Investors talk about the entrepreneur as the lynch-pin. Are they right?

Investors talk about the entrepreneur as the lynch-pin. Are they right?

Will the real entrepreneur please stand up.
Mark Loftus for Startups Magazine.

“It may be a stereotype, but CharacterScope data has found that entrepreneurs tend to be low on perseverance and grit than most other leader types. They typically have a butterfly mindset, constantly flitting from one opportunity to the next.”

Common sense suggests that an entrepreneur is the lynch-pin of a startup. Investors often talk about the entrepreneur as being synonymous with startup and scale-up; the person they look to invest in. But are they right? 

To read the piece in full on the Startups Magazine website click here.

Do businesses get the balance between growth and company culture wrong?

Do businesses get the balance between growth and company culture wrong?

Fast Growth Startups present risks for company Culture.
Mark Loftus for Prolific London. 

“As a business, your ability to grow ultimately will completely depend upon staff retention. In an era where culture so often means nothing more than a couple of free beers and a table tennis table, companies that invest in getting their culture right will open themselves to benefiting from a strategically important source of competitive advantage.”

Fast moving businesses often get the balance between growth and company culture wrong. How you should get the best from both? 

To read the piece in full on the Prolific London website click here.  

Organisational culture and your bottom line

Organisational culture and your bottom line

CharacterScope CEO, Mark Loftus recently held a session with a group of entrepreneurs and founders at Birmingham’s Barclays Eagle Labs on the importance of organisational culture.

The article below highlights some of the key things they discussed as well as some practical advice to make sure that culture doesn’t become something that holds your business back.

“We are on a new path forward with the hiring of our Chief Executive Officer Dara Khosrowshahi in September 2017 following many challenges regarding our culture, workplace practices, and reputation.” 

In a sign of how far attitudes have changed to the importance of culture within an organisation,  Uber’s IPO prospectus made a point of addressing it both in terms of historic risk and future opportunity. No longer is culture seen as something ethereal, an almost invisible measure relating to whether people enjoy being in the office. Instead, it’s becoming something tangible, that has a real impact on the fortunes, valuation and growth of a company. 

Peter Drucker famously once said that “culture eats strategy for breakfast” and while businesses may consider that this means culture supersedes strategy, it doesn’t. It just means that the best strategy in the world could be undone by the disconnect between your working culture and the rest of the business. 

The fact that the value of proactive culture building is often treated with suspicion by startup and business founders suggests that they have yet to understand the importance of it and how it can impact their bottom line. Because culture is generally invisible, it’s hard to measure by traditional means. Indeed, it’s generally only noticeable when walking into an office, in their reception, and with whatever slogans they choose to adorn their walls. 

But culture runs far deeper than this. Consider that culture, in essence, reflects the character and ethics of a business’s founders or management team. This can mean in the earliest days it is the result of habitual behaviour and beliefs of just one individual. And if it’s habitual, deeply embedded in an organisation, it will come out and influence all situations. Whether thats is in approaches to work, clients, employee management or business planning. 

So what can founders do about culture? Shape it! 

It’s all well and good recognising that the culture of your company might be wrong or might need a shape up. But it’s even better if you can actually make the change. Instigating something that could change your company for the better could lead to a business impact beyond improving the atmosphere in the office and have a direct impact on your bottom line

It’s important to make the invisible, visible and the unconscious, conscious. And more often than not, culture, especially in fast growth start-ups, reflects the character of an individual.  So if your founder is hugely optimistic, you’re going to see that across the business. 

As a business scales, it is important culture is something that is proactively designed and implemented, led by a set of beliefs and ethics that will shape the way the business operates. And while founders will influence culture, the change and impact needs to be driven by those who are directly affected. 

Gone are the days of a top-down change, for example, a move to an open plan office.To create lasting and tangible impact, a business needs to change from within, with all employees engaged on the journey, creating together a shared culture of learning and development.

Building a culture of leadership

Building a culture of leadership

Scaling leadership development is the single fastest way to create new capabilities across an organisation. There is no ‘silver bullet’ to achieve this: coaching is a potential solution but not cost-effectively scalable and emerging digital products show promise, but remain untested.

Whatever the means of delivery, there is one certainty – when it comes to organisational life, culture drives everything. But the lack of solutions to scalable leadership development means that too many businesses end up with a  culture of ‘followership’ rather than ‘leadership’. With this, they lose their ability to draw everyone in the organisation to develop and perform to their full potential.

Can everyone be a leader?

One of the greatest challenges we face at CharacterScope is in tackling perceptions about the nature of leadership. The word ‘leader’ brings to mind those in positions at the top levels of an organisation. The idea of viewing everyone intrinsically as a leader can come across as idealistic and unrealistic. It also seems to underestimate the impact top level leadership has on a business.

Yet at its simplest level, leadership is a choice. We are leading every time we make a decision, push a conversation in a certain direction or go out of our way to support a colleague or friend. It is less about position and more about disposition. However, this philosophy instinctively seems incompatible with long-standing hierarchical systems. So let’s we reframe the question: if not leadership, does an organisation need followers?

Many leaders see it as their responsibility to energise their team to tackle and solve the operational problems, challenges and complexity which naturally arise in a business. But if the team has the capability to solve them, then why do they need motivating and inspiring? If leadership translates to action, then the risk with a follower mentality is that it naturally tends towards inaction. The result all too often is an abundance of watching, waiting, debating and uncertainty. And even worse, of people blaming and criticising their leaders for not being good enough – placing the reason for their own lack of motivation and satisfaction on their leaders.

A culture that sets direction

That is not to deny the critical impact of senior leaders: leadership culture is formed from the top down. Culture is effectively a self-supporting web of beliefs and behaviours. Over time these become leadership practices and eventually create an environment that attracts people who share their values. It is essential that an organisations culture aligns with their overarching business strategy: if the two are at odds, leaders at the top must recognise that change starts with them.

An interdependent leadership culture functions on the principle of leadership being a collective activity which strengthens the organisation as a whole. With a clear shared purpose, culture and values, the entire dynamics of an organisation become much more connected.

A culture that drives development

Leadership development revolves around recognising and unlocking potential: identifying our natural talents, having a vision of ourselves leading, and working to turn that vision into a reality. It is rooted in the mentality that each one of us already has natural strengths of character and that becoming a good leader is driven by service in the area of those strengths. 

Organisations that have a culture of leadership development use these principles to create a widespread understanding of each individuals’ value and unique contribution. This is not dependent on the time or money invested in tools: it is dependent on a culture that provides the right commitment, focus and environment.

Leadership capability needs time and space to grow and people must feel their growth is valued. They also need to be able to openly discuss and reflect on their progress and the obstacles they face and be able to experiment with new ideas. They must feel that management and their peers understand the importance of devoting time to development and have the freedom to do so.

A culture that drives performance

Building a leadership culture goes beyond investing in and mentoring the next generation of high performers. Organisations that prioritise leadership development lead in attracting, retaining, and nurturing the best talent. Top level leaders that have the self-awareness and put the time and energy into harmonising their organisational culture and their business goals create a more driven and connected organisation. A developmental mindset empowers that talent to go beyond their comfort zone, with an awareness of their natural strengths. A culture that embeds these principles inevitably drives a company to high performance. It tends to adopt core values. It inspires employee and client engagement. It aspires to lead in its industry. It organically fosters innovation and collaboration while recognising and unlocking potential.

Imagine an organisation full of people that understand their own value, the strengths of their peers and their potential. Where every team functions at peak performance, understands the organisation’s overarching business goals and has a true sense of purpose and direction. This is the catalyst for business transformation.