Ross Moloney CEO of the Lifting Equipment Engineeris Association (LEEA) recommends being light on your feet and adapting plans quickly when circumstances change.
What a surprise to be asked to write something about leadership. This either means that I’m doing something right, or instead something very wrong, and there’s a hint of irony in the invitation!
One of my very favourite pastimes before the lockdown was going to live boxing. I’ve been a boxing fan all my life really, but my fandom was confined to radio and television. About three years ago I went to see Josh Warrington box in Leeds and since then I’ve basically been addicted.
I’ve started reading boxing books, watching documentaries and really getting to grips with the history of the sport, and I recognise that it’s controversial, but let’s park that for the moment.
Prior to fighting Evander Holyfield (the first time, not the bite fight), Mike Tyson famously told a reporter that “everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.”
I love this quote. Collectively, I think we can say that the world has been hit in the mouth. Some of us are reeling on the ropes. We are dizzy even. Some might be picking ourselves off the floor.
If I could prescribe one tablet to all of us, it would be a pill marked resilience. The ability to pick yourself up after a rubbish day, a rubbish week or month even, is an essential characteristic for an effective leader. To take the bad and absorb it without being absorbed by it, that’s a skill right there. Having a network around you who can help you pick yourself up is something you really only notice when you need it. I have had Friday nights when a random text message from a board member has made the weekend so much better.
Related to this of course is the undeniable fact, that being a leader means you operate occasionally in a very lonely place. In recent weeks, many business leaders across the land have had to take difficult and unpleasant decisions. The situation demanded them, the circumstances and data proved them to be right, but that doesn’t necessarily improve the immediate feelings you have whilst breaking bad news. With experience, difficult conversations get easier. But when they become easy, it’s probably the right time to change career.
But if I could give one piece of advice, it would be to make sure you talk to your people directly and this includes your customers. Leaders who sit in ivory towers tend to lose insight and value. Talking to LEEA members is when I steal their best ideas!
Returning to being punched in the mouth!
I believe that the trick is being willing and able to adapt a plan. The plan is not the thing. Altering a plan is not a sign of weakness. The destination is still the same. All a plan is or ever was, are the steps you laid out in order to get to your destination. If the world blows you off course, that’s really fine. Just figure out the different journey you now need to take. It’s not about defending a plan – it should always be about reaching the destination.
Plans that were expertly crafted three months ago are now not worth the paper they were written on. Being willing to edit your own work, to start again, to change your thinking – what a characteristic that is! To be your own fiercest critic. To change your solution that was expertly crafted and that you truly believed in. That’s someone I want to be more like.
When I ran my little consultancy firm I worked for a highly experienced MD of a very well known UK company. I worked with him on strategy, but he refused to sign any invoices that had ‘strategy’ written on them. He believed that strategy was a word that people hid behind when they didn’t know what they were talking about and when they wanted to charge more than they were worth.
So instead, my invoices read – ‘assistance in planning’.
The greatest leaders I have met and worked with have exacted impact. They have set the direction, the tone of an organisation and they normally have their sleeves rolled up too. Talk is cheap and great leaders don’t seem to value it much.
I wish you all the very best in the upcoming weeks and months, both personally and in terms of your business and work.
Please get in touch if I or anyone at LEEA can help you.
My details are firstname.lastname@example.org