Friday, November 17, 2017

Freakin' Friday: It’s A VUCA World Alright!

FIRST PUBLISHED TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 20, 2012

In my sole but seminal encounter with the Pentagon when they asked me to provide counsel on the semiotics of the war on terror, I was told by them that my framework of radical optimism did not fit their VUCA worldview. “The world, Kevin, is volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous.” Way to go General! The self-immolation of top brass over the past two weeks has been VUCA-spectacular. Generals Petraeus, Ham, Allen, Sinclair, Admiral Gaouette and Commander Darlak have bought varying degrees of VUCA-disgrace onto themselves and their country.

The windows their actions open into the soul and operations of are startling. I mean what leader of any organization, say for example the supreme commander of the US presence in Afghanistan, has time to write 20,000-30,000 pages of emails to a Tampa socialite. General Allen either has spectacular time management skills, an unusual sense of priorities – or we are more vulnerable than the $711 billion US military budget would lead us to believe.

Much has been made of General Petraeus as the ultimate soldier-scholar, and I am thankful to The Daily Beast for bringing the General’s “lessons on leadership” to my attention. The author is, naturally enough, Paula Broadwell. Context is everything, and in normal situations this reads as a very worthy list.

Lessons on leadership from General David Petraeus:

Lead by example from the front of the formation. Take your performance personally—if you are proud to be average, so too will be your troops.

A leader must provide a vision: clear and achievable “big ideas” combined in a strategic concept - and communicate those ideas throughout the entire organization and to all other stakeholders.

A leader needs to give energy
; don’t be an oxygen thief.

There is an exception to every rule, standard operating procedure, and policy; it is up to leaders to determine when exceptions should be made and to explain why they made them.

We all will make mistakes.
The key is to recognize them and admit them, to learn from them, and to take off the rearview mirrors—drive on and avoid making them again.

Be humble. The people you’ll be leading already have on-the-ground conflict experience. “Listen and learn.”

Be a team player. “Your team’s triumphs and failures will, obviously, be yours.” Take ownership of both.

Don’t rely on rank. If you rely on rank, rather than on the persuasiveness of your logic, the problem could be you and either your thinking or your communication skills. Likewise, sometimes the best ideas come from bottom-up information sharing (i.e., “Need to share” not “Need to know”). Use “directed telescopes” to improve situational awareness.

Leaders should be thoughtful but decisive.
Listen to subordinates’ input, evaluate courses of action and second- and third-order effects, but be OK with an “80 percent solution”. “There will be many moments when all eyes turn to you for a decision. Be prepared for them. Don’t shrink from them. Embrace them.” Sometimes the best move is the bold move.

Stay fit to fight. Your body is your ultimate weapons system. Physical fitness for your body is essential for mental fitness.

The only thing better than a little competition is a lot of competition.
Set challenges for your subordinates to encourage them to excel.

Everyone on the team is mission critical. Instill in your team members a sense of great self-worth—that each, at any given time, can be the most important on the battlefield.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Off to Work, with a Smile

Continuing the recent theme of feel good, work better, here is a great Cumbrian reframe concept around property investment and urban regeneration. The concept: take an unloved building or site, make it iconic and inspiring, turn it into co-working community where people are inspired, and even let start-ups become their own landlords.

The notion at the heart of Michelle Rothwell’s disruptive approach is that the environment we work in should inspire us - and a desk in a dim corner is just not going to do it.

Michelle, who is from Windermere just down the road from my digs in Grasmere, and who is a double world-record holder for endurance swimming, got disenchanted as a commercial property advisor leasing inflexible and uninspiring spaces.

Her insight was that being part of an inspirational community in a flexible collaborative environment is a rich recipe for business growth. “The idea is that businesses don’t lease the space because there’ a desk, but because they want their business to grow.”

Michelle’s first start-up opened an office at 31-33 Princess Street in Manchester city centre in August which it billed ‘the UK’s first property co-working space’. She based her own company there. “I’ve kept hold of the top floor as a co-working space to create and inspire a community. We’re running events there, we’ve got yoga classes, bike facilities, free beer. The next project is to transform a Cumbria pub into a creative business hub.

And get this from a recent HBR article “The Case for Investing More in People” by Bain & co partner Eric Garton, when an employee goes from satisfied to inspired, productivity doubles – and only one in eight employees are inspired!

Work should happen in amazing spaces and places. Bring on the disruptors.

Monday, November 13, 2017

It’s Only Taken 782 Years

Many years ago I was booted out of Lancaster Royal Grammar School, a top all boys school in the North West of the UK, by an unenlightened headmaster because I was to become a dad. In one of life’s glorious ironies, I returned to the school years later when I became a Governor of the school.

It’s only taken 782 years, but an idea I have wholeheartedly promoted as a Governor is coming to fruition. The school is to have a coeducational sixth form, admitting girls as day pupils, from September 2019.

Mixing it up with sixth form girls is a good thing for all kinds of reasons, as current headmaster Dr Chris Pyle points out. Girls and boys bring different approaches which benefits everyone, students are better prepared for life beyond school, leadership and role models are generated which benefits the wider school, and growth in numbers brings benefits of scale. In the case of LRGS, girls get to study at an exceptional school.

To me it’s an equation of positives, and as Chris says, it’s about the school being the best it can be. Here are two early responses to the news:

“Of course boys and girls should be educated together, schools should reflect society.”

“Went to all boys’ school which admitted girls in sixth form. It was a civilising influence on us; only positive results.”

Plato argued boys and girls should be taught together. He was right...as usual.

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Flashback Friday: Meeting Francis Ford Coppola

Published 10 years ago on KR Connect..

I spent last week in Latin America. I was in Sao Paulo and Mexico City and both cities were throbbing with vitality, increased confidence and self belief. The highlight of my visit to Mexico City was meeting Francis Ford Coppola. He gave a very interesting session to 600 Mexican executives where he focused on the crossover between art and business. Coppola outlined the need for artists, rather than what he calls “the engineers”, to have a greater say in business, and to bring to it persistence, belief and a refusal to give in to “the struggle”. He told many great anecdotes around Marlon Brando and The Godfather, as well as about his interesting times in the Philippine jungles shooting Apocalypse Now.

What struck me about the guy, in the one-on-one we had after his presentation and before mine, was his sheer love and passion for the cinema and food. These are the two passions of his life and he’s lived both of them to the hilt. His movie making is legendary; his wine making and food business are now a $150m enterprise. And the kicker? Coppola told me he personally approved all the products against the single criteria - “Will people love it or not?” It doesn’t get much better than that.

Later, when I asked him who his mentors were, I was expecting a list of the great directors. His simple response was his mother, father and siblings. One of the good guys.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Is it City?



I’ve been a Manchester City fan for over 50 years, starting in the great days of the 60’s under Malcolm Allison and Joe Mercer with the Holy Trinity of Colin Bell, Mike Summerbee and Francis Lee, and continuing under one of my all time favourite Managers, Joe Royle. During this time the Cityzens have been my greatest Lovemark, and youngest son Dan and I are now season ticket holders at The Etihad.

A lot has changed; Sheikh Mansour, Abu Dhabi, a wonderful ground, a marvellous Academy, the world’s best coach, the most beautiful attacking game in the world and Premier League trophies. All good. But one thing hasn’t changed. Manchester City is still at heart a local club. For local Manchester people. When we play at home Virgin Rail, the M6, and the Airport are not full of traffic – we are not a global phenomenon like our noisy neighbours.

So it is with some trepidation that I have been watching the latest Etihad initiative – The Tunnel Club. The only one in the UK. For between £7,500 and £15,000 you can buy a season ticket in a heated seat, complete with five course meal, a full time sommelier, a pre-match tactical briefing from the coaching staff using the same videos shared with the players, roped off pitch-side access and a view of the players in the tunnel coming out pre-match through one-way glass.

The future is here. Marketed to corporates as “A premium networking space for you and your clients.” Wow.

But is it City?

Tunnel Club seats have been half empty so far – in a season where we’re top of the Premier League, unbeaten, top of our Champions League group, unbeaten. The Tunnel Club feels like a breakthrough initiative, it’s progress, and I’m sure others will follow.

But is it City?

KR

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Visiting the American University in Dubai

My affection for the people of the Middle East goes back to the mid 1970s when I spent over a decade with both P&G and PepsiCo. I return regularly - just spent two weeks in Morocco and then a quick trip to the UAE where I spoke to faculty and students at the American University in Dubai at the invitation of Raj Kapoor, Associate Professor of Business Administration, and lecturer Sedef Sapanli. AUD have integrated Lovemarks into their teaching of advertising and marketing communications. Raj sent a write-up for KRConnect...

Kevin Roberts’ master class at the American University in Dubai on leadership avoided the clichés that so often plague sessions on this topic. There were more than 100 people there to listen, some as young as 18 – others as old as 60. No one was left indifferent.

Kevin was real, personal and compelling. This wasn’t a theoretician speaking. This was advice from a leader who reached the top of the communications business and who served as a point of reference to thousands of professionals globally. Narratives from when he was in the trenches, as well as when he occupied executive suites, sprinkled the session. His passion and humor were contagious.

The subject of change was covered. Here the message was that the world is not just VUCA (volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous), but super-VUCA (vibrant, unreal, crazy and astounding). This makes the role of proactivity greater than ever before.

Leaders in the super-VUCA world must be inspiring, and part of that is creating the desire in their followers to commit to a company’s “higher-order” purpose; that is, what the company does that has a positive impact on life. Leaders must make things happen – fast. Hesitation, just to avoid making mistakes, can be lethal. Finally, leaders who don’t mentor younger people to become leaders aren’t leaders themselves. Becoming a leader consists of failing fast, learning fast and fixing fast.

The students sat up in their chairs when they were told that the Middle East is ripe for super- VUCA leadership because so many new things are happening here and set to happen in the future. That isn’t true for many other geographies.

Finally, as we might expect from an ad man, Kevin let it be known that he was big on brand positioning. But the surprise came when he urged the audience to think of themselves as brands and market themselves as brands. Great brands have an equity which can generally be expressed in a single word. And so it is with people: the Rock for Dwayne Johnson, the Boss for Bruce Springsteen and the Terminator for Arnold Schwarzenegger.

As students left the room to get on with their day, one could sense that for many, the search for that one word they wanted to claim for themselves had already begun.

The School of Business Administration at the American University in Dubai is widely recognized by students and employers for its tradition of combining academic rigor with practical applications in teaching and research. It aims to provide "job ready" graduates with a range of skills and professional knowledge that is desired by employers.

The School has four Departments: Business and Economics, Finance and Accounting, Management, and Marketing and Marketing Communications. These Departments offer a range of courses at the undergraduate and graduate levels.

The School of Business Administration offers three programs, a Bachelor of Business Administration (B.B.A.) and a Master of Business Administration (M.B.A.) program, as well as the IAA Certificate in Marketing Communications. The curricula in both programs are rich in conceptual content; however, the primary emphasis of our educational experience is on equipping students with the applied skills and the professional and ethical perspectives necessary for success in the global marketplace.

Faculty members within the School of Business Administration are highly qualified professionals. They are in regular contact with the business community through research, consultancy, and professional associations. Their knowledge and experiences translate into a rigorous and intellectually rewarding environment for students.