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Posts from the ‘Culture’ Category

The Keys to Organisational Agility

August 13th, 2016



by Gary Ashton

It used to be said that the only two certainties in life were death and taxes. In business life there is a third certainty: change. And in today’s atmosphere of deep uncertainty, it’s clearer than ever that the success (even survival) of many organisations will be partially determined by their ability to adapt and respond to change in a quick, agile and appropriate manner.

Organisational agility is achieved by being alert to both internal and environmental changes – opportunities as well as challenges – and the ability to use available resources in a timely, flexible, affordable and relevant manner, in order to respond to those changes effectively.

An agile organisation embraces change by moving quickly, decisively and effectively to anticipate, initiate and take advantage of change, yet remains robust enough to absorb any set-backs. But agility is not just about being fast: it also implies the capacity to remain in touch with customer needs.

Six Dimensions of Agility
If we examine more closely the human aspects of organisational agility and how each dimension influences business success, we start to see a new order emerging in the way that leading organisations operate.

1. Leadership & Management: The style of your leadership and its alignment to your strategy, the strength and speed of decision-making, the clarity of communication and the degree to which it is trusted.

2. Innovation: The degree to which an organisation has a systematic approach for sharing insights and continually generating new ideas, as well as the degree to which it uses internal and external networks to share ideas.

3. Strategy: The way in which strategy is developed, encouraging internal dialogue, and how clearly your strategic intent is communicated and the level of stretch you impose.

4. Culture: The way your employees’ collective values and opinions guide behaviour will impact on how agile your organisation can be. This culture can be influenced by your policies and practices.

5. Learning & Change: The degree to which the organisation has a shared vision, has an appetite for change and the capability to enact the changes, and how it deals with the consequences of past decisions.

6. Structure: The strength and robustness of operations and processes combined with the degree to which your managers have clear delegated decision-making authority.

A New Model of Leadership
Traditional thinking in this area is based on the Hierarchical Principal (where each level has a clear and defined role in a top down strategic process) and the Linear Principle (a logical chain starting with strategic thinking, then organisational design, finishing with the development of management).

But the current level of business complexity, plus the need to respond quickly to change, is challenging this way of thinking and forcing the development of capabilities in the six dimensions outlined above.

Building a new leadership model where management focuses on “acting in time” rather than “being right” will require a change in mindset.

Key to achieving this shift is the notion of value-based leadership i.e. ensuring that management behaviour is consistent with the organisation’s core values. As Steve Jobs put it, “the only thing that works is management by values”.

It isn’t just leadership competencies that will need to change to achieve this shift. Throughout the organisation, employees’ goals will need to shift and stretch.

The idea here is to set targets that cannot be reached through ‘business as usual’. Employees need to feel that they are being challenged to innovate and drive change. However – and this is the difficult bit – employees must be convinced that they will not be perceived as failures if they are unable to reach any extreme objective.

Goals need to be stretched, too, if the organisations are to reawaken their powers of innovation and build stronger, more collaborative ways of working – both internally and through their external networks.

So the building blocks of organisational agility are not complex. Accelerate the pace of strategic renewal, make innovation everyone’s job, every day and create an engaging, inspiring working environment and agility will follow – bringing with it the confidence and skills needed to steer your organisation through troubled waters.

AshtonGary Ashton is a director of OE Cam, a UK-based business consultancy specialising in organisational behaviour change. He specialises in the re-design and implementation of organisation structures and management processes, post-merger integration, improvement of joint venture organisation capability, and Board and senior management team assessment and development.

The Academy for Chief Executives is a leading executive coaching and mentoring organisation working with business leaders and their teams throughout the UK.

Member companies collectively turnover £3.5 billion per annum and on average employ 75 people each. &

To find out more about membership of the Academy for Chief Executives contact us on: 07714 246509 or

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Start with Why?

May 27th, 2016




Simon Sinek’s 2009 TED talk, Start with Why, has rightly taken on almost mythical status for its simple message about putting purpose – the ‘why’ – at the heart of strategy. Think about the organisations you most admire. How far do they put purpose at the heart of their operations?



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In Search of your Real Purpose

May 27th, 2016


38308By Jeremy Marchant
If you don’t know what the purpose of your business really is, and you don’t know what the outcomes are that you want to have happen as a result of trading, then you will find it hard to be compelling, or even comprehensible when you talk about your business.It’s important to recognise that it doesn’t actually matter what the purpose of your business is, provided it makes sense to you and you feel confident about discussing it with other people. There are no wrong answers. However, a given business could choose from a variety of purposes and the key thing is to choose a purpose which is useful to the business.

Case study
A client business of mine provides IT support to SMEs. They do it well, are liked and trusted by their clients and the business is profitable. We were discussing their five year plan, for which knowing what the business is about is pretty important.

Now, many business owners, if they’re asked what the purpose of their business is, will answer “to make money” (or similar). There isn’t anything to object to in that answer other than to ask “is it a useful purpose?”, “is it helpful?” But, suppose a business wanted to make more money. There is nothing in that description of purpose which would give a clue how to do that.

A more useful approach would be to consider “making money” as an entirely valid outcome of achieving their purpose.

My client said the business’s purpose was “to provide high quality support within the terms of the service level agreement”. An interesting answer – but is it a good purpose? It certainly could be a valid purpose, but surely it is a description of what the business does. It’s the thing they do which, if they do it well, will achieve their purpose.

In the end, they decided that the purpose of their business was: to enable their customers to continue to trade in the event of a technical failure.

That was the problem their customers paid them to solve, or better, to avoid. Whether the client was running an online shop, or they needed to print a proposal to send to a prospect, if the computer went down, there would be an adverse effect on the business.

With this definition of their purpose, it was easy to see how they could grow the business, and they soon moved into providing telecommunications support.

Purpose may not be what you think it is
It is essential not to confuse purpose with outcomes. The outcomes, or objectives, of a business or project are the things we want to have happen as a result of achieving the purpose of the project: they aren’t its purpose.

A purpose is the answer to the question, “why are we doing this?” Clearly, by this token, “increase sales”, for example, is really an outcome. But how often do we answer the question, “what is the purpose of X?”, with “to achieve outcome Y”? As in, “What is the purpose of my business?” Answer, “To make money”.

A very good exercise goes as follows: if you answer that the purpose of X is A, then ask yourself, isn’t A really an outcome? Even if you don’t think it is, ask yourself, if it were an outcome, what would the purpose really be?

The third component to this model is: actions.

The actions are what you say in a meeting, do in a business, and so on, which are designed to achieve the purpose which – if it is achieved – will secure the outcomes.

In the case study above, the business originally mistook “to provide high quality support within the terms of the service level agreement” as its purpose when, of course, it is the actions they take to achieve some other purpose. That purpose being “to enable their customers to continue to trade in the event of a technical failure”.

There is an implied point that the reason the business was successful was that it provided “high quality support…” etc well.

In summary, the business:

  • provided IT support services to SMEs (the actions),
  • so that their clients could continue to trade in the event of an IT failure (the business’s purpose)
  • which resulted in healthy profits, growth of the business, nice cars parked outside and so on (the outcomes).

Important. The purpose of a meeting, say, is likely to be different from your purpose in attending the meeting, which is likely to be different from others’ purposes in attending. These are unlikely to be the same. If this isn’t acknowledged, the meeting will be rambling, unfocussed, unnecessarily long and possibly an unpleasant experience.

Tips on defining purpose and outcomes

1. Any business, project, job, meeting, conversation, holiday, etc, can have only one purpose at any one time. If it looks as if there are two, then one of three things is the case:

a) the purposes are in fact the same thing, but expressed differently

b) one purpose is a subset, a special case, of the other so, again, there is only really one purpose

c) the business, or whatever, is literally at cross purposes. It is like a sledge being pulled by two teams of huskies, each in a different direction. At best, progress is slow and, in all probability, people end up by being torn by conflicting demands, creating stress and inefficiency.

2. There can be more than one outcome at a time.

3. The business can have a purpose and outcomes and you can have a purpose and outcomes, which will almost certainly be different. It’s important to define both and, particularly for business owners, not to confuse the individual’s purpose with that of the business.

4. Purpose and outcomes don’t have to be ‘clever’ or ‘unique’. In fact, the more simply they are stated, the better.
Jeremy Marchant
Jeremy Marchant ThumbnailAfter a corporate career with BT, Marks and Spencer and in IT consultancy, Jeremy Marchant joined international coaching firm, Shirlaws. He later set up his own coaching business and, after a few years, launched the emotional intelligence at work brand. He is a certified NLP master practitioner and is a partner in Synatus, a nationwide group of some 150 senior level consultants, interim managers, coaches and trainers.


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A Reason for Being

May 27th, 2016



by Clive Wilson

Everything in life has its purpose. Purpose is the force that keeps all of life growing, creating and thriving. When life steps out of line with purpose, or fails to adapt to changing contexts, unintended outcomes result. In the worst cases life declines rapidly and ultimately dies. So it is with organisations. Those that are purposeful have the energy to create and grow, to overcome seemingly insurmountable problems.
Organisations that lose their way tend to fragment, become chaotic and may end up as prey for predators.A stated purpose serves to inspire and focus an organisation’s efforts and those of the teams and people that make up its workforce. But we need to be careful. A stated purpose will also create boundaries, some of which may be helpful and some may be severely limiting.In 2010, the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development conducted a study to find out whether a shared sense of purpose was useful to organisations. What it found, in a nutshell, was that employees are motivated less by profit and more by being of service to customers or society. Where profit was perceived as the primary purpose, a third of respondents said that they were actually demotivated that their hard work and efforts were going into the pockets of investors and owners. In contrast, in organisations whose main purpose is to add value to customers, six out of 10 agreed that ‘by focusing on customers, in the long run we are benefiting ourselves’.

The situation was also improved when organisations had balanced the interests of all stakeholder groups, including investors and owners. Moreover, there is clear evidence that organisations with a sense of purpose outperform those where purpose does not permeate throughout. This outperformance is in terms of employee satisfaction and engagement indicators as well as financial and service delivery.

So for me the formula is simple:

Alignment = strength and focus = energy reinforced consistently = results and success 

It seems to make sense, then, to articulate the purpose of our organisation. But if we really want to inspire energy and maximum performance, we have to craft our statement in a way that will touch the hearts of the people we most need to motivate.

What is Purpose?

Purposeful people are easy to spot. They seem energised, focused and attentive. At the same time they exude an air of confidence, being less affected by the trivia that gets those who are less purposeful down. And the same is true of an organisation: its purpose is both its very reason for its existence and that imponderable ‘something’ that inspires resolve and determination from its people.

Purpose is a powerful strategic anchor. Compared with other aspects of strategy, including the corporate vision, purpose is relatively stable. Its essence may shift a little and, as such, should be kept under strategic review but, for most organisations, the purpose may change little for many years.

But that’s not to say that it is set in stone. Purpose is context-driven. This is vitally important. As human beings, we move in numerous contexts and so have numerous purposes – bringing up children; being a partner, friend or colleague; serving our organisation and profession; and so on. Some of these purposes will come and go and some may be with us for most of our lives.

Even within the relative constant of our organisation, our context may shift. As the market changes, our purpose may change. One of my clients began life making bicycles in the 19th century. It now makes ducting for nuclear power installations. Another started as a coal merchant and transitioned into international removals and storage.

And as well as being context-driven, purpose is also stakeholder-driven – it changes depending on whose eyes we are looking through. For example, customers may see the purpose of the organisation being about the provision of excellent services; owners, investors and shareholders about maximising their investments; staff about earning a wage to provide for their families and having meaningful work to do that inspires them; and communities about providing all the above in such a manner as to maximise positive impact and minimise negative impact.

This means that we need to strike a balance. Neglecting one stakeholder at the expense of another puts the organisation at risk. We only have to look at the demise this century of the many organisations that placed undue emphasis on shareholder profit or directors’ bonuses at the expense of the needs of other stakeholders, especially those of their customers.

So while we need to consider all stakeholder needs – and doing so represents a fantastic opportunity to grow an understanding between us and them – we still need to ask ourselves this: ‘What is our primary reason for existence? What are we fundamentally here to do?’

For most organisations, the answer is likely to be about providing a specific service or set of services for a particular customer base in a cost-effective way. The reason that this purpose may well be the primary purpose is that all other purposes hang off this one. Without this purpose, there is no employment for our staff and no return on our investment. It is therefore likely to be a statement that all parties can sign on to and be proud of.

Crafting (I use the word deliberately) the declared purpose of our organisation is a real art and worthy of our time and energy. We should bear in mind that our espoused purpose will have a significant impact on performance. In other words, as far as our businesses are concerned, it is probably the most important sentence or paragraph that we will ever write.


Clive Wilkinson ThumbnailClive Wilson is an author and a board director at Primeast, a consultancy that has been promoting purposeful leadership since 1987. He is a facilitator and executive coach and happy to engage audiences on the subjects of purposeful leadership and sustainable development. This extract from his book Designing the Purposeful Organization is ©2015 and reproduced with permission from Kogan Page Ltd. You can get a 20% off the book at using the discount code HRDPOS


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The Power of Purpose

May 25th, 2016



by Ian Price

Why are we doing this? As business leaders, we need to be able to answer this almost without thinking, because without a clear sense of our own purpose, how can we expect to inspire others?
Moreover, if we are not finding purpose at work, the chances are that we’re finding the other aspects of our lives equally unsatisfying.
If we think about the people who have inspired us during our careers, who springs to mind? It’s unlikely to be people who were just smart – it’s far more likely to be people who were inspirational – it’s about how they made us FEEL, not about how competent they were.
So when we see statements like “Organisations that focus beyond profit and instil a strong sense of purpose among their employees are more likely to find long-term success.” (Deloitte, 2013), remember that a sense of purpose is about an emotional connection – and that connection starts with the people at the top. 

Ian Price Article Thumbnail

Ian Price became Chief Executive of the Academy in February 2016. He has a reputation and track-record for growing profitable businesses rapidly. His affable demeanour and relaxed style of working hides an exceptional talent at being able to focus on what makes a business tick.

To find out more about membership of the Academy for Chief Executives contact Glenn Watkins on 07714 246509

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Look to the Future but Don’t Forget the Past

March 29th, 2016



by Ian Price

It can be all too easy to forget what we’ve learned from the past as we try to future-proof our businesses and plan for what comes next.  In my new role as Chief Executive, I am aware that the Academy has an important heritage based on our twenty years of history.  So it seems appropriate that the Academy will celebrate its 21st birthday – and its coming of age – in 2016, which is set to be an important year as we decide our future in Europe.

There was much talk at the World Economic Forum at Davos last month about the potential impact of artificial intelligence. Will robots eventually take over from humans or will they herald a world where people can instead focus on adding value and being creative? It’s a moot point, but it’s worth remembering that even in today’s digital world where virtual communication has become the norm, that direct human contact remains far more powerful than a pixelated experience.

That’s why the opportunity Academy members have to meet in person each month and share their issues in a trusted environment is more important than ever. It’s so much easier to deal with the challenges we face as business leaders when there is a supportive community on hand to help navigate the change.

As I reflect on the legacy of the Academy and look to the opportunities ahead, it is clear to me that we must continue to build upon the solid foundation already in place and our philosophy of `leaders learning from leaders’. At the same time, we need to challenge the status quo, identify new opportunities and approaches, embrace innovation and expand our horizons. This means combining the best of both worlds as we look ahead, but without forgetting the past.

Ian Price

Ian Price became Chief Executive of the Academy in February 2016. He has a reputation and track-record for growing profitable businesses rapidly. His affable demeanour and relaxed style of working hides an exceptional talent at being able to focus on what makes a business tick.

Contact Glenn Watkins to learn more and experience the Academy for Chief Executives.

Case Study: Family Dynamics

February 18th, 2016


Alastair Soper

Alastair Soper

Interview by the Academy for Chief Executives

What’s the background of your business?

Hallis Hudson is a family-run national wholesaler and distributor of soft furnishing fabrics, blinds, tracks and curtain poles that was founded by my grandfather. In 2014 (after 14 years in the business) I was appointed Managing Director, and my father became Chairman.

Are there any other family members in the business?

Yes, my brother Russell is a Director of the business and is involved in new product development and marketing.

How was it decided that you would take the MD role rather than your brother?

We both have quite different skill sets and it was simply that I’m more suited to the MD role. Our actual job titles are almost irrelevant in a way. We have different skills that complement each other, and we play off each other’s strengths.

How does the dynamic work between you, Russell and your father?

There is certain creative tension between the three of us. It’s also fair to say that I have a closer working relationship with my dad. I see my role as custodian of the business to ensure that it is passed on for future generations. As such, I tend to take a more measured and evolutionary approach, incremental rather than sudden change. Russell’s role is more creative, so his outlook is more likely to be influenced by external factors. I’m less risk-averse than either Russell or my father. This can result in a certain level of conflict at times.   

What role do you play within this dynamic?

Part of my role is to help manage the balance between the three of us. Whilst on the one hand it’s important to make sure that the business doesn’t expand too quickly, we have to ensure that we adapt to changing market conditions and remain competitive. It’s all about ensuring that each side understands the pros and cons of what is being brought to the table.

That said, my dad has always been dynamic and stood firm in the belief that if you don’t change the business, it will eventually die, so it’s more a question of balancing the pace of change.

We also work closely with an external financial consultant, who acts as an extension of the family in some ways. He knows and understands us very well and can offer an objective sounding Board, and challenge us as necessary. He can also help us to navigate potential areas of conflict or disagreement.

How does the Academy help you with the typical challenges of managing a family business?

I was a member of the Directors’ Forum 13 for five years, before joining Peter Hills’ group, ACE 18 in Manchester, in January 2014. Both groups have helped me change and navigate my way through a variety of issues, particularly since becoming Managing Director. There are a couple of other family businesses in my Group and this is very helpful. As much as anything it’s nice to know that others deal with the same issues that we face.

The Academy has also really helped my understanding of the dynamics of effective communication, in particular the importance of understanding the position of others before you try to resolve an issue or make a final decision.

How’s it going with the transition of your father to his new role as Chairman?

As it progresses, the transition gets better every day. This journey will take as long as it takes – it’s not like flicking a light switch. Again, it’s a question of getting the balance right. It’s important that I own the position of MD, but at the same time I’m conscious of the fact that my father is hugely experienced and that there are still things that I can learn from him.

We did try to create a job description for him but that didn’t really work! So it’s more of an informal evolution, with my focus on the day-to-day running of the business and my father’s focus on strategic direction and making sure the business delivers a return.

What has been one of the most challenging issues of being in a family business?

In any family business the blurring of boundaries can become an issue; for example, there was a period of time where I continued with my previous job of Operations Director whilst also taking on the MD role. In essence, I was doing two jobs over this period which wasn’t always effective and also put me under a certain amount of personal pressure.   We have now asked the senior management team to all step up to each fulfil a little part of my old role.

Email to find out more about Academy membership.

Authenticity: You Can’t Fake It

November 5th, 2014



By James T Noble

The more virtual our lives get, the more we hunger after something genuine. Customers today demand more than just a product or a service. They want an experience – one that  is honest and transparent, one that is authentic.

Authenticity isn’t something that can be faked. That’s why authentic businesses inspire and prosper.  But it’s a thin line to tread.  Your customers today are far more informed, aware, socially connected and empowered  than ever before. They have high standards and they can sniff out a scam at 10 paces. Anything you put out there will be scrutinized. If it doesn’t measure up to ‘genuine’ it WILL get called out. More and more, making a wrong move in marketing can be catastrophic for your company kudos – with some seriously negative knock-on effects for your business.

So what is authenticity? And how does it impact your brand, your marketing and your messages?

Simply put, being authentic means staying true to who you are, what you do and who you serve. In an environment in which more human elements matter, the value of authenticity is incalculable.

  • It elevates your business above the competition
  • It builds your identity and image into something influential
  • It gives substance to your business, services and products
  • It enables people to relate to your business
  • It helps people understand how what you offer is of benefit to them
  • It tells people that what you offer is of high quality
  • It marks you out as a reliable and trustworthy
  • It encourages engagement and can turn audiences into advocates

With that in mind, here are some practical ways a brand or business can demonstrate authenticity.

1. Be Real

It’s amazing how many businesses get this wrong. Share your passions and your mission and get back to basics. Who are you? What drives you? The best way to be perceived as authentic is to BE authentic, so build a purpose for your business beyond making a buck. Get back to grass roots and apply your core values, goals and beliefs as the heart of how you approach every aspect of your business.

Be warned – being real comes with the caveat that you must exhibit empathy and intuition in order to make this work. Idiots, bigots and those lacking social graces need not apply. It also means taking time to listen and understand all those involved with your business. That means clients, employees, peers and suppliers. Don’t over self-promote or force things on others, it will only have a detrimental effect.

2. Be Charitable

In a bid to convince consumers, businesses are having to become more like people. Genuinely charitable souls work hard for their causes and gain a lot of respect as a result. Affiliating your company with a charity and building campaigns around it goes a long way to winning people over with your altruistic nature – but you have to go the whole way to be convincing, which mean not just making a donation once or twice a year – for real impact make yourself the true champion of a cause instead.

3. Be Consistent

Mixed messages lead to suspicion and mistrust. But a surprising number of organisations operate in a completely different way offline and online and present a damagingly schizophrenic image.

Whilst it is important to tailor your approach to specific channels, your fundamental message, style and identity should remain the same throughout to ensure you convey your business as strong, self-assured and trustworthy.

4. Back Up What You Say

Don’t get a reputation of being ‘all mouth and no trousers’. Today’s savvy consumer is much more likely to see straight through the banter to the lack of substance underneath. Authenticity goes hand in hand with being transparent, so avoid any embarrassment by never making claims you can’t prove, giving evidence wherever you can, staying true to your core mission and values, and making sure you never post misleading information about your business.

5. Be Responsive

Give people as many ways as possible they can easily contact you, and make SURE someone (and by ‘someone’ I mean a REAL person, not a machine or an autoresponder) is going to be there to respond promptly, politely and effectively.

Doing so adds a personal element to your customer service and shows you follow through on your promises. That goes a long way towards building a solid and authentic reputation.  Let your sincerity shine through – always answer questions honestly, even if it means giving an answer that is less positive.

6. Respect People’s Privacy

Losing the trust of your customers is fatal. Don’t sell out by passing on your clients’ personal details to other companies or by using them for things they don’t expect or want. Ensure you have (and abide by) a clear privacy policy Provide a means of  contact in case they still have any concerns – and make sure someone is there to take care of any enquiries in person.

7. Be Accountable

If you make a mistake, be professional enough to admit it. Own up and apologize before anyone else has the chance to publicly make a harsh judgment that could damage your reputation further. Everyone has flaws – it’s what makes us human. Handled correctly, being honest about and accountable for your mistakes could turn a ‘situation’ into an advantage.

8. Highlight Your Reputation

It is widely-known how much sway online reviews have over potential customers, so make a show of them on your website and through social media. But be warned – NEVER manipulate your reviews.

But there is such a thing as ‘too good to be true’.  So a flawless, sanitised  set of client reviews will only raise alarm bells. Testimonials from real people are also powerful aides to authenticity, ditto any industry awards you have won or any respected groups and associations of which you are a member.

9. Nurture Your Following

Give and you shall receive. Actively nurture dialogue with your followers so to keep them enthusiastic and engaged. Get to know your audience intimately and let them get to know you too through personal interaction, bios, videos, blogs, behind the scenes coverage and glimpses into the personal lives of company members. Talk to them. Give them the benefit of your expertise and experience – for free. Position yourself (subtly) as an authority in your industry and your authenticity will shine through.

10. Don’t Share Everything with Everyone

While it’s great to share some secrets and involve people in some behind the scenes insights, authenticity does not require the same level of transparency with every relationship. There is no ‘one size fits all’ solution, and a business can have many different facets as long as they are untied underneath the umbrella of your core identity. Be sensitive to every audience and every situation, and catering your content accordingly.

11. Know Your Limits

Know your thresholds regarding what and how much you are willing to share in order to build your authenticity. This knowledge also helps you be selective about your marketing. Poorly-considered content, or content with little value (like sharing what you had for breakfast) will do little for building your reputation. And be patient. You can’t create authenticity overnight, but put in the work and it will pay huge dividends in the long run.

Authenticity Checklist

  • Define your goals and your mission
  • Develop a purpose behind what you do other than making money
  • Share your mission and your passions with enthusiasm
  • Maintain your core identity at all times
  • Always be consistent and avoid giving mixed messages
  • Champion a cause to show your charitable nature
  • Get to know your audience and their desires and needs
  • Actively engage with your audience through social media
  • Show personality through content like blogs/video/updates/bios etc.
  • Share secrets, advice and inside information where appropriate
  • Only share things of worth – it’s better not to share at all than to share something nobody cares about
  • Tailor your content to suit different audiences across multiple platforms
  • Position yourself as an authority through audience interaction and offering the benefits of your expertise and experience
  • Highlight your achievements and experience on websites and across social media
  • Only make promises you are sure you can keep
  • Always be on hand (or ensure someone else is) to offer assistance

Finally, you may well discover that with true authenticity comes a sense of liberation and freedom. Being true to yourself and your business and honest with your clients and customers relieves an anxiety many of us don’t realize we hold onto. It frees up energy that would normally be consumed by maintaining a facade. That energy boost, stress relief and liberation can make a business a real power to be reckoned with.

Remember, an open and trustworthy business is a popular business, whereas charlatans will ultimately fail regardless of the efforts are made to promote them.


james-t-noble_tJames T Noble makes businesses bigger. He’s personally worked with companies big and small. Many you’d recognise (Walt Disney, Microsoft, Coca Cola, MTV and more) and many you wouldn’t (marketing agencies, consultants, publishers and others). Find out more and read business growth tips at


Why you need Cultural Intelligence

July 14th, 2014


cq_002_240By David Livermore

If you’re operating internationally – be it the other side of the world or just the other side of the Channel – you are going to need to cultivate a degree of Cultural Intelligence (CQ). At its core, CQ is about viewing and treating people from various cultures with respect and dignity and developing the capability to function effectively across national, ethnic, and organisational cultures.

CQ is obviously a critical component of organisational effectiveness, for companies expanding internationally. But it also enhances interpersonal interactions in a wide range of social contexts. And like these other forms of intelligence, CQ complements IQ by focusing on the specific capabilities that are important when operating in culturally diverse settings.

The point about cultural Intelligence is that it is an individual capability. This means it is not an aspect of personality or personal interests. It is a set of skills that leads to specific outcomes – such as sound decision making, performance, and adjustment to cultural differences. So it shapes the way you pursue marketing, negotiation, sales, and a whole lot more in a culturally diverse context.

Cultural Intelligence is a state-like capability. This means it is malleable – that cultural intelligence is not fixed, but that it changes based on people’s interactions, efforts, and experiences. Restated, you can enhance your cultural intelligence.

Cultural Intelligence is a specific individual difference capability. This is because it focuses on culturally relevant capabilities. Cultural intelligence is more specific than general mental ability or personality.

Cultural Intelligence is NOT specific to a particular culture. For example, it does not focus on the capability to function effectively in France or in Japan. Instead, it focuses on the more general capability to function effectively in culturally diverse situations wherever these may be.

CQ gives employees and their organisations a competitive edge in our shrinking world. It consists of four different capabilities (drive, knowledge, strategy, and action), all of which can be assessed and developed in individuals and full management teams.

Research also demonstrates that cultural intelligence has a direct correlation to the bottom line and to a company’s sustainability in our increasingly globalised world. Some 92 percent of companies that have used the cultural intelligence approach (through training, hiring, strategizing etc.) saw increased revenues within 18 months of implementation.

Even if you don’t plan on booking an international business flight anytime soon, today’s economic crisis may be tomorrow’s great opportunity for tapping into new markets in your own neighbourhood.

In fact, I’m hard pressed to think of any objective you want to accomplish that won’t be enhanced with improved CQ. Sometimes, it can be the critical difference between success and failure. But we’ll have more credibility when we demonstrate how it integrates with several other critical considerations that are necessary.

When cross-cultural experiences are moderated with higher levels of CQ, there’s a big difference.

For example:

International Travel + Low CQ= Ethnocentrism and Confirmation Bias
International Travel + High CQ= Lifetime Impact

Diverse Teams + Low CQ = Frustration and Low Participation
Diverse Teams + High CQ = Engagement and Innovation

Expat Assignment + Low CQ = Stress, Burnout, and Financial Loss
Expat Assignment + High CQ = Satisfaction, Cost-Savings, and Profitability

Cross-Cultural Interactions + Low CQ = Judgment and Mistrust
Cross-Cultural Interactions + High CQ = Broadened Perspective and Effectiveness

Leadership Skills + Low CQ = Glass Ceiling
Leadership Skills + High CQ = Borderless Possibilities


That’s because culture shapes nearly everything we do, from forging a compelling vision for a future in the “flat” world, to adapting to an increasingly globalized economy, appealing to the tastes of culturally diverse customers and constituents, managing, motivating, and evaluating a culturally diverse workforce, creating and managing organizational culture, and to making effective use of international travel. Cultural intelligence offers a common model and language for approaching these varied tasks.


david-livermoreDavid Livermore is president and partner at the Cultural Intelligence Center in Michigan, USA. The center offers the first academically-validated instrument to measure CQ and provides training and coaching for improving CQ. He is also a visiting research fellow at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore and the author of “Leading with Cultural Intelligence”.


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