Barnevik on Leadership: Getting the Most out of your Team

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I was a 32-year-old engineering manager with virtually no manufacturing experience, but that didn’t matter. The company needed a strong leader to take over one of the key manufacturing operations in the division and, because I had demonstrated the ability to get things done, I was asked to lead this business. This was the culture that Percy Barnevik created.

My first job after serving in the U.S. Navy was working for the global engineering company, ABB. Our CEO at the time was the legendary, hard-charging Swede, Percy Barnevik. In 1988, Barnevik created ABB by pulling off the largest European merger at the time, bringing together two engineering powerhouses, ASEA and Brown Boveri Ltd.

What I loved about Barnevik was his bias towards action. He got things done. He was decisive and he expected the same from his employees. The company culture at that time reflected his personality. We moved fast and we fixed it along the way. He knew how to bring out the best of his employees by challenging them to do more.

“Leadership Is the ability to get extraordinary achievement from ordinary people” – Brian Tracy

Barnevik believed in getting the most out of his teams. He created a culture where we challenged each other to do the impossible. It was a company where the status quo was constantly challenged and we worked hard to create new levels of performance.

He understood the most important role of a leader is to set expectations and Barnevik kept his standards very high. He expected strong performance but he also knew that he had to create an environment where employees could take chances and try out new methods and techniques to improve the business.

Here are four things Barnevik did to get the most out of his teams:

Challenging assignments. Barnevik thought good people should be challenged. It was not uncommon for strong performing employees to be placed in high profile assignments which were far beyond their proven abilities. This allowed employees to have the opportunity to showcase their skills and provided management with a way to quickly evaluate talent.

Professional development. Barnevik believed in giving employees opportunities to grow professionally. In my time working for him, I attended countless domestic and international training sessions which exposed me to new ideas and helped me further develop my leadership skills.

A forgiving culture. Barnevik pushed decision making to the lowest level and embedded a culture of decisiveness at all levels. He created a culture of speed, decisiveness and forgiveness. If you made a bad decision, it was not the end of your career. You were expected to fix it and move on. This allowed leaders to try new ideas to improve performance without the constant fear of being fired.

Recognition for high achievement. Barnevik also understood that excellence should be recognized. He had countless programs to acknowledge significant achievement throughout the organization. This created positive feedback for high performing employees and generated internal competition which continued to boost performance.

“Good leaders boost the achievement of everybody, bad leaders can have the opposite effect.” – Percy Barnevik

I was fortunate to serve under Percy Barnevik during his time at ABB. Because of the culture he created, I was given the opportunity to lead a manufacturing operation at a young age. The company continued to invest in me and I grew as a business leader. Like many, I thrived in the culture he created where speed, decisiveness and forgiveness were embraced and high achievement was recognized.


 

Read more about Barnevik’s leadership in this rare book written by Percy himself.  This book is hard to find so I purchased a limited supply of these books and only have 4 left. This book is often stocked-out on Amazon and other sites.

Price includes shipping to U.S. customers. Overseas customers, contact me.

 

Percy Barnevik on Leadership (Shipping in U.S. included)

(Paperback – 2014) Percy Barnevik on Leadership is largely based on the author’s own experience gained in different leadership roles over a period of nearly 50 years. The emphasis is on efficient execution. This is, in his view, what mainly differentiates successful leaders and companies from less successful ones. The advice, contained in 200 separate points, covers a wide spectrum ranging from personal efficiency, strategy, handling of crises, company acquisitions to, not least, building successful teams.

$24.99

Are you Leading a Rebellion in your Industry?

39085804 - fake dictionary, dictionary definition of the word rebellion.

“Rebellions are Built on Hope” ~ Jyn Erso, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

Yes, I am a Star Wars fan. In fact, I’m old enough to have seen the first three movies in the theater when they were originally released. I love all the movies in the Star Wars franchise but Rogue One spoke to me as an entrepreneur and a leader.

If you haven’t seen it, the story features a character named Jyn Erso who leads a small team of rebels to capture plans which will help the Rebellion destroy a powerful new weapon the Empire has developed.

In one scene, the leaders of the Rebellion are meeting to decide on how to confront the Empire and their new weapon. Discouraged by fear and the overwhelming force of the Empire, the rebel leaders decide to disband and hide.

It’s at this point when Jyn and a small team of committed volunteers decide to do something about it. Against all odds, their tiny band of rebels takes on the Empire. Their heroic actions create a spark that ignites the rest of the Rebellion forces to join in the fight.

As a leader of a small company competing against large industry giants, I have been in those meetings where fear was present.  It’s natural to look at the size and strength of your competitors and become discouraged. What gives me confidence in these situations is to remember other David and Goliath stories.

One that I recall the most is the story of Netflix and Blockbuster Video. Back in 2000, Blockbuster was the giant in the industry and Netflix was just a small start-up. I can imagine the small team at Netflix was easily discouraged when they considered the size and strength of their rival who had 60,000 employees and 8,000 stores.

“A leader is a dealer in hope.” ~ Napoleon Bonaparte

This is where hope comes in. Napoleon Bonaparte, one of the most brilliant military leaders in history stated that, “A leader is a dealer in hope.” This is especially important in a small business facing overwhelming odds. A leader must be the spark that ignites the rest of team.

As in the Rogue One story and the case of Blockbuster Video, large and powerful competitors always have a weakness. It’s the job of the leader to find that weakness and rally their team to exploit it. We should never underestimate what a small team of committed volunteers can do against overwhelming odds.

We each have the power to lead a rebellion in our industry. So, what are you doing to lead your rebellion? Have you found the weaknesses of your largest competitor? Are you rallying your team to exploit those weaknesses? Does your team look to the future with hope or are they discouraged by fear?

As a small business leader, we deal in hope. What hope are you providing today?

5 Reasons to Celebrate the Tough Times

“I’m not afraid of storms, for I’m learning how to sail my ship.” ~Louisa May Alcott

I was talking to a friend the other day and we were reminiscing about a business we worked at that went through a rough period. Market demand had dropped, orders were down, margins were being squeezed, and we had a new business system that limited our view of the situation. He mentioned something that really struck me. He said, “I’m glad we went through that time because it made me a much better leader.”

Leading during difficult times takes everything you have, but the truth is, you will be better off because of that experience. In a great article called 9 Things Great Leaders Do in Difficult Times, Bill Murphy Jr. says, “Great leadership seems easy when things are good and everybody’s happy. When times grow tough, however, a leader’s true colors are revealed.”

Murphy suggests that in difficult times, great leaders:

  1. Control their fears
  2. Focus on the mission
  3. Put the mission ahead of themselves
  4. Rely on their training and preparation
  5. Are tough, but human
  6. Encourage their people
  7. Communicate effectively
  8. Use their resources wisely
  9. Imitate the leaders who inspire them

Having led both military and business organizations through some pretty difficult periods, I would agree with Murphy’s thoughts on this subject. I also think there is another side to tough times that he did not consider. As my friend said to me, tough times make you a better leader. Let me suggest five reasons why:

Tough times require you to operate at your highest level. When the seas are calm and the weather is nice, you don’t have to be on the top of your game. But tough times require an intense, 24/7 focus on the problem. As a leader, everyone in the organization is watching you and depending on you to make the right decisions to lead them out of the situation. It requires focus, determination, decisiveness, courage, intensity, and perseverance. It will take your absolute best.

You learn a lot about yourself during tough times. The challenge of leading during difficult times is learning to deal with those voices of self-doubt, fear, and worry while your team is depending on you for confidence and strength. Tough times are the ultimate test of a leader’s character and resolve. There is nothing that will boost confidence more than facing the toughest challenge in your career and coming out on top.

You build strong bonds with your team during tough times. When you stand shoulder to shoulder with your team through a crisis, you build a bond that can last a lifetime. When a leader and their team step up and work together through a tough situation, it builds a powerful new level of trust and respect. The overall capability of the organization is forever enhanced through this experience.

Tough times give you a new perspective. Your perspective forever changes from having withstood a difficult period. You have a much greater appreciation for when times are good. You also are less likely to let people, politics, and minor issues get you down. Tough times help build your maturity as a leader.

Tough times become an anchor point for the rest of your career. Great leaders can almost always point to a time in their career when they became great. In most cases, it was leading an organization through a tough situation and coming out on top. The most difficult situation you face may actually be the defining moment in your career.

Most of us don’t want to go through difficult times. It’s human nature to want things to be easy. The problem is that when things are easy and you aren’t challenged, you don’t grow. Confidence and maturity as a leader come from dealing with your self-doubt and fears while overcoming adversity. Tough times require your best, you learn what you are capable of, you learn what your team is capable of, you build strong bonds, you gain a new perspective, and your performance will define your career. So why not celebrate the tough times? It may be the best thing that ever happened to you.

So what do you think? Can you grow as a leader without experiencing difficult times? Does your learning accelerate when facing a crisis? Should we seek out leaders that have proven themselves in tough trials? Are there other ways our perspective changes by enduring tough times?