BIOSS SA MD Lisa Ashton is interviewed by Leadership Magazine: An Excerpt

Leadership Magazine talks to BIOSS Southern Africa CEO Lisa Ashton about management consulting and the benefits it offers.

Leadership Magazine: What is the essence of management consultancy?

Lisa Ashton:

There are three main areas where management consultancies can contribute to an organisation’s success.

Firstly, they provide an objective outsider’s perspective to organisations on their challenges, aims and goals. Such a perspective needs to be guided by the experience, skill-set and ability to understand the organisation’s needs. This would also include the transfer of knowledge and skills to clients as required.

Management consultancies also offer highly motivated, skilled or specialised resources which an organisation may not have, or may not wish to employ full time. Thus, the resources of consultancies can be deployed for a specific period and with specific measurable objectives, goals and targets.

Finally, consultancy is the pragmatic application of a theoretical basis for the organisational aspect being addressed. Copy-and-paste consulting based upon what was done with a previous client is seldom in the best interest of a client. Instead a well-researched framework can be used and adopted given the client’s unique circumstances and needs.

Leadership Magazine: What aspects of management are you called upon to consult on?

Lisa Ashton:

We cover the spectrum of organisational needs at different levels in the organisation. This may take the form of clarification on the type and level of interventions required, strategic positioning and deployment of individuals, or the nature and structure of work/organisation necessary.

A core offering is to provide clients with the perspectives, theory and research that they can then apply independently in their organisations themselves.

We also offer a variety of organisational diagnostics, and individual assessment approaches and tools. On the organisational side we do levels of work audits and for individuals we span the spectrum from potential review to the more traditional psychometric assessment.

Over the past few years we have also developed a reputation of being highly efficient in the areas of brain-based coaching, neuropsychology, leadership development and culture and change management.

Leadership Magazine: When is a good time to call in a management consultant?

Lisa Ashton: 

When you do not know what to do, or when you know what should be done but do not know how to make it happen. When your organisation is underperforming or isn’t as productive and efficient as you believe it could be. Alternatively, it can be any time you are not reaching goals that people have said they can achieve.

Leadership Magazine: What is your approach to assessment?

Lisa Ashton:

Depending on the organisation’s need we can focus on the context for which the intervention is required or on the specific individual information required. This often implies looking at the  demands of the position and/or the environment within which it takes place.

We subscribe to a holistic approach to assessment, in other words we use a range of psychometric or other assessment tools and we also seek to integrate this information with other information about the individual e.g. experience and performance. Overall, our approach to assessment is one which emphasises the unique potential of the individual, and also seeks to highlight in which context the individual would be utilising his or her strengths.

Leadership Magazine: Please tell us a little more about Career Path Appreciation (CPA), Initial Recruitment Interview Schedule (IRIS) and the Matrix of Working Relationships (also known as Levels of Work)? What value do they add to your service offering?

Lisa Ashton:

These approaches enable us to contextualise the work we do with clients. The Matrix of Working Relationships provides a framework for understanding organisational structure and the interactions with the environment, whilst the CPA and IRIS provide an understanding of individuals’ potential to develop to their most productive roles.

The CPA is more suitable for management due to discussion of career aspects, whilst the IRIS is a more cost effective solution for screening larger numbers of individuals.

Apart from providing an indication of potential, the power of these tools is that they also provide a reflective space where individuals feel listened to and understood, an experience which some individuals also describe as one in which they are better able to listen to themselves!

Leadership Magazine: How does BIOSS select and retain its own talent?

Lisa Ashton:

By strong adherence to the principle of matching people’s abilities with their work demands, as well as selecting for the correct values. When there is a match between people’s abilities and their work they experience a condition known as ‘flow’. We have found in BIOSS as well as in our clients that flow is one of the strongest predictors of retention of staff.

We also build work around the needs and talents of our consultants. I know it is counter intuitive, but for us, it works!

Leadership Magazine: How would you describe your leadership style?

Lisa Ashton:

Allowing individuals to express their abilities and talents whilst ensuring that the organisational goals are met. I prefer to nudge and support and only take direct action when I sense that things need my intervention or if someone needs my help or guidance.

My focus is mainly on creating the conditions so that the people who work for BIOSS can be successful.

Leadership Magazine: What are your current work goals?

Lisa Ashton:

Most of my time is centred on guiding our business success and growth, and I am very active in marketing related activities.

Over the last few years, my role has shifted to one where I can focus less on delivery and more on mentoring the next generation. I find this very satisfying to see how individuals grow over time.

I am also very excited about where BIOSS is headed. We understand that to ensure long-term sustainability we have to adapt and innovate and this is what we are doing. From moving into the very-exciting Neuropsychology field, having a strong focus on systems, technology and automation as well as introducing a host of cloud-based cost-effective assessment products we believe we are well positioned to meet the current and future needs of our clients i.e. cost- effective,simple and easier ways of enhancing organisational efficiencies whilst delivering maximum ROI.