leadership

How Well Are You Executing?

When people think of strategy, they tend to focus on planning and design: getting the right people from the right bus – to identify what the company should be doing. As Wharton Professor, Lawrence Hrebiniak, notes in Making Strategy Work: Leading Effective Execution and Change, without adequate attention to execution –  changing behaviors that are currently leading people in the former direction and  executing new behaviors to achieve the new direction – success cannot be achieved.

He notes four sources of the “knowing-doing” gap:

  • Leaders are trained to plan rather than execute
  • Senior leaders tend to leave execution to lower-level leaders and team members; they review progress only periodically
  • Strategy formulation is typically done by relatively few people; execution is a team- or business-wide endeavor
  • Formulating a strategy is an action step; execution is a continuous, long-term process.

When I teach strategy for CUNY, I share experiences from companies in the news and those of the CEOs with whom I work at Vistage Worldwide (which serves 21,000 established CEOs), to drive home the “gap” problem. Key is an ongoing system to:

  • Monitor people’s execution performance
  • Hold them accountable for actions related to the new strategy and the underlying cultural values (as we discuss at Eval2Win.com – see overview)
  • Provide people with ongoing learning opportunities to acquire and perfect the new skills they need. (This is easier if your company is a CILO (Continuous Improvement Learning Organization) where learning is an essential part of the each aspect of a staff’ person’s job description.

Indeed, Vistage Inside was created to help CEOs change the organization to better align senior executives to the strategy and culture, increase collaboration and teamwork, facilitate learning by the staff they supervise, and hold people accountable to one another (e.g., members of the executive team to each other and employee-supervisor dyads to each other).

How well are you executing on your strategy? Is it easy to understand and compelling? Does everyone know what they should do? Are people ready, willing and able to perform their strategic activities? How well are you and the senior team holding everyone accountable for success?  If the answers aren’t positive, what are you doing to improve? Contact us for help: jerrycahn@presentationexcellencegroup.com.

Value Does Beat Lower Price!

 

The most frequent objection sales people hear from prospects is “the price is too high”, Every sales leader trains staff to focus on the value of the offering, instead of the cost. Still, sales people report that price is an objection that’s hard to overcome. Twice this month, I helped clients facing this issue through a presentation we developed for a client 15 years ago, that proved Value Can Beat Price!

Our client was in the packaging business, using corrugated cardboard to create displays for products (e.g., drinks, books and other products). Knowing our expertise is helping clients win big deals, we were asked to help their sales people develop more effective presentations and train the sales people to deliver them more effectively. Several months into our relationship, we received a call with bad news: one of their major clients (A) had merged with another company (B) and the general printing vendor for B had offered to provide all cardboard display packaging for free, in exchange for the contract to provide other printing services. As a result, our client’s business from A – which had been 50% of their business – dropped to zero.

About six months later, we get another call. Company B is issuing an Request for Proposal (RFP) for the package design work. Did it make sense to even compete?  After discussing the matter and looking at the quality of the incumbent’s work and my client’s capabilities, we decided to prove to the client that leading brands use powerful graphically designed packages to promote sales and to close sales they needed a vendor who could provide such quality. The presentation goal: demonstrate  that renown leading brands were succeeding, in part, because they used the company’s high quality graphic packaging.

With that, our work was cut out for us: we needed to show the judging team that well designed displays were powerful sales tools worth paying extra money.  We decided that the “medium is the message” – our presentation had to be a design masterpiece and not just a traditional powerpoint packed with words and numbers. We looked for some state-of-the-art animation software to create a presentation that showed the power of a gift box when you remove the ribbon, and presented samples of the company’s graphic packages in “books” organized by industry. We flipped pages within each book quickly, rather than move to different slides, to make it exciting to watch. (Today this is easy to do; years ago, it wasn’t.) Finally, we trained the presenters to speak convincingly as a collaborative team, using “power” words and letting the pictures do the talking.

A week before presenting, the client learned that in addition to the live presentation to the judges, three teams from Company B would be viewing the event from remote sites throughout the country. Recognizing it was more than likely that the software we used couldn’t be seen in remote feeds, we developed a second presentation on PowerPoint that was sent to each team. The presenters introduced themselves, noted that the live presentation was using animation and since it wouldn’t display remotely, they had a PowerPoint version to show what the judges would see. (Note: we’re following our A.D.A.P formula: Audience-driven sensitivity with both the design of the whole project and the viewing needs of judges and viewers; being Authentic by making the focus of the presentation something we believed in very strongly: the Power of Great Design to Sell.)

After the presentation, which was well received, the lead prospect-judge asked everyone for questions. There were none! At which point, she turned to the presenters and said “I guess you said it all!” Within 2 hours of the presentation, our client called to share what happened (timely feedback is mandatory with our clients), and asked what “you said it all” meant. I responded that they hit a home-run in design and delivery, and had a great chance of getting some of the business. Indeed, our client was awarded half of the work!  The buyer was persuaded that when having the best graphic displays was key to their success, paying for them was smart.

Share your stories of how value overcame price disadvantages.

The Complex Role of Leader-Manager

 

As I begin outlining the new Management MBA course I’ll be teaching this summer on Leadership, I realized that the reason there are so many different definitions is that there are many facets to this complex position, and each definition is focusing on a different perspective.

For instance, one approach is to distinguish leaders from managers.  “Leaders have people follow them while managers have people who work for them.” In other words, the leader is focused on vision (how the world changes because of us) and the relationships between people to achieve it. The manager is focused on executing the tasks involved in achieving the mission, the activities we actually achieve.  Each makes appropriate strategic decisions; the leader choosing between visionary options and the manager choosing between different ways of executing the plan. A successful business person needs to be both a strong leader and manager to get their team on board to follow them towards their vision of success and obtain the resources (people, capital, etc.) and engage in the business activities.

A successful leader therefore is someone who  “earns the enthusiastic loyalty and commitment of followers and molds them into a high performance team”. (Tom DeCotiis) He/she inspires people (through words and role-modelled actions) to align their own performance with the organization’s overall strategy (i.e., vision, mission and goals). This involves, painting a compelling vision of the team’s future, pointing the way to successful accomplishment of the vision.  Ultimately, it’s getting someone to do things they don’t want to do, to achieve what they want to achieve. (Tom Landy)

On the other hand, a successful manager, is focused on optimal execution: recruiting, developing and growing talented team members; obtaining and using resources to most efficiently and effectively achieve the work necessary to give the stakeholders (i.e., employees, customers and investors achievement of its mission.

The leader-manager has to balance the different realms in order to be successful. Where are we going? What’s the best way to get there? What are the implications of each strategic choice? (G. A. Lafley.) As a CEO coach, I know it’s important to address both realms in terms of time allocation, expertise, and training (of self and other team members) to advance their own abilities as leader-managers. My challenge, as a teacher is to enable students to see the differences, and cultivate the perspectives and skills needed to see how they will fulfill these roles as they grow professionally.

What are your biggest challenges?? Share with us.

Paint the Vision

As I prepare for the MBA class on leadership I’ll be teaching this summer, I was thinking about all of critical components. Tom Landy, a great football coach, once said that Leadership is getting someone to do what they don’t want to do, to achieve what they want to achieve.”  The most important element is vision – to inspire people to do what you want them to do.

Unfortunately, many leaders assume people know and are committed to the vision, so instead of focusing on it, they give it short shift and focus on the management issues concerning activities. When the stakes are high, that’s a mistake.

One of the best descriptions of vision was offered last century by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry. “If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up the men to gather wood, divide the work and give orders. Instead, teach them to yearn for the vast and endless sea.”

All too often we get lost in the management details and forget that it’s the vision that inspires people to take on the hardships that might be required to achieve the goal. Building a ship takes a lot of work, and can at time be quite draining, in terms of the workload, the doubts that might arise, etc. – as is true for many creative endeavors. Think of Noah’s very long-term commitment to build his ark!  Yet, to get people to make the commitment to prevent hunger, end cancer, or create a transformative new venture, it’s the commitment to the vision of how the world will look afterwards that provides fuel to overcome the challenges.  Steve Jobs recruited John Sculley from Pepsi  to Apple Computers by asking whether he wanted to be the best at selling soda (i.e., brown sugar water) or “make a dent in the universe”.

So, when you recruit people to your new venture, be sure to paint a powerful vision. Share with us your company’s vision statement to inspire other leaders.

Responsible Empowerment

 

There’s a right way and a wrong way to do something. All too often people complain because things aren’t working as they should, and by investigating exactly what is happening, the answer turns out that the “right” goal is being pursued, but the actions people are taking are faulty.  It’s analogous to leadership vs. management: the former makes sure you’re going in the right direction; the latter makes sure you’re doing it correctly. Delegation isn’t enough; management must be sure that workers are equipped (responsibly empowered) to execute as desired in order for people to achieve the goals set by the leaders.

Human Resources often is committed to talent management: hiring the right people, engaging, training and empowering people to take on those responsibilities which will lead to goal achievement – for the individual, team and company. Yet, all too often employees and freelancers fail to deliver on the hiring promise, leading managers to wonder why the people they supervise “isn’t the person they hired.”  (Barry Deutsch).

“Responsible empowerment” requires more than just issuing a job description, telling the person to take charge, and then reviewing in a global annual review. It means making sure the worker is properly empowered to do the job correctly through ongoing reviews at dyadic accountability and improvement meetings.

  • Providing a detailed description of a person’s job responsibilities and the standards by which performance will be evaluated.
  • Reviewing with new employees as often as necessary what challenges they’re having in fulfilling their jobs, enabling the person to adjust behaviors to “get it right”, and providing ongoing feedback including steps for improvement. (For instance, during the first month, each employee and supervisor might meet weekly, then monthly, quarterly, semi-annually and eventually annually. Whenever the person has a changed job description, the cycle begins again in relation to the new activities. (See eval2win.com.)

Without ongoing accountability for mastering one’s job responsibilities, supposed empowerment is likely to fail. For the supervisor, responsible empowerment includes addressing a range of leadership and management issues. Does the employee have the skills and tools and motivation to do the job well? If not, enable him/her. For long-term employees, just because he/she did the job originally hired for well, doesn’t mean he/she will be competent with new responsibilities (e.g., the Peter Principle). Are there other members in the team that are making it difficult to do the job? If so, address these issues with those members, after getting input from others involved to determine the facts.  (Vistage CEOs often share that they hire too fast, fire too slow and almost always discover that other were grateful that the person was finally let go!)

In sum, be a leader who builds a great team with effective management systems. As a manager, use responsible empowerment to ensure that each worker know exactly what he/she should be doing, how it contributes to the strategic direction of the company, and ongoing, job discussions, performance monitoring, with suggestions for continuous improvement.

How are you ensuring that you use responsible empowerment – and not just delegation?  Share your experiences.

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