This slightly different annual report provides information about the development of my business in the past months, supplemented by learnings from my coaching and consulting practice. You will find out:
- how to promote cohesion and performance in strategy teams,
- why it makes sense to tie management projects to the corporate strategy,
- the extent to which corporate cultural barriers can reduce the success of crucial investment projects,
- which newcomers at a high level must pay particular attention to in order not to jeopardise personal relations and, last but not least,
- how a solo coach & consultant processes the lockdown (and gets support from a valued bandmate).
LIVE YOUR STRATEGY [LYS] is the brand with which I am active in the business areas of Strategy Execution and Executive Coaching. I support companies, business units, teams and key players in achieving business results and individual goals.
My clients currently include large and medium-sized companies operating nationally and internationally in the automotive, pharmaceutical, energy supply and mechanical engineering sectors.
The majority of sales in the past year were generated with follow-up orders from the pool of existing customers. Among other things, I was able to win over new customers to the business unit of an M-DAX listed industrial group.
Sales development in the 2019 months was consistently positive, not least due to an increase in order volumes in the areas of leadership projects, executive coaching and mediation. In 2020, this is likely going to be different. More on this later in the text.
Strategy and tactical meet ups with their pit stops during the year continue to form the backbone of sales development.
EXTENDED OFFER IN EXECUTIVE COACHING
Flexibility is an attribute expected of executives, which is why I have adjusted my range of services in the Executive Coaching business in 2019 (on demand) and digitized it (online tools), true to the motto:
“What separates Coach and Coachee brings the online world together.”
What remains are medium-term coaching formats that are oriented towards personal development and competence growth. Periods of 4-6 months to 6 two-hour sessions are common here. Complementary online conferences between the units increase the closeness to the day-to-day business and ensure sustainability.
FROM THE STRATEGY IMPLEMENTATION PRACTICE
Strategy Meet Ups have been positioned so far in the weeks around the start of the new financial year. This has changed significantly. In the meantime, these neuralgic meet-ups are set up in all quarters of the financial year, depending on the situation and the occasion. “We drive on sight and act flexibly.”, could be the appropriate guiding principle.
The beauty of it:
Learning is thus directly linked to the strategy process. And that’s exactly what I’ve been working for, which is to get the joint learning out of the workshop setting right back into the business, to where it can take immediate effect.
Strategy Meet Ups are not just a business reference. Why not, especially in difficult times (not uncommon even before Corona), ensure more interpersonal connection and cohesion in the strategy team? The well-known Clifton StrengthsFinder® is ideally suited for this purpose. This instrument, which is consistently aligned with the personal strengths of the persons acting, can be used to create a dialogue phase in which one can:
- present (and learn to stand by) his personal strengths, and
- communicate to the other team members what strengths they have to offer:
“I think I can be the go-to person when it comes to creativity and ideation. That’s what I offer to you all.”
If you then start networking on this basis and sort current projects with the members who have complementary strengths, then personal relations, perceived appreciation and project progress gain equally. This is what happened in an international project for goal setting in the field of agrochemicals and in a leadership circle of a real estate unit in the field of energy supply.
After all, what should we focus on in turbulent times, if not on one’s strengths, including those that can be made available to others?
Leadership projects with front line leaders in production
This project developed into a real highlight last year (a more detailed project description can be found here). In total, I was able to accompany more than 40 front line leaders in production through their performance projects and sort and clarify their leadership and self-leadership questions in intensive 1:1 coaching
- close to their everyday experiences,
- close to day-to-day business,
- close to the value stream, whose potential had to be raised.
This alone paid off for the individuals involved as well as for the company. Important: “soft” project content, i.e. leadership and behavioral topics and “hard” content (improvement in productivity) are considered to be equivalent.
Success factor: Link your leadership program to the company’s strategy
In my opinion, even more successful will develop a very similar follow-up project in another area of the company, in which we try to tie the contents of the leadership program directly to an important strategic breakthrough goal of the given plant. This program regarded as a strategic driver has already led to the cooperation of all participants, clients, target groups as well as supporters (mentors, higher management levels) in our first steps. Credo:
“We bring our plant forward in close cooperation, with a lot of mutual support!”
Retrospectives of strategic projects
The implementation of the strategy is not completed with the sheer end of the strategic projects. So it is good that a team of engineers has taken the time to reflect on a large investment project (here with an investment amount > € 50 million) in the aftermath and to share success factors with regard to follow-up projects.
- In three intensive workshop days, a fever curve of the project’s course can be drawn, an intensive exchange can be stimulated about the stumbling blocks in the project, a handbook of success factors (applied error prevention) can be prepared and a final Fish Bowl discussion of Lessons Learned with the top management can be carried out.
- If regular pit stops are then made the standard in similarly demanding projects, in which also cultural barriers (such as dealing with deviations: “Is it taken seriously by the top management when we say Stop!, we shouldn’t go on like this?”), then future projects are likely to show even less friction.
FROM EXECUTIVE COACHING AND MEDIATION
Being new to or cross-entering into the company has never been easy, especially if you step up hierarchically and are in the spotlight from day one. Unfortunately, the many carefully crafted onboarding programs in companies still lack to incorporate cultural peculiarities (unwritten laws, secret rules of the game). But how can we incorporate the unwritten, the unnamed into the official welcome process? Admittedly, this is rather unlikely. But what still applies to assistance for the newcomer is:
- Note irritations/conflicts with your CXO, do not talk them small or take disagreements as induced by the manager’s individual character. Take conflict, apart from vanity, as a learning opportunity; because cultural barriers are usually recognized in conflicts only; it happens when you notice – very irritated – that you have driven the car against the wall. Instead, act like an ethnologist and use your serendipity.
- Consult regularly with your manager about mutual expectations during the Jour Fixes; ask for feedback. Here, too, the following applies; you are expected to act independently and need comparatively little guidance from your manager. But why should you forbid yourself from getting valuable information from the boss about what is really important to him in terms of cooperation and quality?
In my view, this would contribute to the prevention of conflicts. I often experience that both parties, the senior newcomer and his board member, act according to the pattern:
“She/he has to cope with this on her own; after all, she/he is well paid.”
This, combined with a false vanity of the newcomer, usually drives both parties into the termination of the working relationship after a while.
Mediation is becoming increasingly popular as a tried and tested means of avoiding terminations of cooperation.
High-level cooperation breaks are very expensive and highly unpleasant for all involved. The boss has to realize that he has brought the wrong one in. The newcomer is tormented by the frustration of not having it made and now having to start again elsewhere. In most cases, other groups of people are affected (leaders; business partners; internal /external customer areas, even private matters suffer noticeably). Economic damage – strategic projects are lagging behind; the day-to-day business is interrupted, not to mention.
I am pleased to see that more and more companies regard mediation as an effective means of mitigating the economic consequences and personal impairments of their key players. In any case, my mediation activities have almost doubled in the last 12 months.
Mediation is still neither a panacea for fragile industrial relations nor a guarantee that the persons involved will once again devote themselves jointly and with clout to the core business.
I think that if 60-75% of mediations come to sustainable solutions, then a great deal will be gained.
How the current financial year will turn out in the face of pandemics and lockdown is completely unsure. Current requests for moderation for
- a reorientation of the department and the
- accompanying of a strategic project in product development with
- all the shifts from the projects scheduled in Q2
vote confidently. On the other hand, is all this realistically not in the stars?
And in general: isn’t every fiscal year in the stars?
Is your success safe?
I think it’s important to focus on your personal area of influence. At least, this is where my optimism is located best. The best thing you can do as a service provider is to have your ear close to the customer’s rail, to know what he is dealing with these days, which may keep him awake at night. Relationship work is always a good idea, I guess.
In this respect, on the continuum from almighty to powerful to helpless, I tick the middle.
These days, like my clients, I find it increasingly difficult to bear the contact restrictions (my profession is contact). Free choice is also one of my favourite activities; with the current restrictions, therefore, not an easy time. But is there anything good about it?
Where is the good for the bad here?
As my bandmate Guido once put it: “Freedom restricts.” What he meant; if you are free from searching (for whatever options), then you can devote yourself entirely to what is now.
I wish all readers of this annual business and experience report a fantastic summer!
With the best greetings from Cologne,
Image source: https://me.me/i/a-matter-of-perspective-its-a-its-a-nine-six-8941139