Category Archives: Management

Does culture eat strategy?

An 18 month hiatus and a commitment to writing more regularly! I’m back.

Peter Drucker: “Culture eats strategy for breakfast”. Believe it or not? Generally, strategy rules the roast and is seen as the more important side of the equation. To me they are equally important. Can’t have one without the other. It’s like a good sporting team without a good coach, or a good coach without a good team. To succeed you need both sides clicking.


I’m fascinated with how some leaders think culture is a function of HR thing or a marketing thing. Is it the responsibility of these departments alone? Culture is in every single person in the organisation. It needs to be. Win at all costs and not living the values of an organisation to achieve? That’s a no no in my book and leads to disruptive and unproductive practices, least of all it is very demotivating and demoralising. An organisation’s core assets are its people and without people, you don’t have the ability to execute strategy. To look after your people means to develop a strong culture, a bond, a commitment, and a willingness that you actually care and have empathy.

Too often leaders pay lip service to culture. Well, it doesn’t lead to a measurable Return on Investment such as hiring someone and getting x% growth in sales – so why should I really care right? I just want to make sure I hit that financial goal! What separates good leaders from others is a commitment to people and being measured not just on the what but the how. A great leader needs to understand the value of how.


Difficult decisions & Times of Change

It’s often said that you don’t show your true colours as a leader until you are forced  to make a tough decision. I do believe in this, and that the very essence of leadership is about showing true grit in times of uncertainty and when emotions can get in the way. I tend to think it’s easy when things are going well. As a manager and leader of people, it’s never easy to give the news of budget cuts or even harder to let roles and people go – which is happening a lot these days with the uncertainty of global economic markets. To some, people you work with are literally family, spending over 40 hours a week together. And when you have to be the bearer of bad news it’s never easy. So you appreciate the emotion that can affect people. But  how, as a leader, do you pick up the pieces and ensure the rest of your team continues to push ahead with your vision in the face of challenging times?

As a leader you can’t hide behind your decisions. When things change and people depart, there’s always a sense of uncertainty, emotion, shock and confusion. Give people peace of mind and be honest about the what and the why. I think that as a leader a core skill is to be authentic and genuine. Show that as much as you’re a manager and a leader, at the end of the day, you are human. To me that’s when you gain the respect of your peers and your team. As much as it can be daunting, building that “leadership mettle” is a critical step to advancing ones’ career. I can guarantee that in any career, there will always be ups and downs. Enjoy the ups, but make use of the downs. They can be invaluable.

You’ve really got to put things in perspective. Is life fair? No. Of course not. But we’re all dealt the hand we’re given and we have to push on.

Marketing Battleship: Seth Godin V Guy Kawasaki

Seth Godin a highly successful author, marketing expert and entrepreneur.  He founded Yoyodyne, one of the first online marketing companies, which was acquired by Yahoo in 1998. Marketing approach = emphasises the idea of building communities and delivering value – rather than pursuing people / business with marketing tricks.

His Blog:
His Twitter: @ThisIsSethsBlog

Guy Kawasaki
was one of the Apple employees originally responsible for marketing the Macintosh in 1984, now a best selling author with books like Rich Dad Poor Dad. Marketing approach =  recognising the potential in creating an audience that is not merely interested in a product, but one that is dedicated to it.

His Blog:
His Twitter: @GuyKawasaki

Who do you want in your corner? Lets get ready to rumbbbbbbbbbbble! Round 1. Fight!

By Killer Infographics: Infographic Design

The Power of Story Telling

I’ve worked on a few projects with a company called Seven Stories whose work is all about “bringing compelling stories to life”. They do some fantastic work and really help simplify the complexity and build s story. Working with them introduced me to the power that story telling can have on people and organisations.

As marketers, one of our roles is to tell stories. Really you ask? Think of when you had to sell an idea to your boss. Maybe it was selling the idea of a rebranding project, a creative concept on the latest ad campaign, or maybe a website redesign. Come to think of it, whether we are in marketing or not we all have to tell stories one way or another in the workplace. And as we move up the Corporate ladder, I think it’s all about telling stories to convince staff, shareholders, and the market of the journey you are taking them on. Q-How did Steve Jobs introduce the iPhone and iPad to the market? A-He had a compelling story to tell.


In business, a lot of our story telling is done by rational approaches: hard facts, numbers, return on investment. There’s nothing wrong with that, in fact, that’s how economies function. However, when you tap into the emotional side of things, that’s when you connect, when people remember you, and where you can make a difference. I guess that’s what movie directors are always trying to do in making the next Hollywood blockbuster. That’s not to say you should be coming up with a movie script each time you do a presentation to your boss in the workplace. But it is beneficial when you are selling the idea to try and think about what story you are trying to tell.

What was widely considered one of the more successful/popular Superbowl XLVI commercials recently (even though I loved the funny ones-see my post on 2012 Superbowl Ads)? It was the Clint Eastwood Chrysler commercial. Why? Because it told you a story. It took people on a journey. And it was a memorable one because it connected with people’s emotional side instead of the rational side which would otherwise just talk about the car’s features. Over 5 million YouTube views can’t be wrong!

It’s that “a-ha” moment that you want to cultivate. But it’s not just the end that’s important, it’s how you construct your story from start to finish. So when you do your next idea pitch, think about the story you want to tell. How can you connect with the audience to make it memorable like Mr W below…

2011. My year of Highs & Lows

As I look back at 2011, it had very high highs and very low lows. My time at Veda was filled with immense challenges that were richly rewarding. I would have it no other way.  The thing I am most proud of is to see the development of the people that I am responsible for in my team. To see each of them achieve their goals was very fulfilling. Spending more than 40 hours a week with “my crew” – they don’t just work with me/for me – they are a second family to me. It’s been 18 months for me at Veda, and to look back on Day 1 to the present, so many things have changed and more importantly the impact of what our Team does for the organisation has been seen. Thanks Guys.

On a personal note it’s been a roller coaster last 6 months. Cherish life. Honour death. In life, you take the good with the bad, the laughter with the sorrows, and the smiles with the tears. The most important thing is to move forward and think positively. Easier said than done, but I always think to myself that there are millions of people all over the world who are in a worse predicament than I am in – people not having basic food and shelter and having a right to live. No matter what happens to me, I will always feel that I am quite lucky to have been given the opportunity to be who I am and to have done what I have done. What this has taught me is that there’s no time to think about what might have been and ponder the “What-if’s” of the world. It’s all about looking ahead and working on what will be. There’s always light at the end of the tunnel and being and feeling happy in work and play is what it’s all about. Goodbye 2011. Hello 2012.

Building Effective Teams

Read this interesting post the other day on Building Effective Teams – An interesting piece that got me thinking about my experiences in People Management and Team Management. This is one of my most favourite parts of my job. It’s not so much that you get to “order people around” or have “power” because you can. For me, it’s all about being able to understand a person, identify their strengths and weaknesses, and help them work towards advancing their career. It’s a push and pull relationship. I learn as much about myself and how I work as my team does from me.

As people move up the Corporate ladder or as a small start-up gets bigger in size and expands, the concept of People Management and Coaching becomes ever so important. As a leader, you’re only as good as those that choose to follow you. So that means working with each individual member of your team – making sure you “listen” and have time for them. Yes, you might think that it’s additional work but that’s how you start to build effective relationships, especially for those that follow you.

I can’t prescribe one way or another what is best. For me, the secret sauce is developing your own style. I’ve been lucky enough to have some great people I have followed in the past. Taking bits and pieces from each person and becoming myself and developing my own style.

The Power of Feedback

As a manager of people, feedback is often the most difficult aspect of it all. Easy to tell someone they’ve done a bad job but even harder to tell someone they’ve done a good job. Praise, reward, and recognition often goes unnoticed. But the power this has on people is amazing. Many years ago, I remember being praised by my manager in front a group of my peers and after that moment, it just lifted me to perform better and really want to do everything I could to make my manager and our department stand out. I think feedback is one of the most underestimated tool in a manager’s toolkit.

Negative feedback is almost always easy to do. You should have done this – you should have done that! But managers need to have a bit of EQ when it comes to this. You don’t want to demoralize your staff member. You want to try and frame it in a positive way – and in a manner from which they will a) acknowledge it & b) ensure they learn from it. The last thing you want is to get your staff member so off-side by what and how you give feedback that they start feeling uncomfortable and it begins affecting them negatively. But tell them why you are giving them this feedback and what you hope they will get out of it. Sounds simple, but all too often I’ve seen it not work!

When it comes to positive feedback, there are a million things in the toolkit. I remember one of Jack Welch’s books about how he wrote a small thank you post-it note and stuck it on the monitor of someone in the factory, personally signed – and my how effective and powerful that was! Mentioning one of your team member’s performance to your boss, recognising someone immediately after a good job, simply saying thanks face to face, writing an email/letter of thanks, nominate them for official staff awards, recognise them at staff meetings, offer them flexible working hours, offer them additional training/development programs…..and the list goes on. The ability to inspire and motivate should not be underestimated.

When’s the last time you told someone they did a great job?