JCurve Solutions CEO, Stephen Canning, has been featured in this month's LeadershipHQ magazine. LeadershipHQ is a highly regarded resource hub for all things leadership, with a strong emphasis on empowering leadership through knowledge and support.
Read the full transcript below or subscribe to Leadership HQ to receive the full magazine.
Stephen Canning is the CEO of an evolving smart-market cap Australian business, JCurve Solutions (ASX: JCS). JCS delivers software solutions that help businesses grow by streamlining processes, reducing operational costs and improving decision making through real-time data visualisation. Stephen is passionate about employee engagement and believes company success is only possible through investment in people, culture, customers, and values.
- What do you love best about what you do?
Making a difference. As a CEO, it is very easy to tie your own success or failure to the success or failure of your company as measured by achievement of goals and some of the traditional KPIs. I prefer to step back and look at whether I am achieving my personal goals and living according to my true purpose. For me, that comes down to being able to answer positively, two key questions: 1) am I learning and growing and 2) am I making a difference to the people around me, am I helping them grow?
- What’s your purpose – your WHY?
To help others grow, to help people be the best version of themselves in a work context.
- How would you describe your leadership style?
It is one that is constantly evolving and adapting. I am probably closest to the servant leader philosophy in that I see to create a culture of trust, I look at the long-term outcomes, invest in the development of others and act with humility. Two major influencers of my leadership style are Stephen Covey and Simon Sinek.
- What does leadership mean to you?
Firstly, caring. A good leader is somebody who can bring about transformation, somebody who does not accept mediocrity. A good leader needs energy and the ability to inspire positive energy in others. To do that, a good leader must really care passionately about their people.
Secondly, commitment Clayton Christensen (one of the world’s foremost authorities on disruptive innovation) said: “100 percent commitment is easier than 98 percent commitment”. If you commit to 98 percent, you will most likely fall well below that. You will justify your 2% behaviour over and over. We say to ourselves “I’m going to eat healthy 90 percent of the time”. But circumstances always get the better of us. At a café, the cake looks delicious, so, we reason that it’s okay “this one time”. The problem is, that happens way more than 10 percent of the time!
When you are 100 percent committed to something, all of your future decisions have been made. You no longer need to worry about the external circumstances. Your locus of control in internal. You don’t have to rely on willpower, which runs out. You don’t have to rely on your decision-making ability. Desired results occur quickly because you no longer get in your own way.
"When you are 100 percent committed to something, all of your future decisions have been made. You no longer need to worry about the external circumstances. Your locus of control in internal."
- Why does leadership matter?
Because of people. All successful businesses revolve around the needs of people. People are the ultimate consumers of every produce and service a business creates. Every business-to-business sales is a decision made by people.
Business leaders should always be striving to create a competitive advantage but the only sustainable competitive advantage is the one you gain from your people and the culture of your organisation, and the knowledge your people have of the people your organisation serves.
- Key achievements and successes – any come to mind?
When I joined JCurve Solutions, employee engagement was poor. We carried out a Gallup Q12 employee engagement survey and our score put us in the bottom 1% of companies globally. Our results were so low we went back to them to question the accuracy – sadly the results were correct. Two years later, our focus on building a values-based culture has taken our engagement levels to the 82nd percentile globally. That is a result that everybody at JCurve Solutions is rightly very proud of.
- Who has made a difference in your career?
The person who said to me early in my career, “You are actually a really good manager, especially for a geek”. At the time, I was in a software development role and I wasn’t a manager at all. That’s when I realised that firstly, you don’t have to have the title to behave like a leader, it is a mindset; and secondly, I wasn’t that great a software developer and it was time for a change of direction in my career.
- What are your strengths and unique talents?
I truly believe in lifelong learning. Quite some time ago, I committed to reading every day. Yes, it is hard to make the time to read books but it can be done. I read everything from self-improvement books to autobiographies. I am constantly learning and growing my knowledge. A lot of books provide inspiration, help with creativity and ideas and help build better analytical skills. I like nothing better than being asked for a book recommendation.
"I am constantly learning and growing my knowledge. A lot of books provide inspiration, help with creativity and ideas and help build better analytical skills. I like nothing better than being asked for a book recommendation."
- What does the future hold for you?
I am very passionate about the journey we are on at JCurve Solutions. We’ve transformed our business from having a single product focus to become a specialist cloud business management solutions provider. As well as growing our existing divisions, we are adding to our solution portfolio, developing new products and we have some very exciting growth plans – both in Australia an throughout Asia.
- Key learning in your career
Don’t sweat the small stuff. Stay calm. Always.
- What would you say to your younger self?
Learn something from everyone you meet. The world is not black and white, learn to be comfortable with grey. And don’t get addicted to caffeine. Too late.
JCurve Solutions provides award-winning cloud software solutions, including ERP business management software to streamline processes, empower growth, and improve business performance. Interested to find out what ERP can do for your business? See the 2-minute video explainer.