One of the most influential management thinkers of our time, Tom Peters is a man full of passion and insights – things that your grandparents may have told you when you were little but you just forgot because you got busy.

Tom Peters shared his life lessons through quotes and messages from some of the world’s leading thinkers and innovators.

According to Peters, amateurs talk about strategy, professionals talk about logistics. This is so true particularly when we look at organisational effectiveness. It’s about getting the execution right - it doesn’t matter what the strategy. Execution is the all important last 95% of the process.

Re-imagine Excellence is his message. And he sums it up with:
  1. People
  2. Customers
  3. Action
  4. Values
Enterprise at its best needs to be an emotional, vital, innovative, loyal, creative, entrepreneurial, endeavour that effects people. Joy needs to be the core belief of our workplace, and the reason organisations exist. Employers need to put people first – but really put them first. Businesses need to re-imagine their role and think about giving people enriching rewarding lives, otherwise it’s simply not worth doing , something which Richard Branson said. The question is, how can you operationalise this?

Yes the hurdle is high but it’s the best way in the world to make money and with the technology tsunami coming and changing work and workplaces, we need to ensure we have turned on people so that our workplaces survive this.

Treat your employees like customers
If you want staff to give great service, give great service to staff. It’s so basic, it’s so obvious and yet we don’t practice it all that often. Peters says when he looks back on his life, what he’ll remember is the people he helped, the lives he changed and not the quarterly earnings and results achieved.

What employees experience, customers will, so customers will never be any happier than your employees. It’s important to remember that.

Training = investment
Something which almost brought Tom Peters to tears. If in the Australian Army, there is a 3-star general worrying about training, why is training not put higher on the agenda in all organisations. In most businesses, it’s a ho-hum, mid-level staff function for training and development. He believes nothing is more important than training and suggested the head of training should be as senior as the CIO and CFO. What upsets Peters is that with every meeting he has with CEOs around the world, in more than 8 out of 10 cases, within the 45 min tour of the business strategy, the CEO would not mention training.

Yet he can’t understand it and sends a very clear, strong message to all senior executives in Australia – go berserk over training. Why? Because it pays off. And he then takes it further to say that training courses need to be so good they make you jump up and down with glee about how great it was. If your people aren’t doing that, why aren’t they?

It’s not rocket science – a message he consistently shared with the World Business Forum. If you randomly stop an employee in the hall, can she/he meticulously describe his/her development plan in the next 12 months. If not, why not?

The most important asset in any organisation is the first line of bosses. They are your productivity asset, they are the no. 1 strategic variable and asset in the organisation. Yes it’s very difficult to get right yet so critically important.

The fact remains - people leave managers not companies.

Women rule
Women are close to Peters’ heart and he believes women rule – because women are proven to be more successful in leadership positions and helping organisations succeed. In order to succeed, he encourages organisations to start promoting women.

Develop your people
Back on people and development, Peters says with the technology tsunami there is a moral imperative to invest in this. Yet CEOs need to also invest in their own personal development. We all have to become students like never before in a world where computers are taking over.

The principal moral obligation as a leader is to develop the skillsets, ‘soft’ and ‘hard’ of every person in your charge (temporary as well as semi-permanent) to the maximum extent of your abilities. The good news is, this is also the No. 1 mid to long term profit maximisation strategy.

Peters truly believes that whoever tries the most stuff wins. His motto is Kevin Roberts’ motto - Ready, fire, aim! Whereas most other companies live by ‘ready, aim, aim, aim, aim, aim, aim.’

He encourages everyone to experiment fearlessly, through relentless trial and error - it’s key to success. If you fail faster, you’ll succeed sooner and believes that business leaders should reward excellent failures, not celebrate mediocre success and cheerlead for mistakes in your organisation.

Focus on the little big things (LBTs)
In order to pursue dramatic innovation in your business, it’s not about writing a cheque. Your world is littered with tiny, inexpensive ideas which if you try enough of them, you’ll succeed.

Just be amenable to rapid experiential failure and seriously play. You can’t be a serious innovator until you are ready, willing and able to seriously play. Serious play is not an oxymoron; it is the essence of innovation. Regardless of the size of your enterprise – encourage a culture and spirit of playfulness.

What matters most to a company over time? Strategy or culture? The answer is absolutely, culture!

TGRs: 8/80
Research has found that only 8% of customers describe the service experience of a company as superior, yet 80% of companies describe it as superior. Focus on those little things that make a big impact, the little touches. Decrease the things that go wrong and increase the things that go right.

LBTs vs BBTs
According to Peters, the courtesies of a small and trivial character are the ones which strike deepest in the grateful and appreciating heart. He says this is not a cool quote, it is a strategic idea i.e. this is your strategy. Little big things are better than big big things. – it’s the things that come out of the blue to surprise you and help you remember, which make a huge impact.

The customer is in control
In business, you are either creating brand ambassadors or brand terrorists assassinating your brand. What used to be word of mouth is now word of mouse and the customer is in complete control.

Big data, big $
Know this - women buy everything. Peters says economic growth is driven by women – forget China, India and the internet.

And it’s the baby boomers who have all the money. The Millennials have no money and yet all marketing, product development and distribution seems to be aimed at millennials. Did you know that one baby boomer turns 65 years old every 8 seconds and will do so for the next 20 years in the US.

The average American in their lifetime will buy 13 automobiles, seven of which will be after the age of 50. The net worth of families in the US headed by people over the age of 65 is 47X higher than other families. And more internet shopping is done by people over 55 than under 55 years of age.

So the two biggest marketing opportunities on earth are older people and women. And Baby Boomer women are a gift.

Leadership: I do people
Peters says successful business leaders need to be excited about developing people as much as building business. He says you need MBWA/25 -- manage by wandering around. This is a metaphor for staying in touch with people and the organisation, particularly as things become more complex. Senior leaders needs to see and feel and touch the customer experience otherwise you have no idea what’s going on.

It’s the most powerful word in the English language because the deepest urge in human nature is the desire to be important. Employees who don’t feel significant rarely make significant contributions – remember that!

Always ask your people, “what do you think?” You’ll be amazed what comes out of the conversation and the ideas it will generate.

When problems arise, the problem is rarely ever the problem, but rather the response to the problem which invariably ends up being the problem.

Meetings Rock!
Or at least they should. Peters says, when you sign up to be a boss, you sign up to go to meetings. If you don’t like it, that’s tough, you just have to get over it.

Meetings are the number one leadership opportunity we all have – you just need to focus on excellence, enthusiasm, engagement, learning and tempo. And make sure you do this with 100% of your meetings. Think about meeting excellence - it’s what you do as a leader!

We have too many 18 second managers – i.e. they interrupt others within 18 seconds. The core value of the best leaders is the skill of listening. You need to be highly effective listeners and treat listening excellence as the centerpiece of your commitment to respect and engagement, community and growth.

Peters finished with referring to the fact that if the Pope can affect change in the most bureaucratic organisation in the world, then surely all business leaders can effect great change within their organisations.

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Randstad is proud to be a major sponsor of the World Business Forum in Sydney 27-28 May 2015. 

Tom Peters
Sharp, controversial and provocative, Tom is one of the most influential management thinkers of the last thirty years. Attributed with inventing the "management guru industry" along with the legendary Peter Drucker, he has shaped the idea of modern management more than any other person over the last six decades. A prolific bestselling author, he is the co-author of In Search of Excellence — the book that changed the way the world does business, and is considered by many the best book in the history of management. His latest work, The Little BIG Things, is a guide to achieving excellence in all its forms.