Jan 25 2019| Leadership
by Phil Eyre, Kaaren Welsby, Peter Woodward The Leaders Team
Our leadership toolkit for 2019
The year ahead promises to be full of opportunity and challenge. The pace of change is increasingly fast, Brexit is creating political and business uncertainty (and hence risk) and new technologies will radically change the way we work.
Phil Eyre, Peter Woodward and Kaaren Welsby have been thinking about the human factors that they will draw on to achieve their clients’, their own, and Leaders’ goals in 2019.
Peter Woodward says, ‘As we enter 2019 there are, as always, many leadership challenges, however in my mind, there are two particular issues which will be very high on the leadership agenda for the next 12 months and beyond.’
He continues: ‘Firstly, we are clearly in a period of greatly increased uncertainty with Brexit challenging many of our past certainties in virtually every sector of commerce and government. Leaders will be called upon to demonstrate innovative and rapid responses to change and to ensure they and their teams demonstrate great resilience.
‘Leaders must ensure their workforce culture is supportive of this resilience and put even more effort into communication to counter the uncertainties which many will feel.’
Harnessing technology talent
‘Secondly, technological change is now clearly totally revolutionising the way we live our lives.
One only needs to consider the staggering decline of high streets throughout the UK.
‘As a director of an international start-up due to launch in March I am experiencing this revolution in real time. I am working with millennials who take breath taking technology change in their stride. As leaders, we need to harness these capabilities to be both competitive and effective.’
Phil Eyre’s leadership toolbox includes a laser-like focus on “great” work, tenacity and agility. In the context of Leaders own growth and development plans, he recognises what the business needs at this point in time and the context in which the team is working are critical factors in orientating towards the skills that they will need to draw on in the months ahead.
Focus on your goals
Phil says, ‘My vision is that every workplace in the world is a place where people flourish and thrive. I have shaped my work to make a positive difference - however modest - in this direction. In a rapidly changing world, it can be too easy in the here and now, day to day, to let the bigger picture and purpose of my work fade. Yet without it, I will be at risk of taking on projects and leading my business in a direction that might be “good” but not necessarily “great”.
‘In this focus, I am recognising the particular stage that Leaders is in. The consultancy is building momentum, with a growing client base and multiple enquiries. This is exciting and the opportunities are significant.
‘One of my strengths is a fast decision pace; however, for this to serve my team, my clients and me well, I need to keep a clear focus on the core purpose of our work. This will ensure that I avoid the predictable risk of taking on commitments that are more distracting than energising. It will also ensure that I seek the right talent as our consultancy grows, connect with the best customers so that together we are making a positive impact on people’s lives.’
The year ahead, and in fact, life in general, will require tenacity. Phil says, ‘Tenacity means consistent, frequent forward-moving effort - however small - towards our objectives. Running has helped me to understand the benefits of consistent activity; setting a regular, consistent plan of action and hitting that in order to achieve a bigger objective like a marathon.
‘Tenacity requires “showing up” positively every day, doing the work, pressing forward with focus and not allowing myself to be distracted or to give up too quickly. For me, this requires intentional, scheduled times to pause, reflect and think, otherwise one of my strengths - enthusiasm - starts to evaporate. ‘
Agility to solve problems
‘Agility is the ability to approach and solve problems with hope. Agility means if one solution doesn’t work, you can find another and then another in anticipation of positive change. Whilst I certainly don’t have all the answers, I am an agile thinker, quickly adapting and adjusting to solve people-problems (I’m less skilled with practical problems, as my efforts at DIY demonstrate!)
‘In a rapidly changing environment, this is an essential skill to nurture and utilise. Using insight from psychometrics, we can measure agility, and other leadership skill, as well as its counterproductive equivalents like a martyr mindset. Human data helps us to identify skills to nurture and which negative habits to change.
‘Working with trusted friends and setting personal goals will help me to stretch my agility whilst keeping martyr habits in check.’
Kaaren Welsby has been reflecting on our general reluctance sometimes to think about ourselves as ”leaders” at all – especially in the shape of that outmoded construct of “the typical” leader.
She suggests we reframe this by acknowledging that we are all “leaders” and that our individual style of leadership is shaped by our experience and marked by our personality and character.
Kaaren recalls a lecture she attended titled The 10 Diseases of Leadershipdelivered by the late Brigadier Richard Holmes CBE, TD, VR, JP. With this memorable talk in mind, she offers four concepts from this talk that may resonate with the challenges that lie ahead.
Avoid the perfection trap
‘Don’t fall victim to the perfect ‘100% solution’ – 80% and on time is good enough - and don’t delay sharing information that will allow others to start planning too. This is also associated with the withholding of information and the negative notion that “there is a need to know, and you don’t need to know.”
Keep an open mind
‘Always be open to the arrival of new information and the possibility of a potentially fundamental change in your plans. Try not to adopt the attitude of “don’t bother me with the facts; I’ve already made up my mind.”’
Avoid key person risk
‘Be aware of the existence of the “big man, cold shadow” effect. There is a risk that a key person such as a CEO who has been responsible for the ethos or direction of the business is so critical that without them the business will suffer, resulting in legacy leadership issues.
‘Leaders who believe themselves to be great and all-powerful, or personally responsible for their company's success can cast a very long shadow over that company - in a negative way.
‘Leaders must guard against overvaluing their own importance or indispensability because this will stifle growth and cause their employees and their company to suffer in the long term. They must plan their exit carefully and manage the impact of their departure by undertaking robust and timely succession planning.’
Micromanaging is mismanaging
‘Try not to do everything for everyone and don’t succumb to the idea that, for good or bad reasons, ‘I can do your job too.’ There is no merit in micromanaging and wielding the notorious “long-handled screwdriver” as this will stifle others’ development – and lead to burn out (yours) and resentment (theirs).’
Live your values and do the right thing
‘And finally, fundamentally – from another incredible speaker, Major General Patrick Marriott CB, CBE, DL: “Do as you ought, not as you want.”’
Kaaren concludes: ‘Have the strength and the courage to always do the morally right thing, in all things.’
Amidst setting goals and planning priorities for the year ahead, have you considered what human factors are needed to move you forward towards your objectives?