Kevin Uphill has enjoyed a long and successful career as an entrepreneur, strategist and mergers and acquisitions advisor. Having successfully owned and sold several companies, he has in-depth business expertise. He is currently founder and Chairman of Avondale Group a leading international mergers and acquisitions boutique founded in 1991.
Kevin utilises his extensive business experience to help others, be it organisations or individuals through mentoring, speaking engagements and writing.
Kevin is the author of two books: ‘How to Buy and Sell a Business for Wealth.’ His second book, ‘Navigating the Rivers of Cash,’ seeks to inspire business leaders to become more insightful, strategic, creative and purposeful. For a chance to win a copy please click here.
In the extract below, Kevin explores the notion of creating and sustaining new habits:
2.0 Chapter 2: Purposeful leadership in the river
‘The quest – creating and sustaining new habits’
To achieve strategic understanding, clarity and purpose, leaders need to seek strategic calm time and look at their habits. As a business leader you will have many responsibilities and pulls on your time, and you will have developed a set of strategies and habits to deal with your work. However, the areas where you invest most of your time and energy are typically the areas you are good at and enjoy; yet what you don’t enjoy or what you struggle with may well be where the biggest energy is being lost in the business. The most effective way to improve the business is for you to fully understand your current preferences and time focus and what habits these have formed. This is not about changing yourself or building new skills, it’s simply about making informed choices by reviewing your position, and the quest is making the right changes.
Habits are caused by your environment and can be easily tackled. The first aspect is to recognise what your habits are and the reasons behind them. The second, with discipline and conscious effort, is to replace the habit with an alternative. At the start it will feel uncomfortable, but the good news is that the human brain takes around 21 days to adjust or develop a new habit. For example, it is easy to develop the habit of fixing problems for people by telling them what to do, yet this can make you a bottleneck in the business as people constantly refer or defer to you. Instead, develop the habit of helping people to understand how to fix their own problems by guidance and questions.
As well as questing after new positive habits, we need to consider our beliefs and work out which ones are positive and which ones are not. What you believe can strongly influence your time focus. For example you might, as many leaders do, believe it is important to be strong and exert control yet, after a bit of time in the chair, you have probably learnt that flexibility is as important, if not more so. After all, a battle plan rarely survives first engagement with the enemy. These beliefs can be both compatible and at odds; you can choose to believe strength comes in flexibility or believe strength comes with an iron will. The point is that both approaches can and do work, and indeed it is actually possible to combine them. There is usually a time for each and you can choose. Your beliefs should not over-influence the recognition of which time is right for which approach; the business is bigger than you and you have the responsibility to be adaptable. Many business leaders, male and female, display alpha male traits and, if we revert to ‘type’, strength, domination and determination will appear high on the agenda but many of these traits crush consensus building and listening.
In this, we can see that leadership today could be argued to be about putting aside the ego and doing what works rather than what you believe works, or would like to work. For example, many self-made owners work really hard when starting a business because, by nature, they are grafters. They believe they are making the biggest difference driving the business, but ‘doing’ tends to push them to working in the business, at the job, rather than working on the business, that is on the strategy and process to seek intelligent growth. The belief is that ‘hard work’ is all, however ‘hard thought’ is often far more effective. If you are flexible in your beliefs you can then combine them and seek hard work through hard thinking – not necessarily through grafting. To quote one of Bill Gates’ top ten tips: “Be nice to geeks [thinkers] at school, they will rule the world.”
- Which of your current habits are good or bad and what beliefs do you need to challenge?
- How much do you control your responsibilities and time as opposed to the business?
Today, in a highly turbulent world, my observation is that the most important belief is choosing the most positive outlook. That is, you and your team have total confidence that you can make a difference and can always find ways to achieve your goals given time – however difficult those goals are; the classic business mindset that failure is simply feedback. Worry and stress achieve very little, whereas if you believe you can, you probably will – even if achievement is slow… We are not talking about the entrepreneur’s pathological optimism; such optimism very often gets in the way of listening in the face of reality. More it is a question of choosing a humble forward outlook, or state of mind: if we seek positive outcomes, we must be positive.
- Are you stressed and worried and does this have a negative impact?
- When are you at your best and how can you be like that more?
So the business leader, through practice and patience, builds inner mental control, adopting and practising flexible habits and positive beliefs. Inner control and influence then expand out directly to what you do, how you spend your time, where you focus, where you connect and how you guide your business. This outlook can seem a bit passive at first as it just doesn’t feel like work, but once you get used to seeking a better internal course, it is amazing how often this translates to achieving the right external path and the feeling becomes exhilarating. The concept is to look inwards before outwards, and take total responsibility for the way you act and how it impacts others. Lead yourself before you presume to lead others. “The habits of life form the soul and the soul forms the countenance.” – Honoré de Balzac
For further information about the Avondale Group please visit: www.avondale-group.co.uk