November 20, 2017

Archives for November 2015

Are too many bosses “control freaks?”

Sir Brian SouterSir Brian Souter, highly successful co-founder of the Stagecoach bus group and always an entertaining speaker, made the front page of the Scottish broadsheet newspaper “The Herald” on Saturday with his conference comment that “too many large companies are run by ‘control freaks’ whose outlook affects long-term business growth.”

Absolutely right, in my view. Curious, almost, that it was news.

Except it is news that he said it because it’s not conventional wisdom.

These “emperors,” as he dubbed them, “lead to poor long-term growth as they are averse to risk and trying new ideas… Some people are terrified to do anything in case it affects their share price.”

Brian went on to suggest “the proliferation of emperors in senior roles will actually stunt the potential for faster economic growth.” (He was speaking in Scotland but clearly thinking more broadly.)

I agree. I experience the consequences of this virtually every day. The agility of larger organisations especially is a fraction of what it could be.

Control freaks shut down people. And that shuts down results. You can probably see that around you, if you look properly.

Yes, we need “governance” but we also need agility and energy and genuine, empowering leadership.

I think so anyway.

What about you? Is Sir Brian right?

Being the boss isn’t the same as leading

Three people around a computerJust because you can tell someone what to do doesn’t mean you should, or that it’s the best option.

In most situations, probably, you’ll be right—the one in the know, the one with the insight to see the correct course of action, the one with the relevant experience.

But not always…

Sometimes it’ll be one of the team who has the right idea.

And that’s where we see the difference between a boss and a leader: The “boss” asserts their authority, really in insecurity, and insists on their point of view being adopted; whereas the leader has the strength and self-confidence to accept the alternative idea—to admit they may have been wrong, even.

And that’s empowering. It encourages creativity and innovation and leads to advantage.

Over the long haul, the leader and the team will beat the boss and the subordinates.

Which are you: A boss or a leader?

Most of us need a kick up the…

Two businesspeople in slightly tense conversationNo, not that.

Most of us need a kick up the assumptions—our assumptions about what’s possible, about how things might happen, and especially about other people and our relationships with them.

We tend not to see how the assumptions we unconsciously make affect the outcome in any situation. We tend to get what we expect to get because much of what happens is really our own creation. The little actions we take tend to prompt responses that reinforce what we believe.

Often we’re reluctant to declare what our assumptions are and then allow them to be examined. The consequences might be embarrassing: It might become apparent that the premises we believe to be true and have acted upon aren’t true at all. And then more things might fall away—like all the work we’ve been focused on for the last while.

And so we keep our assumptions close. We hide them. But that’s a bad idea. We might go seriously off track without the feedback we need to stay connected to what’s real.

Then we might get a real kick up the…

First step is realising we are making assumptions.

Then we need to identify what they are and whether they really are justified.

They might not be. And then we can make progress.