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Accountability and the Little Things that Count

August 26th, 2015 by Russ Becker
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Sepp Blatter has been working under a dark cloud in the wake of a major personal and organizational challenge, the launch of a federal investigation into the corruption within the world’s soccer governing body that has ultimately led to his resignation immediately following the U.S. Justice Department’s 47-count indictment against 14 FIFA officials.

Black and white leather soccer ball on green grass

Although he was once known as one of the most powerful people in sports, the federal investigation and timing of this scandal has caused Blatter to end his 40-year FIFA tenure rather than step further into his role and face accountability. Summertime lends itself to FIFA being in the spotlight, as the Women’s World Cup Final took place earlier this month, but Blatter was absent from both the game and the attention to the scandal while the US took over news headlines with their 5-2 victory.

Blatter ended his month-long silence after stepping down as president by facing the media on July 20, where he was put on display unexpectedly by a press conference crasher, British comedian Simon Brodkin. The mockery concluded with Blatter announcing an election for a new president in February 2016, the ultimate consequence of his lack of accountability and ownership of the corruption that has since tainted the reputation of this global organization.

Unfortunately, this is something many organizations struggle to master. So what lessons can companies learn from the scandal? According to Gallup’s 2015 State of the American Manager, a meager 18 percent of current leaders have the high talent required of their role, while the other 82 percent falls short of guiding their teams, and organizations, effectively.

The need for accountability is clearly evident during leadership-testing moments, such as FIFA’s, but can often go unnoticed when it comes to smaller, everyday activities and behaviors. Yet if left unchecked, can lead to larger organizational issues. A lack of accountability could have a serious impact on operations, making it important to spot the signs and address these issues strategically and quickly.

So how do you know if your organization has a culture of accountability? Here are some warning signs indicating the need to improve:

  • Giving excuses
  • Blaming others
  • Putting off important things
  • Doing the minimum
  • Acting confused and playing helpless

All of these actions can lead to missed deadlines, scapegoating, overruns which severely impact productivity, processes and even staff turnover.

To overcome these obstacles companies should emphasize the need for increased focus on training, development and coaching, with the end goal of increasing accountability. On a day-to-day basis, leaders can improve employee and organizational accountability and create a climate of accountability if they:

  • Set clear goals, linking back to organizational imperatives, for all employees
  • Build alignment on how goals will be achieved
  • Ensure employees get the resources and skills needed for success
  • Admit mistakes to advance problem solving while preserving credibility
  • Develop capabilities to effectively provide positive and constructive feedback
  • Increase employees’ comfort with handling conflict and providing feedback
  • Resolve dilemmas so employees understand what actions to take
  • Coach accountable action and lead by example

And for leaders to ensure that individual staff are acting accountably, they themselves must also display accountable behaviors by:

  • Keeping their promises
  • Modeling accountability, leading by example
  • Providing clear goals linked to organizational objectives and offering feedback on progress toward their achievements
  • Ensuring needed resources and abilities are available
  • Providing regular feedback—both constructive and positive
  • Being solution oriented and including diverse thinking when problems arise

In addition, linking accountability to personal and organizational performance is also important in keeping it in-check. Two thirds of our survey respondents indicated that setting clear expectations with others, getting alignment on goals and admitting mistakes are most related to personal performance.

Similarly, clarity as well as agility are integral to keeping strategic initiatives on track to ensure that mission-critical targets are met.

Looking back, it’s arguable that all of the warning signs of Blatter’s lack of accountability were present along the way. During his long career, Blatter often found himself defending the integrity of FIFA, whether on counts of corruption in marketing and broadcast agreements, or alleged bribing of voting officials in the World Cup hosting rights. As FIFA faces an uncertain future while under public scrutiny, it further emphasizes the need for organization heads to lead by example. Responsibility demonstrated from the top will, in return, help foster a culture of accountability across the whole organization to drive solutions rather than impede them when faced with business challenges.

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Price versus Value

August 18th, 2015 by Emily Thornton
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Price vs. valueThe recent news about the farmers` frustration in the UK with unfair milk prices, which lose them 7p a litre on average, has generated many discussions about customers being prepared to pay more for higher quality products.

In the UK the average cost of milk is lower than the price of bottled water, which creates difficult conditions for many dairy farmers – in fact according to the National Farmers` Union the crisis had already driven 256 herds out of the industry so far in 2015. The new initiative – Milk for Farmers aims to pay an extra 10p per litre to farmers which mean the cost of a four pint bottle (2.27 litres) will increase by 25%. Would I pay more for better quality milk that also supports the local farmers? Absolutely I would!

Price is a key indicator for any purchasing decision, but it is definitely not the only one. And cheaper is not necessarily better or sustainable. Many premium brands demonstrate daily that clients are happy to pay a higher price if they feel they are getting good value for their money. So, in addition to price, these are the factors I would consider:

1. Buying experience

It is not only about getting the product or service, but also about what it feels like to interact with the seller. People will be a key factor here as they create the overall experience. It’s a cliché but people really do buy “people” and the importance of focusing on building relationships as part of selling shouldn’t be underestimated. Having a member of staff personally recommend me a book in a shop means that I’ll have found something I probably wouldn’t have otherwise – and to me, that personal touch has made a big difference to my experience.

It’s also about the convenience and the ability to meet client needs. You might pay less today but if prices are so low that a company’s business model isn’t commercially viable, they are not going to survive. And as customers, we could end up paying more in the long-term – and having fewer choices.

2. Reputation

Reputation is every brand’s most expensive asset and once ruined, it’s incredibly hard to bounce back. Knowing that the company’s ethical and sourcing standards are in line with my own makes me to trust those brands and I will repeatedly make a purchase even if the price is higher compared to its competitors. It’s important that I trust the companies I buy from – when a company acts unfairly in one respect, it makes me question how they might treat me in the future.

3. Quality of product/service

Making cheap purchases can actually cost you more as you need to make more of them over time. As the saying goes – “We are not rich enough to buy cheap things”. A company that is focused on providing a cheap product or service could have to skimp on fundamentals to be profitable. Although some buying decisions are one-offs, most of the time, you are establishing a relationship that if it’s to be sustainable, has to be beneficial to both parties. When a product or service is of high quality, it makes my life easier and ultimately more enjoyable. For instance, it’s easy sometimes to buy online when the price is low and it’s a product like a book that is exactly the same as in a shop. But I thoroughly enjoy wandering round a bookshop and browsing the shelves is an experience that, for me, can’t be replicated online – and is worth paying extra for.

4. Local community support

The community is a huge part of our lives and anything we can add to it will be felt throughout that community. Buying decisions can feel ephemeral but when I choose to buy from my local bookshop, I’m increasing the chance it will be there in the future. Working with local suppliers, supporting the local markets means that those doing well will drive the local economy and we will all benefit from it.

Buying decisions are more complex than just looking at the price tag – so for me, it’s not really a question of price vs. value but of choosing to spend money on things that I value.

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Selling is a Team Effort

August 10th, 2015 by Monika Benz
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Selling is a team effortIn a B2B environment you should never sell alone. To achieve success, the sales team needs to involve the wider team: from marketing, focused on building the presence in the market place to generate new business opportunities, through to the product development team, ensuring the right fit between demand and supply, and project leaders focused on delivering the best possible client experience; everyone involved in representing the business during the sales process is selling, not just those who carry the official job title. The power of team work should not be underestimated; if aligned and managed well, the combined efforts of the wider team towards a common sales goal will achieve so much more.


The marketing function can never work in isolation if it is to truly understand market needs.  This is where team work provides a lot of clarity on ‘what’s out there’. The sales team meet prospective and existing clients on a regular basis and has a thorough understanding of their business challenges. Armed with this insight, the marketing team can define the go to market strategy, in cooperation with the product team, to ensure your business can address relevant market needs. The success of the marketing team depends on the sales team and vice versa; this close alignment is absolutely critical to drive business growth.


B2B selling is a consultative process, heavily focused around the client.  Involving the wider team in early stage discussions can add real value in helping a prospective client make a more informed buying decision.  This is your opportunity to differentiate from the competition; through showcasing your business’s expertise, and  creating a  strong sense of what it will be like to work with your people – how your team collaborates, engages with stakeholders, and tests ideas in early-stage exploratory discussions, will make all the difference in whether you win (or lose) the business.  Our research shows a significant proportion of client buying decisions are based on the strength of the relationships they form with the people they encounter in the buying process – the old adage that ‘people buy from people’ still rings true;  the chemistry – both ways – is an important indicator of the success of future cooperation.  However, there is one more dimension to this, and it’s clients also buy from people they trust.  So, give prospective clients every opportunity you can to meet the wider team they will be working with, and make sure you have an agreed strategy on how you each intend to engage and build trust with stakeholders.  Finally, remember to recognise everyone who played a part in winning a new business opportunity – share, celebrate, and learn from success stories!


Clients who see the value your business is adding to theirs will not only want to continue the partnership, but will also be more likely to recommend you to others. And, as we all know, it’s much easier to go ‘broad and deep’ finding new opportunities within an existing client relationship, than finding and winning new ones. Again, work proactively on your account plan by involving the wider team and defining what role each person will play to meet and exceed client expectations at every step of the way.  Furthermore, establish an agreed approach for gathering and sharing client intelligence on potential new opportunities.

So here’s to team work to drive greater success!

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Don’t spend your time – invest it instead

August 4th, 2015 by Petra Urhofer
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Time managementTime management is an investment in results, where time is your capital that is strategically invested in activities with the most potential for return. Managing time is about generating results, but real results are not achieved using the traditional approach such as rigid schedules, lists, and hyper-organised work environments. Those who effectively manage their time, use what they want to achieve as a guidepost for determining which activities to invest in and whether and how to make changes in direction. They don’t spend their time – they invest it instead. Additionally, they reserve some of their time for investment in energising activities, such as reflection time, that help them to achieve and maintain their focus.

The standard approach to time management is to increase efficiency and get more done in less time. However, efficiency does not always equate with effectiveness, and even if it does, there are few ways left for most of us to gain efficiency. By approaching time management as an investment in being effective rather than being efficient, one can be more assured of generating business results as opposed to getting a lot of things done in less time. From this perspective, maximising time investment requires identifying critical goals and objectives, and maintaining focus on those activities that achieve them.

Being purposeful about investing time requires focus and energy. The first step in getting focused is to develop an accurate picture of how you currently invest your time. There are three things to understand: your critical business and individual goals, what activities you currently invest your time in and how well those activities pay off in terms of your goals and objectives. Energy has to do with the internal fuel that drives the ability to not only focus, but to get work done. People who are highly effective at investing their time employ practices that help them to create and sustain high levels of energy over the long run.

Effective time managers are able to clearly articulate their business as well as personal goals and objectives and, as a result, are able to direct their time and attention to the critical few activities that will generate results. Moreover, when faced with a competing activity or task, they are able to use their goals and objectives to make decisions about whether and how to change direction. This is then linked to creating and reserving energy and reducing stress by devoting time to specific “energising” activities.

However, none of this happens in a vacuum – and individual effectiveness is enhanced when the people whose work one depends on are more purposeful, and when one collaborates with managers and key stakeholders.

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Leadership skills that England can deploy to help win The Ashes 2015

July 28th, 2015 by Simon Brown
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Ashes 2015The most historic battle in cricket, The Ashes, is just about to see England and Australia head to the third Test match with the series currently tied at 1-1. After the convincing success of the English team in the first Test match in Cardiff, the England team were heavily defeated by 405 runs at Lord’s as Australia levelled the five match Ashes series. Prior to the series, the England team has seen a number of important changes from a leadership and team perspective which boosted the climate and had a significant impact on the team’s performance (the ‘brand’ of cricket that England was suddenly playing was seen by many as upbeat and positive) – at least up until the new found confidence was lost again during the second Test match.

Naturally, when your confidence is crushed, it is critical to discover some mental toughness (resilience) to bounce back and adapt to the new circumstances – which is clearly what the Australian team demonstrated after their initial defeat in the first match. As you improve, your competitors do too. So what improvements can the England camp make to regain the optimism and focus which led them to do so well in the first Test match and sustain winning ways?


Clarity comes from effective communication and enables the team to confidently answer the question “Where are we going and why?” The fresh approach installed by England’s new management team, including former captain and now Director of Cricket, Andrew Strauss, and new Coach, Trevor Bayliss (ironically, an Australian) has presumably brought a new sense of clarity to the team. My sense is that this messaging has not been lost. Perhaps it just needs to be reinforced after one poor performance. The strategy adopted during the first Test match to be positive and take the game to the Australians. England executed the strategy well, outplaying Australia in every department of the game. Strauss, Bayliss and the captain, Alistair Cook, need to bring this back to the front of every player’s mind.


Unity means that once the team knows where they are headed, they agree wholeheartedly on the merits of that direction and the need to work together and move ahead. In both business and sport, collaboration is the main driver of unity. When leaders foster a culture of collaboration, spell out a common cause and ensure that everyone is equipped with the technical and soft skills to make their contributions, projects and strategies hold together. Lack of collaboration and a resulting lack of unity is a chief reason for teams and initiatives sinking and staying below the noise-value line. Since Kevin Pietersen’s departure from the team (a sign of strong leadership from Strauss and Captain Cook), disruptions in team spirit have been removed, enabling much greater unity.


Agility is less a matter of adapting one’s direction continuously and more a matter of being open to different ways to achieve the direction you have set for yourself. In other words, real agility is not about heading north one day and east the next; that’s vacillation. Agility is about consistently heading north, but being willing to use sails one day and the on-board motor the next, as conditions demand – it is the willingness to turn and adapt quickly while keeping strategic goals in mind. The England team need a dose of agility through showing some mettle. One heavy defeat does not turn a team, after such a convincing win in the first match, into a bad team. A bit of old fashioned British bulldog fighting spirit is required. Learn from the Australian’s, who have demonstrated how to fight back from a set-back. To stay ahead of the competition, you need agility and the England team can do that by gritting their teeth and re-discovering the form from the first Test. These England players have not suddenly lost their skill levels. They need to all act like business leaders and execute on the original strategy.

Come on England! Adapt to change by showing some clarity, unity and agility! A positive result in the third Test match will set up a very exciting series against our old rivals.

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Overcoming energy drainers

July 23rd, 2015 by Petra Urhofer
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Overcoming energy drainersLow energy levels, caused by internal and external factors can have a negative impact on multiple levels and can leave us demotivated and frustrated. Although most of the time we can control our energy supply, we often continue with our habits that leave us drained rather than being focused on energy boosting activities. Some of the most common energy drainers include:

1. Multi-tasking

Contrary to a popular belief, multi-tasking is not an effective way to get things done. A study found that people suffer from something like a writer’s block each time they switch from one activity to another, requiring them to take time to “reset” their minds. The more complex the task being switched to or from, the higher the time cost involved in switching. Even very brief distractions add up. An effective way to overcome this issue is to stop doing activities that don’t generate a return on investment for results, estimate how long it will take to accomplish an activity and block dedicated periods of time for it in your calendar and train yourself to focus on the task at hand during time-blocked periods.

2. Lack of clear goals and conflicting priorities

A lot of work gets done without the benefit of clearly defined goals and objectives. But, without clarity, it is difficult to know whether the right work is getting done and without a clear focus on goals and objectives priorities easily conflict. To get more focus, list your goals and objectives as you understand them and highlight conflicts among them. Then make yourself reminders – post your business and personal goals and objectives in a place where you can see them, or choose representative artwork or other objects to place in your office space as a reminder.

3. Over commitment

People over commit for a variety of reasons: they don’t want to disappoint others by saying no; they feel they have no choice but to commit; they have an unrealistic idea of current commitments or of what is involved in the new commitment– to name a few. Being overcommitted can quickly lead to burnout and exhaustion. Saying no in an appropriate way does not communicate that you are unwilling; rather, it communicates that you are responsible and take your commitments seriously. Avoid the automatic yes when asked to make another commitment. State that you need to check your other commitments and time frames before you can give an answer. Before committing to anything, be sure you have a realistic and detailed idea of what the commitment entails. Don’t say yes when you mean no.

4. Distractions

We are constantly bombarded by distractions and interruptions in the workplace. Think of these events as forcing the mind into a multi-tasking mode, with each event either preventing or breaking concentration. The result is time lost to constant task switching. To eliminate distractions, find a quiet place to work on projects that require concentration, set aside specific time periods for specific activities, and discourage interruptions and save e-mail and voicemail checking for the transition time between other tasks.

5. Lack of Organisation

“Everything in its place and a place for everything” is a good energy-boosting adage. For some people, organisation means files, drawers, cubbies, neat stacks or no stacks at all, and a complete lack of clutter. For others, organisation simply means knowing where to look and being able to find what they need right away – for them a neat desk is alien. The point of organisation is not to fit someone else’s definition of “organised,” but to have what you need in an easily accessible place. Recognise that disorganisation is an energy drain and organise yourself in a way that makes sense to you.

6. Lack of reflection time

Failing to reflect is a vicious cycle that leads to less time for reflection, because without reflection time, it is difficult to know whether one is working on the right activities; it may even be difficult to have a clear idea of what one’s goals and objectives really are. A lack of time to reflect, refresh, and rest can also lead to stress and work overload. Use an existing activity such as regular workouts, walks, gardening, or another hobby as an opportunity for reflection or find a coach or mentor. This doesn’t have to be someone you hire; it could be a manager, colleague, or friend outside work. Set aside specific time periodically to reflect on your work, self, long-term goals and objectives, and so on.

7. Sense of meaninglessness

An important source of energy for many is the pursuit of meaningful goals and objectives. As we become busier and busier, however, it is easy for meaningful goals to be displaced by urgent things. The longer this goes on, the more stress one feels. To re-establish your goals, build fun activities into your schedule. Set long-term personal goals, but don’t become imprisoned by them. Put them in a prominent place – they will become implicit priority-setters and create a standing, flexible weekly schedule in terms of categories of activities: job, chores, exercise, family, unstructured relaxation, and so on.

8. Perfectionism

The drive for perfection can be very draining. Perfection is an indefinable and unobtainable goal that while it can increase the quality of one’s output, also increases workload. Establish objective quality measures; ask others to help you define “good enough” and identify the point of diminishing returns – that point when you stop adding measurable value by continuing to work on something. Before you “make it better,” ask yourself whether a person whose opinion you respect would notice a meaningful qualitative difference if you invest more time and effort.

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Investing in Employee Retention to Drive Business Growth

July 15th, 2015 by Petra Urhofer
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Retaining staInvesting in Employee Retentionff is getting harder for employers as the economy has improved and the jobs market picks up.  Pay will always be a main decision driver when it comes to people switching or staying in their job but it is rarely the prime reason for moving on.  Research has long shown that people are more likely to remain with a company that invests in their career development, through training, coaching and mentoring and great leadership. But even if money is a person’s top reason for switching jobs, people still need to feel that they are progressing, if only because career development often leads to a pay rise.

From Forum’s experience, those that switch jobs purely because of salary will be seeking to move on again in 6 months time if that job becomes stagnant again. Retaining people is all about opportunity, development, the potential to grow – these are the key drivers to motivating people, and motivation leads to better engagement which leads to improved performance and retention rates.


Different factors such as generation differences can influence staff retention. Global research by PwC (2013, A Global Generation Study) showed that while the same basic drivers of retention exist for both Millennials and non-Millennials, their relative importance varies. Millennials place a greater emphasis on being supported and appreciated and to be part of a cohesive team.  Non-millennials on the other hand, are more likely to leave a job if they’re not paid competitively and put a greater emphasis on development opportunities.

Whatever motivates, it’s about knowing what inspires that individual and working out ways together to respond to their personal engagement. It’s about leaders having regular conversations with their people to set out a clear career path, how this will be achieved and how this links to the wider goals of the business. This in turn helps people to feel secure and valued in their role which is vital to retaining great talent.


Great leaders with highly motivated teams are ones that have conversations regularly, often daily, with their team and coach often.  This in turn drives performance and retention. The reason for this is because coaching and conversation helps people to feel secure and valued in their role which is vital to retaining great talent. Done properly, it’s a chance for leaders to agree on a clear career path, how this will be achieved and how this links to the wider goals of the business. People are then reminded of the investment the company is making into their future which in turn, leaves them feeling highly valued and appreciative, and assured knowing how their career is progressing.

Coaching and regular conversations are also an opportunity to spot when motivation is lacking which could be the first sign of someone thinking of leaving. People often don’t want the hassle and risk of findings another job, nor do they necessarily think the grass is greener. It’s only when they feel that the business has lost interest in them, they feel forced to look elsewhere. Coaching and regular conversations are not only a chance to highlight how the business values them but an opportunity to  address any problems early and iron them out before it’s too late. It does not always need to be a formal affair. It can be a quick chat by the desk as well as part of a regular personal development meeting. The important thing is to engage regularly so people can see that the business is investing in their future.

Research after research has shown that the more engaged your workforce, the happier they are, the more likely they will stay and the more productive they become. Last year our global research showed that companies cited coaching as the biggest driver of performance because it motivates and engages their people. By investing in creating a coaching culture that engages trains and develops their staff, companies can improve their performance pace and improve their retention rates whilst cutting the cost of having to having to find new recruits.


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How does your Garden Grow?

July 8th, 2015 by Emily Nicholson
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Sales professionals know the hard fact: in the end, it really IS a numbers game.  But how those numbers actually run – whether in your favour or against you – has a lot to do with expanding your focus not only to the next deal, but investing deeply in more than one phase of your sales cycle at any given time.

Sales process can have a lot of analogies – consider gardening.  Most sales activities can be divided into three phases: 1) scatter and sow, 2) water and weed and 3) reap and re-plant.  It can be challenging to put a huge amount of effort into all three phases simultaneously, but maintaining a core focus in two of the three areas is crucial to filling your opportunity pipeline and achieving your revenue targets.

Scatter and sow: Many salespeople often love the acronym “ABC”, or “always be closing”.  But in order to close, you need to do the work up front and make sure you’re prospecting enough to bring in a variety of opportunities.  If you are in B2B sales, focus on new leads in existing accounts (farming): What cross-selling could you do in your existing accounts? Are there other divisions with whom you could potentially work?  What current success could you leverage to gain more business?  Similarly, focus on new business development (hunting): get outside your comfort zone and sell new products or solutions to new contacts. 

07.07.15 - How Does your Garden Grow_Emily Nicholson

Water and weed: every salesperson knows “you can’t win them all”.  Yet, as you pull opportunities through your pipeline or funnel, expert salespeople can identify crucial steps that help “water” the best opportunities and “weed out” that ones that aren’t as good.  As you learn more about the customer’s needs, consider what kind of “watering” would help.  Do you have a subject matter expert (internal product or technical specialist) who could add value to the customer’s business?  Act as a strategic orchestrator to align internal resources at the right time to move sales forward. Similarly, don’t be afraid to “weed out” your funnel: are you running after work that isn’t profitable or doesn’t fit your selling criteria? The time you spend on these less fruitful opportunities mean less time and attention for those with high-yield potential. Act early and make these decisions.

Reap and re-plant: Consider ways to accelerate closing the sale.  Are there objections that need to be correctly identified and overcome? Forum’s research shows that an objection actually helps you do one of three things: educate your customer, involve your customer or verify your customer is interested. Consider how you can accelerate the close: do you have a contact in a similar account who is delighted with the work you’ve done or the value you’ve provided? Don’t hesitate to offer making connections so that your prospect can hear it for themselves.  And once you’ve won the work, ask regularly for referrals: “Who else do you think would benefit in a partnership like this?”  Referrals can accelerate and grow revenue exponentially.

If you only focus on closing the sale, once the paperwork is signed you may find you have nothing in the pipeline (volume)!  Similarly, review your prospecting work and determine which opportunities could move faster (velocity).  By applying these principles, you can ensure that your “patch” is thriving at all times.

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High Performing Teams: Lessons from The Ryder Cup

June 29th, 2015 by Simon Brown
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Ryder Cup Leadership LessonsWith all the hype surrounding the possibility of Jordan Speith pulling off a Grand Slam of major wins, my mind turns to the comparisons of individual sporting success versus competing as a team. Keen golf enthusiasts will remember the last Ryder Cup in 2014, when, for the sixth time in seven competitions, the United States lost to Europe. This is a significant turnaround for the European team, which, between 1935 and 1985, only won the Ryder Cup once. Additionally, the aftermath of the latest Ryder Cup battle has seen the European captain Paul McGinley being praised whilst the US captain Tom Watson received a lot of criticism even from his own players.

After the defeat in 2014, when asked “what had worked in 2008 (when Paul Azinger captained the USA team) and what hasn’t worked since?”, USA team member, Phil Mickelson, openly criticised Watson’s leadership skills by praising the last winning Captain, saying that “Azinger got everybody invested in the process: who they were going to play with, who the picks were going to be, who was going to be in their pod. He had a real game plan; how we were going to go about playing together; golf ball, format, what we were going to do if so-and-so is playing well, if so-and-so is not playing well: we had a real game plan. We use that same process in the Presidents Cup and we do really well. Unfortunately, we have strayed from a winning formula, and we need to consider maybe getting back to that formula that helped us play our best.”

Golf is usually an individual affair and playing in a team sees completely different dynamics on the course – players are no longer in competition, but playing together towards a team victory. The same applies to successful business leaders who have their individual agenda, however when coming together with their peers in the boardroom they unite to deliver joint results. The characteristics of high performance team-working apply to the C-suite as well as Ryder Cup teams. As has been well documented, the parallels are endless. A good Ryder Cup team can be transformed into high performing team by adopting these following leadership characteristics:

1. Discussing and building commitment to a common vision and purpose

There is a significant difference between a close-knit team that drives towards a clear vision or purpose and a group of individuals that happen to play together. By the very nature of the tournament, the teams who play in the Ryder Cup consist of individuals who are ranked as top performers and being part of the Ryder Cup team represents a pinnacle of their individual golfing careers. It is then the Captain’s role to shift their mindset from individual to team performers with a common vision.

2. Establish clearly defined goals and review expectations

The goal is clear – to win. As with business, in order to achieve the goal it is essential to review progress throughout the process. As the Ryder Cup lasts for three days, expectations need to be reviewed based on daily results and acted up on accordingly. For example, if at the end of day one the score line is 6-2, the losing team may need to revise their strategy for the next day to recover the situation.

3. Share information in ways that directly adds value to the team effort

Team members learn about the competitive environment and conditions by experiencing them. After each match, the Captain needs to involve each individual, asking them to share their feedback on how they are feeling about their own performance. Sharing their experience and knowledge openly results in expanding views and revealing new facts which can have direct impact on other players. In 2004, exhausted after the first day and having lost in the morning of day two, Europe’s star performer, Colin Montgomerie, famously asked his Captain, Bernhard Langer, to leave him out that afternoon for the overall good of the team. In doing so he ended his own personal record of successive appearances in Ryder Cup matches. Self-sacrifice was made to benefit the team. Sharing information about how they are feeling and what support they require allows the Captain to react and adjust the game strategy accordingly.

4. Set high standards of performance for themselves and follow through

The Ryder Cup is a prestigious event and high standards of performance are essential throughout the tournament. In any given Ryder Cup, players and Captains look back at historical results and strive to take their team’s performance to the next level. With the quality of performance so high in years gone by, the competition presents a new level of challenge, providing the opportunity for players to inspire themselves as well as their team members. This is the highlight of their careers and they are naturally driven to perform at a level that will make their mark in the history books.

5. Review complimentary skills and utilise them effectively as well as understand their weaknesses and how to minimise their impact on team performance

Team performance is obviously strongly dependent on the playing form of its individual team members on that given day. Knowing how to utilise your strengths and minimise weaknesses provides a competitive advantage in the game. For the first 2 days of the Ryder Cup competition, players are paired so they complement each other’s skills in an attempt to maximise the overall effectiveness of the broader team. If a key team member’s form is poor, the Captain may need to adjust his strategy to ensure that the overall team is not impacted.

6. Hold themselves mutually accountable for the successes and failures of the team against agreed goals

When playing as an individual, one poor shot can negatively impact the performance on that hole and even the entire round. This is exacerbated during the Foursomes part of the Ryder Cup, when teammates share one ball and take alternate shots. Success or failure of one player directly impacts the other player. Therefore it is crucial to embed a culture of mutual accountability with a no-blame mindset and to adapt quickly. Being mutually accountable and able to recover quickly even under pressure helps the team to correct their thinking and return to a positive mentality. It is one for all and all for one when it comes to teamwork – sharing success and failure (instead of a culture of blame of other team members…or even the Captain, as demonstrated by Mickelson) is the attitude that creates a culture of engagement and drives performance.

7. Manage team morale and create a motivational climate

Morale and motivation is a key element in team golf – often when under pressure it is not about the technical skills but the mindset of the players that determines success. For a team it is crucial to create a connection between players and it is the Captain’s role to gel the individuals into one unit. Naturally the mindset of the individual will impact the overall team morale and it is therefore essential that players receive the support and encouragement to feel and perform their best; as it is equally important to focus on developing and driving a team climate. As an extension to this thinking, a supporting network can add to this motivational environment.

The 2004 European Ryder Cup team, and its captain, Bernhard Langer, took unprecedented action to build morale and create a motivational climate. Assisted by US sensitivity to excessively patriotic behaviour, Langer instructed his players to be as friendly to the US spectators as they could. From the practice days onwards, the team talked, joked, and laughed with the fans; they presented balls, gloves and hats. In contrast, Team USA remained distant, aloof and disengaged. As a result, the gallery provided only muted support for the home team and gave unexpected support to the visitors. Through its efforts, Team Europe achieved a public relations triumph and Team USA lost the battle for popular support. This proved decisive. Instead of being put under the immense psychological pressure that results from competing on enemy territory with a partisan home crowd, the Europeans gained psychological space and emotional stability.

8. Regularly identify and discuss ways of improving the way they do things

A team’s ability to improve is determined by reflecting on past performance via a collaborative process between the players, captain and others. Coaching throughout the build-up and the tournament itself has significant impact on the entire team dynamic. Just as in the boardroom, it is essential for the captain to respond quickly to poor performance and a constantly changing competitive environment during the event. Each captain will want to out-perform his predecessors, to leave a legacy; therefore a spirit of continuous improvement is at the heart of the team effort.

9. Use opportunities to build collaborative and cooperative relationships

The team climate is determined by its leader. It is the captain’s role to build a collaborative environment between players and build cooperative relationships that drives team performance. The captain also has his own small army of non-playing advisors, comprising of vice-captains, sports psychologists and other support staff to help to build this culture whilst the individual players act as technical experts to execute the strategy – and it is the combination of the two that creates a winning team.

10. Manage inter-personal interactions within the team in appropriate ways

It only takes one bad egg to negatively impact the entire team – Tiger Woods’ brilliance over the past two decades as an individual performer has arguably not translated into positive team performance. His performances over the years in the Ryder Cup have been ‘patchy’ at best. His behaviour on the golf course has on occasion not reflected the traditional spirit of the game’s history, where etiquette is paramount. This behaviour is detected by his team-mates, creating tension. Similarly, Mickelson has been reported to have practiced on his own in preparation for a Foursomes match, rather than in a pairing. Players who are not being team players and take an individual approach will have negative impact on team performance and that’s why it’s so important to make sure that the team members get along with each other, are motivated and driven to win – not as individuals but as a team.

Business leaders should remember that a high performing team is greater than the sum of its individual players. Teams with the best individual players don’t always win. More important is to create a climate where individuals work together towards joint success, thereby having a positive impact on performance. I wish Jordan Speith all the very best for the rest of 2015, but the bigger challenge will come when the European and USA teams next meet to compete for the coveted Ryder Cup at the Hazeltine National Golf Club, Chaska, Minnesota in 2016.

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Leadership lessons I learnt from being a dad

June 25th, 2015 by Martin Slattery
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Leadership Lessons I learnt from being a DadLast weekend was Father’s Day, a day to be thankful for the men who guided us through childhood and adulthood. A day for us fortunate to have children to be spoilt and have praise heaped upon us…for a day at least!

I love being a dad. I’m sure that fellow parents would agree that having kids is wonderful, most of the time! At its best it can be the most rewarding thing, yet it also proves an extremely tiring experience and can often be stressful. The house is never quiet, the chores are a constant and  the “mum and dad” taxi service is a job in itself. But the rewards are far greater.

In my moment of reflection, I thought how much I have learnt from my own dad about being a father and the “leadership skills” that are needed to manage your own children. And it raise a question- what is it like to be a good dad/ leader? In this moment I become increasingly aware of similarities between parenting and the essential leadership skills needed in business – engaging, supportive, motivating and providing guidance to learn and succeed.
In business as in parenting, looking at the bigger picture and takings a more strategic approach can make a significant difference and eliminate the chaos. My two kids are now at that age when they can become more actively involved and take ownership of their chores etc. Is life getting easier? A little maybe but they still need a prod and a push to get things done. As such, I find that the following leadership practices can work very effectively:

1. Investing your effort in high-value activities

Value in business terms is defined as the degree to which an activity contributes to the individual’s own goals and objectives, the business unit’s or organisation’s strategy or the team’s ability to deliver results.

Within a family context, this means reviewing what is actually worth your time and energy as a parent by simply asking yourself: “Can I stop doing this?” There are two scenarios following this question, if the answer is:

• Yes – you should look at how you can you spend less effort or whether you could delegate the specific task.
• No – you should ask yourself what must happen for you to stop engaging in the activity.

Delegating tasks to your kids at first will be met with huffs and puffs but it will have a positive impact that goes just beyond taking the task off your hands. It creates a great sense of ownership and pride and if positioned correctly, they will feel they are being trusted with the task and will be motivated to do a great job. With kids, as with many colleagues, they feed off positive interaction and praise for work well done. By delegating and providing a purpose to do well, individuals are more likely to achieve. If not, you can always threaten to take away the TV.

2. Coaching

There is a fine line between coaching and criticism. Avoid this trap, as children are very sensitive to feedback that will simply criticise their actions without being able to learn any lessons and see the “so what”. Coaching is a daily parental activity and doing it right will have long term positive impact. When coaching children as well as coaching your team, first of all assess the situation and identify hidden influences such as: do they know “why is it important”, “what to do” or “how to do it”? Then identify your own assumptions and test them before identifying what must change. Express your expectations in terms of outcomes or results, linking the change to the reason why it must take place and be prepared to make adjustments during your discussion. As well as using coaching to encourage we need to use the skill to provide constructive feedback. By reflecting together on how a job was completed and areas that could be done better will prove more impactful than simply “telling” or shouting.

3. Handling disagreement

At work and at home there are always going to be disagreements. Being able to know when to walk away and when to resolve the issue is important.

My kids will often disagree with me, my wife or each other. I am sure I am not unique here but it’s important to make your positive intentions explicit – clarify your intentions without dismissing your kids’ perceptions and ask for their views. Sometimes expressing it will help them to see your argument from a different perspective and hearing their point of view also gives you information that may change your own perspective. Limit the number of questions you ask, so you do not cross-examine them and ask questions to gain information rather than to convince them that you are right. Listen carefully to what they have to say and check back with them to ensure they are clear on what is happening and if they are, agree with the outcomes. Allow your kids to be defensive, but don’t take their anger or resistance personally and allow time to play a factor. Set the tone and set the pace to get this resolved, however resist the temptation to solve the problem yourself – instead involve your children in solving it with you – if all else fails you have naughty step. You may want to try that in the office too.

4. Getting results through others

Before you start delegating tasks, make it clear to yourself what exactly is it that you are about to pass on to your kids and determine their readiness for it.

This should be teamwork.

Therefore be clear when describing the purpose and how it affects them individually as well as the family and discuss what success should look like. Don’t underestimate the power of incentives and appreciation. Make sure you acknowledge the good work they are doing and always be there to help them to improve if needed. Use every opportunity to build their confidence and competence – it will naturally increase their sense of ownership and commitment for the task. Tell them when they did a great job. And more importantly tell everyone else!

Being a Dad has a number of challenges and we are operating on a forever changing landscape, but the rewards are far greater. Enjoy the ride as the journey can take any number of diversions, by ensuring you have instilled a high level of trust and unity within the family unit it will see you through the good and bad times.

Like in business the family is the team. Team members are the kids. Leaders are the parent. Be the Daddy!

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