are now in to March and the new years resolutions that were made are likely to
feel like a very distant memory.Forming
new habits seems to get more of a focus as
we move in to a new year when we have had time to reflect on the past year and
how we want things to move forward. Sometimes it is bad habits that we
are looking to change such as not delegating effectively or not being
drawn on to the detail of tasks rather than looking at the big picture.
if we talk about wanting to develop
new behaviours and habits it is all too easy
that when life takes hold that we can lose sight of our goals that we had set for ourselves. This issue is not just for individuals
who had great intentions to do something different but have succumbed to the
power of the habit. Actually habit is something, which allows us to get
through our day meaning that we can do things we have done before with relative
ease. Although when we fall in to bad habits that we want to replace it
takes hard work and practice to change something and replace a behaviour that has
become second nature in to something else.
I have read a range of texts on how
long it takes for a new behaviour to become
automatic ranging from 28 days, 66 days or
at least 2 months or even repeating something 10,000 times if you listen to
Malcolm Gladwell the author of Outliers the story of success. Whilst it
is difficult to put a definitive time period on how long it takes to develop
new leadership behaviours and habits what is clear is that there are a number
of factors which can increase the likelihood of success.
Here are a list of 5 tips, which will increase
the chances of employees developing new leadership habits and behaviours.
1.YOU have influence over what behaviours you want to develop this will in
turn build more commitment than if someone else give you feedback on what you
‘should’ be development
2.Share your goals with others this will build light peer pressure in
that knowing that others may ask you how you are progressing with your goals
3.Set yourself a clear target on what you want to achieve if
this is a current behaviour that you want to improve think about giving
yourself an assessment of where you are now
4.Imagine the steps that you will put in place to achieve your goal and
articulate what this would look, sound and feel like when you are demonstrating
the new behaviour
5.Go ahead try a different tact or try a different
approach. It is easy to do something that we are comfortable with but
much harder to do something different and Practice, Practice and Practice. Actively seek out feedback on how you are progressing.
Want to find out how you can help your
employees to develop new leadership skills and gain greater return on
investment from your training programmes: PeerPrompt is
an online cloud based tool which uses the power of peer review, positive
reinforcement to build motivation and increase learning retention.
Check out www.peerprompt.com,
which has been developed by Matrix Business Growth Consultants experts in
leadership development and innovation.
The 360 degree feedback tool has been voted in the top tools for
talent management in the CIPD Learning and Development Survey for a number of
years. We are now witnessing a broadening of the use of peer feedback in
the workplace. History tells us that 360 were first used in the military
during WWII but it was Esso who first used 360 to gather information about
employees more than sixty years ago. It was some four decades
later that 360 became popular but was still the reserve of those on the leadership
we are seeing a growing number of employers not least General Electric who were
the stalwart’s of the traditional performance appraisal as well as Microsoft,
and Accenture shifting from a top down performance review to a ‘crowd sourced’
process where feedback is gathered in real time from multiple sources including
peers, direct reports and managers providing a more balanced assessment. It may
well be the technology companies who are moving quicker but where these
goliaths lead others are likely to follow.
process of gathering peer feedback is increasingly enabled by technology, gone
are the days of sending out paper based questionnaires, cloud-based platforms
and apps are quickly becoming the norm. Gamification technology is also
playing a role where users can see through mobile apps the feedback received
and track how they are progressing.
Feedback has a number of benefits not least it can increase participant’s
self-awareness, build commitment to action and increase learning transfer.
Business Leaders: Why is your business not achieving its growth potential?
Our experience suggests that for most companies growth is opportunistic and ad hoc. Many leaders struggle with the transition from one stage of growth to the next. They are good at reacting to gaps in the market or seeing market opportunities but less successful at making the shift towards a more professional and systematic approach which is necessary if the business is to achieve the next stage of growth. The result is that many businesses fail to deliver their growth objectives or achieve their growth potential.
This is backed up by research which shows that although two thirds of business owners want to grow their business, the majority don’t achieve their aspirations. Many business growth initiatives fail and only 1 in 10 companies achieve significant growth. This suggests that the majority of companies fail to successfully make the transition from one stage of growth to the next.
So what are the challenges that act as barriers to growth? Over the past four years the Matrix team has carried out over 150 strategy workshops with the leaders of growing companies. These workshops provided an opportunity for business leaders to review their markets, products and capabilities. The outputs from the workshops have given us a unique insight into the strategic challenges facing the growing business and some of the reasons why many businesses struggle to grow. As part of the workshop process the business leaders were asked to highlight the main strategic weaknesses of the business. The table below summarises the responses from the 150 companies:
(% of companies highlighting each area)
So what are these results telling us. Marketing comes out on top of the list, followed by Management Expertise and then Organisation Systems and Financial. However, further analysis of the issues covered under Management Expertise shows that that the main areas covered under this heading include lack of direction, lack of expertise in key areas and lack of depth of management. Indeed, if we combine the totals for Management Expertise (27%), Lack of vision(12%), Dependence on the owner (5%), and Lack of time (5%), then this suggests that leadership issues have been highlighted in around half of the companies.
The next two areas Organisation Systems and Financial are not surprising given that survey was with growing SMEs. Developing Systems (and Procedures) will always be an issue in any emerging business and finance is a weakness in many growing companies, particularly in the current economic climate.
From a development perspective we would suggest that the two core functional areas which need to be considered are Marketing and Leadership. Marketing is crucial in driving business growth while leaders are the key decision makers and drivers of change within any growing business.
The fact that marketing came top of the list comes as no surprise to us. Previous research which we carried out with business leaders in 2009 indentified that most companies spend less than 2% of turnover on marketing activities. In addition, when asked the question “ How many new marketing initiatives have you undertaken over the past year (new approaches or new messages)?”, 45% of respondents answered one or none and 80% answered 3 or less. This lack of spending and lack of activity flagged up to us that effective marketing is a serious challenge for the leaders of growing companies.
Further analysis of the issues covered under the Marketing heading identified the following recurring themes:
• Poor marketing message
• No clarity about the best tactics to use
• Lack of a systematic approach
• Lack of experience or expertise
• Limited investment in marketing
These issues are consistent with our previous research and experience.
Marketing in SMEs can often be regarded as something of a “black art” and as such presents many frustrations for the business leader. This research suggests that many leaders don’t understand what tactics work best and how much to spend to deliver their growth objectives. Little effort seems to being made to assess or measure effectiveness and as a result spending/investment decisions are fraught with confusion and uncertainty. Marketing is one of the main drivers of growth and unfortunately it appears to be a fundamental weakness in many businesses.
The outputs from the strategy workshops provide more evidence about the nature of the leadership challenges in the growing company:
• Lack of skills and experience
• The need for vision and direction
• Need to move away from the dependence on the owner
• Creating time to deliver growth plans
Again, the results of this research are consistent with our understanding of the leadership issues facing the leader of a growing business. Our Highest and Best leadership approach is about helping leaders to focus their time, energy and resources on growing their business. Successful business growth can only be achieved if the business leaders identify their Highest and Best areas and focus their actions and activities on these areas. This requires greater personal discipline. more effective time management, an increased ability to get more from your people and the development of strategic skills. These areas are directly related to the leadership challenges emerging from the strategy workshop process.
The pace of change and development within any business is inextricably linked to the pace of change and development of its leaders. This is particularly the case in the growing business where the leader is usually the owner and therefore key driver of growth and change. In order to achieve their growth aspirations and the achievement of the business potential the leader has commit to personal and organisational changes which tackle the barriers set out above.
The lessons from this research have again brought home to us the critical importance of developing Leadership abilities and marketing capabilities to enable the leaders of growing companies to deliver their growth objectives and achieve their growth potential.
Leaders are the key decision makers and drivers of change within any business. Their attitudes, actions and behaviours set the tone and establish the direction for the business. The pace of change and development within any business is inextricably linked to the pace of change and development of its leaders. How can you ensure that you are providing the leadership that your business needs? Here’s five questions that the leaders of growing businesses should ask themselves in order to help them become more effective in their role:
1. How can I maximise the value I add as a leader?
2. Am I spending enough time on strategic activities?
3. What % of their potential are my people achieving?
4. Have I created a strong sense of purpose within the business?
5. How effective am I at getting my message across?
Question 1 - Am I maximising the value I add as a leader?
The developmental leadership model is a way of looking at the value you add to the business. The model shows a continuum of leadership roles. On the left hand side of the continuum we have the operational leader who spends 90% of time on operational activities and 10% on operational activities. On the right hand side we have the developmental leader who spends 90% of time on developmental activities and 10% on operational activities.
Question 2 - Am I spending enough time on strategic activities?
The role of the leader in any growing business is to deliver the business plan. The most effective way of achieving this is to increase the amount of time that you spend on strategic activities. For many business leaders the most important actions that would enable growth get lost among the minutiae of day to day responsibilities and actions which conspire to fill the day and soak up energy Our research shows that many business leaders only spend as little as 15% of their time on strategic activity.
Simply raising the strategic activity level on itself will not allow you to deliver your growth objectives. You also need to have a clear focus on the priority strategic challenges and a clear delivery plan. However, the relatively low starting point for time spent on strategy for most leaders, suggests that a significant increase on the time spent on this area will increase the focus on and provide the level of time required, to create and implement an effective plan.
Over the past twenty years we have observed how the most successful business leaders have been able to step back from the day to day actions and focus themselves (and their teams) on the actions which will deliver business growth. Increasing the amount of time spent on strategic activity is a key causal factor in delivering business growth.
Question 3 - What % of their potential are my people achieving?
Leadership involves getting things done through other people and a good way of measuring your leadership effectiveness is to consider how effective you are at getting the most from your people. Moving to the next level of growth requires a move away from a dependence on one or two key individuals and an increase in the breadth and depth of management. Only by creating a strong management team will the leader gain the confidence to step back from the day-to-day operations. Developing a strong team requires the ability to inspire others and delegate effectively.
The best leaders inspire their people to deliver higher levels of performance. This requires flexible leadership, the ability to create influencing relationships with individuals, purposeful communication and a strong focus on people development.
Effective delegation will not only stretch and develop the capabilities of your people, it will also free up time for you to spend on strategic activities.
Question 4 - Have I created a strong sense of purpose within the business?
Everyone requires a sense of purpose; a meaning to what they do. For a leader this is about creating a vision. A vision is simply a picture of the future. Leadership starts with a vision - one which inspires you to act and encourages others to follow.
At a company level a vision bonds people together in a common purpose and acts as a catalyst for company-wide change. At an individual level it provides a focus and motivation for personal achievement. The driving force of a strong vision is a powerful focus for personal and organisational change. A vision provides guidance for management, inspires employees, gives the company a sense of direction and creates a focus for effort. Progressive organisations require visionary leaders. Individuals who are able to see a picture of the future and energise their people towards making it happen.
Question 5 - How effective am I at getting my message across?
There is no point in having a vision unless it is communicated effectively throughout the business. The purpose of leadership communication is not just to convey information, but to influence behaviour. It influences behaviour by persuading people to take action toward the organisation's objectives.
As a leader, communication is not just about what you say; it’s also about what you do. Leadership signals and actions set the tone for how others think, act and behave. The actions of the leader and the signals given off, give a strong indication of the behaviour which is valued and rewarded within the business. Regular signals to people about what is important and how business should be carried out, backed up by consistent actions from the leader, go a long way to encouraging the attitudes and behaviours which are required to develop the type of business you want. To paraphrase Ghandi – you have to become the change you want to see.
The best leaders continually challenge themselves to improve their performance. Addressing these leadership questions should help you to consider the extent to which you are providing the leadership that your business needs and highlight potential improvement areas. The pace of change and development within any business is inextricably linked to the pace of change and development of its leaders.