Two months ago on the 7th August I’d been working for 30 years, wow where did that go, and although we all experience leadership aspects of our technical roles, over the past 15 years I’ve grown into true leadership roles and loved every challenge that has been thrown at me. Some have been really tough and I’ve had to learn quickly and adapt to situations. I’ve discovered a love of leading teams and motivating people to be better than they believe they can be and I like to think I’ve developed some amazing teams over the years. A lot of this comes from great Character Angels in my life who have guided and mentored me, teaching me great values and work ethics, traditional, even old fashioned thinking if you wish.
It’s this enthusiasm for my career and leadership that makes me get out of bed in the morning and try and make a difference in the sphere of influence I have in any business I work with. I say ‘sphere of influence’ as I’ve worked in some very large businesses, some with over 50,000 people, so you only ever have a certain sphere of influence within a business. I’ve always strived to be the best I can be within that sphere and positively affect those around me, both my team, peers and those above me.
When I lead teams, in any company I work with, there are always certain things I like to introduce that help define our teams values. Every company has values but I find a lot of them are very corporate and not reflected well enough, or even believed in on the ‘shop floor’ so to speak. Therefore introducing some simple core values into the mix for your team can help focus us all on the task ahead as well as help us retain and attract the right type of people we need to build for success. The simple values I believe in, in particular order include:
- Have Fun.
- Be passionate.
- Embrace change.
- Question everything.
- The team comes first so support each other.
- Trust is key.
I find these simple values help drive me and my team’s performance. Obviously the key is to get my teams to embrace them, but I’ve been fortunate in that the teams I’ve lead have fully lived and believed these values and because we do, great things are accomplished.
I’m also lucky in that a lot of my team members over the years have been very kind and very complimentary about what we’ve achieved when we worked together. As with most of the business world now, people move on and change companies for many reasons, new challenges, opportunity, buyouts etc. I keep in touch with a lot of my old team members and I’m fascinated by how other businesses work and a how managers and leaders treat their teams. The Interview process seems to be an interesting area. It’s well known that people interview companies as much as company’s interview people nowadays. We all want to work for a company that excites us with roles that challenge us and leaders who inspire us. I recently spoke to a group of friends who said something fascinating to me. They agreed that most companies they’d worked for were “pigs in lipstick”. What they meant by this, is that during the interview process companies dress themselves up to sell their business to attract great candidates. But once you’re in, these companies all have the same issues, they’re doing similar things, with the same challenges as everyone else and trying to tackle these challenges usually with the same thinking. To be honest people are bored of it. Obviously there are some great companies out there but I think they are few and far between.
I believe that great leadership is the differentiator in the best companies, because true leaders introduce great core values to their team, believe in them and live them. There are many different personalities in the workplace. There are those who are engaged, those who are stressed, some challenged, some passionate and some totally disengaged, to name just a few. But when true leadership, with the right values base, enthusiasm, experience and know how is introduced to a team, it can bring all of the personalities together, even the disengaged back into the fold, drive teams in the right direction with a common goal, do great things and achieve amazing results.
The issue in a lot of companies though is that there are very few inspiring great leaders. Most of us want someone to be inspired by, to bounce new ideas off without fear of ridicule and to work with leaders who find the fun in what needs to be done to create successful business outcomes. When you join a company and it turns out to be a “pig in lipstick” and doesn’t turn out to be quite what you expected or what you were sold, what do you do? My advice is, don’t dwell on what the company is but focus on what you want the company to become. Don’t focus on what the leadership is but inspire those around you in your sphere of influence and be the leader you want to work with. Even if that sphere of influence only affects one person in your team, ‘be the change’ you’re looking for. I know this is easier said than done, but we all need to start somewhere.
Very few of us start our career as a leader, we all have technical skills which we focus on initially to deliver value to our clients and our business. Leadership is a journey of exploration which usually starts with management. After years of delivering my technical role I started with managing one person and developed a leadership style over years, based on how I wanted to be inspired so I could inspire others. I became the change I wanted to see in my teams which in turn affected those people around me and then the business. By leading and sometimes going out on a limb, not waiting to be inspired by others but doing what you believe is the right thing, having fun and asking why, whilst delivering on your business targets, it’s fascinating how you can get to a tipping point of success.
So my advice, is find your leadership values, don’t wait for others to inspire you. If they are not around, be brave and be the change you want to see. Believe me, the positive energy you bring doesn’t lie, trust your intuition, tune in and get those around you tuned in. You’ll be amazed at the results.