Frank Devine: ‘Leadership is a contact sport’

Frank Devine, whose leadership skills workshops have a transformative impact on companies such as Rolls-Royce, Coca-Cola, Johnson & Johnson, Bacardi-Martini and GKN, outlines five practical steps to a high impact leadership culture.

Welcome to the Smart Business Advice series from the RDI Hub, bringing you practical advice and expert insights from our community of innovative start-ups, scaleups and corporates.

Frank Devine’s systematic approach to leadership is known for its transformative impact. His clients include Rolls Royce, Coca-Cola, Johnson & Johnson, Bacardi-Martini and GKN. Many of his clients have gone on to win the Shingo Prize – the world’s highest standard of organizational excellence and elite-level business performance. 

“High-impact leadership is about becoming highly skilled at doing a few simple things really, really well”

Frank Devine joined us from the UK recently at the RDI Hub’s Founders’ Circle to give us a taster of a full-day leadership skills workshop that he will deliver at the RDI Hub, Killorglin, Co. Kerry on 15 December next.

How to create a high impact leadership culture

Here’s our key takeaways presented as 5 Practical Steps to Creating a High Impact Leadership Culture.

  1. The happy path: Be intentional about tone. We all know that skills are best practiced, acquired and retained in a setting where it is fun to try, fail, learn and improve. Keep it simple. Keep it fun. Keep it light. Make it memorable. Be intentional about the tone of the workshops you will use to practice, learn and develop your leadership skills. The happy path is the shortest path to success.  
  2. Leadership is a contact sport: Your leadership skills and those of your colleagues are exercised every day in every interaction you have at work. Sometimes these interactions are conscious and intentional. Sometimes not. Review your day-to-day interactions. Frequency and quality matter. Frequency and quality define your culture. For high impact, focus on systematically improving the quality of your most frequent interactions.  
  3. Identify ‘the brilliant basics’. Most leadership training fails to give sufficient attention to the improvement of the basic leadership skills exercised on a daily basis. This is a critical mistake. The key to transformative impact is to have a dedicated focus on continuously improving a small subset of essential leadership skills – the brilliant basics.  Trust the process. You will be rewarded as these improvements rapidly compound to deliver transformative change. 
  4. Practice, practice, practice. Once you’ve identified the ‘brilliant basics’ in your workplace you need to be intentional and systematic about improving these skills. Workshop these skills and develop a shared set of standards and systems to drive continuous improvement that incorporate opportunities for feedback, support and coaching. Common areas of focus might include: Setting expectations and managing over commitment; Authentic recognition; Coaching and Delegation; Constructive Feedback and Escalation. 
  5. Shared higher purpose: And finally, co-developing a shared vision of your company’s higher purpose is the critical first step of this process.  For example, above and beyond generating a profit employees might have a shared higher purpose of creating jobs and sustaining communities. This will give you the lens you need to focus on your brilliant basics, observe as skills advance and compound to the point that they deliver a transformative impact on the business.   

To wrap up Frank has this to say: I call my approach the ‘Cathedral’ or ‘Higher Purpose’ Model. You can visit my website Accelerated Improvement for info and testimonials from household names across every continent. I can’t wait to meet the teams at the RDI Hub and workshop the model on December 15th. Should be a lot of fun!”

Niall Larkin
Niall Larkin is the Senior Programme Manager at the RDI Hub and has worked on getting to product-market fit with over 500 globally ambitious start-ups, scale-ups and corporates. The RDI Hub is a community of innovative start-ups, scale-ups and corporates located in an ultra-modern, hi-tech facility in Killorglin, Co Kerry.