7 Questions Every Executive Team Must Be Able To Answer

Create clarity. Make choices and simplify your business

Reading Time: 3 Mins

What is the most important work of the Executive Team?

It’s to get onto the same page and decide what really matters for the organisation.

Without clarity your customers become confused … and your employees get frustrated. You risk becoming all things to all people.

That’s not a healthy place to be.

The Executive Team must make choices about what is most important.

This is achieved by answering a handful of critical questions. We call them the 7 Essential Clarity Questions.

 The 7 Essential Clarity Questions

  1. Why do you exist … your core purpose (beyond making money)?

This explains why you matter and to whom. It is your organisation’s highest motivation.

If it’s sincere and heartfelt your core purpose is a powerful source of inspiration for the people who work there.

  1. What do you do … your business definition?

Your answer here is a literal one. It’s what you actually do to fulfill your core purpose.

Two linked questions are who is your customer and how does your business make money?

Business acumen at all levels of your organisation is important. I’ve discovered how few people actually understand how their business makes money. And therefore what the right things are to measure, put resources into and stop doing!

  1. What are you busy building … your dream for the future?

This is where you are headed. What you aspire to be. People in your business, and those you want to attract, should be able to say, “Yes, I want to be part of going there!”

  1. How do you differentiate … why will the customer choose you?

This is your strategy … your unique approach to delivering value to your customer. I love to boil it down to 3 things, which we call your strategic anchors.

Southwest Airlines one of my favourite companies, does this so well. For them, it’s these 3 things: Low fares, on time and treat customers well.

They get these 3 right more than any other airline. It’s why they’ve been so successful over many years.

  1. What is most important your highest priority right now?

This is your overarching goal for the business for a defined period. Normally 6-12 months.

For many of my clients during COVID19, it was ‘keep the business alive.’

Now many are going onto the offensive. They are defining their highest priority for the next 12 months, knowing that now is the time to get back to business and pull ahead.

  1. Who must do what?

At one level this is obvious. But obvious doesn’t mean it’s common.

Each person must be 100% clear on what they need to do to make the team or business succeed. Everyone else on the team must also believe that this person is willing and able to make this contribution.

I don’t mean just to pay lip service to this. But to have deep confidence in fellow team members to fulfill their promise to the team.

  1. How will you behave … your core values?

These are the few behaviours that set your company apart. This is not the usual stuff like honesty, integrity and teamwork. These aren’t differentiating. Everyone has these.

I mean the behaviours that are uniquely associated with you.

Capitec, another of my favourite companies, does this brilliantly. They call it their C.E.O – their behavioural standard for everyone … from the Top to the Frontline. It stands for Client First, Energy and Ownership.

Over the past 20 years, they’ve baked these 3 behaviours into their business processes and culture. It’s part of their special formula for success.

Finally, because you’re a leader more is expected.

For leaders there is an 8th question … how will you behave?

Your Vital Leadership Behaviours .. to answer how you will conduct yourselves … to unlock the potential in your people … inspire hope and confidence and build a winning business?

This is often overlooked. But is a mistake. There’s true power in a Leadership Charter that simply describes your Vital Leadership Behaviours.

Once you’ve done the work to create clarity … what happens next?

  1. Simplify it onto a single page. Do this intentionally. Make it visual, memorable, and accessible.
  2. Take it to the business and get ready to listen. Invite contributions and have the humility to revise your plan.
  3. Overcommunicate and KEEP IT ALIVE. Make this the most important document in your business.

We love to hear from you. Please comment below.

Which question do you think is most important, the most difficult to answer, or the one that gets the least attention?

The Most Extraordinary Character I Ever Met

Reading Time: 3 min 15s

Many years ago I was working as a facilitator on the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People programme.

It was a wonderful occupation at a formative time in my own life.

Work with purpose is precious and I was very lucky to have it.

On the first evening of the programme we would gather around the TV in the conference room. It was time for the highlight of our day together.

Time to watch The Man Who Planted Trees.

In 1953, Readers Digest gave Jean Giono, one of France’s most famous authors, an interesting task. To write a story about the most extraordinary character he had ever met.

Inspired by a reverence for nature and to protect the forests of the world, Giono wrote The Man Who Planted Trees. It was to become his most loved story.

Much later it was converted into an animated film. A piece of work so well crafted that it won an Academy Award. The film is artistry and beauty at the highest level.

On every occasion, it cast its spell over me.

The story begins with a young man on a walking tour high in the mountains of Provence.

To his dismay, he discovers a barren and deserted wasteland … a place where water and life itself had ceased to flow.

In the far distance, he notices a lone figure. It’s Elzeard Bouffier – the hero of our story.

Having suffered personal tragedy, Bouffier had retreated into the highlands to be alone, with only his sheep and dog as company.

But, as the young man quickly discovered, there was so much more to Elzeard Bouffier.

Realising the land was sick and dying for lack of trees he had decided to put things right.

He was planting trees.

One hundred thousand in the first three years and the resolve to continue going until that number would seem like a drop in the ocean.

The young man visited our hero constantly over the next 35 years. In time he would change from sheep to beekeeping.

Yet his purpose never wavered … to restore the land by planting trees.

Slowly, and over many years, water began to flow again.

Communities sprung up in the valley below. Life in these villages revolved around the fountain, where water gushed up in abundance.

“Hope had returned.”

Ultimately, the storyteller concludes, more than “ten thousand people owed their happiness to Elzeard Bouffier.”

Today, more than ever before, this beautiful story resonates with me.

In the mid-1990s our country was trying to come to terms with the demons of the past and to build a new future. The story held meaning then. How do we put things right? How do we create a prosperous country for all who live in it?

Inauguration Day. Union Buildings, Pretoria. 10 May 1994

Today our land is still trying to heal.

We are still busy building the future.

And now another storm is blowing.

COVID 19 has dramatically disrupted our lives and livelihoods.

There is uncertainty.

We often feel anxious, unsure and overwhelmed.

Once again I am inspired by the life and actions of Elzeard Bouffier.

In 1914 the Great War broke out and raged on in Europe. Even so, he continued planting. Twenty-five years later the world was at war again. He still did not waver from his work.

The land needed to heal. It was his job to put it right.

Elzeard Bouffier’s dedication to the ultimate purpose of his life was constant and unyielding. Through good and (very) dark times he weathered the storm and created a new and bright future for thousands of people.

It is this, which makes him the hero of our story.

The image of a leader as a sower of seeds, a planter – a grower, is one I hold dear.

If you run a business, manage a team, lead a school, teach a class, or simply have responsibility for yourself, you are the one to make hope possible.

+ To weather the storm.

+ To sow the seeds and plant the trees.

Together, we have to ensure that the generations who come after us have a forest to walk in and a fountain to drink from.

We love hearing from you. Please comment on this blog post below.

Next time I’ll write about the CEO Rising Summit. There were fantastic contributions from Jim Collins, Verne Harnish, Ram Charan and Patrick Lencioni.

How Great Companies Prepare for Bad Times

Reading Time: 3 mins

Few segments have been harder hit during COVID 19 than the airline industry.

The impact has been devastating.

Once planning on high tourism demand and endless clear blue skies, the industry now faces an uncertain future.

On 3 March this year, I flew to America. It was business as usual. Flights and airports were bursting at the seams.

In the past two decades, the industry has seen eye-watering growth.

The IATA website reveals that 4.4 billion passengers flew in 2018. That’s up 7% from 2017. It’s been continuous year on year growth. There were 1.6 billion passenger journeys in 2000.

”Airlines are connecting more people and places than ever before. The freedom to fly is more accessible than ever. And our world is a more prosperous place as a result.” So said IATA’s CEO, Alexandre de Juniac in 2018.

Overnight, everything changed.

Today upwards of 50% of the global passenger fleet has been grounded. Passenger revenues will be $252 billion lower this year compared to 2019. 68% lower in Q2 alone.

Most international carriers only have two months’ cash on hand to cover operating expenses.

It is a desperate struggle for survival. The risk of permanent damage is very high.

Who will emerge stronger … positioned to capitalise on opportunities, as demand returns and air travel inevitably rebounds?

Time will tell of course. But I’m placing my bets on Southwest Airlines.

The current challenge for airlines worldwide is to manage costs and cash. In America, a $25bn rescue package for the 10 biggest airlines has been agreed upon. Southwest Airlines will receive $3.2bn, including $2.3bn in payroll support.

But what else do these airlines have to fight with?

This is the bigger question. And it’s precisely where Southwest has the biggest advantage.

When the reality is bad and the future is uncertain you have to have something substantial to fight with.

How strong you were going into this crisis matters now.

Airlines that win are the ones with the lowest costs.

Southwest is relentless in delivering a no-frills business model with the lowest per-unit cost in the industry. But they’ve also achieved something else.

They’ve combined low cost with a customer experience.

One no competitor has ever got close to matching. They created a superior intangible flying experience. Based on fun, entertainment and genuine human care.

For the customer, this more than compensated for any loss in frills and benefits on the low-cost model. And it made them strong.

Here for me is the secret.

For this to feel real and authentic, they had to build an airline culture unlike any other. One that had the properties of fun, entertainment, and genuine care at the very core of its soul.

What’s more, after 45 years, they still invest in their culture and guard it like a fortress.

Competitors cut corners that saved costs but eroded their cultures. Herb Kelleher, the founder, was clear. Southwest only cut those corners that did not impact the culture inside the company.

The result today is something rare and precious …

        a deep well of accumulated trust, loyalty, and respect from customers and employees.

Will this be enough to avoid failure?

It’s impossible to say of course. There are no guarantees. So much is still out of their control. The biggest uncertainty is when people will start to fly again. And in what numbers?

But they have a fighting chance.

  • They have cash, a strong balance sheet, and the lowest unit costs, and …
  • They have a culture that’s near impossible to copy and customers who love them.

How other airlines (and businesses) right now would wish for the same!

Last month, Gary Kelly, the Southwest CEO said this;

“I’m grateful we have time to work on the biggest problem we’ve ever been confronted with. This is not a time to feel sorry for ourselves. It’s time to be laser-focused. We believe we have rational reasons for hope.”

Rational reasons for hope … arising from actions taken during the good times.

Once in the storm, it’s too late.

Jim Collins writes about productive paranoia. “It’s the ability to be hyper-vigilant about potentially bad events that can hit your company. Then to convert that fear into preparation and clearheaded action.”

It’s the hallmark of a great company. And it’s why Southwest has a fighting chance of making it … possibly even emerging stronger.

Saving for a rainy day is not an empty idiom. It’s exactly what one needs … flying into a storm.

We love hearing from you. Please comment below …

Related Posts:

  1. Does Your Organisation Have a Heart
  2. Priceless Lessons from a Business Legend
Getting Through the Storm

Getting Through the Storm – 4 Essential Acts of Leadership

Reading time: 3 mins

In 2008/9 another great storm was blowing – the Global Financial Crisis.

I was working with Jim Collins on an event we were hosting in South Africa.

Collins had just released his newest book, How The Mighty Fall.

We wanted to help business executives prepare for the actions they had to take to get through the crisis.

Collins challenged us with a question. “What can you do and what must you do to not waste the opportunities presented by this time of crisis.”

It’s the same question facing us today.

COVID 19 has changed everything. Many businesses are in grave danger. Caught off guard by severe and rapid change. Threatened by big forces acting out of our control.

Getting through the storm

Every business is vulnerable. There is no law of nature to protect you.

The statistics are clear. They tell us more organisations end up irrelevant in the long run than successful.

Who would ever choose to be irrelevant?

Collins concluded there are 3 types of enterprises when they enter a time of storm.

  • Category Ones: Strong going in. Able to take advantage of opportunities because they are strong and uniquely positioned.
  • Category Two’s: Not as strong as they would like. They can take advantage of opportunities but it’s limited. They also have to protect themselves. Making sure they don’t fall and ultimately fail.
  • Category Three’s: Weak when the crisis hits. There’s only 1 priority – SURVIVAL.

In which category are you?

Which do you fall into? How will you respond to get through the storm?

Most organisations fall into Category Two.

Not as strong as you would like to be.

Your response is a combination of defense and offense.

You have to protect. To defend. Here it’s about essential acts of preservation relating to costs, operational efficiency and cash.

But only to defend, risks becoming withdrawn and inward-looking. Even becoming paralysed. Inviting inaction.

Uncertainty, anxiety, and fear can get inside you. It can demoralize you.

Remember, it’s not only what must you do but, what can you do.

Can-do puts you on the front foot … back in control.

Can do exercises your leadership to get you going again. It gets you looking out into the world asking; “how can we be relevant at this time of crisis?”

This unlocks your creative energy and directs it to a purpose. It places you on the cusp of a breakthrough. To making a potential leap so you find the opportunity in the crisis.

However you respond, there are 4 leadership opportunities not to be missed right now.

The opportunity to:

  1. Bind your team tightly together … with a special emphasis on deepening vulnerability-based trust. Use this time to unify, remove personal reservations, and face outward together.
  2. Create clarity. Get clear on how you can be relevant to the world right now. Create a temporary rallying cry, just for this time. Do this by answering the question: “How do we want our business to be different 3 months from now? “
  3. Over-communicate. Share the rallying cry widely. Mobilise your organisation through communication and action. Give people meaningful roles. Get them involved in creating the future.
  4. Set new meeting rhythms. Meetings are more important than ever before. Concentrate on the task. But also embrace the humanity and emotion of your people. Behind every screen is a person. A human being, struggling to master their own fears and uncertainties.

In normal times we refer to these as the 4 disciplines of organisational health.

In the time of the storm, we call them the 4 Essential Acts of Leadership.

Acts to build hope and confidence … to build the belief that we will be OK. And, that possibly, we will even use this time to build something that is new and outstanding.

Decline, Collins concludes, is largely self-inflicted.

We are not imprisoned by our circumstances.

Be the company that emerges stronger …

We love hearing from you. Please comment on the post below.

In case you missed last month’s post, “10 Powerful Questions for Senior Leaders” please click here

What Senior Leaders Can Learn From Master Trackers

Ten deep questions to reflect on your Leadership Journey so far. 

Reading Time: 3:30s

Many of us are now working from home.

It’s an uncertain and difficult time for everyone. Less structure, more time to think. The long days ahead offer time for reflection at a deeper level.

Our blog this month arises from the study of an unusual group of people. And it culminates in 10 powerful questions …

Alex van den Heever has worked in the African bushveld for most of his adult life. As a result, he has been richly blessed.

A big reason for this is his work with expert wildlife trackers, such as Renias Mhlongo and Karel Benadie. People with unique skills that place them in a league of their own.

But it’s more than skill which sets them apart.

They possess a special blend of attributes. Human qualities that have kept them at the top of their game.

And it’s been put to the test … with leopards and lions in Africa. Grizzly bears in North America and puma’s in the hostile sierras of Patagonia.

Fascinated, I sat with Alex to learn more. My goal was to understand what senior executives can learn from master trackers.

Here’s what he shared with me.

  1. They know what they are good at.

They play to their strengths. Karel, for example, is excellent at trailing over rough, broken ground. Renias is brilliant at anticipating an animal’s direction.

Knowing their strengths (talents) is a big advantage. It helps them find the animal fast and with little wasted effort. Equally, they know what they are not good at.

  1. They love what they do.

Their motivation is intrinsic. Being on the trail is work of course, but it’s work with meaning. They are happy and relaxed because they are doing what they are best at.

Their reward is not only finding the animal. The process itself is deeply rewarding. It’s where they express themselves. Thus they track when it’s hot, cold and uncomfortable. This perseverance makes them more successful more often.

  1. They balance rational thought with creativity.

Trailing an elusive animal requires them to be both literal and imaginative. Competence with the detail and big picture thinking is foundational to their mastery.

They zoom in and zoom out of these two modes effortlessly.

Engaging with the minutiae of the trail is necessary. But it’s combined with the ever-changing information from the landscape around them. This is creativity in action and helps to anticipate and leapfrog ahead.

  1. They are constantly learning

There is never a moment of ‘I’ve arrived’. Curiosity is a signature feature of their personality.

Despite their experience, they have an intense desire to know and understand more. Growing their knowledge and skills is a habit.

Losing the track does not derail them. This is a fresh opportunity to learn. It’s all part of the process. Amidst the uncertainty, they consistently display calmness and common sense.

  1. They radiate conviction and confidence

Both are positive to a fault. Self-limiting beliefs about their ability to find the animal are non-existent. They simply believe they will be successful.

This is contagious. It inspires confidence in those (less experienced) tracking with them. Younger trackers learn from this. It strengthens their resilience to keep going.

It also means one feels safe. Even in unpredictable situations – such as when the animal charges or shows aggression.

  1. They love teaching others.

 Both Renias and Karel are patient, dedicated teachers. They are devoted to growing the next generation of wildlife trackers.

It’s their calling to build up the youngsters. To ensure they are useful and economically active in their communities. This means growing skills. But also, filling them with confidence and exposing them directly to opportunity.

  1. They are humble.

This makes all the above possible. They are unassuming. Their tracking is not a demonstration designed to impress. Their ego seldom runs the show.

It also means they have compassion and empathy for their subject … to truly get ‘into the skin of the animal’.

Inspired by lessons from Master Trackers I reflected on what it would take to become a ‘Master Leader’. Imagine the positive effect on people’s lives. The value for organisations. This is an ideal worth striving for.

How about you … are you on track to become a master leader?

Use these 10 questions to reflect on your journey so far:

  1. Do you know what you are good at?
  2. Do you understand what your special talent is and play to this strength?
  3. Do you love what you do?
  4. Does your reward come from doing the work and not just what the work produces?
  5. Are you connected to the detail and fluent in the big picture?
  6. Are you constantly learning?
  7. Do your words and actions inspire hope and confidence?
  8. Do people feel safe around you?
  9. Are you actively growing the next generation of leaders?
  10. Do you have your ego in check?

We love hearing from you. Please comment on the post below.

We’ll pick three responses.

Each person will receive a free copy of Alex’s new book, Changing a Leopard’s Spots – It’s a winner!

Make Meetings Great Again

Making Meetings Great Again

Every business we work with wants morale to go up and productivity to improve.

Few things matter more to morale and productivity than meetings.

Think of your own experience.

How many overpopulated meetings do you sit through in a year?

How many meetings lack intensity? Become sidetracked or lose focus? How often are you frustrated at how much precious time and creative energy gets wasted?

Meetings to many are seen as a necessary evil. The unavoidable downside of working in a corporate.

But it’s not like that for everyone.

There are exceptions.

There are leaders with a special talent for keeping their teams focused on the mission and on producing great results. They are the exceptions.

How do they do this?

The answer lies in great meetings.

Firstly it’s a mindset.

They believe meetings are their work. An integral part of how they are successful and practice their craft. Unlike surgeons who work in theatre or teachers in classrooms, effective leaders understand their main work gets done in meetings.

Secondly, they have a structure.

This boils down to 5 kinds of meetings with the teams they lead.

Each serves a different purpose. Has a specific tone, context and timing. They avoid lumping everything together, creating what we love to call ‘meeting stew’.

What then are the 5 essential meetings?

1. The Daily Stand Up: 10-15 minutes.

The purpose is administrative. It’s mainly about people’s movements. Where will you be that week? What is on your plate?

It reinforces for the team that although everyone is busy, people are connected to each other. If you’re in another geography, especially with a similar time zone – you can call in to keep this connection.

2. The Weekly Tactical: 90-120 minutes.

Teams have their goals but get caught up in ‘the thick of thin things.’ Staying focused on what is most important is an essential team discipline.

Creating a rhythm of delivery based on short review and planning cycles is the key to progress. Success in implementing goals requires intensity and focus. The weekly tactical is the vehicle for this.

For zooming in.

And it allows for the practice of accountability. Are we honest about progress? Are our discussions rigorous and authentic? Is each person showing up and contributing?

3. The Special Attention Meeting (SAMS): 1-3 hours.

The weekly tactical can get bogged down into solving problems. That’s not its purpose. And often the wrong people are present. This is why we have SAMS.

They are single subject meetings. (No meeting stew here).

The key is to have the right people present. And to keep the group small. More people equals more complexity. Everyone must be there for a reason!

Tight timing, proper preparation and a champion who convenes it are the other vital success elements of a SAM.

4. The Quarterly Review: 1 day – 2 days.

The job of this meeting is to zoom out. To see the bigger picture.

These questions are important …

How have we performed in the past 3 months? Are we making an impact? What demands our serious attention? What’s ahead that we must prepare for? Do we have the right team culture and chemistry? Is our purpose clear? Who must do what?

These are essential conversations. A wise team leader protects this meeting fiercely.

5. The Weekly 1:1: 10-15 minutes.

This completes the system. Buckingham and Goodall assert it’s the fastest way to accelerate individual performance*. It connects the dots between the Daily Stand Up and the Weekly Tactical.

The focus is on the individual. What do you talk about? Two questions … what are your priorities this week? How can I help you?

It’s informal. But it shows care and support. Two preconditions for morale and productivity to improve.

What happens in your team?

Do you practice all 5?

Doing so will be the fastest and most practical way to improve your business this year. I guarantee two essential things will happen.

  1. You’ll get more important things done. Solve problems at a deeper level and deliver better results.
  2. Team morale and energy will improve.

Give it a try. Your team will thank you for it!

Please comment below. Do you have a healthy meeting culture?

* NINE LIES ABOUT WORK: A Freethinking Leaders Guide to the Real World: Marcus Buckingham and Ashley Goodall.


Leadership Works 2019 Wrap Up Meetings

Meetings. What should be done about them?


They are the most common of all business activities, yet also one of the most troubling.

There’s hardly an organisation we know who does not wish to improve the quality of their meetings.

It’s a real source of pain.

Why are they so troubling and what should be done about it?

Our first post in early 2020 will tackle this question.

Also in the New Year

  1. Launch of a new programme – Tracking Success.
  • We are excited to launch a new programme in 2020. It’s designed for your next team offsite or large company conference.
  • Tracking Success will inject energy and a fascinating new metaphor into your way of thinking.
  • Watch the short video to find out more.

  1. We’ll be traveling to Dallas in March to participate in Patrick Lencioni’s annual UNCONFERENCE.
  • It’s a unique event that celebrates the importance of Organisational Health.
  • Patrick Lencioni will talk on what motivates leaders to become CEOs. Are they leading with the right motive? For the reward? Or the responsibility it’s intended to be?

Meetings LeadershipWorks 2019 Into 2020

  • And then the piece I’m most excited about.

Southwest Airlines – one of the healthiest companies in America.

The Chief Learning Officer, Elizabeth Bryant and other SWA executives will talk about how they have sustained the culture and heart of Southwest Airlines, over so many years.

There will be much to learn and we will write about all of it. Please stay tuned.

Finally, in case you missed it, our most-read article in 2019 was The Power of Relationships.

It’s about an unusual friendship between two people, Alex and Renias. Their story is the inspiration behind our new programme, Tracking Success.  Click here.

Thank you for your support this year.

It’s highly valued. We wish you a wonderful holiday and great blessings over the festive season.

Best wishes,


Leadership Works November Who is the most important person in your organisation

Who is the most important person in your organisation?

The Team Leader is at the frontline of organisational culture.

The macro-culture gets set at the top. This is important but there are limitations. The problem is that even with the best intent, executives are distanced from most people’s actual daily working experiences.

The micro-culture is what’s key.

This is the team you work in. The 6 to 10 people you spend the most time with every day. It’s here, in the micro-culture, on the watch of the Team Leader where the culture gets realised.

The Team Leader’s actions, motives and personal energy makes a huge difference to how much people care about their place of work.

This is a big responsibility.

It’s why the Team Leader is arguably the most important person in your organisation.

So what is the work of the Team Leader?

Ultimately it boils down to two things:

  1. Create conditions for people to perform.
  2. Make work a dignified experience.

Performance matters. It’s obvious. But it’s surprising how often this gets lost in the activity of a business. Results matter. This is how value gets created. Results establish the legitimacy of the team and the sustainability of the business.

But dignity matters too.

This shapes how people feel about their work and the organisation.

If people are your most important asset, as I hear many executives say, then dignity matters. Dignity is how people are treated. It allows for people to belong. To feel loyal and want to do more.

Together, performance and dignity ensure that not only the business grows but the person does too.

The Team Leader has a big role to play. One of their first actions is to create clarity.

Practically this means working with the team to create a Team Charter. A charter is a ‘contract’. It bonds people’s actions together and releases energy towards a common goal.

Keeping it simple and on a single page is important.

Answering the following 7 questions is key:

  1. Why do we exist as a team … our core purpose?
  2. What do we do?
  3. How will we behave?
  4. How will we succeed … 3 things we have to always get right?
  5. What is most important right now … our team’s single most important near term priority?
  6. Who must do what and by when?
  7. What will we measure?

A Charter clarifies the team’s reason for being. It provides focus and it avoids the morale-sapping effect of confusion and the inevitable frustration which follows.

Yet most teams have not answered these questions!

And they certainly are not written up on a single page and kept visible and accessible. Neither are they referred to in meetings and consulted weekly as the basis for making decisions and evaluating success.

This is a powerful tool in the hands of the Team Leader.

So too is working with each person to identify their strengths. This builds the spirit of the person and it grows trust. The best team leaders work very hard at this.

In a May 2019, HBR article, The Power of Hidden Teams, Marcus Buckingham and Ashley Goodall wrote:

“We discovered that strong agreement with two statements, ‘At work, I clearly understand what is expected of me’ and ‘I have the chance to use my strengths every day at work’, corresponds with a high level of trust in the team leader.

Trust in the Team Leader is the key to the performance of the team.

Creating clarity builds this trust.

So does helping each person on the team to get focussed and feel understood.

This is the essential work of the Team Leader. The best ones show up every day to do this … over and over again.

There’s more of course.

But it starts with performance and dignity on the frontline of your business.

We love hearing from you. Please comment below.

+ Do you agree that performance and dignity are vital?

+ Has your team answered the 7 questions?



The (simple) key to building a great organisational culture

Last time we wrote about culture.

It’s the least professionally managed part of any business activity. Yet culture, that which shapes and forms the way people think, feel and behave, is the real work.

The wise executive knows this and wants every person in the organisation to be fully engaged.

An engaged person demonstrates passion, initiative, imagination, and resilience.

People with these qualities serve customers better. They solve problems faster and design products quicker. They support each other in ways that unhealthy organisations can only dream about.

Cultures that nurture these qualities are precious.

Yet research tells us they are also rare.

What’s more common are people who are not 100% engaged – even at the most senior level.

More and more people are going through the motions. Sleepwalking through their daily working lives. Bringing less of themselves to the workplace every day. Disengaged.

What a cost! What a waste! What a missed opportunity!

And it’s not for a lack of trying either. Companies spend vast amounts of money to boost morale and improve their culture. That’s ok (to a point) but money spent on benefits and campaigns does not make the biggest difference.

What does?

What makes the biggest difference to whether people are more engaged? More productive, customer-focused, innovative and more likely to stay?

The answer lies with the team. The team you work in … the 6 to 10 people you interact with most every day.

The idea is simple.

Improve the team you work in and you will change how you think about your organisation.

When people around you are supportive and authentic it transforms your working experience. Trust, respect and accountability are the basis of teamwork. When people on your team behave in this way, morale improves. You have more to give and your feelings of belonging for the organisation change.

You’re even more likely to overlook many of the larger (and harder to solve) problems of the wider enterprise. Poor communication, silo thinking, negative internal competition to name a few.

It’s simple and it’s true.

As the team gets better so does the business. And the culture becomes healthier, stronger and more resilient.

This is the most powerful lever for improving employee engagement.

In conclusion – when you build a well-functioning team you are doing two very important things at the same time.

  • You are ensuring the business delivers on its goals. That’s a non-negotiable.
  • And you are improving every single person’s working experience. So vital for productivity and morale.

 So, where can your team improve?

To get you started, reflect on the 10 questions below.

  1. Do the members of your team trust and respect each other?
  2. Do team members speak up and share their opinions, even when they disagree?
  3. Does each member feel 100% committed to the team agenda?
  4. Does the team have a purpose and a primary goal that inspires and challenges?
  5. Do team members admit to mistakes, weaknesses and insufficient knowledge?
  6. Does your team come to decisions quickly? Does it avoid getting bogged down by over-analysis and consensus?
  7. When a decision gets made, does everyone support it?
  8. Do team members confront each other on behaviours that don’t serve the team agenda?
  9. Are your team meetings compelling and productive?
  10. Does your team accept the leader?

Next time we’ll talk about the leader.

If you’re the team leader you make a huge difference. Creating an environment of success is your ultimate responsibility. In the next post we will discuss how.

We love hearing from you. Please comment below.



Is Your Culture Getting The Attention It Deserves

Culture is a hot topic.

Every leader talks about it. But very few are successful at building one that is distinctive and long-lasting.

This is a problem. For most companies, the only real differentiator is the productivity of the people who work there.

Culture makes the biggest difference to productivity.

It’s the intangible that defines what people feel and how they behave. It’s what dictates how much of themselves people are willing to give.

Yet it’s the least understood and almost definitely the least professionally managed part of any business activity.

In most companies culture is left to develop by itself. And like a garden without a gardener it takes on its own shape and form.

This is risky.

Left to its own: you still have a culture. But it may not be the one that you want!

Hit Refresh Book Company Culture Organisational HealthThese thoughts were on my mind as I began reading Satya Nadella’s excellent book, Hit Refresh.

In 2014 he became only the 3rd CEO in Microsofts 40 year history. In the beginning, Microsoft was a speedboat. A lean competition machine that was at one time the world’s most valuable company.

Over time it lost its mojo. When Nadella took over many believe the company was sliding towards irrelevance.

Its competitors had gone mobile and were using the cloud for most of their software. Microsoft had failed in every new thing it tried.

Insiders described the culture as toxic. Fiefdoms and power struggles were the order of the day. Mastering the political game was the way to get ahead. The company had turned in upon itself and away from the customer.

Nadella had a massive turnaround on his hands. His job was to get this huge organisation of 120 000 people sprinting in the right direction.

Where did he start? Where would you start?

In Nadella’s words, “I put the company’s culture at the top of our agenda. We need to rediscover the soul of Microsoft, our reason for being. My primary job is to curate our culture so that 100 000 inspired minds – Microsoft employees – can better shape our future.”

He started by converting the intangible into future success for the company.

A new purpose andvision came into being.

To empower every person and every organisation on the planet to achieve moreand to thrive in a mobile and cloud-first world.

This challenged them to leap out of their comfort zone and to start winning in new areas. It led to a resurgence of innovation and new partnerships with old enemies.

Then they developed a clear connection between their mission and the culture. They sought to build a culture of leadership that encourages people to take risks and inspire innovation.

The growth mindset became an anchor.

Satya Nadella - Is Your Culture Getting The Attention You Deserve

As Nadella says; “we had to go from being know-it-alls to learn-it-alls. To not to have to put on an act of knowing everything, but to be curious and learn”.

They also got specific about what culture they wanted. To establish a growth-mindset in 3 distinct ways: To obsess about our customers, to actively seek diversity and inclusion and to act as 1 company.

And then the 3rd big anchor was Leadership – the right people on the bus at the top to lead the culture.

He built a team at the top of one mind on mission, strategy, and culture. A team whose actions declared what kind of behaviour was no longer required. Leaders who would model the change.

As they progressed they had to pay special attention to the middle managers.

This group went backwards initially.

As in every large organisation, the ‘middles’ are sandwiched between the top and the front line. They experience unique pressures that are often ignored or underappreciated. They required special tools and support to make the transition.

Fast-forward to today, 2019 and Microsoft is back!

They were a company frozen in time. Now they are leaders in the new era of artificially intelligent cloud computing. Some even describe them as a cooler company than Apple.

I found the story engrossing and fascinating.

Being intentional and resolute about your culture is not a nice to have.

Nor is it to be delegated or delayed. It must get deliberate attention.

The wise executive knows that culture – that which shapes and forms the way people think, feel and behave – is the real work in an organisation.

Satya Nadella knew this. He chose to harness the power of this intangible force when he started out as CEO. It has produced rich rewards.

What about your organisation? Are you being deliberate about your culture? Is it getting the attention it deserves?

We love hearing from you. Please comment below.