Tag Archives: Lessons

7 months in a leadership lab – highs, lows, lessons & reflections

“Seeing life as a leadership laboratory enables you to try things out, make mistakes, strengthen your skills and take pleasure in the journey, as well as the fruits of your labour.”
– Heifetz, Grashaw & Linsky

I’m looking out at the ocean, reflecting on the past 7 months since taking on this role. It’s been an incredible period of my life. I’m learning every day, I’m being stretched, I’m doing work that matters, with people I really like.

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What are my highlights:

I’m grateful for how people across the firm have embraced change over these past few months. We are getting better at dealing with difficult issues, whether unspoken, unresolved or unaddressed. This skill will be critical to our success.

We launched the Redington MBA 1.1 with the first group focused on “Having Difficult Conversations”. This is our attempt to deliver targeted training that actually changes habits and behaviours, learning from the latest research in people development.

I’m really pleased with how Redington’s “game” (to make 100m people financially secure) has been received, not just internally, but also with clients and the wider market. The opportunity is really ours to create, innovate and scale our ideas. We want to be known for helping people tackle their most difficult problems, leaving them feeling smarter, capable and better equipped.

We held our first “Innovation Day” with a focus on tech. We heard a number of pitches for client and customer problems that our colleagues wanted to solve. They worked together in small groups to test the problem and develop solutions using a lean canvas approach. We need to move these ideas to the next stage now and will be repeating the whole process regularly.

We held our first “Month of Learning” with daily talks, training and classes that all staff could participate in. Topics included – how decision science can help our clients, understanding path dependency risk, the redington approach to ESG, etc. This has been great. We’re going to repeat it each quarter.

We have made improvements to our pension scheme, maternity benefits, working hours, flexible working, etc. There’s still more we need to do, but this is a great start.

Last month we participated in the Sunday Times Best Places to Work survey, I was over the moon that we had 100% of employees take time to complete the 70-odd questions.

We’ve just launched the #RedingtonReturnshipProgramme, which will kick off in January. This is an internship to encourage mid level and senior women and men to return to work after a career break. I’m really excited about the potential of this programme to enhance the cognitive diversity of our senior team.

I’m delighted with how the Faculty of Fun Stuff (our social committee) have managed our social/charity budget – Halloween Party, Poker night, Arabian night, Drinks, etc. they’ve done far more that has been valued than a top down management of this could have delivered.

In terms of revenue, we had a record quarter and half year. This is testament to the tireless efforts of lots of talented people. No time to be complacent though. We are tightening up our sales and business development efforts, with a new governance structure. This is showing some early positive signs, the key to its success is holding each other to account. I’m really pleased with how the whole team has engaged with this.

What has been my biggest low:

I have allowed myself to get really busy, engrossed, sleep deprived and exhausted by the end of each quarter. I’m leaving home early, coming back late, sleeping late, and generally getting exhausted. Moreover, I can’t stop thinking about work. It’s manageable but I want to address this early, I don’t want it to become a deeply ingrained habit.

This quarter I am going to get stricter with myself. I’m going to have a fixed time to leave by – 6pm – no matter what, to make it home for dinner and storytime. I’m going to go to the gym 2 times a week before work and not compromise on it. I’m going to make time for my morning routine, reflection, journaling and meditation each morning. To make it all happen I’m going to identify my triggers and plan for them in advance. I’m going to be even better prepared.

We need to be alert as a business of the dark side of engagement. People across the firm willingly work long hours, especially at quarter ends. For our longer term sustainability, we want to help our colleagues find better balance. Moreover, we want to be an employer that can attract talent that wants to work more flexibly. I have a responsibility to set the right norms and expectations, not just in words and policies, but in action.

What have I learnt?

  • The importance of having difficult conversations, always, at all levels.
  • The need for daily, weekly, quarterly goals. It’s the only way I’ve found of not becoming a victim to my diary or just reacting to demands on my time.
  • The need to align the rhythm of reviews around capacity and busy periods.
  • I need to get better at writing and sharing minutes. I can’t rely on regular verbal communication.
  • Despite my best intentions I cannot meet/talk to every employee as frequently as I’d like. I need to meet people more regularly in groups to consult and debate ideas.
  • You can only get out of your brain what you put in – so reading and learning has to continue no matter how busy we get.
  • I’m really pleased that we booked regular holidays in advance for each quarter end. I’m definitely doing that again next year.
  • Over the past 7 months I have tried to be involved in every function of the business, for my own familiarity and experience. This is not sustainable. I have to step back and help others lead confidently. After all, I want to create a firm of leaders.

Further Experiments:

My priorities this year are to grow our culture, capability and infrastructure to enable us to move closer to our ultimate goal of making 100 million people financially secure. Though we have made a lot of progress on these, there are many more experiments to be done.

I have come across these two definitions of leadership that really appeal to me. They offer a model of leadership that I think Redington needs to achieve its game. It is also an approach to leadership that is essential for the future.

I think Redington can be an ambidextrous/adaptive organisation. This is my personal challenge for the rest of this year.

“Adaptive leadership is the practice of mobilizing people to tackle tough challenges and thrive. Adaptive organisations name the elephants in the room, share responsibility for the future, value independent thinking, build leadership capability and institutionalize reflection and continuous learning.” – Heifetz, Grashaw & Linsky

8 weeks in: This isn’t the finish line, it’s just the beginning

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It’s been a busy few weeks. In the spirit of openness, vulnerability and learning, I’d like to share some of my recent mistakes and lessons:

We held a town hall last week to share our 3-5 year strategy with all staff, which overran. I don’t just mean by a few minutes, but by more than 30 minutes. I was grateful for my colleagues’ patience, but I was cross with myself that I allowed it to happen. I and everyone else, spoke for double the time allocated. I was kicking myself for not rehearsing and preparing all the speakers to make sure that we were joined up and on time. From now on, I have to get strict on myself and others – no practice no presentation. At least, we didn’t have it in the kitchen this time, with everyone standing for that long. Also I’m really really glad that we gave everyone a simple and powerful take away in the form of a one page strategy summary. It’s great to be transparent about what I am working on and to be able to ask others to do the same.

Continue reading 8 weeks in: This isn’t the finish line, it’s just the beginning

We have 2 ears and 1 mouth (Day 15 as CEO)

It’s been a busy second week in the role. I have learnt so much this week just by listening to (and talking to) a cross section of people across Redington and our client base.

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My main reflections and lessons are as follows:

Last week, I gave my first all-staff presentation in this new role. I decided to try something different in terms of format (breaking from convention): 45 minutes instead of 90 minutes; stand-up instead of sit-down; landscape instead of portrait; in the kitchen instead of a meeting room. It didn’t work – the room got too hot, legs got tired and people at the back couldn’t see the screen (fortunately people liked the content). I was a bit gutted, but on reflection was still pleased I had tried it. I think you have to try things, you have to take risks and it’s ok to get it wrong sometimes. In fact as a leader, I think you have to publicly take risks and get things wrong to foster an entrepreneurial culture where it’s ok to try and test and fail.

Continue reading We have 2 ears and 1 mouth (Day 15 as CEO)

Day 1, as CEO of Redington

Yesterday was my first day as CEO of Redington.

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Redington is not a conventional company. We care deeply about improving the lives of those around us, especially our future generations.

I feel a deep sense of responsibility for the confidence and trust placed in me by Redington’s co-founders Robert Gardner and Dawid Konotey-Ahulu, as well as our colleagues and clients.

Continue reading Day 1, as CEO of Redington

2016 – Time to get personal

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As 2015 ends and a new year begins, I wanted to reflect on the past few years and plan for the coming year. I was helped by the fact that I had written a New Year’s blog at the start of each year:

  • 2013 was a year of ‘discovery’ – starting a new chapter in my career, developing new skills, facing fears and being bold (Become the hero of your own story!). My big lesson was focus.
  • 2014 was the year of ‘devotion’ (What will you devote yourself to this year?) – My focus was on figuring out what I was going to devote my time, enthusiasm and energy to? I learnt lots of lessons and I found my tribe at Redington.
  • 2015 started as a year of ‘sacrifice’, surrender and pilgrimage for my wife and I. Over the year it developed in directions that I could not have even imagined. I learnt more, wrote more and delivered more than I ever thought possible (15 top tips for a successful 2015).

In 2015, I handed on my youth development responsibilities to a new generation of leaders (after nearly a decade), completed the AltMBA, met the Dalai Lama and Seth Godin, launched Hindu Heroes with my children & friends and contributed to some really cool projects at work…(it’s funny how we never remember our failures and mistakes when we look back – more on that later…).

So what’s my resolution for 2016?

It’s not business, it’s personal…

In 2015, the biggest lesson I learnt is that business is about people (sounds obvious but we seem to have lost the ‘personal’ in pursuit of the ‘professional’).

I was reminded that leadership is about people, marketing is about people and in fact everything is about people. Organisations are just communities of people. People with ambitions. People with hangups and insecurities. People with dreams. People with feelings.

Companies don’t have values or ethics, people have values and ethics. As Seth Godin points out “Corporations are collections of people. Business is too powerful for us to leave our humanity at the door of the office. It’s not business, it’s personal.”

Innovation from the heart

Our corporate jargon like strategy, vision and innovation also miss the mark when they omit the critical human element. There’s nothing wrong with these words, but they’re not the ones that inspire human hearts.

In the words of Gary Hamel “Innovation starts with the heart—with a passion for improving the lives of those around you.” Without tapping into individual passions you just have an ideas box. Empathy is the engine of innovation.

That’s why we should worry about just how de-humanized our organisations have become. If you want to innovate, you need to be inspired, your colleagues need to be inspired, and ultimately, your customers need to be inspired.

“The best innovations—both socially and economically—come from the pursuit of ideals that are noble and timeless: joy, wisdom, beauty, truth, equality, community, sustainability and love. These are the things we live for, and the innovations that really make a difference are the ones that are life-enhancing. And that’s why the heart of innovation is a desire to re-enchant the world.” – Gary Hamel

Understanding people

The more we understand people the more likely it is that we will do great work: from the people we are managing, to the people we are serving; from the people who supply us, to the people who we are persuading.

People are not always rational, people are not one-dimensional, people are not just a number and people are certainly not all the same. We need to understand each person, each tribe and each group, in order to engage, influence, change, manage or inspire.

We need to seek to understand peoples’ dreams and goals, their worldviews, their boundaries and constraints, their assets and the voice in their heads.  This has to be the starting point if we want to tell stories that will grab attention, resonate and mobilise.

Aligning ambitions

Last year, more than ever before, I learnt how valuable it was to spend time understanding and aligning people’s personal ambitions, needs and agendas.

I learnt that success is not from persuading everyone around the table about your point of view but inviting each person to shape, mould and contribute. After all, regardless of how good your idea is, its only worth anything if implemented or executed. It will only be adopted, if people have had a chance to contribute or if helps them achieve their personal ambitions.

The long and short of it is – the more we are willing to change ourselves, the more we are willing to listen and understand … the more we can build and work in highly effective teams.

Leadership

Business is personal. Leadership is personal.

“I think that leadership is in deep, serious, and historic trouble today. I think that leadership needs radical reinvention — and further, that reimagining it is going to require coming squarely to terms with its failures and shortcomings.” – Umair Haq

At Sandhurst Military college they teach all the officers that – “We serve to lead.”. Personally, I think we lead to serve… the words of Clay Christensen really resonate with me “management is one of the most noble professions, if it is practiced well. No other occupation offers as many ways to help others learn and grow…”. 

I’ve learnt more about ‘selfless service’ from my wife than anyone else. To really lead others we have to start by leading ourselves. We need to cultivate our inner qualities of empathy, forgiveness, compassion, rebellion, perseverance, purpose, imagination and passion .

It seems that the more human we are, the more fallible we are, the more vulnerable we are … the more people can relate to us … the more we can understand and engage the humanity in others.

At the start of 2015 I shared 15 lessons/tips for the year. As I start 2016 I just have one…

Resolution

In 2016 I want to lead, to serve and, above all, to make it personal.

In order to do that properly, I need to be more vulnerable. I need to share my thinking, my processes and, most importantly, my mistakes.

Our mistakes are far more valuable for helping those around us feel secure, take risks, deal with failure, learn, grow and be inspired.

Vulnerability is a leader’s greatest asset.

Happy New Year everyone!

Please share your lessons and resolutions too…

Dreams, Goals & Better Decisions

It is coming up to the end of week one on Seth Godin’s Inaugural AltMBA. It has been an intense, stretching, exhausting, exciting, terrifying, challenging, anarchic, productive, moving and inspiring experience. The AltMBA is a revolutionary way of working, learning, collaborating and expanding your perspectives. It offers a glimpse of the future.

We are one week in. I’ve been working with a learning group across Singapore, India, Malta and Ireland. I have shipped my first two projects with support from my learning group, guidance from my coach and feedback from dozens more on the course (third assignment in progress):

1. How to make better decisions: https://altmba.com/miteshsheth/make-better-decisions-in-5-minutes/

2. How to achieve your goals:
https://altmba.com/miteshsheth/dreams-vs-goals/

Alt MBA - books

I wanted to take a moment to reflect on my experiences of this revolutionary way of learning at the end of the first week.

What challenges have I faced?

  • To get to know my learning group of 4 strangers overnight, to understand each other’s stories, ambitions and fears and to be vulnerable so that we can help each other perform and succeed.
  • To produce work at short notice, that feels incomplete, send out publicly for anyone to read, review and criticise.
  • To receive the feedback given openly without getting defensive and to honestly reflect on it in order to learn.
  • To see the incredible work produced by such talented people without feeling insecure or inadequate.
  • To keep on top of the discussions, comments, emotions and inspirations of 100 people across the globe.
  • To manage my work schedule and family commitments with the intense workload of the AltMBA.

What have I learnt

  • That decision trees are a really powerful way to de-emotionalise decision making and shed light on options you may not have considered.
  • That goals need to be specific, with clear identification of obstacles, requirements and a clear plan.
  • That it is far easier to give advice to others on how they should do their assignments than it is do apply that advice yourself.
  • To read, reflect, discuss, share, debate, write and publish at speed (every 48 hours).
  • To not judge others but to work hard to understand their story, background and perspectives so that you can see their best self and identify the value they can offer.
  • To receive constructive feedback as a gift and to invite criticism to learn more and faster.
  • To add a P.S. to my work 24 hours later to capture any lessons learnt, feedback, follow up thoughts and ideas. Doing it this way allows you keep a record. You can also see your progress.
  • To use new online tools for effective communication: DisqusZoom, Slack and Digg.
  • That I am not as good at managing my time as I thought I was.
  • That I am not as good a writer as I thought I was (plenty to learn).

What has been surprising?

  • How quickly you can learn and absorb an idea by prototyping and submitting in a short timeframe.
  • How quickly strangers can come together and collaborate effectively when driven by a common goal.
  • The importance of vulnerability to open up a group to work effectively.
  • How you can work together effectively with different people, with different work situations in different time zones.
  • How valuable it is to ask for and receive constructive feedback.
  • How much time, energy and effort we spend coaching, guiding and helping others on the course
  • How many hours there are in a day.

I can’t believe that it has only been one week. I wonder how I will feel at the end of this process. I feel like I haven’t even scratched the surface of what this process and network is capable of achieving and illuminating.

I am looking forward to getting to know my new learning group next week, as well as the next three new assignments.

This weekend’s we are studying Business Models to come up micro-business plans for 99 new businesses (let me know if you have any ideas).

Wish me luck!


 

Here’s a link to my first two AltMBA assignments if you’d like to learn more about decision making and goal setting:

1. How to make better decisions:

We make decisions more than we make anything else. We make so many decisions of such importance, with wide-ranging implications everyday. This is true for our person life and in our professional life. The truth is we desperately need a disciplined, systematic and simple process for making decisions, in every aspect of our life.

https://altmba.com/miteshsheth/make-better-decisions-in-5-minutes/

Decision Trees

2. How to achieve your goals:

We know that to make your dreams a reality, you have to be SMART: write down your goal as clearly as you can; put a date on it
list all the obstacles you’ll have to overcome (external & internal)
identify the skills, knowledge, the people and groups that can help you; spell out a detailed plan of action; you need to remember “why” you are doing it and what your purpose is as this will get you through the rough patches.

 

https://altmba.com/miteshsheth/dreams-vs-goals/

Goals