5 Crucial Tips For Success Before You Start Your New Leadership Role

Securing a new executive role is exciting, especially when it offers career advancement and professional growth. Planning for success before diving into the position can give you a significant advantage.

With 15 years of experience coaching newly hired or promoted leaders, we recognise some common mistakes and the challenges of recovering from them in the early days. Here are five crucial tips to consider before embarking on your first day on the job.

1. Get to know the business

To what extent do you already know the business?

Regardless of your prior knowledge or research, there will be much to learn once you begin. Be curious and open to gathering diverse insights from various people on the business, its operations, opportunities and challenges.

Take detailed notes and use them to analyse the job and its context to understand fully what you are dealing with. If you discover any overlooked but problematic issues, address them promptly to create a positive impact in the short term.

Newly appointed leaders tell us that documenting their findings has been invaluable for deciding how they would make a difference in the new role and for drafting an initial business plan for their manager or the board. Keep these objectives in mind; they will help you shape the questions you ask and filter the information you are given.

Top Tip: Maintain a journal to record what you learn during your first 90 days. 

2. Audit your leadership capability

Do you view this new job as the next step in your leadership journey? 

Orient yourself quickly to the job’s needs by identifying the responsibilities you feel confident and well-prepared to handle. Next, explore any challenging areas and consider seeking guidance from a mentor or support from an executive coach to fast-track your learning.

Reflect on how best to present yourself and your capabilities to your new colleagues. Some incoming leaders create and share an engaging story about their background, values, and priorities, allowing others to get to know them immediately. However, others neglect this incredible opportunity to make a positive first impression.

Remember, when people first meet you, they are eager to learn about you and what it will be like to work with you. You can help them by establishing a warm, optimistic tone that promotes productive working relationships.

Top Tip: Reflect on your personal brand to find an authentic way to describe yourself.

3. Connect with your manager

How well do you know your new line manager?

To establish a strong relationship with your new line manager, you must build on the rapport you developed when you were selected for the role. Observe their actions, communication style, and decision-making process to adapt effectively to their leadership style.

You can expect to meet initially to discuss expectations, goals, and priorities. However, we have seen situations where this doesn’t happen because the manager is preoccupied with pressing business matters or travelling. Occasionally, a manager may have such confidence in the selected candidate that they expect them to get right into the job with minimal direction.

In such situations, finding a way to align with your manager is essential. Remember that your manager has critical goals to achieve, and knowing how to support them will help you succeed in your role.

Top Tip: Providing proactive support will help your line manager achieve critical business goals.

4. Assess the talent in your team

Does your team have the skills to support you? 

Knowing your new team’s abilities is crucial for effective leadership. Familiarise yourself with the current team before implementing any changes. These three steps will help you build a strong team:

  • Identify whether each team member has the required skills for their role.
  • Consider whether the roles are structured in a way that will help you deliver the right results.
  • Address any skill gaps as soon as possible.

Collective progress depends on recognising and leveraging each team member’s unique strengths. Consult your human resources partner to evaluate and improve individual capabilities if necessary.

A common regret among senior leaders reflecting on their first executive role is that they should have managed their team talent sooner. Developing a high-performing team requires thoughtful planning and investing time in professional development.

Top Tip: Act swiftly to assess and nurture talent to achieve results.  

5. Expect and plan for change

Are you an inspiring leader? 

Leaders who inspire others typically have a compelling vision for the future of their business. This means envisioning what’s possible and being able to communicate and drive change – simple to say but harder to do.

We are noticing that more newly appointed leaders than ever face business transformation initiatives that are already in progress when they assume their roles. Leading change and making decisions on restructuring in the early days of a new job can be incredibly challenging.

They have reported that polarity management is a valuable communication framework in these circumstances. This involves celebrating past successes, sharing all available options for future success with the team, and settling on the best way forward. Acknowledging the challenges ahead gives people time to process the implications and  prepare to adapt.

Top Tip: Embrace change constructively and demonstrate courage in driving it forward.

To learn more on best practice leadership transitions, read Mastering the Art of Successful Leadership Transitions’.

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Read more about the article Five reasons to unlock the talent in your team
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Five reasons to unlock the talent in your team

Are you prepared to discover and harness the potential talent within your team, to propel your business to new heights of success? Here are five compelling reasons why you should start now:

1. Discover a crucial skill you might not know you need

A well-rounded view of your team’s abilities means knowing their strong and weak points. One of your more vulnerable areas could suddenly become critical for your organisation. A successful leadership team experienced this when a significant customer restructured their business and unexpectedly removed them as a supplier.

This painful setback happened after the team celebrated 360 feedback showing a strong bias toward action, accountability, and results. Sadly, they had overlooked low scores in strategic thinking and innovation. But, on the bright side, they immediately reviewed market trends and connected with customers to align with their short and longer-term plans.

Ensure you take a future-focused look at your team’s skillset to avoid such mishaps.

2. Draw on individual strengths and interests

When people love what they do, productivity skyrockets. Creative ideas and innovations flow. By delving into each team member’s unique capabilities, you can leverage their skills and interests for superior outcomes.

For example, a leader saw an opportunity to revive a stream of business at risk of closure due to competitor activity. This individual was passionately committed to its continuation for customers who would be disadvantaged if it closed down. With a carefully drafted business case and astute planning, the leader won support to deliver an outstanding outcome.

It shows that one person’s vision and talents can make a huge difference.

3. Pinpoint the skills required to round out the team

By recognising the different capabilities of team members, you can identify and fill any skill gaps, leading to a more balanced and effective team. When an executive team reviewed their organisation’s employee engagement survey, they realised that inadequate technology frustrated many employees.

Despite a sizeable investment to enable remote working, the executive team acknowledged they needed to do more to meet the needs of their people and their business. So rather than relying on IT, they took responsibility and educated themselves on how leaders can actively anticipate and support digital and technology solutions to advance their business.

They subsequently rolled out a series of very successful information sessions to all managers in the organisation.

4. Continually track and enhance your team’s abilities

To keep your team at the top of their game, evaluate their skills regularly, offer them growth opportunities, and adapt to changes in the business world. Imagine a situation where you inherited a team that received very little meaningful development in the past.

A newly appointed leader discovered that their team had made promises to customers that the company couldn’t keep. To address this, the team needed to quickly gain negotiation and financial skills. The solution was a skills assessment followed by practical, hands-on sessions on creating win-win solutions to satisfy both the customer’s and the organisation’s needs.

This approach helped the organisation to maintain profitability whilst delivering in full on customer expectations.

5. Embrace the power of curiosity for team building

To elevate your team’s performance, why not foster an atmosphere of curiosity and collaboration? Inspire your colleagues by being the first to share your thoughts, creating a safe space for others to contribute. One approach is to model a new leader who spent the first 30 days in the role having individual meetings with every direct report and their subordinates.

Simple yet powerful questions such as “What were your biggest contributions last year?”, “Can you identify any obstacles that are hindering your goals?” and “How I can improve your experience here?” helped this inspiring leader gain invaluable insight to improve things for their employees and the company.

By focusing on team building activities and fostering curiosity, you can create a strong and cohesive team that works together towards a common goal, unlocking the full potential of each member.

Demonstrate curiosity today and encourage others to do the same for the growth and success for your team.

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Read more about the article Three ways to upskill your team to achieve better results
Upskill your team

Three ways to upskill your team to achieve better results

It’s clear that today’s organisations need teams of people with diverse skills and the ability to adapt to new challenges swiftly. Easy to say, but the challenges are many!

The post-pandemic landscape has revolutionised our lives with remote work and digital communication, making effective teamwork more challenging. In addition, business transformation in response to ongoing change has a flow-on effect by requiring some teams to restructure or reform with new members.

Take a moment to assess your team’s performance. Are you flourishing or simply surviving in this new era?

Regardless of your response, nurturing your team to achieve optimum effectiveness is crucial for your organisation’s future. Therefore, it’s essential to find a way to equip the team with the necessary skills to tackle emerging challenges and capitalise on opportunities.

To bolster your team members’ skills for improved results, consider these three ways to upskill your team:

1. Embrace Your Talent

Developing a cohesive team requires a mutual understanding of individual strengths and weaknesses. The starting point to recognising the capabilities of others is an accurate appreciation of your own. However, true self-awareness may not be as common as you think. Many people believe they are self-aware, but studies have shown that only a small percentage are!

Team leaders can take the lead by exploring their capabilities and impact on others. By sharing their insights with the team, they can establish a safe and supportive atmosphere for members to discuss their skills and areas they need to develop openly.

Done well, this gives insight into the team’s collective capability to deliver results and nurtures the positive energy found in high-performing teams. We are fortunate to have seen many times how a deep understanding of team talent sets the stage for dynamic teamwork and better outcomes.


  • Choose an assessment to help team members understand where they stand now on the skills that matter most for being effective in their roles. Whether you use a psychometric evaluation or 360-degree feedback, ensure the content is relevant to workplace behaviours and performance.
  • Invite individuals to present an overview of their results to the team so that they can support and encourage each other for personal development. Dedicate time during regular meetings or arrange a facilitated session to strengthen team competency.

2. Foster Collaboration

Well-planned collaboration with stakeholders is crucial for a team’s success because it promotes engagement and a commitment to achieving outcomes. Importantly, it allows teams to gather essential information from stakeholders to deliver excellent value to them.

One challenging aspect of collaboration is comprehending stakeholders’ diverse and occasionally conflicting interests. By recognising these concerns and priorities, teams can tailor their strategies for connecting with each stakeholder group.

Using collaborative language creates a strong foundation for meaningful relationships. Phrases such as “What’s your view on this?” and “Let’s work together to find a solution” exhibit a willingness to consider various perspectives, cultivating a sense of partnership.


  • As a team, create or revisit a list of your key stakeholders, including individuals and groups. Progressively contact them to review what they need from you (and what you need from them). Gather specifics, ensuring you don’t make assumptions, to establish a plan to deliver what they require.
  • Implement an agreed approach and schedule for team communication with stakeholders. Random check-ins can be helpful at times but would generally be unnecessary. Instead, establish goals, provide regular updates, and track progress as key elements of effective stakeholder management.

3. Maintain Focus

Is your team grappling with increasing demands on their time and expertise? Unfortunately, it’s easy to get caught up in urgent tasks and run out of time for what truly matters.

To address this, establish a clear mission for the team and allocate dedicated time for priority work. In addition, eliminate distractions by ensuring meetings serve a specific objective and only involve essential participants. Doing this will maximise efficiency and keep the focus on the mission.

However, enhancing team productivity goes beyond efficiency – it’s also about cultivating positive team dynamics. By identifying challenges that call for joint resolutions, team leaders create an environment where members feel valued and are empowered to contribute their unique skills toward a shared goal.


  • Invite your team members to review their schedule of meetings to determine which they need to attend personally and which they could delegate to someone in their team who would benefit and learn from the experience.
  • Strengthen team dynamics by identifying a challenge that impacts every team member and help them to work together to find the best solution and draft a project plan to achieve a successful outcome. Then, when they have implemented their solution, celebrate success, and move on to the next challenge!
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Read more about the article Results Agility: What is it and why should it matter to you?
Results Agility

Results Agility: What is it and why should it matter to you?

The word “agile” has become a buzzword in the workplace. It’s commonly used to describe an iterative approach to software development and project management.

But in the context of business challenges that leaders face in today’s uncertain times, one of the most important terms associated with agile is Results Agility.

It’s a concept that’s been around for a while. It’s one of the critical components of Learning Agility, the construct that describes how people learn from experience and use that learning to their advantage to perform well.

Results Agility is not simply about whether a person gets results or not. It refers to how they go about achieving them. It’s the “how” that makes the difference.

If you’ve ever worked for or with a leader who was slow to react, rigid in their thinking and seemed to find it difficult to change course quickly, you know exactly what I am talking about.

You can probably contrast that experience with working for a flexible and adaptable person who was ready and willing to consider all options to achieve the right outcome. In other words, they were results agile.

Understanding Results Agility

People who demonstrate Results Agility have a strong desire to achieve goals, tackling them with drive and energy. Their signature strengths are resilience, resourcefulness and a willingness to take risks.

They are not afraid to change their mind when new information emerges, or circumstances force them to take a new direction. Instead, they find the most effective way to move forward, regardless of conventional approaches.

Results Agility is about pivoting. It helps people move quickly and intelligently when the situation calls for it or they discover better ways to solve old problems.

Importantly, Results Agility comprises skills and techniques, typically described as behaviours.

So, the good news is that you can learn it!

Great Leaders are Results Agile

Results Agile leaders tend to bring out the best in people. Open to learning, they are prepared to admit when they are wrong. They like trying new things and learning from their mistakes. They apply this thinking as they support their people, making it safe for them to do the same.

People who flex their adaptability muscles are more likely to experience positive results as they push themselves and explore alternative courses of action for themselves and others.

When people work for a results agile leader, they are happier, more motivated, and more engaged. They are likely to go the extra mile, think creatively and bring new solutions to the table.

In summary, strong Results Agility makes leaders great. They are a pleasure to work with because they bring excitement to the workplace and convey a “can do” attitude.

By raising the confidence of others to tackle challenges, they reinforce teamwork and empower others to achieve results.

Where Do You Stand on Results Agility?

Take a moment to think about yourself right now.

Are you (a) energised by new, challenging assignments and overcoming obstacles to achieve stretch work objectives, or (b) do you prefer well-defined goals that require steady and consistent effort to deliver on time and within budget?

Be honest about it; what is your preference? Are you more strongly oriented to (a) or (b)?

If you identify with (a), you are probably already seen as a results agile person. However, if (b) seems more like you, consider what more you could accomplish if you strengthen your ability to flex and adapt in challenging situations.

Whatever your response, here are some questions to help you think through how you can elevate your Results Agility.

Reflection Questions

  • Think of a challenge you faced recently. How did you approach it? Based on what you have read above, what could you have done to achieve a better and faster outcome?
  • When have you faced significant obstacles before achieving an important goal? How did you respond to that situation? What would you like to do the same or differently next time?
  • Can you recall a situation when you were unable to deliver on  your objectives? What did you learn from the experience? What steps could you take to avoid that in the future?
  • Do you know what motivates and engages  the people who work for you? Would it be an advantage to understand them better? What steps will you take to learn more about them?
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Read more about the article Three agile leader practices that drive superior business performance
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Three agile leader practices that drive superior business performance

In my last post, I described four competencies that differentiate leaders who are highly effective in transforming their organisations in response to significant change.

Identified in a research study at the Global Center for Digital Business Transformation, the HAVE competencies (Humility, Adaptability, Visionary and Engaged) are signature skills of agile leaders.

The study also found three behavioural practices that shape the impact agile leaders have on the way their organisations deliver results in disruptive business environments.

In combination with the competencies, these practices reinforce the openness and responsiveness that leaders and their organisations need to thrive.


Hyperawareness, the first practice, refers to constantly scanning the internal and external environment for opportunities or threats to the business and using multiple lenses to view what needs to be addressed.

Hyperaware leaders stay up to date with industry movements and detect new trends as they emerge. With a wide-screen view of the world, they look for new insights into how their organisation should position itself in the market. They are ready to guide others through a strong vision for the future.

Reflection Question: Do you have a good balance between expanding your perspective on the big picture and getting things done?

Informed decision making

The second practice is about using information to make evidence-based decisions. It has three components, well-directed information gathering, practical analysis and informed judgment. Each one is critical in moving an organisation forward in uncertain times.

However, leaders may sometimes lack sufficient data and information and must draw on experience and intuition. Whilst some may enjoy exercising personal expertise, there is a risk that they may miss creative solutions and create a ‘good enough’ culture in their organisation.

Reflection Question: What is your preferred decision-making approach, getting the facts or using your intuition? What impact does this have on your leadership style?

Fast execution

The willingness to act quickly completes the trio of practices; the positive impacts of hyperawareness and informed decision-making are magnified if leaders emphasise fast execution.

A survey by McKinsey reported that the need for speed is paramount for organisations responding to market changes in the post-covid era, with many leaders rating speed more important than reducing costs, increasing productivity, or engaging more effectively with customers.

Despite this, many things get in the way, such as behavioural norms, organisational silos, and lack of strategic clarity. Agile leaders focus on removing barriers by devolving responsibility and simultaneously encouraging autonomy.

Reflection question: Have you allowed processes or obstacles to get in the way of getting things done? What could you do differently to focus your people on achieving a goal?


In the Agile Leader model of four competencies and three practices, we have a powerful package of skills to drive business results and sustainability. For example, we recently helped a senior leadership team analyse their capability against the Agile Leader and the results clearly illustrated how and why the team became ‘stuck’ in resolving some of the problems they faced.

This information gives team members deep insight into their collective strengths and weaknesses from which they can develop an action plan to leverage the capabilities of all to achieve their business strategy and goals.

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Read more about the article What critical leadership skills do you need for success in 2022?
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What critical leadership skills do you need for success in 2022?

The demands on leaders continue to evolve as we adjust to the ongoing impact of the global virus pandemic.

Early in 2020 business leaders moved into crisis mode to keep their businesses running and their people safe. For many, it was a hard road to travel that created high levels of anxiety and fatigue.

Two years on, the challenges continue as we reorient ourselves to new ways of working.

So, what does it mean for you and your organisation?

First, the essence of great leadership hasn’t changed. Integrity, judgment, courage, strategic thinking, and the ability to deliver results are still crucially important.

However, a new set of skills has become significant in the face of ongoing disruption. A more collaborative, engaging, and agile approach is called for to guide a business forward and empower individuals and teams.

Critical elements of this approach include:

  • Maintaining personal flexibility to meet the needs of the moment
  • Seeking out views and ideas from internal and external sources, and
  • Inspiring commitment and energy from others to shared goals.

A useful model to illustrate the practical implications of what is required has emerged from research at IMD Business School.

It was found that leaders who were highly effective in transforming their organisations in the face of business disruption demonstrated agility through four differentiating competencies.


Humility is evident when leaders recognise that knowing what you don’t know can be as valuable as knowing what you do. Is this acknowledged as a leadership requirement in your business? If not, it’s time to think about what it means and why it matters.

Humble leaders recognise that one person cannot know everything needed to make critical decisions, so they seek and input from diverse sources. They see value in assembling the right team for better decision making. Their approach conveys respect for people and builds trust.

Reflection question: Does your level of expertise sometimes prevent you from learning and growing?


The ability to adapt is essential in complex and changing environments. However, focused adaptability based on gathering new information is a significant component of agile leadership.

Agile leaders adapt their behaviour in the short-term based on their ability to make evidence-based decisions. They are prepared to change their minds if new data comes to light, and they see this as a strength rather than a weakness.

Reflection question: When did you last change your behaviour in response to the dynamics of those around you? Was it comfortable to do?


It has always been important for a leader to have a clear vision for the future of their organisation. However, in times of rapid change, it’s essential to discern which opportunities to pursue to support the longer-term direction of the business.

Visionary leaders have a well-defined idea of where their organisation needs to go, even if they don’t know precisely how they will get there. They know that sharing their vision is a key to motivating others to action and commitment to purpose.

Reflection question: Do you have a game plan for creating and communicating your vision? 


Articulating a clear vision for the future and making appropriate course corrections along the way is fundamental. Communication of these factors through constant interaction with stakeholders is vital.

Agile Leaders continually engage with others, both inside and outside their organisation. They are on the lookout for new information that could reveal opportunities and threats to the business. They are curious and have a strong desire to explore, discover, learn, and discuss possibilities with others.

Reflection question: Would you benefit from putting less effort into convincing others and more into inviting their ideas?


These four competencies define the brand of agile leadership that is necessary for today and our short-term future. Look out for our next post, in which we describe how they inform the business-focused practices of highly effective leaders.

Continue ReadingWhat critical leadership skills do you need for success in 2022?

Starting a new job? Adopt three important strategies for success.

Taking on a new job is exciting, especially if it is one that you have longed for.

Yet, the stakes are high! It is estimated that between 50 and 70 percent of newly hired or promoted executives fail to meet expectations in some way in the first 18 months in the role.

So, what causes highly motivated individuals to falter at senior levels? Perhaps, the strengths that made them successful in the past are no longer relevant and new skills are called for or they face unique challenges for which there are no obvious solutions or frame of reference.

Based on over ten years of experience in guiding leader onboarding, here are some strategies for success that we know make a huge difference.

1. Clarify the job that needs to be done

The first step toward establishing a clear agenda for your transition is to clarify precisely the job that needs to be done. Learn as much as you can, as fast as you can, about the business.

Start by thinking about the value chain of your business and your part in it. What are you bringing to the job from previous experience that will enable you to make a positive impact?

What do you need to know in order to act on the opportunities in front of you? Finding the right people and sources of information to fill gaps in your knowledge will help you fully understand the current realities of the business.

Pay attention to the enablers and restrainers of revenue and how value is created. Investigate prospects for growth and anything that may be holding the business back. A speedy assessment of available resources including people, budget, equipment, technology, will be the foundation for moving forward.

At the end of your first 30 days, meet with your boss to discuss your findings and realign on expectations and priorities. You may want to tweak the performance goals that were set when you arrived or discuss your resources given changes that you see need to be made.

Top tip! Use a journal to record your findings, reactions and ideas. By keeping all key information in one place, you will be able to reflect on what you’ve learned and how your thinking is evolving over the first few months in the job.

2. Meet and greet the people

You may have a full agenda arranged for you to meet key people in the business in your first week or two. If not, be proactive and reach out to connect with people. Take care to prepare yourself well. You know the saying, you only get one chance to make a good first impression!

First, you need a memorable self-introduction. People want to know about you – who you are, what you’ve done in the past and how you work. They are assessing whether you are going to be good to deal with. Remember, they have a new boss, colleague or associate, so they are in transition too.

Keep your initial introduction to three minutes, max. Then, turn your attention to them. Ask questions. Practice some good techniques for introducing yourself. Think about how you are going to create the impact you want.

If you are meeting a group of people in a more formal setting, you could create a short presentation, one or two PowerPoint slides to tell your story. Include some images, make it personal and tell an interesting story about yourself. Your staff will appreciate learning about you!

3. Identify your stakeholders and plan your approach

Along with business knowledge, you need to get to know your people and understand the formal and informal power structures and chains of command that exist inside the organisation. Draft a list of key stakeholders and highlight those who will have a significant influence on your success.

Organisations today can be a complex maze of people and practices. As you learn to navigate your way through them, it can be helpful to draw on established disciplines in the field of project management. In particular, the multiple facets of stakeholder management provide a useful framework for establishing productive working relationships.

Once you are underway with building your internal network, you can turn your attention to the external stakeholders who will be important to you. Depending on your situation, you may want to prioritise particular groups, customers, suppliers, government regulators, community groups, trade union officials, professional association members and others.

Last words

Think about the relationships you need to build in your new role. Pay close attention to the perspectives and interests of different individuals and groups. Are there any common themes among your stakeholders? What is this telling you?

Meeting the needs of multiple stakeholders is a balancing act. It needs a proactive approach to shape and influence their expectations and, above all, it needs a spirit of mutuality for the benefit of all. Go well and bring your best self to this new opportunity!

Continue ReadingStarting a new job? Adopt three important strategies for success.

Change Agility: a leadership priority

Little did we know when we started writing about Learning Agility in 2019 that we were soon to face a worldwide threat that would cause millions of people to dramatically change their daily lives.

We expected our next topic would focus on defining Change Agility and making a compelling case for it to be central to leadership development in 2020 and beyond.

Now, we find ourselves in the grip of a global crisis. The coronavirus pandemic has reached more than 2.5 million known cases, claiming over 177,688 lives across 210 countries.*

Revisiting our plan in this context, we quickly recognised that the mindset and behaviours associated with Change Agility are even more critical for leaders than before.

To explain, we initially called out the need for leaders to:

  • Understand the social needs of their people, especially during times of change.
  • Cultivate curiosity and scan the environment diligently for opportunities and threats.
  • Prepare for the future of work with strong growth in flexible working and remote teams.

Today, we are seeing these in a new light through our coaching practice as we talk daily with leaders dealing with the critical issues of caring for their people and safeguarding the future of their business.

Change Agility defined

Energy for the new and different is the essence of Change Agility. We see it in people who embrace change and seek out continuous improvement, from small, incremental enhancements to large-scale transformations.

As we look at the characteristics of change agile leaders, we see they:

  • Regularly scan the environment, inside and outside the organisation, for opportunities and threats.
  • Envision the future and project multiple scenarios to maximise their chances of success.
  • Like to experiment and use an iterative process in devising new methods, products and services.
  • Look outside the box to find creative and unique ideas they can bring to life.
  • Recognise that change is unsettling for many and take steps to deal with their own feelings and alleviate the anxiety and fear of others.
  • Encourage input from others, recognising that they themselves do not have all the solutions.

How many of these are true for you?

Take time to reflect on each point and ask yourself how much time and attention you devoted to practicing each one in 2019. What does this tell you about what you need to do differently in 2020?

Honest self-appraisal

An accurate view of our self and our capability is essential for leveraging strengths and managing weaknesses. Sometimes, we know what we need to work on for development, but don’t prioritise the action steps that are required.

At other times, daily pressures get in the way and we lose sight of the value of equipping ourselves with new skills, habits or the mindset that will make work easier and results more attainable.

If you need inspiration on how to strengthen your Change Agility in the current environment, seek input from two or three people who know you well. Invite their suggestions on how you can strengthen your impact as an agile leader.

Listen to their suggestions and decide which to apply to raise the bar for yourself, as you support people, lead change and ready your business for the future.

Leadership in a crisis

Leaders everywhere have faced accelerating disruption in recent years. No industry is immune and disruptive forces come in many forms, such as rapidly emerging new technologies, unexpected competitive threats and shifting social trends.

Right now, disruption has landed in the form of the coronavirus crisis at a scale and speed that the majority of people have not experienced in their lifetime. The reaction of leaders we know is an all-consuming urgency to find ways to manage the impact and fight for the survival of their businesses.

In this context, Change Agility is vital. We propose to amplify it with two critical behaviours identified though research at the IMD Business School in Switzerland:

  • Act quickly to execute decisions. Unfortunately, there are many barriers to speed especially in large organisations. Leaders need courage and determination to implement change promptly.
  • Be visionary, which means holding fast to a sense of long-term direction even in the face of ambiguity and uncertainty. Hard to do, but a clear definition of where the organisation needs to go is important for everyone as they work out how to get there.

In her book Forged in A Crisis, Nancy Koehn illustrated how five legendary leaders demonstrated a sense of urgency and unwavering resolve during times of great adversity. She described how each one navigated through the calamity they faced and was transformed as a result. You can see her latest blog post here.

Tips for increasing Change Agility

We put it to you that the way you conduct yourself during this time will be long remembered by those who work with you and for you. Here are some thought starters:

  • Help people adjust to the new and different. For many, resistance is a natural response. Be more available to your people, keeping them informed and letting them know you are there for them. Accept that this is going to take more of your time.
  • Keep things in perspective. Identify the issues that are of most concern to your people so you can address them. Tune in to any individuals or groups who seem to be having a greater struggle. Find ways to resolve their immediate challenges and act on them.
  • Be ready to disrupt your usual style of leadership. Human beings are creatures of habit. Formed in the brain, habits allow us to perform daily tasks without having to think about them. Reboot your approach to leadership by looking for what you can do differently for greater impact.
  • Create a safe place for yourself. Stress and anxiety can impede performance. When times are tough, establish a physical location you can go to regroup and do your best thinking. Find a trusted person who can act as a support for you.
  • Behave strategically. Leading through a crisis involves intense pressure to focus on day-to-day operations. As soon as you can, address the longer term by working with your team on future-focused planning with clear intentions and purposeful actions.

* Worldometer, 22 April 2020

Continue ReadingChange Agility: a leadership priority

People agility: a potential game-changer for leaders

People agility has emerged as a ‘must-have’ capability for leaders in today’s complex and dynamic business world.

Not only do leaders need to navigate this turbulent environment successfully themselves, but they also need to be the enablers for their people to solve problems and deliver results.

One way they can create the inclusive, collaborative and innovative culture their organisations need is by consistently demonstrating a desire to explore, discover and learn with others.

Simply put, it’s about being agile in the way they engage with their people. However, many strategic and operational demands on senior executives can get in the way.

People agility defined

At first glance, people agility seems to describe the capacity to get on well with others, but there is more to it than that. People agility is the ability to take an open-minded, curious and flexible approach to people, looking for diverse opinions to broaden mutual understanding and achieve common goals.

People agility is also about communicating clearly, adjusting the style, pace and message to the audience. It’s being willing to take on a different viewpoint depending on the person or circumstances. People agile individuals learn quickly how to hear out opposing views and take care not to incite or escalate tension or conflict.

These characteristics are rounded out by the ability to read people well and predict how individuals and groups will respond to various events and situations and being ready and willing to help others to excel. This is often referred to as ’emotional intelligence’ or EQ.

This is the second of five blogs on why Learning Agility matters for executive success, with specific tips for enhancing the people agility dimension for yourself and others.

Social leadership

Leading involves understanding the social needs of people, including those who consider themselves focused on tasks rather than people. It must be recognised that social engagement is fundamental to human health and well-being which has a significant impact on organisational performance.

Dr Matthew Lieberman, neuroscientist and author, describes social engagement as a fundamental requirement built into our biology along with the basic needs for survival. In his book Social: Why Our Brains are Wired to Connect he suggests that it deserves to be at the foundation of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.

Infants embody the need to be connected because they are totally dependent on their caregiver(s) and the quality of care they receive has been shown to influence their cognitive and emotional development. The effects can last a lifetime.

So, what are the implications for business leaders? They need a mindset that helps them focus on:

  • Recognising the need for people to ‘belong’ and emphasising the importance of the team.
  • Facilitating open dialogue with a wide variety of contributors and stakeholders.
  • Breaking down barriers to collaboration across the organisation.
  • Building a sense of community connected to a higher purpose.

People orchestration skills

In his book Know-How, Ram Charan describes skills that separate leaders who perform from those who don’t. One of those skills is the ability to manage the social system of their business so people can work effectively and cooperatively together.

As many of us recognise this isn’t always easy, and the title of that chapter tells us so – Herding Cats!

Charan says that building the right social system requires making superb judgments on people, knowing how to select them, get them into the right jobs and help them build the skills to lead. He says this is highly developable.

So is people agility. Each of its elements is described in behavioural terms, so with targeted and systematic efforts leaders can adopt the practices used by great people leaders.

Tips for increasing people agility

  • Keep an open mind by suspending judgment. Listen to what people are saying and find clues about how they formed their opinions. Think about why you might differ and how you can reach common ground.
  • Take time to get to know your people, make sure you are aware of their strengths, weaknesses and career aspirations and check in regularly. Don’t assume you know.
  • Be alert when decisions are to be made, by being present and in the moment. Stop and consider whether you have all the facts in unfamiliar situations. Look for anything you are missing and read the people in the room.
  • Slow down when you disagree with others. Choose your words carefully so you don’t appear biased. Focus on the issue at hand, not the person.
  • Set people up for success by sharing what you know. Be an advocate for people you believe in and make sure you give credit where it’s due.
  • Build a network for yourself outside your immediate circle. Connect with individuals and groups who don’t know each other so you than can access new information and fresh thinking.

The future of work

The rapid pace of change today brings a need to transform the way we do business and find new ways of working. We are in the midst of a massive shift, evidenced by the trend to flexible working, remote teams, coworking spaces, artificial intelligence and more.

Add to this the fact that people are living longer and retiring later, whilst younger people are now entering the workforce. This means that, for the first time, we have five generations in the workplace and must accommodate the different needs and expectations of those groups.

Last year research conducted by PWC published the results of a global survey of business and HR leaders. In a paper entitled Preparing for tomorrow’s workforce, today, they note that the most astute leaders must ask the question: “How can I deliver great performance by helping our people to thrive?”

Yes, indeed! The need for leaders to cultivate people agility has never been greater!

Last words

If you would like to see how leaders can create a circle of trust to build cooperation and collaboration, check out Simon Sinek’s Ted Talk – Why good leaders make you feel safe.

Sinek says that doing this, especially in an uneven economy, is a big responsibility for leaders – but it’s the key to helping ordinary people achieve extraordinary things.


Continue ReadingPeople agility: a potential game-changer for leaders

Learning Agility: Why it matters for executive success

Learning Agility refers to the ability and willingness to quickly adapt. The concept was derived from systematic research over several years into the careers of highly effective business leaders.

These leaders were found to share important characteristics that set them apart. Keen observers of what was going on around them, they were intellectually curious, flexible and adventurous.

Reflective about their experiences, they frequently made creative connections between apparently unrelated pieces of information and they had a preference for bold and new solutions to problems.

Learning Agility Dimensions

Further studies revealed some interesting facts about those who had greater Learning Agility – not only did they get promoted faster and more often than others, but they were significantly more successful after they were promoted.

Learning Agility has since been widely accepted as a key indicator of potential, and interest in Korn Ferry’s multidimensional model as a way to develop leadership capability and performance has grown.

This is the first of five blogs on why Learning Agility matters for executive success, each focusing on one of the agility dimensions – mental, people, change, results and self-knowledge – with tips for enhancing Learning Agility for yourself and others.

Learning Agility in the 2020’s

The qualities associated with Learning Agility have taken on new currency in today’s complex and dynamic business environment where change and uncertainty are the norms.

Significant shifts in technology, globalisation and social trends require organisations to transform the way they do business to stay relevant in their markets. Over the next decade, the organisations most likely to succeed will be those that are nimble and adaptable.

The guidance of forward-thinking and strategic leaders will be essential. You’ll know them when you see them – they embrace complexity, examine problems in unique and unusual ways and are open-minded toward ideas and people. In other words, they are learning agile.

Developing Learning Agility

A commonly asked question is – can people develop their Learning Agility? Whilst it’s a relatively stable attribute, Learning Agility is defined in terms of behaviours. So, the answer is yes. Conscious and deliberate practise of those behaviours will enable people to enhance their Learning Agility.

As a starting point, a person should be on the lookout for opportunities to learn and grow or, even better, embrace the concept of learning as a lifelong journey. In her book Mindset: The Psychology of Success, Carol Dweck described this as having a ‘growth mindset’ which she says is the key for realising one’s full potential.

Mental Agility

This dimension of Learning Agility concerns the way people deal with concepts and ideas. Being mentally agile is primarily about being curious and inquisitive – searching for the new, exploring the unknown, taking time to think things through and looking for themes within and across situations.

A person with this orientation doesn’t stop at obvious answers to problems but looks below the surface for underlying causes, drilling down into complex issues to simplify and make sense of them.

About Curiosity

A Google search today on ‘curiosity’ resulted in 122 million results. Seems like a lot of people are writing about it! Narrow the search by adding the word ‘executive’ and there are still 44 million results. Impressive.

One of the top results points to a feature on curiosity published in Harvard Business Review (2018), highlighting that curiosity is vital to an organisation’s performance.

The author says curiosity helps leaders and employees come up with more creative solutions to external pressures. It enables leaders to gain more respect from their followers and inspires employees to develop more trusting and collaborative relationships with colleagues.

Sounds good? Well, of course, there’s a trap. Although leaders say they value inquisitive minds, in practice they may stifle curiosity. It was reported that about 70 per cent of employees who were surveyed said they face barriers to asking more questions at work.

Tips for increasing Mental Agility

  • Challenge yourself to think about how curious and creative you are. Over the last week, what was the balance between the solutions you provided and questions you asked?
  • Questions are the fuel for new ideas, so start and keep asking why, how and what. Listen to the answers carefully, suspending judgement as you do.
  • Encourage curiosity and learning by reviewing events and outcomes, posing the right questions. Why did that happen? What can we learn from that?
  • Become an observer of agile thinking, listen to people talking and note the words and phrases that reveal a ‘growth’ mindset versus a ‘fixed’ one.
  • Reflect on questions asked in your organisation. Are they encouraged or are they seen as a challenge to authority? Do your people explore ideas with each other or are they too task-focused to take the time? What do you need to do to enable creative and innovative thought?

Last Words

If you are looking for inspiration on what it means to be curious and creative, try reading A Curious Mind, written by Oscar-winning film producer Brian Grazer.

Having practised ‘curiosity conversations’ for years with people outside his industry, he describes curiosity as having many shades and intensities that serve different purposes. A great read!

Continue ReadingLearning Agility: Why it matters for executive success

Developing your next generation of leaders

Do you have a model of leadership competency needed for your business to succeed? If so, you are probably using it to shape the development of your next generation of leaders.

If not, you may be putting your business and your most promising people at risk as they navigate their way to becoming the leaders of tomorrow.

Many organisations struggle with building the depth and breadth of leadership talent they need for the future. They may have identified their best performers, carefully chosen some courses for them and developed a list of promotion opportunities.

But, somehow it doesn’t all come together and there may be a nagging doubt on the return on investment in time and effort.

So, how do you create the conditions where the people who can lead your organisation into the future can be nurtured and developed?

This may seem a simple question, but the answer is complex. Your organisation’s culture and way of operating, existing development practices and the aspirations of your people need to be taken into account.

Adults are motivated to learn something if it has value to them. Therefore, a program that will equip aspiring leaders with the skills they need to achieve their career goals will have great appeal.

Learning needs to be as practical as possible, providing tools and techniques for leading and managing that can be applied immediately. If the learning is delivered in a modular format so they can try out the skills and report back on progress, even better.

Our suggestions for engaging your leaders of the future in meaningful development are:

  • Use your business goals and challenges to define the capability future leaders need to succeed.
  • Devise a program that communicates and focuses on building this capability.
  • Select the right assessments to help participants heighten their self-awareness.
  • Design learning experiences that integrate seamlessly with the responsibilities and work schedules of the participants.
  • Assign participants to projects of significance to the success of your organisation.
  • Turn up the intensity of the learning by involving senior leaders in mentoring participants.
Continue ReadingDeveloping your next generation of leaders

Do you know the leadership gaps in your organisation?

In today’s volatile business environment, leaders are being challenged more than ever to adapt to new realities and lead ongoing change. But, do they have what it takes?

We were recently asked by one of our global clients to determine the most common development needs from assessments completed by 30 people in preparation for an advanced leadership development program.

It set us thinking. Could we go broader and identify trends across our 360-feedback database?

Indeed, we could. And we found the results of our analysis fascinating.

Here is a brief summary that we hope will trigger some reflection and insights for you and your organisation.

Drawing on Korn Ferry’s global competency framework, we examined data gathered for 226 leaders who participated in Voices 360-feedback across Australia and New Zealand. With input from over 2,000 raters, these individuals work in senior management and executive roles in a range of public, private and government organisations.

We compared what people thought was important for these leaders to be successful in their roles with the level of skill they currently demonstrate. Three competencies immediately jumped out where there was a significant leadership gap – importance was high and skill was low.

  • Builds Effective Teams – Defined as developing strong-identity teams that apply diverse skills to achieve common goals.
  • Directs Work – Defined as giving direction, delegating, and removing obstacles in order to get work done.
  • Drives Engagement – Defined as creating a climate where people are motivated to do their best to help the organisation achieve its objectives.

In combination, these competencies are directly related to leveraging talent and inspiring people through a sense of purpose and belonging. As core leadership skills, they have a profound impact on the way people relate to each other and their organisation, as well as the discretionary effort they put into doing their work.

When faced with continuous change, people look for something to hold on to. They want to cut through uncertainty, understand what needs to be done and feel part of something bigger than themselves.

If leaders are unable to create an environment where people feel committed and empowered to perform, there can be significant consequences to business performance in both bottom-line results and staff engagement.

We think the results of our analysis are important because it’s not the first time we have seen them. They align with Korn Ferry’s global competency research findings that were released in 2017.

There, we saw that skill level in these three competencies was actually lower for executives than managers. Yet, two were found to be significant to performance at the executive level (Builds Effective Teams and Directs Work).

In our view, Builds Effective Teams warrants special attention because we have seen it steadily growing in importance over the last decade according to our 360-feedback data. People are increasingly recognising there are substantial benefits when teams are set up for success.

However, skill in developing a well-functioning team has not kept pace with demand. Not surprisingly, this competency rates high on Korn Ferry’s Developmental Difficulty Index, meaning it is a more complex skill to acquire, compared to other competencies in the framework. In addition, Failure to Build a Team has been identified by Korn Ferry as one of ten potential career stallers for leaders.

Our conclusion is that the current strength in these areas is not sufficient for optimum effectiveness in leadership roles today. What’s your experience? Does your organisation have a leadership gap in any of these areas?

If so, you may be thinking about what can be done to improve the situation. The good news is that plenty of resources are available to build capability in each of the three competencies.

Continue ReadingDo you know the leadership gaps in your organisation?