I had occasion to pay a visit to a (medical) consultant recently and he quizzed me for some time about what I do. He happens to be a charming person and I was happy to have a chat with him.
After some discussion and an attempt to explain precisely what it is that a Vistage chairman does, he said:
“Right; I have a patient, male, 45, a Managing Director of a successful business, his health is poor, his family relationships are crumbling and he is generally unhappy. What advice would you give him?”
I decided not to point out that as Vistage chairmen are encouraged not to act as a consultant and give advice but rather to explore with our members the possible options available and so did a “think on the feet” exercise.
He did eventually put a lot of effort and experience into my issue, by the way, in a satisfactory, reassuring and totally professional manner.
My very much off the cuff solution was as follows:
- Work to build a better and more balanced lifestyle
- Appoint excellent people and then get out of their way to let them flourish
- Join a peer group
I could have done better, I am sure, but that seemed to cover most of the bases.
Building a balanced lifestyle should be a major consideration for anyone in a leading position in business or indeed any organisation.
The demands on the leadership are such as to put, in some cases, an intolerable burden on the individual who considers that, as a leader, they have to be as perfect as possible.
Modern technology with its demands for instantaneous response results in a lengthening of the working day whether in the business or at home.
It is easy to say that the mobile phone, the tablet and indeed the laptop need to be in purdah at weekend so that proper consideration can be given to family and friends.
I saw a note on LinkedIn recently about a leader who deliberately buries his mobile in a drawer over the weekend. It is quite a thought to help to make the weekend sacrosanct.
Another danger for leader is to consider themselves as the fount of all knowledge and the sole source of certainty in the business.
It is sad fact that the “leave it to me, I’ll sort it out” syndrome is not only alive and well but is flourishing.
The quick and possibly glib answer is to give it up, accept that some people are actually better at doing things than you are, appoint them and then get the hell out of their way so that they can flourish in a no-blame environment.
That is an essential part of the equation because even the brilliant can make mistakes and that must be considered a learning experience, not a case for reprimand.
All of this can be encapsulated by joining a peer group where really important things can be discussed in an absolutely safe environment with other people who probably have exactly the same issues in their lives.
The key is, of course, to bring to the table issues that the leader genuinely cannot discuss with anyone else especially in the business and even at home.
It is astonishing how easily my Vistage members can discuss really deep secrets about them selves simply because they are with friends, with people they trust implicitly and who just want to offer support rather than criticism.
- “No-one is a smart as all of us”
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