Jul 18 2019| Leadership
by Phil Eyre Founder
At the Institute of Director’s July breakfast seminar, Phil drew upon the work Leaders has done with nearly 70 different organisations across Guernsey, Jersey and the UK to identify some of the main leadership challenges the island faces
Leaders work with a wide variety of organisations, in sectors which include financial, manufacturing, third sector, government, military, retail, building and professional services; from smaller family-owned businesses to global, listed businesses. Through insights gained using psychometrics, the team is able to identify leadership skills, team dynamics and drivers, predictable strengths and weaknesses and issues that could trip up a leader or team. In particular, we can identify four key leadership motivations and their counterproductive equivalents: ambition (and a defeatist mindset), commitment (and self-sabotage), awareness (and recklessness), agility (and a martyr mindset). This has given us a keen perspective on the challenges facing leaders in various contexts.
These are the three top challenges that we observe in our work with Guernsey leaders:
1) A nimble leadership team
The ability to adapt, think energetically and take action is critical to leadership success. The idea that great ideas are formed, developed and executed in high-performing teams is well understood, yet the ability to form agile teams in Guernsey is a challenge.
We will often find that a leadership team in Guernsey comprises a mix of exceptional and less exceptional talent; there is a quality mix. Jim Collins, author of Good to Great, uses the analogy of a flywheel to describe building momentum in performance. Where leadership quality is mixed, it is very difficult to build flywheel momentum, as usually energy, creativity, tenacity and performance are diluted.
We have identified various reasons for this in our work so far:
This was brought home recently when working with an executive team of 11 people. At 45, I was the youngest in the room and part of a discussion about how the business could engage their Millennials and Generation Z more effectively. The executive hadn’t considered inviting anyone from this demographic to the conversation, let alone to an executive appointment. A more flexible approach to influence and authority would benefit this business and many others that we work with. That takes a different attitude to the leadership role, where it’s less about ‘pro-motion’ (and demotion) and more about bringing unique, particular skills to the business at the most opportune time.
Is your leadership team nimble, escalating in creativity, energy, resolve and performance, or cumbersome and diluted?
2) Leverage our relational capital
There is some amazing talent and experience in our island, all within touching distance - nowhere is far and no one is out of reach. We have the opportunity to enrich our perspectives from each other in ways that simply could not be achieved in a larger place.
For example, in briefly attending the Women in Engineering conference recently, I met a brilliant woman, currently working at the Guernsey Dairy, who’s worked at the highest levels in cricket, testing whether bats have been enhanced for performance and helping to design machinery to produce high-standard cricket balls. Who knew we had this talent on-island? I could wax lyrical here with many similar stories; identifying and harnessing this talent requires higher quality (and frequency) of conversation across our usual, comfortable areas of experience.
We frequently help to bring leaders together, so that finance can learn from manufacturing, professional services can learn from government and so on. It’s too easy to get so focused on our own fields of expertise and even within our own businesses that we fail to look around us and learn from our neighbours. If we’re not careful, an ‘echo chamber’ can then form, diminishing the quality of decisions and actions.
Thinking outside of our bubbles takes intention, it’s not natural to us and especially so, it seems, in our island. The need for individual recognition seems that bit more pronounced in Guernsey (and Jersey) than other places that we work, which can limit co-working.
If we’re too focused on claiming credit for an idea, we run the risk of failing to develop a good idea in the first place. There is a challenge here in holding competitive thinking and trust in tension. Being open and therefore vulnerable requires trust that issues, problems and potentially competitive ideas won’t be leaked or used against you. The challenge is to build trusting networks and partnerships (formal and informal) that allow for greater insight, creativity and outcomes for our island than would otherwise be achieved independently. We’re working to help achieve this ambition.
What could you do? Go to a seminar or networking event that’s unusual for you, that has little to do directly with your work, and make new connections. Make an appointment with a leader in an entirely different business or field of expertise to explore how they would tackle an issue that you’re facing (we can perhaps help you with that if needs be).
3) Focus on the essential
As a small island, we each need to focus on what we do essentially very well and do it better than anyone else, anywhere. Quality commands a higher price; whilst a volume approach to work and business is possible, it’s especially difficult in our environment. Best for us, therefore, does not necessarily mean bigger. Within our businesses and organisations, attempting to diversify can too easily result in spreading our limited resources and talent too thinly and achieving results that are merely good rather than great. We need to be able to offer the highest quality and charge appropriately for it.
We challenge our clients to focus on what makes them essential and unique; what ‘one thing’ differentiates them and what are they doing to be world leaders in this field. This nearly always comes down to three factors:
When was the last time you turned down an opportunity? How would you rate the quality of your service? What investment are you making in your leadership?
We’re here to help support and challenge your leadership. If we can help you identify and overcome your organisation’s challenges, do get in touch.