Shaping Your Future

What you can do to bring the future back to today.

In the current business environment leaders are subject to increasing demands on their time, requiring faster responses, with less information in shorter time-scales. In this age of infinite information and endless distraction, it’s easy to spend an entire day reacting and responding to what others want as opposed to what we want or need to do.

Here is a question for you.

Do a quick calculation of the percentage of time you spend responding to things in a typical day (answering email and phone calls, etc.). Compare this with the percentage of time you spend initiating actions.

Where do you spend most of your time? In most cases, a reactionary time greatly outweighs proactive time.

The problem is that you spend most of your time dealing with the past in the present, making it difficult to prepare, plan and act for the future.  And it is what you initiate today that will shape the future.  It might be a conversation that leads to a new friendship, sharing an idea that leads to a new product or service etcetera.  Your ability to create a positive charge for others is almost directly proportional to the amount of time you can spend initiating instead of responding.

Leaders look to the future, deal with people, and lead change. So, with your team, allocate time to reflect and look to the future to determine what you can and need to initiate that is aligned with your purpose and goals. Talk with others, and encourage your team to do the same, to gain insights into their perspectives and thoughts and to start the process of developing opportunities for the future. Look to initiate rather than respond, this will help you to be proactive and to take control of the future for yourself.

To view or download a PDF version of this blog click here

Share your thoughts and ideas here, or email me at andrew.cooke@business-gps.com.au

If you found this article of use or interest please don’t hesitate to share it with others.

Click here to find out more about Andrew Cooke and Growth & Profit Solutions.

3 Ways to Meet the Faster Pace of Business

It.is not how fast business goes that matters, it is how and if you can keep up!

The pace of doing business is speeding up not slowing down.

Each year the pressure grows on all areas of a business including its people, cash-flow, leadership, innovation, business models, technologies and ability to implementation strategies successfully. This pressure can lead to issues arising across the business that ultimately impact its overall growth and profit potential.

Standing back from all the specific issues stemming from this ‘high pace’ of doing business most can quickly be related back to the in-ability to implement ‘change’ successfully.

So what does a business leader or owner do? What are the strategies that should be implemented to ‘adjust’ the business and its people to this NEW normal environment for doing business?

Here are three strategies that can assist businesses and teams cope with the high pace of doing business:

Strategy 1 – Focus on Micro tasks
Think back to the last planning session you had or project team you were involved in. What was the nature of the strategies / actions that were set? Were they quite broad or were they very specific outlining the steps that need to be taken. Too often planning sessions lead to broad statements such as: ‘Do a marketing plan’, ‘Refine our sales process’ or ‘Fix that problem’ but rarely outline HOW to achieve those outcomes or the micro steps / tasks required. This leads to teams either heading down the wrong paths or not starting to change at all.

The simple solution when you see this occurring is to keep breaking down the broad task into micro tasks that highlight the HOW and the steps required to reach the desired outcome. Try this simple strategy in your next planning session and you instantly see the benefits.

Strategy 2 – Provide just-in-time learning
Sending teams to two day residential training sessions to learn new skills are slowly becoming a thing of the past. There is certainly still a need to hold those types of events in specific situation but 5-7 years ago every training event was a two day off-site with little accountability to the new learning acquired or how it would be implemented. The retention of new learning was thus very low and too often forgotten (until a need arose and the learning had to be acquired again!).

To obtain the skills to address specific issues in this fast paced business world you need to shift the thinking of your people to ‘just-in-time’ learning. This means that as a need arises to address a specific issue (such as understanding the strengths / weakness’ of your competitors as part of a marketing strategy) the focus should be on putting time in your schedule to learn that skill in 30-60 minutes via an online learning platform or quick internal training session and then applying it in the field quickly. The retained learning is much higher with this approach as there is immediately application of the learning. Best of all a solution to the issue is provided straight away to allow momentum to continue with the desired ‘change’ or ‘new strategy’.

Strategy 3 – Capture and track your strategies / actions using innovative technologies
How often have you gone to reflect on a strategy you development months ago and then had to spend hours searching through your emails, journals, files or go and follow-up a team member to get yourself up to speed again with the discussions that occurred and actions that were confirmed. Even if you have a good discipline of having ‘One Page Plans’ operating in your business (and even pasted to your office wall) it can still waste many hours in your day searching for the detailed plans you have developed or putting yourself back in the same ‘head-space’ you were in to reflect on the next steps you should take.

To assist this process and speed up your pace of implementing strategies it’s critical in any modern business to be using the latest cloud technologies / applications to help you track projects and tasks. What are you currently using in your business? Nothing? There are a lot of great, cost-effective options available. The time savings and productivity gains will be felt immediately and free you up to be focusing on the growth and profit of your business.

While these three strategies are not a magic bullet they do help you adapt both you and your teams approach to allow you to implement change much more effectively in this fast-paced business environment.

To assist this process we provide all our clients’ access to GPS-Mindshop Online. GPS-Mindshop Online allows you to capture and track in one location all your strategies, actions and professional development which are only visible by you and your advisor. Your advisor can then provide confidential support and solutions drawn from hundreds of tools, courses and resources within GPS-Mindshop Online.

GPS-Mindshop Online is a fantastic way to help leaders speed up their pace of implementation to give them back valuable time to focus on the growth and profit of their business.

If you would like to discuss how we can assist you implement change more effectively in your business please email us to arrange a call or meeting. In the meantime, check out the overview videos for GPS-Mindshop Online at http://www.business-gps.com.au/gps_videos.

 

Click here to find out more about Andrew Cooke and Growth & Profit Solutions.

Why Is Coaching Becoming More Popular?

Why Is Coaching Becoming More Popular?

What is driving the uptake of coaching, and what are its benefits?

by Andrew Cooke, Growth & Profit Solutions

Organizations are increasingly using coaching as a means by which to grow and growthandsupportdevelop their people and businesses. What is driving this growth?

For one thing, the ever-increasing pace of change requires organizational leaders to develop quickly, and in the context of their current jobs. Traditional training programs are often set up to train or educate large numbers of people, but not to focus on a specific individual’s development needs. Coaching offers an individualized development option without removing leaders from their work.

Second, the war continues for leadership talent. As the hunt to find and retain talent intensifies, many companies have viewed coaching as a way to compete in the marketplace to attract and retain that talent.

Third, organizations find that the feedback gained through coaching seems to stick better, and leaders liked the opportunity to work with an unbiased external professional. More leaders, as well as many intact teams, have found the coaching process helpful for their development—and as leaders grew as executives, they look to develop their reports and cascade the coaching process to them in turn.  This creates leverage and synergies over and above those realized from just coaching the leaders.

Coaching is used to assist high-potential or high- performing leaders, rather than those experiencing performance problems. Today, name-brand organizations such as Dell, Johnson & Johnson, Wal-Mart, and Unilever have large managed coaching programs serving countless executives and use pools of highly-screened coaches, in all parts of the world.

Coaching is also moving internally, with many organizations using external coaches to train internal practitioners to coach their leaders. This approach is especially useful for companies who view their organizational culture as highly unique, and are looking to build this into their culture and develop the necessary in-house capabilities.  Internal coaching is most frequently being implemented at the mid-manager and first-line supervisor level.  External coaches remain the most popular solution for executives.

Organizations are also increasingly looking to create a coaching culture. Companies are training their leaders to better coach others in work-related situations. As more organizations understand the results of coaching, they are offering leader-as-coach training.

The benefits include one-on-one focused development, specialized personal learning, confidentiality, and personal accountability for improvement. In addition, coaching provides leaders the opportunity to develop individual capabilities faster than most instructional programs can, and in areas where training programs do not exist.

So, coaching is becoming more important and intrinsic to developing a successful organization.  External coaches are increasingly used to assist in the development and retention of senior executives and leaders, whilst working with their reports to develop leaders-as-coaches and assist in the creation of a coaching culture.  This builds the capabilities and bandwidth to grow and develop their people and businesses, and helps organizational leaders to develop quickly against a backdrop of an ever-accelerating rate of change.

Click here to find out more about Andrew Cooke and Growth & Profit Solutions.

3 Steps for Improving Your Leadership Behaviour

If what you are doing isn’t getting what you want then you have two choices: you can either settle for that which you do not want or, secondly, change what you’re doing to change what you get. To do this you need to know what you want (and what you don’t want), and how you are going to change to effect this.

Think of a time when how you acted in or reacted to a situation was not your finest hour. You handled it poorly, and the result you got was not what you wanted. Worse, you allowed the situation to escalate.  We’ve all had occasion where this has happened. So why did we act as we did?  I am sure there are many reasons, good and bad. But knowing why you act in a certain way does not change your behavior. You would think that it would. It should. But it doesn’t. Knowing does not mean understanding, and understanding does not mean taking action.

The real question is how do you change your behavior and respond in a better way? There are three steps:

  1. Identify the problem
  2. State what needs to happen
  3. Offer to help

Use these steps for any problem you face with someone at work. For example one of your reports has mishandled the drafting of a report.  Normally, you would get angry and criticize her work. This does not help, nor does it build her confidence. Applying the three steps you can:

  1. Explain why and how the report has been drafted poorly.
  2. Clearly and explicitly explain what needs to happen, and coach them through what needs to happen. Do this by asking them what they think needs to be done, don’t tell them. Coaching them enables them to learn and not repeat their mistakes.
  3. Provide support and help to them, but don’t let them abdicate the work or responsibility back to you in doing so.

Making this change in your behavior is never easy. It doesn’t feel natural or ‘right’. It feels awkward.  This is natural and to be expected. Remember when you learned to ride a bike, it was difficult. Eventually, after sufficient practice, you mastered the new behavior of riding a bike and it has now become second nature.

So, to change your behavior, you need to practice and keep at it until it feels natural and ‘right’.  As a leader, you need to lead change, and to lead change you need to lead yourself, and to lead yourself you need to be willing and able to change your behavior.

To view or download a PDF version of this blog click here.

Share your thoughts and ideas here, or email me at andrew.cooke@business-gps.com.au

If you found this article of use or interest please don’t hesitate to share it with others.

Click here to find out more about Andrew Cooke and Growth & Profit Solutions.

Don’t Give Advice, Offer Experience

Leaders – Don’t Give Advice When Asked!

How executive coaching can help you in your business

by Andrew Cooke, Growth & Profit Solutions

Advice - at your own riskLeaders and managers often need to give feedback to their teams and staff. Usually it is in the form of advice rather than feedback. Why is this? Advice can be packaged more easily, especially when you are dealing with a sensitive situation and/or individual, rather than feedback which is often perceived as being more critical in its nature. So how can we improve.

The Pixar Story

Virtually everyone knows Pixar , the animation studio that made Toy Story, Finding Nemo, Cars, A Bug’s Life, and which grossed more than $6 billion, and has won 24 Academy Awards. Here is the question for you – how many flops has Pixar produced? The answer is none!

One reason for it is that within Pixar they give brutally honest feedback.

Brutally honest feedback

At Pixar, when a director hits a snag on a film, they immediately call in the “brain trust.” This is a group of brilliant senior filmmakers who come in, look at the film in progress and give brutally honest feedback for about two hours.

Normally this is an uncomfortable process and, at best, only partially effective. But it works for two reasons:

  1. No authority – the “brains trust” has no authority over the person to whom they are giving feedback. It is up to the recipient of the feedback to do something or not. As such they are not under any obligation to take the feedback, and because of that they often do.
  2. No advice – people do not tell others what to do, they don’t offer advice; they offer experience. As such the recipient can learn from others, and can choose what to do or not.

As such, the less authority and power you have the greater the influence you can bring to bear. And the lower the requirement to act on the experience shared, the more likely people are to do so. This creates the opportunity for learning, development and innovation. Counter-intuitive? Yes, but it works. Share your experience – but remember we don’t have to learn from it, but then we probably will!

Click here to find out more about Andrew Cooke and Growth & Profit Solutions.

The “Salutary Science of Hierarchiology”

Managing the “Peter Principle” – Developing Key Leadership & Management Skills

by  Andrew Cooke, Growth & Profit Solutions

What are the risks of poor leaders, what are the key skills and capabilities a good leader needs to have, and how can you do this?

Introduction

Effective leadership requires a blend of skills – commercial, relational, managerial and cognitive.  However, many organisations suffer from having leaders who lack these skills in full or part.  Often such leaders are victims of the “Peter Principle”.  It was formulated by Dr. Laurence J. Peter and Raymond Hull in their 1969 book The Peter Principle, a humorous treatise, which also introduced the “salutary science of hierarchiology.”

In summary, the Peter Principle assumes that people are promoted because they are competent, and that the tasks higher up in the hierarchy require skills or talents they do not possess. It concludes that due to this, a competent employee will eventually be promoted to, and remain at, a position at which he or she is incompetent.

An alternative version of this is the “Dilbert Principle”, a 1990s satirical observation by Dilbert cartoonist Scott Adams which, by contrast, assumes that hierarchy just serves as a means for removing the incompetent to “higher” positions where they will be unable to cause damage to the workflow, assuming that the upper echelons of an organization have little relevance to its actual production, and that the majority of real, productive work in a company is done by people lower in the power ladder.  This is beautifully illustrated here and below.

The Dilbert Principle - Leadership

What We Need From Leaders

Whichever principle you subscribe to there is an underlying theme – leaders who lack the necessary skills, experience and insights can cause considerable damage to the business. This can happen even if the leader is acting in what he or she believes is the business’ best interests.

Leaders need to be able to listen and respond, be flexible, adaptive, and be able to develop innovative solutions whilst handling multiple and conflicting priorities.  The speed and complexity of business is becoming faster as is the rate of change in the business environment.  This means that important and significant decisions have to be made quickly, often with incomplete information, which can carry significant risks.  Leaders need to be able to handle this and more, they cannot rely on the skills that got them to their current position to keep them there – they need to grow themselves and develop new skills and capabilities on a continual basis.

From this it is clear that leaders and managers need a broad general management development that focuses on commercial, relational, managerial and cognitive capabilities. We need to ask some tough questions about how our organization is training its leaders and managers to develop these vital elements. Those responsible for commissioning, designing and/or delivering leadership and management training must ensure that programs move beyond task-related knowledge and skills and emphasize a fuller range of general management competencies that are needed to manage increasingly complex markets and business relationships.

Critical Leadership & Managerial Skills & Capabilities

We have identified four categories of skills and capabilities that leaders and managers need in this new environment: Commercial, Relational, Managerial, and Cognitive.  These comprise of 10 specific yet integrated skill sets that exist.  These are listed and detailed below:

Summary of Business Development Skills & Capabilities

Commercial Skills & Capabilities Financial Insight
Business Acumen
Customer Insight
Relational Skills & Capabilities Managing Relationships
Inspiring Trust
Managerial Skills & Capabilities People Management Skills
Openness to Change & Adaptability
Influencing Skills
Cognitive Skills & Capabilities Innovative Problem-Solving
Ability to Identify Opportunities

Commercial Skills & Capabilities

Financial Insight

This includes understanding the implications of the proposed work for the company – revenue, margins, profitability, cash flows and risks associated with the work and the associated opportunity costs.  It also includes the ability to forecast and analyse client work, budgeting and prioritizing the work accordingly. The leader needs to be able to identify, uncover and anticipate the financial aspects of current and proposed work in terms of being able to assess the costs associated with the status quo, the benefits and associated value of the work, and its impact and implications on the achieving key financial metrics and objectives.

Business Acumen

This is the ability to understand the implications of the technical/specialist work and how it applies to the client’s business at both the level of the work being done, and how it impacts other areas of the business and the business as a whole.  This includes being able to translate technical outcomes and benefits to those of the business, and to align them with the business’ objectives and goals and those of the economic buyer(s) within the client (the individual(s) who have the authority and budget for the work and who have a vested interest and responsibility for the outcomes of the work).

Customer Insight

The ability to understand the client and to adopt their perspective, ensuring that current and proposed work is aligned with the clients’ needs and requirements.  This includes having a good understanding of the client’s company, industry, competition and key trends.  This allows the company to orientate its positioning and work around the client, and ensure that the outcomes are aligned with the client’s needs.  This ensures the company is not focused what it does, but it focused on the outcomes the client needs (these are often not what the client wants).

Relational Skills & Capabilities

Managing Relationships

In complex business situations there is a need to be able to manage multi-level, multi-functional relationships to uncover, identify, develop and manage business opportunities.  Externally, the company needs to identify and address the economic buyer, key decision-makers and influencers and to understand their respective roles, interactions and what they need to progress the relationship, and how to build it according to their personal preferences. There is a need to ensure that the right people with the right technical and commercial skills are matched appropriately with their peers in the client’s organisation to ensure a proper communication flow, and for the company to integrate itself into the client organisation at multiple levels.  Furthermore, how to manage and influence stakeholders is key.

Inspiring Trust

Trust is the essential component to being able to uncover and win opportunities with clients, as well as maintaining and developing key stakeholder relationships.  This takes time and effort, and requires creating rapport, understanding and establishing common areas of interest where the individuals in the company can demonstrate and prove themselves as helpful, relevant and of use.

Managerial Skills & Capabilities

People Management Skills

Much of business-to-business selling is done via teams and cross-functionality.  There is a need to manage the demands on the company in internally managing the resources and people required in winning client business, and the ability to handle people and deal with conflict in doing so. Business is based on relationships, and the ability to both manage the people and the associated relationships is important.

Openness to Change & Adaptability

Businesses are subject to change at an accelerating rate.  This requires the company to be able to adapt and meet these changes to survive and thrive, and to maintain focus and direction as priorities change and create conflicts.  Leaders and managers need to anticipate and to facilitate this. Similarly, the company also has to manage the effect of changes within the client’s organisation (e.g. new key people joining, existing contacts leaving etc) and in its markets and industry (e.g. deferment of projects with a fall in market demand).  This requires leaders to be able to take a holistic view of the company’s opportunities and understanding how and when to address changes or anticipated changes.

Influencing Skills

Complex sales in the business-to-business environment frequently involve working with personnel from the client and third parties over whom the company has no formal authority or control.  The ability to influence and negotiate with such people, as well as with people within the company, is key to dealing with changes and driving successful client outcomes.

Cognitive Skills & Capabilities

Innovative Problem-Solving

More work is won by companies who think in terms of developing a solution to an emerging client problem.  Being able to uncover and anticipate problems, whilst creating an innovative solution which creates real value for the client, whilst avoiding the risks of the status quo, differentiates the company and drives business opportunities.  Being able to put structure to this approach, without compromising the level of innovation, and to leverage this throughout the company’s different departments and other clients provides growth opportunities.  Leaders need to create, build and sustain the environment to foster and develop this.

Ability to Identify Opportunities

With rapid change occurring so there are a plethora of opportunities that can be identified and exploited.  Many more can be identified working in conjunction with the clients.  Being able to identify, capture and prioritize these opportunities in conjunction with innovative problem-solving and excellence in managing relationships and people will strengthen the business.  Leaders need to identify such opportunities, prioritize them and resource them properly to ensure there is the optimal opportunity for success.

Next Steps

Applying the business development diagnostic across the four areas of Commercial, Relational, Managerial, and Cognitive is the start of the process which comprises of three steps.  These include:

1. Understand Your Organisation’s Business Development Skills & Capabilities

Understanding the importance and interdependencies of these 4 areas, and how your organisation’s leaders and managers overall rate in each of the 10 skills and competencies, is the first step to understand what foundation you have to build from and to allow you to address the gaps.

2.  Focus on Developing & Implementing the Required Skills

Once we have determined this we need to prioritise how we leverage and develop this skill base, and to determine which priorities to address first in achieving our business goals and desired outcomes. On-going assistance with actual business development opportunities helps to drive this, and improve both the skill level and understanding.

3. Maintain, Review and Improve

Creating an on-going process of continuous improvement in the area of business development, and extending the skills throughout the organisation helps to deliver better and more sustainable results.  Enabling those who have developed their leadership and management skills to achieve mastery is done by having them coach and mentor others in this area.  This helps to create a common approach to business development, establishes best practices across the organisation, and shared insights and experience.

What has been your experience of this? What issues have you had, and how have you resolved them?  How would you like to raise the performance of your managers and leaders?  Share your ideas, insights and experience here – someone, somewhere has resolved the problems you face, just as you have resolved ones that others face.

Share the knowledge, share the wealth!

To find out how Growth & Profit Solutions can help you in developing your leaders and their critical leadership and managerial skills please contact us as below.

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Why What Got You Here Won’t Get You There!

Why what got you here won’t get you there!

Are any of these scenarios familiar to you?

  • You’ve been recently promoted.
  • You’re in the same job you were in a year ago, but the scope is a lot bigger today than it was then.
  • You’re working in an organization where the performance bar has been raised dramatically.
  • You’re operating in a constantly changing competitive environment.

I expect you are in a position where you could easily pick two, three or four of these options.  The question is, what do they have in common?  The answer is that you are in a different situation in which you need to get different results. You can no longer do what you always did to get what you always got. In short, you need to change.

The problem with change is that we don’t always like to or want to change. Also, if we have been successful in the past then it can be difficult to change our behavior as we believe it is our past behavior that has made us successful. However, these same behaviors can now be an impediment to us with our being successful in spite of our behavior rather than because of our behavior.

In dealing with this are two things to identify:

  • What behaviors do you need to stop?
  • What behaviors do you need to change to be a more effective leader?

In doing this you cannot depend on your own intuition.  An interesting piece of research found that leaders, when comparing themselves to their peers, consistently over-rated their contribution with 80% of all leaders surveyed seeing themselves in the top 20% of performers, and 70% seeing themselves in the top 10% of all performers.  To get a realistic understanding of what you need to improve on as a leader you need to objective input from your stakeholders. These are the people who are involved with you and impacted by your behavior – your boss, your peers and your reports.

To find out more how you can do this email Andrew Cooke and find out more about the Marshall Goldsmith Stakeholder Centred Coaching process for executive coaches and successful leaders.

To view or download a PDF version of this blog click here

Share your thoughts and ideas here, or email me at andrew.cooke@business-gps.com.au

If you found this article of use or interest please don’t hesitate to share it with others.

Click here to find out more about Andrew Cooke and Growth & Profit Solutions.