Guest-blog: Roger Phare – The Jekyll, Hyde and The Executive Director

Roger Phare

As an executive director, how do you powerfully lead your organisation through complex challenges? How do you align your organisation, staff, and board around impact and achieve financial sustainability? As daunting as these questions can seem, they are fundamental executive leadership responsibilities.

In spite of its institutional power, the position of an Executive Director remains an immensely demanding one, and not one that any qualified and capable man or woman will agree to lightly.

We welcome back Roger Phare as our guest blogger who is an accomplished Global Executive Director, equipped with a commanding track record over the past 37 years of bringing sound judgement and a strong commercial perspective to IT businesses, from ‘Mainframe to Mobile’. Roger have been fortunate to have been part of the commercial computing lifespan. With a market driven approach, which he has strategically supported, a number of organisations, both at significant Board, Executive and Regional Directorship and responsibilities. An expert in corporate governance and compliance and risk management; enjoying challenging the status quo and providing independent advice to Boards whilst maintaining sound judgment, impartiality and with integrity.

Roger is going to talk to us about ‘Jekyll, Hyde Associates and the Executive Director’

Thank you Geoff, today I would like to discuss the role of the Executive Director, which can arguably be the most individually challenging and changeable of all Board roles. Not that the responsibilities are any greater or less than Non- Executive counterparts, yet the concept of disassociating the “day job” with the Board role can be tricky and take some fortitude. The Executive director must possess or develop the ability to perform separate roles with separate mindsets; a veritable Dr Jeckyll and Mr Hyde (and maybe other) set of personas.

The majority of companies start from small beginnings. Friends, family or work colleagues decide to set up in business and likely form a limited liability company. Almost invariably they become shareholders, directors and employees overnight. Generally there will be a leader; a chief executive who, more often than not, will also be elected chairman of the board. The other board members are often generalists, providing input based upon their work role experience.

Confusion can set in as the company grows and more employees are taken on board. This is where the understanding of role demarcation is vital. I recall being an executive director on the board of a growing company some years ago when one of my colleagues, who was head of the technical department as well as an executive director/shareholder, threatened to fire the receptionist for an indiscretion.
The receptionist did not report to this individual but his view was that as a major shareholder and director he had the over-riding power and right to make such decisions. He clearly had confused the roles, effectively merging all three responsibilities into one.

In the board room the need to disassociate the individual roles becomes even more apparent. Recalling that a director’s duty is to represent the medium and long-term interests of the shareholders, the double or triple role can be a major challenge. Let’s say that within a growing goods and services company the head of development, one of the founders and a minority shareholder, also sits on the board as an executive director. As a manager doing his day-to-day job, he has put up a business case to employ a number of new staff members within the development team.

At a board meeting, the annual item regarding profit distribution by way of dividends is discussed. The head of development sees this as an ideal forum to lobby for the approval of the business case. This is not say the overall decision will necessarily be wrong; it is that he has unwittingly brought his managerial role into the boardroom.

Once a company goes public, then the appetite for executive director’s wanes considerably. Most Commonwealth countries operate a unitary system, indicating a balanced mix of executive and non-executive directors. Yet over the past twenty years there has been a push for greater board member independence, with a move towards more non-executive directors. The executive directors are often consigned to the roles of chief executive and possibly head of finance.

Yet are we about to see the return of the executive director on public boards? There is no doubt that the need for up to date subject matter knowledge of industry trends is as much a requirement as expertise around governance and compliance. The need for this has started show itself in the rise of the advisory board; yet this can never replace true in-house expertise.

Perhaps we are about to witness the return of our Henry’s and Edward’s; but this time around improved peer mentoring and coaching maybe the answer.

You can contact Roger Phare via LinkedIn. Roger Phare on LinkedIn or by email: roger phare @ gmail .com (remove all spaces)

Guest-blog: Roger Phare – The qualities and experience needed to getting the right advise on the Board

Roger Phare

In the small business world, there is a lot of talk about whether a company should have a Board of Advisors (Advisory Board), and if yes, what the composition of such a group should be. In my time in the small and medium enterprise (SME) world, I have been exposed to and worked with hundreds of companies, a small percentage of which have had a Board of Advisors. Whether having such an advisory group makes sense depends a lot on the business and more importantly, the CEO and senior management team of the business.

In my opinion and I state this with wisdom, one of the smartest growth initiatives a business owner can implement is an advisory board: a hand-selected group of advisors that believe in your leadership, are aligned with your culture and mission, and are committed to your success.

The vast majority of business owners who implement an advisory board fail to see a strong return on investment because they have not followed guidelines to recruiting the right advisors, and have not set them up for success.

Today I have the pleasure of introducing another Guest Blogger, Roger Phare, who is an accomplished Global Executive Director, equipped with a commanding track record over the past 37 years of bringing sound judgement and a strong commercial perspective to IT businesses, from ‘Mainframe to Mobile’. Roger have been fortunate to have been part of the commercial computing lifespan. With a market driven approach, which he has strategically supported, a number of organisations, both at significant Board, Executive and Regional Directorship and responsibilities. An expert in corporate governance and compliance and risk management; enjoying challenging the status quo and providing independent advice to Boards whilst maintaining sound judgment, impartiality and with integrity.

Roger is going to talk to us about the qualities and experience needed to getting the right advise on the Board.

Over recent years we have seen the rise of the Advisory Board concept, a trend that reflects the changing nature of modern organisational leadership and governance. Thinking further on this, the obvious question is why? What has changed in public and private Boardrooms to see such a demand for specialist knowledge and expertise?

The answer perhaps dates back some twenty or even thirty plus years. Up until the late eighties board members generally came with experience related to the company’s market or industry, together with all round leadership and business skills. This had largely been the post war formula, in other words Executive or Non-Executive Directors in 1958 had much the same attributes of those in 1988 – then everything changed.

We had Wall Street, Enron and the Sub-Prime less than twenty years apart. Not co-incidentally, this timeframe was paralleled with the rapid rise of business computing and the internet. Ironically, while technology was an enabler for business growth it became an inhibitor for effective all-round board performance. Directors became much more focussed on financial and legal due diligence as the regulators took control. Boards became largely the keepers of compliance and governance, with their members skilled and qualified in these disciplines. So what happened to the much needed advice in areas such organisational structure and market direction?

Enter the Advisory Board, bringing relevant expertise and experience in key strategic areas.

There is perhaps another reason for the rise of the advisor(s) in the boardroom. Casting the mind back to our pre-1988 Director, past industry experience was a key attribute for the senior board member. Being five to ten years away from a hands-on roles was not a major issue – as business and market fundamentals remained consistent. Today key industries are in rapid growth mode that did not even exist five to ten years ago, with “here and now” expertise required.

So Advisory Boards are most likely here to stay and ideally should complement our incumbent NEDs or Exec Directors; the key is find the right balance and consistency.

You can contact Roger Phare via LinkedIn. Roger Phare on LinkedIn or by email: roger phare @ gmail .com (remove all spaces)

If you can tweet you can become president…

I was recently having a fascinating discussion with a CEO of a technology company around leadership, the weaknesses and social media as the communication link to their image, when the recently elected president of the United States of America came to mind.
It’s bizarre really, but the facts are: Donald Trump is the first Twitter president of the United States of America.

In an interview with Tucker Carlson of Fox News recently, Trump put into words what many people have long been suspecting, that were it not for his mastery of hyperbole in 140 characters, he would not now be occupying the most powerful office on Earth. “Let me tell you about Twitter,” the president began. “I think that maybe I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for Twitter.”
Combine together his followers on Twitter and Facebook, Instagram, @Potus and “lots of other things”, Trump said, and he has the combined ability to publish directly to as many as 100 million people.

All jokes aside, whilst the truth maybe the fact that Twitter, Facebook, Instragram @Potus and other platforms may attract his following of interested fans, the question you need to ask yourself is exactly what cost is his presidency costing the United States just as you could question a CEO of a FTSE 100 company that used Social Media to obtain his or her position in the same?

My company is often being approached by executive boards of companies that question their existing leadership decisions in people, it is clear that people love the title of CEO, but do they have or are able to execute the skills to the business that will make the change necessary to drive the company to profitability and growth?

If we take a look at some basic facts:
• We are in the worst economic circumstances we have faced in almost 100 years
• It is forecasted to get worse before we hit bottom
• There are many organizations who have already executed large scale reductions in force and they will be followed by others
• Layoffs, reductions in force, or whatever you want to call them cause anxiety, trauma and lost productivity

Here are some of the facts about poor leadership costing a loss in productivity to American businesses that I found out in an article published at Harvard Business Review

According to one of the workplace reports by Gallup, 50% of the working professionals in US merely put their time in at office, 20% often represent their discontent via missings their days on job, driving customers away or influencing the co-workers in a negative way. Only the remaining 30% are committed towards their work. What’s the reason behind it? ‘poor leadership’.

In fact, while researching for their book ‘Leading People’, the authors Rosen and Brown came up with the findings that the current state of poor leadership is costing more than half of their human potential to the American companies.

The numbers are self-explanatory as to how much does poor leadership cost a business in terms of productivity.

Loss of human resources
Loss of human resources does not only mean the employees leaving the organisation. Well, that’s the ultimate loss, but a big loss is when the employees are not being used as per their full potential.

Poor resource management is one of the key tell tales of weak leadership, that can bring a downfall for the company. No matter how experienced and expert your resources are, if they are not utilised rightfully they are not going to benefit the business. This will ultimately lead to loss of resources, more so it will bring the loss of your company.

Successful leadership is all about having the right people, with the right abilities, in the right place, at the right time!

Loss of revenues
According to the same report by Gallup that was mentioned in the second point it has been found that poor leadership alone costs American companies a loss of more than half a trillion dollar each year.

According to the Cost of Poor Leadership Calculator created by DDI, a leading firm that conducts corporate researches, it was found out that one poor leader costs leadership around $126,000 over just one year owing to loss of productivity, and employee turnover issues.

Corporations are victims of the great training robbery. American companies spend enormous amounts of money on employee training and education $160 billion in the United States and close to $356 billion globally in 2015 alone, but they are not getting a good return on their investment. For the most part, the learning doesn’t lead to better organisational performance, because people soon revert to their old ways of doing things.

In another survey The Conference Board CEO Challenge®, more than 1,000 respondents indicated that human capital remains their top challenge, with customer relationships rising in importance in the past two years. Also, operational excellence and innovation remain vitally important for driving business growth and ensuring a sustainable future. These challenges, albeit in varying order, were the top challenges in all four regions included in the survey: the United States, Latin America, Europe, and Asia.

When asked about the strategies to address the human capital challenge, 4 of the top 10 strategies CEOs selected are focused on leadership: improve leadership development programs, enhance the effectiveness of senior management teams, improve the effectiveness of frontline supervisors and managers, and improve succession planning. CEOs know their organisations cannot retain highly engaged, high-performing employees without effective leaders who can manage, coach, develop, and inspire their multigenerational, globally dispersed, and tech-savvy teams.

CEOs also were asked to identify the leadership attributes and behaviors most critical to success as a leader. The top five prominent in every region globally were:
• Retaining and developing talent.
• Managing complexity.
• Leading change.
• Leading with integrity.
• Having an entrepreneurial mind-set.

So how can leadership improve?
First, leadership capability efforts are not necessarily hardwired to business strategy. This will always lead to initiatives that are disconnected and inconsistent across the organisation, diluting the overall focus on the core leadership behaviors to cultural and business change.

Without properly aligning current leadership capability against business goals, you miss the opportunity to identify key gaps, running the risk of focusing on the wrong things.

Second, almost all of the focus is on quality of content; how well we execute takes a back seat. This becomes even more difficult when you are trying to scale efforts across the enterprise or across different countries and cultures. According to the Corporate Leadership Council, one-third of a leadership program’s success is related to content and two-thirds are determined by the quality of the implementation.

Finally, despite the best of intentions, many efforts produce no lasting change in terms of behavior and results. Don’t be drawn in by the hype of five-minute videos and digitized options. This type of learning can be engaging, but like a quick-fix diet, they don’t work.
Failure to examine the big data and analytics to help understand (and react to) the gap between existing leadership practices and proven value to the business is a detriment to leadership development efforts. Too often we are still content with the smile sheets and anecdotal data. To be effective, we all need data-driven analyses to execute informed decision-making processes and in real time.

This video on Leadership in the 21st Century and Global Forces by Dominic Barton, Global Managing Partner of McKinsey & Company, will give you another prospective to global and growing trends in ‘Global Leadership’ – The Darden Leadership Speaker Series kicks-off its 2016-17 season with Dominic Barton.

Talking with my business partner in the US, Mark Herbert, we created a check list of priorities that should be considered when making change, which include:
• Leadership development has long been viewed as a cost. It is an investment in your leaders and your business.
• The program is not adopted across the enterprise. If you do not predict and act on issues across geographies and cultures, there will be no consistency and implementation will not succeed.
• Development is seen as an isolated training event or the “initiative of the month.” That’s ineffective if you’re trying to achieve lasting behavior and change. Reinforce learning and sustain the momentum by investing energy and resources to diagnose your leaders and guide them through a targeted journey of experiences.

Marcus Buckingham, author of ‘First Break All the Rules’ and other management “bibles” stated:

“Today’s most respected and successful leaders are able to transform fear of the unknown into clear visions of whom to serve, core strengths to leverage and actions to take. They enable us to pierce the veil of complexity and identify the single best vantage point from which to examine our complex roles. Only then can we take clear, decisive action.”

More management, more leaders or are we failing in business?

I always travel once a year to my business partner in the US and we always have this debate over “you can train and educate an individual into being management”, but I have always maintained you “cannot train a leader”: leadership is in your DNA or not, and I believe leadership is something that passionately is in your blood, the route of success in any business is with the strength of its leadership, so the question that I am always engage within these days with groups is why is there so much management, why do we have a shortage of competent and strong leaders?

Some of the readership will remember a blog I wrote in 2014, “Middle Management or Strong Managers”: here.

My views are not only individual if you read Chapter 7 of John Bogle’s book ‘Enough: True Measures of Money, Business and Life’. The theme of management versus leadership is a familiar one and the distinctions that Bogle makes are based on some fairly standard and familiar definitions. To clarify the distinguishing features, Bogle quotes Professor Bennis as follows: ‘The manager administers, the leader innovates’ … ‘The manager relies on control; the leader inspires trust; the manager has a short-range view; the leader has a long-range perspective; the manager accepts the status quo, the leader challenges it.’

Clearly the need for leadership is as strong if not stronger in IT as it is in the world of finance and business with which Bogle is primarily concerned.

These calls have been made consistently over a long period of time now by a large number of business gurus, life coaches and consultants, but still the landscape remains patchy in my experience. For every good piece of leadership, I see, where teams are given clear direction and empowered to operate effectively, I see examples of micro-management where managers are insistent on predetermining the activities, tasks and man-day estimates and then badgering the team to report their success in following this predetermined plan.

A great leader will possess qualities like passion, integrity, a take charge attitude and the ability to inspire others. Employers and executives recognise this, and these “born leaders” are often first in line for promotions to leadership roles.

But people with leadership potential have never simply become leaders overnight. To co-exist as a leader, existing leaders have a responsibility to train the next generation, showing them how to guide a group of people toward a specific vision or goal, which in this new digital era of automation, robot and in some exception non-verbal communication – a particularly difficult challenge to overcome.
The challenge is that we live in a world where never before has leadership been so necessary but where so often leaders seem to come up short. Our sense is that this is not really a problem of individuals; this is a problem of organisational structures, effectively those traditional pyramidal structures that demand too much of too few and not enough of everyone else.

So here we are in a world of amazing complexity and complex organisations that just require too much from those few people up at the top. They do not always have the intellectual diversity, the bandwidth, the time to really make all these critical decisions. There is always a reason that, so often in organisations, change is belated, it is infrequent, it is convulsive.

My thoughts are still that the dilemma is one of complex company organisation, it’s growth, as fast as the environment is changing, there are just not enough extraordinary leaders to go around, something that I have majored on with my new book “Meaningful Conversations“. Look at what we expect from a leader today. We expect somebody to be confident and yet humble. We expect them to be very strong in themselves but open to being influenced. We expect them to be amazingly prescient, with great foresight, but to be practical as well, to be extremely bold and also prudent.

So, can organisations develop real leaders that can make a difference to business and create value?

My belief is that emotional intelligence (EI) is going to be a huge key component of effective and developed leadership. The ability to be perceptively in tune with yourself and your emotions, as well as having sound situational awareness can be a powerful tool for leading a team. The act of knowing, understanding, and responding to emotions, overcoming stress in the moment, and being aware of how your words and actions affect others, is fundamental for growth. Emotional intelligence for leadership consists basically of these five attributes: self-awareness, self-management, empathy, relationship management, and effective communication.

The business world is evolving and changing at unprecedented speed in a very unconnected human world, emotions and our day to day communications are becoming a much more important aspect of working relationships. Having emotional intelligence increases your chances of being more accepted on teams and considered for leadership positions. It can also set you apart from the competition when seeking a new position or promotion.

Sharing information is critical, but it is substantially less than half the battle. You must communicate clearly about the organisation’s strategy, speed, direction, and results. But you cannot stop there. Verbally and nonverbally, the way in which you communicate – humbly, passionately, confidently – has more impact than the words you choose.

As a leader, you must inspire others through your words and actions. And before you speak, make sure you listen and observe; knowing your audience is as important as the message you’re delivering. Communication informs, persuades, guides, and assures, as well as inspires. You must be willing to reveal more of yourself, to let others see your soul. If you withdraw, you will undermine your effectiveness as a leader, and your followers may soon drift to the side lines.

In summary, clear communication is the most important key to a business leader’s success. So, to grow as a leader and manager, you must learn how to be an effective, compelling communicator. And if you want your company to succeed, you and your team have to master the art of clear communication together, as well. By using these and other strategies, you and your employees can reach new levels of leadership excellence.

Rick Pitino, once said:

“Technology is a compulsive and addictive way to live. Verbal communication cannot be lost because of a lack of skill. The ability to listen and learn is key to mastering the art of communication. If you don’t use your verbal skills and networking, it will disappear rapidly. Use technology wisely.”

Guest blog post for Alium Partners

The Financial District in London, UK. Photograph by Geoff Searle.
The Financial District in London, UK. Photograph by Geoff Searle.

My first guest blog post has been published with Alium Partners. It was an amazing writing experience and I cannot thank them enough for hosting me.

Alium Partners has provided senior executives into a variety of organisations across the UK and around the world, for over 10 years.

Working across both the private sector and public sector, the team at Alium Partners consist of a variety of sector and functional led professionals who work collaboratively to identify the right recruitment solutions for their clients from a talent pool of over 10,000 skilled professionals.

As always, if you have any questions, please contact me. I will gladly help.

Have a successful week!