Getting started with OKR’s – our experience so far..

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We have recently embarked on the process of implementing OKR’s in to our organisation. It is already clear to me that, of all the things that we have done, this is the process which I wish I had been aware of and followed rigorously for myself and for the business since our inception 9 years ago.

Having become a bit of an evangelist for the OKR technique, I wanted to begin to share a regular review of our learning’s so far so that other people and businesses who do not know about it can get on board and enjoy the benefits. We are in the early days of our programme but the impact is already clear.

I have outlined below a description of my translation of OKR’s, what they mean to our business and why we have embraced this. Part of the beauty of OKR’s is that so long as you maintain the discipline around the objective and key result definition, you can adapt the model to suit your business. This flexibility is great but it does mean that you need to get very clear on the “why” and the “how” otherwise I could see the programme failing before it got off the ground. (Other commentators you will find on youtube do a brilliant job of explaining this programme but this is my own translation – search John Doerr in particular).


For us, OKR’s are a focused tool to enable our business and it’s component parts (divisions, teams, individuals) to set ambitious objectives which contribute to the short, medium and long term company strategy and which align individuals and teams to that strategy. It is about creating collective engagement in the overall strategy and accountability to deliver on the results that will get us there.

The magic happens both in the collective analysis and understanding of what a great objective looks like and then in particular in the shaping of quality key results which are defined amongst the relevant people to achieve that objective. Through this we are able to ensure that we are all aligned in the results that we need to deliver in order to achieve our short, medium and long term strategic goals. The additional output of this is that every single person understands clearly how their work contributes to the overall strategy and where they need to raise their accountability.

The critical underlying component of the OKR process is the measurable nature of the key results enabling a focused, engaged and productive team and an ongoing feedback loop.


Our reasons for implementing OKR’s was as follows:

1.  I passionately believe in our team and the value that our business can bring to our customers. With our business growing quickly it is critical that the intense levels of quality, focus, innovation and CARE that got us to this point of success continue to be developed. Yes, we can rely to some extent on the culture that we have built but I believe that it is essential to constantly reinforce the values that originally defined that culture  whilst complementing this with new positive behaviours as we learn. This way we don’t just stand still, we constantly improve and raise our levels of performance and quality. The OKR operating system enables this through its transparency and accountability. From this, everybody benefits – the individual, the team, the customers, our industry.

2.  We need to be able to very effectively measure our performance in all aspects of our work and analyse how we drive our future growth. OKR’s aligned with our own management reporting give us that clear data.

3. The use of OKR’s provides a clarity and consistency of message across our organisation, where the chance of that message being misunderstood is massively reduced. By enabling regular reviews of group, team and individual OKR’s we ensure that our ambitious objectives and our mission are a continual theme of conversation. The measurable nature of the OKR means that everybody can see the results of the work that is being done and how they contribute. In effect we are embedding a language of high performance whose foundation is in the real data.

4. The executive search industry is not always famed for it’s focus on process but in my opinion it is an essential part of building a great recruitment business and delivering an excellent service to our customer. However, that process must be harnessed with the right level of creativity and solution mindset alongside the greatest of respect for the human aspect of what we do. I believe that OKR’s can be a critical tool in enabling both the right processes and the right behaviours in all of our work.

For all of the positives, I want to caveat that it is very clear to me that there are inherent risks in rushing in to this programme without doing your research and without creating a platform for success in your organisation. Having the right people and the right levels of commitment to become excellent at this process are essential. It needs time for everybody involved to adjust and learn to become competent before becoming excellent at the technique. Without these, I imagine it could easily lead to either a complete waste of time and money or worst case, it could be destructive to a group dynamic.

This is early days and there will be plenty more to follow in the coming months as we develop our use of the programme and chart our learnings. We would love to hear about any learnings from others who have launched this system so please reach out.





If you took time out over the summer, here is my recommendation for how to get your head back in the game fast and with purpose…

When people have taken time out, it is essential that you can focus yourself as quickly as possible on return to build your momentum and productivity. I have suggested below a model that works for me, drawn from my studies and experience of what I find most effective. I hope that some of this might be useful to you.

GRATITUDE – Take the time to acknowledge and internalize the great memories, adventures and learnings that you have been able to experience in the last few weeks and the year to date.

VISION – Re-affirm your vision for your future. Where do you want to be in 5 years’ time personally and professionally. Document it and be acutely aware of the major steps you need to take.

CONSEQUENCE – Get real about the impact of inaction. Connect with how you will feel if you do not achieve your dreams, what will that mean to you. Feel the disappointment and use it positively.

ROAD MAP – Define a clear road map to execute your vision. Set your annual objectives then pull this back to the month then the week to define the key deliverables you need to achieve to meet your objectives. Record your progress on a weekly basis.

COMMIT, DELIVER  – You now have a clear plan and purpose. Embrace the challenge and get on with it.

MEASURE, REVIEW, REPEAT  – Take this opportunity to build the habit of reviewing your weekly and monthly progress against your primary objectives. (This has been the most impactful tool that I have realised for personal development. Enjoy the learning and the increase in motivation.)

I guarantee that the more regularly you follow this process, the greater your level of clarity and focus. With this focus comes increased motivation, energy, productivity and self belief. All of these components require commitment. Take this opportunity to build a great habit and own the direction that you take in your life and your career.

Learn to Thrive in Ambiguity; a Career Skill and an Essential Life Skill

In today’s workplace the ability to manage ambiguity and operate effectively in a forever changing environment is critical. As a Head Hunter, this theme is discussed as a critical competency requirement in virtually every mandate that we take on.

Companies do not create change without good reason but so often the pursuit of the right strategy requires change, to the extent that it can feel like change is permanent.

There are many positives in the dimension of change for human and team performance. We only begin to reach our potential when we put ourselves in a position when we can really be tested. Change can do this, especially when we can set our minds to embrace the challenge and learn to thrive on it. Excess predictability will breed staleness and an overall lowering of pace. When that decline sets in, in any group or team, it can be hard to change. If it is recognised too late, it is game over.

As John F Kennedy said: “Things do not happen. Things are made to happen.”

Building a business requires a pace and momentum alongside a need to stretch yourself and the people around you. In my opinion this is one of the central components of leadership.

The balance between pressure and creating an environment that can thrive in these dynamics is a fascinating one. My experience is that when good people are being pushed too far they will let you know. If nobody ever tells you that they are under pressure then arguably you should be worried. You are not pushing hard enough.

What is certain is that these are skills that we need to develop in today’s working environments. The sooner you develop them the better. The huge upside is that these skills contribute to our lives. A mindset that is based around challenging ourselves, learning about our boundaries and being able to thrive under pressure can only improve our ability to contribute and express ourselves.

The more that we can embrace this and incorporate this in to who we are, the more engaged we become. Through this, we can shift away from the dialogue of work-life balance and begin to see that work contributes and is a part of who we are.

The Essential Skills of Job Change

I was lucky enough to spend some time with Anita Hoffmann in May, discussing the concept of job-crafting. I was struck by the differentiation between ‘job change’ and ‘career change’ and how uncomfortable we can find these processes. In a job change, we have some familiarity with the direction and environment, whereas in a career change we do not. As Anita says, we want predictability but with any form of change, this is often not the case.

There is no doubt that job-crafting is an essential skill for career change. At the same time it is also very clear that we must not lose focus of how we are actively managing our current careers in anticipation of an unexpected job change.

In my opinion, the process of finding a new job at the senior level is actually getting more difficult. The natural tendency is to assume that increased visibility with search engines, networking sites, forums etc. will make it will more straightforward. Unfortunately, it is not the case.

It is therefore critical that we are building our networks, relationships and knowledge in an intentional way. This requires a level of clarity regarding the direction that you are looking to travel in and an understanding of the people around you who could play a part in your journey.

I am not suggesting that people need total clarity of their career road map. Things change and we have to be able to adapt. However, without a requisite level of clarity you will not be able to engage effectively and intentionally with the people who can shape and contribute to your growth and ultimately your career.

Getting clear on your own vision and being intentional about how you are working towards this are the integral components to owning your career.

Anita spoke brilliantly about the concept of job-crafting and what is required. The importance of building these skills and networks over time is integral to the success of the job-crafting process. In the same way, if we are not consciously taking some level of ongoing action then we are likely missing opportunities whilst potentially leaving ourselves exposed if we find ourselves in a situation of job change.

By engaging with your own vision and taking intentional action regularly, you can meaningfully impact your relationship with opportunity.

On Wednesday 11th July at 14:00 UK time, Anita will be joining us to discuss her new book – “Purpose and Impact: How Executives are Creating Meaningful Second Careers”. For more information and to join us please follow the link below.  


To be a Head Hunter is a Great Privilege

At the heart of the role of a Head Hunter is helping companies to achieve their objectives whilst simultaneously supporting people in making decisions which have a significant impact on their life and, very often, their family’s lives. This process takes place in the face of what can be intense pressure for a company to make a critical hire. Very often the budgets and plans have been committed to, the clock is ticking and these hires are central to achieving these objectives. As a result there are people across the business who are heavily invested and dependent on the success of these processes. This means that the breadth of close interpersonal relationships that are managed in any one executive search campaign can be enormous and must be given the utmost level of respect.

The competition is very high for individuals with high quality leadership skills, specialist market or functional expertise and who possess the appetite and drive required to be successful. When these aspects all collide, not to mention the importance of cultural fit and personal circumstance, there are a number of areas of risk that need to be tackled and unfortunately some can only be resolved when a process has run its course. This causes very real pressure to deliver.

The truth is that you either thrive on the pressure and the complexity of the interpersonal engagements and the problem solving that is required or you don’t. Very few people grow up wanting to be a Head Hunter (other than my kids…), but this profession requires a unique set of skills and personal drivers which can be a relatively rare combination.

Head Hunters are in an incredibly privileged position to be able to support people through life changing decisions and to deliver projects that have a material impact on the companies’ business. The trust that our clients invest in us is very hard earned but is a significant reward in it’s own right. In my experience, the greatest Head Hunters CARE DEEPLY about the impact of their work. They care about the people in the process. They care about their clients’ reputation and their success and they care about ensuring that the process has genuine integrity and delivers a hugely positive outcome for all involved. None of this is simple but it is incredibly rewarding.

The negative reputation that has been caused by poor behaviour’s in our industry over the years is not lost on me. It motivates me every day to change that perception and deliver on the potential of the sector to deliver very real value to the companies and the people who we support.


This Spirit of Adventure

This Spirit of AdventureWe learn more and more about psychology and neuroscience year on year which enriches out understanding about ourselves, how we can successfully interact with each other, our behaviours and so much more. However, some concepts about attitude, behaviour and character can stand the test of time. To that end, I wanted to share a letter which was written by my Great Grand Father to my Grand Father in 1923. The simplicity and power of the message is brilliant.

This Spirit of the Future 

I look upon each minute as precious and to be exchanged only for it’s full equivalent in progress.

To develop, continually, every faculty which helps to build greater judgement, energy, determination, imagination with a good cheer, for each is necessary to the happy individual. To look upon work during the working hours of the day as a privilege, as a game, as a requisite of the full & complete life.

To look upon idleness with disrespect, as a waste of time, the only commodity of which everyone has an equal amount.

To feel that the waking hours after the day’s work is over are best spent in study, in agreeable companionship, in recreation, in those acts which build happier, stronger character & better health.

To strive for higher standards and ideals. To look upon the bright side of things and be an optimist in the best meaning of the word. To act quickly and avoid procrastination. To think broad mindedly and to scorn meanness and jealousy.

To punish dishonesty with the utmost effort. To appreciate fully intelligence, originality, loyalty, recognising merit only as the door to advancement.

To acknowledge no obstacles as unsurmountable which stand in the way of splendid progress.

Ever your affectionate, Dad


High Performance Habits

High Performance Habits:

I wanted to take the opportunity to share a great resource. Of all of the business, performance and psychology books that I have read in recent years, Brendon Burchard’s “High Performance Habits” has really resonated with me.

The most simple way for me to emphasise how good this is, is to say that if I could go back in time and meet my 18 year old self then this is the book that I would share. No surprise it has received such acclaim. So many brilliant books provide theory, concepts and great stories but sometimes they lack the granular detail and roadmap that enables an individual to shape their own “how”. This book provides the platform to begin to do this in an incredibly effective way.

Through my career to date, I feel that I have formed some good habits and understood how to define a vision, to plan, organise, prioritise and execute. However, I have long felt that there are more optimal habits that would enable greater focus and productivity. The focus on clarity of vision and the building of stronger essential habits to be able to deliver on that vision in a productive and sustainable manner is powerful.

Adapting and implementing new habits over the last 6 months has been a great learning journey. It has raised the question for me as to how the formation of these skills can be better integrated through earlier life education? I would love to understand more about the practice of this and any examples where this is really happening. I can see huge value for my own kids to be beginning to engage with these methods through their latter education, before they enter the professional world.

My only question is whether my 18 year old self would have been prepared to listen?!

Thank you Brendon. In my opinion this book is a great gift to anybody who wants to understand themselves better and generate habits that can provide a real edge. It requires a lot of study to get the most out of it but the questioning throughout is brilliant.

#highperformancehabits #reachyourpotential