Stairway to Seven

Stairway to Seven

Neil McLeese, MD BeyondHR, outlines his 7 steps to business success.

1. Set clear objectives and prioritise

My mindset has always been that, in order to achieve something, you need to have targets to aim for otherwise you can drift aimlessly without ever achieving anything. When we first acquired the business in 2014 a lot of time was spent in analysing the business and planning for our first five years.  We set ambitious targets to double the size of the business and at the start I reviewed the plan regularly. It felt completely daunting with so much to do in order to reach our goals.  Fortunately, I received wise advice from a mentor who reminded me that the way to eat an elephant was ‘one bite at a time’ so I prioritised the necessary actions into what needed to be achieved each year and then broke those actions down into quarterly actions.  This freed up my mind to focus on the most pressing issues without being overwhelmed by the ambition of our plans.  

2. Develop a culture of team work   

As a teenager I remember following Ulster Rugby’s European Cup campaign in 1999. On paper, Ulster were far from the best team in the tournament, but each player knew their role, played with passion and knew how they fitted into the side’s game-plan. They seemed to be greater than the sum of their parts and emerged as worthy winners of the tournament.  The lesson I took from this was that a group of individuals will never achieve as much as a team that has clear objectives, defined roles and is passionate about what it does. 

3. Communicate

I have always felt it important that if you want to get a team to perform at their best you need to communicate your objectives and seek feedback / opinion.   I choose to believe that most people come to work wanting to do a good job but in order to do that they need to know what you are aiming for and how they can impact it.  Once you explain this get out of the way and don’t micro-manage.  

4. Embrace mistakes

No one sets off to do a bad job and sometimes mistakes happen.  Although, naturally, you want to minimise mistakes, they should be embraced when they do happen as they can provide opportunities for reflection and learning. Taking time to look into these things helps you and your business continuously improve.   

5. Get comfortable being out of your comfort zone

Leading an organisation can mean that you end up in lots of scenarios that make you feel uncomfortable.  I have tried to embrace this over the years and believe that the only way to develop as a person is to stretch yourself and get used to being out of your comfort zone (no matter how painful that can be at times).   

6. Stay positive 

A book I read recently talked about how negative behaviour in a team can be contagious and lead to a cycle of poor performance.  I completely accept this but also believe that positive behaviour can be contagious and inspiring to those you work with on a daily basis.  I have found that running a business can, at times, be fraught with problems and there are periods when things never seem to go the way you planned but maintaining a positive attitude will help to keep you going and allow you to see new opportunities as they present themselves.    

7. Have fun

Over the course of a week we probably spend more time at work than we do with our families, so it is important to take time to have some fun.  Whether than is spending time with your family, playing sport or meeting up with friends it is good for our mental health to have quality time away from the business to recharge our batteries and give us some perspective.