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By leadership style, People, self-aware

What is one trait that makes a leader a great one? Their ability and willingness to reflect on their behavior and attitude to always improve. Knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom, said Aristotle. For a leader, being self-aware is all about knowing their own strength and limitations, truly understanding their motivations and influences, and always being aware of their emotions and reactions. Self-awareness will empower a leader to manage themself better and lead others more effectively.

A leader’s style defines their approach to lead their team and the work culture they promote. Others will follow the leader’s approach and it is essential for the leader to be aware of the impact they have. A leader must reflect and adapt their approach based on their team’s characteristics and needs. Only a leader that has a high level of self-awareness can do so effectively.

Leadership style is shaped by the leader’s attitude, emotion, behavior, and belief. Recognizing their impact on others and working on them is critical to becoming an effective leader.

There are several positive outcomes of being a self-aware leader. It results in a confident, emotionally intelligent leader.

6 Characteristics of self-aware leaders

  1. Self-aware leaders are thoughtful: They develop a mindset of continuously reflecting on their actions, decision-making process, and communication.
  2. They are perceptive: They are aware of what is happening around them and pay attention to it. Because of this ability, self-aware leaders can foresee the outcome of different situations.
  3. They are considerate: They understand the needs of their teams and are empathetic toward them. They are also active listeners and are willing to change their behaviors based on feedback.
  4. They are modest: They recognize their own shortcomings and focus on continuous self-development.
  5. They have clarity: Being self-aware promotes better decision-making capabilities. It helps them to focus on what matters most and not get distracted easily.
  6. They are realistic: They are mindful of the skills and capabilities of the team and set their performance targets based on the team’s competencies.

How would you assess your self-awareness and continue to improve it?

5 steps to becoming a self-aware leader

  1. Get feedback: It is helpful to analyze how others react to your actions and words but for more in-depth feedback, you can ask them for direct feedback. Be sure you are accepting of others’ input and will take the time to reflect.


  1. Be observant: Analyze what behaviors, approach, and communication style results in a positive outcome and what does not. Learn from others’ reactions, be empathetic toward them and consider the impact on others when you make decisions.


  1. Recognize your strength: Once you understand the patterns, be aware of when you are most effective as a leader. Be conscious of your internal strengths and work to improve your emotional intelligence.


  1. Never stop reflecting: Without reflection, there is no self-awareness. It is a continuous process. People and situations will keep changing. It is important to continuously keep reflecting on your own actions and behavior.


  1. Record your traits and be open to learning: Document how you respond to different situations. Identify what evokes a positive response in you and what does not. Recognize your reactions to stress, challenges, and conflict. Look for patterns in your behavior. This analysis will support your efforts for strengthening skills that have a positive impact.

All of us are constantly making choices about how we behave in different situations and interacting with different people. These choices affect our relationships with others. Self-reflection is key to becoming self-aware of how we react and behave. It is looking into yourself to know your emotions, temperament, and sense of right and wrong. Recognizing your strengths and opportunities for growth, being aware of their impact on others, and managing them effectively is an essential part of becoming a great leader.




Six tips to transform a business idea into a reality

By business idea, start-up

How often have you discussed a business idea with friends and were told to go for it? While a good idea is a starting point, it will require resources, planning, and strategy to transform your idea into a business. But as the adage goes, “If it were easy – everyone would do it.”

Transforming an idea into a business is not easy or simple. While it is not too difficult to build an imaginary business around an idea, it is a completely different process to transform it into a tangible operation. Those who get to do it employ organizational skills, mental agility, and determination to follow a few time-tested actions.

If you are finally ready to take the plunge, here are six tips that will help. These are actions to help you organize your thoughts, validate your idea and develop a plan of action to make your idea a reality.

  1. Record your ideas to create a plan

An idea must be supported by meticulous planning and a strategy for it to take off.

The first step is to write everything down. Once documented, it will take a more definite form and give you the conviction to pursue your idea. It will also capture the various elements around the core idea and help consolidate your thoughts. Your ideas may be scattered, and it is essential to organize them. Write down your ideas, then categorize them, find the patterns, develop the sequence, and determine how one idea and action relate to another.

  1. Research the market

The first group we turn to with an idea is our inner circle. It is natural to discuss an idea with your friends and family. Their opinions can inspire you to think of different dimensions of your idea, but they are not the subject matter expert to guide your effort. Don’t mistake your social circle input for market research.

As an entrepreneur, you must be able to see the broader picture of whether it will succeed in the market. For this, you must get a broader, unbiased input. Market research will give a clear perspective of the target audience and help you strategize your marketing plans.

To start your market research, you must think about the service or product you want to offer, what challenge for the user will this address? Who are your target users, what other products or services are available to them, how does your product or service add value? These are important questions to ask. Once you determine you target market, you have research to better understand their needs and decision-making process.

  1. Prepare a business plan

You need a plan to act on. A business plan can go down to a granular level, giving clarity to many components of your business. It gives details of manufacturing plans or how you will provide services, the type of people and skills you need, and how you will recruit for the right talent, get technical resources, and source funds. Whether it is short or detailed, your internal and external strategies emerge from the business plan.

Many entrepreneurs fail to develop a clear direction and plan to make their idea a reality. You will not follow everything you plan for but having a plan is essential to help you move forward. Thinking about a step-by-step process will enable you to identify the challenges and develop a plan to overcome them.

Also having a business plan validates your idea and is a critical tool to secure resources. Without a business plan, your idea is just a dream. With an actionable plan, your idea becomes a reality. Work in progress.

One of the obstacles that prevent individuals to create the plan and act on it, is fear of having to commit to what they document. Remember, this is just a starting point and as you progress, you can always make changes. But you cannot start moving forward without developing a plan!

 4. Get the right people on board!

Knowing early on the strategy you want to pursue will help develop the resource management and rollout plan for your idea. Having a clear vision and attracting the right people to support you is essential for business success.

When you get a business idea, you already have some thoughts on whether the products and services are exclusive or not and whether they cater to an exclusive or a universal customer base. Market research will give a clear picture of the generic strategy for your business. Deciding on a generic strategy is a critical step that influences people strategy, which in turn affects the business operation.

As an entrepreneur having the right people on your team will determine your success or failure. A good partner can fill your strength gaps and help you succeed. But having an ineffective team can prevent your success and growth. To determine the right team members, you have to think about your overall strategy, plan what resources are needed to make it a reality and

Most entrepreneurs team up with people of convenience. Those that they know or are accessible. While this is the quickest way to create a team, it is not the best approach in the long term. It is important to have a plan and clarity on the skills that are necessary to succeed and recruit accordingly!

 5. Create your own culture

An organization’s culture flows from what the founders and leaders demonstrate. To be successful they must create an environment where everyone practices shared values, are motivated, innovative, and take ownership of their roles.

For a small business that is in the growth stage, the culture of the organization and the way people are working and interacting with one another can have a lasting impact on the success of the organization.

Given that at the planning stage, most people work with those they are familiar with such as former colleagues, friends, and family members, they may continue to interact based on their history with one another. But as the business starts to take shape, it is critical to have clear value statement, clear strategy, and recruitment goals.

Over time, hiring strategies, talent management, skills development, appraisals, and feedback mechanisms must be put in place to support the organizational goals while attracting and retaining the right people.

  1. Establish the Right Organizational Structure

 Most often, pioneering employees in a new business end up taking on a diverse range of responsibilities mostly because they are short of people and resources. But role clarity and assignment of responsibilities make it easier for everyone to focus. A new business must implement proper structure as it starts to grow based on the industry it operates in and its size.

It is common for a new business to begin with a flat structure where there is high level of autonomy and collaboration. Flat organizations will be agile as they allow employees to make decisions quickly as speed is a necessity in the start-up stage. But when the business starts growing, it should put in place a plan where responsibilities start moving to qualified employees hired qualified to do the job based on merits. That builds a motivated team that aligns itself with the business goals.

What most small businesses fail to do is manage their resources. While their product and service may be valuable, they focus on external growth and fail to align their internal operation to support their growth. Having a formal structure, organized processes, and strong leadership are pillars of success for a growing organization. The goal is to develop an organization that becomes self-sustained with the right people in the right positions so it can survive without the founder involved in every decision and every procedure.

In summary, while an idea is a great starting point, several steps are needed to grow it into a successful business. That includes planning and strategizing, organizational skills, focusing on the big picture, and having the right team to support you to make your idea a reality!


HR practices that support your organization strategy

HR Practices That Support Organizational Strategy

By Business Strategy, Recruitment

When you think of purchasing something, do you go to the store with the lowest cost products or the one with the most unique ones? Or perhaps something in between? Looking for value and quality.

Each of the stores you chose has its own competitive edge. They have developed a strategy based on their competitive advantage and the market they want to serve. To succeed, these businesses must be clear on their strategy and hire people with the right skills to support their strategy.

Michael Porter's generic strategies .

Graph explaining the four generic strategies that Michael Porter* put forth.

Business and strategy guru Michael Porter categorized organizational strategies into groups.  These strategies work for all businesses irrespective of their size and nature of the operation: differentiation, cost, differentiation focus, and cost focus. Those competing in a broader market are leadership and those with a niche market are focused. They each serve very different customers and have different processes. To support this, they must hire and train the right skills to drive their success.

Differentiation Strategy:

Differentiation is about offering a unique product. A business that has a different product or service as its competitive edge develops a differentiation strategy. This business provides a product that is either not available in the market or has more to offer than what is available.

Such an organization has a culture of creativity and innovation. To be successful, this culture should be reflected in its people. Its people require a range of skill sets. They should be pro-active, self-driven, and empowered to work on their own.

The hiring strategy will focus on recruiting for diverse skill sets. They practice a flexible approach to talent recruitment and job definition, so they hire and nurture talented and creative people, empowering them to be innovative at work. The focus is more on skill sets such as creativity, innovation, being proactive, self-motivation, and risk-taking. With autonomy comes accountability. These organizations reward new ideas and provide support for the employees to implement their ideas. The individual contributions support the organizational differentiation strategy.

Cost Leadership:

For organizations focused on cost leadership, their competitive edge is providing the products at the lowest cost. Customers buy their product or service knowing they are paying as little as possible. Here, the success mantra is to increase profits by reducing input costs and charging lower prices while betting on volumes. Such businesses need people with general skills, with the ability to work efficiently and follow instructions well.

To ensure efficiency and low cost, such organizations must build detailed processes and have specific job descriptions aligned with such processes. There is little room for creativity and deviation from the well-defined efficient processes. Investing in a strong recruitment process will reduce the overall cost and ensure a higher retention rate. Similar to other operational processes, HR processes are well defined and efficient in such organizations as well. Automation and technology-driven selection process would be a popular practice in such organizations.  The job descriptions are very clear, and candidates are hired based on exact specifications. This recruitment process is geared to speed up the hiring process, where people can be replaced quickly and easily while keeping the cost low. The focus on selection is process efficiency and productivity rather than creativity.

Focus strategy:

Focus strategy is applicable when an organization is focused on a niche market. This could be differentiations focus or cost focus.

An organization that uses focus strategy pursues a particular ‘niche’ market, by offering niche products and services. It could develop a differentiation focus strategy by offering exclusive products serving a market that values such exclusive products. Or it could develop a cost focus strategy by focusing on a niche customer base with low-cost products. They build good brand loyalty because they are focused on specific markets, serving specific customers.

These organizations must hire people who are observant of the market trends, industry, and matters that drive the business.

The recruitment practices will focus on a great understanding of the niche market they are concentrating on and must be flexible enough to get the right talent but robust enough to be able to manage the turnaround quickly, to keep high-quality customer service. The talent pool may be smaller for these organizations as understanding the market is more essential than an organization with a broad audience.

The recruitment process for a cost focus business will focus on getting people with a research bent of mind, who are budget-conscious who understand the value customers in the niche market are looking for. The focus is to increase loyalty and trust while working towards lowering the cost of supplies and operations.

People in a differentiated focus organization require skills to understand the needs of customers and be creative to meet their needs. The recruitment process will focus on getting people with excellent analysis and customer service skills, as well as those who are proactive and inventive to meet the niche market requirements.

There is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to recruitment and selection for different organizations. The strategy will impact the practices. However, most organizations do develop their talent and provide them with the right tools and knowledge through their customized training. To develop high-performing employees, it is essential for organizations to provide the right training to their employees enabling them to support the organization’s needs.

Employees are at the core of each organization, and they should be equipped to perform based on the business strategy for it to succeed. People can be aligned seamlessly when they have the right skills and competencies to work in alignment with the strategy.


Aligning people with business strategy.

By Business Strategy, Consulting, Education, People, Performance, Training

For a business to succeed, it first needs a vision. Then comes strategy, which articulates the vision and provides direction for growth and performance.

A good business strategy aligns people and processes to drive performance. Alignment of different functions of an organization are essential for its success. At the heart of it is the organizational most important asset: its people.

Let’s focus on aligning people to strategy as it is the foundation for success.

People are the most important resource for an organization to achieve its objective. For people to perform well they need to feel connected, valued and motivated by the organization. Having high level of job satisfaction and commitment will result in organizational high performance.

For an organization to attract, foster and retain the best employees, it needs to align all of its Human Resources practices with the organizational strategy. Depending on the culture of the organization, the requirements of the job and the overall organizational strategy different Human resources management practices are required.

Committed and motivated people mirror the values of a business and its success. This intricate connection provides the best reason for a business to do everything possible to keep their employees aligned with its strategy. And be aware that talent is agile and mobile. It is always looking for fulfillment, growth, and recognition. To retain it, nurture it.

Here’s is a checklist to see if your business strategy is aligned with your people:

  • Are you utilizing your employees potential in your organization?
  • Do you have long term employees who are excited to work for your organization?
  • Are your employees your brand ambassadors?
  • Do your employees demonstrate the highest standard of customer service?
  • Do your employees work well as a team?
  • Do your employees initiative change to improve your organizational performance
  • Do you have a high degree of employee satisfaction and commitment?

Aligning people and strategy is by no means an easy and quick job. It required alignment between many functions. To do so a thorough analysis of the organizational strategy, current practices and ideal practices is requires.

People alignment and business strategy are not two distinct elements. They are intricately woven and must work in tandem to succeed. Here are a few areas you need to consider for a successful alignment.

5 things to achieve alignment between people and strategy

Recruitment and Selection

After an organization identifies the talent gap, the first step is recruitment and selection to close that gap. Recruitment starts with identifying the need for a new talent and ends with receiving qualified applications. Once the applications are received the selection process starts to identify the most qualified candidate who will succeed in the role. This process is guided by the organizational strategy.

Rewards and Compensation:

Once the right candidate has been identified, your organization needs to make an offer with the appropriate compensation to attract the candidate. Understanding different dimensions of compensation and adjusting it based on each employee’s needs is an important part of attracting the right talent. Further the compensation should be aligned with organizational strategy to drive the right behavior.

Performance appraisal and feedback

After an employee starts to work in the organization, the need to receive feedback on their performance. Everyone needs that pat on the back and it is critical for an organization to have a process to recognize individuals contribution. Further there are may ways to set goas for employees and hold them accountable to perform. Individual’s performance must be aligned with organizational goals and objectives.

Training and Development

Although most employees have completed the training and education necessary to qualify for a job, learning is an ongoing journey. In early stages the organization must provide job specific training to support the new employees’ performance. There after it is the responsibility of the employee and the organization to establish developmental plan for the employee to acquire skills necessary for the next role. This process is driven by the organizational overall strategy and vision.

Mentoring and empowering

For employees to succeed and thrive they need organizational support. Having a mentor or even a ‘buddy’ provides a sense of security for employees. For the mentors, it is the sense of achievement, fulfillment. For the mentee, it provides reassuring support because they feel that they have someone who can guide them and steer them in the right course. Furthermore, employees need to be empowered to develop the leadership skills necessary to succeed. This program has to support the organization strategy. By having the right guide, right from the start, the new hires get to understand and work with the strategy.