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4D Leadership

4D Leadership – Competitive Advantage Through Vertical Leadership Development

Twenty years ago the accumulation of skills, knowledge and experience (‘horizontal development’) was sufficient for business success. Today, it’s not. 4D Leadership – Competitive Advantage Through Vertical Leadership Development, offers a new approach of ‘vertical development’.

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Clarity of purpose

Mike Iddon- FD, FTSE 100

Mike IddonOne of the discussions I had with Alan was around my own unique attributes and skill set and what I bring to the team. Working with him has helped me ‘play in position’.

He really challenged me about what it is that I do. Initially I talked about five year plans, identifying good returns and market share ambitions, but Alan kept pushing me for something more. In the end we got to my core purpose – I figure it out.

Understanding that core purpose gave the whole finance team and me a new perspective.  Before then I was defined by my outputs and my team’s outputs. It was all about the fundamental bedrock of good financial control, reporting and planning, but that didn’t really explain why we all turn up at work each day. This new perspective helped us define ourselves by the contribution we were making rather than simply the number of reports we were creating.

The whole process has been very motivating for team. When Tesco itself announced its new purpose in October 2012 (we make what matters better together) we saw our contribution very clearly. We know we can ‘figure out’ exactly what it is that ‘matters’; is it sales, margins, market share, or a combination of those things?  We’re able to align our team much more closely to the business.

Beyond the clarity around our purpose, Alan has also introduced me to the various levels of consciousness and an understanding of how individuals interact. Being able to look at things from very different perspectives was very eye opening.  It opens your mind to different alternatives. In a big corporation like Tesco you can get very internalised in your thinking – you get ‘group think’. This meant that we’d become quite conventional in our way of thinking about things. Working with Alan on techniques to consider multiple perspectives helped my team think differently.  Now, just before I’m about to present my own view, I pause and think about what is shaping that view. It could be something I’ve read or been told, but whatever it is being aware of that influence gives a new perspective.

I’ve started to make much more effort to communicate and help others understand the wider context in our weekly trading meetings. At those meetings, I give a 30-minute overview of trade in the previous week to the 14 people there – both members of the UK board and senior commercial and operations directors. Our targets are very tough so, inevitably, we’re not hitting them all the time. In such situations, it’s easy to focus on the negatives, but that doesn’t help others ‘figure out’ what the results mean. I began to ‘reframe’ my briefing to put the numbers in context and to talk about growth areas as well as targets missed. You’re not glossing over the bad news; it’s just a far more balanced way of looking at it.

Without the reframing, delivering bad news creates a drop in energy levels. I felt it too. I was almost taking the blame for any missed figures myself.  With the new framing, we delivered a more positive contribution and could start to figure out why the numbers were as they were. This has an effect on both the energy levels in the team, but it also changed the belief structure. People had previously lived with a ‘not enough’ mind set; their emotional state was very much aligned with the day-to-day performance of the business. A change in this perspective us helped us towards a goal of more self-belief.

Combining the new framing with clarity around our purpose helped us spot what I call the ‘golden nuggets’. Out of data comes information, from information comes insight, and out of insight come golden nuggets. When you have a UK business that turns over almost £1bn each week and you’ve got 30 minutes to share key financial data, you need to bring forward the ‘golden nuggets’ that no one else can see.  They might be obvious to you, but they won’t be to everyone else.

Others may not have the access to all the data you have, they won’t have the same lens through which to view the data and they’re unlikely to have the same experience to frame things.  That understanding gave our team a lot of confidence and self-belief – our role is more clearly defined, as is our voice at the table.

One final word about energy; Alan talks quite a lot about the energy bank. There are things in your life that make deposits and other things that make withdrawals. Over a period of time, you need to ensure there are more deposits than withdrawals. It’s a really helpful technique for thinking about your whole life, including work and home. Alan encouraged me to keep an energy bank of my deposits and withdrawals. It drives you to do more things that lead to deposits. You beat yourself over things that go wrong, but you rarely give yourself or your team credit when things go right. The e-bank helps to redress that and it certainly helped me think differently.

I never have conversations with Alan when I don’t start to think differently about things. He leaves me with a much deeper understanding of myself, as well as an insight into the more theoretical side of models, techniques and new ways of looking at things.


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