Richard Medcalf, Author at xquadrant
Richard Medcalf

Author Archives: Richard Medcalf

Richard Medcalf is Founder & CEO of xquadrant. Having held senior positions in both the professional services and hi-tech sector, he's committed himself to improving the quality of leadership and organisational performance around the world. The way to his heart is through curry.

How to release the game-changing potential of your team

“I want more innovative thinking from my organisation.” We hear this all the time from C-Suite leaders. Well, what if there were actually game-changing ideas that you simply weren’t hearing?

When a missed perspective results in missed opportunities

I was coaching the exec team of a high-growth tech firm, and had some in-depth discussions with the two co-founders, Raoul and Michael.

Raoul was an entrepreneurial, strategic and charismatic leader who had taken the CEO role, whereas Michael was a quieter, more reserved individual.

I noted that Michael was barely heard in the management meetings, drowned out by Raoul’s force of personality.

But when I dug into the company history, all the breakthroughs had come from Michael - and the lion’s share of dead-end strategies and projects had come from Raoul!

Raoul is a great leader, but those times when he didn’t listen to Michael’s holistic, long-range thinking were the times when he took the company down the wrong path, wasting time, resources and market share in the process.

I’ll tell you what I found as I coached Michael, but first let’s back-up a little…

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How you’ll fail to truly align 40% of your team

If you are a driven, strategic leader, you might be creating unnecessary resistance, stress and drama in your organisation because you’ve unintentionally shut down a critical leadership perspective on your team. Here’s how you can avoid this common trap.

A Visionary Leader…. An Organisation in Tatters

When I was at Cisco, a new leader came in to the company to merge two departments together and create a new business unit. The company went big on the announcement, wheeling said leader onto the quarterly earnings call with investors, and so on.

Two years later, the leader had left and the organisation was in tatters. There were a number of factors involved of course, but the absence of a critical leadership perspective had a major role.

We’ll pick up the story in a minute, but let’s step back and understand this absent insight.

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5 Team Performance Activators (that no-one talks about)

Overload and frustration. These were the two key themes emerging from our 2018 Organisational Leadership Survey.

You might resonate with Valérie, a regional VP in an online advertising firm who I spoke to last week.

Valérie has a team to manage but also has individual goals to achieve. She’s got a couple of star players she relies on extensively, but it’s extremely hard to get autonomy and results from the rest of the team. She’s frustrated because she knows the team could be so much better, but she doesn’t have the time.

Putting it another way, here’s the manager’s dilemma:

I’m frustrated because the team could be better, but I’m overloaded myself. It would take way too much time and energy to really move them forward.

The manager’s dilemma

The problem is most management advice was written for another age. Nowadays most team managers are also ‘individual contributors’; everyone is distracted and overloaded; the team is distributed in many locations and its membership changes faster than ever. 

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Biggest organisational barriers to success

In the spring and summer of 2018 xquadrant surveyed over 150 senior business leaders in order to understand their top business goals and the organisational challenges that were limiting their ability to execute.

In the first article, we saw who completed the Organisational Leadership Survey and revealed their top business priorities.

In this article we dive a little deeper and examine what leaders found are the biggest roadblocks to attaining those strategic objectives.

Part 3: Barriers To Success

We asked respondents to choose which organisational barriers were the biggest roadblocks to achieving their #1 strategic objective for the business.

3.1 Top barriers to growth

Growth-oriented leaders are consistently maxed out. The overriding barrier citied by leaders in high-growth contexts is that they and their team are permanently maxed out (47%). This is prevent the strategic thinking needed to get the organisation to the next level.

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The #1 thing holding YOUR team back

What's holding your specific team back?  What's stopping you get the business results you want?

It's a crucial question.

Until you can pinpoint the key limiting factor, it's incredibly difficult to make major progress in your team's productivity or effectiveness.  To use an analogy, there's no point tuning up the engine if the car has a flat tyre and there's no point improving the aerodynamics if there's no fuel in the tank.

Which is why we developed the Team Kryptonite assessment.

It's a simple multiple-choice questionnaire that takes under 60 seconds and will give you a quick read on the highest impact area for your team to work on.

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Senior Exec Priorities 2018

The results are in from xquadrant's 2018 Organisational Leadership Survey.

In the spring and summer of 2018 xquadrant surveyed over 150 senior business leaders in order to understand their top business goals and the organisational challenges that were putting the brakes on their ability to execute.  

The results are fascinating and we’ll review them in this short series:

  • In this first article, we’ll have a look at who completed the survey and we’ll make some high-level observations around the priorities of these leaders
  • In the second article, we’ll dive into the specific organisational and people challenges faced by executives in two key contexts: scaling and transformation
  • We’ll then take a practical look at the top 3 most transformative/impactful solutions identified by execs in each context (scaling and transformation) - and provide pragmatic implementation advice

>> No time to read this now? Concerned you’ll miss the insights from the rest of the series? Get the entire series in ‘bite sized’ emails + a convenient consolidated report.

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3 digital trends that change how leaders succeed

Q. Why do people scramble to answer the telephone?

A. Because their grandparents did.

Human behaviour always lags technology evolution. When our grandparents installed their home phones, a phone call was a very expensive form of communication, reserved for the weekly catch-up with distant relatives or for urgent and important notifications. So when the phone rang, you raced to answer it. It was important.

Contrast that with today. A phone call is practically free. If my experience is anything to go by, a call on the home phone (yes, still got one of those - giving away my age here!) is more likely to be a fortune-teller or independent financial advisor advertising their services than an important message from a friend. 

The point is this: humans change their behaviour far more slowly than technology.

But this creates unintentional negative effects. Jumping up to answer the phone used to be important, even at meal times. Now, it’s probably more likely just to disrupt the flow of conversation and family connection.

I observe the same effect in the business world. Many people are “managing people like their grandfather did” in a digital world where the context has radically changed.

Digital leaders - those who thrive in the digital age - need to act very differently to get results in this new context.

There are at least five mega-trends at work here. Here are three of them, which will be enough for this short article.  

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What do you do when your team are superstars?

I was speaking with the CEO of a fast-growing technology firm a couple of weeks ago. We were discussing how to build on their success by taking internal engagement, communication and alignment to a new level.

“I generally recommend starting with the senior leaders,” I explained. “Because leaders define culture, and people need to see their leaders walking the walk before they will follow”.

“Ah,” he replied. “But my leadership team are superstars. They are the best-of-the-best, they are going at 100mph and driving my business forward. Do they really need much input?”

It’s a great question. When we see poor leadership in our organisation, it’s easy to see the benefits of improved self-awareness, of a leadership toolkit or of a journey of growth. But… when our leaders are superstars?

In other words - do the healthy really need a doctor?!

Here are 5 questions to ask that can unlock growth when your leadership team already are superstars.

1. Have I celebrated them?

It’s great news that you have a team of superstars to rely on. You are in a privileged situation that is all-too rare. A superstar team can achieve truly great things.

And yet, precisely because these leaders are so low-maintenance and yet high-performing, it’s easy to underinvest in them in order to focus on the more pressing and painful challenges facing the organisation.

Action Step: Take a few minutes this week to thank them - not only for the results they are bringing in, but also for their professionalism, their character and your relationship. It’s such a simple thing but so easily overlooked.

2. Are we are team of high-performers, or actually a high-performing team?

At one point during my time at Cisco, I joined an incredible team. Everyone was a high-performer, with a strong track record internally and with key customers. And yet I could never shake the feeling that although we were a team of high-performers, we weren’t truly a high-performing team.

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The game-changing plan for 2018 you’ll probably forget to make

You’re making plans for 2018: setting goals and prioritising initiatives. But what’s your plan to grow your most important assets?

As you know, most organisations are focused on the cash-generating machine of their business: offerings and customers. However, only a few pay proper attention to the two fundamental inputs that drive the business:

  1. their people, and
  2. giving these people sufficient clarity on the goals and game-plan of the team that each person can truly play their position in the most effective way

I described this phenomenon in a previous article.

At GiANT Worldwide, we call this ‘accidental leadership’, because it’s the easy path and the default setting for us all. The problem is that when we treat people like liabilities, they start to become liabilities! When we fail to attend enough to these two areas of people and clarity, we see various problems creeping into the organisation, from lack of trust to poor performance. See this article for 10 typical warning signs you’re underinvesting in your team.

The harder path is to be an intentional and consistent leader, who treats people like assets so that they start to become assets. This is the leader that people actually want to follow and for whom they want to bring their best.

So here’s the challenge: do you want to be an intentional leader in 2018?

If so, you need a plan to get your team to the next level. We call this a People Plan and it’s a game-changer because it >> Read more…

10 signs you’re underinvesting in your team

Here’s a shocking fact: The average team comes in at just 55% when we measure team health and performance across 5 dimensions (click here to get a top-line assessment for your team in about 100 seconds).

Like you, I’ve been in teams good and bad. At their best, the sense of cohesion and synergy is phenonemal. My last couple of teams at Cisco had exactly that dynamic - collegiate, results-focused, and a lot of fun. However, we’ve all experienced team situations where there’s conflict, mistrust, apathy or a general lack of ability to execute.

The average work team scores just 55% against an objective measure of health & performance #leadership

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As the survey results show, most teams are operating at only half their potential. As I argued in The Owner’s Dilemma, this is because the laser-focus on product and customer actually results in an underinvestment in people and in building a clear model for the organisation.

This has the result of jamming the brakes on the very business the product/customer work is trying to accelerate!

The obvious next question is: how would you know if you are under-investing in your people?

Here are 10 symptoms I often see in the course of my leadership consulting work with GiANT Worldwide. How does your team measure up?

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