Do you struggle with too much on your "todo" list? Is the attraction of social media diverting your attention from concentrating on more important things?
If you can relate to this, you must read this outstanding article. It is as practical and helpful as the problem is profound.
Periodically I hear directors introduce themselves with "I'm a professional director". Sometimes, they add "I sit on XX Boards", where XX could be as high as eight or even ten Boards. Wow. Presumably this means all of their income comes from director fees, and somehow more Boards is better or more prestigious. Am I impressed? Not really.
The core role of any director is to maximise the performance of the company they serve. But how can they do this effectively if they spread their time across as many as eight or ten Boards? Ten Boards means a maximum of two days per company each month. In this scenario, how can any director possibly understand the issues and strategic options sufficiently well to contribute effectively around the Board table?
Governing a company is demanding. It takes time to understand the issues. Can a director have too many irons in the fire? The stories starting to emerge in the media suggest the answer is a clear "yes".
The latest Regus work-life balance report has just been published. Generally, people are working harder than they were two years ago. However they say they are able to manage their work and home lives adequately.
Interestingly, workers and owners in smaller businesses are better off than in larger businesses. This surprised me, because I often hear anecdotal comments from small business owners and workers who say they work harder and longer than workers in big businesses.
I struggle with the concept of a work-life balance. A work-life balance implies a separation between our work-life and our personal-life. Yet with the ubiquity of mobile technology, smartphones, working-from-home arrangements and an "always on" mentality, the supposed separation has become very blurred. For me, the notion of a "lifestyle balance" has much more meaning. What do you think?
For the record, the average work-life balance across Regus' global survey of 16,000 workers in 80 countries is 124. New Zealanders punched above average with a score of 126, but near neighbours Australia returned an even higher score of 129. Maybe that's why the current net migration figures are favouring the lucky country.
Most decisions we make are subject to some form of bias or pre-conditioning. Most of us think we are straight thinkers, but our biases can mess with our heads and can cause us to make poor decisions. Business Insider just published a list of 61 (yes, sixty-one) behavioural biases that can compromise the quality of the decisions we make.
Read about them and how to deal with them here. It won't take long to work through them. I suspect the quality of the decisions you make tomorrow and in the future will be the better for it.
New Zealand has a proud heritage of export-led growth. For over 100 years, the world has beaten a path to our door to buy our protein and fibre. Superficially, this has been great for the nation. Export sales from our large companies grew by 40% in the four years to 2011. Yet in the last 50 years, New Zealand's OECD ranking has plummeted—from the top-5 to well into the bottom third of the list. The trouble is that our large exporters sell low margin commodities. They contribute little to the economy in real terms. And export growth in the rest of the market is languishing at less than 2%. Clearly, our smaller, aspirational companies aren’t getting the traction they need to grow.
How should we respond to this? Do we accept our place in the world? Or should we make the changes necessary to punch above our weight as we have done so well in the past? The late Sir Paul Callaghan was right when he argued that diversification into high-value, high-margin businesses is crucial to our economic future.
The question in my mind, having read the 2012 Budget summary and subsequent comments from MEA, interest.co.nz and others is this: “What role should the government play (if any), to kick start this reinvention of New Zealand’s economy?”
Have you lost confidence in some of the leaders around you? You are not alone. Mike Figliuolo just hit the nail squarely on the head. Check this out:
I've been thinking a lot about the seemingly steady stream of corporate failures and litigations that have filled the front pages of our newspapers in recent times. What has caused these failures? Why have men and women become so motivated by greed that they have compromised the hand that feeds them?
I've rationalised the situation by deciding that there's been a few bad eggs that have caused the trouble. Most corporate directors and executives behave ethically, I thought. Then I came across this opinion piece published in The New York Times. Deresiewicz tackled the issue head-on. He argued that "capitalism is predicated on bad behaviour". Gosh.
Clearly there is a problem with the system at present. However, capitalism has provided the foundation for many great economies. So, is the capitalist system sound but simply out of balance at present? Or is the foundation that many western economies are built upon fundamentally flawed? Does a new system need to emerge? What do you think?
On paper, academics and practitioners agree that governance boards have two roles: future performance (strategy) and conformance. Yet in reality most Boards seem to expend most of their energy on conformance. Twenty-four days ago, a California lawyer, Douglas Y. Park, asked why Boards do this. Park's blogpost triggered a robust discussion on a LinkedIn group. Now, 324 comments later, a new model for governance seems to be emerging.
This might seem to be a rather minor event on the world's stage, however I think it is significant, for several reasons. I'll highlight two in particular. First, great minds from all around the world have shared their experiences and thoughts about the topic—without spending anything on travel, accommodation or conference fees. The speed of interaction and "reach" has been truly amazing. Second, in addition to purely commentating and critiquing, correspondents have worked together to create a new model. This is one of the first times I've seen an online discussion add such value.
If this example of going beyond "sharing" to "creating" is a bellwether of future learning and knowledge creation, we are in for an exciting ride!
One of my core motivations for embarking on my doctoral research is a deep belief that a link exists between good company performance and the 'two socials'—social progress and societal wellbeing. If companies can find ways to sustain high levels of performance, then society will be better for it. Getting ahead is good, we have all heard and read messages extolling the virtue. However, many have interpreted 'getting ahead' as getting rich—presumably to enjoy life to the max, without necessarily sharing the gains with others. The saying "He who dies with the most toys wins" comes to mind. This troubles me.
My faith in business leaders to do the right thing was restored somewhat this week however, when I read this article. With references to other studies, including a very good report published by Forbes, the authors suggest that mucking in and helping others is going mainstream. Leaders of successful businesses seem to be moving beyond selfish financial goals and beyond handing out cash, to helping out. This is inspiring stuff, and it should give us all hope. But more than that, it is a call to action. We all have a role to play—some as thinkers and 'thought' leaders, others as implementers and 'do' leaders. What role will you play?
Prof. David Deakins, Director of the NZ Centre for SME Research at Massey University, provided some great insights this week. He rightly pointed out that small businesses can have a huge impact on the economic development of a nation. He singled out entrepreneurs as having an important role to play.
As I see it, Boards also have a big role to play. First, they can serve as a useful foil for an entrepreneurial founder, particularly when it comes time to create plans, assess opportunities, and monitor performance objectively. Second, Board members have networks and they can (and should) access resources (funding, people, products) in ways that the entrepreneur may not be able to. No doubt there are many other ways Boards can help, but these are two that spring straight to mind. The challenge for Boards is to own this proactive role, and not to just sit back on monitor performance.
Deakins points to the upcoming ICSB conference in June. The SME growth topic will be explored further. I've registered. If you have an interest in growing small business into the next generation of large enterprises, perhaps you should consider attending as well.
Thoughts on corporate governance, strategy and the craft of board work; our place in the world; and, other things that catch my attention.