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Think like a leader and act smart in times of turbulence

You can’t really miss it. The headlines, the endless discussions and debates, the boundless optimism from some and apocalyptic warnings from others. Unless you’ve had your head stuck in the sand for the last few months – and who, at times, hasn’t wanted to do that?! – the turbulence in the markets has permeated all aspects of daily life.

And there’s good reason to be concerned. There’s been more turbulence in the last 6 months than in the last 6 years.

But it’s not permanent – since 1970 there have been over 400 ‘financial and economic crises’ but in that same period international trade has grown from $1 trillion to $33 trillion. This is long term growth. 

You don’t have to look far to see that most of the headline column space is dedicated to short-term reactions. A cry goes up when a political or economic situation develops, and you react by taking your business in one direction. You then react again when the wind swings in a different direction.

There are investors who specialise in making money in these turbulent times by speculating that others will react in a certain way. They know that herd mentality is a strong force. When, as a business leader, you’re stuck between a rock and a hard place do you react as others do, or do you keep your cool? If you try and anticipate an outcome based on short term changes then before you know it, you’ve got yourself entangled in a situation that it’s difficult to turn back from.

Let’s turn away from the culture of reacting to supposition, rumours and those infamous ‘alternative facts’.

It’s not good for your own peace of mind, let alone for your business.

Your vision is the key

Instead, let’s focus on the core issue here. What are we trying to achieve? You just need to work on what your vision is (read my blog to discover more); What does success for your business look like? Take time to describe it, work out what it looks like, what it sounds like, even what it feels like.

Remind yourself that this is what you are aiming for. Immerse yourself in your total brand experience; it’s what the visitor sees, hears and feels whenever they walk into your reception, meets a member of your staff or browses your website. Your vision is on show from the moment the receptionist greets visitors and customers are welcomed to your offices.

And having a clear, transparent vision allows you to build a successful company.

Future-proofing your business

Start there, with the vision of where you want to be, and then work back to here, to where you are now.

It’s a straight line. If you start there and work back to here, focusing on your long-term strategy, you can then future-proof your business against reacting to short-term turbulence – which can only be bad for you and your organisation.

You can still be flexible!

I realise that you can’t be completely rigid. It’s not helpful to be inflexible as there will be some aspects of change you will need to react and adapt to. These maybe changes in legislation, currency fluctuations, emerging new technologies, etc.

As a businessman, I understand which of these factors impact my businesses. Which ones do you need to be aware of? How do we counter the negative influences and ride the positive influences?

Let’s look at an example of this:

Porsche GB: how I countered short-term market turbulence

I ran Porsche GB through the massive market turbulences of the 1990s. The financial markets were in turmoil, Black Friday hit, interest rates peaked at nearly 15%, and to cap it all, Porsche was deemed a ‘glitz and glamour’ brand by the press, one that was only focused on fast cars and celebrity endorsements.

porsche-wallpaper-550

To turn this around, we decided what our vision of success looked like. We focused on the key characteristics of quality, heritage, integrity and design and pushed through this message at every opportunity.  All parts of the business were aligned to this vision, from the receptionists through to the boardroom, from the glossy marketing materials through to the factory floor. We did not compromise. And the result? Porsche GB went from being No. 32 out of 32 in the brand satisfaction charts coupled with -20% profitability, to 4 years later hitting No. 1 in the brand satisfaction charts and +20% profitability. 

If There’s One Thing You Should Do Today…

So the message is: don’t lose your head. Slow down, define your vision of success, stick to your plan, hold firm with your strategy (look at my 1000 day plan). Remain the same whatever the market throws at you. Focus on getting better at what you do. Bigger will follow. 

I love it when a plan comes together

I build businesses in phases. In our companies we have developed the 1000 Day Plan™ which we use to visualise, prioritise and expedite. The plan raises the heartbeat of the business, lets each team member see where they make a difference and coordinates activity. It is simple but very effective and I now use the toolkit to help my masterclass and strategic workshop clients to accelerate change in their business. We also apply the 1000 Day Plan™ to get a fast start in our new companies.

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Ignorance is never bliss

When you’re building a new home and it looks well on the way to your family being able to move in, you really don’t want to be told that there are serious problems with the foundations that may require stripping it back to the bedrock.

On the other hand you don’t want to move into a home that is likely to collapse taking you and your family with it.
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What inspired you to get to here?

KG-may-blog-photo-1Two weeks ago I stood at the geographical North Pole – the roof of the world.  With me were my son Matt and my sisters Jayne and Clare.  Matt was standing next to me; Jayne and Clare were there in spirit and in the photographs we carried with us.

It was Jayne who had inspired Matt and me to walk to both the North and the South Poles, although she never knew it.

Jayne died of cancer eight years ago leaving behind a devastated young family. I vowed to discover how treatment could be enhanced so other brothers, sisters, husbands, wives, parents and children might not have to suffer the loss of someone they loved.
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Does the leadership hat fit you?

Kevin Gaskell PhotoTwo years ago I sponsored a young guy to help him to achieve his dream of building ‘the best gardening destination in Britain’.  I liked his clear vision of what he wanted to create and his plan of how he would do it.

Did we envisage that the worst British weather on record would stack up as a serious business challenge?  No.  Did my protégée sulk, complain or decide to give up when the recession meant that the market dropped by 30%?  No.  Instead he stepped up, put on the leadership hat and made sure it fit him really well.

What does that mean?  It means that he has proved that he has what it takes to engage his team, inspire them to tackle the challenge and support them in overcoming it.

A leader has commitment to his (or her) vision and the commitment to achieve it.  A problem becomes an opportunity to demonstrate how it is possible to succeed.  A leader focuses on the problem and is creative, determined and single-minded in solving it.

A leader acts.  He sees the big picture and is ready to take a new approach to transform the business.

A leader won’t acknowledge that ‘it can’t be done’.  He doesn’t quit when things get tough and his positive approach is the pattern that the team follow.

A leader recognises achievers and removes those who hold back progress and aren’t actively moving things forwards.  Making tough decisions is all part of the role.

Leaders have vision, but are realistic; they are relentless, compassionate, focused and inclusive.

Every successful leader is also a dreamer.  They turn their dreams into achievable goals and inspire ‘followership’ to help achieve them.  Does the hat fit you?