By: Scott Kuru-CEO of Freedom Property Investors
Business strategist, accountant, data junkie, marketer, counsellor, best mate, father figure, sometimes an authoritarian… All of these hats can be worn by a business leader on any given day.
While the facets of leadership have grown, the true objective of a leader – their very reason for being in the hot seat – has not. You are there to deliver results. Fail and questions will be asked.
Rapidly growing a successful business demands strong leadership and offering a compelling vision that moves your people’s focus beyond the balance sheet and into giving them a purpose.
For my company, that purpose is to help as many people as possible build their wealth and live life on their terms. 4000 signed-up members, 150+ staff, and eight years later, we feel we’re on the road to achieving this.
None of it is possible, however, without strong leadership, sound management processes, and demonstrating values and principles that flow down from me to my team, giving them the platform to unlock their potential.
In this column I’ll share with you my 5 Pillars of Modern Leadership. Some will sound simple, others controversial, but I point to all of them as the reasons my company continues to enjoy explosive growth, and I hope they do the same for you.
- Clear targets (not people) are the fuel for your business
Without targets, your business will never achieve extraordinary results.
Too many leaders fall into the trap of simply saying…
“The target is MORE, make as much money as possible, bill as much as you can”.
That’s not a target. That’s a mindset, and while it’s important to have that growth mindset, it doesn’t put a massive X on the map that says “This is where we’re going”.
As a leader, you must set a big bright target that guides your team like its North Star.
This narrows focus, builds commitment and buy-in, creates clarity in decision-making, and ensures smarter allocation of resources.
When all of these elements are funnelled towards achieving your target, your chances of success increase exponentially.
What’s the catch?
The target you set as a leader is a fine balance between being brave and slightly uncomfortable as well as exciting and reasonably achievable.
Saying, for example, that you want your team to hit a revenue target of $30 million sounds great, but can your team actually do it? Or would you have a better chance buying a lotto ticket? The target you set mustn’t be so out of the realm of possibility that it erodes your team’s confidence.
Figuring out your target is actually incredibly difficult and requires a lot of data.
What resources do you have to achieve your target?
What are the key benchmarks?
What is the target this week, month, quarter, year, 5 years, 10 years?
Critically look at the capabilities of your business, the strengths and weaknesses of your people, and ask yourself: “Can we hit these targets with what we have at our disposal?”
- Your Sequence of Actions will lead to successful achievements of target.
There’s an old saying that pops into my head every time I’m setting targets…
“A dream without a plan is just a wish.”
Having a detailed Sequence of Actions or, in other words, “What do I do and in what order?”, will lead to successful achievement of targets.
Long-term leaders of established businesses with ingrained practises often trip up because they believe the sheer strength and momentum of their business will ensure the target is met. This might be true. It might not. Either way, you’re leaving money on the table if you don’t look at this critically.
Before you’ve even settled on the target, an effective leader must ask questions about how they’re going to clear the path towards achieving it:
- Do we need to build something first?
- Hire new talent?
- Invest in training for our people?
- Find a partner for this project?
- Spend money?
This is the tip of the iceberg. Once you’re sure you have everything, you plan your Sequence of Actions. What needs to be done first, second, third, fourth, and so on, that will logically and predictably lead to the successful achievement of the target.
Yes, it sounds almost too simple, but it’s the simple tasks that often get overlooked, or people presume “someone else” is taking care of that part of the project.
Clear targets underpinned by a properly-planned and resourced sequence of actions are non-negotiable when you’re leading teams and companies.
- Your crucial ingredients for leadership success: People, processes, tools and structures…
Now that your targets and sequence of actions are locked in, there are 4 critical ingredients you must have in place to make the whole thing come together.
a) Recruiting the right people
For me, there’s two levels of recruitment, and I say this in the context of keeping targets at the centre of decision-making.
Level 1 is about recruiting YOURSELF. What must YOU do every day, week, and month to achieve your target?
This can be a major problem for a lot of leaders because they believe that by setting the target, and directing their team to go after it, that their job is done. It’s not.
Effective leadership is about taking ownership of your target and the steps to achieving it. Some tasks will stay the same year in, year out. Others will change and evolve. With every new target you must ask where you fit into the execution of the plan to get there.
Level 2 of recruitment is where you look to your team.
Achieving the target hinges on getting your team on board and ensuring they’re crystal clear about the sequence of events. This is where you shift from the big picture and get down to the nitty gritty details of what you expect from your workforce
Through this process you’ll also get clear on whether or not you need to recruit new talent to handle the load and plug gaps in the collective skillset.
If you want to win in business, be like New Zealand’s all-conquering All Blacks.
The secret to the All Blacks’ success is not talent (although it obviously helps). It’s having rock-solid processes in place that leave no room for confusion by anyone in the squad. Every cog in the machine knows their role and where it fits into the ultimate target of winning.
If one cog is injured or tired, the replacement cog steps in seamlessly and the machine keeps going. This is why the All Blacks have dominated for so long.
You can’t replace superstars on your team in a like-for-like fashion. You can ensure the processes in your business are so ingrained, and understood so deeply, that any new team member can come in and perform their role well.
Show me a business with efficient, clear processes for their people and I guarantee their balance sheet is looking very healthy.
Process is how you lock in relentless results year after year.
Having the right tools to build your business is pretty obvious, but it demands a critical eye.
Many businesses have a “set and forget” approach to their tools. They believe that because those tools have got a certain result for the last 5, 10, 20 years, that those are the only tools they’ll ever need.
Great leaders should always question whether this hammer, this database, this CRM, is the best tool for the future of the company.
As a leader, if I don’t give my people the right tools to do their job then I have failed them and the business will fail as a result.
Structure is all about your people. Specifically, which people do what and when do they do it?
Structure and processes should connect like two pieces of Lego.
Lay out HOW you’re going to do something (processes) and then you cement WHO is doing it and when (structure).
This is actually an enormous opportunity for companies to gain a competitive advantage over their rivals if they are brave enough to analyze and change their structure.
Every industry has a fairly ingrained way of doing things. You could work at a major law firm or one of the big banks and, barring a few small differences, your role at one and how the company operates will be exactly the same as if you worked at another. This is the danger of legacy businesses, herd mentalities, and the fear of being seen as different. The same methods get the same results year after year.
The thing is, recent history tells us that breaking old structures and rebuilding new ones can reap rich rewards.
Elon Musk is on the record multiple times as saying one of the big reasons behind Tesla’s success and explosive growth is innovation of the structures and process as much as the product.
Want to know what Mark Zuckerberg think is Facebook’s biggest asset? It’s not having the data that reveals your interests, hopes, fears, and desires and which ads will make you buy. He says it’s his company’s structures and organization.
If the structure of your business is basically a carbon copy of your competitors, you will get similarly underwhelming results.
Great leaders figure out how to structure their people differently so their business runs better, resulting in bigger targets achieved and taking market share from their rivals.
- Micromanagement is NOT a dirty word…
What is the purpose of a leader?
Organise the workforce? Build morale? Solve problems as the (arguably) most qualified person in the room?
No. Leaders are there to get results.
Anywhere results truly matter – business, professional sport, charitable missions, the military – anywhere the one true metric of success is whether or not the mission was accomplished, requires a leader who is results-focussed and obsessed with the details.
Ignore the bad press that surrounds micromanagement and control. They are the keys to a profitable, growing business – IF you apply them the way I’m going to suggest.
Saying micromanagement can be a positive will upset a lot of people, particularly in today’s culture where a hands-off boss is praised as a good boss. In fact, a lot of people reading this would be mortified if they were ever labelled a “micromanager”, so they actively take a step back and call it delegation. This is dangerous. This is how things slip through the cracks and targets are missed.
Am I saying you need to constantly email and call your people 24 hours a day? Absolutely not. That’s a cliched, dysfunctional definition of micromanagement and it’s not how strong businesses with loyal staff are built.
My version of micromanagement means embracing your inner control freak, know your business inside out and keep yourself updated on the smallest details. Do this and you have the power to constantly optimize your people and processes, leading to stronger results.
An effective leader must know everything going on in their business:
- What are your people doing?
- How are they doing it?
- What is the process?
- Are you measuring the micromillimetres of performance?
Let me be clear: I expect and encourage my team to speak freely, boldly test ideas, and work independently. I believe in empowering people. I’m not micromanaging their decisions, I’m micromanaging the company’s processes and our people’s performance WITHIN those processes to ensure constant improvement,
My company, for example, is focussed on sales and providing high-quality services. Doing this consistently well relies on processes, and we have a lot of them; a sales process, member care process, refund process, service delivery, the list goes on…
We are rabid about measuring the effectiveness of our processes so we can continuously optimize performance and deliver a better experience for our members and financial result for our company.
Not to mention, if you aggressively measure and optimize you will always fix the holes in your bucket before that cash leak gets too big. Micromanaging in this context of continuous improvement and self-analysis can only protect and grow your bottom line.
No one is saying this because it sounds so out of step with today’s “be yourself” culture, but without micromanagement, managing people and hitting targets becomes about as reliable as herding cats.
- How to build a culture that delivers results AND builds morale
Over the last 20 years, “culture” has become an obsession for employers, employees, and the media
Culture gets the credit when things go right at a company, and is the first thing put under the microscope when things go wrong.
When your people are telling their friends and family about their job you can guarantee the question of culture is one of the first to come up. Your culture is either “great” or “horrible”. There is, perhaps unfairly, no in-between.
A strong and happy culture is critical to achieving targets, retaining your best talent, and maintaining and improving efficiency – but what IS culture?
In my view, it’s the guiding values and principles that flow from the leader and inform the behaviour of everyone.
Hold a mirror up to any company’s leadership group and you will get a reflection of the culture. It all comes from the top down.
Strong leadership requires setting the expectations around the principles that everyone works to and abides by. It goes so much deeper than making sure everyone gets along. Culture demands a commitment to having respectful, honest conversations and the ability to test ideas and share opinions without fear of failure or retribution.
Your people must live and breathe your company’s mission, otherwise you’ll lose good talent, miss targets and let down your clients.
For us at Freedom, our mission, our guiding light, is to devote ourselves to helping as many people as possible take back control of their lives by building their wealth through property. My team practically run through walls to help our members reach their goals.
Because they see that Lianna and I haven’t stopped living and breathing our mission since the day we started our company.