Leadership Skills – Lessons from the Front Lines #40 #cong21

Synopsis:

Good leadership ensures that an organisation’s Vision, Mission, Values and Strategy are articulated, connected and ultimately realised. Of the above, values are arguably the most critical. In simple terms: values (culture) = behaviours. Feedback is an important leadership skill to ensure the right culture and values develop in an organisation. A resilient leader focuses on doing the basics well every day. This should enable the organisation to grow and achieve its mission and potential.

Total Words

1,075

Reading Time in Minutes

4

Key Takeaways:

  1. Leadership is learned on the job, but there are key skills that can be learned.
  2. The leader should connect the Vision, Mission, Values and Strategy to the daily work of every team member.
  3. The leader should look after the culture of an organisation – feedback is a key skill for this.
  4. To be resilient, focus on doing the basics well every day.

About Cronan McNamara

Cronan is Founder and CEO of Creme Global and Founder and organiser of the Predict Conference. Creme Global is a data science technology company delivering the Expert Models data science platform.

Cronan is fascinated by in creativity and innovation and is driven to deliver world class products and services, from Ireland, that make an impact globally.

In his spare time Cronan enjoys playing competitive tennis and spending time with his family

Contacting Cronan McNamara

You can follow Cronan on Twitter, LinkedIn or check out Creme Global and the Predict Conference.

By Cronan McNamara

In this article, I write about some of the key things I’ve learned about leadership from 16 years as founder and CEO of Creme Global and in particular from an executive leadership programme called Leadership for Growth that I completed in IESE, Barcelona a few years ago.

I’ve come to realise that good leadership encompasses the following elements:

  • Vision (direction)
  • Mission (purpose)
  • Values (behaviours)
  • Strategy (decisions)
  • Growth
  • Resilience

Vision

You should think of your organisation’s Vision as its North Star – what do you want the organization to be when it grows up? It is where you are always heading towards. You may need to adjust course now and again to get around obstacles, but you always tack back towards your North Star as soon as you can. Often, organisations will keep their vision statement internal and confidential.

Mission

Mission is an expression of why your organisation exists – its purpose. What impact do you want to make on the world? This is often a public statement. For example, Creme Global’s mission is to enable better decision-making in a complex world using scientific methods, computing and data.

The leader should define the vision and mission of their organisation. Input should be taken from the team and stakeholders, but ultimately the leader should take full ownership and responsibility for these. Once these are defined, the leader should quickly move on to focus on values.

Values

The maxim that culture eats strategy for breakfast is true in my experience. Culture is an expression of your organisation’s values. Values are observable by the behaviours you see in your organisation. Culture & values are the soul of your organisation – you must feel them in your heart, as well as intellectually in your mind.

Organisational values can be selected to design for the behaviours and culture that the leader wants and that will help the organisation to succeed. The values should align with the vision, mission and strategy, of course.

We have broken down our values into strategic values (that are aligned to our specific company mission and vision) and core values (the kind of values that all organisations would want to have). It is important to write both of these sets of values down. Once written down, communicated and understood, you can start to develop your organisation’s culture.

Values (or Culture) = Behaviours.

The best thing to do is to hire for the right values. Do this by using a trusted interview panel that is tuned in to understanding how the applicant’s values align with the organisations.

The leadership team needs to coach and encourage the right behaviours (and discourage the wrong behaviours) on a daily basis in the organisation. They do this by using the skill of feedback.

Feedback  

Feedback is a key leadership skill. It is a simple and effective way to set (and reset) expectations about behaviours (and hence values) in an organisation. Here are the three simple steps to effective feedback:

Positive feedback (for behaviours you want to encourage):

  1. Describe the behaviour that you observed
  2. Explain the impact of the behaviour on the organisation
  3. Congratulations!

Constructive feedback (for behaviours that need to change):

  1. Describe the behaviour that you observed
  2. Explain the impact of the behaviour on the organisation
  3. Coaching

Feedback should only be used for important (non-trivial) issues and it should be timely. Timely doesn’t have to mean straight away, but certainly as close to the time as is practically possible. The observed behaviour should be clearly observable by any independent observer.

Constructive feedback should be delivered one-on-one. Positive feedback can be given in a broader team setting or one-on-one. Finally, the 1, 2, 3 of constructive feedback should be delivered in a neutral (non-emotional) and non-judgemental manner.

Strategy

There are many things to say about strategy, but what I will say about strategy in a leadership context is as follows: strategy ultimately will boil down to tasks/jobs to be done (strategic objectives) by your team on a daily basis.

The leader’s job is to make sure that the team members (who are carrying out those jobs) understand how those tasks align with the values, mission and vision of the organisation. It’s as simple and as difficult as that!

Growth

The more you can grow, the bigger the impact you can make on your mission, so that’s a good thing. Growth is good and it brings more resources, new and interesting opportunities which should keep the team motivated, challenged and engaged.

Resilience

Resilience is demonstrated by people who have the ability and confidence to do the basics well and consistently. If you want to find a resilient person in your organisation, look for the ones that perform the basics well every day, even under pressure.

Leadership skills can be learned and developed. To be a resilient leader, focus on the basics of vision, mission, strategy, values and feedback every day. Growth will take care of itself.

I hope this article was useful to you. Good luck on your leadership journey!

 

What Value do Ideas Have as Intangible Assets? #44 #cong18

Synopsis:

Some ideas you believe in your heart, and you can’t let go of. They just make sense to you. There is a certain unassailable logic to them. No matter how or by whom they are challenged, you know you can overcome the objections. Challenges do not deter your belief in how your idea can succeed. But how valuable are they really, in the context of a business organisation? How can you really tell? And what should you do about it?

4 Key Takeaways:

  1. Intangible assets account for a significant portion of total company value in the modern economy (84% in S&P 500 in 2015).
  2. Ideas are valuable intangible assets of companies and organisations. Once they are written down, they can be protected as intellectual property
  3. How can you have great ideas? Master your subject area and if your instincts say that you have a good idea, trust it
  4. Develop a culture in your organisation to nurture ideas and put systems in place to capture and review team – these are both the CEO’s job.

About Cronan McNamara:

Cronan is Founder and CEO of Creme Global and Founder and organiser of the Predict Conference. Creme Global is a data science technology company delivering the Expert Models data science platform.

Cronan is fascinated by in creativity and innovation and is driven to deliver world class products and services, from Ireland, that make an impact globally.

In his spare time Cronan enjoys playing competitive tennis and spending time with his family

Contacting Cronan McNamara:

You can follow Cronan on Twitter, LinkedIn or check out Creme Global and the Predict Conference.

By Cronan McNamara

The mention of intangible assets in the question places this issue firmly in the context of a business or organisation.

I am interested in exploring the value of ideas in organisations, what they’re worth (if anything), how to capture them, nurture them, execute on them and ultimately exploit them.

Intangible assets continue to be the greatest asset to today’s companies. In 2015 the intangible assets of the S&P 500 companies were valued at 84% of total value.

An intangible asset is defined as an asset that is not physical in nature. Examples of intangible assets include goodwill, brand recognition, copyrights, patents, trademarks, trade names, and customer lists. You can divide intangible assets into two categories: intellectual property and goodwill.

Well, what about ideas? Are they intellectual property or goodwill? Well both, actually.

Ideas can come from the goodwill of your team, your suppliers, your customers, partners, stakeholders and others. Without goodwill, it is unlikely ideas will be forthcoming let alone acted upon.

According to Wikipedia: Intellectual property (I.P.) is defined as a category of property that includes intangible creations of the human intellect, and primarily encompasses copyrights, patents, and trademarks. It also includes other types of rights, such as trade secrets, publicity rights, moral rights, and rights against unfair competition. Artistic works like music and literature, as well as some discoveries, inventions, words, phrases, symbols, and designs, can all be protected as intellectual property.

I.P. can be protected in law, for example, patents, copyright, trademarks and confidentiality clauses in contracts.

An idea becomes more tangible once it is written down in a white paper, a discussion document, an algorithm or software code. Before it is written down, it is essentially the goodwill of your team and once It is written down, it becomes the confidential information of the company – protected by contracts, copyright and sometimes patents.

The act of writing it down is important from both legal and value-creation points of view. But the value was essentially there all along, however, before the idea is written down, the risk is that the value can walk out the door.

Writing things down also forces people to think about the idea, elaborate on it and gives others the opportunity to extend them and provide feedback.

“Ideas are cheap, execution is everything.”

Investors often spout the phrase “ideas are cheap, execution is everything”. These are the very people who will refuse to sign an NDA for a startup pitch while at the same time insisting that they love to be in the investment game because of the opportunity, learning and new ideas (those very new ideas the startup was pitching that they could happily pass on to their existing investee companies).

But of course, execution is critical. On the flip side, execution without (good) ideas is also counterproductive! Some ideas essentially have no commercial value for any number of reasons.

According to Peter Theil in his book Zero to One, it is important to realise that we live in a power law world, where 80% of your rewards are likely to come from 20% of your efforts. How do you choose which ideas to pursue and put your efforts into when the decision could be so critical and the opportunity for success of various competing ideas is so unclear?

If you are planning to invest the next 10 years of your life in an idea, or if you are an investor planning to invest 10’s of millions of Euro in an idea. How do you know which are the ones to go for?

How to have great ideas

  • Master your subject. Spend 10,000 hours studying your area of interest and your instincts for ideas should improve.
  • Stay curious.
  • Combine two distinct things that you are passionate about.
  • Copy others, but do it better or with a different slant or philosophy.
  • Be lazy – anything that you get frustrated by because it is non-value-add and you find yourself doing repeatedly could be a candidate for automation or a new company.
  • Take advice from Jeff Bezos: focus on things that won’t change in the long term (i.e. 10+ years)
  • You can protect an idea with a patent. Ideas can be patented. Do not disclose it or it will be novelty destroying.

Do the opposite of a Lean Business Startup, i.e.

  • Risk boldness rather than triviality and incremental improvements
  • Have a vision and a plan – even a bad plan is better than no plan (rather than just stay lean and flexible and incessantly respond to the market)
  • Try to make the competition obsolete rather than iterate and compete
  • Sales matter just as much as the product. Don’t just focus on the product and underestimate sales.
  • Listen to feedback, but market research can be over-rated. If you feel strongly enough about it, stay true to your idea and vision.

Get great ideas from your team:

  • Articulate a clear vision and strategy so that your whole team can understand it. This will allow them to put ideas in the context of the company’s mission.
  • Develop a culture of open dialogue and that you value ideas with the staff in your business (especially customer-facing staff). Provide coaching and mentoring in coming up with and capturing ideas.
  • Put a system in place to capture good ideas in a backlog of ideas. We use JIRA for this and capture everything in a separate backlog for review.
  • The CEO should take responsibility for reviewing and prioritising this list on a regular basis.
  • Use Service Design workshops to unlock hidden value and ideas in your organisation. Write down the outputs of all meetings.

Don’t use Google’s 20% time

  • Google used to let any staff member work 20% of their time on any idea they like. This has essentially been cut because (I think) there was not enough structure, strategy and vision behind it.

Concluding Thoughts

In our modern knowledge-economy, where intangible assets dominate companies’ balance sheets, ideas do have significant value as intangible assets. These ideas, however, need to be captured, curated and exploited in order to realise that value. This is the job of the leadership of organisations.

You will find some that you believe in your heart, and you can’t let go of. They just make sense to you. There is a certain unassailable logic to them. No matter how or by whom they are challenged, it does not deter your belief. If the leadership in your organisation do not share your belief in those ideas, then perhaps it’s time to leave and start your own thing.

Some big ideas you know in your gut will form the basis of your life’s work. They are valuable and they are the ones you pursue.