Archive for the ‘Leadership’ Category

Book Review: Turn the Ship Around

Monday, January 7, 2019

Control, competence and Clarity is the three-pronged approach former submarine commander David Marquet used to transform the US Nuclear Submarine Santa Fe into the most successful submarine in the US Navy. He tells this story in his 2012 book “Turn the Ship Around: A Trues Story of Turning Followers into Leaders”, published by Portfolio Penguin.

Marquet believed that every follower can be a leader, and that through them becoming leaders in their own right, the organisation would thrive and grow. His approach proved right and transformed the Santa Fe into a highly efficient and effective network of people. Divesting control, developing competence and providing clarity are the key components of this strategy.

Detailing how he implemented this when he took over command of the Santa Fe, Marquet provides a look into the inner workings of life on a submarine. The book is a great read with examples and stories that make the practical application of his ideas easy to see and readily apply into other workplace contexts.

What I particularly appreciated was the stories of things that did not work, and how these “failings” were part of the learning process.

The book is well written, organized well and flows easily. This book is now one of my favorites and I would recommend it to any leader looking to take their leadership to the next level.

Reviewed by Dr Warrick Long, Lecturer at Avondale Business School

Book Review: Leadership in Action

Monday, January 7, 2019

Rising over 40 years from the rank private to two-star General in the Australian army, John Cantwell has spent a lifetime leading Australian men and women in challenging and sometimes deadly circumstances. Using practical examples of what did and didn’t work during this time, John Cantwell lays out his thoughts on leadership in an excellent book “Leadership in Action – Lessons for the real world from a real leader”, published in 2015 by Melbourne University Press.

Believing that anyone can learned the skills of leadership, Cantwell puts together a simple to read but highly effective book on the essential elements of leadership, within an Australian context.

The book is a great resource for new and aspiring leaders who want to find the key areas for their development, or to lay out a strategy for their leadership. It is also a very timely reminder to established leaders of what their leadership can be if they are prepared to continue learning.

The organisation of this book is very logical and straightforward. In fact, you don’t need to read cover to cover, but can pick out key areas that you may particularly want to focus on. The whole spectrum of leadership is covered, but in bite-sized chunks that are quick to read and easily transferable to the workplace. This is a very well written book that should appeal to all leaders, new and established and a highly recommended read.

Reviewed by Dr Warrick Long, Lecturer at Avondale Business School

Book Review: The Truth About Leadership

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

While the content of leadership may change over time, the fundamental principles, or truths of leadership, do not, well known leadership authors James Kouzes and Barry Posner have written their list of the 10 truths about leadership in their classic book ‘The Truth About Leadership’, published by The Leadership Challenge in 2018.

Kouzes and Posner are amongst the most prolific and well-known leadership authors of the last 30 years. They have written many of the books that now form part of the essential reading for all leaders. Drawing from their extensive consulting engagements, and over one million responses worldwide to their research, their material is based on relevant and up to date examples.

Some of the 10 truths include:

  • Credibility is the foundation of leadership
  • Focusing on the future sets leaders apart
  • You can’t do it alone
  • Trust rules

This is a very orderly and logical book, meaning you can pick and choose areas of most interest if don’t want to read cover to cover. It is also well written and easy to read. The use of current examples makes it easy to relate to and apply to your own setting.

This book should be read by anyone aspiring to or currently in leadership, and is a fantastic book. While it is a few years old, it is a great reminder of the essentials of leadership which never grow old. Very highly recommended.

Reviewed by Dr Warrick Long, Lecturer at Avondale Business School

ABS Develops Avondale College Leaders

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Recognizing the need to invest in developing its leaders, Avondale College commissioned its Avondale Business School to develop and implement a program for middle and aspiring leaders. The Avondale College LEAD program was crafted and delivered by ABS monthly throughout the second half of 2018. Word of the program spread to other entities, who sponsored their own staff to also attend. The success of the program is such that it is being expanded for 2019 with any Avondale Staff invited to attend, and a range of new topics being developed, including dealing with conflict and toxic people, leading teams, and leading change. Participants from this year enjoyed the program and the following comment typifies their responses “I have very much enjoyed the sessions I have attended – love your presentation style and have appreciated learning some new concepts and skills”. Avondale Business School can also help you develop your leaders, and to find out how, contact Warrick Long at Warrick.long@avondale.edu.au or 02 4980 2168.

We Need To Talk About CFOs

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Apparently few others really understand what the Chief Financial Officer (CFO) thinks is important. The most recent survey by McKinsey and Company on CFO’s reveals a range of issues relating to CFOs (read it here). While the whole article deals with a number of observations from the survey relating to the CFO and their roles, one in particular highlights how important it is for the key leaders of the organisation and the CFO to have a conversation to be on the same page.

The following table lists the top 10 activities the CFO believes they have engaged in which adds financial value to the organisation. Next to that is the ranking given to the same activity by other leaders in organisations:

Activity

CFO Ranking

Other Leaders Ranking

Performance management (e.g., metrics, value management, incentives/targets)

1

8

Strategic leadership

1

4

Traditional finance roles (e.g., accounting, controlling, planning and analysis)

3

1

Organisational transformation (enterprise-wide or within finance organisation)

3

7

Finance capabilities (e.g., finance-organisation talent pipeline)

5

9

Speciality finance roles (e.g., treasury, audit, investor relations)

5

3

Cost and productivity management across organisation

7

2

Support for digital capabilities and advanced analytics

8

10

M&A (including post-merger integration)

9

5

Capital allocation (e.g., capital-expenditure allocation)

10

6

Pricing of products and/or services

10

11

 

It is interesting that so much of what the CFOs think is important other leaders place less importance on. The risk with this is that the CFOs will be spending time on activities important to them, but not necessarily important to the rest of the business, potentially causing tension and issues between the leadership team and business units. It is important that leaders within an organisation have the conversation to ensure everyone agrees with what is important, and remain focused on those.

And Avondale Business School (ABS) can help you achieve this, and indeed with any aspect of your business. Simply contact us a ABS@avondale.edu.au or call on 02 49802168.

When Being on the Same Page Is Bad For the Organization

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

“All our employees are on the same page!” “We are united as a team!’ “As an organization we move forward as one!” Really? Are you sure everyone in your organization is on the same page, united as a team, and moving forward as one? It is more likely your employees hold different values and perspectives, are too reluctant to speak up against the prevailing view, and as a consequence are less committed to their tasks than you would like. These are the conclusions I drew from reading an excellent article from Maud Lindley, Jeffrey Schwartz and Malcolm Thompson entitles ‘When Cultural Value Leads to Groupthink, the Company Loses’ (read it here), found in a recent online edition of strategy+business.

Drawing on some recent Australian experience with values and perspectives in the public and corporate arena, the authors note that even company values like “courage” and “excellence” can negatively impact on people in their organization. So the key is to develop a workplace based on authenticity, which is described as creating “a context for dialogue in which the organization’s leaders and employees can talk openly and genuinely about the values of the enterprise, and why they agree or disagree with those values”. Without having such safe places for such discussions, hidden conflicts develop that can diminish people’s commitment and increase their cynicism. And it’s not about changing people’s minds, or getting them to al think the same way, it is about ensuring employees “feel that they can contribute freely and bring their whole selves to work”.

If you goal in the organization is to avoid conflict, then the authors note this to be a bad decision. They draw on the work of Patrick Lencioni who advocates conflict, and to avoid it is to put temporary comfort and the avoidance of discomfort ahead of the ultimate goal of the organization. Bringing painful issues to light and dealing with them constructively is the best course of action.

The article describes three capabilities effective leaders have that can help manage diverse perspective:

  1. Mental Agility – being able to recognize the existence of different perspectives and the reasons different people might hold them. These sorts of leaders consistently invite others to voice opinions, perspectives, or expertise that might challenge their own views.
  2. Cognitive Humility – that is, where leaders recognize their own unconscious associations and correct the errors of judgment that result. It involves bring a third-person perspective to their own experience.
  3. The Ability To Foster Psychological Safety – which involves creating contexts where everyone feel valued and heard – where people feel safe to contribute perspectives even if they differ dramatically from the organization’s prevailing values.

Thankfully the authors recognize that not every conversation will lead to a solution, and people may not necessarily understand another’s perspective any better, but it does mean people will “recognizer the workplace as a place with a true commitment to its employees: a place where people respect one another, even in disagreement, and are able to bring themselves openly to work. If you would like to see your leadership and organization become such a place, contact the Avondale Business School on abs@avondale.edu.au or 02 49802168 to find out how.

Tech at Work – Leaders Need to Rethink their Approach

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Technology for people at work is now considered a ‘complicated’ relationship. Such is the assertion in the latest pwc TechAtWork report (read it here). Based on their international survey of 12,000 people, pwc reported the following key observations:

  • Leaders say they-re choosing tech with their people in mind, but employees don’t agree.
  • People want digital skills, but aren’t being given the opportunity
  • Employees value the human touch at work, but also like a digital assist
  • Efficiency and status drive interest in advancing digital skills.

It is well worth the time to read the full article, and to fully appreciate what these points are really making. But based on them, pwc make four recommendations for leaders on how to get more buy-in and interest in tech from their people:

  1. You can’t separate technology from your people’s experience and what motivates them
  2. Understand what it’s like to do the job
  3. Rethink who needs to be in the room when making decisions
  4. Upskilling is not traditional training – change your mindset.

Leaders of organisations need to review these recommendations, and benchmark themselves against them. The Avondale Business School (ABS) can help you with your leadership, to find out how, contact Warrick Long at Warrick.long@avondale.edu.au or 02 49802168

Agile Leaders Do these Things

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

There is no doubt the rapid technological and social change we live with no means organisations must become agile to survive, let alone thrive. Unfortunately our organisational systems have not kept pace with this change, ad unless they are able to become agile and that can evolve to the changing environment, they will fail. A recently publish paper by McKinsey&Company (link here) address what is meant by an agile company, and what is needed to be a leader of one. The characteristics of an agile organisation are:

  • Have a ‘north star’ embodied across the organisation
  • Work through a network of small, empowered teams
  • Use rapid decision and learning cycles
  • Have a dynamic people model that ignites passion
  • Use next-generation-enabling technology

The paper provides some guidance as to what is needed from leaders t lead an agile organisation. It’s important to note that to do so means changing self before trying to change the organisation. The 5 practices required of an agile leader are:

  1. Pause to move faster – create space for clear judgment and original thinking.
  2. Embrace your ignorance – listen – and think – from a place of not knowing
  3. Radically re-frame the questions – unblock your existing mental model
  4. Set direction, not destination – rather than a fixed goal journey with clear direction
  5. Test your solutions – and yourself

I will leave it with you to read the article in its entirety to get the full meaning of these tips, and it is well worth the time to do so, as the article also deals with changing teams and organisations. But don’t forget, it all starts with changing self. And if the Avondale Business School (ABS) can do anything to help you with your change process, just contact Warrick Long at Warrick.long@avondale.edu.au or 02 49802168.

Effective Leaders Do This

Sunday, November 18, 2018

So what is it that effective leaders do again? Deborah Ancona and Henrik Bresman in an article in INSEAD Knowledge (click here to read) outline the five key capabilities their research over decades has shown. Below is a brief description of each one, but I recommend you read the full article and challenge yourself on these areas. But don’t be too discouraged if you begin to feel inadequate, the research indicates it is truly rare to see a leader exhibit more than two or three of these.

  1. Sensemaking
    A leader who is constantly looking for more information, and who can then turn that into a “cohesive framework that helps others understand what the next move should be” exhibits this. I know many leaders with a thirst for knowledge, but very few of these are able to then integrate it effectively into their organisations.
  2. Relating
    “The glue that brings people together”. These leaders are able to listen, truly understand, and then rally support – in that order.
  3. Visioning
    This capability entails providing a compelling image of what could be, “linking vision to the organisations core values and mission, imparting optimism in the process”.
  4. Inventing
    “Keeping the trains running” summarises this capability, by “devising ways to bring a vision to life, which may involve reorganizing the way work is done, identifying key performance indicators, and measuring progress.”
  5. Building Credibility
    This is the key capability, which involves “gaining respect from others by keeping commitments and operating with a strong sense of purpose”. That is, they walk the talk and their actions match their words.

Remember, it’s not about being strong in every capability, but instead knowing your strengths and weaknesses, so as to find the right people to build and complete leadership team. And Avondale Business School (ABS) can help you archive this. To find out how, contact Warrick Long on 02 49802168 or Warrick.long@avondale.edu.au

When the Minority Knows More Than the Majority

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Majority rule is no longer the best way to run a board meeting. Randall Peterson writes in his article ‘It’s Time to vote Majority Rule off the Company Board’ (click on the link to read) mounts the case that the simple majority potentially makes a worse decision when they ignore the views of people appointed to the board because of their specialized knowledge. With more directors being appointed because of their specialist as well as general knowledge, boards need to ensure they are listening to those view.

For example, as Peterson notes, “majority-rule voting actually fails when the will of the majority is used to silence legitimate and specialist minority voices. What is right for the many ought to prevail, but not at the expense of the rights and specialist knowledge of a minority.” A healthy board culture exists where such a minority director can challenge their boardroom colleagues, and be given a fair hearing.

Peterson makes the distinction between a suboptimal decision, and a decision that the board member believes to be totally wrong. The expression used is to develop qualified consensus. This occurs when a majority are in favor, and no one believes the decision is fundamentally wrong.

The article notes soon to be published research that reports 64% of board directors in a global study reported misunderstandings in the boardroom to be commonplace, and one-third reported the need to revisit decisions! Providing some tips on how to improve this, Peterson suggests:

  • Get the right team on the board and prioritize their learning – that is, specialist directors have a role in teaching and advising fellow directors, not making decisions solo.
  • Encourage trust and ‘psychological safety” amoung team members
  • Openly share information to create understanding of the problem – that is, before suggestion solution, work out what you do and don’t know about the problem.
  • Highlight specialist knowledge in the team from the start

This is a very quick summary of a very challenging idea – one whose time has probably come – in changing the culture of boards to better utilize the specialist knowledge it contains. If you would like assistance with your board, contact Avondale Business School (ABS) at abs@avondale.edu.au.