How will your team cope without you?

“That which governs best, governs least.” John Stuart Mill

It might seem counterintuitive, but the better you are at leading a team, the less they’ll miss you when you’re gone. If you know that your retirement is going to cause a power vacuum; if you know that many employees will feel they have been cast adrift without you there, that is not a testament to your powers of leadership, but to the culture of dependence you have fostered within the company.

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How credible is your business plan?

All too often, when writing a business plan, you get too wrapped up in your vision of the company’s unquestionable success and you fail to follow some simple rules that investors will punish you for. Top of that list for many is whether that business plan is credible and is therefore trustworthy enough for people to lend you money or invest in you. They need to believe in you. So, before getting started, and once finished, take the time to ask yourself these three questions that will determine how credible your business plan is.

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Once upon a time, off the coast of China…

I had a “road to Damascus” moment.

First, you need to understand how I came to be on that road in the first place.

My parents had worked very hard to send me to a good school – at great personal cost, as they came from a working class background.

I was aware of the cost to my family of my schooling, so as a teenager I looked for ways to make myself financially independent. I had already decided to become an engineer, so I went looking for sponsorships for a degree, and then a future career.

I was selected to become an officer in Royal Navy, and then to become a University Cadet – one of a small number of each year’s trainees who attended a civilian university to get their degrees, whilst being paid a salary, and spending a year in the RN doing basic training with an operational deployment as a “gap year”. My gap year finished with six months in the Middle East, on a warship escorting tankers in and out of the Straits of Hormuz, learning about leadership and operations in a high profile, high stress scenario.

I spent three years at Cambridge enjoying student life and getting my Engineering degree before returning to the RN in 1992. It was a bit of a shock going from being a student to deploying for the Gulf War a month later! That deployment was for seven months and taught me lots of lessons about planning, risk and leadership. Being on a war footing showed how sometimes procedures and policies needed to be bent: balancing risks to personnel and machinery against the need to achieve operational aims.

I stayed in the RN doing various jobs; learning about project management, engineering operations, planning, and how seemingly minor events can have a disproportionate impact, sometimes thousands of miles away.

After thirteen years service, I was sat on a warship with nearly 1000 marines onboard, loitering off the coast of China as the UK handed Hong Kong back to the Chinese. We were there to provide additional backup to the police force, should there be large-scale civil unrest during the process.

Being a warship, the team onboard are always practising for when the unthinkable needs to happen: a shooting conflict breaks out.

We were doing a damage control exercise, where we simulated being hit by bombs or missiles that generated fires, smoke and system failure. My job was to lead the damage control function, particularly around the machinery that generated power, kept us moving, enabled us to fight fires etc. All the things that allowed us to deliver the command priorities: fight, move and float. It was a high pressure job controlling the efforts of around 100 people.

I suddenly realised that I didn’t believe in what I was doing any more, or in what the RN was trying to achieve. My next job was going to be leading a department of 60-80 engineers and technicians in a smaller ship that would be sent all over the world to do various jobs, some of them quite dangerous. I realised I couldn’t lead a team effectively if I couldn’t lead them with authenticity. The authenticity wasn’t there because I no longer believed in what I was being asked to do.

It took eighteen months from that point to resign, serve my twelve months’ notice period, and start a new job delivering ground breaking IT solutions to a large government department. Even now, more than fifteen years later, my contemporaries in the Royal Navy still think my resignation was a brave thing to do…

The importance of engagement at work

One of the largest contributing factors to happiness is engagement in your work. Studies show that if an employee finds little or no satisfaction in their current role, this will have a negative knock-on effect on the rest of their lives. Conversely, if workers can’t wait to bounce out of bed and join their team, this brings a sense of worth and purpose that is highly important. A happy worker is a more productive worker. So, what can senior leaders do to ensure maximum enjoyment and productivity from their staff?

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Taking accountability for deliverability

As a leader, you are in a position few others find themselves in. You are accountable for the development and growth of your business – but you are also responsible for holding others to account, too.

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Cut the small stuff and you cut the productivity

A little goes a long way.

That old cliché can be applied to multiple industries and rings true in a wide range of contexts: from hospitality to teaching, and sport to business management.

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A CEO is the ultimate team player and team leader

It is often said that the best results in any business enterprise come as a result of teamwork. Any team, however, needs leadership, and in order to be clear on what the targets are, that leadership needs to come from one individual. But all too often, team leaders, be they line managers, senior managers, directors or even CEOs, lose sight of the fact that they are members of the team too. In fact, a good CEO is not only the ultimate team leader, but is the ultimate team player too.

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Communications: emotion vs logic

Effective communication is the bedrock of every successful organisation: helping to engage team members internally and to promote a positive external image. Understanding how different personalities process information, and whether their preferences are based on emotion or logic can help your communications be even more effective, and more openly received.

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Do you know what the first step of the journey to your business future looks like?

Do you know how you will get your business to the place you want it to be? Before that: do you have a good idea of where you want to go with your organisation? An effective leader should have a good understanding of where their business is going, and an overview of the steps to get there. Most importantly, they should be able to communicate that future and the plan in a convincing way to take their team with them.

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How to improve your satellite leadership and management

Establishing a company culture is a long process that takes continuous effort to embed it. It is easiest when everyone works in the same place but in an organisation with physically disparate teams, it can be difficult for a culture to take hold and even more difficult to sustain it.

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