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Below is the latest article in the Bailiwick Express:
Jersey-based consultancy, Amicus Limited, has been announced as one of the 2018 Financial Times leading management consultancies.
The list reviews the top UK management consultancies across a range of sectors.
Over 8,000 firms were reviewed by survey firm Statista, using input from industry experts and clients, to compile the list of top companies.
Formed in 2014 by General Sir Peter Wall, the former Chief of the General Staff for the British Army, and Mrs Jennifer Carnegie, a senior executive with experience in the commercial sector, Amicus delivers bespoke leadership and organisational support to a range of blue-chip international clients, as well as Jersey firms.
Sir Peter, as Chief Executive, commented: “We are delighted to have been recognised as one of the top performers in our industry in the category for ‘People and Performance’. This is a real accolade and demonstrates our contribution and commitment to our clients.
“With our blend of military and commercial experience we have been able to offer bespoke solutions to help our clients thrive in an increasingly complex market place. At Amicus, we like to be seen as a ‘critical friend’ – experienced people you can trust and rely on to guide your future, as partners.”
Jennifer Carnegie, the Chief Operating Officer, commented: “Our strong results and the relationships we have forged with our clients have been key to our success and to our place in the Financial Times list of Leading Management Companies. We are very grateful for their support.
“Whilst we work internationally, as a company we never forget our home base. It gives us immense satisfaction to work with our clients and friends in Jersey, and we feel a real responsibility to share our expertise for the benefit of local companies and the Jersey economy.”
Amicus has been highly recommended by the Financial Times in the People and Performance category of it’s recent survey of management consultancies.Read more
Whether you decide to adopt a control-based or a trust-based approach to the leadership challenges posed by uncertainty, communication is at a real premium when your people are unsettled.
This is the time to be crystal clear with employees and communicate your message frequently and consistently. They need to understand what you want from them, what might happen to them and, above all, they must be convinced you are telling them the truth. Empowering middle leaders to inform their own people through a cascade system builds confidence if it is done well. Open letters to all employees are also a useful fall-back if you can’t get the message to everybody in person in a timely manner – our people deserve to hear it from us first, rather than from the media.
Then get out and about and speak to people in person. Walk the floors and let employees talk to you, and challenge you with their fears and concerns. Truthful answers are vital – no matter how grim the news, they will respect your honesty.
We all think we are communicating enough, but invariably we aren’t – all of us have an insatiable appetite for knowing, repeatedly, what is going on. In awkward times, we must sustain the trust and hope of those who will be critical to our collective success.
I hope you have enjoyed these articles on Leading in Uncertain Times and I welcome any feedback. Thank you for staying the course. If we can help you on any of these topics do please get in touch.
In evaluating whether to opt for a centralised, more controlling leadership culture or a more enlightened, trust-based approach this comparison may be of interest.
Centralisation is the natural tendency of the cautious and risk-averse. It accretes apparent power to the senior leadership in an organisation, whilst denuding the organisation of its true power. In engineering terms power is the rate of doing work – and less useful work is done in organisations with a centralised culture. The ability of mid-ranking and junior leaders to optimise their impact and learn is significantly reduced. Such people lose their courage for the initiative and become dependent on being told what to do, and how to do it. Trust is often replaced by suspicion in this working culture.
Trust is a vital component of an empowered leadership culture. This type of leadership approach is harder to engender but the effort is well worth it. The most proficient organisations in the world sustain high levels of excellence through acquiring the most talented people, training them and nurturing their development. The very best of those organisations run on trust-based leadership. Trust is less costly than control and considerably more fruitful, provided you have good people who are crystal clear what they are trying to achieve and why. My experience of working in this type of organisation is that employees are emotionally healthier and more contented in their work, develop their own leadership skills better, will go the extra mile in a crisis, and tend to remain in the organisation for longer, recycling their experience in support of a stronger bottom line.
In the final part of this series, Part 6, I will address the heightened importance of communication at times of uncertainty.
The current bout of uncertainty, much of it spawned in Western capitals, looks set to stay. Faced with unpredictability, the natural instinct of many leaders is to centralise control and decision-making and hope for better times. In doing so they hamper the resilience and agility of their organisations. How then to turn the threat of sustained uncertainty into an opportunity? How about an overhaul of your leadership culture that will preserve your agility and leave you in better shape, whether this uncertainty persists or not?
The military employs a leadership culture know as mission command, invented by the Prussians in the 19th century. It is a culture based on trust. It allows decisions, in confusing and fast changing situations, to be taken in a timely way by the people with best access to the information. Thereby it promotes agility.
Mission command strongly resists centralised control, but it is not a free-for-all by any means. It relies upon the clearest possible direction from the senior leadership on the required high-level outcome, or end state, usually expressed in a short explanatory paragraph called the Intent. (Hence in Amicus we call this approach leading by intent). There is usually one more piece of direction to the organisation: the critical factor for success which attracts the most resources, known as the Main Effort.
The benefits of Leading by Intent are significant – bright people are motivated by being trusted and empowered, and you get everybody thinking through solutions. Senior leaders get more time to think and inspire their people, rather than controlling the detail and slowing things down. Performance should improve and employees should be more engaged. Over time you will have a more resilient leadership capability across your organisation.
Enlightened businesses are employing this trust-based leadership technique as a counter to the tendency to centralise and control. It depends on talented people you can trust and it calls for behavioural change, so it needs to be implemented with care over a period of time. There is a process that can be taught to deliver this effect. The return is considerable and well worth the investment. ‘Control may seem safer, but trust is cheaper’, as Charles Handy points out in his excellent book The Second Curve.
In Part 5 I offer a comparison of ‘trust-based’ and ‘control-based’ leadership.
As I have mentioned in this series of short articles, we are in an era of unusual uncertainty in government, business and many facets of society. The impact this has on any team or workforce can undermine the emotional health of an organisation and pose significant challenges for its leaders.
Senior executives are always under the spotlight, and never more than in turbulent times as risk-appetite diminishes, organisations are constrained by external factors they can’t control, and there is a tendency for stakeholders to interfere and scrutinise. The temptation to pull up the drawbridge and shift into survival mode is acute.
I have seen organisations react like this before. In a typical scenario, the authority to make decisions is centralised, more and more information is sought by apprehensive senior leaders and cost-cutting regimes are imposed with little idea of the implications for future business – all of which contribute to a perception of nervousness at the top.
The impact of this down the leadership chain is significant. It disenfranchises bright people, demotivates them, slows the tempo of activity, reduces responsiveness and quells innovation. There are fewer minds working on the key challenges that bear on success. Agility, the ability to make well-informed decisions quickly, evaporates. The prospect of your most talented people moving elsewhere becomes a real threat to future performance.
Is there an alternative approach leaders might take in this situation? Yes. In Part 4 I will describe a leadership culture that enables agility in a crisis.
Uncertainty poses enough threats without them being compounded through a lack of clarity over the organisation’s purpose, intentions, goals or objectives. In unforgiving circumstances, it is vital that the senior leadership team are crystal clear on these key aspects of your business. If you are not clear, your workforce will not be clear what you are trying to achieve. You will become reactive to events, and may require continual changes to your plan with the potential loss of momentum.
It is especially important that your senior leadership team is working together to deliver an agreed set of common goals to which each team member is fully committed. It is worth testing the relevance of your strategy to the evolving situation, and reaffirming your objectives in a free and frank discussion with your leadership team and key advisers. Any differences of opinion need to be properly aired and argued over, so that the best course of action can be confirmed.
It is critical that this information is then shared clearly and consistently with all of your people in a way that demonstrates that you have cohesion at the top. Any difference of view or expression will be quickly spotted by people who are apprehensive, and rumours will inevitably start. Negative expectations over the prospects for the business, job security, and change or restructuring will be amplified. It is a pleasure for leaders to walk the floors when the message is positive; it is a duty when the message is more challenging and people are uneasy.
In Part 3 I will address the dangers posed by the natural tendency of leaders and managers to centralise decision-making and apply excessive controls in times of uncertainty.
We are in an unprecedented era of political volatility. Unusually, much of that volatility is emanating from western capitals, not least Washington DC and London. The turbulence spawned by the Trump phenomenon and the Brexit situation are of course key factors, and there is no sense that these are going to change anytime soon.
Political volatility generates unpredictability for governments, businesses and just about every facet of society. Unpredictability and uncertainty erode people’s confidence, threaten job security and complicate decision making. This can be very unsettling for organisations and for your workforce – those individuals that are key to fulfilling your purpose, achieving your goals and delivering your desired outcomes.
Is there a remedy that organisations can employ to steer a course through uncertain times? There is no panacea or silver bullet, but strong leadership provides a range of opportunities to enable you to weather the storm. This series of short articles will address these opportunities in turn. They can be applied as a ‘spring- cleaning’ exercise to help you sharpen resilience and turn threats into opportunities.
In Part 2 I will address the importance of being absolutely clear about what you are trying to achieve.
Leadership is about shaping human behaviour and that happens more readily when people are working with those they trust and respect. For this to happen people have to know you, or know about you from people they trust themselves.
You could take a transactional approach – “I am a busy executive with much to do, and as long as my people know what is required and I pay them regularly they will do their jobs.” That may be true, but will they go the extra mile for you in difficult times, or when you are trying to meet increasing shareholder demands and grow your business? They probably won’t.
So why wouldn’t you invest a bit of time in bolstering your peoples’ commitment to harness their discretionary effort? You could do this by winning their respect and trust – by letting them see a bit of the ‘inner you’.
This idea is simple but it does require commitment; you may be shy but it should get easier with practice – here is how:
On your way into the office chat to the reception and security staff – you will be surprised by what you find out.
In the lift travel with everybody else and talk with them about what they are up to, their journey, their families, their football team. Find something in common that connects you.
Vary your route to the office and spend a few minutes with different people every day. Most of your people will really enjoy talking to the boss, and the word will spread.
Repeat regularly – you will get better at it and more at ease and they will all get to know you – either by direct contact or by your reputation for being caring, friendly and approachable. If they think you are genuine they will respect and trust you.
Everyone I know who has tried this has seen rapid results – a better working atmosphere, closer touch with their people and improved engagement scores – meaning more discretionary effort.
Watch our recent webinar replay - "The Importance of Team Diversity for Innovation in a Crisis"