Tag Archives: leadership

Leading Under Fire Is Leading With Heart

Leading with empathy in the face of adversity


When the Prime Minister of New Zealand declares the tooth fairy and Easter bunny as an essential service, it brings warmth to the otherwise repeated drudgery of Government press conferences. It brings a smile to those facing the grind of lockdown and isolation – even if only for a moment.

“You’ll be pleased to know that we do consider both the Tooth Fairy and the Easter Bunny to be essential workers, but as you can imagine at this time, of course, they are going to be potentially quite busy at home with their family as well with their own bunnies.” Jacinda Ardern 6.04.2020

You can watch a short clip from the press conference here

Credit: Radio New Zealand

The way was paved long ago

Leading with warmth and heart is not a style of leadership that is learned and it does not appear overnight, you cannot pretend or try to switch it on. What was called an “Ardern effect” during her election campaign is now proven to be a signature style.  

What she was once criticised for now defines her. Ardern has an undeniable charismatic ability to relate to people. This is what cements her as a leader, when things get tough and when really crappy things happen to us, she is there to be our strength when we can’t hold ourselves.

Her response to the mosque attacks showed the world who New Zealand is. I was at a mosque in Wellington when she arrived unannounced to express her condolences. While the spontaneous songs that erupted through the crowd were captured by the media, what was not captured is what I saw. I saw her slowly approach the building taking time to look at all of the chalk drawings on the footpath that local children had made. She then took the time to embrace a Muslim woman who audibly gasped in shock that she was there right in front of her and so close – this is the same woman who stood at the gate handing out tissues to us well-wishers and providing us support while we tried to process the incomprehensible act.

While the Imans’ and Muslim leaders were being strong for us, Ardern became their strength. The strength she provided was through human connection and a hug. Warmth and heart. The cameras weren’t there and that’s what really counts. Her values are inherent to her as a person, she does not switch them on and off.

COVID-19 Ardern style

When the COVID-19 viral filled cloud looked to be approaching our shores and spreading, Arden was met with a barrage of criticism from the opposing side. Their volleys were able to land while she held off pushing us further up the alert levels, knowing that level 3 and 4 would begin to impact the economy.

As soon as NZ showed a potential case of community transmission she acted. “Go hard and go early” was her slogan and it seemed to work. We closed the border and went into lockdown.

Next, the nay-sayers said we didn’t have enough test kits and that we weren’t doing enough testing. This was only a lag due to supply issues. As of yesterday, NZ has the highest testing rates per capita in the world.

Leading with empathy in the face of adversity is perhaps the toughest gig of all. But it didn’t take long for the measures to start to make an impact and NZ was soon revered worldwide as a leader in this situation.

We aren’t just flattening the curve, we’re smashing it.

How does she do it?

She stays cool, calm and collected but she never switches off her heart. She acts when required but won’t be bullied or pressured into pulling the trigger too soon. She has a few trusted advisers and what must be an epic home base to support her.

We can all take lessons from her style and not step into a persona at work. Be yourself 100% of the time and lead with compassion. Ardern provides the perfect template of an authentic leader in action.

This article is solely the work of the author. Any views expressed in it are those of the author and do not necessarily represent or reflect the official policy of the New Zealand government or of any government agency.

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How To Lead Differently This Year

What can we learn about leadership from the rugby field? A lot, it seems…


Have you ever headed into a supplier negotiation and joked you’re ‘going out into battle’? Ever finished a successful project, and said ‘you’re kicking goals’?

There are few physical similarities between our procurement desk jobs and the rugby field. But the way we lead our teams should be exactly the same, says Sir Clive Woodward, former coach of the England rugby team and keynote speaker at Procurious’s Big Ideas Summit.

Woodward, who coached the England side to its historic 2003 World Cup victory, believes that sport and business has more in common than we think.

‘There’s no difference between sport and business,’ he asserts. ‘In both, you need to create champion individuals and a successful culture.’  

And if anyone would know, it would be Sir Clive. 

Not only is he one of the world’s most revered rugby coaches, he’s also had a successful career in business. 

Prior to coaching, he worked for nearly two decades at Xerox in various leadership positions, as well as managing his own leasing company. Now, one of the things that he does is run a software company that helps leaders – in business and in sport – build culture-critical skills at scale.

For Sir Clive, creating a winning culture might come easily. But, as anyone who’s recently led a team will know, achieving ‘success’ in this age of mass transformations, technological change and unstable environments can be quite a challenge. 

To help, Clive has 5 ‘big ideas’ he uses to help leaders and teams achieve big things. 

1. It starts with respect

Winning and maintaining respect, according to Sir Clive, is one of business’s greatest challenges. Yet at the same time it’s a great opportunity. 

Sir Clive says that contrary to popular opinion, respect isn’t won simply by attaining a certain job title: ‘You don’t get respect simply because you’re the leader. Just because I’m the head coach or the chief executive doesn’t mean people are going to respect me.’ 

Instead, Sir Clive says that we all need to focus on the quality of our actions. 

This is particularly important for high performers, who are always striving for better: ‘You get respect because of what you do and by the quality of your actions over a sustained period of time.’

2. Talent and egos 

On talent in general, Sir Clive thinks that it’s definitely a leader’s job to try and hire the most talented people.

But what managers need to realise, he says, is that sometimes the most talented people aren’t the easiest people to work with: 

‘Everyone’s different, you can have mavericks, egos. There’s no simple way of doing it – if you employ the most talented people, sometimes they’re not the easiest people.’

But, he reminds leaders, this is part of the job that while not easy can still be managed:

‘As a manager, it’s my job to work with them [talented people, even if they aren’t easy]. The best way to manage them is on a one-on-one basis, explaining to them the philosophy and that we need them to be totally part of that process and that we’re trying to make them better at what they do.

‘I’ve not met anyone talented who doesn’t want to get better.’ 

3. Teachability

While talented people may (or may not) be easy to work with, they do need to be teachable, says Woodward. 

He says that an individual’s willingness to learn is critical when it comes to building winning teams: ‘The ability to accumulate knowledge around their role gives people an awareness of what they need to do to continually improve on what they already have.’

Knowledge, though, is not simply academic learning, Woodward asserts. It’s much more than that: ‘Knowledge is a passion for seeking any kind of self-development. It’s not simply collecting diplomas.’ 

4. 100 things, 1% better

To create a winning procurement team, you need talented, teachable people. But their talent is only a baseline – says Sir Clive.

And you need to be constantly improving them to improve performance. Contrary to popular belief, this ‘improvement’ need not involve seismic shifts in any particular area. 

Woodward says that you’re better off focusing on micro-improvements in a number of different areas: ‘Building on several areas in a small way frequently yields dramatically better outcomes. If you go into every aspect of what you do and break it down and improve those things by 1%, it all adds up.’ 

This philosophy has worked particularly well for Sir Clive in rugby: ‘In rugby, we understand all the parameters – we break it down into as much detail as possible and try and do every bit of it slightly better than anyone else.’ 

And, as in rugby, in business you can’t simply improve and then stop.

Constant performance improvement needs to become part of your culture: ‘You have to always be [improving] and just because you’ve improved something one day doesn’t mean you can’t improve it the next. It has to be the ethos of everybody.

‘Everybody in that team has the obligation, if they think we can do something better, they need to hold their hand up and say it.’ 

5. Innovation can come from anywhere 

Procurement teams are increasingly expected to be innovative. But who is responsible for that innovation? 

Everyone, according to Sir Clive, even people outside procurement, as they may bring different perspectives: ‘[When you’re looking for new ideas], it’s important to canvas the input of independent third parties in order to pool as much knowledge and ideas as possible.

‘These ideas can come from anywhere, not just leaders. Using other people you like and respect and [who] are bright enough to look in can give you amazing new thoughts and ideas.’ 

As appealing as this sounds, Woodward does concede that it can be challenging within organisations, although ultimately necessary: 

‘[Introducing new ideas] can be potentially troublesome, particularly when there is an already entrenched way of doing things. 

‘There’s no easy answer to that, there’s no magic fix. The only easy answer is to sit down, explain to your team, even in one-on-ones and then empower them to get involved.’

Sir Clive Woodward is the keynote speaker at the Procurious Big Ideas Summit in London, due to be held on 11 March 2020. Tickets are sold out, but you can secure a digital delegate ticket here (free for a limited time).

How To Figure Out Your Next Leader Before Accepting A New Role

How do you really know what your manager might be like, beyond the surface-level impressions you get at an interview? 


Few of us think that when we change jobs, a new job is all we’re getting. With any move, we’re replacing everything.

Suddenly, we’ve got new colleagues to befriend. New rules and processes to adapt to. And, most importantly, a new manager.

This can be a blessing, or, as I’ve argued before, a curse – in more ways than one

After all, 75% of all people resigning are leaving their bosses, not their jobs.

But how do you know, from the outset, what you’re getting yourself into? How do you really know what your manager might be like, beyond the surface-level impressions you get at an interview? 

You ask!

One of most common mistakes I see candidates making is treating a job interview as a one-way street, thinking it’s simply an opportunity for the organisation to get to know them. 

But that’s only half of it – and not even the most important part. A job interview is your chance to see whether the job and business you might enter align with your values. And whether your manager will help or hinder you in your career aspirations. 

Clearly, though, ascertaining this when you’re the one being interviewed can feel uncomfortable. 

So if you want to do so in the most discreet yet professional manner, here are my top tips for figuring out your manager during the interview process.

1. Ask about work style

When it comes to work, people’s preferences can vary greatly. Some of us feel comforted when our manager sticks close by us, reviewing all of our work and helping to guide our decisions. 

Others want the exact opposite – we’re completely autonomous and we only want to contact our manager when there’s an issue we legitimately can’t solve. 

Whatever your preference, it’s critical you know what your manager wants, so you can discuss it. So in your job interview, ask your potential manager about their working style. Ask questions such as: 

  • How much input would you like into my work? 
  • What’s the approval process for decisions?
  • Or simply – What’s your working style? How can we best work together? 

Doing this will help you understand their style and whether you can compromise. Or whether things simply won’t work. 

2. Discreetly ascertain expectations 

Many candidates stumble when it comes to asking about expectations in an interview, especially if they want to ask about flexibility or work-life balance.

How do you do so and still ensure you look committed to the role? 

The answer is complex, and there sometimes isn’t one correct way to approach it. However, when broaching this subject, I’ve often found it helps to do so indirectly. Here a few things you can try: 

  • Discuss the benefits of work-life balance in your old role: Even if this balance was non-existent, try saying something like: ‘In my current (or previous) role, the business advocated for work-life balance and that helped my team perform better. What’s your approach with this?’ 
  • Enquire about the working arrangements of the team: Asking about the working arrangement of the team you’re entering can be a great way to figure out if flexible work arrangements are common are not. Consider asking something along the lines of: ‘What is the team’s schedule? Is everyone in the office on certain days or for certain hours?’ The answer should give you a clue as to whether everyone works full-time, in-office – or whether flexible work is more common. 

3. Understand whether they’ll drive your career and development

In an ideal world, your manager should be your biggest champion and your biggest confidant. They should sing your praises, develop you and help you solve problems. 

But understanding whether they’ll do this for you can be a challenge. It takes more than them just being a ‘nice person’ to help you get ahead.

To see how invested they are in your career and development, try asking the following questions: 

  • Tell me about the careers of those in my team: Asking about the careers of those at your level (and a few levels above) can give you a clue as to how your manager may have helped them get there. Ask questions such as: ‘How did they get to where they are now? What opportunities were they given? What was your role in helping them get there?’
  • Feedback and feedforward: Asking about professional development opportunities in an interview should be a given. But beyond that, you’ll need to understand how your manager will develop you. To understand this, ask them about feedback. How often will they be giving it? Will it just be at a performance review, or more regularly? 

4. Learn about your boss’s boss 

In and of itself, learning about your manager’s manager is a good idea. It’s likely they’ll drive strategy and culture for the broader team, so it’s critical you understand them. But beyond this, they can also give you insight into your own manager. 

When enquiring about this, ask broad questions so it doesn’t look like you’re trying to get too personal. You can ask questions such as: ‘What do you like about this business?’ And then get more specific, such as: ‘What do you like or admire about management in our team?’

Hopefully, you’ll start to understand the management style of your manager’s manager and, by association, what your own boss likes or expects. 

5. Get insight into challenges, opportunities and plans 

No business is ever perfect – and neither is any manager. Even the best managers can struggle in stressful situations, and it’s almost inevitable their staff may feel the heat as a result. 

To see what you might be up against in this respect, try asking the following questions: 

  • What’s been most challenging in this role?’ Understanding this can give you an insight into how often your manager feels under strain in the role, and as a result, how often you might expect to be stressed as a result. 
  • What challenges lie ahead in this role?’ Not understanding the ‘roadmap’ for your role, team and manager when you’re interviewing is a fatal mistake. If you’re entering a bumpy or uncertain road, you need to be prepared. 
  • What opportunities do you foresee?’ Opportunities are just as important as challenges, so make sure you ask about these. If your manager can see and describe plentiful opportunities ahead, you’ll know that they’re the type of manager who is often on the lookout, which is a great thing. 

Are there any other discreet or not-so-discreet questions you ask to understand a manager before you take a role? Have the answers you’ve received given you insight, or have things changed when you’ve settled into the business? Share your experiences below! 

Tony Megally is the General Manager of The Source, Australia’s leading procurement recruitment and executive search firm. If you’re looking to hire in the procurement space, or alternatively, you’d like to have a confidential chat about your next role, please contact Tony on 03 9650 6665 or via email on [email protected]

Could Group Purchasing Organisations be Procurement’s Endgame?

Procurement’s fight for strategic recognition could be seen as a fight for its very survival. Could it be time to assemble around a collective idea before the endgame starts?

Photo by JESHOOTS.com from Pexels

Have you heard the one about procurement being outsourced as a function? Where organisations finally tired of not getting the value they need and hand over the reins to an external third-party to run the show? If that sounded like the lead in to a joke, it wasn’t intended as one.

Procurement needs to face up to the reality that if it can’t add value as it promises, then organisations may choose another route for the function. But where there is adversity, there are heroes to stand up. And with Group Purchasing Organisations (GPOs), these heroes are closer than you think!

Outsourcing Procurement

At the turn of the decade there was an increasing number of organisations picking this as their procurement strategy. More recently, and famously, in 2015, PepsiCo took the decision to outsource its marketing procurement function to much fanfare and no small amount of worry for the global profession.

It’s hard to argue against the benefits of this approach too, with cost reduction, increased leverage for discounts and economies of scale just 3 from a wide list. But don’t polish your CVs to find new career just yet. What if there was a way to get the benefits above, but retain control on your procurement and even free up time to allow for more strategic input.

The Avengers and Procurement?

Let’s look at this through a lens the majority of people will be familiar with. The meteoric success of the Marvel Cinematic Universe is based around the ability to tell a variety of different, diverse stories, but then tie up all of these strands into one, larger story.

The collective vision is why the first film in the series, Iron Man (2008) took $585 million at the box office, while the latest, Avengers: Endgame (2019) has taken in $2.796 billion. And counting.

From a procurement point of view, this collective vision comes in the form of Group Purchasing Organisations (GPO). There are numerous similarities between the Avengers and GPOs (bear with me!), but here are the top 3:

1. Leadership

The Avengers is a collection of larger-than-life superheroes, all with their own agendas, quirks and egos. What allows them to be an effective force in the fight against evil is that they have great leadership. Step forward Steve Rogers, a.k.a. Captain America.

What makes “Cap” a born leader is that he sets aside his own feelings and agenda for the greater good. He makes sure that every member of the team has a voice, even down to the smallest or newest ones.

And that is one of the key aspects of a GPO. It enables every procurement organisation to have access to the network, facilitating benefits that wouldn’t have been possible on their own.  These benefits, such as cost optimisation and savings via economies of scale go on to a different sort of leadership – cost leadership.

2. The Power of the Collective

Individually the Avengers were all quite stellar.  As Tony Stark himself puts it in The Avengers (2012), “a demi-god; a super-soldier, a living legend who actually lives up to the legend, a man with breathtaking anger-management issues, a couple of master assassins”, not forgetting Iron Man himself.

Individually, they were heroes, but none of them strong enough to defeat a larger enemy. Only by working together, and in Endgame having a second shot at it, did they possess sufficient power to be victorious.

A GPO ties together the varied procurement strategies of its member organisations, increasing the buying power of the collective.  The centralised procurement would provide great benefits without giving up any of the control.

3. Data & Analysis

Where would the Avengers be without the technology of Stark Industries, the nation of Wakanda or the power of Hulk? Just as important is the data provided by SHIELD and analysis that they rely on for running missions, frequently broken down for them by Vision.

A GPO has access to all the data that a procurement organisation would require for strategic buying, in the form of procurement solutions. Analytics organisations, like Sourcing Insights, provide all the back up required for successful sourcing, while ensuring that everything is managed against real-time, accurate data.

Procurement – Assemble!

It might not be the most obvious of matches, but there’s no doubt that for many organisations this could be a huge win. Far from ceding control of their procurement, they can pass over the transactional and highly resource-intensive aspects to someone else, meaning their procurement team can be strategic, like SHIELD.

So maybe it’s time for us all to embrace our inner superhero and take a step towards a collective vision of the future. Who knows, we might all together be able to save our great profession before the Endgame arrives!

If you would like to learn more about the super benefits of Group Purchasing Organisations and how they could assist with your savings agenda, please visit UNA.com today!

Are Women Better Managers Than Men?

Latest research tells us that not only are women as good as men, most of the time they are better. So what’s holding companies back?

women
By Monkey Business Images/ Shutterstock

There are a lot fewer female managers than male managers. But you’d be wrong to assume that’s because women are not as good at leadership.  The latest research tells us that not only are woman as good as men, most of the time they are better.

According to the latest results from an annual survey conducted by international business advisory firm Grant Thornton, three quarters of businesses worldwide have at least one woman in senior management. 

Notwithstanding that, less than a quarter of senior roles in those businesses are held by women and most of those are at the lowest seniority level.  The glass ceiling for female managers still very much exists. 

While 2 in 5 low level managers are female, just 1 in 20 of S&P 500 CEOs are women.  One in five board members are women and just one in ten are among the top earners in the company.  This is despite women representing 45 per cent of all employees in those companies. 

Men vs. Women – Stereotypical Traits

A recent study in Spanish companies tried to get to the bottom of why by asking workers to evaluate the extent to which gender-stereotypical traits are important to become a successful manager.   Overall the study found what we might expect. 

The workers felt traits normally associated with males (using a standardised questionnaire) such as aggressiveness, superiority and calmness in the face of crisis were important in order to successfully manage.  The respondents also consistently rated males as being stronger in these areas. Unexpectedly, this association was stronger among female employees than males.

But when the Harvard Business Review recently analysed their comprehensive database of almost 9,000 annual management reviews they found that real-life female managers excelled on almost every trait associated with excellent corporate leadership.  

The data comes from 360 evaluations where participants peers, bosses and direct reports are asked to rate each leader’s overall effectiveness and how strong they are on 19 competencies that Harvard’s 40 years of research has shown are most important to leadership effectiveness. 

It showed that women outperformed men on 17 of the 19 traits.  These included traditionally female characteristics like building relationships, teamwork and motivating others but also those normally associated with male leaders, such as driving for results, speed, bold leadership and innovation. 

Females were particularly strong on Taking the Initiative, Practising Self-Development, Honesty and Resilience. Male leaders did better in only two categories, ‘Develops Strategic Perspective’ and ‘Technical or professional expertise’.

A Matter of Confidence?

Interestingly despite being more competent in almost every management facet than their male counterparts the women under 25 were significantly less confident about their abilities than the men.  And their confidence levels didn’t catch up to those of their male colleagues until they reached their 40s.

Other research has shown that women are less likely to apply for a job if they are no confident that they are qualified.  Men and women with the same qualifications may not come to the same conclusion about whether are qualified for a promotion simply due to differing self-assessments as to their abilities.

Added to that, women were much more likely to follow the written rules about necessary qualifications.  Men were likely to apply even though on paper they weren’t qualified. A woman would wait until she was.  The result was that men were frequently promoted more quickly than women even when had equivalent abilities.

The Best Women for the Job

The data tells us that on just about every meaningful criteria, women are likely to be better managers than men, so why are so few of them holding management positions? The Harvard team speculate that besides the tendency to underestimate their capabilities and cultural norms against female leaders -almost all human societies are patriarchal, meaning that men run the show – there’s likely to be a strong helping of conformity to the norm in hiring decisions. 

If 90 out of a hundred managers are male then promoting a women to their ranks is a risk for a hiring manager.   As they say in the computer industry, no-one ever got fired for buying IBM. Perhaps in this case it’s more like, nobody ever got fired for promoting a man.

Hiring decisions like that, could be costing your company money.  According to a large international survey which correlated the percentage female managers with profitability, those that had 30 per cent or more women in the C-suite were on average 15 per cent more profitable.

Hiring more female managers isn’t about being polite. The evidence is in. It’s about better profits and getting the best person for the job – even if she doesn’t think she is.

Are You Working for a Narcissist?

Leadership styles are under the microscope – with Trump and Boris being analysed endlessly. However, the so-called “great man” style of leadership is not always an easy one to live (or work) with.

narcissist
Photo by Fares Hamouche on Unsplash

Humans instinctively respond to confidence in a positive way. Experts who sound the most authoritative are generally listened to more and believed wholeheartedly.

As a result, it is the most self-assured in their pronouncements who tend to be held in the highest esteem – regardless of whether they are telling the truth or are being accurate or not.

The problem is that while this may help these individuals rise to the top, they might not be great for your organisation…or your career.

Narcissists are Highly Believable – So Try to Keep an Open Mind

So how do you spot a narcissist? Well, it is important to analyse what your existing/future boss is saying rather than being fooled by how they are saying it.

According to The Myers-Briggs Company (one of the world’s largest business psychology providers) experts who “sound” the most confident are also more likely to get things wrong. “Therefore, overzealous and over-confident leaders can mean potential dangers for both the political scene and the workplace,” it warns.

So if you are in a toxic workplace – or are thinking of moving jobs – avoid the over-confident leader particularly if they do not like being challenged (which they will see as a threat). They could be running the organisation into the ground.

Other tell-tale signs are a “lack of warmth” (although they might be charismatic, they may have followers rather than friends).

If you are Forced to Agree with Everything they Say, Walk Away

Narcissists have positive and inflated views of themselves and this can become a problem when they “maintain these views despite contrary evidence, and often at the expense of others”.

While you may be tempted to argue your points, present all the facts and enlist the support of others to make your case, this is not going to work with a narcissist, because they are always right.

If you are in an interview and feel your thoughts are dismissed, perhaps this is not a good boss to work for.

They will Blame You (Not Themselves) – So Avoid Them

“Leaders sometimes think there’s a problem with their team, when in fact it is the leader who is the real issue”, warns Myers-Briggs. There is evidence that individuals who are more narcissistic are not only more likely to become leaders, but they are also more likely to perform less effectively in this role than others.

So, while it might be frustrating to work for someone who always knows better, the narcissistic trait that can be most damaging is that you will find that everyone else – including you – is to blame when things go wrong. You could miss out on a promotion or worse, get fired, or be forced to leave with a bad reference, because the person you work for cannot admit to making any mistakes.

Lack of Diversity is a Red Flag – So Look Around

Additional research from The Myers-Briggs Company on narcissism and leadership has demonstrated that this kind of behaviour can lead to women being less likely to seek out leadership roles, even when they are as well or better qualified than men.

So, if the you are looking for a new job avoid the organisations that look stale/male/pale.

Will you be Heard? Group-Think is Another Killer

Narcissism is the rejection of others’ input. Along with overconfidence, this can lead to ‘group think’, where in the rush to make decisions, information that is inconvenient to the story constructed by the leader is ignored.

Myers-Briggs research also demonstrates that overconfident and dominant leaders can actively inhibit the exchange of information between members of a group, worsening the negative effects of this group think. 

So not only will your voice not be heard, you could be working for an organisation that is heading for failure.

Those Who Admit to Weaknesses Are the Strong

So what makes a good leader?

Well a boss who can admit to having a few weaknesses is going to be more self-aware. As a result, he or she will be better able to build teams that help address their shortcomings. What is needed in a successful organisation, is a good mix of different skills and personalities.

A good leader, will also create a culture and systems that inspire the people around them, so do not just look at the boss’s qualities, see who they surround themselves with and how varied and valued they are.

How to Deal with a Narcissist

The first thing is to not blindly follow them. Focus on facts that you can verify and not their opinions.

Work on building your network. The future is a “wirearchy” people whose power and influence is based on connectedness and the flow of information rather than a power base. This can help insulate and protect you.

John Hackston, Head of Thought Leadership at The Myers-Briggs Company, says it is also important to build self-awareness. “By becoming more aware of their personality and biases, individuals can make more informed decisions, helping them to overcome the pressure to follow ‘group think’ and narcissistic leaders,” he says.

At the same time, avoid challenging a narcissist (remember they are always right) or angering them by undermining them (they rely on a power base, so avoid office gossip in case it gets back to them).

Treat them in the way they would expect: listen, agree, respect them, follow their instructions etc… and accept responsibility/blame for any failings (even if they are hers/his).

Then, try to make a quiet exit. If a narcissist gets wind that you are looking for another job, they will see this as a betrayal. So play your cards close to your chest and when you resign make sure your letter is full of flattery about how much you have learned from your boss and how inspirational he/she has been.

Why Leaders Shouldn’t Leave The Stories To Marketing

Are we all too busy getting on with the business of running the business to be telling stories? It’s an easy thing to think until we understand the value and power of stories...

By Johanna Altmann/ Shutterstock

Once Upon a Time……And so the story goes….. There wouldn’t be too many of us who cannot remember even one story from our childhood. It might be something we liked to have read to us on repeat, no doubt driving our parents crazy with our enthusiasm for the same thing over and over. And as we develop our own experiences, we create our own stories to capture the big moments.

Who hasn’t been to a milestone birthday, wedding or other celebratory event where the speeches section of the evening engender dread that they will never finish? Or laughter and delight at the humour and good nature of reflection and personal insight?

On a professional level, we develop stories also. Our resume becomes the formal story of record of our work history, references the story of our previous performance. We share stories about an interview we had, a great outcome we achieved, as well as a failure for something that has not gone as intended.

Science of Stories

The science of story telling is something well out of my area of expertise. I know enough to be able to rather simply explain that there seems to be a consensus that as humans, we had storytelling in us from the get-go. Before we wrote, we spoke, and stories were the way that individuals and tribes shared achievements and tribulations, their history and their myths. 

Studying classics, I participated in more than a few heated debates on whether Homer really did author The Odyssey in the way we understand authoring today, or whether he simply documented stories told by others and deftly added his by-line to a transcript that has become a classic for many different reasons.

Organisations tell their own stories too. It is not just Hollywood that understands the commercial value and engagement of a superhero’s origin story (As big of a Marvel Universe fan that I am, I have to give it to DC for the Wonder Woman movie). How powerful is the origin story in helping us understand the culture, intent and values of an organisations?

In my time with Hewlett Packard, the story of Bill and Dave in the garage was told over and over, and with IBM, the legacy of the organisation in its role in advancing racial and gender diversity, as well as its integral role in the Apollo space mission were part of the stories that help employees understand the scale and capacity to achieve great things that the organisation is capable of.  

Organisations Telling Stories

In today’s digital world, it’s not only the mature organisations that understand the value of the story in creating and evolving their brand. Digital natives tell stories of their inspiration, entrepreneurs tell stories of the many failed attempts to become an overnight success, and if you spend any time on social media, you will have read, followed or liked personalities, products and groups for the stories they shared that would have resonated with you.

It’s actually the stories that form part of the personal or organisational brand; the idea for Facebook originating in a dorm room, Air BnB from a trip to San Francisco with no accommodation available and Space X as a lifelong ambition of a very, very young Elon Musk.

On a more practical level, organisations tell stories about their products, or their services. It might be the juxtaposition of the before versus the after scenario capturing us with the promise that we too will be able to replicate the same level of success if we buy or consume.

Or it may be the a carefully crafted script on how a product is made, the people who made it, and how it will make our lives so great we are likely to wonder how it was possible to live without it. Other times, it is much simpler.

Product placement on the screen allows us to create our own story; that we too can be like the people in the movie and share their success, superpower or characteristic that made them so memorable (I am not sure this aspiration should extend to villains however owning a car based on a great car chase may be fair game).

What Can Leaders Learn?

Savvy marketers are well aware of the impact of stories and how they can initiate dopamine and oxytocin and translate this to brand awareness, a purchase and more importantly, brand loyalty. It’s what makes consumers stick with you, even when confronted with products or services that don’t meet market expectations, and it’s also what drives profit and growth. The challenge and cost of keeping a customer is much less then the cost of attracting new ones.

So what can leaders learn from all of this? Aren’t we all too busy getting on with the business of running the business to be telling stories? It’s an easy thing to think until we understand the value and power of stories.

Attract the best talent

If it is a great strategy to attract new customers, why would it be any different for attraction of employees? In a market where employees have choice about how they work and who they work for, organisations looking to secure a reputation for employer-of-choice would do well to have their leaders understand that stories matter in attracting those who not only perform well, but also align with the values and mission of the organisation.

And as with customers, hiring the right people is only a very small part of the talent challenge. Retaining employees in environments that are challenging, constantly changing and demand more, can be a competitive advantage.

Connect and engage

When stories are shared, they can create connection and engagement. In fact, they can also create empathy. And in today’s digital environment, the constant change, always being on, and the reactiveness of many organisations means leaders need to be vigilant to signs of change fatigue and disengagement.

Storytelling can span reasons for an initiative, shared success, and even foster a learning environment from failures. They can help leaders and organisations re-write the narrative on culture, performance and why what is being done matters, helping harness purpose through inspiration and a focus on the outcome. Hopefully with some learning and laughter along the way.

The Leadership Styles That Work Best

Leadership is as much a skill as sales, accounting, engineering or programming, but is rarely treated that way by companies making hiring decisions.

By Flamingo Images/ Shutterstock

There is a lot of complicated management theory about management and leadership.  There are detailed guides to choosing the correct management style.  Should your leaders be Authoritative or Visionary or Transactional or a Pacesetter or a Servant or Democratic?  You could spend your life studying the mountains of research and still be none the wiser.  But the reality is likely to boil down to just one rule.

Don’t hire psychopathic leaders.

Leadership is as much a skill as sales, accounting, engineering or programming, but is rarely treated that way by companies making hiring decisions. A recent study has found that a staggering 82 per cent of hiring decisions concerning leadership roles select an inappropriate person. Companies are choosing the wrong person for the leadership role an alarming rate of only once in every five hires.

Leadership Talents = Engaged Employees

Gallup has spent two decades studying the performance of 27 million employees across hundreds of organisations. They have calculated that the innate leadership talents of managers account for 70 per cent of the variance in employee engagement from company to company. 

In an average company in 2018, around 50 per cent of the employees were disengaged and a further 13 percent were actively disengaged. An actively disengaged worker has a miserable work experience and would quit tomorrow if they had any other choice.

The research shows that employee engagement is strongly linked to customer ratings, profitability, productivity, staff turnover, safety incidents, staff theft, absenteeism and product quality. There is however an easy solution at hand. 

The research also shows that increasing the number of hires of talented leaders can significantly increase the engagement of employees.  If the percentage of actively disengaged employees can be reduced below 10 per cent, then earnings can be increased dramatically. 

Lowering Active Disengagement

In 2012 Gallup examined the performance of 49 publicly traded companies and compared their results with engagement results from their survey data.  They found that companies that did manage to lower active disengagement experienced on average 147 per cent higher earnings per share than companies with more typical levels of active disengagement.

Hiring more talented managers can therefore have a massive and direct impact on the bottom line and a significant array of critical business measures. Gallup’s research has left it convinced that all good leaders share just five critical talents:

  1. They motivate every employee with a compelling mission and vision
  2. They are assertive, drive outcomes and persist in overcoming adversity and resistance
  3. They insist on clear accountability
  4. They enforce a culture of integrity and honesty and build relationships that create trust
  5. They make decisions based on productivity, not politics.

In short they must be honest, empathetic and have a clear vision. Or in even shorter, they must not be a psychopath. 

The critical difference between a psychopath and the rest of us is their complete inability to feel empathy.  There care for nobody but themselves and are quite happy to use any means possible to remove anything which gets between them and their goal.  That goal is accumulating more power and money for themselves.

Power over People

As a general rule, a psychopath will be drawn to jobs which give them power over other people. Psychopaths believe they are superior to everybody and that the role of all other people is to deliver rewards to the psychopath.

Add this to their prodigious ability to charm interviewers, and their propensity to make up whatever achievements they need to get the job, and it’s easy to see how they may be fast-tracked. As a result, we can expect them to be towards the top of any corporate structure.

To the psychopath, the team that works for them need to be tightly controlled and completely compliant.  Psychopaths achieve that using classic manipulation tactics, singling out members for public punishment, rotating those with favoured status, implementing ever more detailed micromanagement and the ramping up of secrecy.  

The workplace under a psychopath is in constant turmoil.  Factions are rife, sick leave sky-rockets, staff turnover becomes endemic and productivity drops like a stone.

Power of the People

Luckily the cure is easy.  Well, easy to say.  It’s honesty and transparency.  The best place to hide a murder is in a massacre and the best place to hide a lie is in a company full of liars. It is much harder for a psychopath to use deceit to their advantage if everybody else is honest. 

Companies that ban secret communication channels, reward honesty, punish dishonesty, encourage whistle-blowing and who have strong, honest and independent human resources divisions (and boards that listen to them) are much more likely to control psychopaths and massively limit the harm they can inflict.

This will not stop you employing psychopaths but it will ensure they are working for the greater good of your company rather than destroying its culture and its future.

Bursting The Leadership Bubble – You Have Got What It Takes

People often cultivate an air of mystique about the type of person it takes to be in a senior leadership role. Abby Vige bursts that bubble…

By Andrew Angelov/ Shutterstock

Influencing up is about taking ownership of yourself and not waiting for things to be handed to you no matter how lowly or isolated your role is. There is always a way to move forward and add value.

I have summarised the key takeaways that I deployed early on my career, they serve as valuable reminders in any role that I am in.

1.Spot things in your team that could do with streamlining or improving #efficencyprogrammes

2. Don’t overlook the basics like creating tools and templates – this can be gold #bigdata #storytelling

3. Do your time, do the churn and take each opportunity as it comes #rollyoursleevesup

4. Get organised. We are all busy, you need to get efficient with your time #productivityhacks

5. Pick a senior that you can trust and test ideas with them, they can be your biggest ambassador #squadgoals

Mystery management

People are people no matter what their job title is or how senior they are, this seems so obvious! but many of us have cultivated an air of mystique about what type of person it must take to be in such a senior role. It’s worthwhile to take a moment to put them into slow motion in order to unpack what’s actually going on.

The slowmo replay

We all recognise this scenario, the most senior person in a organisation walks through an office in close proximity. You’ve never spoken to them, never been introduced to them, you are just one of oodles of people that they manage. In many instances they will most likely know your name but your day to day jobs don’t require any personal interaction. They waft through the office almost like an apparition. The air of leadership. The manager has landed.

How it’s interpreted

When I have mentored people coming up through the ranks, I have noticed that they often hold these people in such reverence. They make bold assumptions about the life they must have lead, the number of degrees they must hold and how super duper busy they must be. It’s often stated “…there’s no way I could do that job…” And so I ask them, what makes you think this? They say “well because they have such a high level job and so much responsibility, they must have so much technical knowledge and experience, their job must be insane”. While some of this is usually true, it does the manager a disservice. Is a titanic sized shipload of technical knowledge where the value lies? Are these the most valuable things they can teach us?

Bursting the bubble

When you slow the manager down, view and accept that they are a person just like the rest of us, the reverence bubble will pop. In the demystifying the senior manager we can begin to see what really matters, and what matters is knowing how they human and what they learned in order to get to where they are.

Human hacks

These are the questions we should be asking.

  • What things have happened in your life that have given the capability to be able to do this role that you’re in?
  • What have you learnt about yourself along the way?
  • What does stress feel like to you? How does it present, what brings it on and what do you do?
  • How do you manage competing time priorities?
  • What did you try that didn’t work? What did you try that did work?

The answers to these questions lay out a path that maps the journey of experience. A degree isn’t going to teach you instincts about your business, a degree can be important but it doesn’t teach you about resilience that is crafted and learned over time. The technical expertise is not what makes most senior managers, it’s the life skills.

Behind the veil

Senior managers need to challenge themselves to pull aside the curtain and be open to people about what they’ve done in their life to build the person that is the leader before them.

From this point, people can make an accurate assessment about what type of calibre it takes to be in a certain role and whether those skill sets suit their strengths, their values and their aspirations.

Get away from the technical and focus on the human.

Want to get your wheels turning towards a supply chain career one could only dream of? Then don’t miss our upcoming Career Boot Camp with IBM – a free 5-part podcast series with some of the very best of the best. Check it out here: https://www.procurious.com/career-boot-camp-2019

Three Key Mindset Shifts To Lead In The Digital Age

The wonder of digital is the array of choice and opportunity it brings. To drive a successful digital agenda and succeed in the digital age however, mindsets need to build on leadership fundamentals while also shifting to respond to the new environment.

By Brian Lasenby / Shutterstock

Digital, the awe and the promise, filling us with inspiration and fear at the same time. Initially, the digital discussion was all about technology. After all, technology is cool, and we all want the cool factor. It demonstrates that we are at the forefront, leading the way, innovating. All great things when organisations and individuals are in a highly competitive environment and looking for a point of differentiation.

The wonder of digital is the array of choice and opportunity it brings. RPA? A great place to start. Mobility? It’s all about anytime, anywhere. AI? Not quite sure what it means, but let’s go with it anyway.

As many organisations sought to implement technology and transform themselves, the promised utopia did not quite eventuate. Technology moves fast and the innovation of today is tomorrow’s nostalgia (Any 80’s movie featuring a brick cleverly masquerading as a mobile phone will make this point all too well for those of us who were there to remember it the first time). That’s because digital requires a reinvention in how an organisation operates from business models, to systems and processes, through to engaging with the market and customers. It turns out that without a mindset and cultural shift, the full benefits of the technology are never realised or sustained. And so, for leaders this poses an interesting question. What does leadership look like in this digital age?

There is a multitude of research, writing and discussions on leadership in general. It is no surprise therefore that the conversation around digital mindset is met with cynicism, or fatigue. Don’t throw out those books yet (unless you received a kindle for Christmas). The fundamentals of what we know to be great leadership endure; humility, curiosity, emotional intelligence among others are key call outs and are as relevant today as when they were first identified. To drive a successful digital agenda and succeed in the digital landscape however, mindsets need to build on leadership fundamentals while also shifting to respond to the new environment. So where can you start to make a shift like this?

1. Experiment and embrace learning, not failure

Everybody knows about this one. In the strive to be innovative, there is a focus on experimentation. Experimentation is a call out for me because it brings together a number of attributes that differentiate digital leaders; challenging the status quo, creativity in seeing something the rest of us do not, courage to advocate for it, curiosity and determination to pursue it.

Interestingly enough, this also requires what might be considered a high tolerance for risk (which is why I mentioned courage). The default position for many leaders and organisations is to say “no” in a variety of ways.  I am not sure how many times I have heard “that’s not been done before”, “that won’t work here” or “we tried it and it didn’t work”. And there were times when I listened, and others when I thought there was something worth pursuing and did, demonstrating probably more hope and naivety , than courage.

The real issue of risk in experimentation arises because we need to be comfortable with  failure. Failure here is not an aspiration, it is simply highly likely when trying something new or doing something for the first time, even if it has worked somewhere else. Failure is problematic because it makes us susceptible to self-doubt, and the critique of others. Both are tough. And the idea that we celebrate failure in the digital world is a confusing and honestly, a little ridiculous to many. So, let’s be clear, that with experimentation, it’s the learning that needs to be celebrated, not the failure. Gary Pisano makes this point clearly in his book “Creative Construction: The DNA of Sustained Innovation”.  Try something new, take what worked, evolve it and get it right. Or work out whether it is even worth pursuing further, or call it quits and move on.

2. Understand skills, cultivate expertise

There is no shortage of dystopian views of the end of the human workforce as the result of automation and AI. If failure incites fear, there is no doubt that human redundancy as a result of technology amps up the anxiety level. The McKinsey Global Institute estimates that workforce transitions due to automation will impact approximately 14 per cent of the world’s workforce, so the scale of the impact is significant. My first implementation of digital analytics was in 2011, long before we were even having the conversation so I have seen the potential and the limitations. Developing an executive dashboard of key business metrics including daily sales, was a great start to automating analytics and producing actionable insights. So much more would be possible today. I am optimistic about the future of humanity and the ability of the man + machine interchange.

There is no doubt that many tasks will be automated. Many routine ones in fact already have been. At the same time, demand for new skills is emerging. And these skills present an opportunity to generate value in ways that may not have been possible previously. Digital savvy leaders adopt a mindset that see this threat as an opportunity. They understand the impact for themselves, their teams and the organisation. Anticipating what is coming, they identify the skills and behaviours that are needed and develop them, positioning themselves at the forefront through different ways of learning. With so much being so new to so many, expertise and differentiation comes to those who are willing to learn, try, and apply. Equally important, they cultivate this mindset with their employees and enable them with the skills and attributes needed.

3. Operate within new models, divest old paradigms

Welcome to the new world of work. Expertise exists in unlikely places; traditional reporting structures don’t always work and teams operate with autonomy and accountability. It takes a distinct mindset shift to relinquish decision making and control. The more important the initiative, the greater the risk, the harder it becomes. Yet the digital world values and rewards expertise, speed and adaptability. That means setting the agenda and outcome, defining parameters and empowering the team with expertise to execute. It does not mean abdicating accountability for progress and delivery, nor does it mean micro-managing the team because things aren’t being done as you would do them.

For many leaders, the paradigm shift to new models of leadership is challenging. The results however are inspiring. When I was tasked with working on the National Emergency Warning Project with the amazing Joe Buffone who was leading the Government’s Emergency Services response, we both knew that we needed to assemble an A-team, give them guidance and clear direction, and then let them do their thing while we did ours. The result? A first-of-a-kind initiative, with media attention, up and running (and more importantly working) on time and within budget, which is practically unheard of in either public or private sector, was the result.

There is no doubt that the digital landscape presents challenges that many may find uncomfortable at best. Embracing new ways of thinking and applying mindset shifts is a tremendous opportunity for leaders to transform themselves, their teams and their organisations. Time to be inspired by the potential of what is possible.