What makes boards great?

Oct 30th

The board of a newly-merged business recently put ‘getting to know each other better’ at the top of their wish list for the board. Given their huge strategic agenda and complex business challenges, enjoying a board dinner or two together could seem like fiddling while Rome burns.

In fact, knowing each other as people is the basis for respect between board members, and respect is the basis of trust.  Members of the board had instinctively latched on to the thing that would make most difference to them adding real value to the business. 

Research shows that the conventional wisdom about what makes


This article is filed under: leadership


Make the most of your critical friends

Oct 16th

It’s good for SMEs to have a number of people that they can call upon for advice and support.

A few years ago when my business was reviewing its proposition and strategy, we realised that we’d reach that age – and growth stage – when we would benefit from a fresh, external perspective: people who were prepared to challenge our thinking and help us reach sound market-based decisions.

We didn’t want people who would take on the formal roles of non-executives (though that of course may be the best option for many larger businesses); we needed people with whom we could share


This article is filed under: leadership, strategy process


Attracting talent without big bonuses

Sep 15th

‘Bonuses are back’ makes a good headline, but it disguises the reality of life in the city. Research by ORC Guideline shows that job losses in financial services represent about eight percent of the total UK unemployment figure of 2.4 million.

The old model is broken – for the time being, at least. Many people will look in vain for their big bonus. Without it, people accustomed to this powerful financial incentive for high performance may drift, or become actively disengaged.  This is a serious business risk when a demotivated fund manager could mean the loss of millions in minutes.

Here are


This article is filed under: talent management


The MacLeod Review on employee engagement

Sep 01st

I read with interest the recent MacLeod Review by David Macleod and Nita Clarke, in essence a comprehensive review of employee engagement.  At its heart is a simple, clear message.  Employee engagement does make a difference to business performance.  There’s nothing new in that, but the real import of the review is the rallying cry it makes for a national awareness campaign. 

That provides a real test for Peter Mandelson’s Department for Business Innovation & Skills.  Can government show the imagination and skill to galvanise employers and leaders to put the lessons of this report to work?  For if employee engagement


This article is filed under: , leadership, strategy process


The importance of flexible leadership

Aug 25th

In times of uncertainty, people look towards their leaders more than ever before and need reassurance that their leaders are taking the organisation in the right direction. So it is crucial in these times that leaders take a step back and consider the impact that they are having on the organisation through their leadership style.

Leaders often assume that leadership style is a product of their personality, rather than a choice they make. A recent Harvard Business Review article by Daniel Goleman, entitled Leadership That Gets Results, suggests that the most effective executives use a variety of different leadership styles, switching


This article is filed under: leadership


Putting priority on communication

Aug 11th

We’ve always known that communication is a core skill for a successful leader. It’s hardly surprising that this core skill is being severely tested in our more testing market environment. More surprisingly, it’s the skill where leaders still lack confidence and find it hard to work out both what to do and how to do it. As one senior HR director said to me recently: ‘Don’t assume that leaders know how to handle difficult news’.

In times of rapid change, people are searching daily for clues about the state of the business and will look for it by magnifying every bit


This article is filed under: communication, leadership


Staying connected in stressful times

Jul 30th

Many people are familiar with the Myers Briggs Type Indicator test for whether you draw your energy from within yourself (in Jung’s term, Introversion), or from people and outside things (Extroversion). 

What may be less widely known are the ways that personality types shape responses to stress. When the share price is tumbling, the groups of employees seeking refuge in the pub are likely to be E types; the I types may become withdrawn and stop connecting with others. Neither response positively contributes to leading the business through tough times.

 So how to find the constructive middle way, whatever your natural inclination?



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Time to get your strategy right

Jul 21st

In today’s edition of the FT, management columnist Stefan Stern, writes that “business leaders ought to recognise, as they catch their breath after months of turbulence, that the strategy they were pursuing until recently is unlikely to be right for today. .. Leaders need to develop sensitivity to the mood of the organisation if they want to avoid the unpleasant surprise of being confronted by colleagues who refuse to follow the script.”

As we know, organisational identity offers a point of stability when everything else is changing.

Stefan goes on to say “in a battle between culture and strategy, culture usually wins. So


This article is filed under: leadership, organisational identity, strategy process