Posts tagged leadership
What did the Ancient Greeks ever do for us? Quite a lot it seems.

The Ancients knew a thing or two about Strategy. 

The early Greeks viewed life as a voyage in which you would head in a general direction. Constantly navigating between Cosmos and Chaos—Order and Disorder with the realisation that winds from both sides could provide useful momentum. But sailing too close to the craggy shoreline of either extreme would lead to destruction. 

Contrast this with the modern, titanic, corporate warriors. Insulated out of necessity (internal meetings, financial reviews, presentations to analysts, fear of bad customer feedback), they delegate strategy to staff who, with finger-crossed confidence, report that every future has been anticipated, every contingency planned. This well engineered business will withstand any iceberg. Nothing left to chance. 

Or so they believe. It usually ends in tears—or an unfriendly take-over.

So what can we learn?

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Gaining customer insight that is quick, actionable and inexpensive

 “How can I get customer insight that is actionable?” Don't rely on that thick, industry-sponsored report for easy answers.

Most market and customer research are too turgid, too long and too expensive. Very few give easily accessible actionable output.  I use a method  which addresses some of the limitations

The philosophy here is to drive continuous input to fuel continuous improvement —and to do with customer involvement. This means you can have innovation but at lower risk and lower cost.

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Bead-counting alone doesn’t tell the story

The leader had self-esteem.

Contrary to popular belief, many business managers lack self-esteem; they are fearful of dissent and it bursts through their leadership style and binds the psyche of the organisation. 

Here are some tell-tale signs. If you see a large organisation that;

  • was once a leader but is devoid of competitive advantage
  • is diverse in population but not in thinking
  • hails investors yet hides from customers
  • tries to control rather than shape the future
  • put numbers before narrative
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The sands in China are shifting

This week I conducted a leadership workshop in China’s largest and most prosperous city, Shanghai. It has been five years since I last visited the city, and there have been two dramatic change in that period.

Dizzyingly tall towers continue to shoot up at a rapid pace. Globally, Chinese contractors are now the masters of modular construction of these structures, and cosmetically at least, the results are impressive. But the quality of the electrical, plumbing and mechanical is far below the sophistication of the outer casing. 

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Shutting up shop shouldn't mean closing doors

Stout women remove skin from your ankles with their chariots. Old men stop-and-start foot traffic abruptly as they shake hands and kiss their acquaintances. It exasperates some of the younger locals and beguiles some of the visitors, but these are prices of participation in French local markets.

Local markets have always been important in Europe and set to become even more so. And while markets have been at the heart and soul of a town, they may become its lifeblood too.

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S1 E3: This I have learnt—Norris Zucchet, CEO (retired), Mount Pleasant Group of Cemeteries

Imagine having a market where demand is guaranteed (yes, guaranteed) to grow, where competition is limited, and the cost of entry is high.

Too good to be true? Maybe.

But there is a downside. Such dynamics can cause organisations to become sluggish and indifferent to innovation. After all, why should they change?

Norris Zucchet faced such conditions. It turned out to be the most demanding, exhausting and exhilarating 13 years of his career.

What did he do and what did he learn? Grab 15 mins of wisdom in this edition of 'This I have learnt.'

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Land of the Free, and the Home of the Brave: Can you handle the brutal truth?

Like any patient participating in a check-up, the leadership team has to be braced for any results arising from an examination.  For some, this thought alone prevents an appointment from being made. But for those who do proceed, the feedback provides a prodigious increase in corporate confidence about future organisational health. The process lifts the fogginess on possible routes to growth.

Investigating if there's a gap between culture and strategy is unnerving for some. Participation means exposing ourselves to the brutal truth, and dealing with the consequences of the results. Our corporate bodies are no different.

We can, though, may the process more comfortable.



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Leading people is labour intensive; popping the bubble of the 4-hour work week

The 4-hour work week might be attainable if you forward orders of vitamin shipments to a third-party, or have only one employee—you. But if you are dependent on people to collaborate effectively for achievement of goal, here's the wake-up call. It takes time. In fact, the better your team and the bigger the change, the more time it requires.

Leading people is labour intensive. It takes time and energy. It requires passion for that role. If you don't have the appetite, stay away from this buffet.

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Corporate indigestion: or what happens when strategy tries to eat culture for breakfast

This CEO of global pharma business was never a shrinking violet. But this year, at his global Town Hall meetings he was positively pugilistic.

The strategy, wrestled for many hours on the 21st floor at Bockenheim headquarters, was failing to deliver. Well, in reality, it wasn't being implemented well enough to know if it could deliver.

The issue was crystallised for the CEO in a conversation late one evening. During post-presentation beer and sandwiches at their largest R&D facility, he exasperatedly asked the Site Manager, "why aren't you implementing the strategy?" To which the long-standing, retiring-in-a-year-after-20-years of service, replied, "why don't you give us a strategy we can implement?"

There are few occasions in business when scales from the eyes, but this was one of them. In one pithy response, the consequences of a mis-match between strategy and culture had been laid a bare.

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S1 E2: This I have learnt—Tom Schmidt, Managing Director, Norton McMullen Corporate Finance

Large organisations are characterised by the size of their employee population. Engaging the group to co-operate for combined and individual benefits is the single largest challenge of leaders in such in an organisation. In fact, in some ways, it is the only thing they do.

Tom Schmidt has had a successful career within a number of large organisations. In this episode of 'This I have learnt' he shares with us some of his experiences on how to lead others, but also how to lead and develop oneself in order to be a better leader. 

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This I have learnt—from Michel Drancourt

In July I will launch a monthly series of videos entitled, “This I have learnt.” It is said that experience is teacher who gives us the lesson after we need it, but with this series, we will short circuit the process.

I will be interviewing individuals who have had extended successful careers in the public and private sector. Some have excelled in both.

Through a short, honest conversation we will hear how each person has dealt with the challenges of work/life balance, strategy, leading others and making difficult decisions. Early recordings have highlighted some commonality in approaches, but also some interesting, particular (peculiar?) distinctions. It makes for fascinating viewing

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Managing your health: a 2014 resolution you can complete today

Happy New Year to you all.

By the end of February, most of the resolutions taken yesterday (learn a new language, spend more time with the family, lose weight) will lie disassembled on the floor, like a broken Lego model given at Christmas. 

The challenge of Resolutions is to break down their contributing elements into behavioural habits, and without the vitamins of resolve and planning, this seldom occurs.

But there is something you can accomplish today.

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