Just Seven Things

Exploring why and how we do what we do, and how we can do it better

Archive for the tag “Business”

Managing the brain and managing the emotions…

… are absolutely two different things. I was talking with one of my client senior managers with the widest span of responsibility yesterday.

They’re coping with a lot of the things that leaders have to. I started to explain things in terms of suspending a balance between the following areas of accountability as a leader and manager:

1. Being involved in the detail (normally on an urgent/ important basis) sufficient to be able to make an informed decision when called on to do so

2. Maintaining progress on the list of important value-add or change areas that will step change the company’s performance and future success (inc. strategy)

3. Monitoring and maintaining the systems of control over process as well as managing, mentoring and coaching people to be able to run the company tactically and operationally

I realised that the big challenge in this is that you can mentally allocate the focus to areas two and three; area one normally drags you in without your planning. Arguably, area three. is easier to plan for in terms of operational review meetings, 121s, performance reviews and coaching sessions.

But that’s all about the conscious intent as opposed to the reality.

Read more…

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Strategy as Stress Survival

Nearly thirty years ago the Thomsons sold out of print newspapers, selling The Times and The Sunday Times to Murdoch. In 2007 they sold their college textbooks arm for a $2bn premium, making an offer for Reuters with the proceeds in the same month Murdoch increased its newspapers exposure with its bid for Dow Jones.

The FT’s article (30/12/09, Andrew Edgecliffe-Johnson) exploring family businesses and long-term strategic decision-making also highlights the importance of paranoia and values in business leadership.

Without long-term planning and the projection of risk exposures, a company cannot look to add value over time. Past this management speak though, a healthy self-awareness and translation of leadership team stress, paranoia and questioning into strategy evaluation and revision/ actions is fundamental.

Allan Leighton (sits on several boards, inc. Selfridges and BSkyB) is quoted in another FT article (6/1/10, Judgment Call – What is the right attitude for leaders to take this year?):

‘Stay close to the detail of your business, worry frequently, don’t be complacent, and look after your people. Survive and thrive.’

‘Business needs to adapt to the new realities and get on with driving momentum, being proactive and looking for ways to keep edging forward, remembering that flat is often the new up’

Strong leadership is not a one person game. The leader – in position because of knowing what those who would be led need to be led – drives both the momentum and the action, but should also drive the questioning. Historic decisions of even the last month should be re-challenged in light of all current data and experience.

The fulfilment of the mission and big hairy audacious goals should provide the direction and framework; this should equate with the company’s best ability to deliver total stakeholder return over time (defined in both monetary and non-monetary terms).

What happens day to day, week to week and month to month should be guided by a clear bridling of your stress and paranoia as a leadership team in pursuit of the right strategic decision-making/ revision-making.

Continually switching strategies or strategic procastination/ incontinence are both unacceptable. Continually questioning yourself and whether you are doing the right things now – based on your business values – to achieve your long-term mission, is a necessity.

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Creativity and the Business Brain (and Why Most of Us Should be Sacked)

Thinking Out of the Box by Svilen Mushkatov

Thinking Out of the Box by Svilen Mushkatov

Your position of responsibility gives you the stress of deadlines, targets and deliverables. The development of your people, your management responsibilities and your career development weigh heavily on you. Continuing professional development, business/ competitor intelligence and your near-term product and service evolution/ development nag away at the peripheries of your to-do list and stress consciousness.

The environment in which you and your business is operating, the competitive threats and the strategic developments that you should be plotting and planning in response seem like things that are always on next week or month’s agenda.

The reality – when you make the time – is that your your day to day responsibilities drown your brain space and creativity. Like digging a hole in the sand on the shoreline, as quickly as you try and dig out the brain space, the sea water of your hard deadlines, actions and targets fills the hole. Even if you adopt a disciplined approach to your time you often get to the allotted slot for your creativity and…….. nothing…… you’re not in a creative place or mindset, nothing flows. Or even if it does, it’s a long time coming and you’re vaguely aware afterwards that there was a lot more to come if only you’d been in the right mindset.

If you’re practiced at being creative, inventive, innovative and lateral then you’ll recognise the mind set you need. You’ll know what state you need to be in to originally produce and generate new thought or ideas. You may only know this hazily through a series of post-event analyses of your most creative moments. Or this may be the first time you’ve really thought about it all that deeply. But hazily is the key, and at the heart of the dichotomy of managing creativity in business (to be clear, I’m not talking here about managing creative teams, but the extension in thinking and reasoning should be fairly obvious by the end of this post) Read more…

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