Six years to this day, I left my job after 8 years as a CEO and 25 years in senior managerial and leadership roles. I hopped on a plane bound for Barcelona, my spiritual home, and the start of a year-long sabbatical. I’ve never looked back.
But as I’ve been working on the origins of my own brand story, I’ve found myself thinking more and more about those 8 years in the trenches as a CEO. The successes. The mistakes I made. And the lessons I learnt along the way.
When you’re a business leader, the chances are you’re going to blow it with your people at some point or another. A decision you’ve taken is going to come back to haunt you. A hiring or firing decision will bite you in the proverbial. This is an immutable law of business.
But Uber’s problems go far deeper than this. Uber has been rocked by accusations that its management has fostered a workplace environment where harassment, discrimination and bullying are left unchecked. Earlier in the month, Uber announced that it had fired 20 employees following allegations of harassment after a separate investigation by a different law firm. While board member David Bonnerman resigned after he cracked an inappropriate joke about how much women talk in the boardroom. Ironically Bonnerman’s comments came during an Uber event actually designed to spotlight the changes the company would be making to make its culture more inclusive.
As a business consultant, it’s my job to question, challenge and occasionally call out my clients. It’s not always easy, but I know that if I want to help leaders to grow, I’ve got to be willing to lead by example and speak frankly. This is especially important when it comes to setting the tone and culture of a company.
That’s why I was baffled to read recent reports about how the UK Prime Minister’s two former aides, Nick Timothy and Fiona Hill, were allowed to behave. Negative briefings against the Chancellor of the Exchequer. Sending text messages containing expletives to cabinet ministers. And bullying behaviour towards MPs. These behaviours are indicative of a highly negative and toxic culture where senior aides seemly felt that they could behave without impunity.
I can think of no better example to illustrate the Law Of Unintended Consequences than the UK’s recent general election. When Theresa May triggered this election, her intention was to win a landslide majority in order to give herself a clear mandate for the hard Brexit she favoured. And to extend the term of her leadership to 2022, well beyond the deadline for the conclusion of highly complex Brexit negotiations.
In light of the outcome, some have described May’s decision to call an election a gamble. Normally when you take a gamble, you consider the full range of possible outcomes. As far as I can determine, there’s no evidence to suggest May contemplated an outcome other than a landslide majority.
Do Good. Make Money. Change the World. These words, and the ethos behind them, stem from my belief that business can be a powerful force for positive social good [and still be a business].
Where did it start?
In 1984, I watched Michael Buerk’s report from Ethiopia, on what he labelled a “biblical famine”. The images of Mohammed Amin, together with Buerk’s powerful words, produced one of the most famous television reports of the late 20th Century.
The images from the report shocked me profoundly. I was at university at the time, and wrote regularly to a friend who was teaching for VSO in a small village four hours’ outside Nairobi, Kenya. Despite our regular discussions about her job, the conditions, aid and international development, nothing had prepared me for the visuals Buerk’s report provided.
REFLECTION ON THE LONDON BRIDGE ATTACK
Saturday, 3rd June was a beautiful summer’s day. Having worked in Southwark for 10 years and traveled through London Bridge and Borough every day, I know the bars and restaurants would have been the perfect setting for a balmy evening in the capital.
And yet just over 2 months after the Westminster attack and less than 2 weeks after the Manchester bombing, we find ourselves here again. The heinous actions of a few extremists shattering the lives of ordinary people enjoying their day, and causing damage from which some will never recover.
Yet amongst this awfulness, the stoic decency and determination of the British people and our leaders was on full display.
- The humbling bravery of the off duty police officer, who rugby tackled one of the assailants.
- The rapid and heroic response of our emergency services who acted with lightning precision to make that part of the capital safe.
- The Brits who fought back, launching glasses and chairs at their attackers, to slow down their path.
- The man who held shut the door for as long as he could so that 20 people could run to safety.
- The man caught on camera with his pint of beer running for safety. Only a Brit would do such a thing!
- The Brit who returned to the bar where he’d experienced such horror to pay his bill and leave a tip.
- The Londoners who offered up rooms for those who couldn’t get home.
- The taxi drivers who gave free lifts home.
- The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan.
Civilisation and decency are not going to be driven out of Britain by a handful of wicked people.
Yes, as Theresa May said: “enough is enough.” We do need to do more. We need to properly fund and support our intelligence services, Police, emergency services, NHS and public services so that they have the resources they need to do the job they do so well – of keeping us safe. Of rooting out intolerance, whatever form it comes in. And of building cohesive communities.
No, there isn’t a ‘magic money tree.’ But neither can we expect the level of services needed to keep us safe on current levels of taxation. Over the coming days, I’m hoping we’ll see a far more honest and mature discussion of these issues than has hitherto been the case.
N.B. This post first appeared on my own Facebook profile on 4th June.
“A change is as good as a rest,” goes the old saying. In last month’s business review, I wrote about how I feel like I have so much more time and space since ditching life in the capital for the Sussex South coast. The reality is I don’t actually have any more time now than I did in London. But I feel like I do. More times for walks on the beach. More time to catch up with friends. More time to pursue hobbies like singing in a choir and learning Italian. And more time for working on an operational plan for my own business strategy.
When I’m working with clients, there’s nothing I enjoy more than delving into their business strategy. But with a busy business consulting practice, I don’t always have the time I’d like to devote to the implementation of my own business strategy. Making progress on my own re-brand is my highest Q2 priority, and I’ve had great fun working with my graphic designer on this.
This week, I’ve been taking a Marketing Certification course with CoSchedule, whose software I use to manage my content marketing strategy. Following a discussion around marketing goals, I decided to set a BHAG (big hairy audacious goal). To 10X my website traffic by the end of the year. Would you like to join me in this challenge and 10X your website traffic too?
Big, hairy audacious goals worth achieving are typically difficult to attain. But if I want to catapult my business to the next level, I’m going to have to put my shoulder to the wheel, and give every ounce of effort I can to achieving this goal.
I want to ensure my website does the very best possible job of answering your needs and interests. This means I need to know more about you. To do that, I’ve created my first ever reader survey.
Would you please take a couple of minutes to fill out this short survey?
By doing so, you will also be helping yourself. Why? Because you will be helping me to create content that is more relevant to your needs. I’ll be using your feedback to construct my content calendar for the rest of the year.
As the founder of a small business, the prospect of recruiting your first employees is both thrilling and anxiety-inducing. Your small business is your baby and your livelihood so you can’t afford to make hiring mistakes that affect your success and productivity. These 9 hiring essentials will increase your chances of recruiting outstanding talent exponentially.
As a former CEO, senior manager and founder of my own business, I’ve been hiring staff for over 25 years. I’ve learnt that for every great candidate, there are significantly more average candidates and at least an equal number of responses from poor candidates. I’ve made my fair share of mistakes. But I’ve learnt that if I follow these hiring essentials and ‘hire slow’, my recruitment decisions are infinitely better.