Fail to Learn, Learn to Fail

Failure

In this post I’d like to cover some common failures of leaders and managers. We all make mistakes, and that’s actually a good thing, as long as you learn from them…and learn quickly. I’m going to draw from my experiences and those of people I’ve met along the way and hopefully save you some time and some pain.

1)    Waiting too long to address under-performance

I’ve seen this so many times in my career and have been guilty of it myself in the past. Many of us like to think the best of people and think that with encouragement, coaching and focussed objectives everyone can make the grade or better. Not so, certainly not all the time. There comes a point when you have to take decisive action.

These situations almost always get worse if left alone. They never get better on their own. Understanding the real issues and taking action quickly leads to faster improvement and reduces the risk of unrecoverable failure for your team members and yourself.

You need to ask yourself the following questions?

a)     Does your team member know what is expected of them? Have they got SMART Objectives (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time-bound)?

b)    Does your team member have the capability and skills to do what you need of them? Do you and they know what needs to be changed? Have you got time to get there?

c)     Are they passionate about what they do? Maybe they’re ‘a square peg in a round hole’ i.e. they’re in the wrong role for their skills.

d)    Have you ensured that they are receiving feedback? Don’t trust that just because you’ve discussed it with their manager, it’s happened…Follow up. Don’t trust that just because the words have come out of your mouth, they’ve got it. Get them to play back what they’ve heard and let them tell you what they’re doing about it.

e)     Is their performance impacting other members of the team negatively? Are you hearing this from more than one or two people?

Once you’ve got the answers to these questions, make a decision to act and then act. Stick to a plan. Set objectives, measure performance, give feedback, coach, give more feedback and if the person’s performance or behaviour doesn’t change, make a decision, and yes follow process, but move the person; either to a different role, or out of your business. It will be hard, but it is the right thing to do – Right for you, for the team, and in my experience, right for the individual.

2)    Not linking Strategy to Objectives or Pay

If you pay your sales team only on winning new business and you’re not setting objectives to any of your teams on retention or great customer service….you will fail.

If you incentivise your people on revenue, they won’t focus on profitability and you will fail.

If you want the best customer service in your industry and you pay people on lowest call times…you will fail.

If you want your executive team, or your management team to change the culture of the business for the long term, make sure that they are compensated on it, or you will fail.

You get the picture, but many don’t. If you want to shift the momentum of a department or a function or a full business, you need to align how people are compensated behind that vision.

3)    It’s ‘their’ fault

Let’s get something straight. If you take ownership for delivering something, big or small, it’s no-one else’s fault but your own. True ownership means, tenacity – not taking ‘no’ as an answer, not taking ‘it can’t be done’ as an answer. You keep going, keep pushing, you fight for resource, you fight for priority, you fight for your goals. You make yourself unpopular. Yes…but. No buts. If you agree to take ownership of something, you deliver it or you face the consequences. Stand by your goals!

4)    I thought they knew what they had to deliver

This is a big one. Communicating top priorities creates the basis of focus for an organisation, team or individual. However, without clear definitions of success, management and employees can be aiming for very different levels of performance. This creates significant risk in execution to committed operating plans and strategic projects.

Leaders need to be very precise in defining how they are going to measure success. What indicators are going to be used? What weight will be put on different measures? And what are the specific target levels for each of those measures that are expected?

Highly visionary leaders struggle with this more than most. They tend to be heavy on pitching big ideas, but very light on communicating priority and specific expectations.

a)     What’s the big idea?

Visionaries get this. They have the idea. They have the passion. They feel they have communicated it. But your team may not.

b)    What are the under-pinning principles?

What guiding principles underpin the big idea? No more than 5 – In priority order if possible. These principles will help your people define the boundaries of the big idea. Make sure that your people, especially your influencers understand the big idea AND the principles.

c)     Get your people to shape the plan

Ok, so your key players understand the big idea, they’ve thrashed out principles and priorities with your help. Let them build the plan. You sign it off. But let them ‘own’ the plan…and the targets.

d)    Review and feedback

Keep on top of the plan, regularly. Give feedback, but don’t take over. If you’ve got the wrong people on the team, change them. If the numbers aren’t coming, evaluate what you’re doing and either change your course or focus extra energy on results.

5)    Accepting the status quo

I’ve spent my whole career being frustrated by the status quo. No system is perfect. If it was, the animal kingdom would not have evolved. Competition would not exist. Siblings would not try to out-do each other. There would be no Olympic Games or Premier League. Business is no different.

I’m amazed at the lack of attention to detail in business. We get feedback every day from our customers – directly or indirectly. Do ‘we’ listen to the news, surveys, research, phone calls, letters of complaint….?

Only the best businesses truly listen to feedback and act upon it. And by business I mean, every part, every person in the business listens and more importantly ACT on feedback.

Companies that stick with the status quo, fail.

6)    Stop communicating – Engage, Enrol, Involve

People are not stupid. They have lives, they have mortgages, they have complicated relationships, they have children, they have debts, they have secrets, they have dreams. Don’t give them a mouse mat or a piece of paper and expect them to ‘vote’ for your strategy. Talk to them, listen to them, find out what they care about, let them help you with your strategy. Listen to their ideas. Morph your strategy to the best ideas. Bring the most enthusiastic into your inner circle, no matter what their grade.

Forget emails, slides, videos, intranets and 3 minutes at a team briefing in isolation. If you only use these methods without truly engaging with your people and getting their buy-in and belief, you will fail.

7)    I won’t tell them, it’s in their best interests.

Rightly or wrongly, businesses often hide the truth from their people and often for the ‘right’ reasons. The days of mass union action have gone. Some will disagree.

Everyone that has an element of commercial awareness, knows that sometimes, tough decisions have to be made. One day that could impact you.

I don’t know about you, but I would rather know. I would then have time to make plans.

My advice, some would say naively, tell people the truth. Give them enough time to make plans or change direction.

I hope this post provoked some thought and hopefully some ideas to help you reflect on past failures and how you may improve, going forward.

I would love to hear your thoughts and experiences.

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The Need for Speed ~ Driving Pace in Your Organisation ~ Part 3

communication and collaborationIn part 2 of this four part series of blogs, I covered the importance of PACE to improve organisational effectiveness and speed and specifically Alignment:

PACE = Planning + Alignment + Communication + Execution

The third part of The Need for Speed ~ Driving Pace in Your Organisation will focus on Communication of your plan, your organisational structure, your people and your rewards and performance management capability.

Communication

a) Senior management creating a sense of purpose

All of us are in search of a clear and driving purpose for our lives; we want to contribute to something bigger than ourselves.  The workplace offers a great opportunity for people to connect with a purpose, your One Magnificent Goal, your OMG!

The reality is that people care less about working for a company and much more about working for a ‘noble’ cause. Without a purpose, your employees are just putting in time. Their minds might be engaged, but their hearts will not be. A team without a purpose is a team without passion. Your team members may achieve short-term results, but they won’t have the heart to go the distance.

The first strategy to satisfy this basic need is to give employees a ‘noble’ purpose and then help them connect with it emotionally.

Take a close look at what your people are doing day in and day out. You might find that their hearts are much bigger than their jobs. Get team members inspired about your OMG, and their hearts will follow.

Implementing improvement requires constantly reviewing the dynamic forces that drive an organisation. Understanding these dynamics, anticipating their consequences, and acting to accelerate, or redirect them is a complex task. The complexity is further compounded when companies engage in improvement efforts without viewing them as part of their strategic thinking. Assumptions as to what’s involved in change often understate the difficulty and miscalculate the amount of energy, preparation, and time required. Without proper attention, diagnosis may be inadequate and off the mark, leading to ill-fated plans.

Improvement efforts with an OMG often not only require readjusting the way that organisation leaders and employees think, they also require substantially changing behaviour. They require business leaders to manage energy in new ways and make difficult choices. Because these are often needed in the areas of employee empowerment and involvement, they call for new forms of courage. Many within the organisation have to make higher-risk decisions, requiring greater levels of personal development. Improvement efforts mean that cross-functional teamwork, innovation, and personal initiative become part of the defining values of the organisation.

To be successful, it is crucial that your senior management team are 100% behind your OMG, that they actively engage with their teams on a regular basis about your OMG, and that they make the OMG real for the people in their function – tailoring the messages for their people’s specific roles and responsibilities, and tackling the ‘What’s In It For Me?’ questions. They need to be passionate, committed and demonstrate the behaviours underpinning your OMG for it to be taken seriously by their teams. Paying ‘Lip-Service’ to your OMG will work for a while, but destroyed on the 2nd or 3rd occasion that a senior manager strays from this path.

b) Communication and Collaboration

Effective communication is vital in driving pace in your organisation. Improved communication and collaboration across your organisation represents your best opportunity to tap the full range of talents of your people, move with greater speed and flexibility, and compete to win over the next decade.

Building a collaborative organisation requires a transformative approach to culture, processes and technology—along with an unwavering commitment from top to bottom. The working environment is changing; there is an increase in flexible working, home working and mobile working and a blurring of all three. A clear collaboration strategy will ensure that productivity is not lost and employees feel as much part of the organisation as their colleagues based in head office. Optimising team performance can be achieved by building trust and strengthening relationships across geography and cultures; encouraging participation and knowledge/expertise through the use of communities; locating experts within real-time and accelerating decision-making; and using availability and presence tools to help reduce budget by meeting virtually. If you foster a culture that encourages collaborative behaviours, put processes in place to help people work better together and adopt technologies that facilitate collaboration, your efforts will be rewarded with an energised organisation that can adapt quickly to changing markets and deliver results.

c) Communications Approach

To achieve real organisational buy-in to your One Magnificent Goal you must inform, inspire and involve employees so they will choose to go where you are attempting to lead them.

Inform

Informing is the first step in aligning employees and getting buy-in.  It starts with sharing the why, what and how of your OMG.  Then discuss and get clear on individual roles in meeting the goals necessary to achieve the plan.

To feel informed, today’s employees need clarity on:

  • Why you exist as a business
  • How you will behave
  • What you offer to key stakeholders
  • Where you are going in one to three years
  • Key areas of focus for the entire organisation

Although the need to communicate has not changed over the years, the tools we use to communicate have.  Thanks to the internet and other new technologies, today’s leaders can (and should) communicate in many different ways.

The old standbys — memos, meetings and newsletters — still have their place, only in most cases these have gone digital.  In addition to these tools, today’s leaders and managers use e-mail, intranets and online newsletters to communicate quickly and effectively with employees.  They also use blogs, webinars and video clips to educate and update employees about company goals and objectives.

Companies with geographically dispersed workforces use conference calls and video teleconferencing to simulate face-to-face interactions.  And the more tech-savvy companies, especially those with younger workforces, are using instant messaging tools like Microsoft LyncTwitter and corporate social media tools like Yammer or Chatter to stay connected.  Whatever technologies you employ, the key is to communicate often in many different ways to ensure that all employees are focused and aligned.

Inspire

Today’s employees want to believe that their work is making a difference in the world.  To inspire others:

  • Share a compelling vision of what tomorrow looks like.  How will that vision make the world a better place and improve their lives?
  • Constantly discuss the aspirational components of your OMG.  Why should employees aspire to achieve it?
  • Share why you believe the destination is compelling.  What is it about where the company is going that inspires you?
  • Communicate with enthusiasm and passion.  Become an evangelist for the organisational goals.
  • Ask employees what the OMG means to them.  Share their responses via e-mail, intranet and in company meetings.
  • Share positive customer feedback.  Give people reasons to feel good about what the company does.
  • Celebrate achievement of milestones.  We all want to be part of a winning team, so recognise the progress and success along the way to your goals.

The ultimate goal is to get employees talking about what the OMG mean to them individually.  The more they focus on these areas, the more likely you are to get buy-in and alignment.

Involve

When employees feel involved and engaged in the delivery of your OMG, they bring more than just their bodies to work.  They bring their hearts and souls as well as their best thinking.

  • Spend time with your team regularly to check on their progress.  Make sure all individual goals remain aligned with your OMG.
  • Share stories of how teams are aligned and achieving goals.  Highlight team accomplishments and link them to the strategy they support.
  • To measure employee understanding, commitment, inspiration and engagement, take quick surveys following team or company meetings.
  • Solicit questions via email or intranet and address them in open forums.  Publicly thank employees for raising the issues.

So, you’ve now got your people on board, they’re informed, inspired and involved. In the final part of The Need for Speed – Driving Pace in Your Organisation,  I will be look at the fourth, and arguably the most important element of PACE, Execution.

Implementing Change Effectively

Change Management

There are many theories about how to manage and implement change effectively. Many originate with leadership and change management guru, John Kotter. A professor at Harvard Business School and world-renowned change expert, Kotter introduced his eight-step change process in his 1995 book, “Leading Change” with a follow-up work “Our Iceberg is Melting” in 2006.

Step One: Create Urgency

Building a sense of urgency is a necessary step to implementing change successfully. If you don’t find a way to make the change exciting, compelling and necessary, you may find the implementation phase a little more challenging than it should be. For change to happen, it’s crucial that the majority of the company really want it. Develop a sense of urgency around the need for change – people need to really understand and engage in the ‘Why’.  This may help you spark the initial motivation to get things moving.

This isn’t simply a matter of showing people poor sales statistics or talking about increased competition. Open an honest and convincing dialogue about what’s happening in the marketplace and with your competition. If many people start talking about the change you propose, the urgency can build and feed on itself.

What you can do:

  • Identify potential threats, and develop scenarios showing what could happen in the future.
  • Examine opportunities that should be, or could be, exploited.
  • Start honest discussions, and give dynamic and convincing reasons to get people talking and thinking.
  • Request support from customers, outside stakeholders and industry people to strengthen your argument.
  • Make it real for everyone in your teams….How will the change affect them, or more importantly what might happen for them if the organisation doesn’t change.

Step Two: Form a Powerful Coalition

Convince people that change is necessary. This often takes strong leadership and visible support from key people within your organization. Managing change isn’t enough – you have to lead it.

You can find effective change leaders throughout your organization – they don’t necessarily follow the traditional company hierarchy. To lead change, you need to bring together a coalition, or team, of influential people whose power comes from a variety of sources, including job title, status, expertise, and political importance.

In putting together a Guiding Coalition, the team as a whole should reflect:

Position Power: Enough key players on board so that those left out cannot block progress. This is really important – No senior buy-in at best or Senior Management sabotage at worst means that success isn’t likely!

Expertise: All relevant points of view should be represented so that informed intelligent decisions can be made.

Credibility: The group should be seen and respected by those in the organisation so that the group’s outputs will be taken seriously by other employees.

Leadership: The group should have enough proven leaders to be able to drive the change process.

Once formed, your “change coalition” needs to work as a team, continuing to build urgency and momentum around the need for change.

What you can do:

  • Identify the true leaders in your organisation – not necessarily managers – People that are rising stars, are highly networked internally and always deliver.
  • Ask for an emotional commitment from these key people – Are they behind YOU and CHANGE 100%?
  • Work on team building within your change coalition.
  • Check your team for weak areas, and ensure that you have a good mix of people from different departments and different levels within your company.

Step Three: Create a Vision for Change

When you first start thinking about change, there will probably be many great ideas and solutions floating around. Link these concepts to an overall vision that people can grasp easily and remember.

A clear vision can help everyone understand why you’re asking them to do something. When people see for themselves what you’re trying to achieve, then the directives they’re given tend to make more sense.

Effective change visions have six key characteristics:

Imaginable:  They convey a clear picture of what the future will look like.

Desirable:  They appeal to the long-term interest of employees, customers, shareholders and others who have a stake in the organisation.

Possible:  They contain realistic and attainable goals.

Clear:  They are clear enough to provide guidance in decision making.

Flexible:  They allow individual initiative and alternative responses in light of changing conditions.

Understandable:  They are easy to communicate and can be explained quickly.

What you can do:

  • Determine the values that are central to the change.
  • Develop a short summary (one or two sentences) that captures what you “see” as the future of your organization – Ideally short, emotive and memorable.
  • Create a strategy and plan to execute that vision.
  • Ensure that your change coalition can describe the vision in five minutes or less.
  • Practice your “vision speech” often.

Step Four: Communicate the Vision

What you do with your vision after you create it will determine your success. Your message will probably have strong competition from other day-to-day communications within the organisation, so you need to communicate it frequently and powerfully, and embed it within everything that you do.

Don’t just call special meetings to communicate your vision. Instead, talk about it every chance you get. Use the vision daily to make decisions and solve problems. When you keep it fresh on everyone’s minds, they’ll remember it and respond to it.

It’s also important to “walk the talk.” What you do is far more important – and believable – than what you say. Demonstrate the kind of behavior that you want from others.

What you can do:

  • Talk often about your change vision.
  • Openly and honestly address people’s’ concerns and anxieties.
  • Apply your vision to all aspects of operations – from training to performance reviews. Tie everything back to the vision.
  • Lead by example.

Step Five: Remove Obstacles

If you follow these steps and reach this point in the change process, you’ve been talking about your vision and building buy-in from all levels of the organization. Hopefully, your staff wants to get busy and achieve the benefits that you’ve been promoting.

But is anyone resisting the change? And are there processes or structures that are getting in its way?

Put in place the structure for change, and continually check for barriers to it. Removing obstacles can empower the people you need to execute your vision, and it can help the change move forward.

What you can do:

  • Identify, or hire, change leaders whose main roles are to deliver the change.
  • Look at your organisational structure, job descriptions, and performance and compensation systems to ensure they’re in line with your vision.
  • Recognise and reward people for making change happen.
  • Identify people who are resisting the change, and help them see what’s needed.
  • Take action to quickly remove barriers (human or otherwise).
Milestones

Inchpebbles NOT Milestones

Step Six: Create Short-term Wins

Nothing motivates more than success. Give your organisation a taste of victory early in the change process. Within a short time frame (this could be a month or a year, depending on the type of change), you’ll want to have results that your people can see. Without this, critics and negative thinkers might hurt your progress.

Create short-term targets – not just one long-term goal. You want each smaller target to be achievable, with little room for failure. Your change team may have to work very hard to come up with these targets, but each “win” that you produce can further motivate the entire staff.

What you can do:

  • Look for sure-fire projects that you can implement without help from any strong critics of the change.
  • Don’t choose early targets that are expensive. You want to be able to justify the investment in each project.
  • Thoroughly analyse the potential pros and cons of your targets. If you don’t succeed with an early goal, it can hurt your entire change initiative.
  • Reward the people who help you meet the targets.

Step Seven: Build on the Change

Kotter argues that many change projects fail because victory is declared too early. Real change runs deep. Quick wins are only the beginning of what needs to be done to achieve long-term change.

Launching one new product using a new system is great. But if you can launch 10 products, that means the new system is working. To reach that 10th success, you need to keep looking for improvements.

Each success provides an opportunity to build on what went right and identify what you can improve.

What you can do:

  • After every win, analyse what went right and what needs improving.
  • Set goals to continue building on the momentum you’ve achieved.
  • Drive for continuous improvement.
  • Keep ideas fresh by bringing in new change agents and leaders for your change coalition.

Step Eight: Anchor the Changes in Corporate Culture

Finally, to make any change stick, it should become part of the core of your organisation. Your corporate culture often determines what gets done, so the values behind your vision must show in day-to-day work.

Make continuous efforts to ensure that the change is seen in every aspect of your organization. This will help give that change a solid place in your organization’s culture.

It’s also important that your company’s leaders continue to support the change. This includes existing staff and new leaders who are brought in. If you lose the support of these people, you might end up back where you started.

What you can do:

  • Talk about progress every chance you get. Tell success stories about the change process, and repeat other stories that you hear.
  • Include the change ideals and values when hiring and training new staff.
  • Publicly recognise key members of your original change coalition, and make sure the rest of the staff – new and old – remembers their contributions.
  • Create plans to replace key leaders of change as they move on. This will help ensure that their legacy is not lost or forgotten.

I would love to hear about your challenges and successes from implementing change in your organisation.

Dead as a Dodo…..Why Teams Don’t / Won’t Change

With today’s rapidly evolving technology and business markets in their most challenging time for decades, companies rise and fall faster than ever before. Leaders must constantly anticipate the market and their customer needs and that sometimes means you need to make changes – be that processes, products, organisational structure, or even the markets you operate in. Many leaders don’t fully understand that, by nature, most organisations resist change. Employees create patterns of behaviour to reduce stress and eliminate the unknown. Change creates uncertainty, stresses the culture, and alarms the entrenched —those individuals who resist change at all costs. It is the leader’s responsibility to reduce undue stress on the culture caused by change initiatives.

Nothing is as upsetting to your people as change. Nothing has greater potential to cause failures, loss of production, or falling quality. Yet nothing is as important to the survival of your organisation as change. History is full of examples of organisations that failed to change and that are now extinct. The secret to successfully managing change, from the perspective of the employees, is a clearly defined ‘What’ and a deep understanding of ‘Why’.

An individual’s degree of resistance to change is determined by whether they perceive the change as good or bad, and how severe they expect the impact of the change to be on them. Their ultimate acceptance of the change is a function of how much resistance the person has and the quality of their coping skills and their support system.

DodoYour job as a leader is to address their resistance from both ends to help the individual reduce it to a minimal, manageable level. Your job is not to bulldoze their resistance so you can move ahead.

So why do people resist change?

1. Unclear on the need for change – If people do not understand the need for change, you can expect resistance at best or sabotage at worst. If people strongly believe the current way of doing things works well…and has done for twenty years, you’ve got a vital job in enrolling them in the importance of the changes you’re introducing and why.

2. Fear of the unknown — People will only take active steps toward the unknown if they genuinely believe – and perhaps more importantly, feel – that the risks of standing still are greater than those of moving forward in a new direction – ‘A burning platform’

3. Lack of ability — This is a fear people will seldom admit. But sometimes, change in organisations necessitates changes in skills, and some people will feel that they won’t be able to make the transition very well, and therefore fight the change.

4. ‘We’ve always done it this way!’ — If you ask people in an organisation to do things in a new way, as rational as that new way may seem to you, you will be setting yourself up against all that hard wiring, all those emotional connections to those who taught your audience the old way – and that’s not trivial.

5. Lack of belief — When people don’t believe that they, or the company, can competently manage the change there is likely to be resistance

6. Management whim — When people believe that the change initiative is temporary…’We’ve seen this all before’

7. Not invented here — If people are allowed to be part of the change there is less resistance. People like to know what’s going on, especially if their jobs may be affected. Informed employees tend to have higher levels of job satisfaction than uninformed employees. Ultimately, employees who feel part of the ‘bigger picture’ and are pulling in the same direction will not only have a positive impact on the bottom line, but also give your company a competitive advantage.

8. Poor communication— When it comes to change management there’s no such thing as too much communication. Communication gravitates around the audience: without a solid understanding of your audience, you are not communicating – you are merely dropping information into a vacant area and hoping for the best.  There are numerous internal challenges to communicating about the business to employees, not least appreciating their level of understanding, and planning appropriately according to the needs and capabilities of different employee segments.

9. Grudging Compliance — Don’t mistake compliance for acceptance. People who are overwhelmed by change resign themselves to it and go along with the flow. You have them in body, but you do not have their hearts.

10. ‘I’ll be worse off’ — Resistance can stem from perceptions of how the change will affect them personally. For example, people who feel they’ll be worse off at the end of the change are unlikely to give it their full support. Similarly, if people believe the change favours another group/department/person there may be (unspoken) anger and resentment.

In the next blog, with the help of John Kotter from Harvard Business School, I’ll be explaining how to implement change successfully in your organisation.

Top Leadership Challenges – The Results

Mark Conway

Thanks to those of you who took the time to complete the recent Top Leadership Challenges poll. The top 3 challenges as voted for by Gung Ho! readers are:

1. Creating a high performance culture

How leaders believe things should get done is a key driver of culture. Leaders establish culture consciously, or unconsciously, through their own personal motives and actions. Leaders care about what it takes to succeed, and their perception of those needs will impact their behaviours and expectations.

External forces can forge culture change, also. The most obvious external impact today is technology. Nothing is going to impact how we behave more than the current transformation brought on by the internet, unified communications, collaboration tools and other advanced forms of technology emerging in our homes and workplaces.

In the UK today, huge spending cuts are transforming the Public and 3rd sectors, forcing these organisations, some for the first time in living memory, to make radical changes to work practices and their interactions with the public. The result of this new pressure is that government leaders are coaching and teaching their people to run their programs competitively, measure results, build business cases for change, plan strategically, create customer value and so on. There are clearly impacts on the culture, and therefore, the management systems and practices.

Culture provides consistency for an organisation and its people, a critical need in organisations where leaders change due to the marketplace, mergers and acquisitions and down-sizing. Knowing ‘what matters around here’ and ‘what I do is important’ helps people feel they are working with some stability and predictability in a changing workplace.

Since the idea of change being constant is becoming more and more evident, people need help in understanding the vision and their part in it. They also need to be involved in making the change happen. At KC we’ve invested huge amounts of time and energy involving our people in our vision and values and this is not a one-off activity. Every member of every team needs to understand and be engaged in your vision, understand how they can contribute to it and what support they’ll have in getting there.

Two of my favourite brands are Walt Disney and Innocent. Just read a couple of their ‘Corporate’ statements to understand culture and what sits at the heart of these very successful businesses.

Walt Disney

“From the beginning, starting with Walt Disney, we have had five things that make me proud to be part of this Company: high-quality products, optimism for the future, great storytelling, an emphasis on family entertainment and great talent, passion and dedication from our Cast Members.”

 Marty Sklar, Vice Chairman and Principal Creative Executive, Walt Disney Imagineering

Innocent

Purpose: ‘Make natural, delicious food and drink that helps people live well and die old’

Vision: ‘The Earth’s favourite little food company’

Values: ‘Create a business we can be proud of – be natural, be entrepreneurial, be responsible, be commercial and be generous’

Changing a culture in an established business as opposed to creating one in a new business is arguably much more difficult. Maybe that’s the shift in mindset required – collaborating on creating a new one could be a better course of action!

2. Reducing costs and increasing revenue

Every business leader that I’ve met faces this challenge and at a detailed level the actions you take as a leader will be different dependant on your business market, your product / service portfolio, your position in the market and the cost profile of your business.

Developing a cost-reduction strategy that maximises efficiency without compromising growth potential is not straight forward. You have to resist pressure to make indiscriminate cuts or slash headcount across the board. You need to identify core competencies where efficiency can be improved, trim and consolidate non-core functions, and reinvest the savings in critical business assets. And before you start, you need buy-in from your employees, especially those in senior and middle management.

Outsourcing might seem to be an easy answer. In many industries, contracting out non-core business functions such as human resources, billing, or payroll to third-party providers is gaining acceptance. Many companies outsource parts or all of their operating processes. But once a company decides to outsource, it also exposes itself to new forms of risk. For example, an inferior supplier of outsourced services can, overnight, inflict lasting damage on a company’s relationship with its suppliers and customers, that is to say its brand.

A strategy for driving profitable revenue growth is much more complex than controlling your costs. (That’s just my view – I’m sure all the commercial accountants will disagree and the Sales and Marketing people will be 100% behind me!)

I’ll keep it really simple. Focus on delivering the best possible experience you can afford for your customers at every stage of their time with you. Every interaction a customer or potential customer has with your brand is an opportunity to change their buying perception of you. Customers can share information about your products and services in a ways unimaginable 10 years ago. Fortune 500 and FTSE businesses have seen >10% share impacts of influential customers through social networks – Positively or Negatively.

3. Keeping employees motivated and focussed on results

I’ve listed a few thoughts below, but read Gung Ho! if you really want some great insight into employee motivation.

  • Lead by Example – NO EXCEPTIONS
  • Involve them – when people are involved in fleshing out visions, plans and projects, they buy-in faster and resist less. This means you can implement the change(s) more quickly and easily.
  • Set challenging goals. My experience has taught me that people strive to achieve what is expected of them. If you set challenging goals your team will work hard to accomplish them, providing of course, they are realistically attainable. It is amazing what people can accomplish when they are given the opportunity to perform.
  • Communicate – Your people need and want regular updates on the progress of the business and their personal performance. Talk to your team members regularly, letting them know if the business is on / off track.
  • Celebrate individual and team performance. Catch people doing something right and focus on recognizing excellent performance.
  • Give people the tools to succeed. No team will stay motivated if they do not have the necessary tools required to do their job.
  • Manage poor performance. While poor performance and conflict are seldom enjoyable to deal with, you have a responsibility to your team and the company to manage it.
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