26 Apr

What it takes to be a Leader

Throughout history there have been some exceptional leaders, Ghandi, Churchill, and Nelson Mandela are a few that come to mind. All these great leaders have stood out over the decades and have mastered the art of leading a group of people, where in some circumstances have had to lead in the most harrowing of circumstances. What was the reason that people chose to follow these great leaders?

There has been extensive research completed by many universities and organisations over the years to try and pinpoint what exactly are the traits or qualities of a good leader. The research has apparently come back inconclusive. As you can guess, every exceptional leader who has stood out in a crowd has come with a different background, value system, experiences and character. Unfortunately there is no such thing as one neat little set of leadership traits. If you had to compare Ghandi and Churchill, these two men were polar opposites in their leadership styles, even missing a few key leadership traits some would say. However, they are still regarded as great leaders of our time.

There are however two traits that do rise above the countless leadership traits that we see on personal development lists and job description requirements and those two are as follows.

  1. Good leaders have the ability to adapt to their circumstances: A leader is someone who can assess and acknowledge the environment for what it is. Expecting the environment to be perfect for their unique requirements would be an impossible ask. Good leaders can evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of a situation as well as identify future opportunities.  Never wishing what could be, but knowing what the results will be into the future. Good leaders truly believe in the vision themselves, so much so that their passion and motivation for achieving their vision shines through in all that they do.
  2. Good leaders understand the need for building relationships: Leaders understand that in order to reach the ultimate vision they need the people around them to firstly buy into that vision. Once that has happened only then can action plans be  executed.

How do you get people to follow you or buy into the vision? Well, this could be the place where some of the other important traits come in. Good leaders know that it’s not about spitting out orders and expecting results. It’s ultimately about building relationships. What are some of the characteristics of a strong relationship? What should a good leader be practising everyday?

  • Respect: Earning respect from the team by practising active listening, being accountable for one’s actions, practising what they preach and  stepping up and leading from the front.
  • Empathy: Taking the time to understand the team and how they view the situation. Considering their feedback and suggestions to make them feel part of the process.
  • Loyalty: Being honest and open with the team builds loyalty and trust.
  • Treating everyone as unique: Good leaders take the time to get to know the individual team members. Their style, strengths, challenges, personal goals and dreams. The leader will help each team member to grow, develop and reach personal goals whilst working towards the business vision.

Do you have these leadership traits? If not, what do you need to do to develop them?

03 Nov

Bullying or wearing blinkers?

If you were in New Zealand in the 80s then you may recall the “unfortunate experiment” which cast a very dark shadow over the National Women’s Hospital at that time. Last week I attended an incredibly inspirational talk by Dr Ron Jones, author of Doctors in Denial: The forgotten women of the unfortunate experiment, which spoke about the doctors and women involved. It is a painful reminder of what happens when people in power allow their egos to get in the way of sound judgement and good decision making. This “experiment” caused thousands of women to lose their lives from cancer that could have been cured. Dr Jones was one of the very few whistle blowers in this story and it is his mission in life, aside from a tribute to the women who passed away in this experiment, to educate New Zealanders about the truth of this outrageous and very preventable disaster.
Dr Jones’ story highlighted a number of characters who played significant roles in this experiment and at some point it sounded more like a horror fairytale than a true event. As Dr Jones spoke I realised that the characters he referred to in this story are also ones that we are all very familiar with and may engage with in our work and personal lives on an ongoing basis. Two main characters really stood out for me.
1) The “EGO character” – Dr Jones spoke of two main individuals in his story who were driving this experiment from the beginning. He called them bullies. Bullies with big egos are probably the most dangerous and destructive character trait I can think of. It doesn’t matter how wrong these people are, they will always dig their heels in and never admit failure. For these people self-preservation will always trump the will to be honest and prevent others from suffering.
2) The “BLINKERS character” – The blinker wearers in Dr Jones’ story, were highly qualified, world renowned and respected individuals at the peak of their careers. They did absolutely nothing, except turn a blind eye to what was going on. By not getting involved they allowed the bullies to take over.
So what can we learn from this horrific story? What can we do to prevent this type of behaviour from sneaking into our lives?
One thing that I have learned over the years, is that it is not about trying to control other people’s behaviours. It’s all about being aware of our own behaviours and controlling how we portray ourselves in the world. Learning from these stereotypical character traits will not just help us become better human beings, but by having a strong self-awareness it will positively influence our immediate environment and the people around us. Lead by example and keep the following in mind.
1) No one is perfect, we all make mistakes. Learn to be humble.
2) Never let your ego get in the way and cause you to develop tunnel vision.
3) It’s okay to be wrong and to admit your failure.
4) Use your voice and stand up against bullies when others cannot.
5) Leaders are responsible and accountable for their teams.
To be safe, how can we double-check that we are not turning into bullies or blinkers? We can learn to develop “self-checking-in” systems. Just like jumping on a scale to check on our weight, we can jump on the self-awareness scale and actively check behaviours and habits by asking ourselves questions, or if need be, ask a trusted colleague or friend to provide some honest feedback.
1) Did I listen to the other party?
2) The decisions that I am making, do they align to my business values?
3) Am I respectful in my approach?
4) Do I display ethical behaviour?
5) Will the decision that I am making benefit my business or just my personal needs and desires?
 These lessons are not new and we hear these statements all the time, but how often do you really apply these lessons? Perhaps today is a good time to start.
17 Oct

Be accountable

Moliere said that, It is not only what we do, but also what we do not do, for which we are accountable. This really resonated with me as I’ve been reflecting for the past couple of days on accountability, and how it can positively or negatively influence your business.

What does that it actually mean to be accountable and what does being accountable look like in today’s business world?

People’s definitions of what accountability is will vary, depending on who they are and where their focuses lie. I have a fairly “old-fashioned” view of personal accountability. When I look at doing business with someone I look at how accountable they are to themselves, their potential and existing customers, and their own businesses. It’s not necessarily the big things that I always look at, but its the small things that matter sometimes.

Accountability rule #1:  Commit to what you say you will do –  So many people are so busy being busy, that one of the first things to fall off the accountability wagon is the ability to follow through on tasks. Remember that your business, which includes you, is constantly on stage and in the public arena for all to see. Your actions or lack of actions show your customers and potential customers how you operate. In order to send the right message such as “Im dependable and not a flake” and to build the right reputation, focus on being accountable for the small things in your business. Answer your emails, follow up on enquiries, return phone calls and arrive at meetings on time. Honestly, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to do that! This doesn’t just show that you are accountable and dependable but it also shows respect and how serious you are about your business.

Accountability rule #2: Accept the consequences for your actions –  When you make an excuse for not completing a task you need to accept the consequences, big or small. Making excuses doesn’t miraculously remove the consequence, your accountability, or the inconvenience for the other party. Therefore if you cannot deliver on a project, don’t just arrive with an excuse and think you are off the hook. Be accountable and be the first person to offer a solution.

In the business world, your customer doesn’t really care about your issues. They don’t want to hear your excuses. They just want their product or service delivered to them at the right time at the right price and in the right condition.

Accountability rule #3: Never pass blame  – This can be a tricky one, especially when someone else has really stuffed up. But passing blame and shining the spot light on someone else’s imperfections makes you look like an amateur. This is where you should bite your tongue and move on. Rise above the situation and focus on solutions instead of excuses, sob stories and drama. Perhaps there is a need to build some safety nets in your business?

Accountability rule #4: Be honest – So the paw-paw has hit the fan, or you are unable to deliver on a project. Drop the ego and be honest about what’s going on. Getting into the habit of making excuses, dodging irate customer calls and passing blame doesn’t serve you and definitely doesn’t boost your reputation with your customers.

Most people in business have the best of intentions when starting out, so don’t let a lack of accountability, responsibility or ownership ruin your chances of building a strong and successful business. Be accountable.

19 May

Stop bothering me. I’m trying to market my business!

One of the biggest goals within any business is to increase customer acquisition and retention. Right? Right. You just need to walk out your front door or simply open your eyes and you are bombarded with advertisements. From burgers to beauty products everyone’s product and service is a hundred times better than the next guys.

So, while the marketing experts are brainstorming strategies, trying to work miracles and business is spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on marketing communication to achieve these goals, what is actually happening at ground level inside the business?

Have you considered the following?

There is a constant flow of people interacting with your business at any given time. Delivery people, people applying for jobs, external services companies, general enquires, the list goes on. On a day-to-day basis how do your employees  interact with these people? What impression do these people leave with when exiting your business?

Do you and your employees see these people as potential customers? They might not fit your customer profile or demographics, but does that and should that affect how you and your employees treat them?

Is it policy  to treat every person interacting with your business with respect? What does that look like? Here are a few thoughts…

  • Are all calls, emails and messages returned promptly? Say, within 48 hours?
  • Are visitors greeted when they enter the business? Not just by the person meeting them, but by any employee coming into contact with them?
  • Are  the “behind the scenes” employees who are not working directly with the customer aware of their customer service role? Or do they believe they are exempt from this responsibility?
  • Are your employees aware that they represent your business in everything they do?

Can you confidently answer yes to the above  questions? If not, perhaps you need to rethink your strategy.

I do not claim to be a super marketing guru nor do I want to be one. But I am a member of the public. I see the reality, sadly more often than not. How the glitzy, flash and very expensive marketing messages can be destroyed in an instant by one careless act.

These non-customers may not buy from you now, but how you treat them now will affect their purchasing decisions and recommendations into the future. People talk to people. People buy from people they like. Simple.