How to unlock data in your business

Big data is currently a global industry worth an estimated $130.1 billion — and it’s expected to grow to more than $203 billion by 2020. Businesses in all industries have begun capturing and analysing large volumes of data to produce superior business outcomes, but not all businesses are using this data as effectively as they could. Businesses that aren’t utilising the data they have — or that aren’t capturing the data that they could — are missing out on a significant business advantage.

Develop a data strategy

Every business, regardless of size, should develop a data-driven IT strategy. When properly implemented, data strategies can help an organisation in everything from reducing employee absenteeism to improving upon worksite safety.

A complete data strategy should include how data will be obtained, analysed, and utilised — in addition to setting specific metrics that can be used to determine the success of the strategy.

IT strategies include exploring and identifying the technologies and platforms that are most useful to the business, in addition to creating a roadmap for the strategy into the near future. This strategy will grow and adapt with the business.

Though big data is most often associated with marketing and e-commerce, it has an incredible number of applications. Logistics, shipping, repairs and maintenance, and employee performance are all examples of business processes that can be analysed for improvements and inefficiencies.

There are numerous suites that are designed to collect and analyse data related to physical assets, shipping and fulfilment, and human resources tasks. These suites make it easier for an organisation to identify potential bottlenecks within their business processes and to resolve them.

Train employees to embrace big data

By providing the right software and training, your organisation can empower your employees to make faster, better decisions. Rather than getting bogged down in the heuristics of decision-making, employees can instead use advanced analytics and insights to explore issues and produce solutions.

But employees need the right tools in order to be able to make use of their data. They also need to select the right metrics to track and improve upon performance. A true understanding of data analysis is often needed in order to drill down to the most important points for an organisation.

By establishing a data-driven company culture and providing the appropriate training and tools, employers can foster a healthier relationship between employees and their data. Employees who are not resistant to change will often find that data analysis can greatly improve their results and simplify their own work, by automating tasks and providing for better overall business outcomes.

Track your data on a regular basis

A data strategy isn’t something that is created and then left to run its course. Instead, data strategies are living elements of a business, which must be continually tracked, checked, and optimised. Businesses need to be exceptionally conscientious of the data that they create; otherwise, it’s very easy for a business to fall into the trap of creating and storing endless volumes of unrelated or unimportant data.

Part of a data strategy should lie in setting up weekly or monthly reviews. These reviews should include metrics such as goals and key performance indicators, which will identify whether the business is currently improving and whether there are any newly evolved inefficiencies that need to be resolved. Without these metrics, it becomes impossible to tell whether a data strategy is truly working.

Helpful tools for collecting and managing data

Not every business has dedicated data scientists on their staff  ­— but they also don’t need to. Advanced tools have been developed that make it easier for businesses of all sizes to collect and manage their data. Modern data science is a far cry from prior years, in which data might include simply looking at monthly sales, inventory data, and income and expense reports. The data provided and analysed by modern business tools is extremely robust, often specialised, and invaluable. A few different types of tools include:

  • Business Intelligence (Microsoft Power BI, ClearStory, IBM Watson Analytics). Comprehensive Business Intelligence suites are designed to analyse a company’s core business processes, identifying inefficiencies at all levels of the company’s own internal operations.
  • Website Analytics (Google Analytics, Quantcast). Many businesses today rely upon their websites for customer service, outreach, and acquisition. Website analytics engines provide detailed information about website traffic, demographics, and user behaviour.
  • Customer Relationship Management (MailChimp, HubSpot­, Marketo, Salesforce, Zendesk). CRM suites are designed to foster customer relationships. It does this by tracking information related to the customer’s journey and reporting on the relationship the customer has with an organisation.
  • Data Sharing and Storage (Dropbox, Google Drive, Google Cloud). Data is useless if it cannot be stored or shared; these tools are designed to keep data in a centralised repository through which it can be accessed.
  • Trend Identification (Buzzsumo, Google Trends). Businesses need to be up-to-date on current trends if they are to reach out to certain marketing demographics. These analytics engines provide information about what’s currently trending, usually through the internet and news.
  • Inventory Management (TradeGecko). Logistics, shipping, supply, and demand can all be greatly simplified through inventory management suites, which can analyse a company’s inventory to determine the best products to stock.

There are additionally more specialised tools, such as Klipboard (which manages employees out in the field), Maptive (which transforms raw, location-based data), and Tranzlogic (which provides credit card data analysis for merchants of all types).

Using data to drive business growth

There is no one-size-fits-all data strategy. Business data comes in all shapes and sizes, purely dependent on the metrics that an organisation wants to track and its goals for improvement. Regardless, data is an incredibly important driver for business growth today — it is absolutely essential for businesses that wish to retain a competitive edge and improve upon their operations. Businesses today have more choices than ever for analytics and data-related tools, and they need to get started now if they don’t want to be left behind.

TEC provides resources for organisations that are moving into the modern era and taking advantage of the new technology available to them. If you are interested in learning more about the benefits that technology can provide, you may want to discuss analytics and data with other like-minded individuals. Contact TEC­­­ today to find out more about how the world of big data is changing and how your business can begin to change with it.

Posted in TEC

How to build a foundation for exponential business growth

Growth is a balancing act. Grow too quickly, and you run the risk of over-extending your organisation. Grow too slowly, and you may be eclipsed by the competition.

Growth is critical for an organisation to survive, yet two-thirds of the fastest-growing companies will fail. This is because growth operates as an accelerator: all the positives and negatives of a business are amplified during a growth phase, and businesses that are not prepared for rapid growth will quickly find themselves falling apart.

Limited resources, exhausted employees, and a disruptive work environment can all eventually take its toll, even on a business that appeared to have strong fundamentals.

In order to handle growth, a business needs to start with a firm foundation.

Training and retaining your employees during growth

Employee retention is the top concern for employers in 2017 — and rapid expansion only compounds this problem. Not only are human assets the foundation of any business, but losing human assets during the process of expansion can be exceptionally disruptive. The cost of training a new employee can be many times that employee’s monthly salary, and cycling through employees during a growth cycle is a fast track towards business disruption.

During expansion, employees may find themselves having their day-to-day tasks interrupted with a continuous flow of challenges. They may not feel as though a structure is in place to adequately reward them for meeting these challenges — and ultimately they may find themselves fatigued. During aggressive expansion, employees may also wonder what their position will be once the structure of the organisation changes, and they may feel uncertain regarding their future with the business.

To counter this, employees need to be trained specifically to handle growth phases. Management must be clear and transparent regarding the changes that the employee will experience — and management should further go out of its way to identify and reward its star employees.

Constantly foster innovation

Regardless of industry, innovation is considered to be the key driver of business growth. It may not always be possible for a business to have superior resources than its competition, but it is always possible for a business to find a way to do something better.

Businesses can only gain an edge during rapid expansion by fostering innovation and looking towards improving upon their operations, processes, products, and services.

Innovation can be best fostered in a business by encouraging employees to explore new ideas. Creating a company culture of openness and creativity can naturally lead to innovation, even during times of aggressive expansion and growth. A culture of innovation will additionally keep employees engaged and constantly improving, thereby also improving upon employee retention.

New business processes, new products or services, and new ways to service clients all fall under the banner of innovation, which is critical for business survival today. An innovative business is an agile business and a business that will be able to evolve with its growth.

Streamline business processes

Everyone knows that small businesses have a tendency to fail during expansion due to a lack of capital. But what is less explored is why large successful enterprises fail. This is usually a matter of a lack of innovation and optimisation. As businesses become larger, they become set in their ways and processes become entrenched — even if they may not necessarily be the most ideal.

Businesses need to be open about identifying bottlenecks, finding solutions, and validating their own assumptions. Well-designed business processes must be documented and analysed, and a business process should be available for every task. Otherwise, a business can quickly fall apart as it grows, as employees will not be able to follow direct strategies for handling customer complaints, processing orders, servicing clients, creating products, and more. As growth rates accelerate, these processes become even more important.

Identify the value in technology

Technology is a major asset to any organisation poised for growth. Through technology, businesses are better able to leverage their existing infrastructure, competing with businesses larger than themselves, and increasing their own stability. Businesses that do not invest in technology run the risk of being left behind; a decade ago, the cloud was virtually unheard of, yet as of 2015, over 90% of businesses had invested in some form of cloud-based infrastructure.

Enterprise resource planning, customer relationship management, and logistics and shipping platforms are all designed to optimise and improve upon business operations. Ultimately, this also improves upon a company’s ROI, which is absolutely critical during the intense stages of business growth. Businesses need to start implementing these suites now rather than later, so that their organisation has already integrated them fully into their business practices as they grow.

When it comes to growth, firm business foundations are what make the difference between success and failure. As a leader, your primary goal is to make your business foundation stronger to sustain it throughout these periods of aggressive growth and expansion. If you want to learn more about reviewing and improving upon your business systems and foundations, contact TEC today. TEC can give you complete access to experienced professionals with invaluable insights into business growth and management.

How to manage your star employees

Employees are what drives a business — and that’s why businesses are always competing for the best talent.

Industry professionals have estimated that up to 90% of an enterprise’s value is driven by its intellectual capital, but you don’t need to rely upon such abstract estimates. It’s already known that the average employee costs six to nine months of their salary to replace.

With all this in mind, it becomes necessary for CEOs and managers to focus on both acquiring and supporting their best employees. Unfortunately, model employees tend to disappear beneath the problem employees, making them feel unwanted and undervalued.

It’s a CEO’s job to ensure that all employees feel satisfied and recognised — especially the ones that are doing the most for the business.

Foster your team relationships

The Pareto Principle tells us that the top 20% of our employees will complete 80% of the work. By the same token, the bottom 20% of our employees will take up 80% of our time. This is what can cause a solid employee to disappear under a morass of more difficult ones. But when you manage a business, you aren’t managing just the top employees or just the bottom employees; you’re managing them all as a team. There will always be overachievers and underachievers, but you need to work with all of them effectively.

When employees work together, they are more likely to feel rewarded by a task successfully completed. Team-building exercises and corporate events can be used to further deepen and build upon these relationships, in addition to the foundation that a strong sense of company culture provides. A sense of camaraderie and team spirit is often enough to make employees feel like a valuable member, but the danger is that they may also feel as though they aren’t being rewarded for their direct and unique contributions.

Recognise and reward individual employees

Creating a company culture of recognition is important. But rewards don’t necessarily need to involve money. In fact, both public and private recognition are often rated more highly. Employees don’t just want to feel directly recognised; they also want to feel as though they have a future with the organisation and that they will continue to develop their career. What’s more, while 24% of employees found recognition from their CEO the best, 28% found recognition from their direct managers preferable.

Communicate with your employees through bi-weekly meetings

Regular one-on-one meetings, even quick stand-up meetings to check in, are a great way to tell your employees what they’re doing correctly and to get any feedback on what managers may be doing wrong. Many companies are blindsided by employees who appear to leave suddenly, when the departure really wasn’t sudden at all. The employee was simply never given the opportunity to directly address their concerns. When given a chance, most employees will be straightforward about their own goals with the organisation and what the organisation could be doing to better serve them.

Training and development opportunities

Employees today are not loyal to their companies; they are loyal to their careers. If they feel as though their careers aren’t advancing at the rate they expected, they’re more likely to jump ship. The solution is to offer a steady stream of training and development opportunities. Employees want to be able to do their jobs well; this gives your top-performing employees their time to shine.

Training and development directly benefit the organisation itself. As employees become more effective, they become more efficient at their tasks and more capable of operating autonomously. Though the company may need to invest directly in these training and development opportunities, they will ultimately achieve a substantial return on their investment.

Employees may also be given the opportunity to engage in transfer of learning, through which skills are diversified and employees are able to cross-train in different fields. Employees who are able to train in multiple fields are far more likely to be effective, as they are able to quickly adapt to the positions that the company requires. Transfer of learning is how some of the top CEOs are able to be so effective. It is also instrumental in grooming top-performing employees for management positions.

By improving your employee retention, not only can you reduce your hiring costs, but you can also boost your employee satisfaction by up to 22%. Though this isn’t an easy task, it can be achieved by building a company culture of employee recognition from the ground up. As a CEO, managing your employees is a balancing act; you need to be able to reward your outstanding performers while still managing the employees who are struggling. Mentorship and advisement can help. Through TEC, you can connect with other entrepreneurs and CEOs who are facing the same hurdles and developing their own employee management strategies. For more information, contact TEC today.

Most popular TEC articles so far in 2017

TEC’s blog is comprised of an extensive list of resources suited to the eyes of SME CEOs and executives. If you missed one of our weekly posts, below is a list of our top blog articles thus far in 2017.

 

1. The guide to organisational structures (flat vs hierarchical) 

An organisation’s structure forms the very basis of its operations. As a company grows, the impact the structure can have is significant. Read the guide to choosing and changing your organisational structure to suit your business’s needs.

 

2. Authentic leadership and what it means for culture

Is your approach to leadership authentic? It plays an important role in shaping your business’s culture. Learn how you can be the most authentic version of yourself.

 

3. 5 leadership styles and when to apply them 

Are you one of the 36% of organisations that don’t have a formal leadership development strategy? The relationship between leadership styles and employees play a crucial role. Learn the five most popular leadership styles here.

 

4. Are you a manager or a leader? Three essentials lessons from Inspire CA 

Do you manage people, or do you lead the way for them? 46% of all startups fail due to general incompetence in leadership. Learn how to be a leader here.

 

5. Adding the why back into goal setting

Perhaps it’s time to revisit those New Year’s resolutions. Ensure the goals you set are driven with clarity and purpose. These tips will help you identify why these goals are important and how to set goals that you value.

How to have difficult conversations with employees

In an interview with 200 executives, it was discovered that 53% of executives admitted to avoiding difficult conversations because they felt they didn’t have the training or the experience to handle them. Of those who avoided conversations, 97% did so because of the stress that it caused them — and 80% were concerned that the conversation would escalate into anger. The role of a CEO is no different; difficult conversations with employees are stressful. Unfortunately, they are still necessary.

Being able to tackle difficult situations in the workplace is a defining characteristic of a CEO. A true leader doesn’t just manage difficult conversations; they excel at turning difficult conversations towards a positive goal. But all of that takes experience and self-awareness. Here are some of the key factors to mastering difficult conversations with employees.

Set the right tone 

It’s important to start any conversation with a positive tone — otherwise, you can easily put your employee on the defensive. Handling a difficult conversation is very much about reducing the emotions that are in play. An emotional person will not be receptive to your feedback and your direction. There are many things that can influence the tone of a conversation:

  • Environment. Being ‘called into the office’ can be stressful in and of itself, and it’s important to understand that your employee is already going to have their guard up. Consider an alternative approach, such as walking up to your employee and asking them, ‘Would you mind having a talk with me in the conference room?’ For difficult conversations, neutral territory may be best.
  • Body language.It can be difficult to control your body language, especially if you yourself are upset or frustrated. As a CEO, your employees are going to take their cues from you; if you seem agitated and upset, they will be as well. Keep your body loose and relaxed, avoid any aggressive movements, and take some time to just breathe.
  • Mindset. What is your ultimate goal for this encounter? If it’s a combative one, then the encounter will probably be combative. Your mentality going into a difficult conversation should be to ask about the other person’s point of view and to work together to find a solution.
  • Opening. Your opening sentence should be inclusive rather than, ‘I need to talk to you about something,’ say ‘May we talk about something?

It’s important to align yourself with your employee so that you can work together during the conversation. While you may feel that the employee themselves is a roadblock or that they have caused a situation, it is still true that you and the employee are going to need to work together and resolve it. As a CEO, this bigger picture will override any smaller frustrations.

Be clear about the issue, but don’t oversimplify the problem

Effective leaders are able to convey complex topics in simple terms, but that in itself can be an art form. When describing an issue, CEOs need to achieve a balance between being concise and being clear. There can be a temptation to oversimplify an issue — either to get the conversation over with or to gloss over some of the negativity. Unfortunately, that gives the employee an incorrect perception of the issue. They may not treat it appropriately or even take it seriously. Eventually, this leads to frustration, as the leader perceives a problem that the employee still does not.

  • Don’t go into unnecessary detail. When describing an issue, discuss only the facts that are pertinent to the employee — and only give enough for the employee to both understand the issue and understand the desired outcome. The employee doesn’t need to know the intricacies of the situation. They need to know what to do to complete their work more effectively.
  • Ask questions to determine whether the employee fully understands the issue. What is clear to you may not necessarily be clear to the employee; after all, you have more data to work with regarding the situation than they do. Rather than assuming that the situation has been resolved at the end of the conversation, ask the employee questions — such as what they will do next to resolve the problem.

Communication is all about clarity, and clarity often requires brevity. Complex situations should be distilled into a few concise statements; this will ensure that the employee will understand the issue and be able to appropriately tackle it.

Prepare for the meeting, but do not rehearse

As a CEO, it’s likely that quite a lot of your life involves preparation. The more prepared you are, the better the outcome. Having difficult conversations is no different. Before you tackle a difficult conversation, you need to have as full an understanding of the situation as possible. You should understand the facts of the situation, be able to articulate why it is an issue, and have suggestions for moving forward.

But preparation is far different from rehearsal. When you’re concerned about a conversation, it would be easy to go over it many times in your head. But eventually you would end up developing a script — and scripting can be dangerous. When you operate from a script, you stop listening to the other person. You are no longer able to effectively communicate with them and answer their questions. Instead, you’ll find yourself going back to your script, again and again.

Avoiding rehearsal will make it easier for you to connect directly to your employee and to listen to them. Remember: your prior knowledge may not always be accurate, and you may not always have a full picture of the situation. Being open to your employee means that you can be open to changing your preconceptions and open to solutions that may differ from the ones that you had previously devised.

Know your objectives, stay positive and future focused

It’s easy to get derailed through the course of a conversation, especially a difficult or defensive one. This may involve becoming bogged down in arguing details rather than looking at the bigger picture. Rather than seeking to position themselves at an indefensible point (such as whether or not a project was delivered late), defensive employees may begin to argue finer points (such as who was responsible for delivering a specific part of the project late).

This can be avoided by remaining positive, staying on track, and focusing on the future. It’s always possible to argue what has happened in the past; it is less possible to argue about what needs to happen going forward. Practically speaking, the major concern is not who was guilty or culpable; it’s being assured that the situation will not occur again.

Regardless of the content of the discussion, it must always end with a clear, concise goal for the future. This is what gives your employee something to focus on moving forward.

Master the art of conversation

As a leader, you have to be able to tackle difficult conversations head-on. Developing this talent will serve you well throughout your career, and will lead to better business outcomes throughout your organisation.

It can be difficult to face frustrated or aggressive employees, especially when you are perceived as opposition rather than help. Luckily, you’re not alone. TEC’s network of experienced, knowledgeable CEOs can help give you tips that have served them well throughout their tenure, developing your social skills and building up your network. Contact TEC today to find out more.

What makes a good mentor? Thoughts and ideas from Richard Appleby.

Here at TEC, we know just how important mentoring is. But, what truly makes a good mentor? TEC Chair Richard Appleby has written this piece for us to share his thoughts on the subject:

In my experience, it's all too easy to have a mentoring relationship that ends up being a "nice chat" type format, where the nitty gritty of how you can actually help a mentee develop begins to fall by the wayside. So, what makes a really successful mentoring relationship?

1) The best mentors ask the great questions

There's as much significance in what someone doesn't tell you as what they do say.

It's important to always question your mentees – if they've got a particular issue, ask them what the options are, how they think it will play out, what they need to put in place to make something happen. Too often mentees think it's about asking what the mentor thinks, what we would do if we were in our mentee's position. But the reality is we're not in their position, so we've really got to make them think.

Part of this is being able to listen. We need to understand what our mentee is talking about, to know how to read between the lines – there's as much significance in what someone doesn't tell you as what they do say. Then, you can find a way of asking the great questions that will get them to open up to the things they're not telling you. Great listening will also enable you to understand your mentees' strengths and weaknesses.

The best mentors will ask the great questions.The best mentors will ask the great questions.

2) Consider what your mentee wants out of the relationship

It's important to have a degree of formality. You and your mentee need to sit down and work out what the objectives of these meetings are and really find out where your mentee wants to go. Once you've defined what success will look like at the end of the process, you can develop a plan of exactly how you're going to get there. This introduces a level of accountability to the process that will steer it away from this "nice chat" model.

3) An holistic approach works best

I believe a really great mentor teaches people how to approach the whole journey, to be holistic and therefore long term and strategic. In the past, mentors have enabled me to understand the need to take on extra responsibility to help me get to where I want to be, and to show myself that I have the passion, integrity and skills to get there.

A great mentor in my life taught me the value of ethics.A great mentor in my life taught me the value of ethics.

If your mentee isn't looking at the bigger picture, they're going to find it difficult to succeed.

They've also taught me the value of ethics. In business, it's all too easy to cut corners, but if you're really going to develop you've got to stay true to your ethics. This involves being strong of character and resilient.

I'll always remember the time I was working for a company and there was a supplier who had been trying to do the right thing by us, but had gotten it wrong and cost us money. My mentor at the time taught me how important it was to focus on the fact that they were trying to do the right thing, and they were really trying to add value – even if it didn't work out, you need to appreciate this.

This holistic approach has also been important when I've helped mentees. I see a lot of young people come to me and they're desperate to be an entrepreneur, but they're not looking at the whole picture. They might have a really nice product, but is there a demand for it, is it solving a problem? If your mentee isn't looking at the bigger picture, they're going to find it difficult to succeed.

Richard Appleby has been a member of TEC for almost 10 years and a chair since 2015. His mentoring has helped countless managers and executives to succeed. Click here to find out more about becoming a CEO mentor.

The impact of Impostor Syndrome on CEOs

70% of millennials have impostor syndrome; it’s a growing trend in the modern world. First discovered in the 1970s, impostor syndrome is typified by a constant and persistent belief you are not as competent as you are believed to be. Understandably, impostor syndrome is most often found in those who have elevated or high-pressure positions: doctors, scientists, and, of course, CEOs. These are individuals who have received consistent accolades and success but still feel that it has been unearned. CEOs who suffer from this syndrome feel uncertain, anxious, and guilty.

As CEOs, you are often called upon to make difficult decisions that have widespread consequences for your employees, customers, and shareholders. Often you may need to make a decision that will have a negative impact on others, in the best interests of your organisation.

Exploring impostor syndrome and CEO guilt

If impostor syndrome is the cause, then CEO guilt is the effect. When you feel as though you are somehow unworthy of your appointment, any decision you make is going to feel that much dire. Consider a CEO with impostor syndrome who is forced to lay off a large number of employees. Due to their impostor syndrome, they may then be haunted by a number of questions:

  • If I were a better CEO, would I have been able to save those jobs?
  • Why should I still have a job when I’m clearly just pretending?
  • Could the company be headed towards failure because of me?CEOs with Imposter Syndrome

Of course, these questions are unfair: they are based on the premise that the CEO is not doing a good job and that they could have somehow avoided the situation. Most importantly, impostor syndrome means that you believe that you are not as good as other people think you are. It isn’t just that you feel incompetent; it’s that you feel as though you are a fraud.

The impostor syndrome impacts any successful demographic. Though it’s often been posited that female CEOs are the most likely to experience impostor syndrome, it’s actually fairly equally split over all genders and demographics. Anyone can feel like an impostor — but it may have a more negative impact on women and minorities, who may also have other factors working against them.

Triggers

A lack of confidence may actually be a major component of success, so it makes sense that successful people will find themselves in moments of self-doubt. Successful individuals are those who are never satisfied with themselves, those who are always clamouring for more. These are people who expect only the best from themselves — and are therefore harder on themselves in the wake of perceived failure.

 

The only way of avoiding this is learning to recognise (and react to) the triggers.

  • If you have recently experienced a professional failure, such as a mismanaged business acquisition, it may be easy to assume that you have finally failed enough to be found out. In this situation, failure is considered to be your default state — even if you have failed very infrequently — and you may feel as though it’s been a long time coming. You may feel as though all your successes were sheer luck but that the failure is evidence of your own incompetence.
  • Conversely, impostor syndrome can occur if you receive rewards or recognition that you don’t feel that you deserve. You may question why you’ve received this award and you may feel anxiety associated with accepting the reward; what if they realise they made a mistake?
  • On the path of career development, you may begin to feel impostor syndrome once you have completed a large project or accomplished something great. When the glow of success has worn off, you will be left contemplating your next project and fearful that it will not go as well.

CEOs in the Impostor cycle

Management

We now live in a world in which most people experience some level of impostor syndrome. But this type of self-doubt can be absolutely more crippling for you than it would be for an average individual. As a CEO, you need to be extraordinarily self-aware; otherwise, you may make emotionally led decisions rather than carefully considered ones. You can begin managing your impostor syndrome by not only identifying your triggers but also responding mindfully to allay their effects.

  • Talk to others. Impostor syndrome is rooted in the idea that others have a perception of you that differs from reality. Talking to others directly and discussing your concerns is an excellent way to resolve impostor syndrome; after all, if they can recognise your faults but still believe you’re right for the position, then you aren’t ‘putting one over’ on anyone at all. You may also find that the person you’re talking to feels similarly.
  • Don’t consider imperfection a deal breaker. There is no such thing as a perfect CEO. Even the most successful CEOs in the world still make mistakes. Understand that any of your imperfections or mistakes aren’t deal breakers; they are learning experiences and opportunities to change.
  • Try to focus on the positive. There are areas where you surely realise that you are an expert or a specialist — and you know that you wouldn’t have gotten as far as you have without unique talents. By focusing on where you’re good at rather than where you’re bad at, you can feel more confident in your role.
  • Adopt a mindset focused on growth. Rather than focusing on your own shortcomings (either real or imagined), you should instead focus on the areas that you want to improve. This can radically reframe your methods of thinking: rather than being focused on getting caught, you can instead focus on being better.
  • Avoid the compulsion to downshift. One of the most insidious consequences of impostor syndrome is often the urge to downshift — to step down in your career plan and avoid responsibility. Before making any drastic changes to your career (such as stepping down as CEO), you must court other opinions.
Two types of mindsets that can be adopted by a CEO

Fixed vs Growth mindset

Managing impostor syndrome

Everyone has moments of feeling ill equipped to deal with the challenges that life has presented them with. A true leader and a truly successful individual can recognise these doubts and can still move forward in spite of them. Though you will undoubtedly have moments in which you feel as though you do not deserve your own success, these are just moments — and they will pass. For a CEO, it is simply important that you continue to keep moving, growing, and succeeding, in spite of your concerns.

Impostor syndrome and CEO guilt are best managed by reaching out to other individuals and talking about your concerns. It’s lonely being a CEO — but most of what you’re going through are more common than you think. Through TEC, you can gain access to a large network of accomplished individuals who are having the same experiences. Not only will you be able to request guidance from those more experienced and knowledgeable than yourself, but you’ll also be able to aid those who are still at the beginning of their journey. For more information, contact TEC today.

How to outsmart your biases in business decision-making

Everyone has biases, from the newest entry-level employees to seasoned CEOs. It’s crucial that business leaders are aware of their biases. CEOs who are unaware of their own biases can easily encounter lost opportunities and devastating miscalculations. Remaining neutral is an active role that a leader has to take; it is something that takes hard work, self-awareness, and determination. So what are the most common biases, and how can you learn to defeat them?

Bias 1: False pattern recognition

A coin has been flipped three times and always lands on heads. Surely, tails is next…right? In fact, the chance of a coin landing on tails is still as it always has been: 50/50. Humans are predisposed to finding meaningful patterns, often when there aren’t any at all.

Anytime you tell yourself, ‘This has to happen because…’, you need to question your core assumptions. There’s no reason to believe that a previous coin toss would affect the outcome of a future coin toss. Likewise, there may not be a reason to assume that a business deal is going to go poorly or negatively solely based on past results. Instead, you need to drill down to the fundamentals.

Becoming susceptible to false pattern recognition will, over time, actually make it impossible to reliably predict your results.

How to avoid it: Pay attention to not only the conclusions you are drawing but also why you are drawing those conclusions. Is it rooted in fact — or superstition?

Bias 2: Falling prey to groupthink

37 out of 50 subjects will willingly give a fake answer when confronted by a question — as long as they believe that their peers believe the answer is true. People are under enormous social pressure to agree with others, and it’s easy to see why: a group that is harmonious is a group that is effective. Unfortunately, this leads to a groupthink bias, in which it’s easy to assume that you are in the right because everyone agrees with you.

In truth, many decisions in business are not black-and-white. Most decisions you will make as a CEO will have both negative and positive consequences. If all you’re hearing from your team are positives, you may have inadvertently created a culture of ‘yes men and yes women.’ And this isn’t always derived from cowardice or ignorance: it may simply be a well-meaning intent to get along.

When this happens, there’s no one to give you a reality check on your decision-making. Everyone has valuable input in a team, and some may have knowledge or experience that other team members do not. When they feel as though they need to be silent, you lose this valuable resource.

How to avoid it: Encourage a culture of questioning — and adopt it yourself. Instead of asking, ‘Is this a good idea?’ ask yourself, ‘What could go wrong?’ When employees do come to you with potential issues, encourage it and never take anything personally.

Bias 3: Selfishness

As a CEO, you already understand the importance of putting your company ahead of yourself. But a selfishness bias isn’t necessarily conscious. Instead, it can be very easy to assume that something that is desirable for oneself is desirable for the whole. If a business proposition appears to be rosy to you, the individual in charge, it can be easy to overlook disruption that can occur at lower levels.

When you’re receiving pushback from others, it’s likely it’s because your goals are no longer aligned. They see something negative in a decision that you simply do not — and that may not be because the negativity isn’t there, but instead because you aren’t yet privy to it. As an example, a business may stick with older technology or legacy equipment long past its usability simply because the C-suite doesn’t wish to change.

This can lead to decisions that aren’t good for a business and — perhaps most direly — lead to departments that are operating in conflict with each other rather than in harmony.

How to avoid it: Always pay attention when decisions are unpopular with key staff; there may be a reason that you aren’t able to see. Resting critical decisions with a diverse team from all sectors of the company can be an excellent way to self-check for this bias.

Bias 4: Trying to predict the future

It’s very easy to get into the habit of predicting the future within a very narrow band. You may, for instance, be able to say with 90% certainty that it is likely that you will meet a certain revenue goal. But out of the S&P 500, these types of forecasts were correct only a third of the time. This is primarily because they often rely on assumptions and data that simply aren’t available.

Anytime you are stating with some confidence that a specific outcome is likely to happen, you’re likely overlooking other factors. While it’s possible that this is going to be the outcome, it’s also possible that it isn’t — and an organisation requires a contingency plan.

By relying too much on predicting the future, an organisation can easily find itself blind-sided by unexpected turns of events. Much of this is due to an abundance of optimism and the need to produce positive results for shareholders.

How to avoid it: Don’t predict the future — model it. Simulate the outcomes of your company’s success based on multiple models, such as a total of three estimates for low, average, and high earning potential. This will give you far more leeway when reacting to the actual outcomes.

Bias 5: The need to take action

Everyone feels more comfortable when they have taken charge. In fact, when a company has been stable for a while, it can often be confused as stagnation. Every event that occurs appears to require some form of response, but that’s not necessarily a good thing.

There should never be the assumption that taking action is always preferred over inaction. This is a bias that CEOs are particularly susceptible to because they are called upon to take immediate action and to take risks. But there are times when it’s wisest to actually let the seas settle before making any decisions. Identifying these moments is a major hallmark of a good leader.

A propensity to take action immediately can easily lead to poorly thought-out actions with very negative consequences. These decisions can easily snowball to create a problem that is larger than the one they were originally intended to solve.

How to avoid it: Remember that inaction is always a choice. Consider all possible outcomes before taking an action and avoid making spur-of-the-moment decisions.

Outsmart your biases

You and you alone are able to counter and outsmart your own biases. From making decisions based purely on your own perspective to making decisions based on the cheerful agreement of your team, all of your assumptions need to be constantly questioned. With time, this can become natural.

But sometimes you need some outside help. Not everyone is able to self-check for their own biases; they need a neutral, unbiased third-party. That’s where TEC comes in. TEC provides a supportive CEO peer-to-peer network, through which you can share tips on managing biases, check on your own biases, and drive more responsible business decisions. Contact TEC to start connecting with others today.

Posted in TEC

How to manage employee retention: Lessons from Marsh & Partners

More than 75% of the CEOs of Fortune 500 companies were promoted from inside of the organisation. Whether they were promoted on the basis of a family dynasty, through merit, or a combination of both, CEOs have an average of 16 years of experience within their organisation. In fact, approximately one-third of these CEOs are ‘lifers’ — individuals who have worked from the bottom up within their company.

Regardless of industry, people are a company’s most valuable asset and investment. The best CEOs don’t just have prior experience with their companies — they continue to grow, learn, and self-analyse within them. These CEOs will be true leaders; they will be able to inspire loyalty and consistently acquire the best work from their employees.

Bronwyn Condon, managing partner of Marsh & Partners, has worked with the firm since her graduation from college. As managing partner of the accounting firm, she has focused both on developing a strong team and fostering individual relationships with her employees. By focusing on employee development, mentorship, and opportunities for growth, she has been able to build a company culture of trust and loyalty, and she has been able to deliver the best in talent to her firm’s clientele.

Analyse your turnover 

Australia has seen increasingly high staff turnover rates in the last few years. In fact, staff turnover rose 29% year-over-year in 2016 alone. Modern employees have more options, which is leading to more job-hopping and more job-hunting. Not only is high staff turnover inefficient and expensive, but it can also disrupt the continuity of service that customers have come to expect. Employers need to be able to procure and retain the top talent: otherwise they will only find themselves caught in a ceaseless treadmill of employee training.

Every time a business needs to replace an employee, it costs approximately six to nine months of that employee’s salary. A significant portion of this is wrapped up in training, during which time the new employee will need to adapt and grow into the role. But that isn’t the only cost of high turnover. Companies with high turnover rates also lose their best employees — the employees who are most likely to build value for the business.

Business leaders need to be willing to analyse their turnover rates and identify areas in which the business may not be performing to its full potential. A significant portion of employee turnover is due to management; when management styles conflict when an employee’s goals, the employee will often leave. Marsh & Partners has devoted itself to the hiring of individuals who fit into their people-centric business model. To that end, they have focused on hiring individuals who are proactive self-starters and who can align with the company’s culture.

Support each staff member

Every staff member is unique. They have their own career goals and personal desires. It isn’t only the responsibility of the employee to support the business; it is also the responsibility of the business to support the employee. Employees will leave when they feel that their career is at a standstill, when they aren’t able to devote enough time to their personal lives, or when they feel ignored or unrecognised by their management. It is your job as a leader to resolve these issues to avoid losing talents.

To that end, Bronwyn was able to create a comprehensive mentorship program at Marsh & Partners to ensure that the goals of her employees aligned with the goals of the business. By helping her employees reach their own personal goals, she ensured that they were able to dedicate enough time to producing the best.

Employees will put much more into their work when they feel valued — and building this type of relationship with an employee starts with empathy and self-analysis. Mentorship programs cut both ways, by giving newer employees access to expertise and guidance whilst ensuring that senior employees remain connected and engaged.

Find a peer network

True leadership requires constant improvement. Just as new staff members may need senior mentorship, business leaders often need expert feedback in order to continue to grow. Connecting to a peer advisory network gives a leader the opportunity to see things from a different point of view. Peer networks can offer key insights into the strategies of other industries and can offer vital third-party, neutral analysis. By being exposed to different management styles and business strategies, a leader will be able to develop beyond the confines of their own company.

Through TEC, Bronwyn was able to further her development as a leader and partner in Marsh & Partners. One-to-Ones with Bronwyn’s TEC mentor fulfilled a valuable need for her own mentorship, through which her concerns and issues could be voiced to an experienced third party. Through this partnership, Bronwyn was able to work through many solutions for her business, make better decisions and personally develop her own leadership skills. Self-analysis is incredibly important for all leaders. No one is infallible, and every leader serves as an example for their employees.

Through TEC, leaders can begin transforming themselves and, in so doing, transforming their businesses for better results. Contact TEC today to begin your own journey.

 

How to successfully manage business mergers: Lessons from PwC

Between 70% to 90% of mergers and acquisitions will ultimately fail. Managing a business merger requires a delicate and experienced hand. Not only do you need to consider the direction and fundamentals of both organisations, but you also need to consider culture, strategy, and vision. Mergers tend to be particularly hard on staff members, both because it is a tumultuous time and because the future may feel uncertain — and this is where true leadership becomes essential.

Here’s how Rob Ashley, advisory principal with PricewaterhouseCoopers and a member of TEC, has been able to counter these challenges and achieve tremendous success.

Understand the importance of decision-making

A business, at its core, is really just a series of decisions. Not every decision must be perfect — what is important is that the decision is made. It’s estimated that the average adult makes approximately 35,000 decisions per day, and each of these decisions carry with them consequences and direction.

Business owners will be called upon to make a tremendous number of decisions throughout the business acquisitions process. These range from the dissolution of certain corporate assets to the retention of human resources. Each of these decisions impact the business itself, its employees, and its clientele. And with thousands upon thousands of decisions occurring, it’s important that a leader not get bogged down.

Rob Ashley was able to create a comprehensive planning process, which covered both an internal focus on the organisation and an external client engagement strategy. Through this planning process, Ashley was able to control all elements of the merger and facilitate decision-making processes. Though not every decision may have been perfect, they were made quickly and competently, running like a well-oiled machine.

Alignment of strategy

Why do mergers so frequently fail? If it was just about financial due diligence, one would expect most business mergers to be a success. But businesses are more than just what they appear to be on paper: they are a collection of strategies and goals. A business has its own direction and culture, and compatibility is very important. When polled, 33% to 50% of respondents cited cultural differences as the leading issue with a merger.

When businesses are aligned in terms of strategies, goals, and culture, they can readily work towards a singular destination. When businesses are not aligned, they begin to pull apart at the seams — and it is the human element that is lost. Companies need to be prepared to align their goals in terms of their values and their client base if they are to work together.

Recognising this, Rob Ashley placed a premium on communication and collaboration. He understood the need to engage staff members of both teams, alongside their client base, and to ensure that everyone involved was working together towards the same goals.

Maintain a consistency of service

Most mergers will lead to an increase in services. But though this may sound like a benefit, it can actually be detrimental. Ultimately, it will lead to the dilution of the company’s branding. In order to support a company culture and the comfort of both employees and clientele, it’s important to maintain consistency of service. That means that as services are added, they also need to be folded into the new company mission that both businesses now share.

In order to improve upon employee alignment, maintain happiness, and motivate employees, it is necessary to ensure that as much of the business as possible remain consistent. But it’s also important not to overestimate the value of synergies; 70% of business mergers overestimate the amount of revenue synergy they can expect.

Rob Ashley found that the increase in services was not only a benefit to the company’s clientele, but also the company’s own access to their now expanded talent pool. At the same time, conscientious work had to be done to ensure that the company’s offerings remained consistent with its mission statement and that the value of these benefits was not overestimated.

Enhance your personal life

As exciting as a merger may be, it is equally mentally and emotionally taxing. As a leader, it’s easy to become absorbed by your work and lose touch with the outside world. Though you may not feel it, those around you do; everything you do affects your end work product. Diet, sleep, and exercise can all have an adverse impact on your decision-making skills. You are the foundation of your brand — and because of this, you need to take care of yourself first.

Harvard Business Review explored why good leaders can sometimes make bad decisions. HBR found that bad judgments often occur due to red flag conditions, such as ‘the presence of inappropriate self-interest’, ‘the presence of distorting attachments’, and the ‘presence of misleading memories’. All of these are emotionally influenced conditions that can occur when mood is not properly managed.

As an experienced business professional, Rob Ashley realised that his personal health and mood could impact the way that he handled his merger. So Rob Ashley sought TEC. Since joining TEC, Rob Ashley was able to find a community of like-minded people that he could connect with.

Managing mergers successfully

Mergers and acquisitions involve a lot of moving parts. Decision-making, strategies, services, and even your personal health all need to be combined into a sum that is greater than each part. When anything is out of sync, things can fall apart — and they often do. But your business doesn’t have to be one of the 90% of businesses that fail through a merger; it can be one of the 10% that ascends to far greater heights. All you need to do is be able to properly manage those four key aspects of the transition.

Managing mergers is not a skill that you can develop overnight. It’s something that requires experience, expertise, and guidance. If you want to learn more about how businesses such as PricewaterhouseCoopers (and experts such as Rob Ashley) have been able to build their vision and grow, get in touch with TEC today.

 

 

Are you a manager or a leader? Three essential lessons from Inspire CA

A manager is someone who does exactly that — manages. They’re the people who give employees direction when they come to work every day. They answer questions, offer guidance and provide insights to help staff achieve goals.

A leader, on the other hand, is someone different. Someone who is inspirational, passionate, innovative and empathetic. A leader is someone that encourages their staff to challenge the status quo, come up with their own solutions, problem-solve and work towards their goals.

Ben Walker is someone who knows a thing or two about just how important leadership can be. As the director of Inspire CA, Ben founded the company himself in 2013 at the young age of 22. After many years of working within the boundaries of a traditional accounting firm, Ben began looking for newer and more innovative ways in which he could serve his clients. That was how Inspire CA was born. Because Ben’s instinct to do more than just manage was and will always be a powerful one. Something that cannot be contained or restricted.

As you move throughout your own career, it’s important to come up with a definitive answer to that very question: ‘Are you a manager or are you a leader?’ If you fall into the former category and want to do whatever it takes to move into the latter, there are a few essential things to keep in mind.

Defining one’s leadership style

The most important thing to understand is that there is no ‘one size fits all’ approach to leadership. Different situations require different leadership styles, as a business is essentially a living, breathing whole that needs to be nurtured in its own unique ways. Remember that 46% of all startups fail due to general incompetence in leadership — meaning, people are trying to manage in a situation where something more is required.

There are a few different leadership styles for you to choose from depending on your needs:

• Facilitative leadership is a people-centric approach to leadership. It puts the work process and the company culture first, which is ideal for environments that are both creative and high-pressure.

• Laissez-faire leadership, on the other hand, is a more ‘hands-off’ style. It puts the members of a particular team in control of their own destiny, ideal for exceptional employees and teams that excel in self-motivation.

• Coaching leadership fosters a much more ‘give and take’ atmosphere. It puts a heavy emphasis on two-way communication, ideal for individual development long-term.

• Authoritative leadership is essentially the business version of a dictatorship. The leader is in complete control, which is great for undisciplined environments.

• Democratic leadership is all about the free exchange of ideas, perfect for a balanced working environment.

When learning how to lead Inspire CA, Ben Walker also had to learn how to think outside the box. He had to adapt his leadership style to implement new technologies to change the way the business communicated with its clients. During this process, he learned exactly how difficult leadership could be — particularly when you’re trying to control too many things. On the ‘leader vs manager’ scale, Ben started out a manager. The situation demanded that he became a leader, sooner rather than later.

Build that management team

It’s also important to understand that a leader is nothing without a strong management team by their side. In fact, according to one study, only about 2.5% of companies successfully complete 100% of their projects. The average cost overrun of all projects is about 27%. 57% of all projects that fail do so because of a substantial breakdown in communications.

What does this tell you? Simple — you could be the best leader in the world, but without the right management team at your side, you may well be finished before you ever had a chance to truly start.
Nobody can run a business single-handedly, which is why communication with your management team is so important. But this is about more than just making sure everyone is on the same page — it’s about the free exchange of ideas that lets everyone operate at their best at all times.

In those terms, The Executive Connection was instrumental in helping Ben Walker understand the importance of a team to assist the leader. Leaders may be the captains of their ships — but they’re not the ones down in the engine room stoking the fire. They not people whom they can trust to help make that happen.

All focus, all the time

When you’re starting (and eventually running) a small- to medium-sized business, every day is a new challenge. You invariably meet a lot of different obstacles that don’t just test your resolve — they also start forcing you to question whether you’re on the right path in life in the first place.

How common is this idea in terms of leadership? More common than you probably think. According to a study conducted by the Small Business Administration, about 1/3 of businesses that begin today will fail within the first two years. Of those that remain, another 50% will fail over the course of the next five. Not knowing what to focus on and when and why are major contributors to this.

Being a part of TEC helped Ben Walker not only learn how to become a better leader, but also underline the importance of focus. TEC helped Ben gain insight into not just that focus was important, but what he needed to be focusing on: namely, developing his business, his leadership skills, and his team.

Taking leadership to the next level

There is nothing wrong with being a manager. Managers are an essential part of any business. But to really take your own development to the next level — to become the best possible version of yourself you can be — you need to learn how to think, eat, sleep, and breathe like the leader you’ve always dreamed of becoming.

Leaders don’t just know how to adapt their own style to fit the needs of the situation. They know how to surround themselves with the best possible people and maintain the type of hyper vigilant focus that allows everyone to do better. They’re masters of the approach of putting the pieces in place to turn a business into the well-oiled machine it was meant to be.

If you’d like to find out more information about building leadership skills, or if you have any additional questions on related topics that you’d like to see answered, please don’t delay — contact TEC today.

4 Insights into what great CEOs do differently

When less-than-optimal leadership costs businesses as much as 7% of total sales each year — what’s the difference between a good CEO and a great CEO? A good CEO is an important part of any successful business. A great CEO, on the other hand, doesn’t just lead — they inspire and contribute to an impactful business.

Here are the four key traits in particular that separate the good CEOs from the great ones. 87% of professional leaders, who either become or aspire to one day to become a CEO, deliberately develop the following four qualities. They may seem simple, but the key lies in the consistency of application that delivers the best results time and again.

1. Great CEOs make decisions with conviction

A great CEO understands that more often than not, it’s not about making the best decision possible — it’s about being decisive with conviction. It’s less about making the perfect decision and more about making decisions when they’re needed and acting without doubt.

A common trait among CEOs with the highest IQ is that they often struggle with making fast decisions as they’re much more likely to weigh the pros and cons of every situation. This leads to indecision and ambiguity, which invariably creates a bottleneck.

Great CEOs know that the expectation of ‘perfect information’ is an unrealistic one on the best of days; you need to make decisions quickly with conviction. If any signs of doubt are exhibited, employees will quickly start to lose faith in their leaders.

2. Great CEOs know how to measure impact

Regardless of the business you’re running or even in the industry you’re operating in, success more often than not comes down to your ability to deliver results. A great CEO never focuses too much on their vision without understanding the precise impact of that vision and which metrics will ultimately be used to measure its success.

To that end, it should come as no surprise that CEOs who are deftly able to engage their stakeholders’ needs are 75% more successful in their role than those who aren’t.

To be a great CEO, you need to be aware of not just the impact of what you want delivered — but also the impact you’re making when you deliver the results or engage with the people who have a stake in the game.

This idea even plays a role in how you interact with people on a daily basis. Remember that employees will always magnify your reactions. If you grimace when someone is telling you their ‘next big idea’, they might immediately think you hate it — or worse, think they’re being fired.

Along the same lines, good CEOs will allow employees to vote in the direction of the company. Great CEOs will allow them to have a true voice in the matter, albeit with the understanding that the consensus-driven decision is not necessarily the one that will be made. Knowing how to measure impact — in this case, the difference between listening to the input of employees because you’re afraid of being disliked versus making an unpopular move because you know it’s the best one — is something you’ll need to focus on if you want to move up to ‘great CEO’ status.

3. Great CEOs adapt proactively

Everything about your business is changing regularly — from the marketplace you’re trying to serve to your industry to your organisation at a basic level. CEOs who are able to adapt to changing times and evolving needs are roughly 6.7 times more likely to succeed than those who do not.

For a great CEO, adapting proactively is less about being able to successfully handle today’s challenges and more about dividing your attention between short and long-term thinking. Devoting as much of your time as possible to thinking about the long-term direction of things makes it easier for you to not only recognise signs of change and mitigate risks ahead of time, but it also creates a business that operates with a growth mindset as well.

4. Great CEOs deliver reliably

Good CEOs make promises. Great CEOs keep them.

To be a great CEO, you need to demonstrate results. This means that you need to show you cannot only recognise what needs to be done to move a business forward, but actually do it. It should come as no surprise that CEO candidates who are twice as likely to deliver results than average are much more likely to actually be picked for that role.

To get better at this, learn how to set realistic expectations upfront. Focus on establishing business management systems including dashboards, accountability, performance monitoring, and more. All of this allows you to build a much more stable bridge between where you are today and what you promised you would do tomorrow.

One of the major reasons that CEOs sometimes don’t deliver expected results is because they don’t have the tools in place when they need them the most. In fact, 60% of CEOs make the rookie mistake of not having the right team in place quickly enough. Words are cheap — actions are more expensive. From the business management solutions you employ to the teams you surround yourself with, all of this helps you deliver what you need, when you need it, no exceptions.

From good to great

The fact of the matter is that the gap between a good CEO and a great one is often created less as a result of any one major move and more because of a series of small ones. Knowing how to make decisions with conviction, knowing how to measure the impact of actions both large and small, being able to adapt to a naturally fluid environment, and knowing how to deliver what you promised are all major leadership traits that you should be focused on.

If you’d like to find out more information about the major qualities of a great CEO, or if you’d like to learn more about similar leadership insight topics, please don’t hesitate to contact us today.