Posts Tagged ‘succession planning’

There is no truth to the belief that great leaders are born that way and that you can’t really develop or acquire the competencies for leadership. This belief stems from a self-limiting, fixed mind set. The first leadership principle—to achieve professional competence—tells us what to achieve, the second leadership principle—to appreciate one’s strengths and limitations and pursue self-improvement—tells us how to achieve it.

The growth mind set is essential for learning, growth, and development in any field of endeavour, and certainly this is the case for leadership. We grow by challenging ourselves and overcoming resistance and obstacles. The growth mind set as applied to leadership consists of what I call the Four Pillars of Leadership Excellence. These encompass the goal of development (objective standards), the power of example (role models), the understanding of objective performance and behaviour (self-knowledge), and the subjective awareness of performance and behaviour in action (self-awareness).

One of the most powerful concepts for leadership development is the “learning curve.” Learning occurs over time as we invest resources and effort in acquiring and honing new knowledge and skills. Learning starts when we become aware of a need for improvement or the potential to move to a new level. Learning itself is a cyclical process based on feedback. We need to act in order to generate results that we can then observe and assess against indicators. We therefore need objective standards and role models to emulate and to measure our progress. Prudent, calculated risks are the fuel of development. If progress is to continue on the road to development, then the learner must jump to a higher learning curve.

Just like an army on the offensive, you need a clear objective and mission. You also require a deep appreciation of your strengths so you can leverage them to the hilt, complemented by a realistic appraisal of your limitations so you can overcome or mitigate them. Your most powerful strength is your personal center of gravity. From the perspective of leadership, strengths can be any particular skills, attitudes, or elements of knowledge. Personality or character traits can also be strengths, as well as natural proclivities or talents, such as intelligence, visual and spatial abilities, and sociability. Strengths come at the intersection of things you do quickly and easily, you’re trusted and recognized for, and you’re passionate about. Once you’ve identified your center of gravity, you must then exploit it as much as possible, in concert with your other strengths, so you can achieve maximum efficiency and effectiveness as a leader.

It’s not enough however to play offence. You must also be able to manage your limitations and weaknesses so they don’t overwhelm your strengths and make you ineffective. I talk about managing limitations, because it’s probably impossible to eliminate them completely. All we can realistically do is contain them and mitigate their effects so they don’t hinder us excessively. I call this playing defence, because we don’t always have the initiative or the luxury to concentrate on all areas at once.

Techniques to Energize Your Leadership Development

  1. Adopt and nurture the growth mindset.
  2. View your successes and failures as feedback for learning.
  3. Study the objective standards of your field, profession or organization.
  4. Observe and emulate positive role models.
  5. Acquire self-knowledge to assess your leadership against objective standards.
  6. Develop self-awareness so you can witness your behaviour, thinking, and performance on a moment-to-moment basis and adjust these accordingly.
  7. Create a vision of how you wish to lead in the future, and then determine what competencies and traits you will need to achieve that vision.
  8. Assess your past performance as a leader so you can draw lessons learned for now and the future.
  9. Identify where you are on the learning curve for the particular competencies you need in leadership. Are you at the initial awareness stage, making rapid progress, reaching diminishing returns, plateauing, or in decline? What is needed to move to the next stage of leadership competence?
  10. What is the next learning curve for you? What are the most likely risks and opportunities you face when making the leap to the next curve?
  11. What are your top leadership strengths and your center of gravity? Develop a strategy to exploit your center of gravity.
  12. What are your top leadership limitations and vulnerabilities? What is your strategy to manage these limitations, depending on the situation and the people you are leading?

Richard Martin is a Master Strategist and Leadership Catalyst. Richard brings his military and business leadership and management experience to bear for executives and organizations seeking to radically improve performance, grow, and thrive in the face of rapid change, harsh competition, and increasing uncertainty.

© 2015 Richard Martin. Reproduction and quotes are permitted with proper attribution.

Step 5 in the Battle Readiness Procedure we’ve been covering is Rehearsal and Preparation. The key to this step is to ensure everyone knows the plan and what role they have in it. Military leaders are taught to give their direction and plan using the SMESC format:

S–Situation: What is the friendly and enemy situation? What is the lay of the land, the climate and weather, etc?
M–Mission: What is the essential role of the team or organization in the higher unit’s plans?
E–Execution: How will the mission be achieved? What are all the moving parts, the tasks of each element, and the resources they have to achieve their part of the plan?
S–Support & Logistics: What are the special supply and logistical arrangements to support the overall plan, including personnel and medical support?
C–Command, Control & Communications: What is the chain of command and succession? Are there special communication and control measures (including codewords, etc)?

Rehearsals and practice runs are the key to ensuring everyone fully understands their own role(s) as well as those of others in the unit. There are many forms of practice and rehearsal, from “chalk talks,” to war games to full dress rehearsals to get all the parts of the machine synchronized and in full working order.

I’m never too busy to discuss your needs or those of anyone else you feel may benefit from meeting or talking to me. So feel free to contact me at any time!

Richard Martin is a Master Strategist and Leadership Catalyst. Richard brings his military and business leadership and management experience to bear for executives and organizations seeking to radically improve performance, grow, and thrive in the face of rapid change, harsh competition, and increasing uncertainty.

© 2014 Richard Martin. Reproduction and quotes are permitted with proper attribution.

This is my review of Talent Magnetism, by Roberta Matuson, Nicholas Brealey Publishing, 2013

This is the book any strategic business leader needs to position his or her organization to attract, select, and keep the best people possible. As a consultant myself, I work on a daily basis with companies and organizations that struggle with finding and retaining excellent employees. In fact, human capital is so important that it can actually make or break strategy and other business plans.

Matuson has taken a great tack. Instead of just throwing money at the challenge of attraction and retention, she has created an entire framework of strategies and tactics for positioning a company or organization as an employer of choice. Think of how Apple, Google, and other global success stories have become a magnetic pole of attraction for top-flight talent around the world. The author shows business leaders how to do the same thing for themselves.

This book isn’t just for HR types however. Senior executives, CEOs, entrepreneurs, and other core business operators will want to read this book so they can start applying their business savvy not just to their customers, but also to their employees. The chapters on branding and leadership as key attraction factors are fascinating and go well beyond the usual bromides about happy work places. People want challenge, advancement, and — YES — great leadership!

I recommend this book to anyone struggling with building great teams and human capital. I will also be recommending it to my own clients who are looking at ways to raise their employer brand.

© 2014 Richard Martin

I’ve been delivering this type of training and development throughout my 25-year military career, at university, on special training programmes for emergency management leaders, as well as nationally and internationally for corporate clients.

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“Richard helped me to realize my unique role as president and majority shareholder. This gave me the confidence to make some very important ownership decisions and to assert myself with my junior partners. I’ve become much more effective in leading and growing my company.”  Jean-Paul de Lavison, President, JPdL

Expected Results

  • Faster and more confident decision-making
  • Clearer direction to your subordinates
  • Deal with tricky situations and problem cases in a more confident and direct manner
  • Enhanced skill at judging and evaluating people
  • Provide effective feedback quickly while minimizing resistance
  • Outstanding influencing and communication skills
  • Overall performance improvement
  • More time for your priority objectives

Course Description

  • Starts Thursday 16 January 2014 at 11 am eastern
  • Course runs until early June 2014 with a total of 8 webinar sessions every three weeks (11 am to 12 pm)
  • Each webinar will include the knowledge you need to develop and improve your key leadership skills, as well as self-diagnostic and competency building exercises and other tools
  • Hard copy download of the slides, exercises, and other tools, as well as a video recording of the webinar within 48 hours of each session
  • You can post questions to a special discussion forum I will create for this course with access limited to current and future registrants. I will answer within 24 hours during normal working hours
  • Extra online discussions and exchanges on the forum


  • If you register before 3 January 2014: $249.00 ($199.00 for those currently registered for my 2013-14 teleconference series)
  • If you register after 3 January 2014: $349.00 ($299.00 for those currently registered for my 2013-14 teleconference series)
  • Who Should Register?
  • Entrepreneurs and business owners
  • Senior executives
  • Functional and line managers
  • Sales and business development professionals
  • Project and programme management professionals
  • HR and personnel selection professionals
  • Trainers and coaches
  • Anyone else who’s interested in growing and developing as a leader

Course Schedule

16 January 2014 — Session 1: Competence Is the Heart of Leadership

  • It’s good to sizzle, but first you need the steak
  • Do people follow you because they HAVE to or because they WANT to?
  • What specific competencies do you need?
  • What are your competencies now?
  • What do you want to/have to work on?

6 February 2014 — Session 2: Becoming a Transformational Leadership

  • What is transformational leader and how is it different from transactional leadership?
  • What are the components of transformational leadership?
  • Is transformational leadership really needed and better than more traditional and authoritarian forms?
  • Why rewards and punishments are more ineffective than effective
  • Your transformational leadership profile
  • What about charisma?

27 February 2014 — Session 3: Idealized Influence and “Command Presence”

  • What is your influence based on? Coercion vs conviction
  • Why leaders MUST be ethical
  • Leading by example
  • What is “command presence” and how do you create it?
  • Evaluate your own command presence

20 March 2014 — Session 4: Inspirational Motivation through Vision and Mission

  • Morale, cohesion, and unity of purpose
  • Intrinsic motivation and transformational leadership
  • What’s wrong with most vision and mission statements?
  • Creating a compelling purpose and vision
  • Rallying the troops in a crisis

10 April 2014 — Session 5: How Leaders Grow and Develop

  • Cognitive and moral development of adults
  • How these stages translate to leadership over time and through experience
  • Individualized Consideration and Intellectual Stimulation as part of Transformational Leadership
  • Selecting and developing potential leaders
  • Challenging your own leadership to grow and develop through the stages of leadership

1 May 2014 — Session 6: Crisis and Emergency Leadership

  • What is a crisis or emergency?
  • What happens during a crisis or emergency: group dynamics and individual psychology
  • What a leader must do before, during, and after a crisis
  • Leader’s self-care and welfare of followers and subordinates during a crisis or emergency

22 May 2014 — Session 7: How to Transform Organizations, Not Just Individuals

  • How organizations develop over time
  • The organizational types that correspond to the leadership stages
  • Why internal conflict is a good thing and how to foster it
  • Diagnosing teams and organizations
  • How to get to the next organizational level

12 June 2014 — Session 8: Putting It All Together: Self-Awareness as the Key to Continued Growth

  • Self-awareness
  • Self-knowledge
  • Self-control
  • Self-efficacy and self-esteem
  • Your continuing leadership development plan

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© 2013-14 Alcera Consulting Inc. All rights reserved.

Brilliant Manoeuvre
A key role for every leader is mentoring and coaching his or her subordinates so they develop to their full potential.

One of my clients is a long-time entrepreneur. He knows how to sell and promote his business; he’s not afraid to experiment and try new things; he’s approachable and helpful; and he provides inspiration and leadership to everyone in his company. However, I’ve been getting him to develop his own leadership capabilities so he recognizes that he has a major role in developing the leadership and managerial capabilities of his direct reports. For instance, we recently discussed how to work on developing better industry understanding in a relatively new executive. My client brought in this individual because of his extensive management experience in larger companies. However, he needs to develop certain other skills and knowledge so that he can be the most effective leader possible within the organization. It’s not enough to assume that newly hired employees already know everything they need to function within the company. They too must be developed through coaching and mentoring. This can be done with outside coaches, but executives, managers, and supervisors must also play a critical part in this process.

Do you know every one of your team members by name? Do you know their backgrounds? Where they are from, their goals and aspirations, their particular strengths and limitations? If you can’t answer these most basic questions about your people then you don’t really know them well enough to develop them to their full potential.

Richard Martin is a consultant, speaker, and executive coach. He brings his military and business leadership and management experience to bear for executives and organizations seeking to exploit change, maximize opportunity, and minimize risk.

© 2013 Richard Martin. Reproduction and quotes are permitted with proper attribution.

By Richard Martin

Note: This article has previously been published on on 21 Aug 12. Republished on with permission.

One of the keys to being an effective leader is to have the respect of superiors, subordinates and peers. Unfortunately, many new managers and supervisors – and sometimes even experienced ones – focus too much on trying to please everyone. They try to be liked, or even loved, rather than simply doing their job.

Here are the six most important techniques and principles to ensure you gain and maintain the respect of followers, superiors and peers alike.

1. If you want respect, you have to give it. This is probably the hardest one of all. Specifically, you should endeavor to show respect and loyalty to your own superiors, and refrain from gossip and any form of speech that can be construed as undermining the authority of other managers and supervisors. You must also be fair but firm when dealing with disciplinary or performance issues, and refrain from upbraiding people in public.

2. Listen to your followers. This requires you to stay open to constructive criticism, suggestions and questions. The two best ways to achieve this are to meet regularly with your staff and open the floor for questions, or to simply walk around and converse in a friendly manner with your staff, asking them questions about their work, how they understand your approach and direction, answering any questions in the process. If you can’t answer the questions immediately, then tell them you will look into it and get back to them.

3. Provide clear and consistent direction. Ensure everyone in your team knows what is expected of them as individuals and as a group. Give ‘mission’ type direction to experienced people. This is direction that is focused on the end to be achieved rather than the means to achieve it. For less-experienced personnel, there may be a need to provide more detailed guidance that includes how to achieve the objectives. Make sure everyone is aware of and understands the organization’s mission, vision and values. Provide regular updates on the situation, especially if there has been a change.

4. Focus on managing well. Management is the art and science of planning, organizing, directing, coordinating and controlling (i.e., providing feedback). There is nothing that drives people crazier or undermines respect more for the authority and competence of a manager than an inability to do the basics of management well. Work planning, scheduling, providing clear direction, ensuring orders, directives and standards are all critical management skills and form the backbone of sound leadership.

5. Provide constant and consistent feedback. A supervisor or manager should provide performance feedback to all her direct reports regularly and as needed. Regular feedback is best provided monthly or quarterly, using a short written form and face-to-face meeting. This should be supplemented by an annual performance review which is more detailed and formal, and that is integrated with the organization’s performance reporting system. Informal feedback should be given whenever performance exceeds or fails to meet expectations. It is best given verbally ‘in the heat of action’ or shortly thereafter.

6. Take care of your people. Stand up for them with higher ups in the organization if it is justified. Provide developmental opportunities and regular feedback. Ensure they have proper equipment, training and supervision to do their jobs properly. Encourage them, and stay open to questions and constructive criticism of you, your management style or the organization.

© 2012 Richard Martin. All rights reserved.

by Richard Martin

Note: This article originally appeared on 30 July 2012 on Republished on with permission.

Understanding basic leadership principles may improve your leadership abilities, but it’s not enough just to know them – they also have to be lived and perfected every day. I suggest focusing on a different principle every week. Do this repeatedly and you may well become an outstanding leader.

1. Achieve professional competence. People follow leaders who know what they are doing and who get results. Take Steve Jobs. I’m not advocating being deliberately nasty, but by all accounts, he wasn’t a very ‘nice’ leader. People at Apple put up with his quirks, because he was the best at what he did and got spectacular results.

2. Appreciate your strengths and limitations and pursue self-improvement. The ancient Greeks believed the ultimate mark of wisdom was to “Know thyself.” If you want to be good, you have to correct or compensate for your limitations. To become great, however, you have to build on your strengths.

3. Seek and accept responsibility. If you shirk responsibility, word will get out. Superiors will avoid giving you challenging missions and the best employees won’t want to be part of your team.

4. Lead by example. “Do as I say, not as I do.” This is hypocritical and creates a culture of blame and dissimulation. If you want your followers to do the right thing, to admit to their mistakes, to learn from experience, and to be honest and loyal, then you have to do the same things and not just proclaim it.

5. Make sure your followers know your meaning and intent, then lead them to the accomplishment of the mission. Contrary to mushrooms, people do not grow better in the dark. If you want your followers to show initiative, you have to provide them with as much information as possible so they can shape their plans and actions to the overarching goals of the organization. By extension, you have to be present to coach and mentor them, supervise operations, and make sure that the objective is being achieved.

6. Know your followers and promote their welfare. The best form of welfare is to know the strengths and limitations of your people, their personal and professional goals, whether they are enjoying what they are doing and whether they feel they are being employed to their full potential.

7. Develop the leadership potential of your followers. Leadership is required up and down the line to deal effectively and quickly with patients, make judgment calls, and provide timely and relevant advice to colleagues, superiors and followers. This is also how you can tell who is ready for promotion or further development.

8. Make sound and timely decisions. We’ve all heard the expression, “lead, follow or get out of the way,” but that can lead to over-reliance on hasty and intemperate decisions. Sometimes the best decision is to defer making one until more or better information is available. It’s not just about speed, but also appropriateness and timeliness.

9. Build your team’s cohesion and morale and employ everyone up to their capabilities. Morale is the willingness to do what is needed to achieve the mission. Cohesion is the degree of team performance and integration. Both depend on keeping everyone informed and employing them to their full capabilities and potential.

10. Keep your followers informed of the mission, the changing situation and the overall picture. As they say in the military, no plan survives contact with the enemy. If you want your people to perform, exercise judgment, adjust to changes and show initiative, then everyone needs to know what is happening and, as much as possible, why it’s happening.

© 2012 Richard Martin. All rights reserved.

Tolstoy’s novel Anna Karenina starts with one of the most famous lines in all of modern literature: “All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” In the case of family businesses though, we can safely assert that most of the unhappy ones tend also to be unhappy in the same way. It usually boils down to who gets how much and who is in charge of what.

When the founder of a company brings family members into the business, this can increase the potential for internal conflict by a significant factor. One of the most common manifestations of this phenomenon occurs when the owner—usually, but not always, the father—offers management positions to some or all of his children. When the children are also part owners of the business, the problems compound. And when the company transitions to new leadership, as when the founder retires and selects one of the siblings to run the company, the potential for conflict goes through the roof.

Here is a case in point from my own consulting practice. A younger sibling was appointed as general manager of a small company while an older sibling continued in a subordinate managerial position within the structure. The older sibling was somewhat miffed at not being considered for a higher position, especially that of general manager. The older sibling was starting to take out that frustration on the younger sibling. Conversely, the younger one was starting to act in a dictatorial manner in order to make clear to everyone “who the boss is.” A rivalry that had been seething beneath the surface for years now had the potential to erupt into a volcano of disruption that the company could ill afford.

The younger sibling had the foresight to get my advice about managing the working relationship. My advice was simple: “You are the boss, so act like it. That doesn’t mean to be insensitive or harsh, but you are the one who has to answer to ownership for the company’s results, not your sibling. We need to talk together to ensure that you both know where you stand and the dynamics of your personal relationship don’t hinder the dynamics of your business relationship.” Is that a tall order? Perhaps, but what are the alternatives?

The key method I advocate for dealing with these issues is what I call ‘The Outsider Test of Behavior.’ Simply put, if a family member is behaving or performing in a manner that would be deemed unacceptable for an employee or manager that doesn’t have a familial relationship with the company’s ownership or senior leadership, then that behavior or performance is probably unacceptable, even though that person is one of the family.

Therefore, if family members have an ownership stake or occupy various management positions within the company hierarchy, they still have to let whoever is in management do their job, whether those people are family members or not. They can’t just decide to change things because they happen to have a familial relationship. Nor can they question the authority of other executives and managers, reverse decisions unilaterally, or otherwise disrupt the good functioning of the company, all simply because they happen to have the ‘right’ DNA.

The company has a fiduciary responsibility to employees, clients, suppliers, and financial backers (e.g. the bank and outside investors), and family members have to work within that reality. If they are part of ownership, they can exercise their responsibilities as shareholders through the board of directors (if they are a member) or at the annual meeting, just like any other shareholder. If they are part of management, they have to exercise their managerial functions and carry out their responsibilities in the same manner as any other manager in the company, all the while respecting proper rules of authority, responsibility, and decorum. They should also be held accountable for performance and behavior just like any other member of the company.

Of course, all this assumes that the family member who is in a managerial position within a family business is actually capable of exercising the functions of that position. If not, then the CEO or senior manager overseeing that person must work with the rest of the management team, ownership, and possibly the board, to ensure that that person is either removed from a position of authority, or removed completely from the company.

All of this can be very hard on the family member who has the ultimate leadership responsibilities, whether it is still the founding family member or the one who has succeeded the founder. It can also be hard on family members who are in positions or who have ownership stakes that they feel are unjust given their status within the family or self-perceived capabilities. But like I said above, what is the alternative, run the company into the ground?

Family members who are privileged to be involved in a successful business should realize how lucky they are to be in that position. Most people aren’t born on third base, much less second or first, so the situation must be seen for what it is: a great opportunity for individual and collective growth in a win-win dynamic, not a bone of contention within a scarcity mentality.

© 2012 Richard Martin. Reproduction and quotes permitted with full and proper attribution.

A few years back I met with prospective client to discuss his objectives for his business. He was in his late sixties, and wanted to retire. Unfortunately, he was the only one who could close business. He had also associated himself with another shareholder who was supposedly brilliant (i.e. the inventive one) but also increasingly erratic in his behaviour with others in the company and with clients. To put a cherry on this particular sundae, the business was also owed a significant amount of money by a major client, with severely hampered cash flow. My prospect told me point blank, “I want to retire, but I’m a prisoner of my own company. I can’t sell it, because it’s worth nothing without me; I have no one to take over from me; and I’m owed a significant amount of money to get at least something out of it if I were to liquidate it.” He figured his best option was to bring in one of his technicians to run the company, someone with little actual business experience, and who was also very young (about 25 years old). I tendered a proposal to help him get out of that mess, but he claimed he didn’t have the money to pay me.

All in all, not a pretty situation. Though it’s admittedly extreme, in my work with small business owners and entrepreneurs, I repeatedly encounter owners who, though not necessarily a prisoner of their business, could be reckoned fairly close to being so. In my mind, there are two basic prosperity models for small business owners. One is to build a machine, a business that can be passed on to one’s children or associates, or otherwise sold at a reasonable profit. The other model is to operate a business for a number of years, drawing a salary and dividends commensurate with one’s overall revenues and personal objectives.

In the first, you realize that you have to create systems and processes and to surround yourself with people who can eventually run the business without you. You can then choose to scale back your activities in the company, or to sell or transfer it. The bottom line though is that you are no longer required to be there on a day-to-day basis to make it work. The most important area of course is in sales. Finding sales talent is not easy, and it’s a challenge to compensate good salespeople in a small business. The most common way to do so is to ensure they have a stake in the business, either through bonuses or an ownership position, although that can sometimes create a whole other raft of issues.

Not all businesses can be successfully turned into a machine, so it’s important to know if your business falls into that category. In many, perhaps most, cases, it doesn’t. That’s why it’s important to be realistic about your prospects for selling or transferring a business that would have to be a going concern without you. Also, many small business owners make the mistake of overestimating the value of their business for selling. Many entrepreneurs think it will be worth two or three times annual revenue, when in actuality they would be lucky to get one year’s revenue for it. In many cases, it’s more like 25% to 50%, and there is often a need for the seller to remain with the business for a number of years in order to maintain client relationships or transfer them to the buyer.

It’s important to be realistic about these matters. In many cases, you’re better off to take a salary and dividends, and build a retirement nestegg outside the business. That way, even if you can’t sell the business for a lot of money, or if you can’t sell it at all, then at least you have built up your retirement fund.

There are numerous advantages to owning a business and being an entrepreneur, but it’s not when you’re 65 and wanting to retire that it is time to start planning for your retirement or extrication from your business.

© 2011 Richard Martin. Reproduction and quotes permitted for non-commercial purposes with full and proper attribution.