Friday 13 November 2015

Improve your team’s motivation for improved results

The importance of motivation to drive performance

Inspired leaders know that having un-motivated, demotivated or inappropriately motivated members within any team or work group can bring many destructive aspects to a process. 
Imagine if you could know precisely what motivates each member of your team about their work? If you knew exactly what motivated them you could learn to relate to them in ways that would tend to enhance their motivation and not diminish it. You would know what to change or alter or add or remove, perhaps refine the way you manage each person and watch as their motivation grows. From that, performance improves, the business does better and the staff are happier. Everybody wins 
Two organisations, one large and one small, have done just that:
Sue Morrison Customer Service Centre Huntingdon District Council said:
“For me the motivational mapping was particularly useful as I was able to focus on areas a new member of the team excelled in whilst also improving my communication with another member of the team being careful to communicate the current situation”.
Greg Ryan,Principal, Sowerbys Wealth Management
“Thank you, really enjoyed the programme yesterday, I know it will be massively beneficial to both our business and personal lives. The practical exercises proved really useful in reinforcing just how different we all are in the ways we communicate and absorb information.

For myself, it helped me understand just why certain clients I find ‘difficult’ and others i just ‘connect’ with immediately. It was a vital lesson delivered in an enjoyable way”.
Helping business leaders and managers to recognise and understand the precise Motivational Drivers of their team allows them to accurately design bespoke processes of incentives and rewards leading to more production, more success and more commitment from staff who subsequently will enjoy improved happiness and fulfilment from their work.

 A person who continually gets what they need from their work is happy and therefore far less likely to leave. If management can be taught how to skilfully treat the talent in your business in exactly the right way in, accordance with their unique individual motivational drivers, then employee retention will soar.
What if you were to consider trying this new approach?

Using the Motivational Maps on-line diagnostic tool takes 15 minutes to complete and provides a 99.9% accurate ten page report for each team member. We help you, the team leader, to understand the Internal Motivational Drivers of all the individuals in the team.

In addition, from the above team member individual reports, a full Team Audit Report can be produced which contains a wealth of information about the dynamics of the team as a whole. When all the reports are analysed and fully understood during subsequent consultation time, recommendations and suggestions can be made that will help significantly improve both individual and overall team performance moving forward.
Take this opportunity to find out exactly what you or your staff actually need from their work to keep them motivated. You will be surprised and we guarantee that the effect on team performance and staff retention will be significant. 

Motivational Mapping isn’t just for teams. For individuals it can be particularly useful if you are looking for greater direction, or a career change, as you can benefit from having a deeper understanding of your own motivations.

To take up the opportunity call me on 07775 684102 or email

Wednesday 11 November 2015

How to get the best from NEDs in start-ups

Entrepreneurs and Non-Exec Directors – friends or foes?

Returning to a common theme of these blogs – entrepreneurs’ responsibilities to shareholders when they have accepted external shareholder money: take investor directors and other NEDs that come with the deal seriously.  NEDs, most of them at least, are there because they have deep commercial and business experience that deserves respect.  And by respect I mean, should be taken notice of unless there is strong evidence that they are misguided.

Brilliant entrepreneurs can find their way through the maze of uncertainty and challenges of running their businesses as if they were born to do it and have a natural intuition of when to hit the right buttons and in what order.  Many are so excited by their situation that they think they can re-write the rule books and ignore sage advice as irrelevant and not applicable to them.  Hear echoes of the over-optimistic sales forecasting tendency here from a previous blog?

A phrase I never wish to hear again – “I wish I had heeded your advice – you were right but I needed to see it for myself”.  In some cases this sentence can, sadly, qualify in the "famous last words bucket".  NEDs are an inevitable consequence of raising funds in an entrepreneurial business and often you are landed with people that come with the investment rather than those who you might choose to help you with the business.

A lot has to do with how issues are raised by the NED too of course – have they keyed into the entrepreneurs behavioural traits and decision-making preferences?  Have they parked their egos at the door and just focused on coaching the CEO towards taking notice of the information he needs to make the best decisions?    Are NEDs self-aware enough to know when they are past their sell-by dates and should voluntarily suggest stepping aside and finding someone more valuable at that time?  There can be constraints as well imposed by the need to have investor representatives on the Board but how to avoid that being a constraint that holds the company back.

Taking notice of NEDs is not giving up your autonomy as an entrepreneur – only you will think any less of yourself if you are not the lone hero and are too proud to acknowledge others people out there may actually know something you don’t and can fill-out your skill set.

Initial lessons about constructive NED interactions with entrepreneurial companies:

From the NED perspective:
  • Avoid the NED route being treated as a reliable source of income – your only role is to help the company achieve its milestones and your financial independence  should be found elsewhere

    Yes you should be paid a retainer to cover for opportunity cost, expenses and legal risks/obligations but not enough that you can build up a reasonable compensation package by just taking on more NED positions
  • Equity is a good thing to have as an NED – you should be allowed to buy some equity as well as have it topped up based on tenure of service as part of option schemes and the like
  • All these factors help build alignment amongst Board members and avoid any us/them situation being created between Execs/Non-Execs
  • If there is a role as a NED that you have clear objectives for that becomes more hands-on/consulting orientated then think about negotiating a consulting contract but not at your usual market rates – entrepreneurs shouldn’t take advantage of you and neither should you of them given your privileged position

    There is nothing more contentious than starting to count hours as a consultant when you are a NED when you have a retainer and equity as well
  • Remember Execs have the right to ignore your advice, make mistakes as long as they implement the strategy you have agreed together
  • Be clear on your role on the Board – personal vs investor representative, observer/adviser, Chair vs plain NED

    Conflicts can clearly be created if an Investor observer is also accountable for the Board governance and part of the outward PR/marketing message.  I have seen that be a problem with others and am sensitive to this in my own situation.  You become very dependent on the CEO/entrepreneur giving good updates and you are torn as Chair between complete honesty and also ensuring you maintain collective responsibility as leader of the Board.
From Entrepreneurs perspective:
  • Recognise that you are accountable to the Board and meeting Board objectives is now just as important to you, as why ever else would you set up your business?  On the basis that NEDs have come in because the shareholder base has widened then they are now your new “boss” and do have the authority to review your performance and take appropriate actions
  • Pay NEDs a retainer as a sign of respect but also then agree objectives with them that you can review and evaluate their contribution against over time – if they are there for the ride, find a replacement but give feedback

    Even if they refuse a retainer you should push for it – challenge their motivation for being there if they don’t what it as a proper, professional commercial arrangement
  • Remember that investing NEDs are a critical link for other future and follow-on investors to judge whether to continue to invest or not in future rounds.  If NEDs don’t feel respected, they think business plans are ignored, milestones treated like abstract artefacts, feel they are being put on as the main source of rescue capital, their funds are being treated with less respect than yours (i.e., are you willing to invest alongside them – and not just time/sweat equity?)     

Spanners and dollars – the common ground to integrate across technology and commercial functions

Not a month goes by without either a CEO, CTO or Commercial Director asking me questions about how to build bridges between the technology and sales functions in their ventures.  You know the stereotypes – engineers want the perfect model and sales people just want to say yes to a potential client regardless of what they want. Fundamentally untrue of course but a commonly held pre-conception.  This can be exacerbated if the CEO of the company comes from mainly a sales or technology background.  Were they the inventor of the company’s product by virtue of an interesting laboratory experiment or because they picked up an unmet need from a client and went in search of a solution to it?

Either way conflicts can occur and often the main result is products that do not fit a market need and hence revenue forecasts are not met.  And we all know where that particular slippery slope leads – don’t we…?

My response, obviously, is well isn’t the solution blatantly simple?  – you need an integrating force who is just as comfortable working with customers to determine how to convince them that their needs can be satisfied as well as credible and influential with in-house technology teams to ensure development and production effort is prioritised to meet those expressed needs.  "What on earth is one of those?" comes back the riposte!

So whether you are talking about a sales person or an engineer or someone to build a bridge between the two the characteristics are the same.  The product champion needs to:

  • Be passionate about, and be completely focused on, making a positive difference for clients and doing it smarter/cheaper/quicker than an alternative solution (especially versus the do nothing option)
  • Display exceptional levels of intellectual curiosity – have they spent their whole, or a decent proportion anyway, of their lives always thinking about how to improve the world around them – never satisfied with the status quo or just the ordinary and mediocre?  They wake up in the morning with the mantra – surely things can be better – ringing in their ears.  I know I can persuade someone that there is a better way of doing that…

    Intellectual curiosity is an awfully difficult thing to grow if it does not exist already
  • Relate any supposed technical innovation to a revenue, cost, process, efficiency, effectiveness or competitive advantage dimension of a client’s business – an idea only satisfies a need if there is a clear commercial rationale and business case for it that the client understands
  • Driven by team success and not by their own brilliance
  • Be empathetic to the motivations of the different players involved and be able to tailor their communications accordingly – how to manage the frustration of an engineer whose “perfect” solution does not get accepted fully by the client,  how to get them feeling excited about their contribution to what actually is bought by the customer
  • Able to explain the activities of the engineer/technology developer to the cash generated as a result that then goes to fund their salary – make no bones of the commercial reality they operate in and their role in making and spending money
  • Willing to experiment, take a few risks with product designs and potential solutions but see a clear way of prioritising efforts based on customer feedback, generally best to iterate rather than spend 12+ months building. Get customers involved and know when to switch from iterative improvement to delivery
I am not convinced that domain/sector experience is critical unless clients see it that way – being credible with technical teams is though – functional compatibility is needed: can you edit the models the engineers produce, can you specify requirements in a way that they understand how to implement it?

Getting a common aim across teams can be a valuable platform – not just alignment but actually the same goals and aspirations. Getting all the various elements from data scientists to developers to sales people all working together using sales people as the filter for customer needs and development prioiritisation.  Sales people do have to provide a genuine proxy for customer needs though – the integration person having a critical role in ensuring that development effort is not spent on the whim of one customer but only on issues that are clearly of value to a good set of actual and potential customers.

This integration of the commercial and the technical is key (but difficult). It may require product managers/mini-CEOs to knit the various components together. Many management consultants can have this skill as do brand managers from FMCG environments.  COO figures can help as long as they have a strategy and big picture outlook rather than one of purely execution and efficiency in the factory management sense of operations.

And finally…

If there is one thing that truly differentiates an integrating force from us mere mortals is their ability to entice customers to pay for development pilots before any technical solutions are fully formed = a key marker of progress & business value. And if they can get 5 or 6 clients paying for similar pilots then you know you are onto a winner!

Monday 5 October 2015

Transforming commercial focus - Organisational development and training case study

Living Sport was facing the requirement to become much more commercial in its operations - it was having to diversify its funding base and was realigning its resources and capabilities to enable this transformation in preparation for the next financial year.  

Simon was appointed Non-Executive Director/Trustee and Chairman of Finance Committee of Living Sport - a regional sports development charity in September 2013.  As part of this role Simon provided pro bono coaching to the Business Development and Finance Managers to help them meet their day-to-day objectives.  The MD participated in one of Realising Ambition’s workplace simulation events focused on how to create High Performing Teams and Organisations.  This event was delivered by Stephen Pauley, co-Founder of Realising Ambition and Brian Lewis, an Associate.  The MD then asked Realising Ambition to pitch against a training requirement for the charity.  

Realising Ambition put together a 12 month “Academy-style” programme comprising four quarterly workshops covering the 6 person leadership team and individual 1-2-1 coaching sessions in between.  Topics covered included:

  • Behavioural profiles and communication styles (Tetra Maps)
    • Integration with Motivational Maps work that was conducted separately
  • Individual Strengths inventory around which to build effective project structures
  • Relationship building, sales and business development skills
  • Influencing skills, assertiveness and conflict resolution
  • Coaching skills - the GROW model
  • Delegation and management structures
  • Capacity planning, prioritisation, delegation and workflow alignment
  • High Performance Team principles, structure and improvement plan
    • Integration with external Charity audit and quality assurance processes
  • Strategic planning and performance management
  • Presentation skills 
  • Series of organisational initiatives and projects set up and monitored during the programme, e.g.:
    • Radically improved vision, purpose and strategy
    • Business process improvements and benefits tracking
    • Balanced Scorecard with objectives, metrics and targets to be used to track organisational progress against its strategy in management and Board meetings

Outputs for Living Sport included:

  • The team being fully immersed in new management methods having lots of opportunity to practice the techniques in the training environment and personalise it through coaching and application to their jobs alongside the training
  • The organisation being equipped with the basis of its strategic plan and the necessary operationalisation plan and tools to ensure the strategy is executed

Tremendous example of how Realising Ambition’s unique combination of leadership/management development and coaching process and content together with its commercial business results focus can really deliver organisational change through a training intervention.  This is all achieved using Realising Ambition’s action learning approach that allows plenty of opportunity for practice, reflection, feedback and improvement.