Gordon Tredgold is ranked in the top 100 leadership experts in the world and has been named by Inc Magazine the number one leadership expert to follow on Twitter. He is the author of many business books, the latest being FAST in which Gordon explains the principles every business needs to drive results and achieve success. A high achiever and incredible motivator, Gordon speaks in his interview about mistakes leaders make, why some businesses fail and finally advice to aspiring entrepreneurs to make their business a success.
How did you begin your career?
I started working as a Production Manager in Wallpaper Production Factory. I thought I did a great job, I improved operational performance by 100% in the first 6 months. I remember my boss calling me into the office, he wanted to speak to me. I was expecting a bonus or maybe even a promotion, but I was actually laid off. I was one of the last people to join the company and so was one of the first to leave. The improvements in production I had implemented meant that we had almost run out of work and half the staff needed to be let go and the factory moved onto a 3-day week. That was quite a shock. After that I moved into IT starting as a developer, then working my way up to project manager, always looking to volunteer for the more difficult projects as I saw that as a way of advancing quicker.
What are the most common mistakes you see leaders make within an organization?
There are a number of mistakes I see people making, such as making it all about them rather than the team, leaders do such a small percentage of the actual work you would think that they would understand this. I also see a lot of people failing to engage teams too, on average 70% of employees are disengaged and it’s the leaders job to engage them. Too often I hear leaders say ‘people are paid to do a job so its not my job to motivate and engage them’, but actually I would say that this is the number one differentiator between good and bad leaders.
Your latest book, FAST is based on principles businesses need to drive results and achieve success. Tell us a little bit about the FAST concept and how can business owners benefit from reading this book?
When you look at the statistics for failure, the figures make very dismal reading 60% of projects fail, 80% of first time business go bust, and 95% of product launches fail, and many fail for completely avoidable reasons. FAST is an approach that I developed based on the 4 most common causes of failure, which are a lack of Focus, lack of Accountability, lack of Simplicity and a lack of Transparency. If we can improve our performance in each of these areas it can help us avoid the common causes of failure, and also accelerate the progress that we make. Focus and Accountability help increase our effectiveness, and Simplicity and Transparency help increase our Efficiency, and when you increase Effectiveness and Efficiency your results will see a rapid improvement.
Using FAST also helps to get team engaged too because they have clarity over the objectives, their roles and responsibility, and if you can keep things simple it increases their belief and confidence that they will be success, which helps to inspire, them, and with Transparency as you start to make progress this motivates people to keep going.
You have been featured in many powerful publications, and have been named #1 leadership expert to follow on Twitter. How did you build your public profile?
I actually took a FAST Approach :)...I focused on connecting with people who were both in my niche and active, and then created content that I knew was both relevant and would resonate with them. I created a simple repeatable process that I outsourced, so I could focus on engagement, and I used tools too track and monitor my progress. Once you have all that set up its just a question of being persistent and consistent, which is easy to do if you start to see progress being made, it really encourages you.
The key is to aim high, but start small and be persistent and consistent, when you do that it can help you to achieve some amazing results.
Many entrepreneurs say that they have made plenty of mistakes when they first started their business. Do you think that mistakes are necessary to make in order to learn and reach success? And how can business owners prepare themselves for failures and learn to overcome these?
I do think that learning from mistakes is important, but does it have to be you that makes those mistakes? Why not learn from those of others? There is plenty of material on the internet about mistakes and their causes, and then you just need to understand from them and come up with a plan to mitigate them, and that is what FAST is really.
When you look at the number one reason why product launches fail, 42% of them fail because there is no market for the product. Once you know that, then you would be crazy to create a product without doing any marketing to see if there was a need. If there is no need then don’t create the product and you won’t be part of the 42% who fail because of that.
Surely people can learn that from the information available rather than making that mistake for themselves.
Which would you say is most important in a potential candidate going for a role within an organization? Academic qualifications or work experience?
I am a big fan of hire for attitude not aptitude. Doesn’t matter what skills people have if they don’t have the right attitude to apply them. Remember the saying when the going gets tough the tough get going? If it was about aptitude that saying would be when the going gets tough the smart get going.
So I would definitely look at people's experience to see what kind of attitude they had shown, would be persistent and determined to continue, when they get faced with obstacles or setbacks.
Ideally you would like to get someone with aptitude, attitude and experience, but I wouldn’t be keen on someone with without the right attitude.
In your opinion what are the most important qualities leaders should possess and improve on? Are leaders born leaders or can they learn the skills?
For me leaders are made, sure we can be born with qualities that can help, but we can all learn to be better leaders. Trust is crucial, people won’t follow people they don’t trust, and trust can be easy to improve, make commitments and keep them and trust people first. Too many people want people to prove that they are trustworthy, before they trust them. For me this is a bad approach and it also and attitude which doesn’t build trust in the leader. Trust is reciprocal, the more people you trust the more people will trust you. Sure you might get burned, but you would have gotten burned anyway, but the benefits from the people who live upto your trust far outweigh that. Then I would say keep things simple, really focus on that, if you can keep things simple it helps people build belief and confidence, which both critical in inspiring people and if you can inspire people you will be a great leader that people will want to work for and you will achieve great things.
Lastly I would say put the team first, make it all about them and give them great feedback when they do a good job and they will repay you manyfold.
You are a very successful and well-established business coach. How do businesses benefit from professional coaching?
I am excellent at helping businesses bring clarity to what their goals and objectives are. It’s amazing how many business have confusing, conflicting or unclear goals, and when your goals are unclear your chances of hitting them are nil. I also help people simplify their approaches, and the way to communicate the approach which helps to build confidence and belief in the team, and when you have clarity of goals and increased confidence you will achieve them, then you are truly on your way to successfully attaining them.
What advice do you have for aspiring entrepreneurs and business owners who are just starting out?
I think you have to ask yourself some really tough questions, such as can I sell, if you can’t then its going to be a long hard struggle which is potentially going to end in failure. I think a lot of entrepreneurs, and I know I am one of them, think that good products will sell themselves but that’s just not the case, you need to be hustling and focused on sales every single day.
You also need to ask yourself how long will it take before the business is profitable and do I have the funds to survive, for many business this can be a couple of years before they are profitable, even overnight success take a couple of years.
I would also recommend doing as much research as you can into the causes of failure and make sure that you understand them and can look to learn from them rather than learn by making the same mistakes.
Oh yes and buy and read FAST it will help too!
Purchase a copy of FAST here
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