Reading is not just for Christmas…

gates

Reading is not just for Christmas…

“not all readers are leaders, but all leaders are readers”
Harry S Truman – US President

Several years ago I was assisting with managing a 3 day residential leadership program called “The Challenge to Lead” for my Rotary Club. The program was run by professional facilitators who had donated their time to conduct the program. One of the facilitators asked the question:

“Who here has read a management or leadership book in the last 12 months?”

Of the 28 people in the room only 2 put up their hands. I was horrified. I personally try to read a book a month on leadership and management, whether they are biographies on famous people or management books. I also read novels and books on history.

The facilitator’s comment was:

“Readers are leaders”

It was interesting that people attending a leadership course had not seen the need to increase their knowledge and seek out new ideas by reading. Warren Buffett the billionaire investor reads 500 pages a day, Bill Gates reads 50 books per year and Mark Zuckerburg reads 2 books per month. Successful people do not just read anything, they are selective preferring to be educated rather than entertained.

Why is reading books, particularly management and leadership books important?

Here are some suggestions as to why:

• We can learn from the experience of smart people – Management by Peter Drucker
• It opens up your mind to new ideas – Good to Great by Jim Collins
• It can be inspirational, particularly biographies – Not for Turning. The Life of Margaret Thatcher by Robin Harris
• Show you how to do things – The One Minute Manager, by Ken Blanchard and Spencer Johnson
• Stimulate the mind and get you thinking – How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie
• Provide a framework for leadership – The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey

Reading is not just for Christmas…..

“not all readers are leaders, but all leaders are readers”
Harry S Truman – US President

Furthermore, reading elevates you above the daily grind of work and can inspire you and give you new ideas. Reading is a form of learning and can stimulate your thinking processes, providing ideas from a different viewpoint.

If you do not have time for reading than another alternative is listening to audio books. I listen to audio books whilst driving. Instead of listening to trivial talkback radio shows I use the time to increase my knowledge.

In 2016 the 5 best selling management books for Dymocks an Australian national book retailer were:

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey.
Strengthsfinder 2.0 by Tom Rath.
The One Minute Manager, by Ken Blanchard and Spencer Johnson.
Five Dysfunctions of a Team by Patrick Lencioni.

Good to Great by Jim Collins.

With the traditional holiday period coming up in the southern hemisphere it is now an opportunity to think about how can you enjoy the period and start reading. Reading is not just for Christmas, however it is a good time to begin. Take the time to select some books to read and make a start. The 5 books mentioned above are a good reads.

With some planning it can become a life time habit and make you a better leader.

Wishing you and your families a Merry Christmas and best wishes for 2017 and thank you for following my blog in 2016.

Business continuity …do you have a plan?

elephant in room - 2

Business continuity …do you have a plan?

What would happen if you did not turn up to work today?

This is a very important question for business owners.

Would your business continue to operate?

Can it continue to grow and can you sell it?

In a recent bog, I wrote about my friend Tim Boyle, Australia’s first kidney lower intestine transplant recipient and his positive attitude in the face of a seemingly impossible situation. This helped him get through a complex and lengthy surgical operation and be out of hospital in five weeks. At the time of writing this blog Tim is recovering well.

As a finance broker, he was passionate about providing people with opportunities to own their own home. Over the long years while he was waiting for a suitable donor, Tim continued to build his business and put in place contingencies for the business to operate without him. Whilst recovering in hospital he talked to staff at all levels explaining how important it is own your own home. I witnessed nurses coming up to him and thanking him for giving them hope. His business continued to operate.

However the real message was that his business continued to operate whilst ‘not being there’. His staff of two continued to work without him being there.

Why?

Because there was a business continuity plan – it could operate without Tim, the owner being present.

This is one of the biggest issues for small to medium sized (SMEs) owners – the elephant in the room. Would your business survive without you coming into work?

If your business cannot operate without you, then your business is vulnerable. This goes to the next step. Should you wish to sell your business in the future, and the business is dependent on you on a daily basis then the value to a potential buyer is significantly lower.

The following link summarises how it is important to be a ‘leader’ rather than a ‘doer’, otherwise your business cannot operate (or grow) without you.

Putting it bluntly, the first step is to put your ego aside and plan to have your business operate without you……………you can go on holidays, be absent, protect your wealth, family relationships and your health.

You have nothing to lose and everything to gain………….

Nothing is easy…

Donald Trump

“Nothing is easy”

Donald J Trump US President

As much as I object to Trump’s mindless self- promotion and gigantic ego, his statement above rings true for those of us who strive to improve our businesses and careers. Unfortunately today with instant electronic communication, we hear stories of “overnight success” that implies it’s easy to be successful. Poor research (may be its no research) light weight and lazy journalism and the perceived need for ‘instant’ gratification or success spread this expectation. Most of these overnight success stories are the result of hard work and sacrifice. Think of JK Rowling the writer of the Harry Potter books who as a single mother on social security benefits, spent years writing, often in an Edinburgh café before her first novel was accepted.

The only example of instant success, apart from winning a massive lottery draw I can think of is the story set in 1960s about Sir Frank Packer, millionaire media owner and father of Kerry Packer. The story goes that Sir Frank, in finding himself in an elevator of his Sydney office building along with a shabbily-dressed man, is outraged. Packer tells the man he’s a disgrace to his firm, fires him, and hands him $1,000 to buy a new suit. The ‘fired’ man just grins — he’s actually a freelance photographer who stopped by to visit a friend who worked in the building. 

Malcolm Gladwell in his book Outliers: The Story of Success introduces the idea practice (or hardwork) which he calls the 10,000 hour rule, makes perfect, and success is not due to the random distribution of genetic gifts or luck. He uses examples of The Beatles and Bill Gates whose success he attributes to the 10,000 hour rule of music and computer practice combined to a much lesser extent with opportunity.

Think of successful people around you, whether in business or in society. Almost always their success is the result of hard work and focus over many years.

I can remember doing post-graduate studies, working a 12 hour day in a demanding job with a 3 children under 5 years old and wondering whether it was worth the sacrifice for my wife and I. It was. It led onto lecturing at university, being head hunted for a job and ultimately into our own successful business.

As Donald Trump said “who wants nothing”…………….

As I tell my children………….the only place where reward comes before work is in the dictionary.

			

A New Beginning

Tim

A New Beginning

‘To say it is life changing is an understatement — it is a new life, not life changing’

Tim Boyle (Australia’s first kidney and lower intestine transplant recipient)

This is a quote from colleague and friend Tim Boyle, who became Australia’s first kidney and lower intestine transplant recipient in October, 2015.

Twelve years ago Tim received the news that his lower intestine was no longer working and had it removed. Although he could eat, he could only process 10% of his intake as nutrition and had to be fed via an intravenous drip. Less than 2 years ago his kidneys failed which meant each week he spent up to 50 hours attached to medical machines.

You can read his story in the links in the website Daily Mirror and on SBS.

Despite these setbacks, Tim remained optimistic for the future and was committed to his young family and continued to build his business. Although he had time to catch up for coffee, produce a monthly newsletter and write a book we noticed a slow decline in his health and in the last few months this became a rapid decline. Although he acknowledged this decline we ‘outsiders’ noticed a more rapid decline and feared for his future.

Tim’s journey and his quote got me thinking. How does this relate to business?

Many businesses are like Tim’s health. Slow decline not noticed by those in the business, whether it be the owners or employees but noticed by those outside. Complacency and accepting the current situation in business can be fatal. This can catch up on you without realising the true situation and can result in business failure.

It’s now January and the start of a new calendar year and it is time as Tim stated “it is a new life”. In Australia, January is the summer holiday period where staff are either on holidays or tend to be more relaxed. For business owners and managers it is time for reflection on the previous year and to plan for the next. Time for a new beginning…………

So what should you be doing?

What you should not be doing is relaxing and allowing the status quo to continue……it could be fatal to your business.

Here are some 5  suggestions to get you thinking (and acting!)……….

  1. Learn lessons from last year – write down what you have learned, good and bad and act on them for the next year
  2. Set goals for the next 12 months – write them down, be positive and ensure they are realistic and will make you look back in 12 months with a sense of achievement
  3. What bad habits should you eliminate? – we all have bad habits that if we change will make us, our staff and customers more productive, engaged and motivated
  4. Thank your staff and customers – in particular those who helped you and the business in the past year. Hopefully you would have done this before Christmas
  5. Clean up anything left over from the previous year – there is nothing better than starting the new year with a ‘clean slate’. Leftover tasks stop you moving forward with energy and enthusiasm for the new year deserves.

So let January be a period to commence the new year with a positive plan and outlook for the next 12 months, leaving the old year behind…………..

And think of Tim and remember this year is an opportunity for ‘a new life’………..

Post Note:

If you haven’t done so, why not consider becoming an organ donor? It is really easy to do but unfortunately most people don’t only because they haven’t thought about it. In Australia we have long waiting lists due to lack of donors and it truly saves lives. Tim waited 4 years and was unlikely to see Easter. Luckily ground breaking surgery with a different donor blood was successful.

Go to www.donatelife.gov.au for all details.

Can see but am blind?

Man with covered eyes

Can see but am blind?

“If one can see things according to one’s own belief system, one is destined to become virtually deaf, dumb and blind”

Robert Anton Wilson (author and futurist)

 How often as managers have we been unable to see what is obvious and have been blinded by our own prejudices?

Have you ever been looking for something and even though you have been told where to look and you still cannot see the object even though it is front of you?

This is because you have a pre-conceived idea in your mind of what you are looking for so you discount anything that does not meet what you are subconsciously looking for.

I can remember quite clearly being blinded by my own prejudices whilst managing a trucking operation. The business distributed motor vehicles. Over several weeks we had been receiving complaints of personal items being stolen from the vehicles. Initially I was convinced that it was occurring in other transport depots as we were the hub distribution point. The thefts continued and I still blamed the other depots. My fellow managers implemented theft prevention strategies and still the thefts continued and seemed to be increasing. Many of the items seemed to be of little value. The night supervision team claimed it was impossible that this could be occurring under their watch.

I was still convinced it was occurring elsewhere. Then one of my staff suggested that perhaps it was happening under own very own noses!

We set up a sting the next night, involving the police and a private investigator. Imagine my shock when two drivers working in our depot were caught on camera stealing from a car. All the time I had been blinded by my personal prejudices – the culprits like the object in the cupboard were there all the time.

This example demonstrates an important characteristic of good management. Review all the possibilities, consider them carefully and don’t make decisions based on emotions or preconceived ideas……………

Managing your emotions

Managing your emotions

“If your emotional abilities aren’t in hand, if you don’t have self-awareness, if you are not able to manage your distressing emotions, if you can’t have empathy and have effective relationships, then no matter how smart you are, you are not going to get very far”

Daniel Goleman (originator of the term ‘emotional intelligence’)

Does expressing your emotions openly in business help serve your goals or your company’s goals? In my opinion, it depends on what emotions you are expressing, and whether they are negative or positive.

Many years ago upon finding out that my manager had sacked a colleague, I confronted him. I believed his actions were unjustifiable and were to cover up his own incompetence and failures. On display were my negative emotions which are destructive and de-habilitating. It was not a wise action. It showed my lack of control and self-awareness and these actions indicated that I was not management material either. Furthermore, I didn’t know if burning this bridge would have negative impacts for me in the future.

Do you really think that your bridge-burning, fire-breathing rant is going to change things? That company management will suddenly come to their senses?

No.

I actually learnt from this mistake and vowed to hold my tongue and display more self-awareness and professionalism in the future.

Years later I experienced a similar situation when two managers were using me as a scapegoat for the business not performing and recommending my termination. Upon hearing this I decided on a positive approach rather than being confrontational and burning my bridges. Positive emotions are liberating and invigorating. Think of people you work with who are positive and enthusiastic. They get things done. People follow them. People like working for them – they are leaders.

Luckily I built up constructive relationships with others in the company and with clients and my position was saved, whilst they were forced from the business. Less than 3 years later, one of them came to me with a very large potential customer for our own logistics business. We were successful in securing this customer and it helped underpin the business and formed a foundation for the business to grow.

This business saving opportunity would not have happened if I had burnt my bridges……….

Business Values – are they of value?

Business Values – are they of value?

“When you are led by values, it doesn’t cost your business, it helps your business”
Jerry Greenfield

Many business advisers and media commentators maintain that business values are essential for a business to be successful. Many CEOs and business owners think this is just “consultant speak” or just a marketing ploy to drum up business. They think the prime purpose of business is to make money.

An ongoing debate in the business sector seems to be around whether or not business values are of any value at all. When Moses received the Ten Commandments on Mount Sinai what was their purpose? To give clear expectations on how God expected people to behave. To dictate what someone of the Christian or Jewish faith can and cannot do. So in our modern world has anything changed – are values in business important?

Think of some recent business failures.

These may illustrate the point about whether or not values are important. Remember Enron’s collapse in 2001 after the company defrauded investors and the senior executives were gaoled? What about the late Alan Bond who deceptively siphoned off shareholders’ funds from Bell Resources to prop up his Bond Corporation in the 1990s? Unfortunately not only were shareholders’ funds lost. People also lost their jobs.

Wayne Bennett, an Australian National Rugby League (NRL) coach is a positive example of the ‘value of values’ in an organisation. In over 25 years of first grade coaching, his teams have won 7 premierships. Quietly spoken, at times appearing unemotional, much of Bennett’s success could be attributed to his high values which flow onto the players in the teams he coaches. Talent is not enough, players who do not meet behavioural standards, work ethics or have the team’s interests at heart, were quickly removed from the team. Bennett showed his true values when he sacked Wally Lewis, as Broncos captain. Lewis was also an Australian captain. The public outcry was overwhelming, with irate fans calling for the Broncos to re-instate Lewis and sack Bennett. He had the long term interests of the club at heart and the Broncos went onto winning more premierships.

As a manager or business owner, business values and your values are important. Sound business values lead to better places to work, more satisfied customers and higher profits. Furthermore, they provide guidance on how to handle everyday problems. This is why values have expectations.

As a manager or business owner, people whether employees, customers or the public are watching……

What is NOT Leadership?

What is NOT Leadership?

“Leadership is the art of getting someone else to do something you want done because he wants to do it”

Dwight D. Eisenhower

Too often we spend time on creating ‘To Do Lists’. Would we be more effective managers if we created ‘Stop Doing Lists’? Jim Collins, the author of Good to Great certainly thinks so.

We often hear or read about definitions or examples of great leadership. So is it important to recognise the opposite of good leadership in either ourselves or others?

John Cleese the famous comedian and Antony Jay one of the authors of TV show “Yes Minister” made a fortune from training videos that emphasised what not to do as a manager. So maybe this approach works!

The recent drugs saga in the Australian Football League (AFL) surrounding the Essendon Football Club which began in 2011 (and is still ‘unresolved’ at the time of writing) provides some good examples of ‘how not’ to be a leader.  In summary, a biochemist began a Club sanctioned supplements program with the aim of improving player and team performance. The team members were injected with unknown substances with the knowledge of the coaching staff and Club executives. While the drugs  may have been illegal (no records were kept so the drugs remain unidentified) there were further unanswered questions about possible long term health effects on the players. A lack of duty of care.

The club was fined, some board members resigned and players were provisionally suspended for the pre-season Cup pending further hearings. The head coach, the person responsible for the players went on ‘study leave’ to Europe for a season whilst still collecting his substantial salary taking no responsibility for the supplements taking regime that occurred under his management. On 1 October 2014, the club announced that they would not appeal the Federal Court’s ruling, stating that to do so would act against the interests of the players. However, the head coach appealed the Federal Court decision acting in an individual capacity and “on a matter of principle”.

This brief summary highlights some three clear examples of poor leadership and like the John Cleese training films tell us, what not to do as leaders.

  1. You don’t take responsibility when something goes wrong

It’s OK while things are going well however when something goes wrong you start to look for someone or something else to blame. Leaders take responsibility whether it’s good or bad. Taking responsibility makes you a leader. That is why people follow you. Clearly the head coach did not take responsibility for what was occurring.

  1. You put yourself first and not your team.

While the Club refused to appeal the Court decision as they deemed it would “not act against the interests of the players”, the head coach did appeal on a ‘matter of principle’ effectively putting his interests ahead of the team. It could also be argued also that the subjecting those whom you are responsible for to unknown dangers (i.e. unknown drugs in this case) is poor leadership.

3. Complacency or failure to ask questions

As the team coach, complacency or just plain incompetence for allowing an unregulated sports supplements program to be undertaken when you were ultimately responsible. As a leader you have very important responsibilities, one of which is to ask questions whether it is to ensure the safety of those you are responsible for, get the best from suppliers or seek answers to improve performance.

So as a leader, the people you are leading whether they are subordinates or people who choose to follow you, expect you to take responsibility, put the team first, actively lead the team, ask the right questions and look after their welfare……………failure to do so is NOT leadership.

“Do as I say, not as I do”

“Do as I say, not as I do”

This is not a really a quote, but an expression. The derivation is believed to originally come from the Bible, Matthew 23 “For they preach, but do not practice” when Jesus highlighted the hypocrisy of the Pharisees in the Temple. Years later a book by Peter Schweize titled Do as I Say (Not as I Do): Profiles in Liberal Hypocrisy sought to expose the public utterances and conflicting private actions of leading ‘progressive’ USA politicians.

What relevance does this have to being a good manager?

Plenty.

Let me give you an example. It was a condition of site entry in a business I was involved with that all staff had to either sign in or use an in/out who’s on site entry board. Two senior managers, including the CEO rarely did this, despite it being mentioned and noted in safety and management meetings. One day we had a fire evacuation drill which is mandated by law. This is where the building is evacuated and the site safety representative calls out the names of those on-site to ensure everybody is out of the building. After the names were called out you are asked to stand to one side. This is to ensure that the fire safety drill has worked successfully.

In this case, two people were left with their names not called out – the two senior managers. One made some excuses. The other was embarrassed.

How did this look to staff? Well you can only imagine.

Staff pick up hypocrisy quickly, word spreads and the authority of management and company policies are eroded. Also the moral authority or status of individual managers is severely weakened. In this case it seemed to demonstrate to the assembled staff that either safety was not important and/or that there were two sets of rules. I witnessed plenty of sniggering and hushed conversations at the time.

Another example is the wearing of safety vests in industrial environments such as warehouses and construction sites. In the business mentioned earlier, it was a requirement for all staff to wear safety vests and this was enforced by the supervisors. However some senior managers still continued to walk around the site without safety vests as required by company policy. Warehouses are potentially dangerous places, especially with fork lift trucks and other equipment on site. Even worse, this action unsettles operators who have to perform their duties with a heightened level of concern that, at any time, plain clothes staff can and will wander the warehouse, exposing all parties to risk. These actions undermined the authority of the supervisors and in discussions with them, reduced the respect for the managers who did not abide by company rules.

We are often bombarded by media coverage of politicians in safety vests, goggles and hard hats on the campaign trail. Whilst this may seem like overkill, it does send an important message. What would be the affect if the politicians did not wear the prescribed person protective equipment?

Management is about integrity and leading by example – you can’t expect staff to perform or conform to the required standards if you as a manager or supervisor don’t. Do the right thing at all times, and your staff will respect you for it. Don’t and you will pay the price, at the least in lost respect and poor compliance and at worst – an avoidable site injury or fatality.

As a manager your actions are important to the organisation, yourself and the staff…

Never, never, never give in

“Never give in. Never give in. Never, never, never, never—in nothing, great or small, large or petty – never give in, except to convictions of honour and good sense”

Winston Churchill

Winston Churchill was known for his inspiring speeches. Unlike most politicians today, he wrote many of his speeches himself. In business, as leaders and managers we could do far worse than be inspired by some of Churchill’s famous speeches.

Never giving in? Often in the face of adversity it is easier not to make the extra effort to achieve the outcome required. As I reflect on my journey of establishing and managing a business, Churchill’s ‘never give in’ speech resonates.

Back when the business was just starting out, we were given a 3 month contract with a major Australian retailer to manage their Christmas overflow. This effectively doubled our existing business and would have prevented the business from failing. After we had signed the contract we then received a phone call saying ‘sorry, we’ve decided not to use you’.

Large Australian retailers are notoriously ruthless in dealing with suppliers, especially small ones. Although we had a contract we were in no financial position to seek redress for them breaking the contract. If we had taken legal action we would have been out of business before the matter was addressed and, we could not afford it anyway. With our backs to the wall, we went back and negotiated successfully with the retailer’s manager and convinced him that the honourable action was to adhere to the contract. This gave us our first big start in the business.

Several years later, our largest customer owed us a six figure sum and was reluctant to pay. Failure to pay would have meant our business would have collapsed unless we were able to secure a bank loan to cover working capital. This was something we were reluctant to do as our houses had been mortgaged to establish the business. Negotiations were not fruitful in reducing the debt owed to us and we became extremely worried. We kept the pressure up without success. Luckily the customer decided to cease using our services but they needed to move their stock. This presented the lever we needed to get paid. Put simply, “no payment no stock” and our business was saved (post note: 12 months later the customer went broke). Never, never give in had saved our business on a number of occasions.

Finally, successfully selling our business was our last example of ‘never, never, never give in’. After 2 failed sales attempts in 12 months it looked as though the business would never be sold and we would not receive a reward for our 15 years of hard work (and worry!). Seven prospective business brokers were interviewed to assist in selling the business and were rejected for one reason or another. It looked like another failure. However, I encouraged one of the brokers to try another approach. After weeks of trying to convince all my partners to use his company’s services, he was appointed to sell the business. This proved a decisive. The broker had international experience and was able to sell the business to an international buyer well above expectations.

I recently read a great blog about not giving in where the author states “Anything worthwhile is worthwhile sticking with until it is done” this applies to not only business but life itself.

In business as in management, staying power or persistence will often win out in the end………sometimes when you least expect it.