Since last month’s diary entry, written just after a certain election win, I’d like to say: “Donald Trump, you’re so last month”. I only wish it were true.
We now wait and wonder how the president elect and his inner circle will bring their maverick style of leadership into the White House and what effect they will have on their country and the rest of the planet for the next four years.
Speaking of leadership styles, I watched with great interest an episode of the excellent Netflix series, The Crown (if you’ve missed the hype, it’s about the Queen Elizabeth’s accession to the throne and early reign).
The episode in question concerns when the prime minister Winston Churchill “forgot” to inform the young and learning-on-the-job monarch of his stroke, therefore jeopardising the chain of command necessary for running the country. Until this point she had been somewhat in awe of the great statesman. But, instead of opting for an Alex-Ferguson-hairdryer-style-rant-in-the-face, the distinctly un-maverick Her Majesty chooses a far more intelligent method of admonishment. She offers a lecture on the “efficient and the dignified”, a phrase coined by Walter Bagehot in his book the English Constitution (thank you Wikipedia).
The role of government is to be efficient. To look after the way things work and are actually done. The role of the monarch is to be dignified. To be a leader, a figurehead, and in Bagehot’s words: “To be consulted, to encourage and to warn.”
I make this point not because I feel for one moment like the Queen. Far from it! Corgis make me sneeze, though I think I look pretty good in a tiara. But whether you’re a queen, a president, or a CEO, you need to be consulted, you need to encourage and you need to warn. By “warn”, I see the modern day equivalent as offering critical judgement and decision-making. Vitally, and this is my real point, every leader needs an excellent management team to ensure the efficient nature of the organisation they run.
I’m very proud of my executive management team (EMT). This past month at TaxCalc I’ve been working closely with key members of the EMT to ensure the chain of command is as effective and efficient as it can be. I not only rely on my EMT to provide the best management information so that I can make the best decisions for TaxCalc’s future, I also need them to manage their own teams so that we are all performing and delivering collectively.
Every business is in a constant state of flux, vulnerable to its own capabilities and market conditions. We are lucky that we have experienced significant growth over the past year but nevertheless that presents great challenges. We are outgrowing our current space. New hires require embedding. New departments need to be created. We are also at a stage where we can invest in research and development to grow our product portfolio within our core sectors and also diversify outside of them. My management teams need to think holistically and not just in silos. There’s a lot to be done.
“Innovation in practice” is our mantra, and the lens through which we operate. My recent sessions with the EMT aim to inspire and encourage innovative thinking. However, they begin with the very simplest of questions: “What would you do if this were your business?” By soliciting honest responses I’m able to see TaxCalc from many different perspectives, not just my own. It’s proving to be an invaluable exercise. Our work together is ongoing. We can’t always be more dignified but we can always be more efficient.
Finally, the end of the year is a time for reflection. I look back on this time last year and so much has happened. I’d like to thank my staff for helping to make this year our best to date. I wish everyone in the business community a restful Christmas and a prosperous New Year. Here’s to 2017.
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