Our recent leadership articles are found below.
In his interview with Eszter Molnar Mills, Jon Gordon, the wide-ranging author, speaker and consultant to Fortune 500 companies as well as baseball and US football teams, discusses his ideas and principles around positive leadership.
“I believe we teach what we need to learn” – Jon describes a different path to finding his niche area – his desire to change his life, wanting to be more positive himself, has led to him specialising in the area of positive leadership – but not just in the office, for sports teams, and importantly for children as well.
Gordon harnesses these different perspectives, and considers three key challenge for leaders today:
Culture: “building a great culture, and then sticking with it” – noting that maintaining the health of the culture is difficult, and made even more difficult by the focus on numerical outcomes, on stock prices and school standardised tests. Gordon suggests that focusing on the ‘fruit’ (e.g. outcomes) encourages leaders to neglect investment in the ‘root’ (the key determinants that generates success).
Positivity: A further challenge is overcoming negativity and maintaining positivity, where the best leaders he sees are those who are not positive in themselves, they work hard to share that positivity, to generate more positivity in their team.
Connection: This leads into his last key challenge for leaders, that of keeping the team connected. In the face of time and other pressures Gordon reinforces the importance of building up relationships and commitment to each other – “relationships are the foundation upon which winning teams and companies are built.”
Gordon moves onto discussing principles behind leadership and creating a positive vision. It is not enough to share the vision, he argues, the leader has to engage with their team, to develop the relationships without which the project will fail. He sets out tasks for the leader, such as talking with each member, sharing the vision, seeing how the company’s vision fits with the individual. Working with the individual to define their vision, and how they can feed into the wider vision, promotes growth and commitment. In this way leaders can inspire their team to create success.
Gordon has distilled these ideas in his book The Energy Bus, where he points out the importance of the leader creating that positive vision, and then specifically inviting people to ‘get on the bus’ with them.
Returning to his theme of relationships, Gordon describes further the role of a leader in taking time and making the effort to understand their team members. Communication is vital he says for maintaining positivity and building relationships – without communication people don’t know what’s going on, and that uncertainty leads to fear and negativity.
Gordon’s love of metaphor and story-telling is clear with an analogy from the Energy Bus being developed into its own book, The Positive Dog. Using imaginative stories that stick in the mind help him communicate the importance of positivity and optimism, and of sharing that positivity, through the idea of ‘feeding the positive dog’.
He continues by citing two interesting case studies, emphasising the role of the leader in focusing on the positive, and also providing an example about what it really means to ‘get on the bus’.
The big question: William Bratton, chief of police under Rudy Giuliani, was tasked with reducing crime in New York. During one-to-one sessions with his five bureau chiefs he asked them if they believed crime could be reduced in their area. The three who answered ‘no’ were promptly fired – how could they be expected to lead others to make a difference if they did not believe it themselves?
Transferring belief: Steve Jobs was known for challenging his teams’ timescales – even halving their targets. His expertise was in communicating to the team his belief in their abilities to solve problems within this reduced deadline. By being positive he distorted their reality, quashed their pessimism and they generated success.
Unusually for a leadership author and business consultant, Jon Gordon has worked on communicating to children his fundamental messages of positivity and gratitude. In “The Energy Bus for Kids” he brings his ideas of overcoming negativity to the issues faced by children, such as bullying. He also stresses the importance of focusing on the positives and not dwelling on the negatives in “Thank You and Good Night”, an encouragement to end the day by thinking of all the things to be thankful for.
Gordon concludes by setting out core principles:
Find a purpose: don’t forget why you are doing what you do
Don’t chase success: make a difference and success will find you
Don’t seek happiness: by living with purpose and passion, and making a difference, happiness will flow.
Jon Gordon‘s best-selling books and talks have inspired readers and audiences around the world. His principles have been put to the test by numerous NFL, NBA, MLB coaches and teams, Fortune 500 companies, school districts, hospitals and non-profits.
He is the author of numerous best-selling books including The Energy Bus, Training Camp, The Seed, You Win in the Locker Room First and The No Complaining Rule. Jon and his tips have been featured on TV and numerous magazines and newspapers.
He and his training/consulting company are passionate about developing positive leaders, organizations and teams.
The rise of the podcast in recent years has meant we now share our commute or the washing up with a massive range of experts, leaders and authors. Sometimes too much choice can be a problem, so here we recommend five of our favourites (plus a bonus one), and why we think they stand out from the crowd. We hope you try them and please let us know your recommendations!
Dose of Leadership
We like it that the guests on Richard Rierson’s interview series come from a wide range of backgrounds: as well as business leaders, Rierson finds interesting angles on leadership by talking with leaders from faith, sports and even martial arts, on a monthly basis.
Stanford Entrepreneurial Thought Leaders Series
Widely recommended are the in-depth interviews with business leaders that form Stanford’s popular weekly series. These roughly hour-long interviews have covered issues such as how a CEO’s role responds to growth and divergent thinking in product design. If you have less time , check out the Standford Innovation Lab podcasts, two seasons of shorter conversations covering topics such as Negotiation, Improvisation, and Crowdsourcing.
More or Less
Numbers are bandied around by politicians, scientists and journalists, and Tim Harford’s BBC radio show tackles bold claims, over-simplifications and selective reading. Tim recently looked at the rise of elected women, obesity in the UK, and Brexit economic forecasts. By the way, we thoroughly recommend Tim’s books, which are entertaining and full of interesting ideas.
Presented by Daniel Pink, author of best-selling To Sell is Human, and commentator on motivation and human behaviour. Some of the most interesting business authors discuss their ideas in his podcast interviews. He also shares the Pinkcast, where he explores an idea in less than 180 seconds – so no excuse for not having enough time.
Weekly 40-60 minute interviews by Dave Ramsey, an expert on building and growing businesses, coupled with free tools and worksheets. An FBI hostage negotiator and naval captains join a roster of CEOs, authors and academics in sharing their thoughts on productivity, communication, and leadership.
This Is Your Life
Although currently on a self-described hiatus, there’s a great back catalogue in which Michael Hyatt addresses a wider range of practical topics, with titles like How to vacation like a pro, How to create great blog posts, and How to deal with a problem client. You can also find transcripts and links to further resources
Head of structured finance at global law firm ReedSmith, Tamara Box shares the best piece of advice she has ever received:
A woman, now working on exciting infrastructure projects in Africa, gave advice on a panel that Tamara was watching: “Never have lunch alone”
Tamara Box interpreted this as advice to never miss an opportunity to connect with people, even if it is just spending your lunch time with colleagues, new clients, networks.
Tamara Box sees networks as power, but crucially not in a selfish way. She has taken the advice on lunching alone and developed it into ‘Say yes to everything’ – by which she means say yes to people who want to talk to you, people who want to introduce you to others, to young people who want to ask questions. Not just meet them, but see how you can help that person, introduce them to your network or others. Tamara sees this as mutually beneficial: “paying it forward really does always come back”
Look out for our interview with Tamara Box, coming soon.
The 6Ms of Business Strategy
Interview with Shweta Jhajharia
Shweta Jhajharia MBA is a business coach specialising in growth. She has been ranked ActionCOACH London’s Coach of the Year consecutively for the last eight years, was the first woman in the world to be given the “Diamond Level of Excellence” award from ActionCOACH, and this year won the Global Best Client Results Award and the UK’s Coach of the Year Award.
We asked Shweta for her insights for business owners and leaders:
Could you tell us about yourself and your work?
I come from a non-descript rural town in India, completed my MBA at the Indian Institute of Management (IIM)and then worked at Unilever for over 8 years across Asia and Europe, which really helped develop my understanding of what makes people perform.
I left a high profile corporate role to start my own business within ActionCOACH and applied the same principles that had created success for me over my previous career.
What do you currently see as key challenges for business owners?
I find most business owners seem challenged when it comes to building a team. Many entrepreneurs – women especially – feel pressure to struggle and achieve everything themselves. However, building a team is one of the most effective ways to grow. When you put in some effort to find good, hardworking people, and to help them succeed, you find your own opportunities grow manifold.
Brexit will present unique challenges over the next few years. Pressure on business owners will come from depreciating currency, possible inflation, adverse movements of asset prices and labour market pressures.
However, I believe the primary pressure will come from negotiations with the bigger players – so business owners will need to sharpen their negotiation skills and be ready to challenge ‘The Brexit Excuse’.
In the end, commercial prudence will prevail over instinctive reaction. SME owners who thrive in the uncertain environment will be those who have the financial literacy to understand what is happening in their business right now, who are constantly reviewing margins, tapping into a wider talent pool and focusing on ways to increase their pipeline. The owners who are developing their skills and competencies to manage their business closely and negotiate with the bigger clients are those who will face the challenges with surety.
In your view, what are the most important aspects of business strategy?
One of the major distinctions is the difference between “strategy” and “tactics”. There are countless blog articles and books giving all the strategies for building and running a good business. However, it is on the tactics that we focus – the actual use of strategies within the business. That’s where we really help business owners.
There are 6 main aspects of business strategy that need to be addressed:
Mindset: how the business owner is thinking – not just about the business, but about themselves. Are they practicing the right habits to set themselves up for success?
Mastery and Mission: creating the right foundation, making sure business owners have the knowledge required for their business and ensuring there are clear goals in place, with an accompanying action plan to achieve them.
Money: all about marketing and sales. No matter how good, relevant and useful the product or service, if you do not have effective marketing and sales strategies, the longevity of the business is at risk.
Management: sourcing the right talent, keeping that team engaged, and learning how to create an environment where both your business and those individuals can grow together.
Team management is where many business owners are making huge mistakes that can be fixed easily to produce massive results.
Methodology: understanding what parts of the business can be packaged and systemised so owners can get the leverage required to take their small business that they work in up to a big business that they work on. This is critical for businesses that are successful but struggling to reach the next level.
6Ms: Strategic Thinking and Execution
Importantly these 6 aspects are split into two sides – strategic thinking (Mindset, Mastery, Mission) and execution (Money, Management, Methodology). Some businesses are great with strategic thinking and need more help with execution, others have great execution skills and require more strategic thinking to best direct their actions.
So not every business needs to focus on all 6 parts – and it’s essential that business owners choose the right place to focus their efforts.
How do you support businesses to develop high performance teams?
There are two main components – recruitment and management.
Sourcing the right talent is essential, and most business owners are afraid of the time commitment required. We have developed a 4-hour recruitment process that requires literally 4 hours and usually produces the best person for the job.
Management is slightly more complicated, but usually quite easily improved. It’s about tactics, not strategy. The exercises I do with a client are designed to not only work out the problems with the team members, but also the issues involved with how that business owner manages their team. Then we review strategies relevant to their style, their team, and the team they need.
Every business and business owner has their own nuances that need to be addressed when it comes to managing a superstar team.
What key pieces of advice do you give to leaders?
Make sure you set your own targets and goals. When you let others set the tone for you, your achievement level can be massively limited.
My personal motto is “Goals are dreams with deadlines” – I am a believer that hard work and trust in your abilities makes a difference. I think that dedication to focusing on my goals and keeping strict timelines for myself is a trait that has contributed to my business’ success, my clients’ success, and to the success of having an active and present role in my son’s life.
Don’t try and do everything yourself and learn everything independently. Reach out to people who are willing to help you – a successful business is rarely a single person’s effort, it usually takes a whole village of experts, mentors, and team members.
For more thoughts from Shweta, click here to pre-order her new book Sparks, Ideas to ignite your business growth.
Shweta Jhajharia is a multi-award-winning business coach, recognised both by external bodies and industry awards panels as one of the top coaches in the UK.
She was Global Marketing Manager with Unilever for 9 years before joining ActionCOACH and founding The London Coaching Group in 2008.
Shweta draws upon this experience to not only lead her clients to better profitability, but also enhance the long-term asset value of their business.
In our recent interviews with Professor Kim Cameron and Michelle McQuaid both mentioned Robert E. Quinn’s The Positive Organization as a book worth reading for insight and ideas. It is not difficult to see why, as Quinn’s short book (less than 160 pages from cover to cover) is packed with ideas, examples, case studies and practical exercises, written in an engaging and straightforward style.
Throughout, Quinn challenges us to consider a different way of thinking, and to thinks about how we can effectively participate in building a positive organisation. A key strength of the book is that it has actionable lessons for all, regardless of job role or responsibility, from board room to shop floor. Each chapter concludes with a tool to use with teams in self-assessment and development, as well as questions to encourage the reader to reflect and set aspirations, to deepen learning.
The central premise of the book is that building a positive organisation requires accountability and authenticity, that for it to be successful it has to be emergent and self-generating. This approach is built on listening, consultation and empowerment at all levels.
What marks this book apart from many others is both the effectiveness of Quinn’s model, as well as the Positive Organization Generator – over 100 real-life examples of how organisations have successfully increased their positivity.
Mental Maps and bilingualism
Quinn suggests that the culture of an organisation can be summarised in a mental map – an indication of what a company believes and assumes, covering domains such as Motivation, Status and Change. Most organisations, and most leaders, operate using what Quinn calls a Conventional Mental Map, a top-down, traditional hierarchy. He contrasts this with the more complex Positive Mental Map, focused more on networks and relationships, and a focus on the common good and authentic communication.
However, this is not a binary state – Quinn suggests a successful leader needs to be ‘bilingual’ able to speak the language of both maps depending on the need of the people they are working with, to find the right tools for the right occasion.
A question of balance
Quinn provides us with a further analysis of organisational culture – the Framework of Organizational Tensions. Quinn groups organisational characteristics into two opposing lists, for example Individual Accountability and Cohesive Teamwork. If taken to extremes either of these positive characteristics could be negative – conflict on the one hand or group think on the other. To illustrate the need to maintain balance between these positive forces, Quinn separates each pair on opposing sides of a disc, with an outer ring of negative forces that may arise if the positive force is over-developed.
This idea of tension and balance is crucial to Quinn – organisations are not static, they are dynamic, and to effect positive change we have to consider the whole system, that positives can turn into negatives.
A call to action
Having developed these models, Quinn turns to a number of key issues in developing a positive organisation in chapters that focus on how drive organisations forward by developing and promoting authenticity, creating a sense of purpose, fostering bottom-up change and collaborative development. He uses a range of interesting and relevant examples, referring back to the models at every stage.
In these sections he is challenging and insightful on the role of the individual, on our willingness to work for the common good, our ability to leave our ego and control behind when trying to develop an organisation that thrives. He is also realistic about human nature, and how difficult meaningful change and personal authenticity may be, but makes clear the benefits of developing leadership capabilities and organisational positivity.
Over to you
Quinn concludes by sharing with the reader his Positive Organization Generator. Designed to confront sceptics and resistance, he provides 100 examples of where an organisation has made positive change (from a range of industries, and with links to further articles on each of them). Rather than just adopting these ideas, his instruction to readers is to re-invent them – to be inspired by the examples, extract the principle and re-imagine it for your own context, moulding and adapting to fit.
For more ideas you can also follow his daily blog: www.thepositiveorganization.wordpress.com