Tag: critical thinking
A lot can be learned from listening to sports coaches when they talk about not getting too high over a victory or too low over a loss. Everything has to be kept in perspective. In business, mistakes happen, all kinds of disasters occur, and sometimes they result in doors closing. On the other hand, there can be a surprise win- landing a big account, vaulting ahead of the competition. But being number one can be short lived. Neither troubled times nor great times are going to be permanent. What can we learn from both conditions?
Fighter pilots file after action reports. Football players review game films to go over what went well and what did not. Business leaders can use similar practices to use the past to help build the future.
The practice followed by many successful leaders is “review, reflect and revise”. This involves more than just evaluating the end game. It means applying the process to every plan, every play, every role and player from inception through to conclusion. This simple process leads to catching mistakes before they happen and become disasters, snatching success from the possibility of failure.
Rather than being the leader that celebrates every success and bemoans every failure, are you willing to join the league of leaders that uses an ongoing approach to continually learn lessons from what has come before and use them to advise their future?
Every company wants to put its best foot forward, be it in the public eye, or in individual sales situations. Talk is around the strengths, the unique features, all of the things that make the company great. As we know, there is a fine line between extolling existing virtues and puffery. Puffery sometimes isn’t bad. But extreme puffery moves toward bluster and that evolves into hubris. Often times, this change is so subtle that there is very little awareness of the damage.
Hubris is dangerous. Selling on hubris is detrimental in many ways. Picture a small business that lands a big sale or big account based on the CEO overselling both product and service capabilities. The great news is they got the contract- the bad news is they got the contract and have no way to deliver on it. Suppose the company drops all other work in process to service this one piece of business that can move the company into the big leagues. What does that do to existing customer relationships? What does it do to the culture of the company when everyone is forced to drop what they are doing and focus- in a very rushed, maybe frantic manner- on something they haven’t done before. They may not have the necessary experience or expertise, which means creating a solution that is not proven, or spending a huge amount of time on research to build a solution. Or it may mean that the company has to bring on more people quickly to service the account, without properly vetting them and integrating them into the culture.
Be careful of bluster. It is only a step away from the cliff. As you slip over the cliff, you may be reconsidering whether it was worth it, but by then it is too late.
We have lived through the age of process improvement as Nirvana. We have discovered that checklists are great but they are not the whole answer. Efficiency and productivity are very important, but not to the point where they totally stifle innovation and the individual desire to search for ways to do things differently because they are better, not just different.
A culture is not- or at least should not be – a cage. It should be a set of values with behaviors attached to them, that create space for employees to do what they do best, feel good about what they are doing and to develop their skills and abilities so that they can continue to improve themselves and add value to the company. Cultures do have boundaries, as does any larger culture within which we may reside. But employees need room to make decisions, to experiment, to try out new ideas in the right places in the right way and at the right time. If those opportunities are built into the culture, then employees will have an allowed way to stretch themselves, to bring new ideas out that can help the company in ways that are beneficial.
Nobody wants to feel as if they are just checking boxes. It might be easy, but it is not fulfilling. People do want to make a difference. A culture should give everyone room to be a hero in some way. Has your company put up obstacles to this type of success? If so, how can you remove them and still remain productive and efficient?
What does it mean to move to the next level? It is a phrase often spouted without clarifying how it is being used. It could be the next level in gross sales, moving from $5 million to $10 million. It could mean moving to the next level in product development, moving from a single product or service line to more than one. It could also mean that the organization is becoming more diverse in the way it is structured with more individuals fulfilling individual functions rather than a few wearing several hats.
Next level thinking requires a strategy and a lot of planning. It doesn’t just occur. Growth can be organic or by acquisition- both require forethought. Innovation to create new products or services is a process, and the better the process the more likely the success.
One of the big questions to be answered – What will the organization gain by moving to the next level? If top line sales growth wreaks havoc with sales strategies and lowers margins substantially, is it worth it? If unmanaged and miscommunicated innovation destroys process and dilutes the company’s brand, what was gained?
The next level is about construction. We have all played with blocks or played jenga. It’s working collaboratively to move the business vision to the next stage. Construction takes a strong foundation insuring that each layer above is stable as well as strong. Trying to build on a weak foundation leads to disaster.
Your strategy in thinking about the “next level” should start with a good hard look at the present state. Is your desire to move to the next level blinding you to a need to address the present state first?
It is rare for a talented group of people to come together and have their talents mesh exactly so that there is an ideal team created. Many times there is either overlap of competencies or gaps. The best leaders focus on what the mission of the organization is and how the talents of the employees can be utilized to achieve success. That may mean using the talents of individuals in ways that are different from what they expect. Successful team members complement each other. Finding ways to get the best out of employees is a key and defining function of a leader. It makes the organization stronger and it makes each employee more engaged and productive.
We hear so much about talent management, and about the efficient and effective use of human capital assets. That sounds great in an annual report for the investors to read. But in the trenches, it is about doing right by the people who are committing their time to make the organization great, while at the same time deriving satisfaction in their work. Two people whose talents appear to be exactly the same can use those talents in totally different ways for the benefit of all. Nobody wants to be redundant. Everybody wants to be valued and to value what they do.
Getting great talent is a wonderful first step. Getting the most out of talented individuals brings far greater results. Great basketball players make the rest of their team better. Great leaders find a way to bring out the best in everybody. What would Michael Jordan say about your company?