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The fifth decision-scaling your leadership


featuring Rob Nankervis with Bill Gallagher

In Episode Nine of the Propelling Performance Podcast, Rob speaks with Bill Gallagher, Scaling Up Expert, CEO, Serial Entrepreneur, Advisor, Keynote Speaker, Podcast Host, Strategic Planning and Growth Coach. Bill shares his wealth of experience working with business leaders to lean into leadership, and that in order for leaders to create change, they need to change themselves. He takes us through application of the Flywheel concept to leadership – inspire, engage, plan and coach. Bill also explains the ‘fifth decision’ in Scaling Up methodology, after People, Strategy, Execution and Cash – what kind of leader do you want to become?

“[To create change], think about Maslow’s Pyramid, but don’t start at the bottom, start at the top. Instead of worrying about getting your basics, like establishing security and food, start thinking about how you want the story to end. Write your own story.” – Bill Gallagher

Listen to discover:

Bill’s own evolution as a leader, which began when he recognised that anything and any business could be successful by following the right tools and strategies, such as the Rockefeller Habits.

Bill’s journey to coaching which began in 2000, during a time of self-reflection and learning his life’s purpose was to make a contribution.  

“Leaders must recognise to create change, they need to change themselves.”

Gaps and barriers in business stem from leaders. Leaders are the source of it all. Everything is connected to you.

The gift of crisis – lean into challenges and breakdowns and learn. These are great turning points.

To create change, start by thinking about the end. How do you want your story to end? How do you want to be remembered?

Figure out your life’s purpose, who you want to be in this lifetime. The same applies to you as a leader.

Remember what Marshall Goldsmith said, “What got us here, won’t get us there.” What do we need to do differently?

“Think about the furthest out in the future you’re comfortable thinking about – your Memorial Service, or retirement. What’s the legacy? What do you want to be known for? Take this as the basis of what you lean into.”

To scale our business, we have to scale our approach and our leadership. Four essential disciplines work together in sequence like Jim Collins flywheel concept…

  1. Inspire – we need to light people up, and it starts with us. We need to be lit up ourselves, with a vision for the future. Take a bold stance, use your voice, be passionate, express yourself.
  2. Engage – we need people to commit and take action in their role. We need to listen and appreciate another person’s world, invite them to see where they fit. Ask, what would that mean for you? “Influence vs authority.”
  3. Planning – start with the end in mind, work backwards. It’s the process of planning, not the plan. The plan is of limited value. The act of planning is priceless. Develop a regular habit of planning and replanning together and think about impact on people and expectations.
  4. Coach – Check in with people, supporters, followers, in an ever expanding way, to return them to the flywheel. Listen and encourage people to sort themselves out. This is far more scalable than having to tell everyone what to do all the time.

“Throw out all the stuff about your industry – be different. With your strategy, your values, be different. Be different in a thoughtful way that really works.” – Bill Gallagher

Take action!

  • To get started on your own Flywheel, amplify your existing strengths and explore your weaknesses. If you are a great speaker, you might not be a good listener. What are your present strengths? What do you really want?
  • Within Scaling Up methodology, there are four decisions to get right in business – people, strategy, execution and cash. The fifth decision is – what kind of leader do you want to become? How do you want to be remembered? In making this decision, you can begin to reshape yourself, your approaches and leadership, and undertake those same disciplines as a different kind of leader.

Applying a game plan to your business


featuring Rob Nankervis with Andy Gowers

In Episode Eight of the Propelling Performance Podcast, Rob speaks with Andy Gowers, Business Development Manager, Cranage Financial Group. After a successful career as an elite AFL player with Hawthorn and Brisbane Football Clubs, and a mentor and Director with Hawthorn, Andy successfully transitioned from sportsperson to entrepreneur. Using real life case studies from his sporting career and learnings in business, Andy draws parallels between elite sport and business performance, discusses the benefits of applying a scoreboard approach, and how every leader can look to elite sport for high performance inspiration.

“If the mission is inspiring enough, if you get a team of committed people, who are working together and they’re all on the same pathway… you’ll have your moment.” – Andy Gowers

Listen to discover:

Stick to the game plan – how years of AFL training gave Andy the tools to help his wealth clients during the GFC, working closely with them to ‘stay the course’

Lessons for businesses from elite teams – why feedback that is constant and direct, positive and affirming is more valuable

Applying a scoreboard to your business and using metrics to drive performance

Case Study: Measuring and acting on metrics: Cyril Rioli and his 2015 Norm Smith Medal

Case Study: “Make your teammate the best player”: The team rule that took the Brisbane Bears to their first ever Grand Final in 1995

Case Study: Talent or Perseverance: Jason Dunst and 100 goals a week

Why ‘talent’ is the most over-rated word in elite sport – “it’s the ‘non-talent’ aspects that make a difference – determination, commitment, motivation and courage.”

Mistakes and gaps between sporting teams and businesses, and how we can learn from these parallels…

  • Lack of clarity in goals
  • No team contribution to business direction
  • Poor, irregular communication -“annual performance reviews are ridiculous.”

Why businesses should take on the urgency of the sports setting – “working to a timeframe should be critical”

Building a performance culture in your own business – make a shared commitment to an inspiring mission. ‘We’re all in this together.’

Succession is everyone’s task – mentor, train and educate others.

“It happens with every club and it happens with every business. There are multiple challenges you face, things that don’t go the way you hope or expect and you need to adjust. High performance cultures bear all these things in mind, and move towards their goal.” – Andy Gowers

Recommendations for leaders – two important questions.

Question 1: I don’t know, what do you think? 

The most powerful question a leader can ask is I don’t know, what do you think? Teach, don’t tell. Throw it back to the person and see what they think. Then help them workshop their solution.

Question: What is best for the organisation?

“If you put the organisation first in all dealings, it’s pretty hard to go wrong. People will come and go, but if you want the organisation to flourish and thrive, you need to put it first.”

Take action!

  • What’s your Ikigai? It’s a combination of four things – what you are good at, what you love, what the world needs and what you can be rewarded for. A combination of all four will improve happiness, increase satisfaction and performance.
  • Reflect on how you would use this to coach your own direct reports, and through your organisation.

How to make your employees your greatest asset


featuring Rob Nankervis with Natasha Hawker

In Episode Seven of the Propelling Performance Podcast, Rob speaks with Natasha Hawker, Managing Director of Employee Matters. Natasha shares her insights into the impact of the COVID pandemic on workplaces; what businesses are doing right and what need to be done better; the common mistakes leaders are making with employee engagement; key points on amplifying your culture and how to retain and look after your people as we navigate a COVID normal world. Natasha also shares an excellent HR tool for leaders, Employee Matters’ Employee Commitment Model.

“There is so much untapped opportunity for improvement in the people management space. COVID has absolutely brought this to the forefront in a way we had never seen or believed possible.” – Natasha Hawker

The skill gaps COVID has highlighted in businesses:

  • Knowing how to hire and exit employees in the industrial relations space
  • Knowing your rights and your employee’s rights.

In businesses that are doing well, these things are being done right:

  • Every single person knows what they personally need to do to move the needle, get results and achieve business objectives and strategy
  • There are skilled interviewers who know the culture and values and how to maintain and hire for it
  • Employees experience stretch in the workplace
  • They are clear on strategy and quarterly performance breakdowns
  • They are clear on purpose.

“Employees are not just looking for a place to work, they are looking for a place where they can also make a difference.

“People are much more driven by working for a company that has a great purpose, than just taking a great salary.” – Natasha Hawker

What leaders need to do better in the HR space:

  • Know how to hire and structure an interview
  • Get better at Employee Value Proposition (EVP) – what’s in it for the candidate
  • Candidate management – all candidates should feel nurtured and considered through the process.

The most common mistakes leaders are making with employee engagement:

  • Lack of trust
  • Lack of investment in training – teams
  • Lack of investment in HR / recruitment
  • Little or outdated awareness of employee relations obligations.

Key points to remember on amplifying your culture:

  • Remember, people don’t leave organisations, they leave leaders.
  • How much is your business investing in the development of your management team?
  • Can you articulate the culture in your business? Can your team describe it?
  • How do your employees talk about you and your management team when you are not around? What would they be saying about you?

Tips for leaders as we navigate a COVID normal world:

  • Mental health issues are going to increase
  • There is an expectation that worker’s compensation claims will also increase
  • Do you have an Employee Assistance Programs (EAP)?
  • Vaccine management and workplace policies – do you have a vaccine policy? Do you know your rights and your employee’s rights?
  • The number one thing to be doing is conducting ‘stay’ interviews to work out the best way to retain your people
  • People are questioning what’s important to them and flexibility and connectivity is key.

Natasha’s Top Tips

Culture is the ‘secret sauce’ and most businesses don’t value it.

Remember, you are always recruiting.

Be very clear with your Employee Value Proposition.

Take action!

  • What is your employee ROI? How do you measure that?
  • If you’re not getting the right fit and experiencing employee churn, you need to fix that gap.
  • Understanding where you need to focus your energies will make a significant difference to your bottom line.

Natasha’s recommended Tools for Leaders

Click here to view in YouTube:

The Employee Commitment Model

Culture Amp –

“Australia is lagging behind when it comes to employee productivity. Most businesses don’t even know how to measure productivity in the workplace.” – Natasha Hawker

How To Use Financial Transparency To Engage Your Employees


featuring Rob Nankervis with Rich Armstrong

In Episode Six of the Propelling Performance Podcast, Rob speaks with Rich Armstrong, President, The Great Game of Business. Rich shares strategies to introduce financial literacy into your business; explains principles including financial huddles, scoreboard and mini games; discusses common mistakes he sees from leaders; how to build engagement in your organisation and examples of how to get started by creating and using a mini-game.

“We’re very big believers that the most efficient, most profitable way to operate a business is just to teach everyone in the organisation how the business makes money, give them a voice in how the company is run, and then provide a stake in the outcome if we’re all successful.” – Rich Armstrong

Listen to discover:

The origins of the idea for the Great Game of Business, and ownership by SRC Holdings Corporation

Insights into how Jack Stack used financial literacy to bring people together and increase their personal investment in his business

How financial literacy and connection at SRC began to spawn other new businesses.
“When Jack decentralised, we could open up, spin off and acquire smaller businesses.”

Rich’s hallmarks of effective businesses:

  • teach everyone in the organisation how the business makes money
  • give them a voice in how the company is run
  • provide a stake in the outcome if we’re all successful
  • Bring these principles alive through high involvement, planning, financial huddles, scoreboard, mini games.

“Use the central ideas of educating your people in the business and empowering them to drive performance. Give them the opportunity to understand how they can make a difference in the organisation.” – Rich Armstrong

Make the numbers visible everywhere. Make a connection to the everyday metrics, how they connect and drive the overall financial picture.

Introduce financial literacy training for everyone, from the CFO or cleaner to the production line, everyone is taught how the financial game is played.

The definition of a ‘mini game’ and how to use it, including reward or recognition when you drive profit or move the needle, such as cash bonuses

Use ‘line of sight’ – make sure employees can see a clear line of sight from what they do every day to impact the business

How to introduce financial transparency to your business

  • Combat the fear of being transparent with your employees
  • Get comfortable with the ‘risk’ of sharing with your employees
  • Adopt the practices – weekly huddles, financial literacy training.

The common mistakes…

  • Lack of vulnerability in leadership
  • Not having the courage to be transparent
  • Being unable to release ‘total control’
  • Not looking at this as an operating system, where everything works together

The difference with a financial literacy approach in family owned business vs corporate structures.

“Your employees can step out of that day to day grind and every day whirlwind of activities, and think about how they can grow the business rather than just be in the middle of it.” – Rich Armstrong

How to start building engagement

  • Involve your people in the business more than you do today
  • Teach them the business, empower them to use that knowledge to help the business be successful
  • Help them understand how the business works, understand your customer, the strategy of the business, and your competitive advantage
  • Build culture and relationships, and make work meaningful to drive retention and attraction.

Understand how to launch your plan by creating and using a mini-game that is cross-functional and avoid silos. The bottom line is you want people to work together.

Take action!

  • With talent shortages a reality, how are you going to become an employer of choice?
  • What operating system would you use to do that?
  • How will you provide meaningful work for your employees?

Navigating the challenges of family business


featuring Rob Nankervis with David Werdiger

In Episode Five of the Propelling Performance Podcast, Rob speaks with David Werdiger, director of Nathanson Pearson. David shares his wealth of experience as a second-generation family business member and discusses the challenge of expectations surrounding subsequent generations in a family business, the critical importance of communication, shared vision and aspirations and a mindset change from ownership to stewardship.

[Having a legacy means]…saying, I’ve got a story and I want that story to endure, but at some point, I’ve got to make way for the next generation to write their chapter of the story.

“We’re writing chapters, and rather than ruling from the grave or prescribing what we want our children to do… making sure we create the space for grandchildren to add what is uniquely them, into this evolving family story.” – David Werdiger

The double edged sword of family business; opportunity or lodestone?

The various challenges faced:
• expectations surrounding subsequent generations in the family business
• generational differences between siblings
• working with ‘two hats’ on – as an employee/boss and as a family member

Managing multiple relationships – the importance of well-established boundaries between family members

Making sure family members work their way up in a business – either earning their way, or getting their credit externally, by working elsewhere for 5-10 years

The critical importance of communication in a family business

A discussion of the ‘trigger event’ and potential conflict – the passing of a family member, divorce or restructure

‘Disrespected power’ – the changes in power dynamic in the family

How David helps family businesses…

  • build better communication – creating a safe space where they can say the things they need to say
  • work on articulating shared values and mission as a family, setting a collective family mission
  • decide on their aspirations as a family and outside of the business

The five types of family capital….

1.  Legacy or spiritual capital – the shared purpose
2.  Family capital – looking inwards – staying connected and working together
3.  Human capital – creating your own identity
4.  Social capital – looking outwards – what is our place in society?
5.  Financial capital – running the business and managing assets
The important mindset shift for business owners – from ‘ownership’ to ‘stewardship’ – to hand over the business to children effectively and become a ‘custodian’

A discussion of the challenges of family business succession

An explanation of collaborative practice…

  • Having the family lawyer, accountant and advisor all work together to serve the interest of the family
  • The importance of who is ‘around the table’ and the family dynamic
  • How the location and context sets the mood.

“Helping somebody shift their mindset from owner to steward, helping somebody realise the value of social capital for the family…those are the key moments, where you change someone’s perspective and change the way they look at the world.” – David Werdiger

Take action!

Think about what’s important in your family – the things that cannot be measured. Consider what cannot be measured in numeric terms. This is where you should be putting the most effort

Lessons in leadership


Lessons in leadership

featuring Rob Nankervis with Ross Gallagher

In Episode Four of the Propelling Performance Podcast, Rob speaks with strategic leader and Executive General Manager – Home Care & Retirement Living, IRT Group, Ross Gallagher. Listen to Ross’ insights on his leadership journey and the lessons he has learned; his hallmarks for great leadership; advice for young and emerging leaders; some of the most common mistakes leaders make and how Ross led his team successfully through the challenges of the COVID pandemic.

“One of the key things is to try and be authentic. Be yourself – and try and do it naturally. Don’t try and be Steve Jobs. Your team will pick up on it if you’re not authentic.” – Ross Gallagher

Listen to discover:

Ross’s hallmarks of effective leadership

  • Be authentic – don’t try to be something you’re not
  • Relax and be a natural leader, especially in your communication
  • Empower your team to think for themselves
  • Stay calm. Regardless of what you’re thinking or feeling in times of crisis, your team will look to you as the one to steady the ship and give them support and direction
  • Be a leader who guides their team. Help them make sense of situations, then empower them to make the call
  • Treat people as you’d expect to be treated yourself
  • Be intuitive – be open to learning and learn from your mistakes.
  • Listen as Rob and Ross explore the advantages of the Scaling Up methodology and how Scaling Up….
  • Builds trust through clarity, making it easier for leaders to engage people in the journey
  • Creates focus, by breaking up actions and plans into bite-sized chunks through the one page plan
  • Allows you to clearly articulate goals and plans either upwards, to a board or downwards, to people on the front line
  • Enables a key focus on two or three key things so people can actually wrap their head around it.

    Ross’ advice for young or emerging leaders

  • Make sure you get the fundamentals right
  • Do the hard work early and talk to all stakeholders
  • Make sure you can clearly articulate your purpose, vision and mission so you can take your team on the journey with you
  • Don’t forget your educational path – read books, join seminars, join the CEO Institute

Some of the most common mistakes leaders make

  • Trying and take on too much yourself – hitting the deck running to get things done
  • Succumbing to Imposter Syndrome. Just because you’ve got a new title, you don’t have to be the smartest person in the room
  • Don’t be afraid to make the hard calls early. Fail fast and move on – don’t manage with ego or pride. There will always be meaningful learning you can take forward.

Why a mentor is so important to good leadership, and Ross’ life lessons from his mentor

How Ross navigated the challenges of COVID in one of the most high-risk businesses, aged care/home care

  • Daily stand ups (not normal in the aged care space)
  • Daily, weekly meetings with a critical incident management team
  • Weekly monthly and quarterly reviews
  • Keeping connected – between the team and with customers
  • Always keep an eye on the future
  • Managing people – reaching out to people who might be struggling and making communication and connection a priority.

“Some of the best advice I had from my most valued business mentor was ‘In life or business, remember this motto – keep it simple, live in the moment and back your gut.’” – Ross Gallagher

Take action!

  • COVID gave us challenges, but also opportunities
  • Don’t be afraid to innovate, solve problems differently and identify new markets
  • Ask yourself – how do we innovate in a challenging operating environment without placing more strain on the core business?

Enjoyed the podcast? Extend your learning by reading this corresponding chapter in ‘Propelling Performance’…

Function to Founder – a leadership journey


featuring Rob Nankervis with Andrew Smith

In Episode Three of the Propelling Performance Podcast, Rob speaks with former school teacher turned CEO and strategic leadership coach, Andrew Smith. Andrew offers valuable insights on his journey from functional expert to CEO and leader of a multi-million dollar, IASX listed company and beyond. Interspersed with his triumphs and challenges on the leadership journey, Andrew shares what he would have done differently with hindsight; the transformation of 3P Learning’s performance and culture after the appointment of a strengths-based team; the four areas of focus for growth and change; how membership of an advisory board fundamentally changed his business and why he believes in fostering a culture of learning and living your values.

“I had the whole business on my shoulders. I was singular as a leader. I built a small leadership team of four or five people, a culture based on strengths…. people with the strengths and skillsets I was lacking to run the overall business. The change was almost immediate.” – Andrew Smith

  • Listen to discover:
  • What Andrew would do differently if he could start again – getting more help and leading more purposefully
  • How Andrew recognised and corrected 3P Learning’s ‘plateau’ and moved from being a singular leader to building a strengths-based leadership team
  • Andrew’s insights into using Clifton Strengths and taking a strengths-based approach to team-building – having ‘the right people on the bus’, assigning tasks based on each person’s skillset
  • The process of driving growth and change – a focus on strengths in four areas – execution, influence, relationship building (including customers) and strategic thinking
  • The empowering nature of the strengths-based approach to leadership

“In 2009 I joined an advisory board… probably one of the best decisions I made. I was getting support from a group of people from different industries, different backgrounds. Their insights on leadership, sales and marketing, all piled in to help me make some really big decisions.” – Andrew Smith

•   The key changes that turned growth around and increased 3P Learning’s ability to scale…

  • Joining an advisory board and seeking help from peers and mentors
  • A focus on strengths in execution, influence, relationship building and strategic thinking
  • Strong communication with customers, especially those who were unhappy with 3P’s products
  • Redesigning 3P Learning’s recruitment process to include personal attributes, personality traits and learnings
  • Staff alignment with the organisation’s purpose – their ’North Star’

“As we grew… hiring became crucial, to have the right strength to match the piece of work at hand. This was an inflection point. We realised we hired people we liked… it wasn’t the way to hire effectively.” – Andrew Smith

•   How taking 3P Learning public impacted the company’s purpose and leadership team, due to values misalignment – but recently moved ‘back on track’

  • Andrew’s journey as a strategic advisor since leaving 3P Learning and how he actively fosters development and learning in people around him
  • Rob and Andrew’s learnings from Advisory Board membership:
  • Traits of successful advisory board members
  • The impact of ‘hubris’ – those who feel they don’t need help
  • Advantages of having an independent collection of peers
  • The value for senior leaders in having ‘space for self-reflection’
  • The importance of having a learning mindset

“No one’s ever given a manual on know how to run a business successfully, how to be a great leader, how to grow, how to become the market leader in your segment. No one knows it all. An advisory board, mentoring, coaching… there’s a whole universe of help and support out there.” – Andrew Smith

Take action!

  • Always foster a culture of learning
  • Adopt a strengths-based approach to leadership
  • Seek help – consider joining an Advisory Board
  • Ensure behaviours are on display, not just a statement on the wall
  • Consider Andrew’s suggestions on how to reflect with your team every quarter…
    • Spend the first half of your meeting looking back, and the second half looking forward
    • Key questions to work on with your team:
      • What did we do well? Why was this successful?
      • Why was this unsuccessful? Why did we fail?
      • How do we see behaviours lived in our business and with our customers?

Enjoyed the podcast? Extend your learning by reading these corresponding chapters in ‘Propelling Performance’…

Chapter 15 People – getting the right team and skillsets into the business

Chapter 19 Self-leadership – knowing yourself, your strengths and values.

The Accountability Advantage


featuring Rob Nankervis with Darren Finkelstein

In Episode Two of the Propelling Performance Podcast, Rob speaks with ‘The Accountability Guy®’ Darren Finkelstein about how to make accountability your super power and get it working for you. Darren outlines the seven barriers to
accountability success and some simple actions you can use to move ahead; questions leaders can ask to help teams with accountability; how fear of failure and overwhelm stops progress; the power of an accountability buddy and the efficacy of old vs new tech accountability tools. He also shares some real-life accountability success stories.

“A lot of people don’t share their goals, don’t share their tasks, because their fear of failure overcomes the notion to want to share it.” – Darren Finkelstein

Listen to discover:

The seven barriers to accountability success and some simple actions you can use to move ahead

  1. Overwhelm – start with the easiest task
  2. Overambition – start saying ‘no’
  3. Not having a plan – break tasks into small chunks
  4. The impact of past problems – review the positive and negative and learn
  5. Not knowing where to start – find the first small step to build momentum
  6. No reason to get it done – make sure it’s aligned with you and your role
  7. No one cares – find someone who can help with your progress.

Rob’s experience working with founder/owners on accountability, matched to the BHAG, strategic planning, breaking down tasks and quarterly reviews

An American Society of Training & Development study on the steps to completing a goal matched with probability…

Having an idea – 10% probability of completion

Decision to do it – 25% probability of completion

Add a date – 50% probability of completion

Make a commitment to another person – 65% probability of completion

Commitment to more than one person – 95% probability of completion

How to assess what accountability means to you and your team

Five questions a leader can ask to help their team with accountability:

  1. What do you have planned for this week?
  2. Where exactly are you with that task?
  3. Where do you want to be with the task?
  4. What’s stopping you from getting there?
  5. How do you want to get there – what’s your motivating factor?

Old vs new tech – ‘wall charts and butcher’s paper’ or online tech tools, it’s whatever works best for you

How high-performing leaders have found achievement simply by removing overwhelm

Darren’s personal story of accountability success.

“Accountability can be as simple as sitting down and finding a buddy, finding a partner, and agreeing to meet them at a certain time every week. That’s where it starts.” – Darren Finkelstein

Take action!

  • Ask yourself – how likely are you to achieve your goals, promises, obligations, or commitments alone?
  • How many of the seven barriers do you recognise in yourself?
  • Find someone who can hold you to account – an accountability buddy, or working group
  • Find someone who is not a friend or partner, because they can’t ask the hard questions. Fresh eyes make all the difference.

What’s your financial context?

I recently had two interesting conversations about financial context, and the way leaders think about revenue and opportunity.

In the first case, the executive team was presenting a case study about a new service offering. This new business initiative was worth around $2M in revenue – frankly a sum that is dwarfed by their core business, but it has massive potential, and is likely to scale as a significant part of their 5-year strategy.

The CEO agreed with me that this ‘little project’ was bigger than the whole first year’s revenue of the firm a couple of decades earlier. This is how he pitched it back to his team to make sure they saw the financial context. Everything starts small, but if we nurture the right choices, they will contribute to growth.

In the second instance, I was in discussion with the leaders of a $25M family-owned, industrial business. I asked the family about their aspirations to grow and they landed on $50M as their next significant target.

The founder was not convinced, so I probed his thinking. If you’ve already raised your business from nothing to $25M over the last couple of decades, is it harder or easier to have done that … or to double revenue to $50M? He thought doubling was harder.

It was an interesting comparison of how Founder/Owners think. For those who have learnt that from “little things, big things grow”, a stretch goal seems logical. Others, who are more risk averse, prefer protecting what they already have. They are stuck in a poverty mindset despite having rich opportunities available.

What stories do you tell yourself about money? How does your own view get projected into the business? What is the impact on the level of goals you pursue, what you charge for your product/service, or how you reward yourselves and your team?

In my business coaching practice, I challenge clients to set ambitious long-term goals, but to ground them in the reality of what they pursue over the next 3 years, current year and next quarter so that everything aligns between their vision, their financial objectives and the priorities required to deliver on them.

You can explore more about developing a Vision and Big Hairy Audacious Goal in Chapters 3 and 4 of my first business book, Propelling Performance.

Pick up your copy here

Reading the conditions

How do you set your future agenda – is it based on personal objectives, or do you research and run tests?

How do you go about benchmarking in your specialty or industry? Whichever way you keep score, it’s all about reading the conditions, so you can obtain a view of current state and your desired future and, with these assessments in hand, plan how to get there.

Since 2005 I’ve run a small acreage farm in regional Victoria and over the years, we’ve had some excellent results with our olive trees (luckily we are also blessed with a Sicilian mother-in-law to assist with preparing the fruits of our labour).

Every couple of years I run a soil test on the farm, giving me an insight into the pH balance and key mineral elements that drive productivity.

With the latest results in hand, I recently had a contractor spread lime to boost the calcium and magnesium, guano to top up the phosphorus and potassium sulphate to rebuild potassium levels. In Spring, we’ll attend to the nitrogen requirements.

The point is – through understanding the required future state, and assessing current conditions against that objective, I’m making informed decisions about where and when to apply time and resources.

Just like a good business, it’s about having a benchmark for what ‘good’ looks like. Your objective data tells you where things are at right now, and provides the professional insights on what needs to change to achieve the desired results.

How do you set your own future agenda – is it based on personal objectives, or do you research and run tests?

When you’re looking at longer-term objectives, what data do you collect to help you read current conditions?

Once you are armed with these pieces of information, how do you and your team make decisions?

Do you have a regular cadence of review and priority-setting to help advance the cause?

Read more about measurement in Chapter 11 of my first business book, Propelling Performance.

Pick up your copy here

How to map an employee wellbeing strategy that works


featuring Rob Nankervis with Tom Bosna

As we begin Season Two of the Propelling Performance Podcast, Tom Bosna shares timely insights into the need for leaders to focus on wellbeing in the workplace. He talks us through some of the common mistakes and misunderstandings around wellbeing programs, the questions leaders should be asking of themselves and their teams and how to take the first steps to develop your own effective wellbeing strategy. Tom says there’s no better time to ‘show up and show leadership in this space’ and offers examples of two successful wellbeing programs in action.

“Wellbeing isn’t something you can just buy and do. It needs to be ingrained into your organisation and your culture.” – Tom Bosna

Listen to discover:

Tom’s overarching definition of wellbeing – being comfortable, happy and healthy

The five segments of wellbeing – career, social, financial, physical and community. In a global survey of all demographic segments across 150 countries, while 66% of people are doing well in at least one segment, only 7% are thriving in all five segments.

The two pieces of the wellbeing puzzle in the workplace; legislative and compliance, and attracting and retaining top talent

Two common mistakes Tom sees:

  • Companies that think they can buy well-being or ‘tick a box’ to get outcomes
  • ‘Fruit bowls, flu jabs and fitness’ – companies expecting one-off initiatives to highly engage employees and get outcomes.

First, read the meter on what your staff team actually want – then take action. Then, ask questions, run surveys (these can be incentivised), get the data you need and develop solutions.

Leaders need to find the missing link in the connection between what they think and what employees think

If you’re a leader getting into wellbeing for the first time, look beyond COVID towards the larger mental health concerns in your workplace community. If you’re not providing solutions, support or even listening, you’re behind the play.

Questions for leaders:

  • Do you know how your workplace is feeling right now?
  • How can you improve the performance of your team by providing extra support?
  • Do you want your team to thrive, or do you want them to languish, and be a business with average performance?

Look at your leave policies. Pinnacle has introduced wellbeing leave, with one day  for staff to use per quarter. How can you be innovative with your leave policies?

Two wellbeing program case studies – skin cancer checks and a marathon challenge

Consider this process to be about health promotion and behavioural change. Sometimes the first step is ‘nudging’ people in the right direction for healthy behavioural change. Start by asking employees about their areas of need and their interests.

“As a leader right now, it’s really about showing empathy, understanding, but then also connecting, to provide solutions and options for your employees.” – Tom Bosna

Take action!

Here’s how to get started on workplace wellbeing:

  • Think about your core values. What do you believe in, what are you trying to achieve?
  • If you were to amplify your team’s performance or amplify support for your employees, what else could you achieve?
  • What support systems do you have in place right now?
  • What are you measuring right now?
  • Have you ever measured the health profile of your team?
  • If you could improve the health profile of your team by 10%, would you be interested? Would you embrace the strategies needed to make it happen?

How to future proof your business

Episode – Nine

featuring Rob Nankervis with Andrew Griffiths

In Episode Nine, Andrew Griffiths talks about future proofing your business. Andrew specialises in future-proofing businesses across virtually every industry and every corner of the planet. At a time in history when we are all struggling to think about what the future holds, Andrew provides us with a crucial reminder that as leaders, we must be consciously and consistently future proofing our businesses, not just during times of crisis. Using real life examples and Andrew’s own global client base, we explore the biggest mistakes companies are making right now, why we must know how to adapt to survive and Andrew’s seven-step framework for future-proofing yourself and your business.

“Failure to evolve in a rapidly changing world is really what sums up the challenge for most businesses. That’s why we’re seeing so many industries and so many businesses failing right now. We blame COVID for it, but the reality is, they had old models in a new world.” – Andrew Griffiths

Listen to discover:

The demand for evolution and ‘new’ is a reflection that we need to keep up with our customers and their changing world, their appetite for new.

The three big mistakes we’re making that impact the future of our businesses…

  1. Not staying relevant to our customers
  2. Not evolving in a rapidly changing world
  3. Not communicating transparently.

We must know how to adapt to survive. Alvin Toffler, who wrote the book Future Shock, said “The illiterate of the 21st century won’t be those who can’t read or write, but those who can’t learn, unlearn and relearn.”

“Being around for a long time doesn’t guarantee you success anymore. For the first time in history, we need to market in a multi-generational way. A Baby Boomer might want to know you’ve been in business for 50 years, but to a Millennial, that means you’re probably old and outdated.”

“As soon as an Excel spreadsheet becomes more important than a conversation with a customer, our business is in trouble.”

Build extraordinary relationships with clients and customers, to the point where we’re ingrained in the evolution of where they’re going and we’re a part of it.

Build a brand that is more inclusive and relevant and communicate at a much more transparent level.

The seven step framework for future-proofing yourself and your business…

  1. Look critically at your business model. Are you working on an old model in a new world?
  2. Embrace everything new and being new. Don’t throw out the old, but you’ve got to embrace the new.
  3. Build a bulletproof brand as a company.
  4. Create experiences. Move away from the transaction economy.
  5. Be transparent and build trust.
  6. Communicate more wisely, in a way that is more engaging, with more storytelling. Share more stories about what you’ve got wrong, as much as what you’ve done right.
  7. Stay relevant and so tightly connected to your customers that you are involved in their decision-making process. You need to be one step ahead of them all the time, developing a product or service just as they need it.

Explore incredible examples of future-proofing during COVID here:

“These are the moments in time where everything is speeding up, so we react quicker. If our business model is broken and not working, instead of a slow death, it becomes a quick death.” – Andrew Griffiths

“It’s not the big things that we lose customers about, it’s the little things. Lots and lots of little things ultimately frustrate people and make them go somewhere else.” – Andrew Griffiths

Take action!

Here’s how to get started on future-proofing your business:

  • Invest time to ask more questions of your organisation, your customers, your industry, yourself as an individual.
  • Spend some time looking at innovations. It’s not that hard to figure out what the world’s going to look like in five or 10 years.
  • Ask yourself – what are we going to sell when people no longer want to buy what we’re selling today?
  • How are you going to build ridiculously tight relationships with your clients?
  • How do you make your customer experiences better? How do you move away from just doing transactions, to doing incredible experiences?
  • Why is someone going to pay more to be with you? How are you going to really differentiate yourself?
  • How are you going to tell everyone that you are different?

“What do we do when nobody wants to buy what we have today? What are the underlying competencies that will protect us into the future?”

Shaping your future with governance

Episode – Eight

featuring Rob Nankervis with Ken Weldin

Ken Weldin shares his advice on the best approach to embedding good governance into your mid-tier business, by considering governance as a strategic approach to shaping the future of your organisation. Ken details some of the fears that hold organisations back, real-life examples of bad governance we have seen in the last 12-18 months and the key actions you can take to get started. He simplifies the process, concepts and language surrounding governance, so it is relevant and relatable – ‘keep it simple and use concepts that your organisation lives and breathes.”

“Your organisation will make hundreds if not thousands of decisions every day. So you may not realise it, but you’re exercising governance at that point; which decisions do you take a chance on, which ones you do fast track, which do you rely on past experience to make a judgement? That’s governance in action.” – Ken Weldin

Listen to discover:

  • At its core, governance is about how you make decisions and focusing on how you make your organisation better
  • Why you should look at governance as shaping the future and shaping change in a fair and equitable way
  • “Systems, processes, charters, policies and minutes, there’s a time and a place for that but governance shouldn’t start with that. It’s about good decisions, enhancing value, protecting the future, shaping change.”
  • Why some organisations fear governance is going to create a bureaucracy and slow them down
  • Governance is about finding your own solution and translating it to people and what your company’s trying to do. Make it personal and relevant to you.
  • Ask the questions… How do we do that better? How do we do that with less impact on our stakeholders? How do we do that so that we come across as a fairer organisation?
  • Real-life examples of bad governance from the last 12-18 months… an earnings downgrade, a customer dispute, a compliance failure, an ethical breach, fraud, money laundering issues, late payment of suppliers, underpayment of staff, cyber breach, false advertising, poor disaster recovery, poor Occupational Health and Safety, poor reputational management and stakeholder engagement.
  • How a proactive risk framework will enable you to anticipate the impact of major external events
  • The importance of scenario planning, evaluating risk and pausing to measure success
  • “If it ain’t broke, fix it before someone else does.”
  • Encourage boards and management teams to consider…

o if a product is selling really well, why? Why do people keep coming back?

o What is the implicit promise that keeps them coming back to us?

o How do we protect that? How do we make sure that nothing goes wrong?

“Work out the invisible thing that keeps people coming back to you. Put in place the ideas, goals and steps you need to protect that, then reassess how you will anchor to that as your purpose.” – Ken Weldin

Take action!

–  Consider hiring an advisor, unless you are comfortable and motivated to handle the process yourself. Sometimes it’s helpful to have an external perspective.

–  Consider – do you want to keep the status quo or change and evolve, and how do you do that? You need checks and balances, strategies, initiatives and processes to enable that to happen in a sensible manner.

–  What is your invisible promise? How do you explain to someone who’s never met you, what your organisation does? What do you really do and what do you want to do? What’s the invisible promise that keeps you coming back?

Evolving Beyond Being ‘The Leader’ To Real Leadership

This article, written by Michael Nathanson originally appeared on on July 9, 2021

CEOs practically may be the singular “chief” executive officers of their companies, but that does not mean they must think or act like they are the only leader at the top.

Within the field of organizational studies, it seems well-settled that there is a difference between being a “manager” and a “leader.” Equally well-settled is the principle that some managers can and do evolve into leaders. But is there something beyond being a leader?  Is there a general organizational role into which a leader can evolve? In this article, I will argue experientially that there is an affirmative answer to these questions. A leader can evolve from being the leader of a group to being a leader of the group. Stated differently, the organizational evolutionary state after “leader” is “leadership.”

About Managers and Leaders

Effective managers and leaders are critical to well-functioning organizations, and, in some respects, the roles intersect with each other. Both roles involve motivating others and optimizing results, but while there are similarities in what they do, there are substantial differences in how and why they do it.

There are countless authorities on the subject, but an especially helpful summary was offered by Matt Gavin in Leadership vs. Management: What’s the Difference? Mr. Gavin summarizes some of the main differences as follows:

1. Leaders are focused on vision, innovation, and change.  Managers are focused on achieving goals through established processes and practices.

2. Leaders think primarily about alignment, influence, and development.  Managers think more about organizing and administering systems and the efforts of others.

3. A leader reflects certain qualities such as emotional intelligence and self-awareness.  A manager has a position or specific set of responsibilities within an organization.

Some (but not all) leaders also possess the abilities and traits of managers; and some (but not all) managers possess the abilities and traits of leaders. In many cases, however, managers intentionally or unintentionally can and do evolve into leaders over time.


About Discovering Leadership


The strategic plan for my company has long called for a balance of organic and inorganic growth, and, for the past decade or so, we have dutifully pursued both forms of growth.  On the inorganic side, we have thus far completed 10 mergers and two strategic hires since 2012. As part of these transactions, many owners of the companies that joined us have become what we call “Principals” of our own company.

Unlike our practices for non-Principals, we generally do not conduct traditional performance assessments for Principals. We do, however, engage in “accountability discussions” with our Principals; and I am charged with having those discussions with some of the Principals who once led a company that merged into our company.

This year, not one but four members of this group spoke to me candidly about the way they had struggled to feel comfortable being part of a broader leadership team after having been the singular, “top” leader of their company for so many years. Yet, within a couple years of joining us, each of them independently felt that they now had become even better leaders. They were better because they had been required to collaborate with others at unprecedented levels. They had been required to learn how to have difficult conversations with their peers, to be challenged regularly, and to compromise. They had learned to trust other leaders and to refocus their attentions on the narrower areas in which they could feel the most passion and make their greatest impact. These four individuals each went from being the CEO of their company to serving as an important leader in our company.

One of these leaders told me that, within a span of two years, he had fully embraced the idea of graduating from being “the leader” to being part of “leadership.” And then I realized something, rather instantaneously: as we have grown over the years, I have done the very same thing. It occurred to me that, despite my position as CEO, I no longer am the leader of our company. I am one of many leaders of our company, and I now function within a holistic leadership team. I, too, have been forced to learn how to have difficult conversations, to be challenged regularly, and to compromise—and I, too, am a better leader for it.  Like my colleagues, I have gone from leader to leadership without even realizing it was happening.

CEOs as Leadership?

But aren’t CEOs supposed to be the singular “chief” executive officers of their company?  Yes, I suppose they are—but that does not mean they must think or act like they are the only leader at the top of their organizations. The best CEOs—and leaders generally—are the ones that understand how to empower, engage, and work with other leaders at their organizations. They understand how to be better leaders by being part of a broad, diverse, and cohesive leadership unit. They understand that a CEO who sits atop a leadership team and is focused solely on managing that team may be an effective manager and leader but that a CEO who focuses not on sitting atop that team but being a part of it has evolved into something beyond being a manager or leader. They have evolved from leader to leadership.

To read the original article, click here

Growth through strategic acquisition

Episode – Seven

featuring Rob Nankervis with Warren Otter

Warren Otter is the founder of Otter and Associates, a boutique Business Growth Advisory firm that helps guide SME businesses to grow profitably and increase business wealth, in a short period of time, reducing their stress and improving their lifestyle. In this episode Warren shares insights into the advantages of a strategic acquisition, exploring key points for businesses looking to grow and how to evaluate and maximise opportunities.

“I look at this point of view… what is the owner’s strategy for the next five or 10 years? That’s why I’ve always termed this strategic acquisitions. It’s not just business acquisitions. You can’t ignore good opportunities that come your way. And if a business owner has a really strong business plan, it’s a lot easier to work out the types of acquisitions they want, strategically.” – Warren Otter

Listen to discover:
• The fears that hold businesses back from acquisitions
• The advantage of buying the strategic position a business holds in the marketplace
• Why it’s important to look further than your own accountant for advice
• Warren’s definition of ‘a safe acquisition’
• The widening gap between sellers and buyers in the market and the new opportunities for sale
• Why businesses must be really clear on their core strengths and skills
• Four tips for evaluating acquisition opportunities

        o Investigate density of client base
        o Assess and lock in key staff and selling owner
        o Get external assistance for due diligence
        o Consider special circumstances such as licencing

• Who to have on your due diligence team
• Negotiating ‘go and no go’ terms
• The advantages of appointing a buyer’s advocate

“The safest acquisition is when you’re buying someone who’s doing virtually the same thing you’re doing and you’re buying more market share. You’re not having to go into a new market, you’re not having to go into a new product range… you’re basically buying other clients.” – Warren Otter

Take action!

–  Listen to Warren’s real-life case study of how Otter and Associates guided an engineering company from a $2.4 million to $4 million enterprise value through one small acquisition, buying only what they needed.
–  You can try growth the old, hard way – or double, even triple your value in a fairly short period of time through strategic acquisition. Which would you choose?

How to maximise marketing to mums

Episode – Six

featuring Rob Nankervis with Katrina McCarter

Founder of Marketing to Mums, Katrina McCarter is a wealth of information about Australia’s most influential market segment – mums. In this episode, Katrina shares insights, gained through in-depth market research, on the changing mum market, to give businesses the latest information on tailoring their marketing messages more effectively to mums.

“It’s about getting the right information available and accessible to these prospective mums, on the right channels. It’s so vital that you have a clear understanding of which segment of the mum market you’re trying to reach. Because, otherwise, you can be wasting a hell of a lot of money.” – Katrina McCarter

Listen to discover:
1. Why B2C businesses need to improve their marketing to mums
2. Why mums are unhappy with the way companies undertake their marketing
3. The two biggest mistakes in marketing to mums…

• Businesses target too broadly
• Lack of understanding of their segment of the mum audience

4. Why stereotyping and assumptions are a big marketing mistake; the disconnect between marketing and reality in the mum market
5. Results from Katrina’s survey of 1300 millennial mums during lockdown, with themes including affordability/family finances; changing purchasing habits; a boom in self-care and putting health needs first and a trend towards sustainability and minimalism
6. Introducing the ‘tech first’ mum
7. Why written testimonials have the greatest influence on a sale
8. How the desire for convenience and time drives purchasing decisions
9. Opportunities for female owned businesses; tell your brand story to build a relationship of trust
10. The increasing influence of grandmothers, a new emerging sector.

“There are 6.2 million mums here in Australia, collectively responsible for spending $132 billion every single year. To put that into perspective, research shows us that if mums were an industry, this group would actually be our largest contributor to GDP.”
Take action!

  • Mums are the powerhouse of our economy; responsible for 80% of consumer spending in this country. How well do you know them? How well do they know you? Is now the time to rethink your strategy to target mums?
  • Consider a marketing to mums masterclass – educating brands and businesses about the mum landscape in Australia and the opportunities that are available.

Helping entrepreneurs drive business transformation

Episode – Five

Featuring Rob Nankervis with Nick Beckett

In Episode Five, Rob explores business transformation with former CEO of T2 and Dimple, Nick Beckett. Nick has spent 15 years working in fast growth and innovation, applying his expertise in two highly successful companies, T2 and Dimple and working with Founder/Owners. He is proud to have played his part in building sustainable and scalable legacy businesses that have meaning and purpose.

“The founder-led business… this is a business model that I actually love. I love working with these people… the ones who light the fire of opportunity. It’s kind of a privilege to be invited into this environment, to fan the flames once the fire’s lit.” – Nick Beckett

Listen to discover:

  • The effective partnerships Nick made with the founder/owners of T2 and Dimple; acting as a pragmatic foil for creative and driven founders
  • The entrepreneurial character; why emotional intelligence, self-awareness, accepting change and putting trust in others is crucial to working successfully with an external CEO
  • It’s very hard to shine when the sun’s still in the room’ – how two entrepreneurs stepped back to allow Nick to gain the trust of others and create change
  • How a CEO can show a team that change is a good thing – and break away from the founder’s point of view
  • The need to get people who are bigger than you need, because you grow into them and they drag you up to where you need to be. “Get the right people in and around the business. That’s part of unlocking the opportunity.”
  • How to assess your capability to take the change journey
  • The trigger points to deciding if, or when to bring in somebody external as a CEO…
    • Is the business in a rut?
    • Are you feeling overwhelmed and unhappy with what you are doing?
    • Has growth diminished?
    • Are you continually seeing lag indicators?
    • Is profitability flat or diminishing?
    • Is your team continually churning?
    • Do you have far too many direct reports?

“Change can materially improve a business, but it’s not for everyone. New people, new thinking, people with different experience and pedigree need to be brought into the business for it to move forward.

“If you want to keep winning Grand Finals, you’ve got to keep curating your list. And curation isn’t a destination, it’s an ongoing journey. That’s part of the reality of growth.”

Take Action

Is it time to take on an external CEO?

  • Consider the trigger points listed above – which do you recognise?
  • Think about what you’re really good at. Saying, “Okay, if I was only doing this and I could hand all this other stuff across to other people, how much better would this business run and how much happier would I be?” When you focus on what you’re good at, you will be happier and the business will be better for it.
  • Think about your capacity to let go of control in your business. If you’re having challenges with this, really reflect on why that’s the case. Is it a question of people you’ve got around you? Or is it a reflection on your innate desire to control everything? What are the implications of that going forward? If you’re going to attract and retain A-grade talent, they don’t want to work with control freaks.

“In almost every case I’ve come across, the lead indicator for founder/owners to make a change is a gut feel. The lag indicators are obvious; they point to tangible metrics. But their gut tells them, it’s time to do something different – to change gears.” Nick Beckett

How to tune your strategy for success

Episode – Four

featuring Rob Nankervis
with Kaihan Krippendorff

In Episode Four, Rob dives into strategy with one of the top eight innovation thought leaders in the world, Kaihan Krippendorff.

Founder of growth strategy and innovation consulting firm Outthinker, member of the prestigious Thinkers50 Radar group and finalist for the Thinkers50 Distinguished Achievement Award in Innovation in 2019, Kaihan Krippendorff lives and breathes strategy every day.

“Strategy is not like science or medicine where we have agreement on what terms are and should be. I believe we should look at strategy as a living breathing thing – an ongoing exploration, where we introduce new terms and language into a body of knowledge.” – Kaihan Krippendorff

Listen to discover:

  • Why Kaihan sees strategy as intangible – a ‘living, breathing thing’
  • The five common mistakes people make in tuning their strategy….
    • making incremental goals based on the past
    • focusing too narrowly on one element of your business model
    • limiting ourselves to the consideration of only a few strategies
    • deciding to do what looks most logical and likely because it’s been done before
    • failing to view strategy as a conversation that engages stakeholders.
  • Why ‘vision without action is a daydream, but action without vision is a nightmare’
  • Aligning strategy with a belief system
  • How Outthinker views each strategic concept through 36 different lenses, including the ‘deer in the headlights moment’ and ‘coordinating the uncoordinated’
  • Why a smaller pool of ideas is less likely to result in an optimal strategy
  • The importance of ‘killing off a strategy’
  • Kaihan’s five levels of strategy from the Way of innovation –
    • Metal (Admit you are stuck)
    • Water (Conceive new winning options)
    • Wood (Assemble your resources)
    • Fire (Break out your innovation)
    • Earth (Make it sustainable)
  • The three Box Model; doing stuff that creates the new future, doing stuff that strengthens and maintains the current future (your core) and forgetting and stopping stuff
  • How a crazy idea can become the differentiator – “it’s the difficult things that differentiate you – those high impact difficult ideas that we call crazy ideas.”
  • How to use an ‘ideas matrix’
  • The story of how the IKEA flat pack box turned IKEA into the largest furniture retailer in the world.

Take Action

  • How can you focus attention, activities and assets in such a way that you achieve what you want for your organisation?
  • Your breakthrough idea is not going to come from you as the CEO or the founder. It is going to come from your employees. Your job is creating the context for people to act entrepreneurially inside your company. How can you enable your people to think like strategically?
  • Will you add a ‘crazy ideas’ quadrant to your ideas matrix?

The illusion of certainty

The lifetime customer, the iron-clad supplier, the legislated right to operate – it can all change at the stroke of a pen … or the start of a pandemic.

I had an interesting discussion with a prospect recently about starting or waiting.

He’s looking to double his significant mid-tier business over the next 3-5 years and he’d also like to significantly increase the profit margin to 20% rather than the current 10%.

Based on our initial review there are a number of levers that can be pulled to help achieve those goals. The size of the prize is significant, yet achievable and even at this early stage, we know many of the pieces of the puzzle to get there.

And yet … he’s waiting for more clarity and certainty. He’s waiting for ‘the right time’.

I expect he’s not alone. We’ve had a challenging 12 months. Many of the things we may have thought were ‘certainties’ have not turned out that way at all.

But in reality, is it just this past year? Or has it always been this way?

Out of mental convenience, do we tell ourselves things will be clearer if we wait? Will a little more digging reveal the truth?

What often stops us from moving forward or making changes is the ‘illusion of certainty’.

The lifetime customer, the iron-clad supplier, the legislated right to operate – it can all change at the stroke of a pen … or the start of a pandemic.

As I shared with this business owner, certainty is an illusion. If you’re trying to improve performance and drive growth, you can’t just stand still.

Here’s the way my clients tackle this process, with my coaching guidance.

  1. Be clear on your beliefs.

When plenty else can shift, it’s really valuable to have a foundation of rock solid beliefs: your purpose, values and vision.

  1. Have a tight strategy.

Be really clear about the brand promise to your core customers; where trends are going; the competencies you have to deliver real and distinct value, and the business model to do it.

  1. Get the right people.

Have a structured approach to getting the right people in the right seats. Truly capable people who share your belief system will solve most things. Do you have your A-Players?

  1. Adopt solid execution disciplines.

Understand the metrics that define success, the priority activities that will deliver them, who is accountable and a regular rhythm for checking in.

  1. Build profitability.

Get operationally effective at what you already do. Free up some cash to back your next set of ideas. Companies with no cash end up taking no risks or big risks.

Against this backdrop, my clients can keep moving forward with balanced confidence and combat the desire to ‘wait and see’.

Here’s an example from last week. Two clients, in completely different industries and geographies, recently agreed to push their sales effort into new regions.

At their Quarterly Reviews, one executive reported the initiative had been a great success (and they’re now looking at loading up on the idea) whilst in the other company, the bullet they fired hit nothing.

But both CEOs were happy. They’d placed a sensible bet. While one is now polishing up a cannonball to fire, the other is considering where to aim his next bullet.

The point? They had no real clarity or certainty. They just placed sensible bets based on a clear strategy, confidence in the quality of their team, a rigorous approach to execution and had enough cash to bet in the first place.

Are you succumbing to the illusion of certainty, or paralysed by the need to wait for ‘the right time’? Are you creating enough internal clarity to help your business move forward? From my list above, what pieces must you put in place first?

In Episode Two of the Propelling Performance Podcast, Redefining Peak Performance, I discussed the illusion of certainty and some of the disturbing problems with waiting for ‘the right time’ with Peak Performance Coach, Eric Partaker. I’m sure you’ll find his revelations thought-provoking – you can listen to it here.

Building culture and performance during fast growth

Episode – Three

Redefining peak performance

featuring Rob Nankervis with Stephen Ellich

In Episode Three of the Propelling Performance Podcast, Rob and CEO and Managing Director of UCS Group, Stephen Ellich discuss Stephen’s journey from corporate leadership to management of high growth, family-owned business, UCS.

Stephen shares his journey of leadership; how he has created exceptional engagement, insights into motivating and leading high performance teams, as well as reflections on the company’s performance and success during the COVID pandemic.

“When you get into an organisation the size and nature of UCS, everything’s connected. It’s a very personal, relationship, one that is about building on their trust. Even down to the first-year apprentice who called me to discuss his concerns about relocating from Bendigo to Geelong. It made me sit and pause to think out how cool the culture is when the apprentice can ring up the CEO and talk about his concerns and trepidations about making a first move out of home.” – Stephen Ellich

“The concept of a high performance team for me is four words – clarity, alignment, focus, and purpose. A leader has to trust their team, but a leader must provide the clarity, alignment, focus and purpose of the team.

Once that’s done, the job of the leader is to get out of the way and empower the people to execute the plan. A leader is there to create the right environment and put the right players in place.” – Stephen Ellich

Listen to discover:

  • Leadership differences between the ‘helicopter perspective’ of a corporate environment to the personal culture in a family owned, founder/owner business
  • Finding balance in a working partnership with founder/owners and a private equity company
  • Joining a founder/owner business as an external CEO
  • Scaling at speed and managing fast growth in a family owned business
  • How the Scaling Up approach has enabled engagement, success and growth at UCS
  • Why clarity, alignment, focus and purpose are key
  • Building and empowering high-performance teams
  • Stephen’s lessons from the COVID pandemic – always be prepared; listen to knowledgeable people; manage cash well; over communicate, but only from one source of truth; the critical importance of an IT Roadmap Investment; don’t waste a good crisis; be kind.

Take Action

Stephen’s advice to founder/owner leaders right now…

  • Rather than be overwhelmed and challenged by COVID, it’s time to take back the initiative. Ask yourself and your people – what are the opportunities that COVID is presenting to stop waste, innovate processes and pivot into new growth segments?
  • Your organisation’s culture starts at the top and is felt by everybody inside and outside your business. Leaders – how you driving alignment of your company culture to your values, brand promise and purpose?

Redefining Peak Performance

Episode – Two

featuring Rob Nankervis with Eric Partaker

In Episode Two of the Propelling Performance Podcast, Rob and Peak Performance Coach, Eric Partaker discuss practical strategies and mindset changes to help leaders operate at a peak level without sacrificing their health and relationships.

“If you’re on your deathbed – or suddenly given five more minutes of life – there’s not a single person who would say, ‘Would you mind passing my laptop, so I can fire off a few more emails?’ In that moment, your soul speaks whatever is truly, deeply most important to you.” – Eric Partaker

 In November 2010, at the height of his hectic, demanding and successful career, Eric Partaker had a heart attack at 35,000 feet on a flight to London. After an emergency landing in a small town in France, he remembers saying to a paramedic, ‘Please don’t let me die. I have a five-year-old son.’

Eric says his definition of peak performance prior to that moment was all about work and business. He became determined to find out how he could perform at a peak level without sacrificing health or relationships. This life or death moment was the catalyst to changing his life.

Listen to discover:

  • How to define ‘the best version of you’
  • Why you should stop putting off changing your future (hint: you might not have a future if you don’t)
  • The key differences between being an amateur or a professional
  • How to use ‘three alarms’ and a persona to switch gears between work, health, and home
  • Implementing a ‘shutdown ritual’ to be more present outside the workplace
  • The answer to negative self-talk and procrastination is to make a choice
  • Why we should learn the practice of focusing on ‘the one thing’
  • How to understand your roadblocks, set milestone and behavioural goals to overcome them and start showing up in a different way.

Take Action

  • Ask yourself, where are you being an amateur? In business, your health and at home, where would you benefit from showing up as a pro?
  • Being intentional reminds you that you don’t just need to be a star at work. You also need to be a star under your own roof, and you need to be a star when it comes to your health, mind and body.
  • Perfection is not the goal. Each and every day, do the very best you can, with what you have, that day.
  • Life is a combination of wins and losses. It’s just about managing the equation in your favour.
  • If you want to focus on your health, don’t wait until this season is over, the merger is complete, you’ve hit that milestone, the time is right. The best time to do something is now.

How to analyse, protect and use your business intellectual assets

Episode – One

featuring Rob Nankervis with Andrew Chalet

In Episode One of the Propelling Performance Podcast, Rob and intellectual property expert, Andrew Chalet discuss the ‘hidden’ value in your business, and how to protect it and use it to your advantage.

“In business, people have to examine where their value is being created – protect it and use it and not waste it. That’s the key.” – Andrew Chalet

Listen to discover:

  • Typical barriers to assessing Intellectual Property
  • How to identify your Intellectual Property assets
  • Recognising the value in your business
  • The advantages of an external Intellectual Property Audit
  • How an employee agreement can impact Intellectual Property
  • How an Intellectual Property Audit helped a company in crisis
  • The value of an Intellectual Property Audit during a company sale or strategic exit
  • How to get the most out of the Intellectual Property in your own business
  • Why you should look at your assets strategically with a view to commercialisation
  • When is the best time to do an Intellectual Property Audit on your business

Take Action

  • Look at your business creatively. Really look at why it works.
  • Think critically about your processes, your people. Why do you think you’re being successful?
  • What part of the business model is giving you the market edge? Are you doing all you can to protect and commercialise that in some way?
  • Don’t underestimate the level of intellectual assets, ideas and creativity you have in your business.

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Each fortnight, Rob’s Insights delivers you ideas, resources, articles, trends, podcasts, and best practices needed to lead and grow your organisation. It’s topical and to the point, and best of all it’s free.

Are you playing the game or imposing yourself?

Success in professional sports this year has been not only about survival of the fittest, but survival of those able to adapt to change – just as we have experienced in business.

Spring is high season for sports competition here in Australia – including Australian Football League (AFL) finals, interstate rugby play-offs and thoroughbred horse racing carnivals.

So you get a good look at who’s best and who makes up the rest.

In a year plagued by stops and starts, relocation to different states, new environments (and even climates) and disruption to the rhythm of training programs, success in professional sports has been not only about survival of the fittest, but survival of those able to adapt to change – just as we have experienced in business.

With those events now behind us, an aspect that I’ve reflected on has come from watching Dustin Martin’s performance for Richmond in the AFL Grand Final.

It was a remarkable display of individual will and talent that was crucial in his team winning the flag. Most significantly, ‘Dusty’ won his third Norm Smith Medal – an award presented annually to the player adjudged the best on ground in the AFL Grand Final and named for legendary player Norm Smith, who won four VFL premierships as a player and six as coach for Melbourne Football Club.

The winning distinction in my view: Dusty didn’t just play the game that day, he imposed himself on it.

Asserting himself physically in the contest and doubtless getting inside his opponents’ minds in the process.

Richmond coach Damien Hardwick said, “He’ll go down probably now as the best finals player of all time … the way he just controls a game and knows where to be when to be, is incredibly important.”

A characteristically humble player, Dusty himself commented that his team was critical to his success. “There’s no way I would have been able to do it without my teammates,” Martin said of his third Norm Smith. “We’re an unbelievable team. It’s not a one-man team, we all do our part. We’re humble and we’re hungry. Success is awesome.”

Which raises a question for all of us as leaders …

Are we just ‘playing’ in our chosen game, or are we imposing ourselves on it? Making a statement. Fulfilling our true potential.

If you were to think about a scale from 1 to 10, where 1 was ‘we’re not even in our game’, 5 is ‘we’re playing’, and 10 is ‘we’re the industry benchmark’ … where would you score your business on that continuum?

Then, if you want to shift the needle, what could be the levers? Is it uniquely differentiating yourself through a more robust strategy? Perhaps its through building the quality of the people within your team? What about implementing world-class execution disciplines so that you operationally perform at a higher level? Or is it through tweaks to your cash situation that push up revenue and profit?

What would imposing yourself on the game look like … and what would that take?

And then, within your team, who are the individual players who are really making a statement with what they do? And who is just making up the numbers?

What could it mean for you and your business if you started imposing yourselves on the game you’re playing?

What are you here to do?

Can you communicate your organisational strategy in one word, or a single phrase?

It’s something I advocate strongly during client strategy workshops. The idea is to have a memorable, simple rallying cry, such as IBM’s ‘Think’, Apple’s competitively positioned ‘Think Differently’ or Southwest Airlines ‘Wheels Up’.

We all know how focused each of these organisations have been around these tight themes. For many brands, it is only necessary to hear one word or phrase to instantly know who they are, what they stand for and what they are here to do.

Personally I love the pure simplicity of 1800 Flowers, which is ‘Sell More Flowers’. Because it is so clear and crisp, it’s an example I like to share with my clients, challenging them to create something similarly impactful.

During a ‘pre-COVID’ strategy review session with Cutri Fruit at Swan Hill in Northern Victoria, I worked with business owner, Gaethan Cutri and his leadership team to come up with their theme for the year – one that would resonate with every member of the team, whether planting, pruning, thinning, picking or packing, or working back of house in accounts, marketing, or the leadership team.

One of the biggest challenges Cutri Fruit face in growing fruit in such large volumes, for both domestic supermarket chains and international buyers, is achieving high quality, high grade fruit. Not only do the customers expect a high standard, but the team themselves take significant pride in the quality of product they deliver.

After pushing a few ideas around, the theme we agreed on was ‘Make the Grade’.

It’s a key phrase that works on several levels – not just meeting technical and industry specifications of a quality product, but meaningful for each person in their individual role, as well as driving production, performance and growth of the business. It wonderfully captures the very practical element of creating first-grade fruit.

Every day, in every role, every person has the personal challenge – what are you doing to Make the Grade? It’s a great call out to each person as to how they go about making a difference in the Cutri Fruit business.

There are some key elements that I believe give power to a strategic theme.

  • It relates to what the business actually does (Wheels up = plane taking flight, Making the grade = produce quality fruit)
  • It reflects what your customers want, not just an internal imperative
  • It has universal appeal – everyone in the business can relate to it and contribute
  • The language implies action (making, taking off, selling)
  • It is short, sharp and memorable.

In terms of crafting our own themes for the year, Tom Zender has helped us out with a list of examples and some tips on what makes a strong attribute for your word.

Tom advises that one strong one word themes have key attributes – they are memorable, recall a positive emption, have a benefit, are unique, believable, simple, provocative, original and acceptable. 

On the flip side, weak one word strategies have negative characteristics – they are clumsy, complicated, meaningless, boring, contestable, pretentious, combative, irritating, bland and used by others. 

You can read all of Tom’s great insights here. 

So what’s your theme for the year – something that’s needed even more as we operate in such uncertain and unpredictable times? Could you engage every member of your staff team in an organisation-wide effort, with one word or phrase?

Photo by Scott Graham on Unsplash

Making a pivot

Are you in the middle of a pivot?

Pivot is the word on everyone’s lips right now, and there have been some incredible examples of innovation in recent weeks; LEGO making face masks, gin companies making hand sanitiser, to name just two. It’s all about making the most of your core competency, a regular topic I discuss with my coaching clients.

This type of ‘pivot’ often happens in times of crisis. One little-known success story is the Underwood Typewriter Company, which played a key role in boosting the arsenal of the US Army during World War II, manufacturing the M1 Carbine, a lightweight, semi-automatic firearm.

In 1942, the War Munitions Program announced a need for one million carbines by the end of 1943. Existing gun manufacturers could not meet the demand, but Underwood rose to the challenge and received a contract for 100,000 M1 Carbines.

Though Underwood had never produced a gun, the firm adapted.

They were the first to deliver test samples to the proving grounds. In fact, of all the manufacturers of the M1 Carbine, Underwood produced the highest number of parts in their own facilities.

Impressed, by mid 1943, the US Government awarded Underwood additional contracts for almost 730,000 carbines.

The company quickly found innovative ways to make sure that the carbines fixed sights were on target, and speeded up inspection and delivery substantially. As a result, Underwood, built ranges in the factory and developed a quick method using targeted telescopic sight.

Underwood was also first to produce stamped and brazed parts by producing trigger housings and front sights reducing time and machines for complex work during milling operations.

At its peak, Underwood was test firing and targeting 3,000 guns a day. They grew more and more efficient and eventually achieved production of carbines as high as 90,510 per month.

It is thought that they made about a million carbines from late 1942 to late 1944 and during the post-war period, were one of two civilian companies awarded a contract to refurbish M1 carbines.

Underwood is a great example of using your core competency to pivot and serve a new market need.

How are you serving your customers right now? Are you in the middle of a pivot? What else would your underlying competencies enable you to do?

Coping in crisis – lessons from wartime

right people, focus and cutting back

As we navigate uncertain times, many of us are looking to the past for learnings through times of crisis. In my experience, lessons learned from crisis are generally timeless – and these three particular examples from World War II are an excellent example. No matter what crisis we are dealing with, the way we manage our people and our priorities and making smart decisions is going to make an impact.

In May, pre COVID-19, I would have been heading to the 2020 Scaling Up Summit in Dallas, Texas. These events are always an outstanding opportunity for learning and inspiration.

I wanted to share some of the great insights I took away from the last event, when I visited the National World War II Museum in New Orleans, Louisiana during my 2018 Scaling Up Summit.

Get the right people on your team. The President selected some key individuals whose skills and networks were crucial to success. Known as ‘Dollar-a-Year Men’ they included Edsel Ford for mass production (B-24s by the hour), Donald Nelson from Sears, Roebuck for distribution and Andrew Higgins for his boat manufacturing. It was clearly about getting the right people around the challenges of the day.

Focus on priorities. The realisation that there was a war to be won – on the battle front and the home – drove a new focus in decision making. There was targeting of resources, increased labour efficiency, improved design and engineering, to bring out the best result from everybody. It truly became everybody’s job to have a contribution. (Sound familiar right now?)

Cutting back. All of us with parents or grandparents from the wartime generation will know of the hardships created by shortages of products and services. Rationing of food was common. I still remember my Dad explaining why he kept bent nails in the shed long after the war ended – simple products like nails could not be sourced when all the manufacturing focus was on Defence products.

In good times, there is plenty of waste and excess. In the current environment, as we come to terms with bare supermarket shelves and limits on purchases, we have an insight into how planning and making smart choices can impact on livelihoods and attitudes.

Whilst none of us want to live through these times of crisis, what lessons can we learn that would help us run a tighter business? What have you already changed in your business to cope with current restrictions, and how are you planning for ‘the other side’?

Image Credit:

What are your pacemakers?

It was the first true skyscraper – the building that broke all the rules. The magnificent Empire State Building was constructed in just 12 months, ‘one storey a day’ and one month ahead of schedule. How did they do it? By discarding industry standards and writing a new rule book, while keeping the ‘four pacemakers’ of construction.

I was fortunate to spend some time exploring the Empire State Building on my recent trip to New York and found the concept of the ‘four pacemakers’ fascinating, as it applies just as well to our businesses as it does to the construction industry. Four key areas of focus led to an incredible achievement – an iconic building that held the record as the world’s tallest for 40 years.

As you’ll see from these images, the four pacemakers for the Empire State Building were structural steel, concrete floors, metal windows and trim and exterior limestone and back-up brick. Each of these four divisions of construction work had to take the lead and set the pace for the trades that followed.

At the time the industry standard was 3.5 stories a week for steel, one storey a day for brick walls, and one to two stories a week for stonework. Builder Paul Starrett said “It was clear to us at once that on the Empire State we could never finish the building on time by any such progress. We decided to discard all these plans of operation and determined to erect at a rate of one storey a day.”

With every improvement, they gained time, from four up to 35 days. It was an immense challenge that at its peak, in the summer of 1930, employed more than 3,439 workers at one time.

If ever there was an example of achieving a remarkable goal through challenging the status quo, this is it. There are lessons for us all here in not doing things the way they have always been done and encouraging our teams to go one step further.

What challenges have you run in your business? Could being more audacious energise your team?

Your game of business is probably the same. Lots of innovation fails, plenty of new products flop, cost structures can change rapidly and, let’s face it, technology projects are legendary for their challenges.

To lead, you must also follow; Know your model; Curbing burnout to boost wellness; To improve global prosperity, hire better managers

To lead, you must also follow – the topic of leadership is a favourite of mine and it is certainly keenly discussed whenever I meet with clients – the challenges of motivating others to succeed as well as how to present and be perceived as a leader. Herein lies a further challenge, as by trying to demonstrate your exceptional abilities as a leader, you may compromise your ability to lead. The simple reason is that, as renowned US leadership expert, Warren Bennis observed, leaders are only ever as effective as their ability to engage followers.

When leaders and followers are bound together by the understanding that they are members of the same social group, a leaders’ behaviour indicates that they are one of us, because they share values, concerns and experiences, and are doing it for us, by looking to advance the interests of the group rather than own personal interests.

These ideas were tested in a study of 218 Royal Marines recruits over a physically arduous 32-week infantry training period. The results were surprising – it was the followers who emerged as leaders.

What is your leadership style and how can you adapt to work collaboratively with others?

Find out more here.

Know your model? – NYSE-listed meal kit delivery business, Blue Apron has run into some hefty headwinds since its IPO in 2017. Their historic driver of sales had been a substantial marketing spend ($144 million in 2016), but post-listing they gave that expense a significant haircut. Customer numbers dropped away, and the company started to re-build the marketing investment. Despite spending $34.6 million, or 19.3% of revenue, for the most recent quarter, customer numbers still fell 24%.

Turns out they are facing stiff competition from direct competitors and also from supermarkets, whose customers pick up meal kits whilst shopping. Also, the customer base seems transactional rather than loyal with retention a low 15%.

In your world, do your team know how the key parts of your model work to drive growth and performance? What are the metrics you track to tell you when things are no longer working?

Read the article here.

Curbing burnout to boost wellness – One of the most critical, yet often ignored issues for leaders is addressing burnout. If wellness has been playing on your mind, you might like to follow Stanford University’s efforts to combat burnout.

Stanford has been focusing intently on physician burnout since 2013. Internal survey data from 2013 to 2016 showed burnout was a potentially devastating financial liability – for every physician Stanford loses, the replacement cost ranges from $250,000 to $1 million.

The University has begun a three-pronged approach to curbing burnout for physicians and other employees – to promote efficiency, support resilience and create a culture of wellness. There is a strong desire to improve culture and give people the tools they need to succeed.

  • Create a culture of wellness: “We get the best out of people when they feel motivated and cared for. Leader support is absolutely key.” Supervisors and workers are encouraged to develop positive relationships that foster meaningful conversations.
  • Efficiency of practice: “If we can tie every employee’s worth, value, and mission back to the organisation, we are all more likely to be happy in the job we were hired for and hopefully do our jobs with more enthusiasm.” The University has a new focus on workplace processes and practices that promote safety, quality, effectiveness, and positive patient and collegiate interactions.
  • Personal resilience: “A traditional wellness program—how we eat, move, and think – is important to us.”Stanford has built up its personal resilience infrastructure beyond fitness facilities, with 1,000 fitness classes and healthy living programs offered annually.

What could you do – for yourself or your team – to boost wellness and improve productivity?

Read the full article here.

To improve global prosperity, hire better managers – In my quarterly Workshops I regularly speak with Founder/Owners and CEOs in doubt about the quality of their team leaders and the impact this is having organisation-wide, especially for productivity.

To get to the heart of the problem in a tangible way, the conclusion from this study was to change the way we work by transforming management in the following ways:

  • Hire individuals with a natural talent for managing people: when companies systematically pick candidates with high management talent, they can achieve 27% higher revenue per employee than average.
  • Train managers into coaches: many managers today are not ready to have frequent developmental conversations with their teams, but regular listening and feedback are essential skills for talking about performance and growth.
  • Drive manager engagement to drive employee engagement: employees who work for highly engaged managers are 59% more likely to be engaged, According to Gallup’s recent State of the Global Workplace report, 85% of employees are not engaged or actively disengaged at work.

When you consider that globally, the economic consequences of disengaged employees is about $7 trillion in lost productivity, it’s high time we found the managers we need.

How many highly engaged managers do you have on your team? Given the leverage that great managers deliver, what tactics will you deploy first?

You can read more here.

Do you know another business leader who might benefit from Rob’s Insights? Feel free to send them to my new website to subscribe – click here

For Companies to Scale, so must Leaders; Get Ready for the Golden Age; Are you a BRAVE Leader; What’s your Salary Cap?

For companies to scale, so must leaders – It’s no secret that scaling for success is not easy – and many companies that grow quickly can fail just as fast.

According to a study by the Kauffman Foundation into the 5,000 fastest growing U.S. companies, two-thirds (or about 67 percent) either shrank in size, went out of business or were disadvantageously sold five to eight years later.

At the heart of each failure? The leader. To scale a company to its next level, a leader must have the right mindset, thinking capacities and capabilities. Consider these three reasons why leaders fail.

  • Leaders were hired based on past performance, not future capacity – in a fast-moving world, leadership success factors change as fast as we can respond to new challenges.
  • Not all leaders are “wired” to grow a company – cognitive capacities such as conceptual thinking, goal orientation, big picture and future thinking are critical requirements in a leader.
  • Leaders’ thought processes are often blinded by cognitive biases – past success can be a leader’s greatest enemy, causing him or her to become over-confident, take high risks and/or become complacent.

Leadership and organisational development expert, Dr Carl Harshman has developed a process of motivation profiling using leadership MAPs – motivation and attitudinal patterns. This article explores the range of MAPs that leaders need for ongoing success.

Are you wired for success? Do you have the right leaders on your team? Can you see the next crop coming through with the right MAP?

Read the full article here.

Get ready for the Golden Age – According to economic historian, Carlota Perez, we are on the verge of another ‘Golden Age’ – a time where humanity will pass through a period of upheaval and economic malaise and emerge victorious into a time of broad economic growth.

In her influential book ‘Technological Revolutions and Financial Capital: The Dynamics of Bubbles and Golden Ages’ (2002), Perez proposed that we are in the midst of the fifth great ‘surge’ of technological and economic change since the Industrial Revolution. The current surge began around 1970 – the age of the computer and the Internet.

Perez’s observations are fascinating and useful in considering where our businesses might fit into the big picture. She says that a few pioneering leaders could begin creating conditions for a new golden age.

“Leaders would have to understand their role in this crucial moment, move to open a consensus-building process, and be determined to take bold measures. Their efforts, hopefully supported by business and society, could be the basis for the global golden age of the information economy.”

What could you be doing to build competencies towards the next ‘golden age’?

For those, like my clients, who study important trends, it’s worth taking the time to digest the full article here.

Are you a BRAVE leader? – Celebrating the milestone of 500 articles for Forbes in this article, George Bradt took a retrospective look at recurring themes. He discovered that BRAVE leadership was a key discussion; an approach based on focusing on others, inspiring and enabling the talents of those around you.

Bradt has created a leadership framework based on the word BRAVE – Behaviours, Relationships, Attitudes, Values, and Environment. He has these five questions for leaders.

Behaviours: What impact? Leaders are defined by their followers. The only way to achieve your vision, in line with your values, in the context you choose, is through the attitude, relationships, and behaviours you model and engender in your followers. It’s not about you. It’s about your cause.

Relationships: How to connect? If you want people to contribute, you’ll need to direct communication and guidelines. And if you want people to commit to the cause, you must connect with them emotionally and give them the freedom to co-create your future in line with your guiding principles.

Attitude: How to win? Strategy is about choices. You must decide how you are going to win, where you are going to focus your efforts, and where you are not going to focus. Start with your overarching strategic posture then agree sub-strategies so people know where to invest to be best-in-class, world class, strong or just good enough.

Values: What matters and why? It is imperative for you as a leader to define the value you will create and the principles you will follow to get there. A critical piece of this is moving from theoretically elegant values that no one really believes to guiding principles actually guiding what people do.

Environment: Where to play? As a leader, you must understand the context in which you’re operating and interpret and create context for others. Start with your organization’s history including the founders’ intent. Then understand your current situation and recent results.

How could you bring more BRAVE behaviour into your own approach to leadership?

Read the full article here

What’s your salary cap? – I’ve spoken with a couple of clients recently about how to better manage their overheads as they grow their businesses. An idea I’ve shared is the salary cap. Whilst we’re probably all familiar with the salary cap that gets applied to our professional sports teams, my friend Greg Crabtree, author of Simple Numbers, Straight Talk, Big Profits, challenges us to take the same approach with our businesses. The goal is to get the most productivity per dollar of salary spend.

It’s a really simple calculation, for example:

Revenue $50m
Profit target (say 15%) $7.5m
COGS/non-salary costs $20m
Salary cap $22.5m

  1. What to do:
    Calculate your own salary cap, including salaries and hourly wages (and an appropriate remuneration for the founder/owner if they’re active in the business) plus all overtime, superannuation and bonuses
  2. Calculate current salaries
  3. To support growth phases, determine a salary cap range based on minimum and maximum profit targets.

Do your actual salaries exceed the cap? If so, what actions are required to bring things back into line (sales boost, cost reduction, change of team)? What is the cap range that will best support your growth ambitions? And, perhaps most importantly, are you fielding the best possible team within the salary cap you have?

Do you know another business leader who might benefit from Rob’s Insights? Feel free to send them to my new website to subscribe – click here

Lightbulbs Versus Mandates; Level Up Leadership; Defining the Qualities of Leadership; How to be Great at Work

Lightbulbs versus mandates – as a leader, how many times have you unintentionally wasted your employees’ time with unnecessary work or a throwaway comment? Stanford Professor Bob Sutton’s ‘blueberry muffin’ story highlights a simple case that I’m sure we’ve all seen… and probably done ourselves.

The story goes that a CEO made an offhand comment about not seeing blueberry muffins at his meeting (even though he didn’t particularly like them) – then later discovered that due to his casual remark, employees made sure there were always blueberry muffins at his meetings.

It’s a great metaphor for the amount of employee time unwittingly wasted when leaders do not pick up that their team is dropping everything to cater for their boss. It’s a response that benefits no-one. You need clarity on whether your words become action needlessly. To make the distinction between things that we’re just thinking about, versus things we’re directing, the CEO of NASDAQ, Adena Friedman, has called them ‘lightbulbs’ and ‘mandates’. Now her team is clear when she is putting up something for discussion versus giving a directive.

Are you wasting time for your team? How do they know when you’re directing or discussing?

Read the article here.

Level Up Leadership – something to watch as we grow our business and scale our leaders is the need to move thinking to another level. It’s common for new leaders to stay tactical – ‘down in the weeds’ and in a familiar place – and not make the jump to strategic thinking. We need to encourage new leaders to show courage and embrace the additional responsibility invested in them, exploring new skills and challenges. Here are three ways for new leaders to assess if they are sabotaging their own leadership potential.

  • You set tasks, not direction. If a team member has a question, resist the urge to answer it directly or immediately. Instead, lead with curiosity by asking them questions.
  • You say yes to everything. Consider the decisions you made this week or last week and count how many of those decisions could have been made by somebody one, two or even three levels below you. Then, ask yourself why you made them.
  • You do not question. Forbes has two pieces of advice here. First, always question why. Don’t assume that a current process or stasis is right just because it’s a habit. Second, everybody brings a different perspective based on their own background, biases and business function. Some people value sales or finance while others focus on operations, human capital or the customer. Getting clarity now will save you a whole lot of chaos later.

To help cement transitions, I also suggest working with new leaders to set their priorities, agree measures that reflect their more senior role and hold 1:1 coaching each month to help them stay on track. These tactics build focus on the new role and help prevent a drift back to the old and familiar.

How are you helping your new leaders to level up?

Read the complete article here.

Defining the qualities of leadership – look around at the leaders you admire in your world – and those from history – and consider what it is they have in common. What are their defining qualities? Above all, you’ll see it is the ability to get things done. It’s political competency, the ability to drive action in an organisation.

Consider these four things that great leaders do when successfully executing their ideas.

  • They anticipate where others are coming from. Great leaders have considered the position of the other party or parties. Will they be resistant? Can that resistance be tempered?
  • They mobilise coalitions. No leader has pushed an idea over the finish line on his or her own strength.
  • They negotiate the buy-in for their ideas. Great leaders not only convince others to join them, but give others a reason for joining them, and sometimes that means modifying their ideas to satisfy the concerns of others.
  • They sustain momentum. Great leaders maintain interest in their ideas and continue to excite others. It’s about regular, clear, consistent communication.

How can you cultivate political competency in yourself? What about in those whom you coach?

You’ll find the full article here.

How to be great at work – with Morten Hansen keynoting our next Scaling Up Summit in Denver this October, I’ve enjoyed reading his latest book, Great At Work. Morten has spent five years assessing how top performers do less, work smarter and achieve more.

Driven by his observation of the many thousands of people who are unhappy in the workplace, Morten conducted his own empirically based study into how people can feel better (and perform better) at work and generally enjoy life more. He calls his discovery the Seven Work Smarter Practices, which can apply to all of us.

Here are a handful of things that I found useful:

  • Focus – only 16% of us bring strong focus to our work (a combination of priority selection and then obsessing on those few priorities)
  • Reduce clutter – ‘Doing more’ comes with two traps: we get spread too thin, so attention is inadequate; and 65% of survey respondents said organisational complexity created extra work
  • Wield the razor – be clear on what must be stopped to excel on the valuable few
    Redesign work to create value (i.e. tangible benefit to others), not just outputs
  • Build a learning loop – we need to trial, measure, review, tweak and iterate within our daily work.

Plenty more gold in Morten’s book, which I heartily recommend for your reading list. Meanwhile, though, how could you implement a couple of the ideas above to help your team be greater at work?

Using Feedback as a Tool; The Traits of Success; Building Leadership Likability; Influence, don’t Educate

Using feedback as a tool – how do you use feedback? Do you ask for it, or do you offer it? How do your employees react to feedback? A research study, run by New York University scientists, found that telling people they are receiving or giving feedback is a great way to put people on edge. Using challenging scenarios and heart-rate monitors, they found subjects in the study felt equally anxious offering feedback and receiving it.

Done well, though, feedback is a significant tool for growth. This fascinating article assesses and explains how to effectively use feedback, through some in-depth studies into how it works best. Here are some key takeaways, but it is worth reading the entire lengthy article.

Why feedback matters – representing valuable information from our environment, feedback is important in the process of growth and flourishing
Feedback is tied in with our survival instincts – though most of us no longer have to fend off predators, our brains are still exquisitely attuned to threats. Feedback conversations as they are often conducted today activate this social threat response.
Why asking for feedback works – when people ask for feedback, they feel greater autonomy and because they are in the driver’s seat, they can steer the conversation where it’ll be most useful. Givers feel more certainty because they have clearer guidelines for the kind of feedback they should give.
Creating a culture of feedback – developing a model of feedback should start with small acts. The NYU team suggest leaders begin by asking for feedback on low-stakes topics, such as the temperature in the office or how people felt about yesterday’s lunch. The point is to get people used to giving feedback that was asked for.
Making feedback a habit – more regular interactions mean askers get more comfortable asking, givers get more comfortable giving, and both gain experience in seeing how to fill the opposite role when the time comes.

By using feedback effectively, organisations can tilt their culture toward continuous improvement; smarter decision making and stronger, more resilient teams that can adapt as needed. How would you rate your organisation’s feedback maturity?

Read the full article here

The traits of success – this year, Inc. and Gallup conducted a detailed study of close to 200 entrepreneurs from the Inc. 5000.

Over 37 years, com­panies on the Inc. 5000 have undergone seismic shifts in industries and business models. But one key element hasn’t changed: the calibre of the founders. There is something distinctive about how such people think and act and perhaps most importantly, react, in the process of company building.

The study results strongly suggest that the 5000 are, in fact, unusually gifted.The top-ranked strength is risk-taking – not excessive risk tolerance, but rather managing the vagaries of risk. Ten key strengths were identified as exclusive to these high achievers. Here’s an insight into the first five strengths;

Knowledge: expertise deployed to secure competitive advantage, always striving to acquire in-depth information about organisation and industry
Delegation: assigning tasks to others, proactively collaborate, ensure team members contribute
Independence: depend only on self to get the job done, can manage every aspect of an organisation
Confidence: self-belief, know yourself, know others, take initiative
Relationships: high social awareness, build mutually beneficial relationships

Whilst not everyone thinks of themselves or their team as entrepreneurs, in a fast-moving market, entrepreneur traits that promote ideation, innovation and taking action are valuable in any business. Which of these strengths can you develop in your team?

Discover all 10 strengths in the full article here.

Building leadership likability – if you are actively working with your emerging leaders, one of the key lessons to teach is likability.

New leaders need to learn that authority does not equate to influence and earn the trust and respect of their team through connection. When people like and believe in their leader, they’re much more willing to work together and make things happen.

Forbes Coaches Council offer 10 ways to build your “likability” and influence as a leader. Here are the first five ways;

Be clear and courageous in your actions – working with someone who is transparent and courageous in their actions tends to build a following more quickly.
Let them know why they should follow you – if you communicate the benefits and costs of following you, people can self-select and adapt. There are no dream jobs or managers, just good selection and fit.
Just be effective – define your mission, clarify your purpose and define business goals for your group.
Be relatable and share your ‘Whys’ – share a story with your team that will answer these questions: Why are you doing this work? Why should the work you’re doing matter to your target market?
Be genuine and observant – relationships are built one conversation or one action at a time. Focus on listening, not just to words but also emotions. Be empathic; don’t be afraid to be vulnerable.

Read the full article here

Influence, don’t educate – how often do you leave a meeting wondering if your presentation actually made a difference? Cultivate these four speaking habits to shift your position from educator to influencer.

Don’t just dump the data, connect the facts – as a leader, you can’t assume that your listeners will have your level of knowledge of specific topics, or your understanding of what the numbers mean to the company. You need to demonstrate that.
Speak from the heart, not a script – preparation is essential, but if you want your listeners to see you as a leader, give up the script. You need to be raw, honest, and convince people that you’re speaking from the heart.
Ditch the technical jargon and use simple, plain language – as a leader, being clear and simple trumps being verbose. Use simple language and get your point across in as few words as possible.
Use images to make your audience feel smart – accompany your presentation with compelling images that your audience can match to your words and easily work out and understand.

Find the full article here.

Three Key Disciplines To Breakthrough Obstacles

perception, action and will

Over the summer break it was useful to make time for some reflection on 2017, and part of that included the #ScaleUp17 conference in St Louis, Missouri. On reviewing my learning from the conference, there were five key speakers whose wisdom I’d like to share with you as we accelerate into 2018.

Our biggest obstacle is within – Ryan Holiday, author of The Obstacle is The Way, says that, often, it is ourselves and our own behaviours that form obstacles. To break through, he shared three key disciplines to master; perception, action and will.

Through the Discipline of Perception, we must remember that the way we learn from opportunities defines our success. The Discipline of Action calls upon our ability to keep moving forward in difficult scenarios. Momentum is critical to continued success. Through the Discipline of Will, Ryan asked us to accept that the only constant is change. We need to recognise that the more we embrace change, the less we will resent it.

In adopting these disciplines, Ryan asserts that our biggest obstacle is from within, and that is Ego. “Ego sucks us down like the law of gravity. There is no situation that calls for more ego,” he said. “Humility is understanding our weaknesses and Confidence is understanding our strengths.” How can you best help your team to crack through their obstacles?

Visit Ryan Holiday’s website here.

Helping customers ‘get stuff done’ – Steve Wunker’s book ‘Jobs to be Done – A Roadmap for Customer Centered Innovation’ is focussed solely on helping us discover what people are really trying to do when they make a purchase.

Steve asks – How can we ensure that we focus on what customers really need, without imposing our own preconceptions or providing too much? How can we do this in an organised, disciplined, repeatable way?

“It is easy to think about things from the company perspective, but your customer doesn’t care. They are just trying to get stuff done in their life,” Steve said.

Identifying and solving ‘Jobs to be Done’ goes deeper than ‘needs’ or ‘features’ – it’s about connecting with your customer on an emotional level and focusing on what they actually want to accomplish.

What are the three things your customer is trying to get done? What are some totally different ways they could get those jobs done? Given your business advantages, what could you do about these jobs?

Read more from Steve Wunker here.

Leadership as a love affair – In his presentation ‘Mastering the art of coaching’, Gregg Thompson shared the three key skills all leaders need to develop – appreciation, confrontation and accountability.

Gregg believes that leadership is actually ‘a love affair with an idea that brings out the best in you’. How many of us feel this way about our leadership role?

Here are four questions for those in a position of coach, either as a professional coach or as a business leader.

  1. What shifts do you have to make to be the catalyst that helps others achieve great things?
  2. Do people like themselves when they are in your presence?
  3. Do they care enough about you to tell you what you need to know?
  4. Do you have someone who holds you accountable?

How does your leadership impact on others? Are the people you lead more committed, engaged, innovative, aligned, agile and productive? Do others leave conversations with you better in some way? What must you change?

Read more about The Master Coach approach here.

Caring for your people like family – Bob Chapman, author of Everybody Matters, began his presentation by drawing comparisons between leadership and parenting. Have you seen such similarities?

Bob’s book shares the power of caring for your people like family and asserts that leadership is ‘stewardship over lives’, just as parents guide and shape their children.

Bob brings the more emotional slant of responsibility to the concept of leadership; that leadership is a privilege, not a job. “Listening is a critical leadership skill and the most powerful act of caring. How we lead has a profound impact on how those entrusted to us live – and on their health.”

Have you considered that you have the unique opportunity to shape lives – that as a leader, you have people in your care for more than 40 hours a week?

“Management is the manipulation of others for your success. Leadership is the stewardship of the lives entrusted to you. People want to know that who they are and what they do matters. How we lead impacts the health and families of our people.”

Find Bob Chapman’s book here.

When success means failure – Mark Sanborn shared highlights from his latest book release, The Potential Principle. Mark points out that our early warning indicator for failure is success – it only means that you know what worked yesterday.

According to Mark there are four basic reasons to keep getting better – Change, Competition, Customers and Capability. To do this, we must be clear on our values, innovate continually, increase capacity and be bold.

“Identify who or what needs to be disrupted. Elevate your customer experience or value proposition. Out think, don’t outspend. Grow yourself and your team. It’s the little things that make a big difference. No one remembers the same, they remember difference.”

Are you focused on your leadership, or your followers? Are you inspiring or just engaging your team members? Are you thinking beyond transacting to connecting? Do you think about getting better, rather than being the best?

Order Mark Sanborn’s book here.

That Critical Piece of Information to Guide Decision-Making

It’s the season for getting bare-rooted trees into the ground, so last weekend I bought a chestnut tree for the farm. I was getting ready to plant it out when I saw on the back of the tag that it grows to 10m high and 10m wide. The spot beside my cattle yards would only accommodate a 5m diameter tree, and I certainly didn’t want a large overhanging branch to drop its spiny chestnut burrs into the yards, damaging the hooves of my cattle. So, an apple tree is now in that spot, and the chestnut tree is destined for a better location in the orchard, where it has the space it needs to grow.

Isn’t it great that I had that critical piece of information to guide my decision-making? We don’t get that direct insight, though, with the rather more complex humans that we transplant into our organisations. Imagine if you had that critical knowledge at every juncture – recruiting, developing, promoting – knowing the ideal part of your business structure for a particular individual to flourish, what they need around them to produce their best work and what individual strengths they’ll bring to leverage their own growth and the growth of your business.

“Isn’t it great that I had that critical piece of information to guide my decision-making? We don’t get that direct insight, though, with the rather more complex humans that we transplant into our organisations”

Published September 8, 2017

Obstacle course, sprint or marathon?

I was re-reading Jack Stack’s ‘A Stake in the Outcome’ over the last couple of weeks and a comment he made about the nature of the business race we’re running really jumped out at me. Teams would probably associate their long-term goal, or BHAG as Jim Collins calls it, as a marathon; an event of known length. At the opposite end of the spectrum there’s the encouragement to sprint towards near-term goals, often with a Scrum or Agile approach as recommended by Jeff Sutherland. These have their place in the vernacular of business to engage a sense of challenge, competition and striving, and indeed I use these approaches with my own clients to galvanise their efforts towards their goals.
But what is the overall nature of driving a business? In truth, it is an obstacle race as Jack describes. There is no flat, straight 100m course to quickly traverse; perhaps a spectator will leap out, or a hurdle will be dragged onto the track, or a competitor will tackle you from behind. The beauty of this is that if you recognise and accept that you’re in an obstacle race, then your psychology is already set to the nature of the event. You know for certain that, having just overcome one obstacle, that another is just around the corner, and its nature may be uncertain. It’s all part of the grand adventure of growing a business … but it needs different people and preparation than a straight sprint, doesn’t it?

What is your saying/doing ratio?

Accountability Works

Does the team understand where leaders are steering the ship or is the whole thing misaligned? How strong is the level of organisational trust to follow the course?

My clients are held to account each quarter for delivery on their highest priorities. We all acknowledge that ‘everything’ won’t get done, but we do need to be accountable for that handful of things that, as a team, we’re committed to doing. Accountability works; over the years, the average saying/doing ratio for my clients is around 75 per cent – i.e. when held accountable, 75 per cent of what they said they would do, actually gets done.

Of course, there will always be misses. Perhaps an M&A opportunity popped up and resources were re-allocated; it could be an unexpected staff illness; or, more often, a simple miscalculation of what was involved shifted the needle on a priority or two. Happily, the experience of setting goals, measures and commitments improves through iteration, and the best teams actually grow to challenge each other to deliver on their most important priorities.

The point is, if we know where we are on the roadmap, we can make sensible decisions on what to do next, mean what we say and make it happen. Those without a plan at all (and no accountability in place) will simply hop reactively from one idea to another and, before too long; business becomes all talk and no action.

The point is, if we know where we are on the roadmap, we can make sensible decisions on what to do next, mean what we say and make it happen.

Published July 28, 2017

Do you live by rules or conventions?

I recently spent time in the company of Dr Kaihan Krippendorff, an inspiring strategist I had the privilege to meet through the Gazelles Coaching program.

Kaihan is a business strategist, keynote speaker, consultant and best-selling author of four books, most recently Outthink the Competition. A former consultant with McKinsey & Company, he now writes one of the most popular blogs on, ‘Outthinkers’.

Over three days, we talked of many things, but one of the most powerful conclusions I drew after our time together was that most organisations are coming up against the ‘laws of nature’ in their decision-making process. Most of the blockages for organisations revolve around what they won’t do (such as breaking a convention) rather than what they can’t do (challenging a law or rule).

If these organisations are unwilling to make a change due to their belief system, wanting to adhere to the accepted way of doing things, every opportunity for change and innovation will grind to a halt.

When people stay firm in their thinking even when evidence proves them wrong, this becomes incredibly frustrating for all team members, from the top down.

Consider short-sighted attitudes and practices such as:

  • Wrong team members – the leadership team has become ‘comfortable’ and may neither see, nor want to see, that the game is changing and so should they
  • Wrong leaders – perhaps current leaders are best suited to a different competitive environment. Maybe they prefer a classical, organic growth model, but the ground may have shifted and now a nimble and adaptive team is needed
  • Wrong vision – or perhaps, no vision. With a strong vision in place, you know where you are headed, but short-sighted organisations don’t have these beacons to work towards.

    So, what is the solution?

    One of my main tips is to keep a keen eye on trends and continue to ask: what does this mean for us? Watch for ideas in your industry that people are disputing or ignoring; these may soon be the new norm. Look at your competitors. Who is disrupting? Could their model, or even their product or service, be played successfully into your industry?

If these organisations are unwilling to make a change due to their belief system, wanting to adhere to the accepted way of doing things, every opportunity for change and innovation will grind to a halt.

Published June 16, 2016

The power of resilience

Commitment and Recilience

Last Friday, as usual, I woke at 5.45am, threw on my exercise gear and hit the footpath for a 30 minute run. Morning exercise is a daily ritual for me; come rain, hail or shine.

This particular morning (if you’re in Melbourne, you may recall it) there was rain. A lot of it. Buckets, in fact. But this is my workout ritual and I am committed to exercising at this time. It’s the only time I can make it happen during the day and I see it as a critical investment in my health and wellbeing.

While I am a highly motivated person, there is a fair element of effort in this regime, too. Over the years, I have built on my resilience in order to make this happen. I push through the weather conditions, the snooze button and the temptation to quickly check emails, instead of going for a run. This is because I know that there is a greater personal benefit in the run than anything else.

As I carved my way along the path and through that downpour of rain, I looked out for some fellow runners. This morning I noticed I was alone. It struck me that this was a clear example of the power of resilience. It also made me wonder about the mindset of the people who may have committed the night before to be out running, or heading to the gym – but were still in bed. These are people who are heading off to work in an hour or so. What had stopped them from getting out of bed? What was the state of their resilience?

Further, if they were having trouble getting out of bed to exercise, what was the state of their commitment to their job in the day ahead? Was their passion ignited when they stepped in the front door of the office and shook off the umbrella that morning? Or was their heart in their boots? What will happen when things inevitably get a bit tough?

Commitment and resilience go hand-in-hand in your work teams. To get your team on board, committed and delivering on your vision, you need both.

Look around in your next team meeting and consider your people. Do you feel confident in their commitment and resilience? Do you know how they feel? How well do you know their character and their mindset?

As a great leader, you need to build the team’s trust in you, each other and the business to bring them along on the journey. This starts by having a deep understanding of your people, their aspirations and their mindset.

My run energised me and set my day on the right path. If you’re not sure if your team is on the right path, it’s time to dive deeper and understand what’s happening behind the scenes and inside the heads of your people.

As a great leader, you need to build the team’s trust in you, each other and the business to bring them along on the journey. This starts by having a deep understanding of your people, their aspirations and their mindset.

Published August 30, 2016

Lessons in Business From Futures Traders

“knowing when to hold ‘em, knowing when to fold ‘em”

Plenty of organisations have trouble starting things, but in my experience as a coach and advisor, they have even more trouble stopping them.

Those who play the commodity futures market understand the fine line between stop and start…“knowing when to hold ‘em, knowing when to fold ‘em” is the crucial difference between soaring success or crippling failure, especially in a game that moves fast.

Here are three disciplines about ‘stopping’ that I learned from the experts and from my own experience in trading, and how to apply these in your business.

First, have a clear early get-out signal. In my case I trained the broker to ask my exits at the point I entered a trade. Normally it was either a dollar risk (for example, I don’t want to risk more than x on a trade) or because it breaks a level of market support. Either way, once the wire is tripped the trade was closed.

How quickly do you know you’re wrong on any of your current business initiatives? Where is the risk right now? What could be your get-out signal? Consider this – if these specific things happen, we’re out.

Second, if a trade started to go my way, I had a trailing stop. It’s a little bit outside the market action, but close enough that if it triggered we’d locked in most of the achievable profit. But it also meant that if the intended trajectory is no longer being achieved we’re out and would apply our resources elsewhere.

Do you have a monitoring approach that highlights when an initiative has tipped over? Perhaps it’s the financial projections in the business case being breached, or a critical person departing.

Finally, there’s an end-point which reflects when we’d conclude a trade. Perhaps it’s time-based (for instance, day traders often close their positions at the end of a day to avoid carrying risk overnight), or it could be a price target, which we expect is the likely maximum we’ll earn from the trade.

How will you know it is time to end a project? Do you project the results that you anticipate and then happily take the money off the table at that point? Or can you effectively track the product or service trend that you’re riding and gracefully exit when its ending?

In futures, we know that only a handful of players make the money – and in a virtually zero sum game, they make the money that everyone else loses. This is not a game of certainties. Rather it’s a game of probabilities, so a model and plan is needed that reflects that truth.

Your game of business is probably the same. Lots of innovation fails, plenty of new products flop, cost structures can change rapidly and, let’s face it, technology projects are legendary for their challenges.

Don’t wait for the roll of the dice, make your own luck. After all, you hold all the cards.

Your game of business is probably the same. Lots of innovation fails, plenty of new products flop, cost structures can change rapidly and, let’s face it, technology projects are legendary for their challenges.

Published April 30, 2018

What a Farmer Taught Me About Employee Retention

“The best fencin’ is to make sure that your grass is better than the grass next door.”

When I’m not working with clients, I’m often working the land. I own a small farm just outside Melbourne, on which we run some beef cattle.

When I bought the property, I was eager to learn some tricks of the trade from the former owner, an experienced man of the land with over 50 years in gumboots. Having made a significant investment in my cattle, I was concerned for their safety and security, so I asked him what he considered to be the best type of fencing.

He sized me up for a moment and then in his laconic, Aussie drawl, he stated, “The best fencin’ is to make sure that your grass is better than the grass next door.”

Oftentimes, it is the simplest truth that is the most enlightening. I’ve never forgotten this key lesson; a lesson I regularly apply when talking with clients about organisational leadership.

Of course, he was completely right. If a neighbouring property cultivates greener, more luscious grass, the cattle will simply push through a weak fence, to reach the grass that is much more appealing than what’s on offer in their own backyard.

But if the pasture is tended with care, the cattle have plenty of fresh water and can expect a hay supplement during the long winter months, they are more likely to stay put.

The setting may be different but the same theory can be applied to employee retention. Organisations with less-than-satisfied employees are more likely to experience an exodus in their pool of top talent. Losing these A-players slows organisational momentum and growth, increases expenditure and impacts negatively on morale.

Whilst it’s easy for leaders to agree that retaining happy, motivated, engaged is vital to long-term success, many organisations limit their employee retention to well-worn practices, thinking no further than professional development offerings and reward and recognition programs.

In my experience, it’s more about the principles.

Creating a purpose-directed, values-driven organisation in which employees can believeis the first step. Having a challenging, aligned strategy that engages their minds toconceive a strong future is the second, and the third is creating a working environment that enables them to achieve their personal potential, whilst contributing to organisation-wide performance.

Whilst the practices can be readily costed and copied, this combination of principles creates in employees a strong sense of value that they know will be difficult to find elsewhere.

Ensure your grass is greener than the other side, giving plenty of incentive for key employees to stay and productively graze – otherwise you may soon find your corporate pasture empty.”Isn’t it great that I had that critical piece of information to guide my decision-making? We don’t get that direct insight, though, with the rather more complex humans that we transplant into our organisations”

Published March 30, 2018

How Will You Seize The Day For Your Business?

A Moment of Seized Opportunity

We recently took a family trip to Wonthaggi, a picturesque, heritage town by the seaside in the Bass Coast Shire of Gippsland. It’s not a place you’d imagine to be one of most significant sites in this state’s history, but behind the calm exterior, there is a fascinating story of seized opportunity.

First a little lesson about coal; Victoria actually hosts 430 billion tonnes of it, a significant proportion of the world’s brown coal endowment. It was black coal though, the highest grade of coal, which enabled the Wonthaggi mine to rise to the occasion at a time of desperate energy need.

A strike in the Hunter Valley of New South Wales from 1909-1910 disrupted coal supplies to Victoria. At the time the state relied solely on the Hunter Valley for stable supply, especially to serve its growing steam railways, so this was a complete disaster.

In a move that in many ways saved the Victorian economy, the State Government acted quickly to begin mining operations in Wonthaggi, where rich coal deposits had been discovered.

It was risky, but it was a gamble the State Government had to take. And despite the fact that the mine became renowned as one of the largest and most dangerous collieries in Australia, it paid off.

When the mine closed in 1968 after 59 years in operation, the Wonthaggi State Coal Mine had produced almost 17 million tonnes of coal for Victoria’s industries and railways. Production peaked at almost 2500 tonnes per day.

Of course, this success came with major issues as well. Coal mining was fraught with danger; the work was back breaking and the conditions were horrendous. Union action was rife across the years and the tragic death of 13 miners in 1937 resulted in a successful national campaign to improve conditions for all Australian miners. Over the course of 59 years, more than 80 men died.

Throughout it all, the State Coal Mine continued to provide a resource strapped Victoria with a constant flow of much needed coal, all because of a moment of seized opportunity.

My visit to Wonthaggi had me contemplating how businesses look at opportunity. Many of my clients work with me to keep track of latent opportunities, recognise gaps in the market and devise strategies to act.

Change is only possible when good leaders respond strategically to their circumstances – seize an opportunity, lead their businesses and engage people on the journey.

Does your organisation have the capacity to quickly seize opportunities? And on the other hand, where are the chinks in your armour that others might exploit?

Change is only possible when good leaders respond strategically to their circumstances – seize an opportunity, lead their businesses and engage people on the journey

Published February 28, 2018

Are You a Transformational Leader?

A Key Challenge

A key challenge for my clients is that the pursuit of fast growth requires a series of transformations in their business. By definition we can’t dramatically drive up performance without making a number of changes: perhaps some different roles and people, a new strategy, a switch of emphasis in the client/product mix, some new execution disciplines and so on. But this puts an added load on the leaders, so what can we do? Executive coach Alexia Vernon has some suggestions in her recent Forbes article:

  • Drop from head to heart – slow down, connect with your intuition and feelings to bring out the honesty, openness and energy of our personal experience (aka vulnerability)
  • Be curious and playful – constantly ask questions of your people and of yourself, and avoid getting stuck with either the status quo assumptions or the first answers that emerge
  • Tell relevant stories – surface and use stories to connect with people and stir their action. Help the audience sees themselves in the story, awakening their own capacity for change.

So … could you be more clear and congruent in yourself? At your next meeting, could you ask more curious questions and make fewer statements? Could you present in stories rather than statistics?

Check out Vernon’s piece here: FORBES.

So … could you be more clear and congruent in yourself? At your next meeting, could you ask more curious questions and make fewer statements? Could you present in stories rather than statistics?

Published January 12, 2018

Building Effective Teams

Fitting and Flourishing

With the first ball of the 2014 AFL football season already bounced, there’s no doubt that every team is assessing the strength of their bench. For teams that failed to secure a start in last year’s Grand Final, their coaches, boards and playing groups will all be hunting down ways to secure that all-important trophy come September.

As a Collingwood fan, I was interested in the Club’s choice not to renew contracts for several star players; players who were a vital part of Collingwood’s 2010 premiership win. While these contract cessations are often disappointing for supporters, they are sometimes a necessary evil in building future capability. In these instances, Collingwood’s coaches have stepped up, and made the hard decisions, selecting their 2014 list by addressing one key consideration: retaining and developing the players that will still be at Collingwood when the team is next capable of playing in a premiership.

Making these hard decisions for your business can sometimes seem impossible.

But, if you take a step back and think objectively about your own team, and the strategic challenges and opportunities ahead of your business, how do you feel? Do you have the right people, playing in the right positions, doing the right things? Does your team play to win? Is your team effective?

If your team is not effective, why is this so? Do they lack cultural fit or capability? If it’s capability, could you close the gap via up-skilling?

To help you quickly determine what it is that’s holding your team back, I’ve come up with a few handy tips for assessing team effectiveness.

So, What Makes a Team Effective?

Team effectiveness is critical to the success of every business, regardless of size, industry or strategic goals. Teams, and teamwork, have an enormous impact on the day-to-day performance of every business, as well as the long-term health and probability of the business.

If you’re not sure what an effective team looks like, defining factors include:

  • Every team (whether it’s a Board of Directors or the Social Committee) should include a wide variety of personalities, each of whom contribute in a different way, complementing one another’s strengths and weaknesses. A team comprised solely of planners would not cope with ever-changing deadlines whilst a team comprised only of high-level, big-picture thinkers might never get organised to deliver an outcome.
  • Effective teams have clear objectives and priorities. Every team member understands those priorities and objectives and is fully committed and accountable for achieving them
  • Team members also understand the broader business objectives, and how they fit into the over-arching strategic direction of the business.
  • Team members have clearly articulated, clearly defined roles and responsibilities. All other team members are fully aware of those roles and responsibilities. And all team members support and help one another to deliver on their responsibilities.
  • The team is focused equally on outcomes (what we need to do) and processes (how we achieve the outcome).
  • Generally, the team environment is supportive – they trust each other. Therefore, team members feel secure enough to take risks, be innovative and communicate their honest opinions.
  • Through a shared ideology of purpose and values, backed by an aligned strategy, team members feel like a valued part of the broader company and get personal satisfaction from their contribution. Because of the basis of trust, , the team is comfortable with friendly, professional disagreement. The team is able to easily resolve disagreements without pandering to individual egos. Decisions are made on a ‘best for business’ basis.
  • The team learns from, and builds on, previous projects and jobs, implementing improvements and innovations . Accordingly they don’t suffer the debilitating malaise of most organisations that perpetuate their mistakes.

Conversely then, ineffective teams are comprised of indifferent, bored or scared team members. Ideas are dismissed, ridiculed or ignored. Arguments are frequent, and often unresolved. Deadlines are regularly missed because team members are unhappy and therefore unproductive. There is a lack of clarity around individual roles and responsibilities, and team members neither trust nor help one another.

If this sounds like your business, or your team, then it is time to act. Continuing with an ineffective team could be stunting the growth of your business, limiting profits and draining the time and spirit of the CEO/owner.

Our complimentary Four Decisions Assessment from Gazelles International objectively examines the health of your business, identifying challenges (including an ineffective team), and enabling you to build evidence-based plans to grow your business.

To complete the free Four Decisions Assessment, contact us today.

Team effectiveness is critical to the success of every business, regardless of size, industry or strategic goals. Teams, and teamwork, have an enormous impact on the day-to-day performance of every business, as well as the long-term health and probability of the business.

Published September 15, 2017

The Tyranny of Complexity

Leonardo da Vinci said it well – ‘simplicity is the ultimate form of sophistication’. In more recent times, Ram Charan and Stephen M.R. Covey have delivered inspirational keynote presentations aimed at tackling today’s tyranny of complexity.

As such, I am in distinguished company when I contend that we have all made life unnecessarily complex. As business leaders, we have buried ourselves under a landslide of complexity, not only smothering our effectiveness, but also our innovation, our creativity, our vision. Above all, we have smothered our ability to grow our businesses, to secure greater market share, to multiply profits.

Let me introduce you to my distinguished company; they are some of today’s most influential thought-leaders, paradigm-shifting authors, and innovative business consultants.

Ram Charan

Ram Charan is a world-renowned author, business consultant and speaker. A prolific writer, he has penned 12 books since 1998, selling over two million copies in more than a dozen languages. Execution, which Ram co-authored with Honeywell CEO Larry Bossidy in 2002, was a #1 Wall Street Journal bestseller and spent more than 150 weeks on the New York Times bestseller list. He is known for cutting through the complexity of running a business in today’s fast changing environment to uncover core business problems. He offers relevant, practical, and easy-to-implement solutions. If you haven’t already read his best-selling book Execution, I recommend that you pick up a copy today.

Stephen M.R. Covey

A highly sought-after keynote speaker, Stephen M.R. Covey is a compelling advisor on trust, ethics, leadership and high-performing teams. His paradigm-shifting novel, The Speed of Trust, challenges the assumption that trust is simply a soft, social virtue. Rather, Covey contends that trust is a hard economic driver. Importantly, complexity in the form of duplication and bureaucracy are a low-trust organisational tax. On the other hand, high trust makes businesses more profitable and people more promotable. He believes that establishing and fostering trust among all stakeholders is vital to leadership within the ever-growing global economy. Again, Covey’s book, The Speed of Trust is a must-read for any successful business leader.

The tyranny of complexity is a concept that can slowly creep up on a business, embedding itself like a cancer. As senior business leaders, we are (usually) all highly educated. With undergraduate degrees, MBAs and doctorates galore, complex theories and ideologies are often second nature to us. We like to put our expensive education to good use, implementing all the theoretical, academic teachings we grappled with at university. We actually enjoy making business processes, service delivery mechanisms and day-to-day operations complex … and in this regard other key stakeholders are also complicit, whether they be our bankers, investment community, regulators, professional advisors who all have their layers to add.

The problem: this complexity stunts our effectiveness and efficiency.

Complexity distracts what could be highly effective teams. Our teams become so distracted that they cannot serve the core purpose of our business. We all get so buried in the complexity of the ‘what’ that we lose sight of the ‘why’. As a result, we diminish the service that we are providing to our key clients and disrupt the working environment provided for our teams (the ‘who’).

I encourage my clients, especially those that feel overwhelmed with all the ‘stuff’ that they need to get through, to take a step back. Breathe. And then objectively review their business.

During this objective review, I encourage my clients to really strip back their business operations. Eradicate the complexity and start from the start. I ask my clients to honestly answer three key questions:

  1. What is the underlying purpose of your business? Why do you exist?
  2. What are the rules by which you live? What are your values?
  3. What is your long-term goal? Where do you want to be in 10+ years?

Once we have the fundamentals bedded down, it is much simpler to tackle other more detailed, but equally important questions:

  • Who is your core customer?
  • What is the promise that your brand makes to your core customer?
  • What are the underlying trends that will impact your business?
  • What are the strengths and weaknesses of your business?

My clients are then in a position to identify the key capabilities they need to guarantee their long-term success. The protection and development of these key capabilities forms the basis of strategic planning, and the resultant structural and execution steps that follow. The outcome is a clear sense of exactly what activities they should start, stop, and continue doing. It is an outcome that brings alignment and reduces clutter.

Together, we have eradicated the tyranny of complexity.

Complexity distracts what could be highly effective teams. Our teams become so distracted that they cannot serve the core purpose of our business. We all get so buried in the complexity of the ‘what’ that we lose sight of the ‘why’. As a result, we diminish the service that we are providing to our key clients and disrupt the working environment provided for our teams (the ‘who’).

Published October 23, 2017