with greg layton

The Inner Chief is for leaders, professionals and small business owners who want to accelerate their career and growth. Our guest chiefs and gurus share powerful stories and strategies so you can have more purpose, influence and impact in your career.

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In today’s minisode, I’m going to discuss five uncommon leadership lessons from a powerhouse executive team with whom I have worked for around five years. This team has done an incredible job, continually growing underlying profit, increasing their market share, improving the share price, and their internal engagement scores are going up year on year.

Having played just a small part in this team's journey, I wanted to share with you five traits that each of us can take from this group. I've spent nearly 15 years now as an executive coach to CEOs and lots of executive teams and the truth is, these traits are disappointingly quite uncommon. So, Chief, let’s dive in.

1. Consistency

This team has got a long track record and this immediately lends itself to an incredible consistency. And consistency trumps agility any day. All these years, they have had a very similar, solid executive team; it's essentially the same group. Together they've been through our P2R2 Lifecycle (Prepare, Perform, Recover, Review) repeatedly. They've looked at the way they operate and they've built as a team and the consistency is there.

If I compare and contrast that to many other clients who are about agility, shifting deck chairs, restructures, bringing in new blood, and you know what, that almost never works. We had former Wallaby rugby star Ben Darwin on the podcast in 2021 and he is an expert in cohesiveness. He spoke about the importance of consistency in the composition of a team over long periods of time as that will nearly always beat the market. So, it’s a little bit uncommon in this day and age, but it really does pay to have a super consistent and cohesive executive team.

2. Purpose

If you don’t put purpose at the heart of what you do, don't even bother. This team has spent an enormous amount of time working on their purpose. They have multiple sub-businesses in the form of different brands and in each of those, they have built out their purpose really connecting to the change they want to make in the world, for the customer, the industry and the community. They have built this into their brand, their marketing, and even the way they make strategic decisions by asking the following question: “Does this particular strategy serve our purpose?” They are able to answer that almost every single time, and it makes a real difference to their internal congruence, to the way they approach their business. 

What they've been able to do now is the overarching brand also has even greater clarity of its overall purpose – even though it's more like a head office/holding company – and it is doing a brilliant job of ensuring their purpose is at the heart.

So don't underbake the effort – I see a lot of real half-arsed efforts on working out what the purpose is and then bringing that into the team. This group has really gone deep on it and you can see it in the way they interact with their customers; the way their ads hit the market, it is just phenomenal and it’s really awesome to see a company do that. If you are still in a place where you need convincing about that, then I really don't think you're properly getting what high performance means. This is a fantastic opportunity to engage the full hearts, minds, bodies of every single person in your business.

3. To work on the business, you must get out of the business

I meet a lot of organisations these days that are somewhat reluctant to go and spend two, three days in the mountains or at the beach or somewhere away from it all so that they can reset and rethink and have that distance and perspective and a different pace.

Chief, you will not solve your big business problems if you are stuck within the four walls of where you operate every day. This group has been doing this now for years; they go away to the mountains every year. Multiple times a year, they reconnect in different places around the country, and they're just doing a brilliant job of getting out of the business.

I see just a little bit too often a reluctance from executive teams to invest in that. On the flip side, I get to take away some great teams to amazing locations and they really do come to life and you see the full energy come through in that group. I encourage teams to go to more earthy locations where everyone will be more grounded and a more authentic self will come out. That's what this group has done for a long time and they're just really reaping the benefits of that every single day.

4. Bet bigger on trust than the competition

Particularly post COVID, for many teams, there is this slight erosion of trust because of hybrid working and remote working and you can just see it eating away at teams. I often see it when I'm about to go and work with a big company and I interview a few stakeholders and I can feel an angst in the air. 

However, this group has gone the other way and they have this incredible comfort with each other. They've invested a lot of time over a decade, really getting to know each other, spending time together, and with each other's families. They really do bet more than their competition on the power of trust, between each other and vertically through the business as well. That trust creates a safe space where people can come up with brilliant ideas and feel comfortable sharing them. So that psychological safety is there for everybody to see.

5. Bravery

They are not worried about what people will think about them as a group or the brand. They are so beautifully aligned internally that they have this great bravery to really go after the industry they're operating in and change the game. 

Yes, there's going to be naysayers and there's going to be competition hating on them, but they take very calculated risks. They've got a great team that are good at due diligence, so they're really well set up for smart business decisions. But in the end, you can have as much data as you want, you've got to follow your heart.

And if you go back to the purpose piece above, they've got that so clear that they're looking for business opportunities and ideas for their business so as to satisfy the purpose that allows them to be brave.

So, Chief, they're the five uncommon traits of a great leadership team that I'm hoping serve as a reminder that this is where you can outsmart the competition and really be brave and leave a wonderful legacy.

Deal hope,