4 Lessons to Elevate Teams from Meh to Marvellous
It is bittersweet to be writing my first and final contribution to ‘Rise and Thrive’ as my Inventium journey comes to an end this calendar year. It has felt like a lifetime – filled with fond memories, incredible people and countless learnings. I’ve managed to do literally every role at some point and feel proud and privileged to have led the business as CEO for the last five years.
Many of you, I didn’t have the chance to meet directly – with good reason. While our wonderful team is out creating amazing workplaces for you, I was quietly on an internal mission to make Inventium not only the best place to work, but a sustainable one.
The best thing about working at Inventium has always been our people – a bunch of super clever, down to earth folk, wanting to have a bigger and better impact on the world. However, like many consultancies, we were struggling with burnout and tenure was around 18 months. Inventium hasn’t always been a place where good people could stay.
Proudly, we’ve turned this around. Tenure is now also sitting at five years and engagement is consistently in the top 5% of management consultancies. This has had a significant positive impact on business performance and was key to getting us through unprecedented challenges like Covid.
I’ve done lots of reflecting in my final weeks, and here’s some of my biggest leadership lessons when it comes to leading sustainable high performing teams. Spoiler: trust underpins all of them!
Build structure to drive flexibility and sustainability
While there were failures along the way (hello unlimited annual leave), genuine policies for flexible working practices have been essential for wellbeing and longevity. It’s no secret that we’ve had huge success with the Four Day Week, with our team consistently reporting positive benefits for themselves and their families. It’s also helped us all to work more productively, to kill the down time in a day, and to be given the best kind of reward for it – time.
Becoming a remote-first team has also enabled our team to more flexibly manage the ever-increasing demands of home and work life. It’s also opened up our talent pool considerably. A recent job ad saw us receive over 900 applicants before closing. Ensuring collaboration and connection with an all remote team will always be a ‘work in progress’ but we remain strong advocates for the ‘remote-first’ movement for the true flexibility and autonomy it provides. For me as a leader, there couldn’t be a stronger signal of the level of trust I have in every member of the team.
Create the space for thinking AND doing
Great minds getting caught up in ‘doing’ all the time are wasted. ‘Thinking’ time needs to be built into the norm.
For us this looks like blocking out Deep Work time (Cal Newport style) AND it looks like freedom to structure your day in a way that allows for thinking. Walks around the block, gazing out to the headland at the beach, long showers or afternoon daydreams are when I did some of my best work, and are not ‘slacking off’ in my book!
It’s also reflected in our Be Your Own Boss (BYOB) organisational structure, of which a fundamental aspect is time for structured self-reflection as a core component of building self-awareness and the ability to self-manage.
Personally, I have also become conscious of the over-consumption trap. There is so much information and opinion out there, which comes with a certain pressure to read, listen, ask and believe others. Not to mention the new ability to just ask ChatGPT for all the answers.
In doing this all the time, we lose the opportunity to build trust in our own thinking and decision making. There is immense power and untapped potential in giving yourself (and others) the permission again to take the time to process and formulate your own thoughts, ideas and insights to offer your own unique value.
Learn how to trust and be trusted
Building a team that truly trusts you as a leader is imperative to success. Obvious in theory, but harder in practice. Discovering Harvard Professor Frances Frei’s trust triangle has been a true game changer for me as a leader. Frei argues that “Leadership begins not when others trust you, but when you learn to trust yourself”.
The ‘triangle’ is made up of three elements – authenticity, logic and empathy. ‘Wobbles’ in any one of those areas can lead to a breakdown in trust, and conversely, that building aptitude in these areas can fast-track trust.
As a check in, I regularly self-reflect on the following questions:
- Does my team experience the real me? What does that look like?
- Does my team believe that I care? How do I know that?
- Does my team have confidence in my ability? What tells me that?
- Where have I ‘wobbled’? Where do I have the opportunity to build more trust?
- Am I leading in a way that aligns with my values?
Make people your primary focus
“Great leadership is found, paradoxically, not in worrying about your own status and advancement, but in the unrelenting focus on other people’s potential… and creating the conditions for your people to fully realise their own capacity and power” Frances Frei
From a leadership point of view, quite often this focus is best demonstrated through the simple things – being consistent, being accessible, being thoughtful, admitting failures, being fair, being real and being kind.
I can now also practically appreciate what Peter Drucker meant about ‘culture eating strategy for breakfast’ back in MBA school. Without great people around you, your job is a hell of a lot harder! I’m very fortunate to have had many exceptional people around me both at Inventium and in my broader networks – I couldn’t be more grateful for you all.
I leave with the hope that a legacy of trust, sustainability and elevating others lives long at Inventium and through our interactions with our wider community.
To understand how Inventium can help you level-up your teams from meh to marvellous book in a call with us below.