The Axe Is Not Your Friend


Cutting costs is a simple way to improve profitability, in theory at least. However in the real world of a dynamic marketplace, imperfect people, unforeseen circumstances, collateral damage and unintended consequences, the spreadsheet seems to lie.

No one has ever cut their way to sustainable profitability. Then when the result isn’t met, a new round of cost cutting and the inevitable and perennial restructuring continues. The axe is not your friend.

How do we overcome this somewhat inevitable cycle?

Get more than the accountants on the job. The pure financial perspective is still only one view, albeit important. Whilst keeping costs flexible and under control is an important factor; investing in people, future capabilities, and bolstering your value proposition through innovation and service, are what will ultimately grow your business.

So it’s not “either or” it’s “both and”; now and the future, costs and investments, people and...

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Momentum Crushes Problems

Do you find that small things slow you or your team down? Do you get dragged into issues that are really inconsequential in the scheme of things? What you need is momentum and lots of it! Momentum crushes problems.

John Maxwell has a great metaphor that I’m going to borrow, because it’s a great one. John talks about a train being in a station waiting for passengers. When it’s ready to go, a log of wood is placed in front of it. This seemingly small obstacle will make the train unable to depart; spinning its wheels, unable to move. Yet, if the same log were placed on a track when the train was moving at full speed, it would provide no resistance at all. Probably not even noticed, as the momentum of the train overcomes the resistance, of a now insignificant obstacle. The same is true with our workplaces and teams.

An organisation with no momentum stumbles over small issues, politics and infighting. Arguing with vigor and lots of consternation over insignificant...
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Slow Down To Speed Up

Do you feel like you are always working working working, with little or underwhelming fruit?

Does your workday leave you feeling tired, ineffective and unfulfilled? This is actually very common in leaders and their teams.

Sometimes we have to slow down to speed up; and build some white space into our hectic schedules.

We are not wired for a sprint; we’re built for a marathon. Like all good runners we have to pace ourselves if we want to win. As the great piece of racing advice says, “to finish first, first you have to finish”.

There is a very good physical reason for this. Our physiology is built so that under stress we operate closer to the ‘fight or flight’ part of our brain, further done the brain stem. We stop operating effectively in the frontal cortex, where our ideas, creativity and higher thoughts are active. This is why we have great ideas and an almost constant stream of schemes and dreams, once we’ve relaxed on holiday. Or that good...

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Control Is An Illusion

I mentor and train a lot of leaders, a number note that their teams don’t take responsibility, won’t make decisions and don’t think for themselves. Often this frustration is driven from a desire to control them?

“I love to be micro-managed,” said no one ever. Whether we like it or not, control is an illusion. Even if we think all is under control, it seldom is. In a hyper-controlled environment fear is the prevailing emotion.

Fear dominates and paralyses. In fear you loose all innovation, free thought and entrepreneurial passion. If we want to have a committed team we have to relinquish an overt desire to control.

Daniel Pink, talks about three areas that drive engagement, and in my view therefore productivity. Mastery, Autonomy and Purpose. If we create the environment where these develop in our teams then we will be amazed at the outcome.

We all want to be good at what we do; grow our talents and exercise our abilities, it’s part of what...

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Overcoming Politics

If you’re part of any organisation, well, any organization that I know, then politics is, you know what?

It’s kind of part of the game and the larger the organisation, the more politics that can occur. But even in small teams, it can be a little nitpicking, politics, little things going on all the time that can be really disruptive to having a great culture and people being open and transparent and politics can really cut across what it is that you’re trying to achieve as a leader, as you build a great team.

There’s a number of ways you can deal with it and, for me, the first thing is don’t engage in it yourself.

Demonstrate a way of doing things that’s not aligned with a political mindset.

If people see you stabbing them in the back or stabbing other people in the back or gossiping or running down the company or talking about your superiors in a way that’s undermining them, then they’re gonna take that as acceptable...

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It's something that doesn’t get talked about in leadership circles very often. Vulnerability. We have this image, an artificial image in my view, of what a great leader looks like. Very stoic. “Nothing hurts me. I’m just… I’m the man.”

We have a very male-dominated thinking around what a great leader looks like. We go to Braveheart, Donald Trump, and Patton, General Patton. Very larger-than-life characters that have a very sort of singular view of the world, not what you’d call vulnerable.

And yet, I believe vulnerability is, or a willingness to be vulnerable, is a great way of engaging with team.

You don’t have to have all the answers.

You can ask.

In fact, if you do ask, you build collaboration. You’re willing to go, “You know what? I have really no idea what we should do about this issue. What do you think?” And bring the team in.

That’s okay. Be vulnerable. It’s okay to not...

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Your Team is a Reflection of You


Is your team not operating well? Do you seem to have ongoing people issues in your business? Here’s some bad news, that may turn out to be good news: Often your team is a reflection of you.

Leaders set the tone and a team will take their standards and even their ethics from you. The standard you walk by will become the team standard.

We all have a need for self-awareness; especially as leaders. In my experience and opinion, high EQ and a willingness to be vulnerable goes a long way to learning how to be an effective leader. The core of that journey is embracing your authentic self.

As Dr Brene Brown eloquently puts it, “Let go of who you think you’re supposed to be; embrace who you are.”

It behooves us to take personal responsibility, and recognise that our team’s seeming dysfunctions, may be rooted in our own behaviour. The team is watching for behaviour cues, and as the cliché somewhat painfully says the fish may well...

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Today, we are going to talk about values.

I sometimes think that when we talk about values, we tend to think of that group of words sitting on a wall and yes, they’re values. However, if they’re not activated, they’re not really true values.

And a word that hasn’t been used a lot recently is Virtues.

It’s kind of gone out of vogue, but if you think about values as virtues, those things that drive us and our personal way of doing things, it’s a lot more personal.

Values can be a bit company-driven and impersonal. However, if we think of our values as virtues - the way we operate, the way we choose to treat people with integrity and passion and whatever those values might be in your company - then it becomes a lot more personal.

Because, values are only valuable if they are true virtues and if they are impacting the way that we think and the way that we operate everyday.

Often, values are thought as a nice-to-have or just a soft set of...

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Openness and Trust

We’re talking about transparency and you can’t talk about transparency without talking about Openness and Trust.

It’s really the core. It’s really the definition of being transparent. It’s that willingness to be vulnerable and to be open and, ultimately, I think transparency, and I’m a great believer in this, transparency builds trust.

If you want to have a high-performing team, if you want to have an environment where people do well and things happen, you have to create a culture of trust, an environment of trust where people genuinely believe that you have their best in mind, and transparency is a great way of doing that.

So, be open. Be open to listening to people, be open to their ideas, and that’s your responsibility, really, to remain the student and not the critic.

But, there’s something more around transparency, the flip side of that, and it’s that whole notion of you not having any kind of secret agenda.


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Leveraging Potential

Transparency builds trust, as we’ve said. But, why would you want to do that? Really it’s around Leveraging Potential.

We have a lot of people in our organisation and we can be the one smart person doing all the thinking or we can leverage the potential of those that are around us. For instance, I do a lot of strategic planning and we put 20 people in a room and you literally have couple of hundred years worth of commercial experience, and not only commercial experience, but a whole life experience. And diverse people bring you all sorts of different backgrounds and perspectives to issues and opportunities. It’s so much more constructive than one person coming up with a random idea. Could be a good one, could be a bad one. We don’t know.

But, if you have a number of people, you can collaborate.

And transparency is very important around leveraging the potential and the experience of those around you, because if you have transparency and you’ve...

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