Tag Archives: Redington

How to stop your CEO (or boss) from screwing up!

More than a year ago, April 2016, I set out to study leadership, by experimenting, journaling and reflecting on my own journey as the new CEO for Redington.

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I’ve tried to look back on the past year dispassionately to learn clear lessons that can frame the next year. I have tried to think about what has mattered the most, what to maintain, what to let go of and what changes to make. This has actually been really hard to do objectively, given how self-preserving our memories can be, forgetting mistakes, making us blind to so much and especially the many people who play a huge part, the conditions and even luck.

I found it really helpful to look back at my journal and blogs throughout the year:

Reflections on Leadership 1 year in

Management, as we know it, was invented 100 years ago to get people to show up to work, to do the same thing efficiently, every day and in the same way. It was not designed to engage, adapt and innovate. Yet the world, our work and industries have changed beyond recognition.  We need an overhaul of our management systems, tools and thinking to ensure they are fit for purpose.  I believe we need to reinvent leadership.

Patrick Lencioni wrote about the 5 Temptations of a CEO. Here are some related reflections on my first year in the role:

1. When you’re a new leader (frankly new in any role) there is a natural desire to prove yourself, to show that your recruiters/backers made a good decision. As a leader stepping into this role, I knew and trusted my own abilities. It was natural to make plans based on what I knew I could do, without a deep understanding of other people’s skills, ambitions and capacity. I did not ask for help enough and didn’t seek advice often enough. I tried to do too many things myself. This can only ever succeed in the short term. If you’re not careful this can lead to bottlenecks, resentment, over-dependence and abdication of responsibility from those around you. I’ve had to reframe and hack my own tendency to ensure I ask for help from my team, from the wider employees, from the Board of Directors and other CEOs.

2. Everyone looks to their leaders for certainty. Everyone tells you to project confidence in front of your staff. I think this is dangerous. My goal is to develop a firm of leaders at Redington. As a result I have tried to experiment with being vulnerable, acknowledging my mistakes, as well as inviting critical thinking and challenge. It’s been difficult (it’s not at all natural for me) but really insightful. I have found that talented people really value openness, transparency and clarity much more than leaders projecting false certainty and offering blind assurances.

3. As a leader you enter a different echo-chamber in which it becomes increasingly difficult to put yourself in the shows of your front line staff or your clients. Dan Pink says there is an inverse correlation between status and empathy. Leaders find it harder to empathise and see things through the eyes of others. I was aware of this coming into the role, so my experiment to counter this has been to regularly schedule honest and open conversations with clients, staff and suppliers to invite their constructive feedback and to see the firm through their eyes. Even if you schedule regular chats, people often struggle to give you the constructive challenge you desperately need. I need to periodically push myself out of the business to spend time in different environments, with different people and experiences.

4. Popularity is very seductive. It’s very tempting to want to be everyone’s friend. So often leaders struggle to have difficult conversations, to hold people accountable and call out the elephants in the room. Too often leaders choose to maintain harmony in the team and avoid confrontation. It’s natural to want everyone to get on, even though you know there is value in debate, challenge and constructive conflict. This has been difficult for me historically. I have deliberately worked on this all year. I have been running training sessions (using the AltMBA learning format) for all my direct reports and other team leaders on “radical candour”. We have been able to create a common language, permission and shared practice. Whilst radical candour is starting to creep into the language of the firm, it will take a lot more practice and trust for people to apply effectively across the firm (without abusing it).

5. Success is dangerous. It leads to complacency. The more that things go well, the more you start to believe your own hype. Even if you start off with a risk taking, failure embracing, growth mindset, success has the power to shift you to being fixed and risk averse, without even realising it. Every win, every successful project, every initiative landed sows the seeds of complacency, gradually eroding your growth mindset. In addition, what took me a bit by surprise is that people assume you know what your are doing because you’re CEO; success just reinforces that. The dopamine hit means you do more things that give you more status (without even realising), rather than focusing on the choices that will deliver the best results. I have to keep catching myself, asking my team and the wider firm to challenge me, to point out “what I am missing” or “what should I think about differently”. I’ve found this particularly hard, but it is the key to consistently delivering results.

I have shared these and many more reflections with my team and the firm over the past few months. On my one year anniversary I invited blisteringly honest feedback from across the firm and in response to it have tried to set up our governance, communication and decision-making differently for this next year, to learn from those lessons, setting up new experiments to deliver different outcomes.

Leadership 2.0

Having started my second year in the role, I’ve been thinking about setting out some red flags and warning signs to the whole firm, so they can keep me (as well as the other leaders in the firm) accountable. This was inspired by fund manager research process where we identify what could go wrong with a fund manager in advance using “RedRadar”. We share this with clients that are investing in any fund from the outset, so they can anticipate, be alert and prepared if something starts to go wrong.

Much like Key Performance Indicators (KPIs), these are 7 Key Risk Indicators (KRIs) for me and frankly any CEO or leader:

  1. Infallible: if your CEO or manager is not making any mistakes, they are not taking enough risk, maybe previous successes have created complacency.
  2. Unchallenged: If people stop asking the CEO/leaders questions, stop challenging them, start accepting whatever them say, this is a red flag.
  3. Frantic: If they are always running around, from meeting to meeting, neglecting rest, learning and reflection, complaining about not enough time to do the important things.
  4. Defensive: If they are defensive when you challenge or criticise their decisions, this is a worrying.
  5. Agreeable: If they start to avoid people, do not facilitate conflict, do not offer radical candour this is a concern.
  6. Indecisive: If you are always waiting on them to make decisions, so that you can move forward. If every decision goes through them, this is a warning sign.
  7. Controlling: If your CEO/leader does not invest in others, does not develop leaders around them, this is a problem. I think a good leader is always looking to make themselves redundant.

I find these are really helpful checks and balances for myself.

I know for example, I am struggling with feeling a bit frantic (#3) at the moment and am doing something about it. This was my overarching focus (new year’s resolution) for 2017, to experiment with daily hacks, habits, systems, routines and overrides to give time and attention to my family, my health and all the things at work and outside of work that are most important in the long term. It has been a daily battle, a weekly struggle and an ongoing war against my own mind, against the urgent, the loud and the easy. I am still trying to make deliberate choices, planning, scheduling, blocking out time, setting boundaries, managing distractions and creating a support network. Some days I win and some I lose, but its a daily battle worth fighting.

An invitation to challenge authority

Back to the overarching theme of this blog, I believe that everyone has a responsibility to hold their leaders accountable, to challenge them, to call them out if they show one of these warning signs and to help them succeed by not screwing up.

Of the various factors that have been tested by psychologists for what makes great teams, the one that stands out above all is ‘psychological safety’ – a shared belief held by the members of a team, that the group is a safe place to take risks and challenge authority.

Amy Edmondson wrote in 1996 in The Journal of Applied Behavioural Science, that “the best team leaders encourage people to speak up; teammates felt like they can expose their vulnerabilities to each other; people could suggest ideas without fear of retribution; the culture discourages people from making harsh judgements.” My ongoing fundamental cultural challenge remains – How do we help people to feel safe, whilst encouraging them to disagree? – I’m sure this is true for most other leaders too.

It has been an incredible year of experimentation, achievement and learning. It’s been a great start to the second year. I feel privileged to serve the people in the firm, to be part of this tribe and to have shareholders who want to make 100m people financially secure.

“We don’t hire smart people so we can tell them what to do, we expect them to tell us what to do.”

References:

Behind the scenes of ‘Unconference 2016’

Continue reading Behind the scenes of ‘Unconference 2016’

GuestPost: Approaching The Tee Box Of My Future

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The anxious feeling of ‘not knowing what to expect’ sets in when you approach a golf course that you have never played before. You find yourself in an unfamiliar environment and do not know what the course holds in store for you.

During the first two weeks of December, I had the opportunity to job shadow my cousin, Mitesh Sheth, at Redington Ltd. The morning I started, I had the same anxious feeling as previously described, with that comparison in mind, I find it best to relate my two week experience at Redington – to the game of golf, something I am passionate about.

The most important golfing tip I have been told to remember is to always judge the distance you want the ball to travel; then you can correctly pick the required club. The people at Redington work together like all the clubs in a golf bag – each individual tasked with a different purpose to reach the same goal. Redington has a working culture that promotes creative and effective thinking – especially when there are chocolates on the kitchen table to keep the drive going.

My work experience at Redington has taught me four main lessons that will help me in my future endeavors; each one relating to a specific golf swing.

The first and most important is the drive shot, it propels the ball to gain as much distance as possible. It is the first step towards achieving your goal and requires a certain amount of courage and risk taking. I could see this within the Redington environment as everyone is prepared to go beyond what is expected of them in order to maintain proficiency.

The next, is the fairway shot. Even when the going is good, you need to push yourself one step further with every opportunity you are given. Redington has shown me that networking is incredibly important and you should use it to your advantage. One of the main aspects I learned was that creativity is the key to making you unique and gives you the competitive edge needed in the corporate environment.

The chip shot is the second last step to reaching the hole; it’s a small but effective stroke action that leaves a lasting impression. This shot is one of the hardest shots to perfect; even a professional is always looking to improve their technique. Redington showed me that no matter how much you know about one topic, there is so much more out there that you need to expose yourself to.

Last but not least, is the putt. One of the important but most meticulous stroke of them all. The putt is often hard to master when you attempt to find a balance between the pace, angle and technique. This reminds me of the importance in maintaining a balance, between work, social time and time for yourself. It is imperative to enjoy what you do, which incorporates purpose, autonomy and mastery of your skills.

I am looking forward to starting the next stage of my life. My time at Redington has supported my decision to study Actuarial Science next year. I can’t wait to step onto the golf course of life and drive the ball further than before.

Thank you,

Sanam Mehta

We are all in the ‘behaviour change’ business

Mitesh meets Seth Godin

Summary: My Top 10 Takeaways from Seth Godin’s Live Q&A Seminar in London 3rd November 2015:

  1. How to get a billion people saving? Don’t start with a billion people. Focus on the smallest possible number of people you can change…that will allow us to take the next step. We need to change people one by one and then give them the ammunition to become evangelical. We need to figure out the story that our clients will spread.
  1. Behaviour change: We need to accept that – ‘what we do for a living is change people’s behaviour’. So most of the work we do is tell stories, understand behavioural science and engage in a way that changes people. We have to accept that our job is to change people. Now how can we better understand the people we are trying to change?
  1. Trust & attention: Earning people’s trust and attention are going to be the critical success factors for many years to come. We all pay a premium for trust and attention. The person or entity that gets the most trust, will get the most customers. How do we do this better as individuals, as a team, as a firm and industry?
  1. We all tell Stories: People don’t buy what you sell, they buy the story they tell themselves. We need to tell a story that resonates with the person you’re telling it to, and it has to be true. One of the best stories we can tell is that “people like us do things like this”. What will make our clients feel a better sense of belonging with us?
  1. Understand Worldviews: We need to understand the worldview of the people who you are trying to change, or sell to. To find out someone’s worldview – Ignore everything they say, and watch everything they do. People are different and they have different worldviews. Treat different people differently. We need to tell different stories to different people that resonate with them (but they must be true). How can we learn to see better? How can we quickly figure out what people’s worldview is? How do we get masterful at this?
  1. Sell the Benefit: We need to find a way of showing potential clients what is the benefit of using our services before they have to pay? We can’t tell people that I’m not going to tell you my secret until you pay… How do we do this better?
  1. Find your Tribe: As we get bigger we risk getting more mediocre, unless we can say NO. As soon as we can say to a client that you’re not right for me, we start to get the clients you deserve. How can we say no more gracefully?
  1. Client referrals: A lot of us have a loyal audience that never talks about us. The only reason that people will refer you, promote you and talk about you is if it advances their agenda in some way. What would make them want to promote / evangelicalism for you?
  1. Client service: How do you get clients to stay for the long run? They need to feel like they belong. Ask yourself what story do they need to tell themselves to feel like they belong. How will they feel that “People like us, do things like this…”?
  1. Failure is key to good ideas: Human beings are terrible procrastinators. As a result we are less generous, less productive and less happy than we are capable of. We just need to try, it’s an experiment … we’ll only discover afterwards what works and what doesn’t by trying/testing. We have to continuously let our whole organization know what we have tried that doesn’t work, showing that we have failed. That’s how you give people permission to fail, to try and to learn… How can we allow each other to have and express bad ideas, to test, fail and learn?

Our industry be disrupted the way so many others have before. The only question is – When and who can do it?

Our job is to see what others do not see, to imagine what may be. The firms who succeed will be the ones who care more, who gain more trust and pay more attention. We need to get masterful at this!

 

Main points covered by Seth:

I have tried to organise my notes from yesterday Q&A into topics to make it easier for you to scan and pick out what is most useful and relevant to you.

Seth Godin in London 1

The next big thing

The search for the next big thing fuels a lot of people’s work. Well this is the next big thing. Stop looking for the next thing and focus on what’s changing all around you today.

 Change

We are in the midst of a new revolution (that’s even bigger than the industrial revolution). We are 10 years in and it might be another 10 years before others realize it. Revolutions destroy what is perfect and make the impossible a reality.

Anything that you do where there’s a manual, We will be able to hire someone cheaper or automate in the future to get better results than you to do.

The Internet is a platform that gives each of us tremendous leverage. It is not for watching cat videos, it permits each of us to make a meaningful change in the entire known universe.

Disruption

Innovators Dilemma – Clayton Christensen. It’s almost always an outsider that disrupts a system.  Will your industry be disrupted the way so many others have before. Yes it will. The only question is – When and who can do it.

The first person who really observes the industry and really sees what stories people tell themselves and what it will take to change them will succeed.

Trust & Attention

Earning people’s trust and attention are going to be the critical success factors for many years to come. We all pay a premium for trust and attention.

The person or entity that get the most trust, will get the most customers, and the most money. A man came to fix his boiler and covered up his shoes (showed respect). Then gave a list of all his neighbours that have used his services, “you can call any of them”. He built trust quickly, he got business

Failure

Many organizations think their work is so important that they have to get everything perfect. They are not willing to make mistakes and experiment.  It is far more natural to hide, to pretend you don’t make mistakes and to never innovate.

If you’re going to change that, you have to let the whole organization know something you tried that didn’t work, showing that you failed. That’s how you give people permission to fail, to try and to learn… If you made a mistake in previous age it was game-over for you. Today the cost of being wrong is much lower than it has ever been, but we are still acting as if we have a factory.

As a breadwinner how do I make space to fail? Go speak to someone, a new prospect, a lead, a potential customer, user, courageously and generously, set yourself up for interactions that aren’t fatal, but help you see and learn something new. Learning to fail is key.

Ideas

Professional brainstormers allow more stupid ideas than anyone else.  Seth writes his own blogs every day. He writes down up to 10 ideas every day, then types up 3-4, then edits/curates till only one ends up going out on his blog. He says he comes up will a lot of bad ideas, and every once in a while there is a really good one amongst them.

Story is key

All of us buy the story we tell ourselves about the thing we purchase. You get the item for free when you buy the story.

Thousands of people have a Harley Davidson Tatoo but no one has a Suzuki Tatoo. Why do they do it? Is it about the speed or the horsepower? If you ask they will say “this is who I am?” – it says something about them.

In marketing your brand, you should know what it is your customers will say about your product. Great organizations make a change happen.

Harley Davidson turn you from an outsider to an insider, when you buy their stuff, you become one of them, you’re part of a club. Apple doesn’t just produce cool gadgets, hey set out to teach us to have better taste in digital goods, SJ said – “the problem with Microsoft is they have bad taste”. Once you’re hooked on the taste wagon you buy anything that looks better.

Sales

The reason selling B2B is hard is because you are dealing with people who don’t care. The thing someone who doesn’t own the company / doesn’t care is thinking when buying something is “what will I tell my boss?”.

So they buy what has always been bought before, how has it always been done, no one wants to be noticed, take the risk of doing things differently. The only thing we are willing to tell/explain to the boss is “It is cheaper.” “Look how much money I saved?”, “Everybody uses them.” That’s the only story business tell themselves, if you don’t have a story.

It is the purchasing department’s job to say no; to say I want cheaper. You need to believe is that your prices are not high. You will be tempted to lower your price, this is the refuge of the marketer who doesn’t know what to do, it is a last resort.

Tell a story that resonates with the person you’re telling it to, and it has to be true. One of the best story we can tell is that “people like us do things like this. What you want to tell the purchasing department, that “these are 4 of your biggest competitors, they all use me/this… Do you want to tell your boss you missed this opportunity to save a few bucks?”

Worldviews

You need to understand the worldview of the people who you are trying to change, or sell to.

Which kind of person works for the government, or works in a school or in the procurement department. What’s their worldview? A Defensive Buyers worldview: “I don’t want to get into trouble, I won’t get in trouble by rejecting you. So we need to tell them “Do you want to be the last person to sign up, then that’s ok.”

No one goes to work, wanting to be shown they are wrong. Only once you have someone’s attention can you educate them based on what they already believe. We can’t try and change people’s beliefs.

To find out someone’s worldview – Ignore everything they say, and watch everything they do. That’s why focus groups are toxic. Your job is not to make something in a factory, but your job is to see. In a very short time, you need to judge others and figure out what their worldview is.

Where to start?

We hold back, we fit in, we don’t share our dreams. We don’t want to be exposed. We procrastinate. Human beings are terrible procrastinators. As a result we are less generous, less productive and less content than we are capable of.

You just need to start, it’s an experiment, we won’t know till afterwards… we discover what works and what doesn’t by trying/testing.

One of the things hard wired in our culture is the fear of being told “you’re not as good as you think you are”. We have to confront this fear, change the story we tell ourselves in our heads and just put ourselves out there again and again.

Embrace Tension

Change has an ugly twin brother, and he’s called tension. You have to accept tension if you want to change someone or something.

 Are you brave enough?

When people ask “I need to know if it will work before I will try it.” Are asking the wrong question. Once someone else has done it before, if I still ask will it work what people really mean is “I’m afraid.”

It doesn’t matter if it works, what matters is “Are you brave enough to do it?” So you can find out if it does and how you can make it work.

Starting a new business (line)

Anything that is easy to set up or do is harder to market, because it’s harder to stand out. You have to create a community and the need. Almost nobody wakes up and says I have a marketing problem and I can solve it by joining a community.

We need to find a way of showing potential customers what is the benefit of using your service before they have to pay? You can’t tell people that I’m not going to tell you my secret until you pay… Radio gave music producers a free sample… before you buy.

Now imagine you want to create a community that is only open to the top 500 CMOs, but no one has heard of you. Start by getting just 10 CMOs to join. Now the 490 CMOs that are not on it have a problem, because they are worried about what they’re missing out on.

Scaling your business

You scale should be as small as you can possibly live with, then demand will grow and you can grow bigger. If you can start by changing 10 lives, you can get 50, and then you can go online and go to a million … billion.

Figure out what the smallest possible subset for the community is. AirBnB did not start to be the biggest accommodation company in the world, they started small.

The best way to grow (if growth is your goal), is to start with your minimum viable business. You have to keep working till you figure about how to flip one village / one customer / one segment of the market, then you go to the next village and tell them and talk to village 1 / customer 1.

 All things to all people

As you get bigger you get more mediocre, unless you can say: We have a lot of people who want to be new clients, but we’re not going to just take everyone on. As soon as you can say to a client that you’re not right for me, you get the clients you deserve.

“It’s not for you”, is one of the most powerful things we can say when you are making your art. You can be happier and more profitable if you are doing work that people will miss when you are gone. Most people do work that someone else can do. If you could, spend your whole day doing work that only you can do.

Find your tribe

Seth has tried to talk to many different types of people over his career, but all were not right. So many times, the people in the audience were telling themselves a story that didn’t match the change he was trying to make in the world. So he kept trying new groups until he found his tribe – people who were trying to make change – “people like him”.

Product adoption

The product adoption lifecycle is important to know. Everyone has a worldview about where they are on that spectrum, for shoes, for technology, etc. The middle of the curve is most of us.

Early adopters are the geeks and the nerds. The middle/majority waits till the technology is cheaper. The laggards have still not given up their VCR. Something new gives some people stress (majority) vs something new gives others pleasure (early adopter).

In between the early adopters and the masses is a big chasm. The gap between “what’s new” and “what works”. Lots of industries have trained us to try and be early adopters. Movies have created a feeling to make us watch the new film in the first week (otherwise they’re off the screens). That’s why they do the mystery and the trailers, etc.

To achieve scale you have to work your way through the curve. You have to decide which curve you’re going to work through.  Alternatively you don’t go for scale, just keep focusing on the “new”. Seth didn’t follow the permission marketing adoption curve (after the book, he didn’t do the handbook, course, series, the talk, etc). The audience he wanted to have always wanted “what’s new”, so he focused on that.

Getting people to listen

If you are find your words are landing on deaf ears, with no one listening, you need to ask yourself what it will be like when it has changed; when it has reached its tipping point. You start with the early adopters. When people like us are doing things like this, everyone will do it.

What is the story the person is telling himself. He doesn’t want to look stupid. You are an agent of change. Create an environment that makes them look less stupid by choosing you.

Beaurocrats often feel left out and isolated. How do you get better at addressing their narrative; helping them tell a story?

 Marketing is about changing people

When we do our best work, we are not a machine, our best work is changing people that is hugely valuable. We need to own that. “I am going to this meeting to change people”.

If you want to market the importance of customer service to your board, what if you go and interview 10 angry customers on your iPhone, just show that video, and you have now sold the need for customer service. That’s what marketers do. We have to care, we have to own it.

We need to accept that – What we do for a living is change people’s behaviour? So most of the work we do is tell stories, understand behavioural science and engage in a way that changes people. You have to accept that your job is to change people. Now how well do you understand the people you are trying to change?

Referrals

A lot of us have a loyal audience that never talks about it. What is their worldview? What would make them want to promote / evangelicalism for you?

The only reason that people will refer you, promote you and talk about you is if it advances their agenda in some way.

I recommend someone to you that because it will make me look smarter.  “One reason Seth’s blog/books succeed is that he consciously says what people want to tell someone else, so they will forward it to them.”

Client service

How do you let clients to stay for the long run? They need to feel like they belong. Ask yourself what story they need to tell themselves to feel like they belong. How will they feel that “People like us, do things like this…”

Complaints

When you get something wrong, when you have an angry/upset customer if you just sent a robotic professional generic message you will achieve nothing. Instead if a human shows up and makes it personal and apologizes sincerely, you might be surprised.

“I see you” – that simple sentence is at he heart of what we want as humans. Dignity is different than transparency. People don’t want to know everything about you. They want to know that you will treat them with dignity.

Entrepreneur vs Freelancer

As an entrepreneur your only job is to hire someone (better than you) to do what you think your job is, again and again, until you’re only job is to disrupt what you already built.

Freelancers get paid when they work themselves. Seth said that as an entrepreneur he kept wanting to hire myself which left him frazzled. He couldn’t hire others to do his job, he wanted to write his own blogs, run his own classes, etc. Seth is a freelancer.

As an entrepreneur you cannot be the best technical person yourself. You have to be able to leave the building, start a new business line and it should continue to run without you.

Making art

You can do art regardless of what you do. Art is not just painting. We all have a fundamental need to make art. Art is anything we do where we don’t hold back, where we immerse ourselves, do it for the sake of doing it. With art you’re ok to fail, because it’s worth doing regardless of success or failure.

Arthur Miller doesn’t hold anything back. People who make art are all in and don’t hold anything back. We need to do art so we can feel alive. But we may need work for work’s sake to be able to pursue art in an unconstrained way.

Is it possible to make a living making art? Sometimes… But if you have to compromise what your art to get enough money, it’s not worth it. Seth advises people that are starting out – Get a job (any job) to make enough money. That allows you to be able to make your art without compromise. But it can’t be art if it doesn’t resonate with anyone. We need to make something people want, who are “People like us?”.

Be specific

There is a company in NY Mismatched that decided to make socks. It’s cheap to get made. Race to the bottom. ‘Mismatched’ did 40 million dollars in revenue. This company said, our socks are not for everyone, they are for 12 year olds girls who have a fashion problem.

They sell 133 styles of socks that don’t match. It allows people to be noticed, to be able to go and have a conversation. They are targeting a very specific worldview – people who wanted to be noticed, have something to talk about. They gave 12 he old girls something to talk about, gave them meaning, every industry can do this.

People are different and they have different worldviews. Treat different people differently. You need to tell different stories to different people but they must be true.

What is the change you’re trying to make and who are you trying to change? If you can focus on just one group do that. But if you have to market to multiple world views, know that and invest in it.

Building teams

There are 2 ways to build a team – you either look for misfits (they are really difficult to find) or you look for cogs who’ll do as they’re told.

At Apple now you go to the Genius Bar and get someone working from a manual.  That’s the only way they could scale. They don’t care anymore.

 Direct marketing

Direct marketing is about building a connection directly with the person is paying you. The Internet is the biggest direct marketing medium of all time.

A great business, should aim to acquire a customer for less than they are worth. Amazon believes that the average lifetime customer value is $33, so they will spend anything up to that amount to acquire them.

If you’re not going to be doing direct marketing the only other option is to follow the route of Religious institutions/Alcoholics Anonymous, and be the thing people talk about before the went to sleep. There is no other option. Move so far to the edge that people can’t help but talk about it.

Seth has never done a day of SEO, but his blog has been at the top. His blog got big because the first 100 people he started with got a benefit from sharing it. They needed to share it to use the terms he had invented, that they wanted to use. You have to give people a story, a reason that they would want to share with others, design it that way.

(Now Seth’s blog is at a size where He doesn’t want to do what he would have to do to make the number of subscribers go up.)

Elevator pitches

Replace Elevator pitches with elevator questions… No one will buy from you in an elevator.  The key to a great elevator question is “Are you the kind of person that benefits from the kind of thing that I do?” Once you figure this out, need to practice a thousand times, once you get it you’ll have a line outside the door.

What is your purpose/why?

Seth doesn’t agree completely with Simon Sinek on finding the “why” first?  What is the why for a shoe shiner? The why generally has to follow, we need to focus first on how you want to change people / how you want to make people feel. If the shoes shiner figures out that he has 2 jobs/outputs – The shine he puts on the shoe, and how he makes people feel while he is polishing the shoe… Now if he’s going to make people smile, he has a why.

How do you fire a client?

We need to generously tell people they should go somewhere else. Worldview: if someone is going to feel dis-empowered by what you do, that’s not good. Spend the effort in finding alternatives for them.

How about this – “We can’t serve you as well as you need us to. Here are three people that we have looked into on your behalf who can do what you want better and cheaper”.  Now not only have you shown them you care, you’ve given them a good story to tell when they go back to the office.

Dealing with criticism?

Life is not a focus group. You don’t have to listen to everyone. Not everyone is going to get you, but if you spend too much time with them you will lose your footing. The trolls and non-believers need us because they like telling us were not good enough.

Seth has not read an Amazon review of any of my books. “No one becomes a better writer by reading all their 1 star reviews”. Just accept that your books / products / services are not for them. If you are trying to take any tribe from here to there, some people will drop out because they are afraid of change.

This doesn’t mean you should ignore everyone. You need to listen to those people who feel the need for change as much as you do, even if they disagree on how to achieve it.

Work/life balance

By calling it a work/life balance we are creating a problem. Work is personal and work/life overlap. If you let people bring their personality and humanity to work… You may be surprised.

Workaholic – is someone who needs to control the outcome because they are afraid, they need to be online all they time because it may go wrong … that wrecks your life.

To do work that matters – you care enough to try to make things better, and if you fail you learn from it and don’t beat yourself for it. The people in our life are the main reason we are here; so let’s not miss that.

Education

Education was designed to create compliant factory workers. It’s not just the schools fault. It’s too easy to blame the school. We need to blame the parents because they are not speaking up enough. We need to ask “what is school for?” If it is to develop people who can create, take risks, build connections and solve problems then let’s not make them robots.

We cannot take our kids out of school… We can home school our kids from the moment they get home till they sleep. We can get them on Wikipedia, writing blogs, starting their own non-profits, speaking up, volunteering, letting them out failing/testing/learning from the time they are 12 years old.

Tell your kids that an A means nothing if you didn’t learn anything, if you want kids that institutions will fall all over to hire.

You can’t blame schools for wanting to avoid parental involvement, because they don’t get the point and are not consistent.  Mostly annoying. The alternative is for parents to figure out how to earn their voice. I ran nature tours for the school 6 students at a time. Don’t offer revolution, scale, just start small and work your way up. Can we contribute one thing?

Teachers and administrators have a worldview, how do we give them the dignity they are looking for. If you want to make change, understand that you are changing real people, they have real world views and if you want to change them you have to tell them a story that resonates with their worldview.

Emotional labour

Emotional labour is exhausting, but it’s as essential as physical labour. To be a professional means we bring ourselves to the table, even when we don’t feel like it.

We have to be able to say “Follow me, trust me, I have confidence….even when we don’t.” If you don’t feel emotional labour you’re not working hard enough.

Seth’s Closing messages

  •  There is no doubt you have succeeded already, but when you leave today you need to decide what you will do next? Will you choose to matter?
  • Most people do work that someone else can do. You can choose to do work that people will miss if you are gone.
  • We have more leverage to reach more people than ever before on earth.
  • We don’t need someone to pick us, we don’t need a license, we don’t need permission.
  • If you want leverage, if you want to amplify your message, learn to take responsibility and give away credit.
  • Learn to postpone the moment you cash in, as you build trust and attention… That’s the new currency.
  • We may not be able to change the whole world, but what about our corner of the world.

Seth Godin takeaway gift

 

AltMBA Download

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Yesterday I ran a 90 minute download at Redington covering what I learnt on Seth Godin’s Alt MBA.

20 people attended, some from Redington and some from other firms in the city. For those that didn’t make it in running a second session next Tuesday 18th August at Redington.

I had initially thought about going through all 12 Projects; but thankfully for those attending I managed to consolidate it down to 6 key areas of interest.

They were:

  1. What stopping us…?
  2. Making good decisions
  3. Being more creative
  4. Achieving your goals & dreams
  5. Making change happen
  6. The first step

Some of the lessons I was trying to convey were:

  • Know the change you want to make, who you are trying to change and what change you are seeking
  • Get inside the head of your target person/group. If you want to change, influence or persuade anyone of anything, you need to start by understanding their worldview.
  • Develop a human, charismatic and honest story that will resonate with the people you seek to change.
  • Be vulnerable. This will help your team/group open up and get beneath the surface quickly.
  • Review your boundaries and constraints (most are self-imposed) challenge yourself to think bigger, bolder and make more change
  • Push through your fear (it’s your Lizard Brain). When you feel scared that’s when you’re probably onto something good. Feel the fear and do it anyway.
  • The magic of continuous feedback from people who care. The quicker you send it/share it the more input you can get and the better you can iterate your way to success.

The AltMBA is one of the best learning experiences I have been involved in. It drew on the best of Management School and blended it with the best of Online Learning, as well as the latest Neuroscience to ensure what we learn sinks in, is applied and is retained.  Here’s Seth’s original pitch for it.

The question it raises for me is:

What if we could deliver highly effective training like this to new hires, colleagues, future leaders and clients? What if we could download seriously valuable skills in just a few hours or even days?

If you or someone you know would like to attend this AltMBA Download to get an overview of the content (not so much the format), send me a message ([email protected]) and I’ll confirm details.

Here’s a link to the presentation I delivered: AltMBA Download 12Aug Final

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The essential C-word in Investment Management

Over the past few years, a number of previously successful asset management firms have blown up spectacularly, unexpectedly tripped up, or surprised us all with how fast they have unravelled. Over the same period, however, relatively unknown players have risen to prominence, and some managers have continued to succeed despite serious knocks. What’s the difference between them?

Extract reproduced from June 2014 edition of IPE: http://www.ipe.com/reports/top-400-asset-managers/top-400-the-essential-c-word-in-investment-management/10002043.article

Busy office culture

For years, I have been trying to answer this question: how to identify those investment managers most likely to fail in advance of their demise?

At Redington, we speak to fund managers, CIOs, CEOs, academics, researchers, clients and colleagues continuously in an effort to determine the key drivers of asset management success and failure.

The most oft-mentioned success factor is culture, although people rarely use that word. Indeed, culture is something of a dirty word in asset management; it is not one that asset management teams talk about, and it is used less by clients and advisers. However, its impact is underestimated until too late. Executive committees at investment management companies spend hours and days discussing incentive schemes, team structures, titles, reporting lines, risk management and regulation. However, if someone mentions culture, a deafening silence ensues.

It is understandable that this factor is ignored and sidelined, given the analytical and inherently cynical nature of most fund managers. Frankly, there is little consensus on what (corporate) culture is, let alone how to influence it and how it affects behaviour. Having said that, culture is not as intangible as many people believe. In my experience, there are plenty of clear, measurable and critical elements of culture that are quite tangible indeed.

Culture is embedded in the unwritten rules colleagues tell new joiners – ‘this is how things are done around here’ or ‘we have always done it this way’. Culture is a set of repeated habits, rituals, narratives and expectations that govern how people do things in organisations, and are based around the inherent values of decision-makers. Culture is a control system that carries the behavioural norms that must be upheld, and determines the social consequences for those that do not stay within the boundaries.

It is not surprising that the UK’s new regulator, the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), has shown a keen interest in the culture of financial services firms. “Culture is the DNA of the firm,” Clive Adamson of the FCA has said, noting that it shapes “how decisions are made at all levels of the organisation”. He is of the view that “in many cases where things have gone wrong, a cultural issue has been at the heart of the problem”.

Cultures can evolve naturally, be driven by role models or by a management team. Culture is usually carried by leaders, long-serving employees, historical narratives, habits and routines. It is influenced by incentives and sustained through recruitment and management of staff, the induction of new people, and through appraisals and discretionary rewards. Large organisations can have multiple sub-cultures that should not be ignored – the legacy of cultures within acquired units can persist for a surprisingly long period of time.

In my experience, there are 10 dimensions of culture that are critical to determining success, or failure in fund management. These are listed below, each expressed as a spectrum:

  • People focus: Is the business long-term people oriented or short-term results oriented?
  • Star culture: How are successful managers treated? How are support people treated?
  • Self-orientation: Are portfolio managers loyal to themselves, their teams or the company?
  • Conflict tolerance: Are people expected to agree or is conflict and challenge encouraged?
  • Risk culture: Do employees tend to ask permission for everything or do they feel empowered to take risks? Are people trusted or is someone always watching?
  • Approach to failure: How does the company deal with errors, mistakes and failure?
  • Job security: Do people feel secure in their jobs, are they motivated to excel or avoid attention and ‘stay out of trouble’ motivated by career risk?
  • Success definition: Is investment performance, client retention, net sales or share price appreciation the ultimate measure of success?
  • Competition: Are individuals/teams incentivised to collaborate or allowed to compete?
  • Abdication risk: To what extent are problems and issues escalated upwards, or do employees feel responsibility for dealing with issues?

This list is not a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ checklist. The key question is not absolute value or exact position of the firm on any of these cultural questions, but how aware and in control of the culture a management team is. What is particularly interesting when assessing asset manager riskiness is how their position on each of these issues fits together, how the culture has changed or is changing, what new employees are sold, what clients expect and whether there is a disconnect between the leadership and the people on the ground.

A year ago, my new client (now employer) Robert Gardner, founder and co-CEO of Redington, asked me to help develop a system to identify and communicate early warning signals that should be monitored by clients, in order to assist decision making around the engagement with, and timely removal of, managers.

After research and deliberation, 10 early warning signals presented themselves. These have now been developed into a system through which we aim to understand what might go wrong with a manager before any assets have even been allocated to them. We monitor and report on these critical issues on an on-going basis to help clients avoid being caught by surprise.

These 10 key risk factors are:

  1. Business focus on asset gathering and short-term priorities
  2. Increased dependence on a single client or channel (asset persistence)
  3. Weak leadership
  4. Misaligned incentive structures (prioritising asset growth over investment performance)
  5. Increasing key person dependence
  6. Product proliferation and business complexity
  7. Process drift or moving away from core skills
  8. Poor capacity management
  9. Undisciplined growth implications for operational infrastructure
  10. Lack of challenge and accountability.

These are not a series of boxes that need to be ticked or crossed. Instead, they are considerations that help us to understand how a fund management company measures and rewards success, whether a portfolio manager’s interests are aligned with the clients.

It’s early days, but the FCA seems to understand that organisational culture is hard to change and it takes persistence. The responsibility lies with every employee, led by the senior management, and cannot just be delegated to the compliance, or HR department. To change deeply embedded behaviours, senior management have to support the right behaviour through rewards, performance evaluation, employee development and their own actions.

Investment management is a complex business, and it is vital that consultants help clients to understand the various moving parts and key drivers of success or failure. The truth is that every institution, no matter how large, is vulnerable to failure; fund management companies can look strong on the outside despite being sick within.

While it may not be not possible to determine the fate of every firm, we assert that early symptoms, and even underlying causes, can be detected and can be avoided. The challenge is to talk more openly about the C-word, understand corporate culture better and embed on-going assessments of whether an investment manager’s culture is aligned with its clients, and whether it risks creating a negative loop that could drag it downwards.

Click here to read the full article in the June 2014 edition of IPE: http://www.ipe.com/reports/top-400-asset-managers/top-400-the-essential-c-word-in-investment-management/10002043.article

What will you devote yourself to this year?

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As we enter 2014, and the Earth moves around the Sun one more time, I have found it invaluable to reflect on the past 12 months in order to learn lessons and move forward in the coming year.  The New Year is as good a time as any to ask ourselves: What shall we devote ourselves to? What will be the focus of our time, enthusiasm and energy this year?

In my first blog of 2013 I wrote about looking for inspiration from my Heroes, in their calling, their choices, their determination, their attitude toward obstacles and their incredible achievements (link). As this New Year begins I have to ask myself – Was I brave? Was I bold? Did I face my fears? Did I have faith in myself? Did I embrace adversity? Did I find my calling? More on this later.

My call to action

12 months ago, I had my own ‘call to action’. I left paid employment and entered the uncertain world of self-employment in the hope of spending more time with my family. I was clear that I wanted to spend more time in the next 5 years with my wife and children than I had managed in the previous 5 years. It is so easy to take family for granted, even though we know that they are our greatest source of happiness in life; family doesn’t offer the immediate rewards, recognition and feedback that our careers do.

Clayton Christensen explains it well – “The priorities in our life are determined not by our words but through the hundreds of everyday decisions about how we spend our time, energy and money. With each of these decisions we make a statement about what really matters to us.”

As I entered 2013 I knew the most important job that I needed to do right now was to be a better husband and father. I have felt this many times before and even made countless resolutions in the past to re-address this balance, but 2013 was the first time I was actually going to do something about it. This felt like a moment that might define who I am, that might give me an opportunity to use my talents and to fulfill my purpose on Earth.

However, I hadn’t figured out how I would support this new lifestyle, what kind of work I would do to sustain it and how I could earn enough to cover our expenses. In this vacuum I found myself transported back to the year 2000 when I was trying to decide between earning a living by pursuing my passions and doing something I was good at or a career that were in demand. All sorts of ideas, long forgotten dreams and possibilities filled my head – I could finally become a schoolteacher, author, film director, innovation guru, entrepreneur, etc.

I read a book about “How to find fulfilling work” that just made my predicament worse. I was torn. On the one hand I wanted to be like Leonardo da Vinci – a wide achiever – and pursue many interests all at once. On the other hand I knew I have a tendency to spread myself too thinly and then struggle to do anything well. After much mental wrestling it dawned on me that my biggest successes and achievements in life have come when I have immersed myself in one field and focused all my efforts in one direction, blocking everything else out.

Self-employment and self-discovery

It took so much effort to not get distracted and I had to keep reminding myself of the work-life balance I was trying to achieve. I decided to develop a one man consulting business where I could choose to take on interesting projects during term-time to ensure I was free for school holidays.

I attended a one-day Penna course on ‘Setting up your own consulting business’, I set up a limited company within an hour – Mitesh Sheth Consulting Ltd was born – it all seemed surprisingly easy. Getting clients, however, especially ones that would pay proved to be significantly harder. It took me 3 months to get a handful of clients, from different industries, offering me a broad mix of projects. It took a while though to figure out that I was better off earning my income through the industry I know best – pensions & investments.

Throughout my life I have always thought that there is nothing better than your own boss, but this year I have realised that self-employment is not for everyone (the lack of cashflow visibility at least in the initial period is difficult) and also working on my own was not for me (I’m an extrovert and it felt pretty lonely).

2013 has been a  year of self-discovery for me:

  • I found out that, whilst I loved being at home with my family in the mornings and evenings and during the school holidays, I didn’t like sitting around at home for long periods of time.
  • I realised that I am very ambitious, I love challenges and get tremendous self worth from achieving things.
  • I am also naturally inquisitive and love learning (I’ve read over a dozen non-fiction books this year – link).
  • I like people, especially being surrounded by smart people that challenge me. I am also a rule breaker and disruptor and needed to find a way to channel this constructively.

Finding my ‘Tribe’

The concept of ‘Tribes’ was popularized by Seth Godin in his bestselling book of the same name. He explained the concept as follows:

“Everyone has an opportunity to start a movement – to bring together a tribe of like-minded people and do amazing things. There are tribes everywhere, all of them hungry for connection, meaning and change. And yet, too many people ignore the opportunity to lead, because they are “sheepwalking” their way through their lives and work, too afraid to question whether their compliance is doing them, their family, their company and the world any good.”

Enter Redingtonhttp://www.redington.co.uk – an award winning disruptive pensions and investment consultancy co-founded by Dawid Konotey-Ahulu and Robert Gardner 7 years ago to ‘solve the pensions crisis’. I realised that this could be my working home as soon as I heard Rob’s 100 year vision to help people around the world feel confident about their financial future (link). My initial engagement with Redington started with RedStart, a groundbreaking programme that offers free financial education to young people at school. I then got involved with the Manager Research Team and have recently accepted a permanent role as Director of Strategy.

The more time I have spent with Rob, Dawid, Pete and the rest of the Redington team the more it has become clear that I have found my ‘Tribe’ – this is a group of talented and smart people who are ambitious and altruistic in equal measure, blending rigorous analytical discipline with creative flair.  Having spent Christmas at home with my family I am really looking forward to going back to being part of this Superteam (in the words of Khoi-Tu).

Final reflections

Back to those difficult questions I was asking myself earlier. In 2013 was I brave? Was I bold? Did I face my fears? Did I have faith in myself? Did I embrace adversity? Did I find my calling? I am pleased that for the first time in many years the answer is a yes to most of these questions, with the exception of the last one.

I have not found my calling yet, but I found my tribe, which has to be the first step.  For 2014, I want to make a commitment (not just a resolution) to continuing on this path of self-discovery, seeking to understand  where to focus my energy better and what to devote myself to. 

2013 was an amazing year for me on so many levels, even though it did not feel like it along the way. I will always remember it as my year of self-discovery. I want to share the key to unlocking this internal exploration: daily introspection and journaling.

My resolutions for 2014

I am 14 years from turning 50, I don’t have the luxury of time to waste by just re-living the same year over and over again. If 2013 was the year of ‘self-discovery’, 2014 will be the year of ‘devotion’ for me.

Over the past couple of months my wife and I have started a 5am routine: We wake up and do Surya Namaskar (Yoga & Pranayama) for 20 minutes, then we both write a Journal (reflecting on the previous day and our goals) for 20 minutes and finally we read something (thoughtful or inspiring) for 20 minutes. This routine has been invaluable in helping me deal with this year’s uncertainty, embrace adversity, adapt, understand myself and retain focus on my priorities.

  1. This 5am routine continues to feature front-and-center of my plans for 2014 (‘Daily routines of rock stars’ link).
  2. In 2014 I am looking forward to helping Redington grow with new clients, in new channels and new markets.
  3. After reading Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell and learning about the massive differences that are forged between children over the school holidays, I have committed to spending school holidays at home with my children.
  4. I will use my free days but to write more this year. I started writing a blog for the first time in 2013 and I have really enjoyed it. I have written 19 blog posts and had 7,865 views. I really love writing. I am going to do more of this in 2014.

I’d like to thank all of you for your advice, guidance, support and encouragement throughout 2013. I wish you and your families a very Happy New Year.

For 2014 I offer you the gift of introspection, and journaling in particular, and leave you with this final question:

What will you devote yourself (your time, your energy and enthusiasm) to this year?