When you can’t go to the CEO, where do you go?

By TEC Chair, Dawn Russell

Succession-planning-key-executivesAs a key executive in an organisation, you want to make your mark. You want to contribute significantly to the overall mission and growth of the organisation and earn the respect of the CEO or Managing Director, as well as the respect of the people who report to you.

Chances are you’ll be shouldering considerable responsibility and making decisions that affect the future of the organisation and the lives of the people who work with you. And, as with any leadership position, there are always challenges.   The thing is, you can’t go running to the CEO every time there’s an issue. To start with, they’re more than busy enough without having to weigh into your issues; and secondly, what aspiring leader wants to be seen as incapable of handling situations that leaders face every day?

Perhaps you have a prickly staff member whose performance has dropped significantly over the last six months and you need to tackle an honest conversation with them. Perhaps you have a progressive idea for meeting your sales target, but want to test its robustness before you pitch it higher up. Perhaps one of your peers is making it difficult for your team to deliver to the expected standard and you need to “call” their behaviour. Or perhaps there’s a new process that is impacting negatively on your department, but challenging it is politically sensitive because its owner has the ear of the CEO.

Whatever the issue, you need a sounding board. As an influential CEO once said to me, “The worst decision I ever made was the one made by a committee of one – me!”

You need someone (or several someones) who will challenge your thinking and play Devil’s Advocate to help you see things from a different perspective. You need to tap into others’ experience when you’re faced with a situation you’ve never encountered before. It makes sense to call on the wisdom of others. The trouble is, whose wisdom do you call on?

You may decide to talk it through with your significant other or a family member. They may or may not have the necessary business acumen, but two things are for sure: they want you to succeed and they don’t want you to get hurt. But the trouble is, they have a natural bias. And because they love you, frequently they won’t tell you it the way it really is. They don’t want to hurt you; they don’t want to hurt your feelings. As a result, they’re not likely to really challenge your thinking or look for the flaws in your argument.

Alternately, you may feel safe enough bouncing ideas around with your colleagues…until the day something confidential finds it way into the greater populace at work, or until your idea is served up to the CEO by someone else as their own. And what will they think of you if you keep going to them for advice?

You may chat to your friends and mates outside of work about it, but do they really understand your role, your industry, your politics or the particular sensitivity of the issue? Besides, you won’t be considered such good company if they have to listen to you talking about work all the time!

Being in a leadership position is a challenge and it can be isolating. It’s also very easy to miss opportunities or reap a sub-optimal result when decisions are made by that “committee of one”. We are often best served by bouncing ideas around with others, but when you can’t go to the CEO, where do you go?

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Stop. Think. Before you scrap your managers

By TEC Member Anne Moore, CEO at PlanDo

A radical change to business structures is leaking out of Silicon Valley and spreading through Australia and beyond. It even has a name: holacracy. Atlassian has scrapped its managers and so have Canva.

The tenets of holacracy are simple: authority and decision-making rests with the team that is actually doing the work, not with the boss. Employees, the theory goes, spend their work hours getting work done instead of seeking management approval for every small change in direction.

But before you scrap your managers, consider the following instead:

1. Find a career management platform that works for both the individual and the business
The traditional performance review process is broken. Most organisations in Australia have invested in expensive outdated ‘talent management’ systems that reflect what the organisation wants from its employees, to ‘manage’ them. Today, this approach simply doesn’t work. ‘Talent’ can’t be managed. The role an individual was hired to do six months ago, isn’t necessarily the role that person is doing today. With a younger generation of workers coming through, they want to take control of their own career and not have an organisation dictate to them the path they need to take to progress. Cloud based platforms such as PlanDo enable both the individual and organisation to have an ‘adult to adult’ conversation about career development, giving more control to the individual while still providing the ‘manager’ or ‘leader’ with greater visibility of the individual’s career goals and how they’re progressing.

2. Drop the ‘manager’ tag and replace with ‘leader’
Rather than scrapping managers altogether, replace them with ‘leaders’. Today, we don’t want or need to be ‘managed’. Research has proved that giving people accountability for their actions, increases engagement and loyalty towards organisations. By giving authority to individuals to be able to make decisions, not only empowers them but increases efficiency for the organisation, reducing the chance of bottlenecks.

3. Give more feedback more often
Instead of having to make team members wait for 12 months for their review, over a 3 hour meeting, organisations need to provide more feedback more often. This feedback shouldn’t just come from ‘managers’ or ‘leaders’ as they should be known, it should be from more than one person –  peers, mentors whomever the individual chooses. That way, a more complete picture can be built of the individual’s progress and a different perspective can be provided.

4. Set goals and objectives between individuals and leaders
It’s important for you to set goals and objectives together with your team members. Ask them how they can contribute to achieve the goals your organisation has set. Again, it comes down to ownership and if the individual has suggested a goal or objective, they’re much more likely to achieve it, than if they’re given one.

5. Let the individual take responsibility for his/her career development
Finally, helping your team members with their career progression is not all down to you, the employer. Competition is fierce in many industries in Australia to attract the best talent and then once you have those individuals, it’s a common misconception that it’s down to you to nurture them and outline a path for progression. Wrong. Today, this is a shared responsibility. The individual is responsible for their own career, ensuring their experience and skills are documented and taken with them to their next employer.

So before you scrap your managers altogether, adopt ‘leaders’ instead and give individuals more responsibility to self-direct their own careers. Equipping your people with tools and technology that facilitate regular conversation works well from both sides.  For leaders, it’s timely information about where your people are going and how they’re tracking.  For individuals, they’ll value the opportunity to gain regular feedback and take more control over their career. Do that well, and engagement and work satisfaction will soar.

How to get specific and strategic about goal setting

Goal settingAs a business leader do you have a clear vision of what you want to achieve in 2016?

You may have general ideas, however once you return to the daily operations of the business it’s likely your ideas gets buried deep in the demands of the day-to-day.

Many leaders feel as though they work hard both in and on the business and yet they do not achieve the results or the work life balance they need. Often, for a business leader the key reason is they haven’t dedicated the time to think clearly and strategically without interruption on what exactly it is that they want to achieve.

An important step in defining your business and personal goals is to have a clear vision of what your top priorities are, then outlining the results you want to achieve within a certain amount of time.

Goal-setting paybacks

In New York Times bestseller What They Don‘t Teach You at Harvard Business School, Mark McCormack shares an interesting study that was conducted in 1979 on Harvard MBA students revealing the real impact of goal setting. He asked students whether they had clear, written goals for their future and if they made plans to accomplish them; 84% of students admitted they had no goals at all, while 13% had goals that were not written down. In fact, only 3% had specific goals in writing.

When interviewed 10 years later, the 13% of students who had goals were earning on average twice as much as those who had never established clear goals. However, the 3% with written goals for success had salaries that were a staggering 10 times more than the other students put together.

Ultimately, identifying effective goals and setting a strategy to achieve them helps leaders organise resources, streamline knowledge acquisition and raise motivation, particularly on long-term projects and objectives. Whether you‘re a business leader, a top athlete or a high achiever in any other field, establishing goals provides the focus needed in order to outperform.

Putting goal setting in place to move the business forward

An example of using goal setting to move the business forward is in a recent case study with TEC member Annie Flannagan, the CEO and Founder of Better Business Basics (BBB), which offers accounting and financial services to a range of organisations  throughout Australia.

Working in such a competitive market, Annie learnt early on that the company would need to invest heavily in internal processes in order to succeed. To do this, the company approached the goal-setting process as a set of scales, divided between the front-end user experience and the back-end processes within the organisation.

“We see it like an old-fashioned set of scales – those two must be in balance,” said Annie.

‘Whenever we look at setting goals at the front-end, we create a reciprocal set of goals for the back-end.’

‘All businesses have that, but for use they have to be in balance, because if they are not, we end up with either clients that aren’t being fulfilled or employees that aren’t being fulfilled.’

This has also required a unique leadership approach from Annie, especially around the formulation of company goals and strategy. By putting these processes in place, the company has been able to stay flexible and respond to organisational challenges.

‘If you look at strategy, crafting the strategy is one thing, the delivery of the strategy is the bit which needs to be in balance,’ said Annie.

‘It’s about having the right combination of allowing creative thinking, working out what is not necessary, writing your goals down and then focusing to get them executed.’

For a fast-growing organisation, having multiple perspectives on the development and implementation of company processes around goal setting has been invaluable for developing future strategy.

Is your leadership style appropriate for managing change?

Is your leadership style appropriate for managing changeEvery business leader will be familiar with the notion that the corporate world is changing rapidly – faster than at any other time in human history. Faced with this evolving landscape, CEOs now need to think about how they are handling this change to position their company for future growth.

Of course, navigating this landscape also calls for leaders to evaluate their own skill set and determining whether or not they have what it takes to lead a business through a significant change.

Getting the change process right

The pace of change within a company has obviously increased, placing new pressures on organisations to adapt. Rather than simply evolving over time, many businesses are now treating widespread organisational change as an ongoing, permanent process.

While this is certainly the new reality for companies, that doesn’t mean business leaders are responding fast enough. A recent study from McKinsey and Company found that 60 per cent of respondents within businesses have seen an organisational redesign in the last two years, while 85 per cent have experienced one in the last three.

Even though organisational redesigns are occurring regularly, the ability of companies to achieve their outcomes is still muted, with the study suggesting only a quarter of organisational redesigns achieve their stated objectives.

To address this, McKinsey suggested the following nine steps to help navigate this process:

1.    Focus first on the longer-term strategic aspirations
2.    Take time to survey the scene
3.    Be structured about selecting the right blueprint
4.    Go beyond lines and boxes
5.    Be rigorous about drafting in talent
6.    Identify the necessary mind-set shifts – and change those mind-sets
7.    Establish metrics that measure short- and long-term success
8.    Make sure business leaders communicate
9.    Manage the transitional risks

While each of these offers a different angle that companies can use, among the most important steps is step eight – communication from business leaders. Fortunately, this is also the area where CEOs can most directly affect the success of a change strategy.

Managing change from the C-Suite

For leaders that are committed to improving their change management processes, there are a number of steps they can take to begin this process.

Among the most important comes from recognising current limitations imposed by existing workloads and then taking steps to address these so that staff can commit to a major shift in corporate direction.

In fact, research by the Corporate Executive Board found that 88 per cent of workers have seen their workload increase to the point where they are unwilling to put in more work to met organisational objectives.

There are a few other features that can also set a strong change management effort apart from the rest. The Harvard Business Review suggested that staff workloads are just one of four parts of the equation, with the remaining three covering project duration, commitment from senior management and the technical capabilities of the teams involved.

Put simply, companies that embark on short change management strategies, with buy-in from the C-Suite and a highly technical staff who also have the time to commit to a project achieve the strongest results. Those with the opposite qualities on the other hand, proved more likely to fail in the research.

Change management the sign of a strong company

While leading a company through a major organisational change places new pressures on a CEO, there are benefits that come from getting this process right. Business leaders that can actually achieve their stated goals will be able to set their company up for future growth, while standing apart from their competition.

With research from the Project Management Institute last year finding only 18 per cent of companies are successful at leading change initiatives, the opportunities for companies that can make this change will be in a much stronger position long-term.

Is your business ready for the collaborative economy?

Business conditions are changing at a rapid pace and one of the biggest trends in the last few years has been the emergence of the collaborative economy.

Over the last decade, organisations like Uber, Air BnB, eBay and GoGet have become household names for the shared services they are able to coordinate. This new model of operating is poised to make big waves in the Australian economy over the coming years, presenting a challenge for even the most established corporate models.

For any SME, planning ahead is going to be essential. Finding a course in this new business environment and then adjusting course as necessary is going to be a major factor in setting your business apart from the competition.

What is the collaborative economy?

The collaborative economy currently goes by a number of different names – the sharing economy, collaborative consumption or peer-to-peer sharing. The idea is that people are now using new technologies to unlock alternatives to established business models in an effort to reduce costs and increase efficiency.

The idea is also an economic one – many people have things they own but don’t use most of the time. By sharing these items, the cost of use is spread across a number of different people, while the object is also used much more efficiently as a result.

Perhaps the best example is Uber – the app which lets anyone become a taxi driver without using a traditional company. The service has become incredibly popular overseas and already seems to have broken the monopoly previously held by taxi operators.

Just a few years ago, this sort of innovation in shared services wouldn’t have been possible and the taxi industry certainly wouldn’t have been one people would associate with digital disruption.

Of course, Uber isn’t the only firm riding this new development in the collaborative consumption space. Other companies like Air BnB have had a similar effect on the hotel industry, providing an alternative for individuals to offer accommodation at a cheaper rate than established providers.

These are just some of the ideas that have already impacted the market. Companies are also innovating in new spaces that could upend more industries. One example that a number of startups are investing in is car sharing services that will allow individuals to rent a car short-term without having to go through a car rental provider.

Given that a car will spend most of it’s life unused, this sort of innovation has the potential to significantly change they way we think about buying and running a car.

Many other industries are also going to see significant growth. Research from PricewaterhouseCoopers in the UK predicted that nine key sectors – peer-to-peer (P2P) finance, online staffing, P2P accommodation, car sharing and music/video streaming will be the sectors which see the largest growth over coming years.

With these areas range from futuristic to an imminent strategic opportunity, every company now needs to be thinking carefully about how to adapt to this sort of digital disruption.

What does the collaborative economy mean for an SME?

Clearly these new models of sharing are going to change the way individuals perform. As new sectors of the economy encounter the same disruption that is affecting transport and hospitality, SME owners will need to be sure they are taking steps to prevent this same kind of disruption occurring in their business.

While there are clearly significant obstacles that the collaborative economy is putting on small businesses, it also represents an opportunity for companies to improve their operations and realise new growth.

So what are these benefits? Here are two of the advantages of a shared economy for a small business:

1) New opportunities to provide services

Every company will now need to think about how their services might be better provided over a shared service. Planning ahead for how a business’s services might be provided over a shared platform will be essential if your SME is going to make the most of the shared economy.

This was highlighted in recent research, discussed in the Harvard Business Review, which found that the main reason for individuals to engage with shared services is based on price. The research suggested that companies that want to be competitive in the shared economy will be those that can offer convenience and lower cost.

However, companies working in this space will also need to be sure they are investing in their reputation. The sharing economy requires both companies and individuals to build “reputation capital” if they want to be successful under this business model.

2) Lower operating costs

Just as the number of businesses working in the shared economy space has increased, established firms are turning to these same services as a way to cut costs in their business. This new model of managing services means that even if a firm’s own business cannot be translated to a shared platform, they can still profit from this new model of using resources.

Peer-to-peer finance is just one example of how shared services might come to benefit an organisation in the future. Instead of relying on funding sources from a bank or financial institution, SMEs might be able to attract capital from alternative funding sources. By cutting out the middleman, these services have the opportunity to lower ongoing costs for accessing essential business services.

These are just two of the ways Australian SMEs might be able to achieve a more effective operation by using the shared economy. For companies that can take the time to understand this service and adjust their corporate strategy to account for this shift, the advantages in the future are going to be considerable.

Leadership vs. Management: Closing the great divide

Although it might seem like it doesn’t make much of a difference, what we call the people at the top of the organisational hierarchy can have significant implications.

The quickening rate of change in modern business means there is now a plethora of titles that executives can hold these days, with more appellations constantly being devised. However, there are two that have stood the test of time and continue to be widely used in the workplace today: leader and manager.

Are these two essentially the same thing? Or is it worth digging into the semantics, looking at the different nuances of each and what they mean for modern executive development?

In reality, there are key differences between the two concepts – but they may be of equal importance for today’s executives.

The Leader

Literature over the years has tended to paint leaders as a charismatic figure at the head of the organisation, engaging, inspiring and motivating employees to succeed. A lot of focus has been placed on how the best leaders transcend their technical skills and expertise and hold the innate ability to stir up their workers and get the best out of them.

These attributes are, of course, essential – the Center for Creative Leadership’s ‘What Makes a Leader Effective?’ study, for example, found that respondents in the US ranked being charismatic as the top quality for effective leadership. This placed it ahead of other factors such as being team-oriented, participative and humane-oriented.

In summary, a business’s leader appeals to its higher ideals and vision and aims to excite these within employees. The ‘Leadership versus Management: A Key Distinction – At Least in Theory’ paper by Sam Houston State University’s Fred C. Lunenburg explains it perfectly. While a manager “executes plans, improves the present and sees the trees”, a leader “articulates a vision, creates the future and sees the forest”.

While this comparison highlights the importance and value of a leader, it also indicates that strong management skills are also crucial – and the modern leader needs to be a great manager as well.

The Manager

So if the leader is in charge of guiding the organisation through its groundbreaking new steps, what does the manager do? An equally important role, according to Lunenburg – while a leader creates change, he says, the manager is responsible for managing that change.

Alan Murray’s Wall Street Journal Guide to Management, quoting leadership expert Warren Bennis, puts it another way – the leader develops, while the manager maintains. In addition, Bennis reiterates the different but equally vital perspectives the two take: the leader watches the horizon, while the manager has their eye on the bottom line.

In business, managing the day-to-day short term is just as important as taking a long-term view into the future, a notion that is reinforced by the branches of leadership and management – and how they complement each other.

Putting two and two together

As these analyses suggest, leadership and management can seem like polar opposites that are difficult to reconcile. However, in order to truly succeed in the modern business world, executives should focus on how they can leverage both their leadership and management capabilities, making them work for each other for the good of the organisation.

Benefits of transparent leadership

Transparency is a goal that a number of businesses claim to have achieved – yet many leaders still have a tendency to keep certain information under wraps.

Honesty and openness are key elements in gaining the trust and respect of employees, so why do senior executives still feel the need to operate in a state of secrecy?

In some cases, leaders are afraid of the consequences of releasing sensitive information early, such as the possibility of job cuts or other downsizing measures. Executives can feel that withholding this knowledge gives them greater control over the situation and is in the best interests of staff members. They may also worry about panicking employees.

However, in a social media-driven world, organisations are expected to be more transparent than ever before. Enterprises now face significant brand damage if disgruntled workers or customers flock to sites such as Twitter and Facebook to air grievances.

There is also a significant risk of poor morale and higher turnover, with employees unsure over their future role within the company.

The benefits of transparency

Research shows that a lack of leadership transparency not only makes executives appear dishonest, it also impacts how their performance is judged among colleagues and partners.

In 2010, a study in Elsevier’s The Leadership Quarterly Journal outlined the benefits of keeping employees informed on company changes, processes and strategies.The University of Nebraska-Lincoln and Colorado State University-Pueblo researchers suggested that transparency had a positive effect on job satisfaction, staff retention, commitment and performance.

“Our results support that both the level of transparency exhibited by the leader and the leader’s level of positive psychological capacity each positively impacted both participants’ rated trust and perceived effectiveness of their leaders,” the authors noted.

“All study hypotheses were supported with leaders that were represented as being higher in both positive psychological capacity and transparency being rated as more effective than leaders in any other condition.”

In other words, employees hold leaders they consider to be transparent in a higher regard than other executives. This can lead to an increase in staff loyalty and productivity in the workplace, raising morale and mitigating uncertainty.

The challenges of transparency

The research clearly shows there is an advantage for businesses that prioritise transparent leadership, but that is not to say this methodology is devoid of pitfalls.

Companies must strike a delicate balance between effective information sharing and giving away proprietary knowledge that market rivals can use to improve their own products and services. Salary transparency can also present problems, particularly if there are any disparities between wages for employees who are doing the same job.

Making decision-making more transparent can be extremely beneficial, as it allows stakeholders to understand the reasoning behind important changes. On the downside, the entire process can be slowed down, and more transparency does not necessarily translate into better decisions.

Understanding the importance of transparency

Ultimately, even the disadvantages of improving transparency can be seen as benefits, as they often highlight areas of the business that currently aren’t performing well enough.

Writing for Fast Company, the co-founder of social media management company Buffer, Leo Widrich, described his organisation’s decision to increase transparency as “incredibly nerve-racking”.

“Both the great strength and cause of pervasive fear of transparency in corporate America is that, with transparency, you show your employees the company for what it is and you expose how it works. That’s disastrous at terrible companies,” he said. “The power of transparency then is that it drives us to be better – to create a company that’s both great and good.”

According to Mr Widrich, his company takes its cues from Google, which is often considered a market leader for corporate transparency among large multinationals. He cited the firm’s use of the Google Snippets internal system. The platform allows all employees to see what their colleagues are working on, enabling people to make decisions autonomously.

“That limits the power of bad bosses to control the flow of information and makes everyone’s accomplishments recognisable by everyone.”

Are you ready for transparency?

While there are both advantages and disadvantages to boosting leadership transparency at your organisation, in many cases the pros outweigh the cons.

Withholding key information from stakeholders leads to distrust, poor performance, higher staff turnover and a bad reputation both internally and externally. Conversely, leaders who are open and honest about decision-making are perceived to be better at their jobs and inspire employees to raise productivity and offer constructive feedback.

However, for transparency to be truly successful, organisations need to ensure the way they do business is fair, efficient and ethical. Otherwise, they could face significant problems when opening up sensitive company information to a wider audience.

The 5 issues concerning CEOs the most

Every CEO encounters obstacles depending on their industry and the specific challenges their businesses are facing. But, while each business leader holds a unique position, there are similar issues that apply across every sector.

As the world’s largest CEO membership organisation, we have identified the key issues keeping business leaders up at night. These issues are also among the most pressing for a CEO to address if they want to ensure they are leading the business in a way that supports ongoing growth.

1) Talent management – Are the right people working for you?

Most CEOs are well aware of the issues they face when it comes to talent management. As industries have become increasingly complex, the demand for individuals who can fill vital positions has increased.

It’s not just performance where talent management has become a major concern for CEOs – there is also the importance of finding staff with the right personality to match the culture of the organisation.

Regardless of whether these talent management efforts are aimed internally or at external experts, finding the right people that suit your businesses thinking is essential.

TEC speaker Trudy McDonald suggests employing Pareto’s 80:20 rule; devoting 80 per cent of the effort involved with talent management to upfront work defining what skills a business is looking for and the remaining 20 per cent to subsequent screening and interviews.

Making this step a priority can ensure hiring and promoting the right people who fit the company culture. Trudy also emphasises that great companies understand that people are their largest asset and a major factor for ongoing business growth.

2) Rate of change – Is your business meeting the technology standards of the future?

Digital disruption and new communication channels are now an engrained part of the business landscape. For leaders, this change presents a significant challenge as businesses look to adjust their performance in light of new threats to their business model.

Social media is just one example of this shift, and one that didn’t even exist a few years ago. Risk management has become increasingly difficult for companies to undertake as information can now be spread instantly by many users.

This only adds further fuel that technology is an increasingly dominant part of companies’ overarching strategies. With this rate of change continuing to increase, the scope for issues to arise for a company is going to rise in kind. However, the increasing rate of change also presents an opportunity for companies.

This was explored recently by consulting firm McKinsey & Company, which argued that companies in the future will build “digital hives” to manage this technological growth. These hives allow businesses to harness clusters of knowledge from multiple levels within a company and channel them towards broader organisational goals.

3) Globalisation of markets – Are you taking advantage of the global market?

The world has certainly become smaller in recent decades and overseas markets are now closer than ever before. With the Australian government entering into multiple free trade agreements in recent months, the scope for issues to arise with businesses is only going to increase with time.

As overseas companies have even-greater access to Australian companies, the challenge is now for businesses to be competitive on a global scale, not just a local one.

At the same time, local firms are now looking for new strategies to expand overseas in order to develop new growth potential.

This was underscored by the Australian International Business Survey, conducted by the University of Sydney and the AusTrade. The most recent edition of the study reported that 74 per cent of respondents are planning on expanding to two or more overseas markets in the next 24 months.

These twin challenges of globalisation – pursuing an international growth strategy while also preserving local market share from international competitors – are going to continue to shape the performance of Australian companies.

4) Innovation – Are you operating in an innovative mindset?

It used to be that product quality and customer service were the primary factors that separated an average business from a great one. Now, companies that are truly successful are also those that are innovative and can find new solutions to the issues they are facing.

However, the number of innovation-active businesses in Australia is actually declining. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, the number of companies pursuing new products and services declined between 2011-12 and 2012-13, from 46.6 per cent of firms to only 42.2 per cent.

Innovation cannot be overlooked, with new ideas and insights improving the efficiency and effectiveness of a business. The challenge is more than developing an innovative product or service; but finding a course in this new business environment and then adjusting course when necessary to set your business apart from the competition.

5) Decision-making – Are you making the most informed decisions on behalf of the business?

Finally, decision-making is one of the largest and most enduring issues that CEOs face. Having to make-or-break decisions everyday when it comes to running a business; even the smallest decisions have profound implications. There are a number of personal biases – how quickly a person makes a decision for example – that can influence how well a business leader performs.

Good decisions are made when CEOs equally weigh the pros and cons, rewards versus risks, and probability of success versus failure. Out-of-the box decisions can sometimes be a recipe for disaster.

Unfortunately, many leaders are in the box when they should be out of it; and out of the box when they should be in it.

These are certainly the issues that are weighing on the minds of CEOs – are they keeping you up at night?

2015 Modern leadership: working smarter not harder

As a C-level executive do you have a clear vision of what you want to achieve both personally and professionally this year? What about over the next 18 months to 5 years? You may have general ideas, however once you return to the daily operations of the business it’s likely they get buried in the demands of the day-to-day.

But how important is it to get specific and strategic about goal setting?

Many leaders feel as though they work very hard both in and on their businesses and yet they don’t achieve the results they want or the work life balance they need. A key reason is they haven’t dedicated time to think clearly and strategically about what it is they want to achieve. There is also a lack of accountability and follow through on implementation. An important step is to have a clear vision of what your leadership priorities are, and what you want to achieve; having a clear vision.

“More than 80% of the 300 small business owners surveyed in the recent 4th Annual Staples National Small Business Survey said that they don’t keep track of their business goals, and 77% have yet to achieve their vision for their company,” writes Peter Vanden Bos for Inc.

What if we told you the solution is to work smarter, not harder?

In New York Times bestseller What They Don’t Teach You at Harvard Business School, Mark McCormack shares an interesting study that was conducted in 1979 on Harvard MBA students revealing the real impact of goal setting.

He asked students whether they had clear, written goals for their future and made plans to accomplish them.

84% of students admitted they had no goals at all, while 13% had goals that weren’t written down. In fact, only 3% had specific goals in writing.

When interviewed 10 years later, the 13% of students who had goals were earning on average twice as much as those who had never established clear goals.

However, the 3% with written objectives for success had salaries that were a staggering 10 times as much as the other students put together

Goal-setting paybacks

Identifying effective goals and setting a plan to achieve them helps leaders organise resources, streamline knowledge acquisition and raise motivation, particularly on long-term projects and objectives.

This has a significant impact on productivity that is difficult to ignore, both on a personal and professional level. Whether you’re a business leader, a top athlete or a high achiever in any other field, establishing goals provides the additional focus that is essential to reaching the top.

American business consultant and author Jim Collins offers similar advice, which is why he’s famous for coining the term ‘Big Hairy Audacious Goals’ – or BHAG.

The phrase refers to the long-term proposals that are the hallmark to some of the world’s most successful business leaders. “It is about goal setting. It is about picking a goal that will stimulate change and progress and making a resolute commitment to it,” Collins explains. “This is not about writing a mission statement. This is about going on a mission.”

Working smarter, not harder

The SMART format for goal setting has been around for many years and it’s a common practice among high achievers, as it establishes a helpful framework for gauging the effectiveness of goals and objectives.

Specific – target a specific area for improvement.
Measurable – quantify or at least suggest an indicator of progress.
Achievable – specify who will do it.
Results orientated – state what results can realistically be achieved, given available resources.
Time sensitive – specify when the result(s) can be achieved.

Goals that meet this criteria have a much better chance of positive outcomes, in Peter F. Drucker’s popular HBR article What Makes an Effective Executive he states  ‘executives are doers; they execute. Knowledge is useless to executives until it has been transformed into deeds. But before springing into action, the executive needs to plan their course’.

‘Without an action plan, the executive becomes a prisoner of events. And without check-ins to re-examine the plan as events unfold, the executive has no way of knowing which events really matter and which are only noise’.

Ultimately, leaders who set goals both personally and professionally have the direction and focus required to pursue powerful strategic objectives. Modern leaders have the ability to set and achieve progressive goals and distil this into business metrics.

So how do you drive strategic goal setting? Every leader has business obligations whether it’s focused on innovation, becoming the premier distributing vendor, taking your company public or creating the best consumer experience. TEC Goal Setting is an effective way to incorporate this into your personal and professional life through a highly customised learning experience, credible resource of content and accountability.

How to boost productivity through better office design

When measuring the benefits of energy efficient building upgrades, many companies only consider the savings. While a reduction in costs may be considerable, there are far more business advantages to better design.

Some of the biggest organisations in the world are beginning to concentrate more on the layout and sustainability of their offices, including technology giant Google.

Anne Less, e-team innovation program manager at the firm, said the importance of eco-friendly measures in the workplace can’t be overstated.

“Energy efficiency is a huge focus for Google – both in our productivity and our operations – and we’ve found that it aligns with our goals for healthy workplaces,” she said in an interview with the Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI).

“There is a strong correlation between workplace satisfaction and temperature, and similarly with Googlers’ self-reported productivity.”

According to the RMI, Google makes decisions on office design throughout the entire real estate lifecycle, right from concept to construction and beyond.

The business also often weighs factors such as user experience and worker health alongside traditional issues such as cost and energy usage. As such, Google aims to create innovative plans that make the best use of natural light, are more sustainable and ensure staff aren’t exposed to harmful materials.

These measures mean Google now only uses half the US average for energy in its test building, with the company stating its hopes that other enterprises will begin to understand how such investments can bear fruit.

Going green in Australia

A new report by the World Green Building Council (WGBC) stated that staff costs typically account for approximately 90 per cent of operating expenditure for organisations.

This means that even a moderate improvement in productivity at the workforce level can have significant financial implications for employers. In Australia, businesses waste $7 billion a year on absenteeism and poor health.

Romilly Madew, chief executive of Green Building Council Australia, said the report – which her organisation sponsored – will help companies in the country appreciate the value of environmentally-friendly designs.

“Operating from sustainable office space is increasingly recognised as a strategic business decision that is not only environmentally and economically-sound, but can also enhance a company’s biggest asset and expense – its people,” she added.

Peter Hilderson, head of energy and sustainability services for the Asia-Pacific region at Jones Lang LaSalle, said there is a “sweet spot” where financials, people and buildings overlap. In other words, enterprises can achieve mutual benefits by creating office spaces that not only help their bottom line, but boost productivity among employees.

“Organisations that invest the time and apply the necessary rigour to implementing this framework will unlock the benefits of these inter-relationships and reap the rewards,” he stated.

Taking the next steps

The WGBC report outlined a number of areas where businesses can examine their existing building design and make improvements.

If your organisation is looking to upgrade to a more sustainable future, these changes could be a good place to start.

Air quality: Enhancing indoor air quality has been shown to improve productivity anywhere between 8 and 11 per cent. High ventilation rates and low concentrations of CO2 are important factors in achieving better air quality.

Active design and exercise: The health benefits of exercise should be encouraged, including access to gyms, bike storage and green space. The WGBC said people who cycle to work are much less likely to take sick days.

Lighting and nature: A growing body of research shows that green space and nature both have a positive impact on health, particularly mental wellbeing. Office layouts that prioritise access to windows and natural light, therefore, are tied to a boost in productivity.

Temperature: The WGBC said it is difficult to separate the benefits of air quality and room temperature, as they are often closely linked. However, providing staff with control over their thermal comfort is thought to produce productivity gains somewhere in the single figures.

Amenities and location: This is becoming an increasingly important part of modern offices, particularly in relation to childcare. Businesses that have provided these services on-site experienced a significant financial gain through reduced absenteeism.

Noise: Employees typically highlight loud office environments as a severe impediment to productivity in knowledge-based jobs. In fact, there can be a 66 per cent drop in performance due to distracting sounds, according to one study cited by the WGBC.

Interior layout: Recent research has suggested that creating a number of different task-oriented workspaces is the key to making workers more productive. This means providing separate areas where staff can socialise, brainstorm or work on their own.

5 inspirational quotes to start your day

“People buy into the leader before they buy into the vision.”

It’s hard to disagree with that statement, just one of the many pearls of wisdom from leadership guru John C. Maxwell.

The greatest leaders, whether in the field of business, politics or otherwise, have provided countless similar gems over the years and mulling over a particularly inspirational quote can be the perfect start to your day.

In fact, this Business Insider article from January 2014 suggests that “inspirational reading” is one of the seven best ways to start your day right. Instead of getting bogged down in the morning news, reading something inspiring or uplifting can help you kick off your day and provide the energy to get through your work.

So, in addition to getting up early, having a good breakfast and organising and planning your day, what else can you do? Well, as this recent TEC blog article suggests – make sure you give yourself time to read at least one good quote every morning before you begin your work. Here are just five of our top picks to get you started.

1. “If I had nine hours to chop down a tree, I’d spend the first six sharpening my axe.” – Abraham Lincoln

The legendary American president remains an inspiration to millions across the world, and one of his most famous quotes fits perfectly in the business arena.

When undertaking any major project, the majority of your effort should be invested in the planning and preparation stage. Taking the time to develop a comprehensive strategic plan will put you on the front foot and ensure you have everything in place to hit the ground running.

2. “Management is about arranging and telling. Leadership is about nurturing and enhancing.” – Tom Peters

This sage piece of advice from writer Tom Peters makes clear the crucial difference between management and leadership, and what separates the very best leaders from those who are merely good.

The most effective leaders realise their role extends beyond simply telling their subordinates what to do. Instead, they invite them to join their leadership journey and make the effort to help them grow.

3. “A leader is a dealer in hope.” – Napoleon Bonaparte

One of history’s greatest ever military leaders, Napoleon knows a thing or two about good leadership.

As mentioned above, the best leaders do more than just issue orders. Great leaders know how to empower and motivate their staff to strive for the company’s vision and can inspire hope in them, even when times are tough.

4. “All our dreams can come true, if we have the courage to pursue them.”  – Walt Disney

Walt Disney inspired generations of children and adults alike, and is a great example of how hard work can make dreams come true.

One of the most essential ingredients of success, of course, is courage. Do you have the courage to lead your company and make its vision come true?

5. “Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other.” – John F. Kennedy

As another great American president pointed out, education is a lifelong commitment – we simply never stop learning.

Even the most acclaimed business leaders can learn plenty more simply by interacting with similar individuals around them. That is why continuous leadership development is one of the wisest investments you can make – both in a personal and business sense.

The behavioural DNA of a typical TEC member

Exploring EQ (Emotional Intelligence) & the motivating behaviours evident in the ‘typical’ TEC member.

After running over 70 presentations, from a behavioural perspective, a pattern has emerged as to the type of member TEC attracts and keeps. This article will bring data to the table and explore the natural strengths and weaknesses in the behaviour of your typical TEC member. There are generic challenges that arise out of what I have found with the such a TEC member. Challenges include, building trust, dealing with conflict, flexibility & handling differing points of view.

“Emotional Intelligence? That’s an oxy-moron! How can you be “intelligent” and “emotional” at the same time?”

This was a common response particularly when I first started presenting “Applied Emotional Intelligence” over 12 years ago to TEC groups. More and more research confirms, (such as “Built to Last” & “Great by Choice” Jim Collins) there is a strong link between Emotional Intelligence (EQ) and business success.

The cynics are becoming fewer.

That doesn’t make it any easier however to understand and apply EQ to business.

TEC members seem to have a thirst and equally a frustration working out this ‘emotional intelligence’ piece of their Management equation.

A tool that I have found particularly useful in helping TEC members grasp EQ is called “DISC Profiling”. The DISC profiling process came out of research back in the 1920’s by Dr. William Marsden “Emotions of Normal People” who wanted to work out ‘what drives people’s different behaviours?’. Then in the 1960’s Dr. John Geier developed the “DISC profile” to help people measure these drivers– Why they do and behave the way they do.

In a nutshell “D.I.S.C.” represents four quadrants of behaviour (see Table 1). Behaviours we exhibit depending on the environment we are in. Similar behavioural models use birds to help visualize and identify these behaviours (refer: “Taking Flight” Rosenberg & Silvert):

  • ‘bold’ Eagle (“D” behaviour),
  • ‘flamboyant’ Peacock (“I” behaviour),
  • ‘peaceful’ Dove (“S” behaviour) and
  • ‘wise’ Owl (“C” behaviour):

Table 1: Brief summary of DISC:

Type Behaviour Motivated by Characteristics Indicators
Eagle Direct & Decisiv Power & Control Risk taking & Task oriented Strong Willed Bold Competitive
IPeacock Interactive & Inspirational Recognition & Influence Risk taking & People oriented Talkative & Fun loving
SDove Steady & Supportive Acceptance & Stability Risk reducing & People oriented Sincere & co-Operative
COwl Cautious & Correct Security & Correctness Risk reducing & Task oriented Logical & Thorough

The key is to recognise that we have a unique combination of D.I.S.C. behaviours. However we do tend to revert to a couple of behaviours that are our natural preference, ‘wiring or DNA’.

The DISC profile measures below were gathered from 40 TEC members participating in ‘Applied Emotional Intelligence’ sessions from four recent TEC groups. The results revealed some interesting patterns in TEC members; patterns that reflect my experience working with nearly 1,000 TEC members over 12 years.

Strongest Behaviour % Behavioural Preference* %
D 56.1% D 77.5%
I 3.6% I 20.0%
S 17.4% S 35.0%
C 22.9% C 75.0%

*It is important to note that around 80% of the population have 2 DISC behaviours, such as a D & C or S & C combination which are their natural behavioural preference, ‘wiring or DNA’

  • “Strongest behaviour”= measures “which of the four DISC behaviours is the strongest preference for the TEC member?”
  • ”Behavioural Preference”= measures “which DISC behaviours are a natural preference?”

The results are not surprising. “D” rates as the strongest rating behaviour for 56.2% of TEC members while 77.5% have D as part of their behavioural DNA. “D” behaviour is driven by the need for Power & Control. In other words they prefer to call the shots, than be told what to do!

They love TEC because they love fierce conversations (no ‘BS’), making life efficient and continually focus on results.

Heading up or creating a business can be high risk and thus tends to attract people who are comfortable in taking risks and driven by getting results. TEC provides that framework.

75% of TEC members are driven by the need for security, correctness and compliance (C behaviour). The need to get things right, need for process.

They love TEC because it helps fine tune systems, processes and procedures. Quality and accountability are king!

So, where does EQ fit into the TEC picture?

From an EQ perspective, the challenge for TEC members with 77.5% and 75% of members respectively having D & C behaviour as part of their DNA means that their world is highly TASK driven. Results tend to be more about taking risks, getting systems, processes and procedures right.

The danger:staff may in themselves become just another “task” versus an “asset” to be nurtured, coached and engaged.

Believe it or not, EQ is not about being touchy feely. It’s more about maximizing your people’s input, engagement and thus productivity. No point having great products, systems and processes but no decent person wants to work for you!

A challenge to TEC. Is TEC attracting a certain type of business owner/director? Are there opportunities to target a wider community of leaders that are not being tapped?

Finally, the KEYS TO HIGH EQ:

  • knowing yourself: strengths/weaknesses
  • knowing what drives you (knowing your D.I.S.C. preferences)
  • knowing what drives those who are most important to you and
  • taking responsibility to build your key relationships (high EQ)

Emotional intelligence is more related to your ability to be flexible than where you live in the world of DISC.

Good luck!

By the way, if you are looking to sharpen your EQ check out ‘Leadership NOW’

About the Author

Wayne Dyson is the Director of Bridgeworks – a specialist leadership and team development consultancy dealing in people skills for professionals. Delivering processes that build collaborative work environments where staff are fully engaged. Providing the starting point is helping managers find the sweet spot between managing process and leading people. His programs have been delivered nationally and in USA, SE Asia, UK, & NZ.