Strategy

To Win: Focus on Results, not Activities.

 We have a saying in our office:  “Don’t Confuse Activities with Results”. We find it applies to so many different aspects of our work, because many of us fall back to old habits thinking that larger size papers, more hours put into a project, higher costs for a project, etc.  necessarily make it better.   It doesn’t.

As a teacher, I have countless students who graduate college and start jobs for large consulting firms, investment banks, etc.,, where interns and junior associates are encouraged to work sometimes between 12-18 hours (or even longer), because the “culture” reinforces spending time of the project rather than measuring the quality of workmanship/productivity throughout the process. These young people later confess that they feel they make more mistakes and spend more time trying to check for and correct errors, because they’re sleep-deprived and not able to think things clearly.

Recently, one such person, after several months of “killing himself” and getting little positive feedback voluntarily choose to reduce his workload slightly, in order to focus on quality of results, not just throughput. Within two weeks, he received kudos from team members for offering new perspectives and insights making the work more valuable for the client and team; these results could not have been accomplished under the old regime.

Morten Hansen arrives at the same insight in his new book Great At Work: How Top Performers Do less, work Better and Achieve More. While working at a large consulting firm for several years, he often worked as many as 80-90 hours per week. One day,  he noticed that a colleague’s presentation “contained crisper insight, more compelling ideas” and wondered why. Talent might seem like an answer, but both had similar education and experience and had been selected for skills through the same rigorous screening process. One key difference is that she worked from 8 Am to 6 PM, no nights no weekends.  Was she doing better because she worked less?

This led to lots of research including a five-year survey of 5000 managers and employees in a wide-range of industries. What differentiated highest-rank performers? Top performers mastered selectivity. Whenever they could, they carefully selected which tasks, customers, meetings, ideas to undertake and which not. They applied “intensive, targeted effort on those few priorities in order to excel….Rather than simply pile on more hours, tasks, etc., they cut back.”

The researchers discovered that “just a few key work practices related to such selectivity, accounted for two-thirds of the variation in performance about the subjects. Talent, effort and luck undoubtedly mattered as well, but not nearly as much.”

The results make two points: (1) individually, we can change our work habits to perform at a higher level and (2) the organizationally, we should change our cultures to not focus/reward those who engage the most hours in the most activities, but enable those who, within accepted standards of performance, produce the most excellence results.

What’s your experience in this area?  Have you ever tried to change such a culture? What tips do you recommend companies adopt to cha shift cultures focused on maximizing people’s activity time to ones  focused on excellence in results.

Presenting Personalized Purpose Increases Success

As Simon Sinek tells us, to motivate people you need to go beyond telling them WHAT they should do to giving them a WHY. And the WHY needs to be more than logical facts; it needs to have an emotional content for the audience.

Adam Grant, a Wharton professor, demonstrated this fact in a controlled study involving fundraisers. All of the university fundraiser were given call lists and were armed with reasons that people should donate: they’re raising funds for scholarships to help students who need them.  Some callers were able to share with the recipients a five minute story by a scholarship beneficiary. These recipients spent more than double the amount of time on the phone – but generated triple the donations as compared to the recipients who had no contact with the beneficiary’s story.

In other words, these callers had a double-emotional tool to help them with the calls: the callers were charged as they “felt” why their jobs existed and the recipients could identify with the beneficiary. In all probability, the success is synergistic 1+1=3, because they caller feels more involved in delivering the story.

This double-impact phenomenon is key to the success of many presenters. When a presenter designs a presentation to include personalized appeal – stories, graphic images, pictures and videos – two things happen: the audience connects better with the content and the presenter becomes feels more engaged with it as well. Again, a 1+1=3 synergy takes place because by taking the time to find just the right content to connect with the audience, the presenter’s authentic passion is heightened.

So don’t cut corners when delivering messages. As we discuss in our training/coaching programs, take the time to find compelling stories, pictures and quotes; your involvement in finding the right material increases your energy and power when presenting, and produces more winning results! What’s your experience in personalizing a presentation to make it more powerful?  Share with us.

Discover the New Opportunities

As you may know I teach a capstone business course for CUNY. I help the students a mindset that the world is changing rapidly and they need to get ahead of them, before automation, artificial intelligence, etc. eliminate many of those jobs.

One of the topics we discussed is the interesting competition between the e-commerce leader, e.g., Amazon, as it invades the former territory of retail stores and creates new opportunities, and the actions of the retail stores, e.g., Walmart, to move into the e-commerce space and create new opportunities. The issue isn’t who will win, the issue is how will the new opportunities to serve existing and future customers’ expanded set of needs morph the entire playing field.

Initially, the retail stores simply responded to the ecommerce threat by offering their own version. Then Amazon redefined the playing field to integrate retail and ecommerce, through its purchase of Whole Foods, its experiment with its Amazon stores, and more recently with the experiment of Go stores which offer a cashier-free app-based shopping experience.

Walmart responded by buying Jet.com, to get the expertise and insights of Marc Lore, including his interest in creating greater access to more upscale brands than Walmart has traditionally served. The results are experiments such as the following

  • Project Kepler is an effort to “change in-store experiences leveraging emerging technologies to define and deliver on evolving customer expectations”. The goal is to create physical stores that, like Go, will operate without checkout lines or cashiers.
  • Code Eight is designed to reach high net worth urban customers, such as busy NYC moms, who they could never reach customers with stores. Allegedly, its goal is to provide them with personal shopping services: product recommendations will be made via text messages for health, beauty, household essentials and apparel/accessories. Walmart also acquired Bonobos to experiment with provide personalized clothing services for men.)

In other word, both sides are not going to fight directly over the turfs they currently dominate (i.e., the “Red Ocean” strategy) but instead to discover new opportunities in terms of markets and products (i.e. “Blue Ocean” strategy. (See: Blue Ocean Strategy by Chan and Mauborgne).

And that’s where all the best opportunities exist for us in 2018 and the future: harnessing the technology and cultural changes taking place and finding new opportunities to serve existing and future clients.  How are you doing so?  Share your experiences and plans!

Four Elements of a Successful Leader Development Program

At the end of last year, I reflected on how to improve the leader development services that I  provide to CEOs through Vistage Worldwide’s multi-service ecosystem (e.g., Peer Advisory Boards and Vistage Inside for executive teams, which provides), a statement in a McKinsey article (“What’s Missing in Leadership Development?” by Feser, Nielsen and Renni); August 2017) caught my attention. “There is overwhelming evidence that the plethora of services, books, articles, seminars, conferences… a global industry estimated to be worth more than $50 Billion – are delivering disappointing results….just 10 percent said their leadership development initiatives have a clear business impact.”

The authors concluded that four sets of intervention appear to matter most:

  • Contextualizing the program based on the organization’s position and strategy
  • Ensuring reach across the organization
  • Designing the program for the transfer of learning
  • Using systems reinforcement to lock in change.

Each year, I review the results of last year’s program with clients as we forge next year’s strategic goals. Are sales and profits increasing – and why or why not? Are human and capital resources being maximized, and if not what’s necessary? How is the market – changes in customers’ needs and competition – impacting on the company? Do we have a clear and executable strategy for the next year, with KPIs measuring the effectiveness of execution? What else needs to change? Are we becoming a Continuous Improvement Learning Organization (CILO)?

Apparently, our leader development programs are working. As a result of regular monthly meetings to review progress, improve through executive coaching, fresh perspectives and adoption of new tools shared by Vistage experts and CEO peers, 24/7 access to a Chair/coach and our focus on becoming a CILO, is enabling our leaders and their organizations to achieve new heights: one member’s company has quadrupled in sales and profits during the five years we’ve been working together.

Whatever leader development system you use, heed the advice of these authors, as we are.

For more information about Vistage’s potential help you and your team have a super year in 2018, feel free to contact me!  Remember, Vistage’s 21,000 leaders are in 20 countries, served by over 600 Chair/facilitators; so I can refer you to another local Chair if you’re not in NYC!

Successful Businesses Solve Personal Annoyances

Helping a colleague launch a new business, we discussed different business models designed to meet customer needs. However in framing the question as to what was needed, we began focusing on the annoyances people experience and how to overcome them, and realized the power of this approach.

For decades, people used taxis and car-services to obtain transportation from place A to B, and assumed because of the demand, most people were happy.  Most people experienced annoyances and no-one did much about them. People had to go out in the rain to hail a cab; once in the cab they weren’t always happy with the accommodations and friendliness of the driver. They didn’t know the final price of the ride in most cases – leading them to stare at the meter; then they had to navigate the pay system. Black car services were better at some things (no need to stand in the rain), but were rarely on-demand and often more expensive.

With a focus on overcoming these annoyances, Uber, Lyft and other such companies stole market share and created a new market from people who were not regular customers.

Similarly, many people hire accountants, insurance agents and attorneys at different parts of their lives and forge relationships with individual members. Providers focus on specific needs and meet them; if they’re sole practitioners or small practices, clients often seek other firm practitioners to meet additional needs. Even if the professional is part of a larger firm, clients often don’t feel an allegiance to use another member, despite the annoyance of having to go to a different office to meet with another ‘specialist”. They’re annoyed with practitioners from different firms don’t coordinate efforts to come up with a customer-centric solution.

Annoyance-reduction can result when attorneys, accountants, financial representatives, etc. aggregate into larger firms. To do so, they need to communicate the value of annoyance-reduction; they need to provide members with incentives to a work as a team to cross-sell and provide great team-service to deliver the benefits of customer-centric service. All too often, practitioners work in “silos” with little real client-centric teamwork.

Take some time to discover the annoyances that your customers experience; take time to understand those that non-customers experience, which stops them from using you. Then improve your business model so new and existing customers feel better about using your service – and recommending it to others they know that experience similar annoyances.

How are you improving your business model to eliminate or reduce annoyances? Share your experiences. sightseeing in nyc

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