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Taking the right first step to future proof your organisation

At our recent invitation-only round table event, Future proof your organisation with 21st century leadership, we discussed many aspects of the current business environment and the challenge it poses. Some of the key points included:

  1. No one person has all of the answers. Adaptive and shared leadership is the only sustainable way forward
  2. Developing a culture which supports enterprise contribution will result in exponentially improved performance
  3. VUCA environments are a threat, but can become an opportunity if you have the skills and techniques to overcome them
  4. Creating the right level of attachment in your culture will set every one of your employees free to thrive and perform at their best, which in turn improves organisational performance
  5. If you’re a leader, change and culture start with you

But if you are leading an organisation which needs to transform, what is the single most important thing for you to do now to future proof your organisation?

A new perspective on the failure of change programmes

The failure of change programmes is usually attributed to poor execution, but based on a four-year study of 62 corporate transformations, an article in the Harvard Business Review, What Everyone Gets Wrong About Change Management, says something different.

The research team cites what might sound like an obvious, but previously overlooked, cause – organisations often pursue the wrong changes. They advocate that, before worrying about how to change, executive teams need to figure out what to change and in particular, what to change first.

What vs how

For decades senior leadership teams have worried about how to undertake change programmes. Various techniques have been in vogue at different points, and many hours have been spent debating one approach versus another at board tables around the world.

But this analysis paralysis took focus away from the most important aspect of change – what exactly is it that needs to be changed? What changes will have the biggest impact on the organisation’s success? And, crucially, what changes will have the biggest benefit to its stakeholders – both its customers and its team?

Understanding your organisation’s answer to what to change first requires a detailed and thoughtful look at a multitude of factors and metrics. An outside perspective is often helpful in uncovering key insight which can guide successful change programmes.

Transformation done poorly can be very painful. All transformation requires some form of disruption, but negative disruption can have disastrous effects on your business. It can, and often does, lead to confusion, wasted energy, time, effort, and money.

However, transformation can also be, well, for lack of a better term, transformational. Done right, it can position your company to take advantage of the challenges it faces, turning what were once challenges into opportunities.

So, what will your next step be? And how do you know it will be the right one?

What does 21st century leadership look like and why does it matter?

They say the only constant is change, consequently, 21st century leadership has never been more relevant than in today’s dynamic business environment.

We’re not yet a quarter of the way into the 21st century, but the difference between 20th and 21st century organisations is already marked by those which are thriving, and those which are merely surviving.

Many organisations are still using the leadership styles and management processes developed for the Industrial Revolution, when the imperatives were about streamlining to create maximum efficiency.

But nearly 200 years later, efficiency doesn’t win the match, it merely buys you a ticket into the game.

Does leadership really matter?

Leaders create the culture for success: 50-70% of the variance in organisation culture can be explained by differences in leadership style.

And according to research by Dave Ulrich, around 30% of the judgments investors make about the intangible value of an organisation rely on their views about the quality of its leadership.

Even if you place no other significance on great leadership (and if you don’t, we really need to talk!), when its quality can directly impact an organisation’s financial value, there’s no escaping its critical role in success.

What is 21st century leadership?

If it isn’t about creating a more efficient organisation, exactly what is 21st century leadership about?

We’ve run 10 round table events on this topic, as well as working with more than 170 organisations to make transformation smoother and more successful. For us, the key to successful 21st century leadership comes down to a fundamental shift.

Leaders can no longer have all of the answers.

The environment is too complex. The challenges are too extensive. The people you are leading are more diverse than ever.

So while individual leaders cannot have all of the answers, collectively your people do. Adaptive leadership – where you set direction and ground rules, but then allow your team to dictate how to reach the end point – allows problem solving at the pace you need. That agility is no longer a luxury, but a necessity. Leaders need to be facilitators, not commanders.

As we say in our manifesto: Leadership is not a set of characteristics. Leadership is a responsibility.

We explore these concepts and many more at our round-table events. We look forward to meeting you and hearing your perspective on 21st century leadership.

 

What Great Leaders Know About Rest

Productivity is critical to organisational performance, but for decades we’ve missed focusing on the one thing which can have a tremendous impact on it. Our blog reveals what’s missing, why we need it, and how the latest scientific research should fundamentally shift our thinking on productivity.

Even for the most experienced leaders, it gets tough at the top.  For all the dynamic thinking and inspirational leadership, it’s a pressured and challenging environment that demands long hours and huge commitment.  So, it’s no surprise that with increasing levels of awareness around mental health and the impacts of stress and well-being at work, the lens is now shifting to whether this is actually the optimum way to get the most out of business’s best minds.

It’s particularly pertinent at this time of year when many of the workforce will have already packed up the family and set off for their summer holiday.  Behind closed doors, even at the more junior levels, it’s likely there has been at least one ‘discussion’ about taking a work mobile phone or laptop.  This inability to truly switch off, or be perceived as unavailable, speaks volumes about today’s workplace culture and mentality.

A commitment to life, not just work

We accept with gusto that with a 10,000-hour investment we can become a master at our chosen subject yet many leaders struggle to give anything like that kind of commitment to their own wellbeing.  The pendulum has swung so far towards work that the phrase work/life balance has become lost as leaders strive to do it all.

So, what is the answer?  There’s a new school of thought that believes it’s rest and relaxation, and that as leaders, we’re just not taking it seriously enough.

A recent Harvard study has looked at how successful CEOs spend their time, breaking it down into 15-minute slots.  There were some interesting findings that should begin to challenge the perceptions leaders have. The work hard, play hard culture is still evident, with the working week still demandingly high at over 62 hours, but the down-time is better protected, more focused and importantly, more meaningful.

For example, almost seven hours are spent sleeping.  Quality, restful sleep where the brain has time to consolidate memories and skills. The remaining six hours are almost equally split between the fulfilment of family and personal time.

What is striking is that these CEOs are as deliberate and planned about their rest as they are about their work, seeing rest and work as two essential and complementary parts of an integrated healthy whole.

The science behind the theory

There are a number of new books that go on to challenge the norm of a working day by questioning the value of a 9am – 5pm daily structure, instead arguing that the brain is at its most effective in much shorter bursts.  The idea of working less to achieve more isn’t new – take a look at Tim Ferriss’ 4-Hour Work Week, published in 2007 and a New York Times best-seller for an early proponent of this theory.

But the focus on rest, not just work, is a relatively new thing. Author Alex Pang, in his book Rest: Why You Get More Done When You Work Less, explores the strategies used by some of history’s most successful leaders to practice deliberate rest, sustain their energy, boost their creativity, and lengthen their careers.

Two Awesome Hours, by Josh Davis, follows this with science-based thinking around productivity.  He believes in the principle of planning for two hours of peak performance each day which stems from aligning the brain and biological systems and then actively planning in ‘recovery time’.

But rest doesn’t mean our brain isn’t being useful. If you know you have your best ideas while walking the dog, or often wake in the middle of the night to a flash of inspiration, you’ll realise that our subconscious is using rest as its time for problem-solving. What these new ideas are telling us is that we have to get the balance right between focused effort and time to think – the yin and yang of work and rest – in order to make the biggest difference to our performance.

A totally new way of working

Despite the obvious appeal of working less and relaxing more, we’ve seen that even moving in this direction is culturally and practically difficult. For example, there are few truly flexible and agile employers, not only because of technology challenges but also the HR and cultural perceptions that go with being physically at work.

If we accept that our wiring means that we can only be at our best for somewhere between four and six hours each day, then when we work productivity really matters, and this means we have to organise our work so we can truly focus.

In reality we can only focus for circa 90-120 minutes at a time before needing some time and space to recover, so in theory we have two to three cycles in any given day depending on our energy. Optimising our use of these cycles becomes critical, planning mini-recovery in between where we can do other less taxing things and go again.

This is a totally new way of working to most of us, but the evidence is racking up that it’s a strategy we should take seriously if we want to be our most productive selves. If we truly want to effect change, we have to start treating rest with respect.

If you would like to discuss how to take your performance and productivity to the next level please schedule a complimentary consultation at your convenience.

 

13 Mindblowing Organisational Transformation Stats

No doubt many of us have heard the oft-quoted statistic that 70% of all organisational transformation and change initiatives fail. But how many of us can recall some of the lesser known (and yet equally eye-opening!) facts and figures that paint a picture of the true impact of transformation, whether at an individual, team or organisational level?Leading Transformation

So hold on to your hats because we’ve got 13 awe-inspiring statistics on organisational transformation listed below. Feel free to add your own in the comments section!

  1. Company-wide change efforts are 12.4 times more likely to be successful when senior managers communicate continually. (McKinsey)
  2. 92 percent of change practitioners name top management sponsorship as the most important factor for successful change. (IBM)
  3. Nearly 60 percent of projects aimed at achieving business change do not fully meet their objectives. (IBM)
  4. When senior leaders role model the behaviour changes they’re asking employees to make, transformations are 5.3 times more likely to be successful. (McKinsey)
  5. Leaders create the climate for success – 50-70% of variance in organisational climate can be explained by differences in leadership styles. (Hay Group)
  6. Up to 30% of variance in financial results (profits and revenue) can be explained by differences in organisational climate. (Hay Group)
  7. 86% of C suite executives and 84% of all managers and employees say culture is critical to their organisations’ success. 60% see it as a bigger success factor than either their strategy or their operating model. (PWC)
  8. Less than 10% of leaders have the right capabilities and experiences required to successfully lead transformations. (PWC)
  9. Frontline employees taking the initiative to drive change elevates the success of transformations to a whopping 71%. (McKinsey)
  10. 12% of people don’t believe their companies are keeping up with the changing landscape of business (Mitch Joel, Ctrl Alt Delete)
  11. 31% of CEOs are fired for not managing organisational change well enough. (Forbes)
  12. 25% of change management initiatives are successful over the long term (Towers Watson)
  13. 95% of leaders using stakeholder centred coaching improved their effectiveness (Marshall Goldsmith)

So there you have it: the good, the bad and the ugly! All business change requires some form of disruption from the norm, which, as you can see from some of the above stats, means that transformation done poorly can be very painful. However, it’s not all bad news – transformation can also be, well, for lack of a better term, transformational. Done right, it can position you, your team and your company to take advantage of challenges, turning what were once issues into opportunities.

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Organisational Culture and the importance of feelings

Think of organisations you’ve worked for. Which one is your favourite?

 

What do you remember about it? Your colleagues, the building, the work?

 

Or was it the way it made you feel: proud, challenged, energised, hopeful or perhaps even ‘at home’?’

 

What about your favourite leader? Do you remember how they dressed, what they said or do you remember how you felt when they spoke to you?

 

Or was it simply the bragging rights from being part of a high performance team, doing things that mattered…how good did it feel to say you worked for ‘X’ the very first time?

 

We join organisations for community. We give our best and we stay because of how we feel.

 

As a leader in your organisation, it is your job to make sure that the emotional experience people have when they engage with your organisational culture is intentional and memorable.

 

Research by Daniel Siegel, Executive Director of the Mindsight Institute offers insights on how to do this. We derive our sense of identity not just from who we are, but what we are part of. Our brains produce a ‘we’ map which shows our part in the bigger whole. Leaders who get this connect individuals to a bigger purpose, honour individual differences and proactively build connections between individuals, teams and across the organisation.

 

This style of leadership fits with our basic human nature to be part of a ‘we’, rather than a solitary ‘I’. It creates an organisational culture where people thrive and engage. Not because they have to but because the organisation has become part of who they are.

 

Ask yourself how you want your people to feel when they come to work and then ask your people the same question. See if the answers align. If they do you are doing a wonderful job creating your desired organisational culture. If not then you’ve got work to do because people don’t always remember what you achieved, but they always remember how you made them feel.