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Richard Branson on Self-Awareness for Leadership Growth

All sorts of people find success as entrepreneurs, in every profession and area of life.

Richard Branson

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Q: What are the key personal characteristics that go hand-in-hand with business success? — Titto Mbuvi

All sorts of people find success as entrepreneurs, in every profession and area of life. What many have in common is that they’re ready to try and fail while they are figuring out which of their ideas will work, and so perseverance and courage are an entrepreneur’s best assets, as I’ve mentioned in previous columns.

A characteristic that I’d like to add to that list is self-awareness, because it can speed up that learning process and help you along the way.

Like most other companies, we at the Virgin Group have experienced a number of failures along with our successes – it is so easy to get things wrong. After you’ve launched one or more businesses that take off and start growing, it’s tempting to think that you know what you’re doing. Then, after you’ve started up another new venture, seemingly along the same model, you find to your astonishment that it’s about to fold.

This is what happened when we launched Virgin Cola in 1994. We started out with so much ambition, and we had a real impact: Our new business shook Coca-Cola to the core. We heard later that every meeting the top executives had for nine months was dominated by the words “Virgin Cola.”

But as time went on, we realised that we’d failed to adhere to our own rules. Virgin specialises in shaking up industries where consumers are getting a raw deal, but there was no great dissatisfaction with Coca-Cola, Pepsi or the other soft drink brands at the time. Why would customers want to switch to Virgin Cola? After all, we weren’t offering them anything that was radically different or much better value, and so the business was a financial failure.

With Virgin Cola, we were so intent on repeating our model that led to previous successes that we didn’t notice the problems with our idea. But we always learn from our failures, which makes us better at being self-aware – as has answering all the questions over the years about Virgin’s going into new industries.

I’ve found that knowing your business and yourself can also help you to know when to follow your instincts, so you can find the courage to move ahead and ignore the advice of naysayers. When we launched Virgin Atlantic in 1984, many people doubted us, assuming that we wouldn’t know how to run an airline since we had no experience in the industry – at that time we were known for our music label, Virgin Records.

We hired experienced aviation experts for help with logistics, but as we’d suspected, our lack of experience in the business turned out to be an asset.

My team followed me despite these very logical criticisms, not just because it was obvious that the industry needed change, but because we knew our strengths: We knew how to entertain people, and how to find out what amused them.

This wasn’t anything the other airlines were doing, and so we were able to offer something new: a fun, entertaining experience at 35 000 feet.

Self-awareness can also help you to persevere as you carry out your plan. When we launched our passenger rail service, Virgin Trains, in 1997, we were new to an industry again, but we had a bold vision: Our high-speed tilting trains would be fitted with comfortable new airline-style seats and we would offer great services like good food and Wi-Fi.

It took years to build and bring in the new trains and prepare the rail system for the new technologies, and so we had to use old train cars and the outdated system for a long time. But we knew who we were and how we wanted our new rail business to work, and that helped our people to weather the criticism along the way.

With the new trains and refurbished tracks, we have been able to double the number of passengers we carry, from 14 million to 31 million per year, and speed up journey times.

How are the people on your team, with their particular skills and talents, shaping your company and making it different from others? What’s special about your product or service? How is your company helping your community and environment?

If you’re an entrepreneur or business leader and don’t have the answers to these questions at the ready, it’s time to meet with your team outside the office. Throw a barbecue or dinner, and start up a conversation about what you have done so far and what you want to do.

While the answers will change over time, talking about this now will help all of you to get a sense of where you’re going and what you’ve built so far, helping to prepare you for the next bumps you encounter. And what could be better than having dinner and drinks with your team, reflecting on all you’ve accomplished and what comes next?

You Can Be an Inspiring Leader Regardless of Your Style. Find Out More Here.

Richard Branson is the founder of the Virgin Group and companies such as Virgin Atlantic, Virgin America, Virgin Mobile and Virgin Active. He is the author of "Business Stripped Bare: Adventures of a Global Entrepreneur."

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Leading

Coaching: The Best-Kept Secret To Growing As An Entrepreneur

A good coach can turn raw talent into refined expertise and refined talent into renowned success. But how do we bridge “the coaching gap”?

Zach Ferres

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Sometimes, a change at the top can be the difference between a perennial loser and a surprise contender. For proof, look no further than the Los Angeles Rams, a team which less than a year ago wrapped up a 4-12 season that included a midyear coaching transition.

New coach Sean McVay appears to have energised his players, helping the Rams capture momentum that was completely absent when the team lost seven consecutive games to close out the 2016 season.

Yes, the Rams play football, but there’s a lesson there for startup and small business owners. Because, like professional athletes, entrepreneurs perform better under the guidance of great coaches.

And the news there is good: Due to the competitive advantages entrepreneurs enjoy from expert coaching, the marketplace for coaches has started to swell. According to the 2016 Global Coaching study by the International Coach Federation and PricewaterhouseCoopers, global coaching revenue was estimated to be about $2.4 billion in 2015, besting 2011’s figure by a substantial 19 percent.

Not to mention what’s happening with the bigger guys: Up to 40 percent of Fortune 500 companies now work with executive coaches, according to consulting firm Hay Group.

Related: Paddy Upton: People Centred Coaching

Yet, while executive coaching has gained traction, many start-up founders lack access to high-quality coaches. The paradox? They can’t afford an experienced coach, but need one to be able to build their companies to the point of being able to do just that.

What separates a coach from a mentor

posted about this coaching paradox on LinkedIn a while back, and my post attracted a flood of comments. After reading them through, I realised that many people don’t understand the distinction between a mentor and a coach. While these positions might seem similar, there’s actually a world of difference between the two.

“Mentors,” for one thing, don’t usually follow a fixed schedule or require payment. They help with strategic issues, answering questions for founders without actively participating in company operations.

“Coaches,” on the other hand, are not afraid to get their hands dirty. They are typically paid, and operate on, a fixed schedule to help entrepreneurs make themselves better. Mentors offer great advice; coaches ask great questions.

Based on the comments my post attracted, founders of new start-ups are hungry for a coach. There’s a huge gap in the start-up community as it relates to coaching; everyone needs it, but relatively few people are willing to provide it for free. So, what to do?

How to bridge entrepreneurship’s coaching gap

bridge-gap-between-mentorship

The question is, how do we solve the paradox and match enterprising, young CEOs with talented coaches? The answer to this coaching quandary rests in the basic ecology of entrepreneurship. By studying the interactions between entrepreneurs and their physical environment, a cycle of mutually beneficial coaching exchanges begins to emerge.

Here are its three steps:

1. First-time founders: Barter for coaches

Young founders probably can’t afford to shell out more than $1 million a year for coaching sessions with Tony Robbins. Instead, they must find coaches willing to offer their services for a low cost. They also might be able to trade their own services for coaching.

My first coach, James, was also one of my clients when I was running my first company in Ohio. James was a sales coach who asked us to build his new website. When I initially met with him to discuss the project, I accidentally went to the wrong Starbucks. I arrived 15 minutes late for our meeting, which prompted his first lesson: “Be on time when you meet with people. You’re young, and you need to do the little things to ensure that others take you seriously and treat you as a professional.”

Many team members from BounceFire still remember “the call” James made to our office one day when things weren’t going well. We took our lumps, but we learned incredible lessons. He later admitted that he was deliberately hard on me because he wanted to see me succeed.

All first-time entrepreneurs should have someone like that to push them harder and help them navigate the early pitfalls of leadership – inside and outside of work. Work your network to find someone who might be willing to provide a bit of free (or relatively cheap) coaching every now and then to help keep you on track.

Related: How Leadership Coaching Can Lead Your Team To Sustained Success

2. Connect growing founders to paid coaches

Founders of expanding companies have experienced enough success to know where their problems lie, but they haven’t mastered everything. Paid executive coaches can hold founders accountable and provide detailed wisdom during critical decisions, making them a worthwhile investment.

Not sure what to look for in a good executive coach? Countless executives have gleaned incredible insights from the likes of Jerry Colonna, who uses self-inquiry to help executives hone their leadership skills and better understand themselves. Others take a more solution-oriented approach, asking questions to steer executives through routine business issues. Such was the case with Silicon Valley legend Bill Campbell. Find someone who meshes with your personal style, and view the monthly fee as a worthwhile investment in your company’s future.

According to the study by the International Coach Federation, 23 percent of coaches surveyed said they primarily focus on executives. Growing founders should not hesitate to invest some time and money into someone who can help them get more out of themselves.

3. Develop successful founders into coaches and advisors 

The path to coaching is relatively simple for successful entrepreneurs, because it’s typically one of the key traits you develop as a leader. Find one or two first-time founders whom you truly believe in, and give them an hour or two of your time every month for coaching sessions. This will keep your coaching and leadership skills sharp, and you will be helping the next generation of entrepreneurs.

I am still working to become a better coach and leader, but I do advise several start-ups across the country. I also find myself in an advisory role for many of our accelerator start-ups. We recently took seven of them to GITEX Technology Week in Dubai, and it was great to spend time mentoring start-up founders while learning about their unique struggles.

Related: How Business Coaching Can Help You Achieve Your Goals

Once you have some experience, you might consider doing a paid coaching engagement with an active or growing founder. As you break your way into the coaching scene, don’t forget to continue to work with your own coach – you’ll still need some help along the way.

Executive coaching shouldn’t be rare or reserved for well-connected entrepreneurs. A good coach can turn raw talent into refined expertise or refined talent into renowned success. From the greenest start-up to the most seasoned veterans, coaching is the key to unlocking untapped potential.

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.

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Why Your Fleet Management Plays a Pivotal Role In Your Business

Fleet managers and fleet management tools are often associated with large logistics and transportation companies.

TomTom Telematics

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The challenge

Fleet managers and fleet management tools are often associated with large logistics and transportation companies.

But, if your company:

  • Relies on transportation and vehicles to service your clients or deliver a product
  • Is interested in improving efficiencies and productivity, and saving on the bottom line
  • Has transport costs as a line-item on your expense report
  • Then you are a fleet manager — whether the title exists in your business or not.

Related: Fleet Tools Will Help You Get More Done In Less Time

The solution

Why do companies need fleet management?

WEBFLEET lets people work better together to achieve business results. When everyone is connected, people can work better together and this can help make smarter decisions to help businesses achieve their goals. These can include: Improved efficiency, improved productivity, improved accountability, greater focus on service, greater responsibility, and innovation.

WEBFLEET gets you closer to your drivers

When your team is connected, this helps everyone make better decisions — and that facilitates happy customers, great governance and reaching new goals for your business.

Quick to implement and easy to use, WEBFLEET provides immediate vehicle insight, tracking, messaging and controls, totally in sync with your core business processes.

webfleetWhat is WEBFLEET?

Software as a Service (online fleet management software) that provides businesses with immediate information about what is happening with their vehicles, people and orders in the field, designed for any business size and every vehicle type (passenger cars, vans, trucks).

WEBFLEET connects the vehicles and drivers with the staff in the office, bringing them closer together.

WEBFLEET provides vehicle tracking, fleet optimisation, workforce management and the option to integrate business applications.

The right fleet management solution will not only help you save on your bottom line, it can help you improve efficiencies and productivity, and give your customers a better overall experience.

Related: Why Mitigating Your Risk Can Drive Up Your Fleets Profits

TomTom Telematics is assisting its customers through the following solutions and differentiators:

  • A future-proof solution, thanks to continuous innovation. 17 years of experience in processing big data and turning it into actionable insights for TomTom Telematics’ clients means ground-breaking and continuous innovation is par for the course. These innovations include the industry’s first SaaS, first APIs, OptiDrive 360, maximum reliability and security due to an ISO 27001 certification and full reporting.
  • Proof through platform. WEBFLEET offers high standards of confidentiality, integrity and availability. It also offers an API that seamlessly integrates into any business process. TomTom Telematics also has the largest partner ecosystem with hundreds of proven integrations and add-on applications in the world.
  • An optimised user-experience. TomTom Telematics technology and products have been integrated to create an optimised user experience, including maps, traffic services and driver terminals.
  • Workflow efficiency. Help deliver higher standards of customer service and improve productivity through real-time visibility on vehicle location and mileage reporting, and live and historic geo-location data, which enriches dynamic routing and scheduling applications.

 

  • 77% – of workers drive over the speed limit due to work pressure
  • 30% – of your vehicles’ total cost of ownership is influenced by the way the car is driven

Visit telematics.tomtom.com/tellmemore and follow us on Twitter @TomTomWEBFLEET

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Leading

How You Can Make Leadership Excellence An Effortless Effort

From my childhood I was literally fascinated by the seemingly effortless performances of individuals whom have mastered their craft.

Dirk Coetsee

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“Wu-Wei” – From original Chinese, meaning effortless effort

From my childhood I was literally fascinated by the seemingly effortless performances of individuals whom have mastered their craft. Images of Luciano Pavorotti hitting high C notes with simplified grace, Chris Cornell’s raw rock voice hitting gravel and then reaching for the heavens, Lang Langs’ majestic hands creating unimaginable sounds on the ivory whites of a piano, Tony Robbins’ flaming and scorching energy, Churchills’ effortless and eloquent speeches, Bransons’ unrelenting passion for business and people, Jona Lomus’ awesome power, and Bolts’ graceful running leaves me in a state of inspired awe.

When the state of amazement enthused by great individuals dissipate we are left with a burning question:

How does one become a leader in any field and how does one reach a state where optimal performance virtually becomes a natural state?

Related: Servant Leadership – Will You Serve?

A vast amount of experiential learning and volumes of information would empower an individual to attempt an answer to this question. This writing is not an attempt at a solution to this complex question but instead only serves as a guide to those individuals whom has a burning desire to earnestly start on their search to find the truth for themselves.

Are leaders and top performers simply born with a great talent and therefore naturally will outperform others? Not necessarily so. Some modern Leaders such as Gary Vaynerchuck are totally unimpressed by talent yet very impressed by a knack for people skills.

The Legendary football coach, Vince Lombardi used to say: “Talent simply means you have not done it yet.”

The aforesaid implies that talent might be a bonus yet has to be combined with hard and effective work, as well as toughened mental capacity, to be moulded into skills required for performance at the highest level.

winston-churchill

“We shall not melt in the fire but instead be tempered by it” – The great Winston Churchill was alluding to the British nations willingness to endure great hardships and be transformed into one unified front and a patriotic nation during the carnage of the second world war. Most great Leaders ultimately learnt that hardships were not something to resist but rather something to invite in when it knocks at your door as it is the very hardships that teach and shape us, that is if we allow it to.

Those who fear their own inner greatness will run from the hardships and thereby neglect the wonderful yet very uncomfortable opportunity to grow as a leader and a human being. The daring few who would embrace their inner greatness, foster their own commitment and willingly be’ tempered by fire’ have started their journey towards greatness.

When embarking on this journey reflect on the fact that never was a great leader made without help.  A high level of self -awareness which is a basic requirement of effective Leadership dictates that we must get rid of the small voice of the ego that tempts us into daring to think that we could know it all and do all by ourselves. Be open to advice, seek help from the wise, and more importantly act on good advice.

When you earnestly seek mentorship the one that turns you down in general was not the right one in the first place. Alternatively, he or she turned you down because you were not ready to be mentored and must first earnestly seek your own heart for the truth about your intentions.

Your intent is the crucial factor and on the path to greatness everyone would do well to introspectively seek every corner of their hearts and minds and ask:

  • What do I honestly seek?
  • Is it fame or to help others or both?
  • Do I have pure selfish intent, or do I want to give back and coach other Leaders?

Related: Managing Resistance To Change: An Essential Management And Leadership Skill

Without sacrifice, without a burning desire to succeed, without help, and without ethical intent this journey is ‘a bridge too far’. A Leadership journey based on a hunger for power over others and greed for money might take you to great heights initially but the fall from those dizzying heights is far and excruciatingly painful.

What follows is an attempt to answer the very general questions facing most of us when we decide on whether we should embark on a personal Leadership journey or not:

Can anyone Lead?

Yes, it is a matter of intent, effective work, mentorship, sacrifice, people skills and continuous learning amongst other factors.

Does a title such as CEO, shareholder, president, professor imply that I am a leader?

No, a title is merely a name allocated to a position, the behaviours that led me to that title and the behaviours displayed for as long as I am in that position determines whether I was a leader or not, while I had or claimed to have that title. Leadership is not a title it consists out of behaviours that gives a title deep meaning and validity.

Do I have to have a formal qualification to be recognised as a leader?

No. Your behaviour determines whether you are a leader or not.  Continuous learning is a basic Leadership behaviour. Whether that means you obtain a formal qualification or learn through a mentor which learning does not result in a formal qualification has no bearing on your Leadership capacity or capabilities.

Contemplation of the above answers to the general questions that a lot of people consider might lead the reader to think that the state of “Wu-Wei”- “Effortless-effort “can only be achieved through a lot of effort. In thinking that you are correct, yet it is not only a matter of effort. To get to the ultimate state of performance as a leader each one of us must be so committed to a cause higher than ourselves that we are willing to be ‘tempered by fire’. We must cast our egos aside and remain “teachable”, and most importantly give back by coaching other leaders.

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