Five minutes with Lucia Adams. Talking entrepreneurial leaders
Updated: Jul 31, 2019
Kandu is running a blog series to investigate what it means to be an "entrepreneurial leader”. This week we spoke to Lucia Adams (@lucia_adams), a consultant and coach who helps companies dramatically increase the impact of their digital initiatives by transforming teams.
1. Which change project have you led and/ or new venture have you developed, that you are most proud of - and why?
I was part of the team that led one of the biggest transformations in the newspaper industry at The Times. This was in the context of fundamental industry disruption. Our work spanned product, people, and process to result in the paper making an £11m profit.
This was the first time the paper made a profit in 13 years. I have taken this experience and developed an approach to help companies in other industries navigate the #VUCA (Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, Ambiguous) challenges that digital brings in its wake.
One of the key learnings at The Times was that often #digitaltransformation is too narrowly focused on tech. However, the lack of focus on people, ways of working and culture has often tripped up companies and prevented them from realising the value of their investments. The adage that 'culture eats strategy for breakfast' is borne out by the stats: this is why 85% of transformation efforts fail.
My focus is on the people in the organisation - and more and more leaders see this as pivotal in the success of their initiatives: a recent Deloitte study found that developing teams is now in the top three priorities for CIOs.
2. How do you identify an ‘entrepreneurial leader’?
The best #entrepreneurialleaders I’ve worked with are clear on their purpose, and they bring energy, commitment and passion to deliver new approaches to old problems. They challenge the status quo, and they are humble enough to admit when they haven’t quite got it right; they encourage diversity of opinion and bring a learner mindset and insatiable curiosity to challenges and opportunities. All of this combined helps them build the best teams that deliver the most innovative products and businesses.
3. What do you think are the most important skills and/or attributes that make up a successful entrepreneurial leader?
Two things are key in an entrepreneurial leader: #agile leadership and adopting a coaching stance in working with teams. For me, agile #leadership is about being clear about purpose, focusing on the customer, business outcomes and taking an adaptive approach to delivering value.
The constantly changing environment of digital means that the old way of 'managing' teams doesn't work; command and control cultures, rigidly sticking to waterfall approaches or five-year plans, and a directive style, do not enable organisations to adapt to a constantly changing environment.
The competitive market, customer needs, and technology are in constant flux; an entrepreneurial leader is able to navigate this by adjusting course in response to these factors.
Adopting a coaching stance is a foundation for building this agility. So much of digital is about discovery; that means that the leader simply cannot have all the answers. Often they are working with multidisciplinary teams, so leaders cannot be a subject matter expert across each of these disciplines. That means that they need to unlock the value of their teams by supporting them, rather than simply telling them.
Bringing a coaching style to my own leadership has been powerful in helping the teams I work with navigate really difficult challenges to deliver results. Using a coaching style also means that teams are much more likely to deliver the ideas they've been part of creating - and this ultimately drives the bottom line. It's about doing 'with' not 'to'.
4. Which of these skills or attributes, speaking from your own experience, are developed through nurture or nature?
I’m a big fan of Carol Dweck’s book, Growth Mindset as well as Mathew Syed’s book Bounce: The Myth of Talent and the Power of Practice.
I believe that most things can be learned - if we’re motivated enough. Agile leadership requires unlearning many old practices - and doing so in organisations where those old practises might be putting lots of road blocks in the way. So high motivation is key. Coaching is as much about skills as it is mindset. The skills can be learned and the mindset can be developed.
5. What top tips or ‘hacks’ do you have for anyone wanting to make small changes now to be more entrepreneurial, or to create entrepreneurial cultures for their teams?
Listen! And listen deeply - not just to the ‘information’ level of what someone is saying, but to what might lie behind what they're saying as well as what it tells you about their values. Whether you’re using this with customers, clients or your team, this leads to deeper insights about the world around us and builds deeper connections with others.
Be curious: never stop learning. I think about myself as an ideas magpie - I love bringing together different disciplines and approaches, I love looking at a range of industries to see what I can learn from them - this means that I’m constantly evolving my practice and discovering new things.
Get comfortable with messiness. Entrepreneurial leaders are breaking new ground and this can be an uncomfortable process. Brene Brown says that creativity is not possible without vulnerability, so building the capacity to ‘sit’ with this will enable exploration and discovery of solutions that might not have been immediately visible.
Take care of yourself: ask for help, get a coach or #mentor, and create space to reflect - there’s so much pressure to ‘do’ and often so little time to think. Creating a space to take a step back and reflect has consistently enabled me to develop creative responses to challenges and opportunities.
6. How can organisations better support their potential entrepreneurial leaders, and why should they do that?
Organisations often talk about wanting to have entrepreneurial leaders, but they don’t tolerate failure. Or they want leaders to be agile, but they have so many processes standing in the way. Their culture ‘code’ might talk about innovation, but people are only measured on BAU (business as usual). Entrepreneurial leaders should be encouraged to challenge the status quo, and point to ways in which established organisational norms might be holding them back!
Find out more about Lucia at https://luciaadams.com/
Do you know of a fabulous entrepreneurial leader in your organisation, who has achieved a tangible difference to customers and/or colleagues? Then let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org.
And lastly, find out more about Kandu! Visit www.wekandu.io or email us at email@example.com a demo. We can help your organisation to collect objective data to track the progress and return on investment of your #leadership or #change development programmes, track the impact of supporters (such as managers, #mentors and peers) on leadership development, and reduce programme admin time as we provide developing leaders with automated guidance and access to support.