Usually I've got little time for these type of books. They tend to just be ego bolstering nonsense that leave you in no doubt what a brilliant man (for it usually is a man) the author thinks he is. But Terry Leahy's book is different, in that it's full of the simple, straight talking sensible views that seem to be lacking in so many businesses nowadays. It reminded me of Bill Shankly's famous view on football.
“Football is a simple game based on the giving and taking of passes, of controlling the ball and of making yourself available to receive a pass. It is terribly simple. Football is a simple game made complicated by people who should know better."
Surely if an agency is to succeed it has to remind itself that simplicity and honesty are what we need to offer our client, as more than ever before, both really are in short supply.
Oh and so you don't have to read Mr Leahy's book here's the crib notes. A British Jack Welch, I'm sure you'll agree.
As you may have gathered, this is fundamental to good leadership. If you don’t inspire trust, people will probably still obey you but they may act reluctantly, half-heartedly and hesitantly.
Respect for others, integrity, perseverance, a clear sense of right and wrong — these values were drummed into me thanks to my Catholic upbringing.
In the rush to break down class barriers and end stifling traditions, such values were lost — and replaced by a sense that anything goes. Successful organisations, however, are underpinned by strong values. These govern how it behaves, what it sees as important, and what it does when faced with a problem — even down to what a shop assistant does when asked: ‘Where’s the ketchup?’
Tesco’s chief executive in Thailand — a fierce market — once cut our employees’ year-end bonus of an extra month’s pay. This grated with our values: I saw it as an unacceptable thing to do to people who were working flat-out to meet our goals. So we let the chief executive go.
Being true to a clear set of values — such as showing respect for others and rewarding people who do the right thing — enables trust and confidence to take root.
Without question, winning and retaining loyalty is the best objective any organisation can have. Every time anyone has a decision to make, they should ask themselves: ‘Will it make people more loyal to us or not?’
For a company to flourish, it has to form an attachment with you that is partly rational and partly emotional. Then you’ll instinctively return to shop at its store, invest in its stock and use its services.
I wouldn't describe myself as naturally brave. Far from it: I’m both shy and cautious. I embark on a course of action only when I think I’m sure of the consequences and have assessed the risks.
But when I became chief executive, I had what I can only describe as a moment of clarity: I realised what our goals must be and wrote them down in the back of my diary as I waited for a flight.
First, I wanted us to overtake Marks & Spencer and become No 1 in the UK. Second, I wanted us to be as strong in non-food products — 3 per cent of the total back then — as we were in food. Third, I wanted to start a retailing services business — such as finance or telecommunications. And, finally, I wanted to have as much retail space overseas as we had in the UK.
At the time, my strategy was dismissed by many as naive.
The reality, however, is that goals have to be bold and daring. They need to cause excitement and just a little fear.
And, yes, Tesco achieved them all.
Making a speech, winning an election, launching a policy paper — all that is one thing: turning honeyed words into reality is quite another. Plans mean nothing if they’re not effectively enacted. After making a decision, you need to write down the sequence of events and actions required to turn it into a reality.
This sounds pedantic — but the danger is that if you don’t, there’ll be no common agreement about what needs to be done.
The challenge for any large organisation is not merely to create a sense of camaraderie but a framework in which each person can perform their roles as they best see fit.
That means encouraging initiative and making people take responsibility for their own actions.
This is a balanced organisation, in which everyone moves forward together, steered in the right direction.
A simple aim brings focus to what people do. A simple proposition is easy for people to understand.
Simple acts take less time to learn and less time to do and cost less.
Simple systems take less time to establish, are easy to change and are actually more satisfying for the people who work with them every day.
Indeed, simplicity is the knife that cuts through the tangled spaghetti of life’s problems.
Lean thinking doesn’t mean you want to sell less widgets; it’s a way of ensuring that fewer natural resources are used in their manufacture.
Take concentrated washing detergent. Traditional detergent is bulky and heavy, requires a good deal of packaging and is expensive to transport — all of which eats into profits.
Concentrated washing detergent, by contrast, requires less packaging and therefore costs less to transport. It also allows clothes to be washed at lower temperatures, thus reducing energy consumption.
If everyone in the world switched to using it, we could reduce carbon dioxide emissions by more than four million tonnes — that is the equivalent of taking one million cars off the road.
Day in, day out, competitors are trying to outwit you and win your business away from you.
It’s as if you’re a politician but fighting for election every day. The temptation, therefore, is to shy away from competition.
Equally tempting, should you have vanquished your opponent, is to become complacent.
Or you may neglect to keep an eye open for lesser rivals quietly creeping up behind you.
All these tendencies are not merely mistakes but wasted opportunities. Competition should be embraced.
Compete, don’t retreat.
If I have to choose which of my ten words is the most important, I’d say it’s ‘truth’. Seeking and speaking the truth is not only morally right but the bedrock of successful management.
Root out the truth about any problems — then don’t hide what you’ve learned. Find the truthful answer to the question: ‘What’s the purpose of this organisation?'
Not least, you must be true to yourself and those around you.
The best source of the truth is often those you serve: your customers. Listen and learn from them, heed their advice — and you stand a greater chance of success.
It’s that simple.