Category Archives: leadership

Why simplicity is important in innovation

It is so easy to fall into the trap of ego. You know you have a great idea, and you want to show the world how clever it is…well, it is easy to also want to show the world how proud you are of having thought of it!

And being proud is a good thing.

…Just not so proud that it derails your innovation. Let me give you a good example, witnessed often in previous roles in large corporations:

Clever person solves a problem. Clever person then tries to share solution with other clever people, but makes the pitch lopsided, and the OTHER clever people end up offering to help with THEIR solutions to the problem. Clever person leaves feeling devalued, demotivated and misunderstood.

So what went wrong?

The mistake was made to make the PROBLEM bigger than the SOLUTION. (We tend to do this when we want to build suspense, to really milk out the praise we think we deserve for our brilliant solution.) It then back fires, because we focus too much on the stage before the solution, and once everyone’s brain is in help and solution mode, it is very challenging to present a solution. Intelligent creative people love problem solving and are so eager to help, they can’t stop!

Try this next time

Instead of building up the problem too big and subsequently losing your moment to shine, try summarizing the discussion you want to have up front. Try starting with saying something along the lines of : “You know that x we have been mulling over? I have a solution I want to share with you today, and I am really proud of it!”

Be honest, know yourself and use your strengths. Innovation is only beautiful when it is simple, and everyone gets it.

(Just like a good joke is only funny if you don’t have to explain it.)

Leadership struggles

As a leader, one of the hardest things is to figure out when to push your employees, and when to back off. Finding the balance, different for each person you lead, is hugely challenging.

Sometimes leaders get fed up too, because in the end of the day, we all have rough days when we just want to roll over and pull the covers over our head. But as the leader of a team or a company, that simply isn’t an option. Your actions would impact too many, and for a long time. You need to stay professional, at all times. Moping has to be done at home, hidden away from those your emotions will influence, worry or offend.

Supportive leaders are great

But how do you make the decision to just stop helping and stop coaching? When do you say “enough is enough” and draw a line in the sand? For example, how much of our personal life’s should we bring into the office? When should we tell our teams to be professional and just get on with it? Is it right to have team members not pulling their weight because they are going through a tough time at home? Should a boss be a mentor, a coach or a psychologist? Or all of it?

Lead with kindness

I always advocate empathy and understanding and believe leading with kindness is right. But….here is a thought for consideration: Is it right to spend extra time and resources on the ones who aren’t performing? Is it fair to the other ones in the team, those who are doing well, even great? Shouldn’t THEY be the ones who get the time, the coaching, the support and the help?

If you want to lead a team of high performers, is it strategic to spend most of your time worrying about the low performers? Or is it time to just ditch the deadweight and go with the stars?

Pondering continues.

Innovation is difficult? I disagree!

We are naturally capable of innovating all the time, but our psychological filters stop us before we even get out our drawing books.

How hard is it to innovate? Is it raw talent, a trained skill or just luck? As a growth company, how can you repeatedly implement great new products, processes or services? Continuous innovation is not easy and if you keep using the same method you will experience diminishing results.

Innovation comes naturally to me, as my key strengths of Improvement and problem solving, combined with creativity and a love of change bring me a brain that never stops. (Exhausting, trust me.)

Here are my top 8 suggestions to get your started into the habit of innovation:

1.     Ask customers. If you simply ask your customers how you could improve your product or service, they will give you plenty of ideas for innovations. Typically, they will ask for new features or that you make your product cheaper, faster, easier to use, available in different styles and colours etc. Listen to these requests carefully and choose the ones that will really pay back.

2.     Observe customers: Never ask what they WANT. Ask what THE PROBLEM is. Then you can innovate.

3.     Copy Paste: look at someone else’s idea. One way to innovate is to pinch an idea that works elsewhere and apply it in your business.

4.     Minimize or maximize. Take something that is standard and minimise or maximise it. Take out the middle man. (IKEA lets you build your own furniture, or sells the service to pay extra for someone to do it for you)

5.     Eliminate. What could you take out of your product or service to make it better? Dell eliminated the computer store, Amazon eliminated the bookstore, the Sony Walkman eliminated speakers and record functions.

6.     Collaborate. Work with another company who sees things differently. We recently spoke to a lighting company who had great ideas for improving visibility in surgery.

7.     Combine. Combine your product with something else to make something new. It works at all levels. Think of a suitcase with wheels, or a mobile phone with a camera or a flight with a massage.

8.     Ask your team. Lead your team is such a way that innovation and improvement is always on everybody’s mind, and that nobody is afraid to speak their opinions.

Mentoring Questions Part 3: EXIT STRATEGY

My goodness, I had more to say on this than I thought!

Thanks for coming back to read this third part. 

I got a letter in the mail a couple of weeks ago, from a company who asked if they could sell my company for me. As one of the things they wanted to discuss with me, they had listed my exit strategy for when I wanted to sell my company. I told them I would #neversell , but I would be happy to hear what they thought the company would be worth. They didn’t respond. 

Anyway, it reminded me about something I always used to try to install in my teams when we embarked on large projects in the corporate world: Exit strategy. 

I have observed, as well as been a part of, teams or projects that keep going long after any sane and remotely objective person would have called it quits. Why? Because it is hard to say “I give up”. And it is even harder to do it in a corporate environment where nobody wants to be pegged as being negative or pessimistic. 

So what is the responsible and strategic way to go? Make an exit plan. (And then hope you never have to implement it!)

Helping just because we can…Hana Lee’s Story!

From Angela & JUNE MEDICAL… 

16 year old student Hana Lee met JUNE MEDICAL Managing Director Angela Spang on the 11th July 2017, when Angela was delivering a talk at Hana’s School in Amersham.  Hana got in touch with Angela after hearing her speak at Amersham school with an interest in the Apprenticeships that JUNE MEDICAL had to offer.

As Hana planned to go back to school to study for her A-levels it was decided that an apprenticeship wasn’t for her at this time, however JUNE MEDICAL who are always happy to help and encourage new talent, offered Hana some work experience over her summer holiday period.

Hana carried out some key market research for our sister company LMEDAC, which will help determine the next direction for the business to take.  Hence Hana was instrumental in some extremely valuable work and proved a worthwhile contribution to the company in the weeks that she worked with us.

Hana fitted straight in within our team environment, she had her head down working hard but also joined in with office discussions, team meetings and brainstorm sessions – she even took the initiative to clean the office without anyone asking her.

Hana’s time with the JUNE MEDICAL team proved to be mutually beneficial and she was a pleasure to have onboard.  This is another fine example of Angela Spang and her team giving back and developing future prospects. 

After only a couple of days into Hana’s work experience she expressed the wish to continue working with us.  This is something we hope we can make happen for her.  Angela and her team wish Hana the very best of luck with her future career development. 

From Hana’s Perspective…

Why did you want to come and work with us: I attended my schools induction day and Angela was there giving a talk which was mainly about body language and how people acted/reacted in certain situations.  I knew I wanted to do some sort of work experience during the summer but at the time I hadn’t found anything.

After hearing Angela talk about the apprenticeships her company ran, I took the opportunity to get her email address at the end of the session to see if I would be able to get some work experience with her.

Since both June Medical and London Medical Education Academy (LMEDAC) deal in the medical industry, I found that this would be the perfect work experience to ‘get my foot in the door’ and gain experience in the general field of the industry I am currently planning to work in.

Why would you like to continue working with us?: I would love to continue to broaden my current knowledge further with both June Medical and London Medical Education Academy.  In the summer I learnt things I had no prior knowledge of and the work continued to interest me.

I didn’t have a dull day especially as everyone in the office was so kind and friendly

What have you learnt so far?: I learnt a lot about medical procedures in a range of different specialities due to the market research I did and I gained a new insight into the use of cadavers for medical training.  Also, thanks to Liz (Thornber) of LMEDAC, I was also given a quick overview at the marketing side of the company and how to use SalesForce and MailChimp.  I came to the realisation as to how important social media is to a constantly growing business.

What are you ambitions for the future?: Currently, I want to study Psychology at University but before that I am planning to take a gap year to travel and volunteer or work – I know I won’t have the time to do this otherwise.

Long term, at the moment I feel I would like to be a Psychologist or a Psychiatrist.

Keeping In Touch…

True to our word, the team at JUNE MEDICAL and LMEDAC have kept in touch with Hana and we are following her progress with genuine interest.  After a recent follow up we were delighted to hear of how Hana’s time with us has made an impact on her ability moving forwards…

How did you do in your GCSE exams?:  got two 8’s, one 7, four A’s, two B’s and one C whilst at the Amersham School.

Has working with us over the summer changed anything for you going back to school?: The work I did has helped me prepare for my A-Levels as I learned how to become more independent in my research.  This has definitely been helping me so far as additional research into my subjects has been a lot easier than it would have been, had I not had the chance to work with you.

Are you hoping to come back and spend any more time with us?: I would love the opportunity to come back and work again!  At the moment I’m focusing on my new school Dr Challoner’s High School and A-Level courses, but if I got the chance in the future I would definitely accept.

Were you inspired by working with us and has it helped you in anyway?: Working with June Medical and the London Medical Education Academy has really helped me to decide to carry on doing my A-Level subjects and it will definitely help me in the future as it’s helped me focus on what I really enjoy and want to do.

Would you recommend work experience to fellow students and why?: This work experience was an amazing opportunity and I would definitely recommend it to fellow students, especially those at my school as many are aspiring to work in the medical field in the future.

Any advice that you can offer following your experience with us?: The opportunity was great!  I fully expected to be doing filing and the ‘coffee & tea runs’, but you got me straight into researching.  I don’t have any advice to offer as the experience went beyond what I envisaged.

GUEST BLOG: Ali Arif

When Angela had messaged me asking if I could write an article for her blog, I took the opportunity and was immensely excited.  The experience of her teaching is something I can write about for hours and hours.

Angela came to my school to teach us about the art of body language:

How it can promote leadership, learning, development, entrepreneurship and growth. From the first time I spoke to her, I knew that me and her would get along because she did the best thing possible, which was offering me crisps. Continue reading GUEST BLOG: Ali Arif

Two new people to help find their strengths!! Who’s excited!?!

Me!

In september, we have a new apprentice start, on a rotation program between 3 of my companies. She is in for a treat very different to most apprenticeships: she originally didn’t want to do one, because she was afraid she would be filing and making tea for a year.

Not with us. Here, you learn.

When Ifsa (our first apprentice) started, we gave her responsibility for the entire Continue reading Two new people to help find their strengths!! Who’s excited!?!

Why leaders with egos are bad for business

Here is what a leader with a big ego will do:

  1. Being defensive. (Early sign: Defending ideas. Ultimately turns into becoming defensive.)
  2. Comparing to others. If you continually compare yourself to others, you will actually become less competitive. Too inward focusing!
  3. Seeking  acceptance to justify your ego needs. You crave respect and recognition from others, which eventually interferes with your success.
  4. Show off: You make a point of showcasing your brilliance.
  5. You think you have all the answers.
  6. Reject advice. Not smart.
  7. Can’t admit to being wrong. Ever pushed an idea through, even though you had that sinking feeling in your gut? Cut your loss and regroup instead. Only weak leaders have a hard time doing this.

None of this will make your business stronger, bigger or healthier, and none if this will foster good leaders around you.

Got a big ego? I suggest you send it on holiday for a few weeks and see how you get on without it. You just may be surprised.

I’ve yet to meet anyone complaining someone’s ego is too small.

“Whaddaya mean, it ain’t personal?!!!”

Oh yes, it is.

Me starting a company is personal. VERY personal. I put my career into this, my skill, my talent, my goodwill, my credibility. I have used every contact I have, every favour I was owed and every connection I could think of. I have convinced people I CAN DO THIS, despite their lack of belief, their concern for my family, or their worry about my future.

I have had talks with every employee coming onboard, convincing them that this is THE PLACE TO BE, we are going places, we will be a company to grow and develop in.

So if you for even a second think that a startup or an established company isn’t PERSONAL to the founder and owner, think again.

Every single record on Companies House is a manifest of a dream, a vision, an act of bravery. It is a rebel act against facts and statistics, and a streak of both genius and crazy.

You may not like what we do. You may not even care. But know this: for EVERY company out there, there is at least ONE person for whom it is personal.

Very, very personal.

“What’s your strength?”

I asked….and they didn’t know. I was a bit saddened by that. They looked so lost.

I asked them what their strength was; 29 out of 58 wasn’t able to write down anything on the paper in front of them. Just a sad face in the space where their strength was supposed to be.

A room full of young people, 85% had already told me they didn’t know what they wanted to do, or be, or dream of. A few were clear: focused goals and a plan of how to get there….but the majority looked like deer in headlight; “Oh no, will this be another grown-up telling me what I should do..?”

So I told them. Loud and clear, I let them know that I wasn’t going to tell them a single thing about what to do with their lives. A few looked like they were thinking I wasn’t being very helpful. That may very well be true. But I wanted to give them a bigger gift than that.

I wanted to give them a tool to figure it out for themselves.

So we spent an hour together, talking about two major things:

  1. Body language. How to figure out what someone is saying when they are not using just their words. And, perhaps more importantly, how to communicate back and forth on that level.
  2. Strengths. Not weaknesses. Not fixing “what you have to be better at”. I told them to stop wasting their time, because trying to fix your weaknesses is fighting nature. Make sure your weaknesses isn’t putting barriers up for you, but don’t strive to be better than someone else in an area of weakness. Focus on your strengths: Find them, hone them, practice them.

Show off your strengths. Wear them like a badge of honour, a crown on your head, a halo of skill leading your way.

And then we talked about how. And we practiced, because if you don’t know what your skill IS, how are you going to know how to do all that?

More about that later. Sign up to get a notice when I spend time to develop that part of the conversation.