A leader should be judged by their team; so says Peter Berry, Managing Director of Peter Berry Consultancy.
“Leadership is about results,” he tells The CEO Magazine. “Teams deliver results, therefore judge the leader by their team.”
In order for a CEO to become the best version of themselves, they first have to understand themselves. This science of personality is at the heart of Peter Berry Consultancy, a Melbourne firm started in 1990 by its namesake, a veteran of the building industry.
“I learned that projects that were delivered on time to a high standard were down to strong leaders and leadership teams with high emotional intelligence and technical skill,” he says. “If you had bad leaders, you’d have problems with the workforce. The job would be behind schedule, safety would be terrible, there’d be staff turnover.”
Inspired by his experiences, Berry established Peter Berry Consultancy as a way to build leadership capability and high-performance teams with the sole purpose of delivering superior bottom line results.
“The big break for me was becoming the Australian distributor for Hogan Personality Assessments,” he says.
Founded in 1987, Hogan Assessments use the science of personality and data-driven talent insights to show that personality predicts job performance.
“We use it both for selection and development of people,” he says. “It’s the gold standard around the world for measuring and improving leadership effectiveness. We pick up the bright side, the dark side and the inside.”
Teams are motivated by an organization’s purpose, and leadership drives that engagement. “What we do is measure and improve leadership effectiveness to deliver great cultures and great results.”
The results of that measurement sometimes come as a surprise to businesses unaware of what’s going on beneath the surface. “We often say great leaders are very self-aware, but bad leaders are clueless,” Berry says.
“At any given time, 10 percent of CEOs shouldn’t hold their roles. You might have technical skills, but it means nothing about leading a group of people,” he continues. “You may have IQ but no EQ. Those people are destroying businesses by destroying people, through toxic and bullying behavior. That’s when you see high staff turnover.”
A personality profile and the data accrued by the Hogan 360 is, Berry says, the most scientifically valid and reliable way of drawing a line in the sand.
“It’s a way to help you move forward. But you also need external support.”
CEOs are often thought of as living lonely lives, isolated from the rest of their company. “That’s why the best leaders invest heavily in coaches, because it is lonely at the top.”
Then it’s time to look at the team as a whole.
“A CEO should build a team as their brand. Start with a one-page strategic plan that illustrates what winning looks like for the next year. Shared goals are more important than individual ones; team success is going to be celebrated more than individual wins,” he says.
There’s a causal link between good leaders and employee engagement, and that comes out in the assessment results.
“If you want to measure your company’s cultural health, you could look at the employee survey engagement data, staff turnover numbers and, if you’re in a dangerous industry, safety. Are you doing well or not? The employee metrics say a lot about how well leadership is doing,” he says.
“A great CEO has to find the right balance between managing – running the trains on time – and leadership – creating the future of transport.”
The Hogan 360, personally designed by Berry, has become a key weapon in the battle for great leadership. It’s now available in 24 languages around the world.
“Together with the personality assessment, you get a complete picture of who you are, why you are and why you behave the way you do.”
While some approach the process with skepticism or uncertainty, Berry says the overwhelming majority love the results.
“People worry about their reputation and what their staff may say about them. Others think they know it all and don’t see the need for it. But in the last 10 years there’s been a growing acceptance of the need for assessments in coaching to help leaders go from good to great,” he says.
Berry says he sees Peter Berry Consultancy as a business partner more than a vendor. “We want to work with your business to deliver better results. There are good tools and bad tools out there, and you’ve got to make sure you’re getting a valid assessment.”
Over the years, Berry’s own leadership style has matured. “When I started Peter Berry Consultancy, I was a one-man band. Now I have 50 staff,” he says.
“I’ve had to make the transition from individual contributor to leader, and it’s my team that does the heavy lifting. They do an awesome job, and every year when we do our confidential employee engagement survey, I’m very proud to say we get top one percentile results. My two key metrics in business are: how happy are my people and how healthy is the bottom line?”
Peter Berry Consultancy’s success has led to growth and natural expansion. “We’ve started a coaching practice, and we’ve got 30 professional coaches around Australia as our associates. There’s no excuse now for a CEO to be able to say they can’t find good coaches.”
Berry says one of the greatest and least known challenges is the so-called dark side of leadership. “Our dark side report captures strengths that can become derailers,” he says.
“Sometimes we get appalling behavior from leaders that they get away with because they’re the founder of the business and they’ve built financial success. Sustainably, that’s not going to go on if they’re becoming toxic. It’s natural for great leaders to have dysfunctional, derailing tendencies. You’ve got to be self-aware not to derail.”
Those hoping to improve their leadership must first be open to doing so.
“We know how to measure leadership in order to improve it. It can be done and it can have a tremendous effect. But first, realize that none of us are perfect.”
Berry’s work with Australia’s executive suite goes beyond the leather couch. In November, Peter Berry Consultancy sponsored The CEO Magazine’s 2023 Executive of the Year Awards, an opportunity to spread the word about the power of effective leadership.
“For many, many years it has been a very prestigious event, and it’s great to mix with some incredible people and their teams,” Berry says. “We believe leadership is the most consequential resource in the world, let alone in Australia, so to have a network that can bring those CEOs together for learning, benchmarking and talking is an amazing experience.”
It’s not easy to be at the top of the tree, particularly when you don’t have the time for self-reflection. Berry says a little of that can go a long way, and that’s all it takes to begin the journey to becoming a great CEO.
“The challenge is to be a better leader, build a winning team and deliver outstanding results, so be open minded, gather the data and get outside assistance,” Berry says.
“Our success is the success of CEOs. If we can help them be more successful, that’s my KPI.”