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.

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.

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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.

A guide to company culture from 5 successful businesses

Developing a strong sense of company culture pays off. Employees who are happy are up to 12% more productive than average workers, able to outperform their peers and consistently improve an organisation’s revenue. A strong company culture means retaining your employees, spending less time training, and being able to procure the top talent. Here are some fantastic examples of companies that were able to create and maintain a strong foundation that truly resonated with their employees.

Find out more about a TEC membership and how it can help you make an impact on your company culture

 

Create an environment that you’d like to work in at Envato

 

Named one of BRW’s Best Places to Work in 2015 and JobAdvisor’s Coolest Tech Company in Australia in 2014, employees of Envato are the envy of many.

Envato’s founders had a single goal in mind when they developed their company culture: to create a business that they themselves would like to work in. After all, they knew that to get the best work out of them, employees had to have mutual respect for each other as individuals. Envato presently has around 260 employees, and their major marketplace, ThemeForest, is the 204th most visited website in the world. They have been able to achieve their sterling reputation and incredible growth through the allowance of flexible benefits — such as allowing their staff to work anywhere in the world for up to three months. They have also emphasised gender diversity internally. In 2015, Envato was named the Coolest Company for Women by JobAdvisor.

What does this all mean? Envato can get the pick of the litter when it comes to tech employees — especially female employees.


Be honest and blunt at
Atlassian

Values are the foundation of Atlassian’s company culture, which acknowledges the humanity and complexity of both their employees and their customers.

Atlassian’s blunt and honest company creed sets the stage for the rest of its edicts: build with heart and balance, play as a team, and be the change you seek. This direct, forthcoming company culture is what makes Atlassian a refreshing business for employees — and customers. Atlassian’s company culture includes twice-daily workout sessions, which are designed to bring the employees together and acknowledge that life is about more than just work product. But at its core, the company culture is about working together to deliver the best product possible and being proud of that work. This company culture supports the idea of mavericks and innovators while also emphasizing the need for teamwork.

By creating a blunt atmosphere, Atlassian is able to improve communication among its personnel. A focus towards delivering the best product at any cost removes focus from mundane, day-to-day conflicts and truly inspires their employees to innovate.

 

Turn work into a party at RedBalloon

When RedBalloon was first launched ten years ago, it was just a one-person startup; now it’s one of BRW’s “Great Places to Work.”

An online experience-based gift retailer, RedBalloon wants to bring its gifts and happiness to its employees as well. RedBalloon’s company culture concentrates primarily on developing an employee experience rather than using employees as company resources. The founder, Naomi Simson, wanted her employees to have a good time in their workplace, trusting that if they do, they will remain loyal and productive. The process of maintaining this company culture begins as early as interviewing. Quirky group interviews make sure that everyone who comes on board is part of the same healthy dynamic. The company culture is then reinforced through engaging, bonding activities, ranging from a comprehensive wellness program to optional charity hours. Through this, RedBalloon is able to maintain its work ethic without sacrificing productivity.

When employees want to work, they stay at their job. By creating this atmosphere, RedBalloon is able to reduce employee churn and the amount of time they spend during the hiring process and training.

Just be human at Vinomofo

With a tradition of calling its employees “mofos” and “mofettes,” Vinomofo has been a unique and innovative company from the start.

Today, Vinomofo sells 3.5 million bottles of wine annually, with approximately 100 employees. They’ve been able to achieve this steady and impressive growth by creating a company that is about more than just profit. Vinomofo has a wide variety of Mofo Causes, designed to give back to the community for everything from animal welfare to depression awareness. And every month, Vinomofo recognises people within the community who are doing good work. Like RedBalloon, a lot of attention is paid to new hires to ensure that they fit in with the existing company culture. A major creed at Vinomofo is to “be human” so that the distractions of the workplace don’t get in the way of recognising employees as people.

Vinomofo didn’t want to forget its employees’ humanity — and it paid off. By treating employees as people, companies can ensure that their employees truly give their work their all. This can be easily seen in the productivity Vinomofo is able to establish with just a hundred employees.

Don’t be evil with Google

Google has distilled company culture down to a science, becoming the topic of dozens of research papers and studies unto itself.

“Don’t be evil” has been Google’s motto for many years — and it’s one of the reasons this monolithic tech giant is often still considered to be one of the friendliest and most approachable businesses. Google has always been lauded for its relaxed atmosphere and company culture, which includes being able to bring in dogs, working on flex time, and devoting significant portions of one’s day to one’s own projects. Google has remained one of the “Best Companies to Work For” on Fortune 100’s list year after year, and in large part, this is due to its unique benefits, sterling reputation, and carefully crafted culture.

Google’s reputation has made it possible for it to truly select from the best-of-the-best tech employees — and that’s what has kept it on top.

Culture is impactful

Company culture is inherent to a company’s success. Not only does it improve revenue and productivity, it also ensures that any business you start is a business that you also want to continue working with. But developing a company culture certainly isn’t easy: it has to be motivated from the ground up, beginning with new hires and continuing on through the upper echelons of management.

At TEC, we’re focused on helping our members grow as leaders. If you’d like to find out more, contact us today to learn more about creating a company culture that will have employees clamouring for a position in your business.

 

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How Well Are You Responding To Change?

By Graham Jenkins, TEC Chair The current business landscape is inundated with examples of established organisations feeling the intense pressures of disruptive new players in their respective markets. We nearly lost Kodak, for example, Aldi is growing fast and Uber is causing all manner of disturbance in the taxi sector. […] more

Is the pursuit of success getting in the way of your happiness?

By Richard Appleby, TEC Chair It’s easy for leaders to get caught up in their professional pursuits and ignore other parts of their lives that some would say are more important. In these cases, it’s easy for them to not only lose track of what it takes to be successful, but also how these achievements create happiness in their daily lives. […] more

TEC 13 Creates History — First TEC Meeting in Federal Parliament

TEC 13 has a number of long terms members including Bob Day AO who has been a member for 25 years. In February the group chaired by Adrian Geering held it’s monthly meeting over two days at Parliament house in Canberra: definitely an experience worth sharing.
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Do you have organisational oversight of your business?

Building a strong business foundation and having oversight of the whole organisation is going to be essential for rapidly growing companies.
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Honouring extraordinary women leaders in the TEC community

As we celebrated and honoured International Women’s Day this week, we would like to recognise some extraordinary leaders in our TEC community.
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Workplace Wellbeing: Tip Number 4 – Implement a “No eating at your desk” policy

Why do we eat poorly and not exercise enough? Nutrition and physical exercise are at the top of most people’s health plans. While Physical Health is only a part of your overall, or holistic health, it is the easiest to achieve. So why do we get it so wrong? Continue reading

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