Leadership

May 1, 2020

Industry Agnostic Advisors Make for a Better Management Consultant

Conventional wisdom on hiring a management consultant suggests that firms need access to experts from their industry to help them develop strategies that will separate them from the competition. Nothing can be further from the truth! I’ve enjoyed a fulfilling career as a management consultant being industry agnostic. Rather, I brought clients all kinds of problem-solving frameworks, strategic planning paradigms and implementation methodologies, all aimed at helping them think differently about how to move their organizations smartly forward.

As you read the piece, you can see that finding an advisor that thinks differently is the only way to surface the blind spots that can hinder you from devising the strategies that enable disruption. If you can disrupt your industry, you gain the opportunity to seize the market share that separates you from the competition and, when sustained, that separation enables you to become indispensable to your customers – for they will always come back to the businesses that they can’t live without.

Read the published piece.

Mar 13, 2020

Indispensable Moment – Resilient Culture

Here’s another new video based on material in my forthcoming book.  It reminds us that a resilient culture is essential to building an indispensable business:

VIDEO: The things that can help you build a resilient culture.

Watch it, when you have a moment — I hope that it enlightens and informs!

If you’d like to read more on the subject, here’s a link to a related blog post.

Mar 3, 2020

How to Become an Indispensable Business

Here’s a new video based on material in my forthcoming book.  It cuts to the chase by describing what it takes to become and indispensable business.

VIDEO: How to become the company that your customers can’t live without.

Be sure to take a minute and watch it — You’ll be glad you did!

Feb 25, 2020

Culture: Can It Kill A New Leader?

How the existing culture paradigm must be deliberately undone to enable transformative change.

Startups move quickly to get their business off the ground. When you’re scaling your business, and bringing people on to help your company grow, don’t make the mistake of unwittingly putting company culture on the back burner. It’s important, indeed critical, to long-term success. Similarly, if you’re brought in to be a top leader, the advice applies. Culture counts!

And you need to do it early. When solidifying your team and presenting them with your agenda, some people (who may even be among the best and brightest in the business) may resist.

As a startup founder, you must confront this resistance head on to create a company culture that will serve as a strong foundation for growth. How do you tackle this challenge, without alienating the very people you must lead?

Here are four steps I’ve used to walk entrepreneurs through this common challenge.

1. Create a vision — and share it.

The first thing you owe your team is a clear vision for your business. Be sure to include all your hopes and dreams in this narrative. Get specific. You want to be didactic, while tugging on their heartstrings. If you can’t paint a vivid and compelling picture of the future, how can you expect your team to buy into it?

Elon Musk articulated a vivid vision at SpaceX: Build a spaceship that can take common folk to Mars. It’s bold, vivid, and clear. As a result, everyone who works at SpaceX knows what the mission is and understands their role in achieving it. It is this kind of vision setting that makes good companies indispensable.

2. Know the why behind your business.

If your vision is the what, your beliefs are the why. Your belief system must be part of the telling of your vision story. Your people need to understand why it is important to you. Your principles are as much a part of the paradigm you’re putting into place as any other characteristic.

Salesforce’s CEO Marc Benioff set his vision for the company and talked in terms of a new technology model (the cloud), a new business model (subscription service), and a new goodwill model, called 1-1-1. Salesforce commits 1 percent of its equity, employees’ time, and product to nonprofit work. By doing so, he provided the why for his vision of building a company that does great things for the world.

3. Outline expectations.

Once your team gets the big picture — and the way you want them to operate – you have to be clear on what you expect. It’s here that you make it real. Engage them in defining what they’re going to do, how it will be done, and when. This clarity is essential for success.

Every staff member at Amazon, for example, understands Jeff Bezos’s expectation for them. In fact, in 1997, he put it in writing in a letter to Amazon shareholders. Bezos wrote: “When I interview people I tell them, ‘You can work long, hard, or smart, but at Amazon you can’t choose two out of three.” I’d say that Bezos’s expectations are crystal clear and to this day, Amazon is known for its take-no-prisoners work ethic.

4. Hold everyone accountable.

With expectations set, it’s time to introduce responsibility into the equation. Help your team learn how to keep score for themselves. Let your team know you will hold them — and yourself — accountable for delivering on a promise to meet, or exceed, expectations. By tying in performance-measurement, reward, and incentive programs, you create the carrots and sticks needed to achieve wins, along with a winning company culture.

When Steve Jobs returned to Apple, for instance, he let his expectations be known and took steps to drive accountability. He quickly became famous for firing talented employees without pause for not conforming to his design principles, and scuffling nearly completed product development programs that didn’t meet his standard for excellence.

Bottom line: The most successful business owners are the ones willing to do whatever it takes to not only succeed, but also ensure they have a team that buys into the company culture and helps drive it forward well into the future.

Originally Published by Inc.com on: Feb 11, 2020
Dec 23, 2019

Great Businesses Have Culture That Breaks-down Silos

Do you want your company to become great? Breakdown silos!

This 2 minute video that captures some of the ideas on the subject .

Watch this Culture video.

I  hope that you enjoy this video!

Look for my forthcoming book, Indispensable, in 2020 — it takes these ideas to a whole other level!

Apr 3, 2019

You Be You – And Become An Authentic Leader

5 Ways to Stop Talking and Start Being An Authentic Leader

Leadership is about setting direction and managing change. Leaders determine the goal that needs to be achieved (i.e., setting direction) and navigate the path to get there, defining ways to overcome any obstacles that spring up along the way (i.e., managing change). Set direction and manage change, be an authentic leader, that’s really all there is to it.

Leadership gurus like to complicate matters. However, if you’ve ever read this column, you know that I like to keep it real. The overarching theme of most of my articles is something that I preach to my kids: Don’t talk about it, just be about it. That said, let me share some ideas for how you can stop talking about leadership and start being a leader.

Here are five ideas to help you become the leader that you want to become:

1. Be honest.

Nothing kills a leader quicker than a reputation for being untrustworthy. Conversely, if you are unwaveringly honest all the time, you won’t run that risk.

Consider Richard Branson for a moment. He is widely recognized as an inspiring leader that consistently “walks the talk” and takes full responsibility for his decisions–the good, and the not-so-good. Anyone remember Virgin Digital? It was supposed to overtake iTunes. It didn’t. But Branson took full responsibility for his company’s foray into the space.

2. Talk straight.

Keep your communications simple and to the point. Convoluted messaging just leads to confusion and misunderstanding. Talk straight and your people will know exactly what you mean.

Think of the frustration that most Americans feel when listening to our political leaders. The doublespeak, so common in political circles, is so bad that a recent poll conducted by Pew Research Center suggests that only 3 percent of Americans say that they can trust the government in Washington to do what is right “just about always.”

Don’t be the kind of leader who prefers rhetoric to simply stating the facts.

3. Be real.

Would you follow someone who is disingenuous? I wouldn’t!

Steven Jobs was seen as brash and conceited. But his people adored working for him. They knew that they were always going to get Steve being Steve. It was reliable and true. So be yourself.

You being you should be enough to inspire others to follow your lead.

4. Be decisive.

People want decisiveness in their leaders. Sure, take some time to gather insight and review the facts–then make the call. Your business will suffer if you delay.

In 1972, for example, Ford announced that all of its new cars would run on radials. Firestone, which sat atop the U.S. market at that time, didn’t have a radial tire when Ford made their announcement. Seeing the rise in radial tires’ popularity in Europe in the 1960s, Firestone was still contemplating whether they should make the necessary investment in this new kind of tire manufacturing. It was then that French company Michelin entered the U.S. market with their radial tires, and began to dominate the world market as a result.

Don’t let analysis paralysis keep you from making the call.

5. Be in it.

The best leaders work right alongside the people they’re leading.

Famously, Tesla CEO Elon Musk  (an authentic leader) has an undeniable work ethic, one that his people can only aspire to achieve. There are countless stories of him working so long and hard that he has to crawl into a corner somewhere in Tesla’s facility to catch a nap. He sets the example for his team.

Don’t be above doing the work. Be right in it with your people, and they will bust through brick walls for you.

To close, there’s no need to overthink leadership. Just be an authentic leader. It’s simple: set direction; manage change. That’s it. So stop talking about leadership and start being an exceptional leader.

NOTE: Main content of this piece was originally published by inc.com on March 18, 2019

Fav site: the TrikeJournal.com

Nov 25, 2018

It Takes Emotional Intelligence to be a Great Leader

Working with people who challenge you, and from whom you can learn, will make you a better leader…one with Emotional Intelligence.

What is one thing you can do to become a great leader? Find people who will challenge you. If you surround yourself with the best and brightest, and create a safe environment for them to test your thinking, void of career limiting repercussions, you will become a better leader.

It takes an emotionally intelligent leader to forge a work environment where diversity of thought is promoted. These kinds of leaders implicitly understand that their title does not mean they have all the answers, all the time. Rather, they recognize that having a team around them that feels comfortable challenging them will enable better thinking and vastly improve business outcomes.

Whether you’re high in emotional intelligence or less so, here are three ideas that you can use to shape your team to challenge you and make you a better leader:

Be deliberate in building a team that provides a variety of perspectives and is rich in diversity of thought.

Don’t just hire or promote people who seem like carbon copies of you. Instead, look for people who think and operate differently.

It is here that backgrounds and life stories can play a big role. One of the things I counsel my clients to do is to ask job candidates about their life stories. A candidate’s responses to questions about how they got to where they are can be telling. Seek to add people to your team who have different life narratives and experiences.

Call on people who are not from your inner circle to offer an opinion, and don’t be afraid to skip level when seeking fresh perspectives.

I’ve seen this technique work well at a recent client site. The manager whom I was coaching wanted to breathe some fresh ideas into her product development team. She had heard of an up-and-comer from logistics and asked him to participate in a product development brainstorming session she had scheduled with her team.

He wasn’t there 10 minutes before he introduced a design concept that, once implemented, would significantly lower the cost of packaging and shipping. Because he had no formal product design experience but understood package and shipping processes, he could think differently about the product than its designers. Consequently, he could suggest a product design change that saved the company money and one the team would have never identified on its own.

Don’t be the leader that inadvertently tells the team that they’re tone deaf.

We’ve all seen those kinds of leaders in action. They’re the ones who seldom concede a point of debate and often dismiss new ideas by suggesting that they’ll never work in practice.

Instead, create a collaborative work environment so that the best ideas can be shared and leveraged. You can do this by acknowledging new ideas when offered by your team and encouraging colleagues to challenge your thinking whenever they believe that a better idea can be had.

There is no doubt that people who can bring fresh ideas and perspectives to your team are very valuable. They can help you see where some of the biggest issues and greatest opportunities exist. Yes, you must seek to hire people who are experts in needed specialties. However, be sure they think differently from you. Once the team is in place, empower them to speak their minds. In this way, you will be building a team that can offer unique insights to problem solving and help you become the best leader you can be.

Note: The contents of this piece was first published at Inc.com on November 9. 2018.

My Favorite Website Lately: TrikeJournal.com

Jun 30, 2018

Leadership is a Choice!

Leadership is a choice — and if you choose to rise to the occasion, you’ll need to approach it thoughtfully and intentionally.

Like many Inc.com columnists, I am a consultant and business author. I’ve written five books over the past 25 years and am proud of all of them. My latest, It’s Good To Be King, has done well probably because it simplified what many make complex: leadership principles.

There are over 60 leadership tips presented through the text. Let me share with you my top 10 leadership tips from the book. At the risk of being accused of shameless self-promotion, I believe there’s something in this list for every leader, regardless of their ilk.

Here is my top 10 list:

  1. Leadership is a choice. Sometimes the need to lead is thrust upon you. When this happens, you can rise to the occasion or let someone else take charge. Either way, you live with the consequences of that decision. If you choose to rise to the occasion, do it deliberately and with forethought of action. Don’t just wing it.
  2. Dedicate yourself to being open to learn new things. Sometimes leaders forget how to listen and learn. Don’t fall into that trap. You don’t have to have all of the answers all of the time.
  3. Welcome those who can coach and teach. Even world-class athletes have coaches. Surround yourself with people who can make you better. So, accept your Yoda.
  4. A foolish student laughs at knowledge. Begin to look backwards to inform your outlook for the future. Gain a full understanding of where your organization or group is today and how it got there, so that you can define a path forward that is right for the current situation.
  5. Leadership styles don’t discriminate. Poor leaders come in many shapes and sizes. Regardless of appearance, a poor leader will wreak havoc on any group or organization of which they are allowed to lead.
  6. Deceitful leaders will destroy all trust within an enterprise or other group. Once trust deteriorates, the culture becomes cut-throat as each team member begins to
  7. It’s almost never too late to right the ship. Even when the situation looks dire and the challenges insurmountable, there may be a path to success that can be discovered through creative thought and perseverance.
  8. When confronted by setback, good leaders dust themselves off and carry on. It’s the only way to succeed. Surely, not every facet of your execution will go flawlessly! Take difficulties in stride and watch how your people follow suit.
  9. A vision is best presented as a story that people can relate to. From an early age, we have all learned to learn through stories. Present your vision as a story that your people can imagine being part of and personally succeeding through and you will engage them in the process of making that story a reality.
  10. A leadership void will always be filled. If you don’t step-up someone else will and the outcome may not be what you prefer or expect.

To close, thanks for indulging me on this. But, as mentioned, I wouldn’t have offered the list if I didn’t already think there was some value in the ideas. I hope that you do, too. If so, be sure to pass this list onto others who may also see the benefit.

Note: The contents of this piece was originally published by Inc.com on June 12, 2018.

My Favorite Website Lately: TrikeJournal.com

Dec 9, 2017

McDonald’s Black Friday Marketing: Epic Fail or Nifty Strategy?

The chain apparently neglects to include promo content in Black Friday tweet. Was it a marketing blunder or ingenious tactic? You decide.

Last Friday, McDonald’s tweeted from its @McDonaldsCorp account:

Black Friday **** Need copy and link****”

Interestingly, it seemingly failed to include any promo content in the tweet, leaving readers to wonder was this an epic fail in the marketing department or a deliberate action intended to drum up interest and buzz for the brand. I suppose, the mystery of it all could even inspire some to stop by a McDonald’s store to find out what the promo (if it existed) was all about.

A quick look at the twitter account over the weekend showed that the tweet was still up and that it was garnering quite a bit of attention with over 1.4K in comments and over 66K “likes,” which represents an exceptional response compared to McDonald’s other recent tweets that tend to garner responses in the hundreds, at best.

Deliberate or Opportunistic?

I don’t really want to get to the bottom of it. My guess is that it was a mistake made by some inattentive intern or recent college grad working deep in bowels of the social media unit of McDonald’s marketing department. And, when the error was detected (via the thousands of comments received right after the text hit the street), McDonald’s chose to keep it up because of the interest that it was generating – apparently applying the old adage: “Any publicity is good publicity.”

But, what does it matter? It worked. The tweet generated interest. People were reacting to McDonald’s. Whether the comments were positive or negative (and there were both), there was a buzz. So, regardless if the tweet was deliberate or a mistake that was handled in an opportunistic way, there are a few lessons to glean from McDonald’s Black Friday Marketing approach.

A Few Takeaways For All of Us

What can we take away from all of this? Here are a few thoughts:

  1. Look to make lemonade out of lemons – let’s assume that my hunch is correct and McDonald’s made a mistake with this tweet, they didn’t panic. Instead, they rode the wave and made the best of it. As a consequence, guys like me are still writing about it today.
  2. Overreaction to an apparent mistake can be a mistake – had the Company deleted the tweet or, even worse, issued an apology and extended an offer as a means of compensating those confused and frustrated by the tweet (I am intentionally being melodramatic here), it would have probably ended the buzz right on the spot, and we wouldn’t be debating the mystery of it all days later.
  3. Taking calculated risks can pay dividends – let’s assume, I’m off beam with my guess and McDonald’s had deliberately tweeted a tweet with no promo content, it would mean that they were willing to take a risk (e.g., losing some customers because of an erroneous tweet) in the hope of generating some additional interest in the brand. The risk paid off, the tweet is still getting attention.
  4. Vulnerability can be used as a tool – if McDonald’s did tweet with intent, they showed that being a bit vulnerable (i.e., big companies can make a Twitter mistake) can be used as a tool to engender attention. So, showing some vulnerability is OK for your brand.
  5. Match your response to your brand – McDonald’s brand messaging connotes fun and a low-key dining experience. It’s response to this tweet mystery (there’s been no response from the Company at the time that this article was written) is low-key and the lack of a response just makes the whole thing more fun. I guess we can say, McDonald’s is just being McDonald’s, which is a good thing.

To close, McDonald’s is a solid company and a great brand. Whether their tweets are always spot on or recycled gibberish, doesn’t really matter. They still deliver a consistent experience at an unfailing value every time you visit one of their stores. Having an online presence in the fast food industry are table stakes. You best have one. If you can make the shopping / ordering experience even easier through the use of online tools and apps, even better. Accordingly, at the end of the day, a tweet (even one that harvests a lot of attention) isn’t going to make or break the company – it’s just good marketing. Drop me a line, if you’d like some help with your marketing strategies.

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NOTE: This article originally appeared in Inc. on November 27, 2017.

NOTE: My Favorite Website Lately: TrikeJournal.com

Nov 21, 2017

Time for a Brand Overhaul at Harley-Davidson

With sales slumping at Harley-Davidson, this iconic American brand needs to recast itself and redefine what it will become in the years ahead

Harley-Davidson announced its third quarter results last month and the news wasn’t great. Harley’s worldwide sales was down nearly 7%, while American retail sales slumped by over 8%. This all translated into about a 40% drop in profits as compared to the year-ago quarter. Prompting its CEO to comment in its earnings press release:

“The continued weakness in the U.S. motorcycle industry only heightens our resolve and the intensity we are bringing to the quest to build the next generation of Harley-Davidson riders…As the motorcycle industry leader – with dealer strength and rider passion and loyalty like no other – we believe we are uniquely positioned to build ridership and strengthen the sport of motorcycling.”

Clearly, HD’s future rests with that “next generation of Harley-Davidson riders.” The company will not continue to dominate by simply to rely on its current aging customer demographic (of those 45 years and older) to bolster revenue. Many of those people have bought their last Harley.

So, what can Harley do to invigorate brand appeal among Millennials — who are choosing to put their motorcycling dollars into purchasing new Ducati’s, vintage Honda’s (because they are inexpensive and reliable) and other value-laden offerings from the big four Japanese manufacturers?

Here are just a few ideas:

  1. Stop putting heritage before innovation: Millennials don’t care about buying their grandfather’s bike. In fact, they would prefer to set their own trend with completely new designs and styles. Re-imagine what a motorcycle should look like. Think video games and futuristic action movies for inspiration.
  2. Offer safer, first-time rider designs: The lightest offering in the Harley fleet is a 500CC bike that weighs-in at about 500 pounds – that can be a bit intimidating for a first-time rider. Develop some lightweight bikes with smaller frames and engines that a Millennial can learn on and they just may give the brand a try. Like all other HOG enthusiasts, if you catch them while they’re young, they’ll remain loyal as they grow into more competent and confident riders that, in time, buy bigger bikes.
  3. Add more bang-for-the-buck: Yes, you can get into a base-level, stripped down, no bells or whistles Harley for under $10,000. But, that same $10,000 can goes a whole bunch further with any of the Japanese brands – leaving some room in the budget for a comfort seat upgrade or a new leather jacket.
  4. Earn their attention: There’s little a Millennial can’t do with a cell phone and two, good thumbs. Go where they are by establishing a stronger social media presence. BMW, for example, commissioned 60 Instagrammers to tout the brand by posting their BMW motorcycling adventures as a means to establish appeal to the next generation of rider.
  5. Hype the experience: The prospective Millennial buyer is all about collecting varied and stimulating experiences – that’s why they study abroad, seek temporary employment to travel and surf the Internet to learn more about the great big world and what is has to explore. Help Millennials to understand the rich experiential element that riding has to offer and they may be convinced to give it a try.

To close, Harley-Davidson has overcome adversity in the past. As a rider, I believe that they will overcome adversity again. But, it will take some deep reflection and a willingness to change with the times. If your company needs a brand overhaul, reach out! I bet I can help.

NOTE: This article originally was published by Inc. Magazine on 6 NOV 17

NOTE: My Favorite Website Lately: TrikeJournal.com

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