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Leading an MSB:

Creating the Best Leaders


Peter Collins


Fast Forward Growth

· Leadership,Leader Interviews

“As an SME becomes an MSB, it’s important that the leaders gain the ability to recognise and be aware not just of their surroundings but also of how they are acting and influencing those surroundings.”

It’s hard for an individual leader to say, ‘if I were to change, would I be happier and a better leader?’ Finding the answer to this is further complicated by a lack of connectivity to new knowledge.

An MSB leader must recognise that not only is professional development important in order to keep going, but that personal development equally needs to start and run parallel to it.

The acknowledgement of this issue can only be done with external help from independent sources. It facilitates their own particular thinking to come to a conclusion where they recognise the problem and are then prepared to do something about it.

For leaders to decide on what particular professional development courses or groups are suitable for them also requires this external independent help. Those that were available when they were smaller are now not appropriate to where the company has moved to. They can’t just do the same course they enjoyed when the company had 10 employees.

So, what is the best training and development resource for MSB leaders?

The range of products in the marketplace that are relevant for mid size and large business leaders are quite small and very specialist. They are almost always residential programmes.

One of the greatest training and professional leadership development businesses in the world is the British Army. Some of their techniques have been taken into private ownership and operate at locations around the country. They are always fully booked so you need to plan attendance 12 months in advance.

They are aimed, in the main, at improving your self-awareness as a business leader. It’s not the type of programme that ends with a performance report to the company; it’s very much designed for you to discover yourself to a greater degree than any of the programmes that most people attend as they start their career.

How can we measure the ROI for these types of training programmes?

It’s really simple. It’s been proven many times. The best example I can give is Clarks Shoes. As they grew, they did a really large step change a few years ago and nobody could quite understand why this step change had occurred and sales had gone through the roof. The year before they actually used one of these awareness programs to send their entire senior management team on.

When their Leaders went back to their areas of control, they had a completely different attitude and really focused on utilising their own self-awareness and utilising their strength to provide a very clear, very simple environment. Their areas could operate not only really well but also they’d actually created a lot of enjoyment in their area for their teams.

All senior managers were interviewed about 18 months later on and they said the programme they had been on was life changing.

“An MSB leader must recognise that not only is professional development important in order to keep going, but that personal development equally needs to start and run parallel to it.”

Dealing with leaders when the business outgrows their skill set

If someone has been with a company in a leadership role, the company can outgrow their skill set. These people end up really lost and not sure what to do, so we see them being moved around the organisation – from commercial director to operations director, and so on.

The company is trying to find a hole for them, where really they should be confronting the issue for the benefit of the individual concerned. Not only do they need to recognise the problem, but they need to come up with a strategy to move forward to a solution.

But the problem is really much more personal than you would think. This is not a business problem, and when you recognise there is a difference and you focus on the person, ask: “What is it that we need to do to help you get through this phase of your career? What is it that we need to do to take away the stress you are now suffering?” Companies must focus on the individual in front of them.

One of the best things that they can do is basically say, “okay, let’s both accept that there is a problem, let’s find a way around it that works for you personally” – because if you can fix the personal issue, you inevitably end up fixing the business issue.

On so many occasions I’ve seen this problem. Between the business and the individual, we’ve agreed that we need to try and help them resolve this thing in their career, outlining what we need to do and asking if they are prepared to do it. We can then expose that particular individual to a high-level self-awareness course.

Quite often at the end of these programmes we either get a completely reinvigorated individual who bears no resemblance to the person they were before they went, or we get someone who has decided, “I’ve got to this stage in my life, I recognise that I’m not at the right place, I need a different career and I need to make a step change.” They have been exposed to a greater understanding of themselves and the role they play, and of the relationships they have developed with their environment and the people around them.

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