Dec 18 2018| Leadership
by Phil Eyre Founder
If time flies when you’re having fun, then we’ve been having a lot of fun at Leaders over the last year.
Our work often takes us to the heart of a business, and it’s an immense privilege to help shape vision, values and culture for a wide variety of organisations in the Channel Islands and beyond.
We are grateful, too, for the opportunity to draw from the leadership insights of some highly experienced people from our local community as well as FTSE 100 leaders and the British Army.
Looking back over the year, there have been many insights that have made the biggest impression on me, here are just a few:
December 1st marked three years since Kathy Tracey passed the reins of the Learning Company over to me. It has also been nine years since I first met my good friend and mentor, Dr Charles (“Chuck”) Coker, founder of LifeThrive Inc in the US. Both are excellent people, building fantastic businesses that help people to flourish at work.
Kathy and Chuck have been hugely gracious in passing their work to me, allowing me to blend their expertise and experience into my own unique offering.
Our working arrangements are underpinned by a trusting relationship, rather than technical, legally weighty written agreements; and I have grown to appreciate the huge benefits that trust, rather than transactional relationship plays in achieving great results.
Building Trust in the Workplace
As well as benefitting from a trusting relationship with Kathy and Chuck, time and again I observe that our highest performing clients work in a trusting environment.
It is, therefore, no surprise that a significant proportion of my work over the year has centred around building greater levels of trust. Drawing on work from Patrick Lencioni’s The Advantage, Lead From The Heartby Mark Crowley and Christine Porath’s Mastering Civilityand others, we have facilitated and coached teams and individuals to establish more trusting relationships.
Trust is built on respect, which in turn is built on understanding. We have helped our clients to understand themselves and others better, to clearly articulate what respect and trust look like in real life and to take action to foster a culture that builds trust and respect. Much of that kind of work is ongoing and creates demonstrable measures of success.
Trust Leads to Tangible Success
The results include far more effective feedback, better ideas, great clients won, bad clients retired, focus in decision making, greater transparency and communication - all contributing to a more engaged workforce and better results.
Trust is hard won and easily lost, and the most successful leaders invest time and energy in fostering trust.
In March, I interviewed Justin King CBE, Vice Chair of Terra Firma and former CEO of Sainsbury’s at a Leaders event attended by Channel Island leaders.
Justin’s passion that healthy values should be lived every day was clear. Values - like integrity, customer care, putting people-first - are what shape decision making and people’s experience.
An organisation’s leader will set the tone, whether they intend to or not. For any organisation to be healthy, leaders need to live healthy values in everyday experience. For example, it is counterproductive to state “integrity” as a core value and then permit dubious sales tactics, even if the results are compelling.
Putting Values into Practice
This proved to be a helpful reminder to ensure that my day-to-day decisions and actions reflect my own three core values in actual practice, rather than simply theory. This has definitely helped me to avoid some decisions and actions that would have been easy to make in the moment but would have been at odds with the right thing to do.
Over the last year, we have worked with a range of individuals, businesses and non-profit organisations to clarify their values and embed them into the realities of their organisations. We are already seeing higher quality decisions being made; for example, one senior executive told me recently that he had challenged a decision that would have been the easy option, as it was not in line with their values. The board changed their approach, took a little longer for a better outcome with far greater confidence.
In June, we hosted Dr Chuck Coker in Guernsey for a series of events that focussed on the importance of taking a scientific approach to engaging employees and raising business performance.
Chuck has over 40 years of experience in the field of human data analytics and how to apply data to critical workplace issues - he is a leader in the field, working with some of the world’s leading businesses.
At a keynote address, Chuck highlighted how:
- Recruiting the right person into a role requires a more objective approach than most employers currently take. Identifying the mental capacities, personal values, style and motivation needed for the role using data and then creating a benchmark against which prospective candidates are considered will substantially enhance the selection success.
- Connecting individual purpose with the needs of the business creates highly engaged teams.
Data, for example from psychometrics, enables people to clarify how their unique style, strengths, skills and drivers can be harnessed within the workplace. Without data, this can be left to guesswork, with the result that talented people often leave in pursuit of workplaces that create closer connections with their skills and motivators.
- Data will identify the optimum development path. It can assess strategic thinking, curiosity, awareness skill, passion, agility and more. Data will provide the framework for an individual development plan. This is far more effective than applying a “one size fits all” development programme. Some people are orientated towards management paths, others to technical specialities and others to leadership roles. Human data will tell you which will be most effective and rewarding.
We possess sophisticated expertise in human data analytics, applying data to our clients’ situations. We have analysed over 200 psychometric reports during 2018, helping us to focus quickly on the critical issues and design the most effective, high impact approaches to enhancing individual, team and business performance.
A significant highlight of the year was the Centre for Army Leadership Conference in November; a fantastic event hosted at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst that we were delighted to sponsor. The theme was “Leading Successfully Through Change”.
As well as affirming the strength of our relationship with the Centre, we heard from a series of experienced and inspiring speakers. The highlights were:
John Manzoni, Chief Executive of the UK Civil Service
John described how he is leading transformation, bringing a matrix approach to the structure of the organisation rather than multiple discrete centres of operation that rarely talk to each other.
Communication vision, getting the right people in the right leadership roles and fostering a service culture are key to making this work. We were left in no doubt as to his passion for his people.
Margaret Heffernan, author of Willful Blindness.
Margaret explored the concept of wilful blindness, the human propensity to ignore and avoid problems that might become too difficult to deal with. She cited the recent #metoo campaign, whereby issues of harassment and impropriety are now surfacing that were often raised but quashed in the past.
She expounded diversity in leadership as a way to help reduce the likelihood of wilful blindness. “Hero” CEOs that do everything and around which the personality of the entire organisation centres, are dangerous as no one is intelligent enough to see everything on their own.
David Marquet, former US Navy nuclear submarine captain
In a fascinating talk, David demonstrated the impact of an “intentional” approach to leadership, rather than command and control.
Leaders have a responsibility to create the conditions whereby their teams can make decisions, seeking not so much permission for every action but letting their superiors know what they intend to do within the role-frameworks that they have.
This framework provides people with the opportunity to think creatively and quickly, bringing their unique, specialist skills and perspectives to the benefit of the task and organisation.
The conference provided a stimulating, high-quality experience for our guests and us; we’re grateful to the Centre for Army Leadership for curating it.
During year, we have enjoyed many conversations with leaders from across a wide variety of businesses and sectors. We have been privy to many insights, here are just a few that have resonated strongly with the Leaders team:
“I believe that humanity and humility embody servant leadership.”
Belinda Aspinall, Regional Head Global Family and Private Investment Office at Northern Trust.
“You cannot fix a problem that you refuse to acknowledge.”
Margaret Heffernan, author of Willful Blindness.
“Great leaders have strength, tenacity and courage.”
Paul Whitfield, Chief Executive of the States of Guernsey.
“The level and scale of change today feels like trying to eat the proverbial elephant in one mouthful.”
Nik Gowing, author of Thinking the Unthinkable
“It’s better to fail for doing the right thing than to succeed doing the wrong one.”
Lord Bilimoria CBE DL, founder of Cobra Beer
I’m grateful to all our friends and colleagues for making 2018 a thoroughly enjoyable and stimulating 12 months. We are looking forward to what 2019 will bring, expanding our work and helping leaders achieve their objectives, whatever they might be.