Great Leaders Serve Their Teams

Honoured to be interviewed by Asia Pacific Associate Editor for Entrepreneur.com, Aashika Jain. In this article I cover what makes a good leader and why culture is so important. Enjoy!

Great Leaders Only Serve Their Teams says This Leadership Advisor  You are only as good as the people around you, says Mark Bilton. Leading 40 countries as the Group Managing Director of one of the most popular coffee chains in the world is no cake walk.

When it comes to culture, strategy and transformational change, Mark Bilton raises his hand as among the best in the world. In 2011 he was awarded the Young President’s Organization’s prestigious ‘Terry Plochman Award’ for global “Best of the Best”. He has also bagged the Michael Page ‘2014 Australian Retail Executive Award’.

But having led Gloria Jean’s Coffees’ global business as the Group MD is not Bilton’s only feat.

His Director expertise and experience includes positions in Charles Parsons Group, POD Limited (NZX), Hagemeyer Brands Australia and non-executive positions in more than 6 other companies.

In his current role as the Managing Director of leadership advisory – Thought Patrol – his mission has been to reframe leadership and humanize the workplace.

Entrepreneur Asia Pacific caught up with Bilton for his perspective on various aspects of leadership. Below are the excerpts.

You believe in hacking leadership – how can this be done?

Leadership in the industrial revolution has been command and control. That style is no longer effective; to remain fast, focused and flexible, leaders need to be more transparent, collaborative and empowering. In my leadership practice, we talk about hacking leadership. It is about challenging leaders thinking and helping them be more effective. When we change how we think, we change how we act.

What is the biggest challenge in managing a company?

You can never manage by yourself, by definition leaders need people to lead. The greatest challenge for leaders is creating an environment where the team can be effective.

Who makes a good leader according to you?

Great leaders activate a team – they act as a catalyst to release potential. Good leaders are transparent, authentic and collaborative. They have an ability to clarify, simplify and define reality. They can galvanize a team to action and create a sense of purpose. Ultimately, great leaders serve their teams.

In your twenty years as a turnaround specialist, what has been learning?

You are only as good as the people around you. Hire the best, agree on what needs to happen, and let them get on with it. It sounds so simple but we make business way to complex. There is power in simplicity.

What would you count as the best advice given to your leadership team as the MD of Gloria Jean’s Coffee?

In a massive turnaround with a high degree of urgency, the best advice was to keep focus on the simple outcomes required for success. Business is full of noise and distractions; clarity of actions and outcomes is critical for a positive result. If you major on the majors you can’t sweat the small stuff. This creates momentum and momentum creates progress.

What are the top 5 strategies to lead a company?

  • Be visible.
  • Be authentic.
  • Collaborate to build a clear vision.
  • Create a culture of trust, respect, and honour for all, regardless of role.
  • Empower your team to act.

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Working with a Brother?

“Those who have believing masters should not show them disrespect just because they are fellow believers. Instead, they should serve them even better because their masters are dear to them as fellow believers and are devoted to the welfare of their slaves.” (1 Tim 6:2)

Do you serve someone who is a fellow believer? You know that God sees you as equals and that he or she has a duty of care, but what should our response be when God places another believer in authority over us?

The Scripture is clear that we should go the extra mile to ensure we are model employees and respect and serve them even more than we would normally do. The other person’s conduct and walk is not our responsibility; it is between him or her and God. Our responsibility is to serve our leaders as we would Christ, to be a model employee, and to respect their authority.

Quick Prayer: Lord, I will especially honor other Christians I work with. Amen.

Hire Slow

“Like an archer who wounds at random is one who hires a fool or any passer-by.” (Pro 26:10)

There is a saying in business that we should hire slow and fire fast. There is actually a lot of truth in what seems like a flippant and perhaps ruthless saying.

Taking the time to ensure that the people we hire are suitable goes way beyond their resume. Yes, we need to hire someone who is able to technically fulfill the positions requirements, but if we value culture, we will go way beyond that.

Great companies are built on certain values and operate in a particular way. If we do not take these soft attributes into account, we will find that the good technical fit may actually be divisive and counterproductive to the whole.

Quick Prayer: Remind me to hire slow. Amen.

God Is Listening

“Look! The wages you failed to pay the workers who mowed your fields are crying out against you. The cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord Almighty.” (Jam 5:4)

God hears the voices of those you have authority over. What would they say about you and how you treat them? God is impartial, and He understands the circumstances, but the question remains.

What do you have in your power to give that you are not giving? There are responsibilities beyond fair pay and conditions. Do you really want to just meet the minimum requirements, or will you go the extra mile for those God has placed at your side?

Quick Prayer: Thank You that You hear the voices of those who work for me. Amen.