free at http://www.neilcrofts.com

neil

Neil Crofts
Co-Founder
Holos

+447803 774239
neil@holoschange.com
http://www.holoschange.com

 

 

Posted in Business, coaching and training, Leadership, Uncategorized | Leave a comment