How do you stay accountable in leadership?

When you’re the leader of an organisation, you are expected to define the future strategic direction for your team and oversee the successful achievement of the objectives set. You may well have the freedom in this position that you may never have had in your career before. Finding a balance between revelling in this situation and actually remaining grounded can be difficult. The first thing to remember is that the numbers don’t lie: you are responsible for the commercial performance of your organisation and the planning/forecasting for the future. However, there are a number of other ways that you can find out what is really going on, potentially uncover some blind spots and remain accountable when leading an organisation.

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Where’s your crystal ball?

With all the forecasting software and new data prediction techniques available, you would imagine that seeing into the future has got easier. But I am willing to bet every business decision maker in the UK would say that just isn’t true.

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What could culture mean for your business?

“Culture eats strategy for breakfast” was a term coined by Mark Fields, President of Ford who attributed it to organisational management guru Peter Drucker. This mentality has been the adopted mindset of many successful business leaders, with a positive, collaborative culture being highlighted as the most important factor in business growth. Below we’ll discuss how to start establishing a strong culture within your business and why it is so important to do so.

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Being a great leader means accepting that plans change

As is often the case in any scenario, plans sometimes need to change quickly and frequently. It’s great to have a clear objective and plan in your mind at all times, but risks can quickly present themselves which require you to change your course. This is in no way the sign of a bad leader – some of the worst have continued down a road to disaster after events have moved on around them. In fact, the way that you deal with change will demonstrate whether or not you fall into the realms of great or not.

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Here’s how the queen’s speech could affect your company

With the announcement of the Queen’s speech, marking the start of the next government, you may be wondering what it means for your company and your job. With details of a deal with the DUP being released today, the speech gave an indication into government priorities for the next two years. Usually, the speech only indicates the government’s plans for the next 12 months, but with Brexit negotiations already taking place, the 2019 deadline ruled the agenda. So, what was in the Queen’s speech and how could it affect you?

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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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