Sep 30 2017| Leadership | Values | Human Data

What we can learn from the Centre for Army Leadership

We have spent quality time with the Centre for Army Leadership. These are four leadership lessons that we have learned by working with The CAL so far.

by Phil Eyre Founder

The Leaders team was exceptionally privileged to welcome a unit from the British Army - the Centre for Army Leadership (CAL) - to Guernsey last week.  We facilitated their strategic offsite meeting over several days, exploring team strengths, potential blindspots, purpose, values, strategic focus and tactical planning.

We learn as much from our high-performing clients as we share with them.  

These are four takeaways from our work with The CAL so far.


1.Trusting relationships are at the core of team success, whether in business, the military, government or community groups.

We would not have been able to make anywhere near the positive impact that we did without spending quality time with the CAL team in person. More importantly, by taking time out together, the CAL team bolstered their mutual understanding, firming their bonds and growing in trust. This understanding provides the necessary conditions for collaborative working, the ability to challenge and pressing on for stretching goals.  Without trust, performance will be mediocre at best.

The CAL highly values quality, mutually supportive, respectful, trusting relationships. We do not always see this when working with our corporate clients, some focussing predominantly on making the next sale and achieving short-term numerical targets.

An intense profit-focus can produce short-term performance but will not create the conditions for employee engagement and stellar long-term results.  Some businesses would do very well to invest in their relational capital, both within the firm and with the principal stakeholders (suppliers as well as customers).

‘The true currency of business is relationships, not money.’ Matt Bird, Relationology. 


2. A change of pace or a change of place brings a change of perspective.

By removing themselves from their usual environment at Sandhurst, the Centre for Army Leadership team was able to think differently, bringing new perspectives and fresh ideas. Two of the team further remarked that because they were not required to wear a uniform for their off site their approach to the challenges and tasks that we were setting them changed.

We are attuned to the familiar. Our brains are energy efficient, and if something has worked once, we are inclined to repeat the experience. For example, once a route to work is established, commuters can find themselves ‘automatically’ travelling to work (at least, until their regular route is disrupted). 

We can experience a similar effect when seeking to make business decisions, returning to the same processes and sources of insight that have worked in the past. However, these do not always provide the optimum basis for solving current and future problems.

We frequently challenge our clients to change the pace and the place of decision making. For teams that usually prefer a ‘deep dive’ approach to their problems, we press for speed on a particular issue, putting them under pressure to reach a decision in a shorter time frame than usual. Similarly, we slow down fast-paced teams, insisting that they seek additional sources of reference. Both can be equally frustrating but inevitably bring valuable insights to a problem.

We are also catalysing alternative perspectives, utilising Guernsey’s close community for the benefit of our clients. We are a thriving offshore centre with many leading businesses and organisations working in 25 square miles. This characteristic allows us to bring our clients together, introducing, for example, a manufacturing perspective to a financial business.

What can you do to bring a fresh perspective to your decision making?


3. Orientating around a single point of excellence is powerful.

The motto for the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst is “Serve to Lead”.  We are impressed that the CAL team all possess a clear sense of service to others, that their work and efforts will impact future soldiers and officers. This brings both depth and breadth to their work as they seek to make a sustainable, long-lasting impact on the British Army.

Focussing on one factor that makes your business unique and then aligning around that factor provides a solid foundation for success. Clarity of purpose ensures that limited resources are engaged with maximum impact.

Often leaders attempt to battle on multiple fronts, spreading resources too thinly and confusing the marketplace at the same time.

We are not advocating producing just one product or offering just one service; successful businesses produce excellence in a variety of products and services. However, they also have clarity about what makes them unique. This clarity ensures that the leaders focus only on things that matter and things that they can control - producing stellar outcomes.

‘Success demands singleness of purpose.’ Gary Keller, The One Thing


4. Value statements need to be expressed in ‘real-life’ terms to make them effective.

The Army Leadership Doctrine sets out very clearly a set of values that drive actions and behaviour, expressed in the Army Leadership Code. Their values are not simply ‘nice to have’ statements; they are distilled into clear expectations about day-to-day behaviours and attitudes.

This is essential to shape culture. For example, one person’s interpretation of integrity will differ from another (there are six factors to leadership integrity, read more [here]). 

We work with leadership teams to establish ‘values charters’, with the overall aim of ensuring clarity about ‘this is the way we do things around here.’ We distil right down to undesirable phrases and behaviours and reframe to a more desirable action. This can leave the organisation in no doubt as to what is expected and has far more impact than words printed on walls in the office.

This is especially important when leading an organisation through change. Ensuring that desirable (and undesirable) actions and behaviours are clearly articulated, not just concerning a positive attitude but articulating what this looks like in practice, helps provide the basis for leaders and managers to take the organisation forward. Too often, change projects are initially geared towards the operational and technical factors without proper consideration of desirable behaviours and actions. It is the latter - the cultural factors - that will make or break a change project.


We are looking forward to strengthening our partnership with the Centre for Army Leadership and look forward to further insights in the coming months.


About The Author | Phil Eyre

Phil is Leaders’ founder. He has an enthusiastic and inspiring style, drawing on his experience in business, academia and social sectors to help any leadership team to achieve phenomenal performance. Phil has sophisticated expertise in psychometrics and in the application of human data for individual, team and organisational success. He has trained with, and been mentored by, global leaders in this field, notably Dr Chuck Coker in the US. Phil began his career in the UK offshore finance industry in 1994, working for a wealth management company in Guernsey, Collins Stewart (CI) Limited, now Canaccord Genuity Wealth International. Phil was head of the company's Guernsey division, with a staff of 120 and assets under management of £4.5billion before resigning from executive responsibilities in 2008. Phil has served on the boards of three charities, including BMS World Mission, a UK charity with over 80 employees and a global reach. Phil also ran the Guernsey hub of a national theology college, received accreditation as a pastor in the Baptist Union of Great Britain and served as a non-executive director for Canaccord Genuity Wealth International. Phil is a member of the NED Forum and the Institute of Directors.

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