“If you see something, say something.”
The first phase of Martin West’s career was spent as a fighter pilot, flying F18’s, in the Air Force. Martin learnt early on in his career that there were one of two paths pilots end up going down. They either stay in the military or join an airline. Martin chose neither of these for his next phase and instead, took the bold step of starting his own consultancy company called X-Gap. The idea formed when Martin realised he loved flying, however he became increasingly drawn to seeing a change in a team’s performance.
As a Military Instructor leading a fighter pilot unit, Martin had firsthand experience developing team strategies. There were two key moments which ignited Martin’s career transition. The first was completing a personality profile and the second was realising he was getting positive feedback from the people in the unit he was leading. With this new clarity of his personal strengths, which were more than just flying F18’s, Martin decided to use them to build the next phase of his career.
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For the past 18 years X-Gap, short for Execution Gap, has been focused on helping leaders create conversations that produce healthy team performance. With the initial focus being on execution, Martin and his business partner Mark Bragg, set out to help clients get clear on goals and how they were going to execute them. During this time however, they discovered they could predict which clients were not going to succeed and realised one of the deciding factors of success was team behaviour.
Team behaviour and culture, when it presented itself, was holding some teams back. The overall health of the team had more impact on their continued success than the execution of goals. The third big challenge, which organically presented itself, was the discovery that the leader of the team had the potential to limit the team’s performance. When they began addressing the fact that leaders had to be kept ahead of the team, and be conscious of their leadership capacity, they had a much better success rate.
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With these crucial ‘lessons’ learnt in the development of their business, Martin and Mark decided to share their knowledge by writing a book. The purpose of the book, titled ‘Hard Road. A Leaders Journey Begins’, is to share five things they encourage new leaders to take on board to hold them in really good stead for the rest of their careers.
‘Hard Road’ is written as a fictional story about a young executive who tackles each of these five lessons through his career:
- Building strong relationships
- Cultivating alignment with buy-in from the team
- Building an accountability discipline
- Coaching individuals and the team to improvement
In this podcast episode, Martin shares clear definitions of what he considers are the three important elements of self awareness. He even goes as far as to share a simple exercise on how a leader can uncover their ‘blind spots’ which could be holding them and their team back.
He also talks through the ‘meeting from hell’ scenario and, after listing all the positive approaches which are involved in preparation for a meeting, Martin shares the one crucial element which is often missing.
Last, but definitely not least in this insightful discussion are the two traits Martin considers essential for a successful leader to possess – find out more by clicking here.
If you wanted to read more of Martin’s insights, please visit Lessons for Emerging Leaders – Part 2.