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Recently, NatWest Boost held a leadership session for the new crop of entrepreneurs and those who missed the session, really missed out. Its focus was 'what you need to be a good leader?' The session was led by Martin Riley…..  If you have held a key leadership role or not, the highlights are worth looking over. The main themes were:

1.    Develop your vision and a plan to deliver it;

2.    Get on with it! use your skills to work “the plan” effectively;

3.    Regularly horizon-scanand conduct gap-analysis to spot any required changes to the plan;

4.    PROBLEM SOLVING is the key skill to address '3' above;

5.    Implement – test out the proposed change before you ‘roll out’, and be sure the change 'fits';

6.    Use your influence and negotiating skills - to get the best from your people and get 'buy-in' (no one likes to change course without reason);

7.    Clarity - in purpose, what needs to be done and setting tasks for staff.

In the open discussion session there were a lot of anecdotes about common issues. As examples;  First, when you start on your own or with a small close team, delegation can be  a real problem for start-up entrepreneurs.

 Then, a common and related problem was “tunnel vision” (often about the plan) and not standing back to see the bigger picture etc.

Given the discussion, it is clear that one of big ‘traps’ for young companies is a reluctance to let go of your ‘baby’ as the business grows and failing to engender trust in ‘empowered’ employees.

Consequently, we discussed tips on understanding to get the best out of your team;

1.    Clearly, and early, communicate the alignment of your near-term objectives and how they fit into the medium and long-term goals;

2.    Identify and empower whoever has the best competence to complete the task or inform the decision (and it’s not always the you);

3.    Determine how much time and the resource implications – avoid being too optimistic here;

4.    Assess how complex is the solution and breaking it down into manageable parts (SMART objectives – Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Repeatable and Time bounded) and then allocating the responsibility for the task.

The session included a very interesting section on how to interact with a  team member and too get the best result was to explain that;

1.    As CEO, this is my problem, but you can fix it;

2.    I’ll explain the problem and what I think needs to be done, you have to understand the issues;

3.    We will discuss your thoughts but reach an agreement on the solution – what, when and how;

4.    You own the ‘fix’ but I’ll ensure that you have the resources for success.

Is there a simple model for continuous improvement? I offered a simple US feedback model called Boyd’s OODA (Observe-Orientate-Decide-Act) which can be adapted for business using Porter's 5 Forces and other models.



There are lots of ways to develop a plan and get the most out of your team. In the Armed Forces we talk about troops to task and setting the conditions for success. The RAF use SMEAC for leaders to engage expert team members, determine and brief the best course of action:

Situation – I’ll set out the context and the need for action;

Mission – This is the goal I need to achieve;

Execution – Let’s work out if the goal is correct and define how we will succeed;

Ask questions – An opportunity to challenge me with questions to ensure you fully understand your role

Check understanding – My challenge of you to ensure you (all) understand your part in delivering success.


Martin Riley's book - The Business Jet Engine® is designed to show how business works as a system, applied to an easy-to-understand metaphor; an aircraft and its jet engine.


Thanks NatWest ;-), it is fantastic to be surrounded by so many talented people starting their own businesses.

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