Tag Archives: Reflections

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

Be the change: Reflections on 100 days as CEO

Friday marked 100 days since I took on this role as CEO of Redington – “the best job in the industry” – as one of our clients put it.

They say that during his first 100 days in office, President Franklin D. Roosevelt “sent 15 messages to Congress, guided 15 major laws to enactment, delivered 10 speeches, held press conferences and cabinet meetings twice a week, conducted talks with foreign heads of state, sponsored an international conference, made all the major decisions in domestic and foreign policy, and never displayed fright or panic and rarely even bad temper.”
– Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr., The Age of Roosevelt

I didn’t have a specific 100 day plan and I’m not sure 100 days is quite as valuable a period for assessment as the hype suggests.

Fortunately, I’m not in Roosevelt’s shoes, though, I did feel these were big shoes to fill. The job description I proposed for the Redington CEO, 10 years after the company was founded by entrepreneurs like Robert Gardner and Dawid Konotey-Ahulu, was to grow the culture, capability and infrastructure to move us closer to our ultimate goal of making 100 million people financially secure.

We currently help just over 1 million people achieve greater financial security primarily through our Defined Benefit pensions business. Against the backdrop of pension fund disasters, our clients continue to perform well. They manage their funds with discipline. Rather than spending lots of time forecasting the future, our clients work hard to ensure they are more resilient, whatever happens.

We regularly ask ourselves: what client problems we can solve better; what unmet or un-articulated needs could we fulfil; what legacy methods or systems should be challenged? The next 10 years could see us enter new geographies, start new business lines and/or adopt new technologies. Above all, we will need to test new ideas, empathise, innovate and take risks. This is Redington’s ‘game’.

Rob and Dawid have been clear about their longer term ambitions ‘game’ too. So far though, I have not talked much about my dream or mission. It’s always a bit scary sharing your dream, it makes you vulnerable and open to criticism. Being more vulnerable was my New Years resolution, so here goes…

Continue reading Be the change: Reflections on 100 days as CEO

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

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?