Aretha was right. Actually, respect is a fundamental human need. Most of us in our professional careers yearn for it. But how do great business leaders motivate and inspire  colleagues, managers and customers to deliver ground breaking, difference-making work? How do they (you?) set themselves apart from the poorer ones?

Perhaps these five characteristics are a good place to start

1. Passion. Great leaders believe utterly in what they are trying to achieve. There is often a more compelling reason to deliver great marketing work that matters over and above the need to simply get paid. Being associated with work that matters drives business leaders the world over. Pharmaceuticals save life, construction projects provide shelter and a place of learning whilst packaging innovations reduce waste and carbon and positively impact the planet.

2. Decisiveness. Making tough decisions, bold decisions, going in a new or different direction, and admitting when you got it wrong are all hallmarks of a leader worth following. I blogged yesterday about decisiveness in football club management and stimulated some interesting discussions across social networks. Having courage to stand out and make a decision marks leaders out.

3. Confidence. Passion matched with courage and decisiveness naturally instills confidence. The leader by default is confident but more importantly so too are the people around him. Whilst passion is innate, for me confidence (like positivity) is definitely infectious. Confidence in the direction being taken, the decisions being made and the work being done fosters greater productivity in people who want to be successful.

4. Inspiring. Most business leaders assume a leadership position by default – whether they set a company up, rise up to the role or are recruited to the role. Few are trained in leadership. The specifics are learned on the job. Inspiring leaders bottle their passion, decisiveness and confidence and package it in a way to ensure it becomes infectious so people buy in. Virgin regularly tops the list of brands most marketers would like to work on / for / with. Why?

5. Approachable. I believe leaders need to be approachable. This doesn’t mean anyone can get in touch at any time. But working in an ivory tower and not engaging can damage reputation and business. Listening becomes more important as a coaching skill. It’s not a surprise to me that during the last few years more senior managers are ‘going back to the floor’ to see what’s happening and what their workforce, customers and suppliers ever-shifting perceptions are.

Being a leader marks you out in a tough economy and creates business opportunities if you preach and practice what you preach. People will come to value your contribution and trust you to, in time, help their business.

Q: Have I missed any? What attributes do you see in great business leaders, that lead to them being respected? Share below.


Taking the reins off your star performers

There is tendency for recruiters to bring new talent into a business but then attempt to restrict that talent rather than embrace what was attractive about it in the first place.

It sounds ridiculous, but how often do businesses lose good people over job satisfaction, motivation and development issues? The company, its customers and colleagues are the least frequently cited reasons for leaving.

Conformity is easy.

Better, then to encourage team members that want to be encouraged, that want to push the envelope, that want to raise the bar. Creativity, thinking creatively, innovation and dynamism are the lifeblood of most organisations but company culture too often sucks this from people and leaves them ambivalent because they haven’t received positive feedback on ideas and input previously.

An extreme example above. Love him or hate him, Ryanair CEO Michael O’Leary has created incredible revenues for his company and his shareholders. To such an extent that even customers that would prefer not to fly Ryanair still do because of the way he has managed to keep ticket costs low.

Do you have star performers that you are reining in? Perhaps its time to take the shackles off and see how your business might flourish. Brave companies lead. Conservative ones follow.

Image: FastCompany


Nurturing hidden talent

In most companies and most teams there are inevitably people from a range of backgrounds, possessing a range of skills, attributes and experiences.

Often it can be the noisest, most confident or senior people that determine direction and agenda. Sadly, the quietest, most recent team members contribute the least, despite having great ideas.

So isn’t one of the urgent business challenges encouraging hidden talent to shine? And isn’t there a responsibility on managers to foster an open, collaborative working environment where ideas are valued, input solicited and feedback acted on?

In creative marketing teams this can be achieved using a number of techniques:

1. Regular team meetings where team members are encouraged to own their projects and report back their status.

2. Support this with frequent one-to-one meetings to ensure that any problems or issues are efficiently and effectively managed and opportunities to tap into latent knowledge and experience are maximised.

3. Involvement in company initiatives by opening up the opportunity for team members to participate in activities that empower them. It might be writing web news or blogs, managing certain elements of the marketing and business development plan, running training programmes or giving public speeches.

4. Maximising opportunities to ‘show and tell’ and share successful (and unsuccessful) projects with key learnings.

5. Development projects where the individual (and the business) benefit from recommendations made to improve process and procedure or in the development of new products and services.

6. Above all, ask. Keep up to date with your new staff and understand how all team members are motivated. Understand what they are good at, what they like doing and what challenges them. Understand where they want to go and how they want to be managed.

Are you making the most of all your people or have some of your employees left part of their experience at the front door? If they have, you can be sure you are missing out.

Image: EngageSciences


Training Day

We’ve all attended dull, uninspiring training sessions. Yet we know that we are more likely to enjoy, learn and apply new techniques and thinking if it is delivered in a more engaging way. (Isn’t this why we naturally migrate towards the visual in all things viral – videos, animations, audio – and then share and discuss it with friends, family and colleagues. Because we want to be associated with the cool?)

I digress. So, how to make training and learning fun?

In preparing for some in-house training sessions, I recalled the learning pyramid I’ve used in a previous life. The statistics that underpin it are staggering.

From this, it is reasonable to deduce that any good training session needs to include a mix of presentation, demonstration and application.

Here’s how I structure even a one hour training session:

1. Introduction and pooled aims (what do attendees want out of it) – this achieves engagement.

2. A quick icebreaker (what do you know) – to establish base level of understanding . Guard against using icebreakers to soften the group socially, this can lead to a lazy session.

3. Provide some brief context (linking to aims and icebreaker) and some definitions.

4. Main presentation/lecture containing the core information you want them to take away. Keep this light and remember, repitition, repitition, repitition.

5. Optional video reinforcement. Ideally something that is either smart, cool or funny works best. Even better if it involves a brand that means something to the assembled group. Don’t run a boring corporate showreel.

6. Application exercise – the core part of the session. Breaking the group into pairs or smaller groups and encouraging them to graple with specific problems. Make it decision and time sensitive, as there is nothing like working under a bit of pressure.

7. Feedback. Ensure there is sufficient time for everyone to get their moment in the sun. It’s amazing how empowering this can make people feel, especially those team members that rarely speak up in group situations.

8. Summary. Throughout, you the trainer, are making notes ready to provide feedback and closing thoughts at the end, reinforcing the messages of the session.

9. Review of aims. Check back to the aims of the session and the content presented and discussed. Offer enough time for questions, either in the group or as a one-to-one.

10. Follow up. Statistics show that learnings tail off dramatically even three months after a training session. To combat these, provide materials, set up a working group and encourage everyone to keep talking and discussing. Ask for evaluation and tailor re-runs and refreshers in the future based on the feedback.

It all takes work, but great teachers and great training sessions are worth their wait in gold, and lead to better informed and motivated teams in your workplace.


Top Tweets of the Week (wc 15 Nov)

Here are some of this week’s links worthy of your attention. Have a great weekend when you get to it!

Tuesday: RT @AronStevenson: Management Is Not Leadership http://bit.ly/9RFkxy #businesstips

Wednesday: This is awesome: How marketers are utilising Social Media in 2010 http://bit.ly/aXQXFP [infographics]

Wednesday: MUST READ: How to Get Started in Content Marketing http://bit.ly/cULlB8

Thursday: Excellent RT @B2Bento: Five Social Media Trends To Watch in 2011 by @JasonFalls http://bit.ly/dfllaK

Thursday: Savvy on ‘What makes on ideal b2b marketing client?http://ow.ly/3bJBs

Friday: Useful…RT @sejournal 12 Tips For Using Twitter to Grow Your Business | Search Engine Journal http://bit.ly/9lFrXx

And finally, because its Friday…RT @GemmaCocker: Need a smile? …this is without a doubt the best vid I’ve seen all month: http://bit.ly/btXumX