Stay On Top of the Game

EVERY BUSINESS LEADER knows just how precious time can be. As responsibilities increase and technology advances, it can often seem that there are simply never enough hours in the day. Obligations pile up to chair meetings, join conference calls and attend client functions, and all the while there is that ceaseless inbound flood of emails, texts and phone messages expecting urgent attention. Executives, of course, soon learn that having to deal with all these demands is just a function of the modern business world. As a result, they become used to logging on to inflight wifi, addicted to their smartphones, and are experts in the art of the short-term fix. And that can turn out to be a major problem because, in the midst of all the running around and chasing to hit this month’s sales figures or next quarter’s financial targets, it is very easy to take one’s eye off the ball. Unwary leaders repeatedly make the mistake of getting too caught up in the day-to-day aspects of the business. Instead, they should remember one of the first principles of good management is to take a step back and look at the big picture. Being able to see the broader context is a prerequisite for career progress and the long-term viability of a company. And, while it takes time and application to develop the necessary business acumen, a number of tools are available to help. One of the best known is the SWOT model, which provides a basic framework for analysing a company’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats, and how to maximise or counteract them as appropriate. Another...

Seeing the Bigger Picture

AT SOME POINT in every successful business career, a discernible change in personality and behaviour must take place. It is not a question of Jekyll and Hyde or Clark Kent to Superman, just that the time inevitably arrives when the approach and outlook appropriate for taking the first few steps on the corporate ladder will no longer do. A sales director cannot think and act like a sales manager, nor a vice-president of finance like a compliance officer. So, anyone aiming to rise through the ranks must also be ready to undertake the steady self-transformation that will allow them to cross the invisible, but certainly not arbitrary, line that exists in every organisation. On one side are the “workers”, the people primarily focused on the tactical implementation of company policy. They may have years of experience and all kinds of fine sounding titles, but essentially their role is to sell products, deliver services, execute operations and push paper in the time-honoured style. On the other side are the “managers”. They, too, have learned the ropes in the approved fashion, but have then gone on to assume far greater responsibilities and, in particular, to oversee key aspects of strategic development. What makes this transformation possible is an ability to see the big picture. It is not something that happens overnight or occurs by magic after a certain number of years. Rather, it is a distinct skill, developed through application, study and awareness. It comes from an in-depth understanding not just of the company, but of the industry as a whole, the competitive environment, and the dynamics at work in the...

Juggling Emotions

WHEN TRYING TO identify what makes someone a great leader, one can look into everything from their upbringing and education to their work experience and contacts. In most cases, what really makes the difference gets overlooked. There is no mention of it in standard resumes and it’s usually skirted over in personal profiles. However, closer investigation often reveals that what sets certain individuals apart is their emotional intelligence, or EI. Systems, processes, business models and corporate strategies all come and go, but the people who consistently stand out from the crowd are those who can build strong personal relationships and realise that it is ultimately counterproductive to regard the workplace as an emotion-free zone. After all, if a leader wants to influence, motivate, inspire or instigate change, it can only be done by understanding and appealing to rational and emotional elements. The concept of EI first came to prominence over twenty years ago with the publication in 1995 of Daniel Goleman’s book Emotional Intelligence: Why it can matter more than IQ. Now translated into many languages and with millions of copies sold, it put forward the theory that people have differing emotional abilities, just as they have different IQs. However, by acknowledging and developing these various emotional attributes, it is possible to become more effective in any work environment, even to the extent of creating success from failure or harmony from dysfunction. There are seven skills that form an effective emotional intelligence model. They are:   SELF-AWARENESS People considered to have a high degree of emotional self-awareness are generally more in tune with their own moods and feelings. They...

Make Your Voice Heard

IN THE WORLD of business, if you don’t have an opinion, one thing is certain: you won’t get very far. Whatever your role, be it employee, supplier, service provider or adviser, whoever is paying you will expect value for money and, in their eyes, that will include ideas, suggestions and clear evidence that your grey matter has been fully engaged. Previous business generations largely favoured the command-and-control model. Rigid hierarchies determined which people in an organisation or a working partnership were expected to do the thinking and whose role was more or less just to follow instructions. But nowadays most enterprises have woken up to the fact that employees and other contacts at every level can draw on diverse experiences and an extensive education. Therefore, they will have valid points of comparison, should have interesting opinions to share and ought to be asked to contribute more broadly to the overall success of a venture. The best team leaders and senior executives see the wisdom in canvassing a wide cross-section of views on all key aspects of the business. These moves can be obvious, though not always acted upon, such as seeking comments from customers on customer service standards. Or they can go much further, determinedly pushing staff to re-examine their own roles and interactions on a regular basis as a means of unearthing untapped talent, identifying areas for improvement in the business and being sure to get the best out of everyone. In taking this approach, the last thing managers want to hear is “the same old stuff”. They are looking for insights and original opinions which, when adopted...
The Three Stages of a Team Meeting

The Three Stages of a Team Meeting

Meetings start with the best of intentions.  We may prepare team meetings with the belief that the combined ideas of many is better than the thoughts of one.  And yet, these sorts of meetings often lose direction and turn into a briefing session directed by the leader. The list of reasons may be long, but it often involves a lack of understanding of what is required of a leader when facilitating a team meeting.  As a facilitator, the leader has to get the team members actively engaged in the process of discovery rather than being passive recipients of information. Not every team meeting is a facilitated session, but when facilitation is required, it helps to approach the session in stages – the beginning, the middle and the end.  Each stage has components which are important, and will challenge you in different ways.  By planning each stage separately, you increase the chances that your meeting will be organised, effective and in control.   The Beginning A strong beginning helps to set the tone for a successful meeting. Your team should be guided throughout the process and have a clear understanding of the what, why, how and outcome of the agenda items.  When beginning the meeting, it helps to follow three steps: First, start with a welcoming statement.  This doesn’t need to be a long drawn-out oration of the day’s events.  However, clarity, conciseness, and confidence, are critical. You will need to establish your command immediately. This establishes your right to control proceedings and positions you as credible leader. Second, move to a meeting set-up in which you give the team...
Making a Good Impression

Making a Good Impression

When delivering an important message, a leader can follow a simple checklist for creating the right impression with the audience. Once the basic content and structure of the message is decided, shifting focus toward creating the right impression is a big part of ensuring that the message is well received and leads to prompt action. The following are three elements that you can add to your own checklist: channel, tone and observable behaviours. 1. Choose the right channel Leaders have an understandable tendency to use email to communicate some of their most important messages. The reasons are obvious – instant circulation, immediate impact and consistency across recipients. But that may not be enough when you have to communicate something really significant. Before you deliver a crucial message to your team, ask yourself whether the idea is to inform, engage or persuade. Which method is the audience likely to prefer? Email and other electronic tools make it faster to share information (inform). However, if you need to impress your team as a leader, it is best to communicate in person and follow up, if necessary, with something in writing (engage / persuade). In a large organisation, where face-to-face meeting with every employee is not possible, you could consider a webcast as an option. They are easy to arrange, cost-effective and more personal than email messages. 2. Choose the right tone To strike the right tone when communicating, every leader has to walk a fine line. At one end of the spectrum, you risk sounding too “macro”, falsely optimistic or too assertive. At the other, you can come across as obsessed...