Propelling Performance Podcast

SEASON TWO, EPISODE THREE

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.

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Andrew Smith

Founder and Director, Lennox Strategic

Rob Nankervis – Podcast guests – Season 2

Andrew Smith spent the first 20 years of his career in primary education including time as a school principal, before joining Three P Learning, the company behind Mathletics, an award-winning companion tool for educators to help students learn maths. Andrew took the company from fledgling education start-up to market leader, boasting a 60% school market penetration and 95% retention rate. He led a team of 60 people delivering over 30 million in annual revenue and establishing commercial relationships in Pakistan, India, Hong Kong and Singapore. In 2014, the company was listed on the IASX as the second largest technology floating history with a market cap valuation of 330 million. More recently, Andrew founded Lennox Strategic, a strategic planning, execution, coaching and leadership mentoring business and chaired advisory boards in Melbourne, Sydney, and Brisbane.