Episode 35: How to lead ourselves and our teams better ~ discussing big challenges and big opportunities of 2023
SCALE - marketing, sales, services, revenue growth, M&A's
As everyone gears up for a new year, in this episode of The Wize Guys Podcast, Brenton Ward, Jamie Johns, and Ed Chan talked about how to become better in 2023, what's the right mindset to have when it comes to new year's resolution, and how to properly set up your goals for the new year.
Find out how you can gear up and grab the opportunities ahead!
0:35 - New Year, New You
1:34 - The importance of consistency
6:06 - Getting the balance right in the P&L activities
9:57 - How critical is decision-making
11:41 - How to conduct performance reviews with staff
14:59 - Tips for analyzing the net promoting scores (NPS)
16:20 - Factors to becoming a better leader
20:02 - Why you should start to trust the process
“So changing things and chasing the next shiny thing is the most disruptive activity that you can do for the team.” - Ed Chan
“It's the decisions that you make right now that determine your success and the direction that you take.” - Jamie Johns
“...there's a saying that you should work harder on yourself than on the other person.” - Ed Chan
“Trust the process.” - Jamie Johns
“...focus on improvement. Improvement, not perfection.” - Jamie Johns
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Download the full transcript here.
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Brenton Ward: So guys, we're gonna talk about being better, becoming better. We're sitting here in December, we've had a very good year. I'm looking down the list of all the attendees and we've heard various stories from a lot of you, whether it be in the WizeTribe or on email or conversations that we've had of a lot of the successes and the challenges that you guys have overcome this year.
But I think a lot of the time we sit here at this time of the year and we have this urge or this need, I think it's like this innate human thing to want to start new things in the new year to want to commit to new habits, to set new goals, to refresh, to reboot, to recharge, all those sorts of things.
Ed, I wanna put it over to you because sometimes these new, fresh, shiny things can be a bit of a distraction and lead us to a strain based on the good work that we've done this year. So what are your suggestions when it comes to New Year's resolutions?
Ed Chan: For me, it's the danger in that kind of thing is that you go chasing the next shiny thing. You don't get any traction from the things that we need to put in place. People, especially the staff, talk about early adopters, middle adopters, and late adopters. The staff especially needs you to be consistent and persistent in what you do and the message that you give them. So changing things and chasing the next shiny thing is the most disruptive activity that you can do for the team. The team wants consistency, they want persistence, they want to know where they stand and they want stable leadership. So changing things constantly is just not the way to go And especially before you create new habits. For some of us, it takes doing the new thing once or twice and it becomes a new habit. For others, it might require them to do the same new task, 5 or 6 or 10 times. And for the later adopters, it might take 20 or 30, or 40 times of doing it before it becomes a new habit.
As a leader, you need to just bring everybody with you, be consistent with what you're doing, and be very stable in the messages that you give them. So if you are lead with that, then you're gonna get the team coming along with you. Now as I said, they'll come on board at various stages, as long as your message is consistent and you persist, then you eventually get everyone on board. But chopping and changing, it's just so disruptive and it confuses everybody and that's the worst thing a leader should do.
Brenton Ward: Okay.
Jamie, would you add to that or have any comments on that?
Jamie Johns: Just to reiterate what, you know, what Ed was saying is you must be consistent and persistent. But also realize that we all live in the now and what I mean by that is it's the present moment. It's right now the decisions that you make as a leader, whether you're leading yourself or whether you've got one staff member or whether you've got 30 staff members in my case.
It's the decisions that you make right now that determine your success and the direction that you take. I suppose I just wanna stress to people that make the right decisions. Use Ed and I, use the mentors to make the right decisions because they do have an impact and we all think, ‘Oh well, tomorrow will come, won't it? A week will be here. A month will be there. 6 months will be there and 12 months will be there.’ But the fact is that your life is short and it comes around really, really fast. If you are setting your goals and you've got the vision in terms of what you want your turnover to look like. Then I can only stress obviously the persistence and consistency, but just really think about the next decision you make. I think Rachel Robinson, the great leadership person who went to the ant aftercare and she actually spoke at Xero Con a couple of years ago, and some of the listeners will remember her. She said that your success is defined in moments. It's the moments that you deal with people, it's the moments that you deal with people on your team, and the decisions and the way that you handle challenges determine your success.
So yeah, my point would be live in the now, like right now. Today is, is gonna determine the success of your next day, your next week, your next five years.
Brenton Ward: Brilliant. I love that.
With everything that's going on in the world as well, I think it's sometimes easy to look faster whereas it's such a simple thing to kind of bring yourself back and yourself on that point.
Especially when it comes to growth. Guys, we were talking before we started, We were talking before we started this webinar in terms of growing and the pains of growing sometimes and growing too quickly and what effect that has on certain businesses, whether it be an accounting firm or any company for that matter.
Talk a little bit about that because there will be some people on the list that I can see who has implemented a lot this year and may have grown incredibly quickly. But may need to just stop and do a bit of a stock take and see where they're at to make sure that the foundations remain intact and that we're building something that we can really build on top of rather than have crux. Ed, do you wanna start on that point?
Ed Chan: Yeah. Often when you look back and you look at the world at large, some people achieve so much in their life. I mean, we all have the same amount of time available to us, and yet some people achieve so much in their lives and others don't achieve that much. I'm always really curious and interested in what those people that achieve so much do that gets them the results that they do.
And often it's about just making sure that you get the balance right between the P and L activities and things we talked about, like the quad A activities which are important and urgent and putting fires out and that kind of activities and reacting activities to the quad B activities, which are important but not urgent. What I call the balance sheet items, which is investing. If you spend too much of your time in the quad A activities, putting out fires, and not investing in the quad B activities, you'll end up continually spinning your wheels and you won't achieve that much at all. So when I look back at people who have achieved so much, they get the balance throw between, the now here, now put the fire out, and then investing.
For most of us, we focus on what I call the visible money, which is your P and L stuff ‘cause it's visible and the invisible stuff is your investment. We tend not to do that because it's invisible, but it's still money. It's invisible money like an investment in your business. As Jamie did, he went to the Philippines and invested in the people there. It's all invisible, but it's an investment and it'll pay a dividend later on. It'll pay a visible dividend later on. But you've got to do that. And often I find that people who are not so successful and achieve very little in life, spend most of their time in the first quadrant, quadrant A putting fires out.
So I guess my message is like Jamie just said, make the right decisions about where you spend your time because time, goes so quickly, and before you know it you are 60 or 65 or 70 and you don't have much to show for it.
Brenton Ward: Absolutely.
I think, Jamie, we were talking about this briefly before the call as well and saying that the year for us to work in quad II is even more than. So talk to me about your thoughts and your epiphany on that today.
Jamie Johns: Yeah, I was this gal for a run this morning. As I said earlier, it really just sort of hit me and just to share with everyone that the decisions that I made today, this week will impact my life in 10 to 15 years' time. Now that's a really long timeframe, but that's the reality of it.
If everyone stops and thinks and says, as coming back to what Ed said, ‘Where do you spend your time?’ Keep thinking every day, well the decisions that I make today, the activities that I make today, the decision to train that person and invest in that relationship or not to train and not invest in that person, and how will that affect me when I'm 60? For me, that was quite profound this morning. Just like an epitome. That'll be the one thing to share because when this webinar finishes and everyone goes back to work and everyone starts doing the next tax return and stop for a moment and think in the now, ‘How is this activity gonna affect me in 10 to 15 years time now? If I could bring back that's what leadership is, that's private victory. You get the private victory right. And then you'll get to the public victory and that interdependence working with other people and delegating effectively, and not abdicating.
So that was my epiphany this morning, Brenton, was the fact that I just realized even at a deeper level that the activities I was doing today will determine my future in 10-15 years' time. And that is profound when you keep thinking like that. And look for more time in quad II.
Brenton Ward: Yeah, Absolutely. As a result of that thinking can only benefit the balance sheet.
So, guys, I'd like to change tact a little bit and talk about some more practical tips in terms of what to be potentially focusing on at this time of the year.
Jamie, you've mentioned throughout the year how important it's in this day and age especially, to focus on your staff in terms of performance reviews and sitting down with your staff on a more regular basis. Talk to me about this time of the year and what you guys currently do at Sky and why you think this is so important to do on a much more regular basis, including a roundabout now.
Jamie Johns: Yeah, look, a lot of this is in the videos on the Wize course, but coming back to it, I think it's absolutely critical that the leaders in the firm, from the top down. Every quarter meets with their direct reports and sit down and have a few conversations that you don't normally have. How are you going? What's the performance like? What is the KPIs showing? What's the feedback? One of the tools that we use and there are a lot of tools on the market to do this, but one of the tools we use is TINYpulse. And each of the team members has about 15 questions, a dozen or 15 questions. Basically what each person does is to give a rating and it's either above expectation. I think it's like adding expectation or below expectation actually uses the thumbs. So I do that for each of my direct reports. I gauge those and they do it for themselves. Now what you get out is alignment.
So if you sort of picture a bit. Picture it, you have discussions every quarter that you don't normally have and that they shouldn't be just left or once a year. So ideally whatever the question might be ~ ‘How's your net promoter score for your client base?’ Now, you should just try and focus on results. Is it above expectations? At expectations below? If both parties agree that it's above or at whatever it may be, that's where you've got the alignment.
In some situations which are quite valid, you will not get alignment between a particular topic, but there's gotta be a commitment between both parties to work out what the differences are and work towards an alignment and come to an agreement. So that's one of the things I think that becoming better is to move away from just doing the work but to focus on performance, focus on results, and focus on measuring people. And then also importantly focus on what are the solutions. How do we seek that alignment where we are both just at an expectation or both above?
So it's a total move away from just grinding and doing the work. It's a move towards better leadership and it's a move towards better management of the team so that you can set the firm up so that the firm can run. I think bottom up as Ed always says.
Brenton Ward: Okay, in terms of some of the questions, we've just had a question come through some of the questions or types of questions that you ask in those quarterly reviews. I think we've documented some of those, but would you suggest highlighting any particular areas that you guys focus on?
Jamie Johns: Absolutely. If at a higher level, one of the questions is well taken,n for example, my direct reports are senior client managers now outta their dozen or 15 KPIs, one of the questions is, ‘What's their team net promoter score?’ So in terms of, well out of the five or three people, whatever it is, that senior client manager, ‘What is their score in terms of what their team is rating them at?’ TINYpulse does that.
So one of the questions might be how do we get that up? There's a net promoter score for, ‘Why is their productivity so high above their KPI.’ Another one might be, ‘How many clients have you got on Xero or in the cloud versus not?’ So it's just the absolutely critical point is actually stopping and having the discussion, Brenton because most of the time we get so busy that we don't actually ask these questions. It's not about the volume of discussions they have, it's about the quality of discussions you have. That's the same with the senior client managers having discussions with the accountants and the bookkeepers and helping them. The whole idea is to help everyone fulfill their potential and do their jobs better.
Brenton Ward: Yeah, Absolutely.
Ed, I want to go to you and I guess go a little bit higher and get you to be a bit reflective of building Chan & Naylor and a mentoring firm. What's been a standout factor for you in becoming a better leader, both personally and professionally?
Ed Chan: Yeah, that's a good question, Brenton.
It's about leadership and I struggled with that all the time because there's a saying that you should work harder on yourself than on the other person. And I'll say that again, you should work harder on yourself than on the other person. When I first heard that, I thought, what a lot of crock, it's everybody else's fault because I grew up in an environment where you just wanna blame everybody else. I guess it always comes down to leadership because you can have the best systems in the world, you're gonna have the best people around you, and then if you lead them poorly, it just all falls apart. aIt's a big statement about leadership and, what does that mean?
If I want to try and filter it down and distill it down to one or two things, it's just don't focus so much on your own ego and your own pride and being right as determinants for the decisions you make. Put your feelings aside. You gotta base your leadership decisions based on productivity and results. Often you might have an argument with someone and you are just arguing the point because you wanna be right rather than have the right outcome. The right outcomes are about results and productivity. That should be the basis of your decisions. And that's something that is difficult, it's easy to say, but it's difficult to do, especially when you might argue with someone or you might have a difference of opinion with someone. Your feelings and your pride is being hurt and your ego kicks in and you lose complete perspective on, ‘What is the basis upon which you should be making your decisions?’ And it's always gotta come back to productivity and results.
Looking back on it, everything is to do with that. Whenever I've failed, whether it's privately or publicly in the work environment, it all comes back to me putting my own ego and pride and wanting to be right ahead of productivity. That's always led me down the wrong path. But whenever I put productivity ahead of my pride and my ego, it's always been the right decision. Even as small as the way you speak to someone, someone upsets you or makes a mistake. If I upset this person and they can't produce anymore, then I haven't achieved my objective of being a leader. I've learned that when the same grinder can work for two minders, and two managers and this person is doing the work achieves so much more under manager A than under manager B. It's the same person and the productivity outcome is different because they're being managed differently. So that's always been the biggest lesson for me.
Brenton Ward: Jamie, you've been on this to follow on from Ed's a couple of points there. You've been on this intense journey of self-development I guess over a greater part of your life, not just over the period that you've been building Sky. So from your journey and reflecting on the different things that you've done to help develop your own leadership skills, what are some of the things in terms of either practical tips or some of the lessons that you've learned that you can share with everyone from all the different types of roles and people on this in becoming a better leader at home, at the office, at the sports club in general in life?
Jamie Johns: Yeah, well there's a few, only a couple of things I'd probably mention in terms of that is one is, first of all, admit that you need help. I would admit that I need help. I suppose we're all here in the Wize mentoring because we've admitted that we need help. When I reached out to Ed 5 or 6 years ago, I was just stuck I had big aspirations and big dreams, and I was stuck.
So the first point would be to admit that you need help drop the e.g., find a good mentor maybe. The second one's to find a good mentor and I found that guy below. Then the next point that really moves on is to trust the process. Just trust the process. ‘Cause Ed's done it. Ed's got more wisdom than us. He's been through the highs and lows of building his firm and so we're all here because we've found someone that we can emulate in some shape or form.
So my advice would be to trust the process and build on the rhythm and the routine, whether it's your home life, whether it's going to the gym, whether it's catching up with your partner once a week to discuss things, or whether it's the same with your business is trust the process in terms just the rhythm and the routine. But I've always found that if I drop the rhythm and drop the routine of the daily huddle or the weekly meeting and then even the monthly board meeting. Soon as I've dropped those rhythms and routines, the system starts to fall apart. It's the quality of the conversations, not the volume of the conversations. But the quality of the conversations holds all the glue together in terms of the longer-term vision and the plan that you've got. So that would be probably the main thing Brenton. I come back to trust the process. So whether it's the no bypass policy, it just works, whether it's the corporate structure versus the partnership structure, the corporate structure just works. And even these days I'm starting to call Sky Accountants, the Sky lab. Because even in the Sky lab, whenever we don't see that working, we know that we've dropped the ball.
Also to the guys, well we just need to follow the process because if you can pitch your own firm here and now. As an airplane, Ed said this too many times over the last five years. It's going along an autopilot, the airplane's going along on autopilot and then it just drifts off a bit. It always just drifts off and the pilot has to grab the wheel and get it back on course. The way to do that is just with your daily meetings, weekly tactical meetings, and monthly board meetings because you must keep that playing as you've gotta keep the firm on track in terms of where it needs to get to. So if you just say, ‘I'm too busy to have a meeting this week. too busy to have my daily huddle. I'm too busy to have the board meeting.’ Then that plane, that firm will go further off track, and all of a sudden you'll find you're out in the wilder and you'll wonder how you got there. So for me, those types of things are absolutely critical for the firms.
The members going forward build that rhythm and the routine and trust the process. And the corporate structure, the no bypass policy, the whole lot, it just works and admits that you're gonna make mistakes. Everyone will make mistakes. I've made more mistakes than anyone I think. I always say, but I always come back to following what Ed has taught me and just trust the process and get rid of emotions. I think it's just undoing the old habits, undoing the last 20 years of habits that were instilled in me in one way or another. Then learning new habits. It might take you 1, 2, 3, up to 6 times to learn that new habit, but soon as you learn it and it's burnt into your brain, then you can move forward. Then you are that better person, then you'll make a better decision to go to the next step. And then the next step and then the next step. But building on that foundation that the Wize Vault has in the early stages around, building the teams, building the corporate structure, and building the communication pathways is critical.
Brenton Ward: Absolutely, and I think that's an important one to recap. A lot of people will be at various different stages throughout their growth journey and there's no one singular answer for what you should be doing to become better other than the fact staying the course and sticking to the process. Trusting in the process. I think that is just spot on. I think that's the message we all need to take away from this because of the answers in front of us. We've bottled the answers up, and we've bottled the blueprint up, it's just trusting in the process and doing it once. Then go back over it and learn a different layer and add the next layer to it. So I think that's fantastic.
Jamie Johns: The only thing I'd say is to focus on improvement. Improvement not perfection guys. If you're gonna focus on perfection, you will never get anywhere. I talk about you'll make mistakes, but you'll make mistakes. You'll learn from them and everyone will learn. My final point would be to focus on improvement. Just do it. Just get in and do it. Follow the process that we got there. But don't focus on perfection because you'll get paralysis by analysis otherwise.
Brenton Ward: Thank you so much for sharing, guys.