The how to "boil an egg" of business strategy
Fifteen years ago, when Footdown Chairman, Andrew Mercer, left America having sold his business to Oracle, he was left with two fundamental questions. Had he known the answers to these vital questions he could have avoided the sale and, instead, made his business a global success.
Where were the people who could have helped?
The first question was ‘where were the people who could have helped?’ The leaders and CEOs who had been through the journey; the people who could have inspired him during the tough times; who could have provided him with critical information and advice at key stages; who could have offered a network of support during the periods of isolation? Who these people were was not apparent to Andrew then, but leaders and entrepreneurs in the UK can now find them in Footdown Fifteens around the country.
Footdown Group Leader Malcolm Fararr talks to Members
Where was the manual?
Question one answered, but question two, ‘where was the manual?’ still eluded him. For Andrew this was the ‘Delia Smith’ on leadership and organisational development, the basic ‘how to boil an egg’ of business strategy. Although an avid reader he couldn’t find that one book that effectively pulled all the theories and wisdom together. He concluded that it didn’t exist, but then came upon ‘Executive Insight’, a model developed by Gerry Faust, founder & CEO of Faust Management Corporation, that was played as a “game” by top executive teams to uncover the priorities for leaders and their organisations, also serving as a ‘route map’ for leaders to follow subsequently.
Andrew bought the rights to Insight for the UK and Europe and in the intervening years has developed and enhanced the approach, forming the foundation for the Footdown programme.
Andrew (Footdown Founder) tells us …
It took me many years and one business failure to grasp the importance of knowing the answer to this question. I suspect I’m not alone in having this experience.
Footdown could save you the effort and expense of repeating my mistakes. When I took my newly venture funded software company to California in 1997, I was ambitious and audacious in my approach to leading and building a great business. But with hindsight I can see that I paid too little attention to these business critical issues and, if I’m frank, would probably not have been able to identify them. And so I found myself after just one year in California with a great product, and a good potential market, but lacking the necessary leadership skills to take advantage of this situation; and with VCs breathing hard down my neck. The end result was a reluctant sale of the business to Oracle who has since done very well with the product, and still employs many of team I had built up in the UK.
After the sale, I found myself wondering whether my experience was unusual and what I could have done to avoid it. Were there people who could have helped me? Was there a “manual” out there on how to lead and develop organisations? How was it that some leaders managed to be so successful; even in difficult economic times and during times of great change and uncertainty? So, with a lot of time on my hands suddenly, I researched every leadership theory, read numerous books and spoke with and listened to leaders whenever I could. I realised that for many, indeed most, leadership was a hit or miss affair and that many successful leaders were only perceived to be so because their successes obscured their failures. After all it was “gold rush” time in California with the dot.com boom in full swing. With the world economy now in a major recession, it’s a little easier to spot the true leaders in amongst the many pretenders.
As I began to understand what it takes to be a great leader, I realised there could be many more of them; if only we could find a way to support aspiring leaders as they move into and then develop their leadership roles. So after I returned to the UK in 2000 I founded Footdown, with the goal of helping leaders to be the best they can be. I recognised early on the power of combining group mentoring and individual coaching, and launched the first Footdown Fifteen group in Bath in 2003. Since then we have established 11 more groups throughout the UK and are adding new locations.
But I never gave up my quest for the “manual” that I knew would be the real differentiator for leaders. Indeed I suspect I drove my colleagues mad pursuing a goal that, at times, must have seemed about as tangible as The Holy Grail. The manual I was searching for we call Footdown's F1.1.
So what is Footdown's F1.1?
It’s the only leadership product that seeks to consolidate into a single template the best theoretical and practical advice available for leaders today. It is a comprehensive framework and set of tools that allows leaders of all types of organisations to work smarter by taking the guesswork out of identifying priorities for leadership action. It then provides rigorous and continuing support for tackling the problems that surface as a result. It also increases the value of individual coaching by providing a context within which to coach, ensuring that individuals’ objectives align with the goals of the organisation.
Footdown's F1.1 "The Manual"
As leaders, we only have limited time and many leadership challenges to address. Using iFootdown® has enabled me to concentrate for at least part of each day on those activities that will make the biggest difference in the long term to the different organisations I am responsible for. While it may seem high risk to uninformed observers, this focus on vital issues allows me to ignore many seemingly dangerous fires, knowing they will safely burn themselves out.
How does Footdown's F1.1 work?
It begins by enabling leaders to deepen their understanding of both their organisation and themselves by answering, with their executive team members, a series of searching questions. The analysis, decision making and action planning process, facilitated by the F1.1 board game approach, then supports leaders in using the understanding gained to make a real difference to their organisation. While we use a simple board game format to support this exercise, this format is far from simplistic. Underpinning the process is a comprehensive model, or diagrammatic representation, of how organisations and their leaders function. Footdown has also recognized and mapped the two way relationship between leaders’ behaviours and styles and the way their organisations execute.
A unique feature of Footdown's F1.1 model is its flexibility. It’s multidimensional, so that you can go as broad and as deep as you want to, and start where you need to. It’s a bit like having access to a world class business school, except that it’s so flexible you can decide on the curriculum, as and when you need it. As your organisation and personal needs change, so you can change the way you work with the model. The game, with its comprehensive set of clue cards for both the organisation and the individual, succeeds by shining a light on every aspect of the business and leader. This in turn identifies the two or three most important issues that need some focused attention over the next ninety days. But beware! It is not for the faint hearted. The game will provide you with vital information and inspiration, but it is hard to go back. Using iFootdown® has a powerful effect on the team, as senior team members share in this compelling process.
A leader’s role is to supply energy, vision and generally keep ahead of the game. I know from my own experience and to my cost how difficult this can be. Footdown recognizes that even the most able leaders need support at times to lift their sights above the day to day challenges and take a more strategic look at their organisation. Footdown's F1.1 guided process of discovery, decision making and action planning helps you to lead your organisation in a way that is consistent with your vision, taking it into a stronger and more successful future.
Are you ready to play the game?