Thursday, 29 October 2015

It starts with courage!

You sit alone; your mind is not on anything specific; in fact, the silence is almost overwhelming because your life is so full of activity.

You close your eyes and open your mind to the possibilities that lay before you.  And then, without warning, the question comes?

Would you work for yourself? 

Knowing your strengths and weaknesses; aware of your shortcomings and tendencies; acknowledging your moods;  your ambitions et al.  Would you work for you?
Before you dismiss the question out of hand, take a sip of truth serum and let it play out.  Then, with pen in hand, write out the pro's and con's that come to mind.  Nothing is too trivial to record.  Remember, no one can answer this as honestly and as comprehensively as you can!  Allow your mind to search all those back alleys; closed doors; and hidden spaces.  Recall your successes, your failures, your personal wish list.

If you are brave enough, ask a confidante to honestly critique your evaluations.  You want to ensure that you have been neither too harsh nor too glowing in your assessment.  Then, once you have settled on an accurate assessment, answer the question.

Would YOU work for YOU?

Candidly, the answer does not matter.  The issue is not 'yes' or 'no' but rather one of greater significance.  What you have is a point of reference that indicates what you need to do to become a better person, and by extension, a better leader.

Assuming that you have been honest, you can evaluate if the strengths you record are actually the ones that you believe are the best to achieve your personal objectives.  Are these foundational strengths that will uphold you regardless of circumstance. Are they sufficient while you add to them?  You may have identified skills; they may be  characteristics.  Regardless, are they sufficient or simply building blocks.

Likewise, are your shortcomings grievous or something that can be forgiven when you assert to change them.  They may not be a hindrance to you now - at least in your opinion.  But if you have identified them then you have acknowledged an issue that can be improved and in so doing you may turn a weakness into a strength.

Clearly this is a difficult inventory to take.  The leader who truly wants to improve will appreciate that this is always a dynamic list and activity.  As we build strengths, especially as we move a weakness to a strength, we become more effective.  Often this allows us to uncover other weaknesses as we build the courage and resolve to clean out all the closets.

Great leaders are great strategists.  They are constantly assessing the strengths of their team and looking for vulnerabilities in the competition.  Why would you not be doing the same assessment on yourself if you truly desire to move from good to great and from great to outstanding. 

Your impact as a leader will not improve until...and do!


Tuesday, 6 October 2015

Are we any closer to normal?

A couple of years ago I wrote here about the New Normal.  See

Two years on, what has changed?

On the bright side, the US economy shows signs of recovery and unemployment is low.  But the historically low interest rates continue and the number of people actively looking for work is low thereby artificially lowering the unemployment rate.  How much of the recovery is real and how much is illusion?

China continues its march towards a consumer driven economy.  But those at the helm don't seem to know which economic levels to pull resulting in a slowing of their economic output.  This is entirely new territory for them and we can expect a 'trial and error' approach for some time.

The price of oil has collapsed which has added dollars to everyone's wallet while creating a void in their pension plans.

Europe continues to slowly recover only to be over-run with refugees from the Middle East and a corporate melt down at the world's largest auto maker.

Japan continues to wallow in tepid growth (since the late 80's) and no amount of quantitative easing seems to make much of an impact.

Christine Legarde's comments seem more and more true.  We are in a lost decade.  We are 7 years on from the beginning of the Great Recession and nothing really seems all that different.  We have put lipstick on a pig and think that things are rosy.

As a leader, how are you coping? How are you reacting?  How are you planning?

If you are not sticking to the fundamentals of business, frankly you are at risk.  Cash flow and profit are not dirty words; they are essentials to a sound business.  Planning and executing strategically are crucial factors to your success and sustainability.  This is not the time for ill-considered expansion or acquisitions.  Fire sales usually indicate that a fire is occurring and you don't need to spend resources putting it out.

There is no early end to our current predicament. We have already played most of the cards in the deck and have not found the winning hand.  Be committed to delivering excellence in all aspects of your enterprise and you will be one of those who emerges from the other side of this worm hole.  You will achieve this through some simple and basic principles:
  1. Attract and retain the best people in your industry.
  2. Develop an achievable and sustainable strategy that is well communicated and understood throughout your company.
  3. Provide regular, honest feedback on the company's performance.
  4. Look for input from all sources and consider all suggestions.  Often the people on the front lines have the keenest insight on opportunities to improve.
  5. If you are a small to mid-sized company, find a mentor who has demonstrated success.  Network with like competitors in other regions to share experiences, both positive and negative.  Be open to the fact that you cannot know everything. 
  6. Plan with the anticipation that the current business climate is here for the foreseeable future and that you must expect the unexpected.  You will need to be creative, flexible, adaptable and reactive.  In uncertain and troubled times you cannot always be pro-active. What defines your success it is your ability to respond to issues rather than your ability to predict them.
Leadership is not always a comfortable mantle to endure.  These are the times that will separate the authentic leader from the rest of the crowd!  Choose this day, how you will be recognized.