Four reasons why leaders fail in executing their strategy

Over the last month I have listened to seven different leadership teams discuss their strategic plans and what has happened along their execution path.

The “best” team had actual measurements in place so at least they knew where the blockages to execution were. Not that they had done much about relieving those blockages.

Another team openly admitted the beautiful slide decks that were created a year earlier and cascaded down the organisation in well-orchestrated town hall type meetings had not been opened since.

Three teams were forced to admit that no one on their team, including the Managing Directors of each organisation had done anything regarding their strategy since the last annual strategic offsite.

Lastly, one team conceded that they didn’t actually have a strategy and therefore had little to audit in terms of why it had failed!

Unfortunately nothing is new in these insights. Leadership teams regularly do not get to execute their strategic plans. One study suggested that over 65% of large companies failed in the execution of strategy. Yet we keep producing MBA graduates from esteemed business schools all over the world who study Porter, Prahalad, Hamel and other great writers on how to create strategy. So what is going wrong?

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Five steps to improve your stakeholder relationships

Five steps to improve your stakeholder relationships

Why your stakeholder’s opinion matters and how to understand it

When a leader transitions into a new role they learn pretty quickly to understand what their boss needs them to do.

The boss may be an external board, CEO or other C level leader. Actually, the level of leadership doesn’t matter. What is important is, in the first week of the transition, getting to grips with the immediate leader’s needs. Quite often this is explored during the hiring process or before the actual start date.

The reality is that business is multi-faceted and complex. The pace and depth of change is increasing, there is significant competition and the expectations of shareholders, customers and employees are continuing to evolve and add pressure. The new leader often wants to get started asap and make a mark to justify their hiring in the first place.

What is surprising is how many leaders fail to adequately understand the broader range of stakeholders they have, and to invest time in seeking their opinions and understanding their needs.

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Four ways to make sure you keep learning

“I am so busy, I don’t have time to read or do an MBA right now”.

“There is too much on this year, so doing some study is off the table…”

“ I came up through the school of real life and never got time to do university type study…I can feel it now when I am presenting to the Board that I am missing some things….”

Three classic statements I often come across when working with leaders. I don’t mean new, ‘wet behind the ears, junior type leaders’. These are often senior executives reporting to Global Boards. They have managed to get very far through their natural skills, good delivery, and possibly good timing with a dash of luck thrown in to boot. There’s nothing wrong with that at all.

But a voice is growing inside their head that they are not smart enough, or have not studied the right things, and they now feel like they are slipping. Doing post-graduate studies is one way to learn. As an Honorary Fellow at Sydney Business School I can wholeheartedly recommend tertiary qualifications. Unfortunately, not everyone can put that time aside.

However, every leader needs to prioritize to read in order to learn, keep up to date, and challenge their own thinking.

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Failing to persist or persisting until failure?

Google are getting some interesting publicity recently about their decision to shelve Google Glass and go back to the drawing board with their invention. Their size and impact on the world attracts this attention of course. Many commentators are missing the point here. Google are assessing their innovation and realising that the original intention for Google Glass is not manifesting as planned. They are disengaging from the original plan and starting again.

Quite rightly.

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The Power and Beauty of Simple

On of the great opportunities of a holiday break is to have “the space” to increase awareness of the things that bring you joy or you value. Sometimes it is not until you stop being consumed by other demands or when the opportunity to access these things is denied i.e. their absence, that you consciously recognise their value in your life.

Australian journalist Peter Greste who was thankfully released, after 400 days, from a Cairo prison, highlighted this this week. Peter arrived home to Brisbane this morning. In his initial interviews he spoke of his pleasure in just enjoying the simple things in life that were denied to him during his incarceration like watching sunsets, looking at the stars and spending time with family.

For most of us this resonates at a personal level. Taking the time to appreciate and be grateful for the simple things is an important practice.

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A Year of 5 Daily Habits

So now that January has well started and the promises of New Year’s resolutions are starting to fade, let me propose an alternative for 2015. I suggest leaders make 2015 a year of daily habits. To paraphrase the wonderful Seth Godin, there is a fundamental difference between the things you do every day, every single day and the things you do only when the spirit moves you. When you have committed to a daily doing of something i.e. a habit, you are committed to doing that every day. The difference is that once you’ve committed to doing something daily you find that the spirit moves you, daily. Then the only decision to make is not whether you will or will not do something but rather how you will do it.

Here are 5 of the most simple and effective daily habits that leaders could consider:

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Impacts of Sydney under siege

The last blog I wrote was encouraging us to focus on being present in the moment and attending to the immediate events and people you are with rather than being distracted.

I am blessed to travel the world for the work I do and live in Sydney, which, for me is a most beautiful city. On Monday we were rocked by an awful incident that we regularly give thanks that “things like that don’t happen here”. Well, as we know now, it can happen anywhere.

It is such a shock and strangely out of sync with life in Australia and I am not sure if I have great clarity of thought about how to effectively respond. This is what I do know.

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School concerts, chest pains and general overwhelm….roll on Christmas!

In the last month I have sat in meetings where three senior executives from Asia wide regional or global positions, have privately confided to experiencing such a state of being overwhelmed that they are regularly experiencing chest pains and tingling down their arms.

Being smart people they have sought medical advice and in each case were told there is nothing physical going on. Their symptoms are anxiety related. Their reality is that their expectations of themselves and the expectations that others have of them are outpacing their ability to stay in control. Their bodies are sending loud messages—this cannot go on!

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A small idea can go a long way

Over the last three weeks I have had the pleasure of travelling to Dubai, Ireland, Abu Dhabi, Brazil and back again engaging with a range of clients on interesting assignments.

A major benefit of travelling internationally for work is seeing ideas in the countries you are visiting and wondering how they might translate in your own country. Sometimes the opposite happens – recognising an idea from home and realising it has translated internationally with positive benefits.

At one stage I was speechless (most people that know me will find that hard to believe) when I realised how an idea from home had spread.

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Leadership insights from doing a triathlon

Regular readers will know I was training for my first Olympic distance triathlon. An Olympic distance is a combination of 1.5 km swim, 40 km bike ride followed by a 10 km run. I am delighted to say that I accomplished this feat at the beginning of the month. Thanks for all the well wishers for your support over the weekend and the days that followed. Totally appreciated.

As I was running the last few kms I was trying to distract my mind for the obvious pain it was experiencing! My thoughts turned to leadership, which is the most regular topic I think about! Without prompting or indeed much effort I came up with the lessons I had learned from the months of my training program and how that relates to the work we do. Of course I could have been thinking of the warm bath, cold beer or the long sleep that would follow the event but no! The mind does wander into some strange places under stress.

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