Category Archives: Leadership Tips

Pivot

Admittedly,  I haven’t blogged in a while.

One thing that I’ve found rather tricky in writing about what not to do is when the lessons some are learning are at a company you are close to and obvious ties can be drawn.  Maybe in the months and years to come I can begin to revisit some of the lessons I’ve learned over the past season in a more anonymous way.  Lessons a lot of us have learned, alignment of vision, along with changes in the market and a whole heap of other factors that have led us to where we are now.  For one company my husband is consulting for that ‘where’ is a pivot.

Pivots are exciting.  For those of you not familiar with the term Eric Reis, author of The Lean Startup is often credited with coining this term and describes it as “the idea that successful startups change directions but stay grounded in what they’ve learned. They keep one foot in the past and place one foot in a new possible future. Over time, this pivoting may lead them far afield from their original vision, but if you look carefully, you’ll be able to detect common threads that link each iteration“.  (Eric Reis, Startup Lessons Learned, June 2009)

Some of my favourite pivots are:

YouTube:   previously a dating site

Flickr:        previously a role-playing game

Groupon:   previously a web community for mobilizing social actions     (downhill pivot? lesser moral purpose anyway…)

There are heaps but these are just a few fun examples.  A pivot isn’t only just from one purpose or customer problem to another though.  Forbes describes well the 8 most recognised pivots so I won’t reinvent the wheel.

If you haven’t read up yet on pivots and your business is in great need of change maybe now is the time.  To sum it up… don’t throw out the baby with the bathwater.

 

 

Objections to Change

 

Change is a funny thing.  When things are changing that are out of our control we often struggle against it, yet when nothing is changing we kick against that too.  Then there is the change that we enable, that we own.

What normally happens when we look to implement change and come up against resistance?  We fend our corner whilst the opposing party fends theirs, until someone eventually pulls rank.  Then, not surprisingly, the change is implemented in an often-painful manner that causes disruption and misalignment amongst teams or individuals.

What if?

What if we were to take the time to allow those whom the change effects to feed back on our proposed changes and give objections?  What if we then took the time to consider those objections and responded accordingly?  Sometimes the objections are because those affected don’t have the full picture, but sometimes those objections are valid and could save you a lot of grief later on down the line.

How many times have you come out of a train wreck of a situation only to have someone say ‘I knew that was going to happen’?  Although not particularly helpful at that stage, that feedback could have been a lifesaver if sought earlier on.

Often we avoid the objections, as we just want to get on with the changes and don’t want the delays caused by considering objections and doing the legwork involved in considering opinions.  I would argue this time would more often than not be less than the time wasted when a change is executed, only to fail.

In taking this route of considering objections, although more lengthy in the planning, you also gain buy-in from those being effected by the change, as well as their support.  In my experience, leading people through change is a whole lot more pleasant than forcing them.

 

 

Empowered?

The term ‘empowered’ is one I’ve been thinking a lot about lately.  Why is it that we can have a position, anywhere in life, and yet not feel empowered to really hold the office of that position?

For example.  Many times I have been in a role, but not felt truly empowered by my boss, head of department, team lead, etc to really make decisions over and above others even when the decision is mine.  I’ve seen strong leaders come in and fail as they begin to question themselves when no one is following.  So does a senior leader empower a person, or do the people that you are seeking to lead?  Businesses aren’t democracies, yet those who are not accepted, even if only with fearful respect and little camaraderie, don’t seem to go very far.

When I hire someone in to a leadership position, I am empowering them to make their own decisions and lead with their own initiative.  Yet if the team don’t want to follow the individual it can be a real battle.  Or is it because I, or other senior leaders, haven’t made the accountabilities clear?

A simple solution for blurred lines of accountability is a RACI matrix.  Get your team to spend a couple hours outlining the key actions and decisions of the processes of their teams and create a RACI matrix for each of these steps.  This matrix, to be agreed with the one holding the ultimate accountability and therefore veto, allows accountability to be given to a single individual for each of the key actions and decisions, removing any blurred lines and potential ‘stepping-on of toes’.

It seems simple, but could it be that the team aren’t following simply because they either a. don’t believe the person is supported by the SMT to lead, or b. believe some of what the individual is acting on is not theirs to act on?

It’s worth a couple of hours and an excel spreadsheet to find out.

Bottlenecks & Socrates

I was recommended a book called ‘The Goal’ by Eliyahu Goldratt that has transformed how I look at our business.

Goldratt’s book takes his Theory of Constraints and winds it eloquently through a story of a man struggling to save his factory.  The book is a joy to read and comes packed with powerful lessons.

In reading the book I looked back at the business I am currently a part of and questioned not only what are the bottlenecks in our business, but also what is in front of the bottlenecks as the issue also lies there.  The book then introduces the Socratic Method for solving questions and issues, with the protagonist using these same techniques to save his marriage.  So really this is a post on both love and business, as this interesting method of solving problems in life.

If you are still searching for answers on why you can not predict or govern the output of your business, or if you simply are seeking another way to handle a troublesome relationship in any sphere of life, this book may just be for you.

Vision

 

 

There is a Proverb that says ‘People perish for a lack of Vision’.  I’m not suggesting that is always literally the case, but things most certainly fall apart.

Something in us inanely always needs to know what we are working towards, what we are aiming for.   Often this vision or goal sits in us undefined, but yet it exists.  The trouble starts when vision is never discussed or aligned.

My 1st marriage fell apart (along with a number of other reasons) when we realised we didn’t want the same things in life.  The same can happen with a company.  The obvious situations are amongst leaders, but the not-so-obvious ones are amongst team who all  – unaware to themselves and their colleagues  – are working towards different ends.

Vision exists in a person and in a company whether it is defined or not.  The difference is, if not defined you can most certainly bet your team are not all working towards the same vision.  I don’t mean vision as in how we are going to save the world – (although that would be a nice BHAG) but vision for what it is you are building, what type of company you are, what success looks like, and what the GOAL is.

Take the time to sit with your team and define your vision.  Take input.  Develop and refine your Vision, and then broadcast it.  At each turn weigh your decisions against your vision, reminding you and your team often of the common goal for best results.  Make it fun.  Print T-shirts.  Make mouse mats.  Whatever you do, define your vision before the wrong one defines you.