Welcome back to Leader Talk! In episode 4, we had the opportunity to sit down with Liz Jones, Chief Executive Officer at Lotus Doors.
As a highly experienced business leader, Liz has delivered large scale, strategically critical outcomes for organisations. As a consultant for some of Australia’s largest manufacturers and distributors, she has a diverse knowledge base to share with all SMEs.
Liz was awarded the 2019 Telstra Victorian Business Woman of the Year and 2019 Telstra Victorian Women’s Winner, Medium and Large Business.
In our chat, Liz shares the importance of being a values-based leader, encouraging diversity of thought in the workplace, and how performance isn’t a dirty word.
Want to learn more? You can read or listen to our chat with Liz Jones on YouTube, Spotify, Listen Notes, or Player FM. It’s also available anywhere you listen to your favourite podcasts via Buzzsprout.
Authored by Liz Jones, CEO of Lotus Doors.
Values-based leadership – why it’s important and how to incorporate it
Defining your values is critical to being an effective leader. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, values are defined as “principles or standards of behaviour; one’s judgement of what is important in life.” In her work on leadership and vulnerability, Brenѐ Brown, a research professor at the University of Houston, simplified this definition as “a value is a way of being or believing that we hold most important. Living into our values means that we do more than profess our values, we practice them.” At the heart of it, your values are your inner truth and don’t shift based on context.
Values are the light source for a business. They are a beacon which guides your company to achieve ambitious goals and drives transformational cultural change. Your values are a subset of culture and subsequently drive the behaviours and business practices your company represent. The values of your business, your personal values and the values of your team, must all align to ensure optimal business performance.
“Your leadership philosophy and your personal values are intrinsically linked to the way you lead and therefore they are intrinsically linked to the values you want in your business,” says Liz. “You will never have values in your business that are at odds with your own values.”
A study conducted by ICMA found that 94% of respondents believed that the values of a leader were important or extremely important to the organisation. However, in the same study, more than 25% of respondents revealed that values at work had not been a priority. This disparity indicates an important area that SMEs can improve upon, by discovering their personal values and how they could be incorporated into their business practices.
Liz explains, “We went through a process of me understanding my own values, which are courage and faith, and then I’ve taken my values into the organisation through our set of values, guiding behaviours and principles that we all operate under.”
Diversity of thought – why you need to encourage open communication
Diversity of thought is centred on the idea that everyone has unique thought patterns that can lead to new ideas and innovations. Nobody thinks the same way and by encouraging everyone to voice their distinctive ideas, your small or medium-sized business can become an industry pioneer.
A study by McKinsey found that gender-diverse teams are 15% more productive, ethnically diverse teams are 35% more productive, and for every 10% increase in ethnic diversity on the senior team, there is a 0.8% increase in business earnings. This reveals that inclusivity requires gender and ethnic diversity in teams, but more importantly, diversity of people ensures diversity of thought as everyone’s unique life experiences influences how they think and view the world.
Liz concurs, “If you look into your business, don’t be surprised at where things come from. Sometimes the greatest ideas and the greatest diversity of thinking comes from where you least expect it to come from.”
Diversity of thought is powerful and can provide the competitive edge that your business might need to succeed. Not only does diversity of thought facilitate the formation of creative solutions, but it also ensures that your business avoids groupthink. Groupthink can impede a business’s success because it disallows anyone from seeing the real issues occurring. Without somebody to raise awareness about a poor business practice or an area that can be made more efficient, your business can never improve its productivity or capabilities.
Liz elaborates that “It’s about engagement and being open to different ideas and opinions that might be different to what your bias thinking might be.”
Performance – it’s not a dirty word
There can often be a tricky balance between maintaining performance and working on ensuring your culture and strategy are well maintained. However, it remains critical that leaders of every size business continue to have performance reviews to enable your employees to develop and learn. Performance reviews shouldn’t be something you shy away from, instead, they are vehicles for growth and improvement. In fact, your team want them with a recent study by Clutch finding that 68% of employees who receive accurate and consistent feedback report feeling fulfilled in their jobs.
Intimacy and trust are one way that leaders can enable open performance reviews. If someone is underperforming, it’s critical that you have open discussions about it, not only to understand why but to offer an opportunity for them to improve. This helps strengthen your company culture, ensuring it’s one where everyone understands what’s expected and that each person will be treated fairly. It can also help your business succeed in achieving its goals.
“I think what I’ve learnt is actually having that personal connection with somebody that you work with, or works for you, is one of the most powerful bases in which to have a tough performance discussion,” explains Liz. “There should be high levels of trust involved.”
Values-based leadership, diversity of thought and performance are three critical areas every small to medium-sized business should focus on. These key areas are what build a strong foundation and can ensure your business continues to grow and innovate.