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By Steve Sheils

I read a quote the other day that caught my eye. It embodied the essence of my consulting practice.

“Making Judgment Calls Is The Essential Job of a Leader”

* With good judgment, little else matters
* Without good judgment, nothing else matters

It’s expected that effective leaders know how to sort the important from the trivial. That they can routinely manage relationships with key constituencies and align team members for support.

But how and from where do the business leaders acquire the skills associated with this decision-making process? Three domains of decision making involves; the people we work with; the strategies that underpin our business plans and the numerous and varied crises that our businesses strive to overcome.

It’s a thing of beauty to observe the charismatic leader who shoots from the hip with style and grace and watch his staff lean closer with commitment and support.

Equally intriguing to watch is the CEO who is over his head, as he / she bellows veiled threats “we’ll be in serious trouble if we can’t get this project done on time and to budget”.

Whether you are running a small department or a global operation, relying on an effective judgment process will give you a framework for evaluating any situation, making the call and making corrections if necessary.

I teach business owners that leadership and judgment are intimately connected. That each and every facet of their business requires making judgment calls.

Many think that senior CEOs such as Roberto Goizueta, who ran Coca Cola, are smarter than the rest of us. But if you Google Roberto you will learn he was demonized for launching “New Coke”; the product so many of us disliked. Few remember that he redeemed himself for launching the incredibly successful “Coke Classic.”

How many of us remember Carly Fiorina? I met her a few times and thought that she was a pioneer in the ranks of female executives. But she is remembered for “destroying HP’s culture” – a comment made by others and not me.

And everyone seems to love Jack Welch. Few recall that he left GE after failing to complete the $47 billion acquisition of Honeywell.

Did these people succeed or fail? It’s a matter of judgment.

Throughout our lives each of us makes thousands of judgment calls; from the cereal we eat to the person we marry and the places we work. In business, the cumulative effect of our judgment calls determines the success or failure of our businesses and ourselves.

I teach that good judgment is based on a three phase process; the preparation, the call and the execution.

That good leadership judgment is supported by the contextual knowledge of one’s self, our social network, the organization in which we work and the stakeholders who look to us for achieving specific business goals.

A “leadership judgment framework” should be a tool that leaders use to develop the ability in their Executive Teams.

Even though judgment seems to be a singular achievement when a given issue is examined, it’s actually is a blend of management wisdom and leadership action.

For me however, judgment will always be about how leaders put their energy into Vision and Strategy.

Comments? I’d like to hear about an example of when you lived through the result of an extremely positive or negative judgment call.

Steve Sheils is the CEO of Authentic Vision for Change. Steve’s passion is helping companies make the difficult decisions required to achieve profitable growth in this tough economy. He can be reached at 416-819-2004 or by email steve@sheils.com. Visit http://www.authentic-vision.com.

The RIC blog is designed as a showcase for entrepreneurs and innovation. Our guest bloggers provide a wealth of information based on their personal experiences. Visit RIC Centre for more information on how RIC can accelerate your ideas to market.

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By Steve Sheils

Implicit in past writings about Dysfunctional Senior Management Teams (SMT) were the key skills of a CEO and that building an effective and healthy SMT, requires the CEO to expel self-serving leadership tactics and to aggressively adopt and drive a servant leadership point of view throughout the organization.

Consider the Theory of Business that a progressive CEO / Owner signs up for.

* What’s our mission?
* What are our competencies?
* Who are our customers and non customers?
* What do we consider results for the enterprise?
* What does our operational theory consist of?
* What is the focus of Senior Management for opportunities and innovation?

Of course the new CEO has investigated how the investors and shareholder define “creating Shareholder value” and assess financial performance, the strength of the SMT and business processes, competitive threats, market opportunity, cash flow and so on…

From the company’s side however, the CEO’s leaderships style is just as important.

CEO personality and leadership style can be as much based on the assignment as it is on the Theory of the Business as explained in the book “The Leader of the Future”.

1. The Theory of Business is the staring point for setting objectives. Managing By Objectives (MBO) is a well defined method of setting objectives to achieve the mission – short and long term. MBO’s bring together aspects of executive leadership and management. MBO’s embody practices that supports and facilitates teamwork. Communication – up – down and sideways is essential in accomplishing objectives. MBO’s require self control and must achieve alignment between individual needs and the goals of the organization.

2. It is the role of the CEO Executive to organize the above and unquestionably, these organizing efforts require sharp analytical skills. Let’s agree that “decisions, relationships, classifying activities and getting these activities happening in efficient, client facing ways while making suitable profit is difficult.

3. Managers regardless of seniority, require effective social skills, to establish trust with his / her teams. A balance between offering mentoring and education while measuring performance and balancing the needs and merits of the individual within the organization can be challenging.

A favorite leadership style of mine is based on “follower-ship”. Not “follow me and let’s take that hill”. But a leadership style that embodies competent, confident, selfless, tough, determined and principled leaders who believe in positive mentoring of their staff. Changing a company to meet a new challenges is everything about people.

In business, tactical visioning is about change and excellence while considering the associated risks. Those that lead change are the visionaries and must be bold enough to be organizationally agile and decisive.

In this economy you can either lead change or have it thrust upon you. AND, if you dislike change, you just might dislike irrelevance even more.

Think of profit like applause – the noise your company makes when it’s working seamlessly.

There is a broad a mosaic of winning leadership styles. Hopefully your CEO exhibits one of them.

Steve Sheils is the CEO of Authentic Vision for Change. Steve’s passion is helping companies make the difficult decisions required to achieve profitable growth in this tough economy. He can be reached at 416-819-2004 or by emailsteve@sheils.com. Visit www.authentic-vision.com.

The RIC blog is designed as a showcase for entrepreneurs and innovation. Our guest bloggers pro vide a wealth of information based on their personal experiences. Visit RIC Centre for more information on how RIC can accelerate your ideas to market.

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By Steve Sheils

Over the years I have seen many Senior Management Teams (SMT) that know how to do the heavy lifting. In these companies, growth of the top and bottom lines seem to be predictable and controlled.

In other companies, senior management appears to expend more effort getting along than they should. A strong CEO can often sort this out; but when he / she is absent, the games continue.

What are the symptoms? Who is responsible? How much money is wasted before the cure?

Let’s take a look at the team player dynamics.

The first dysfunction is an absence of trust among the team members. This stems from their unwillingness to be vulnerable within the group. Team members who are not open with each other about their mistakes and even weaknesses, makes it virtually impossible to build a foundation for trust.

The failure to build trust is damaging because it sets the tone for the second dysfunction: fear of conflict. The team won’t engage in unfiltered and passionate debate of ideas and instead resort to veiled discussions and guarded comments. Who among us has not groaned inwardly during meetings of this kind?

A lack of healthy conflict is a real problem because it ensures the third dysfunction of a team: lack of commitment. Without airing opinions and ideas in a healthy open debate, team members rarely if ever buy into a decision or direction.

Without commitments and team participation we can expect to observe an avoidance of accountability. Without committing to a clear plan of action, even the most focused and driven people often hesitate to “call their peers” on the actions and behaviors that seem counterproductive to the team that manages the company’s future.

Whenever a team fails to hold their colleagues accountable, the fifth dysfunction will thrive. Inattention to results occurs when team members put their individual needs (or the needs of their division) first. Ego, career development and personal recognition are placed above the collective goals of the team.

Now if this sound simple, it’s because it is simple, at least in theory.

Which bring us back to the skills of the CEO. Building an effective SMT and keeping the players healthy, requires levels of discipline and persistence.

However, before diving into each of the dysfunctions and exploring ways to overcome them, it’s always helpful to assess your team and identify where the opportunities for improvement lie in your company.

Invite an unbiased consultant to a few of your SMT meetings. You might be surprised to learn your team has a few issues that need attention.

In my next article we’ll discuss the fundamental leadership skills that all senior staff should practice every day. Now these are the people we all should invite to our SMT.

Steve Sheils is the CEO of Authentic Vision for Change. Steve’s passion is helping companies make the difficult decisions required to achieve profitable growth in this tough economy.  He can be reached at 416-819-2004 or by email steve@sheils.com. Visit www.authentic-vision.com.


The RIC blog is designed as a showcase for entrepreneurs and innovation. Our guest bloggers provide a wealth of information based on their personal experiences. Visit RIC Centre for more information on how RIC can accelerate your ideas to market.

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By Steve Sheils

I’m the fellow CEO’s call in when they know their company requires a Health Check.

I’ve worked locally and for 20 plus international  companies, raised money for growth, and been on the sale and acquisition side many times.

Regardless of whether your company is earning a few million or a few hundred million, often these days the story from the top sounds something like this;

“Top line growth is slow, margins are shrinking, competition has never been tougher, product development cycles are too compressed, there isn’t enough money for innovation, my Senior Management Team (SMT) is weak and I don’t have the time to  fill the holes, my Board is telling me to create Shareholder Value but I am too busy chasing cash flow.”

Sound familiar? But the Fed’s keep telling us that our economy is fairing better than others in the G8! So, when does it all translate into profits? Seems traditional financing is an elusive quarry and servicing our debt has never been more expensive. And Venture Capital? Forget about it…

This is usually when our conversation turns towards “future Opportunity”.  I inquire, “is the total market for your product or service large, rapidly growing or both?” “Is the industry you are in now expected to become structurally attractive?”

Growth, considered by entrepreneurs and investors alike, should be rapidly growing because it is easier to acquire share than fighting it out in the trenches in a stagnant or mature market.

Remembering our Economic 101 class in University, we must consider the elasticity of the market we are in. It is a tool for measuring the responsiveness of a function to changes in parameters in a unit-less way. Hmmm, what was that?

Frequently used elasticities include price elasticity of demand, price elasticity of supply, income elasticity of demand, elasticity of substitution between factors of production and elasticity of intertemporal substitution.

Well if this is all becoming too heady for you, then let’s just ask the burning question; “What does your Business Plan say you should be doing in the section labeled Contingency Plan?”.

If that plan is a dusty document on the shelf (like so many), does your company have a Plan for Growth for this fiscal year?”.

Or is your SMT rolling with the punches and doing their best to make their numbers?”

Believe me, by the time our first meeting has reached this point, most CEO’s are ready to make changes – and quickly.

Usually an external resource is required to “be the prophet from afar” because while every senior manager is starved for change, the “outsider” has no baggage – only a passion for improvement.

Creating a plan for change, cutting operational expenses, shedding an employee or two and investing in sales and marketing activities is the path to change. And best of all, it will quickly become a positive mantra on everyone’s lips.

In my next post; “Throwing the change-up pitch” that gets the company squarely back in the game.

Reposted from The Brampton Board of Trade blog

Steve Sheils is the CEO of Authentic Vision for Change. Steve’s passion is helping companies make the difficult decisions required to achieve profitable growth in this tough economy.  He can be reached by email steve@sheils.com. Visit www.authentic-vision.com.

The RIC blog is designed as a showcase for entrepreneurs and innovation. Our guest bloggers provide a wealth of information based on their personal experiences. Visit RIC Centre for more information on how RIC can accelerate your ideas to market.

Add to FacebookAdd to DiggAdd to Del.icio.usAdd to StumbleuponAdd to RedditAdd to BlinklistAdd to TwitterAdd to TechnoratiAdd to FurlAdd to Newsvine

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