Leadership

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

Aug 20, 2017

How to Become a Leader’s Leader

Here’s a leadership self-assessment worth taking to discover where you sit as a leader

The 20 questions that comprise this diagnostic are organized across 4 unique dimensions – Personality, Proficiencies, People and Presence. I call it the “4Ps Leadership Snapshot.” The assessment is quite easy to administer. While this survey can be leveraged in a variety of ways, including within a “360-evaluation” format, by reporting-line manager to subordinates, or simply used as an interview script by a hiring manager / hiring committee, it’s worth taking on your own to identify your leadership strengths as well as to recognize some areas for improvement.

The scale that you use is up to you. High, Medium and Low works just fine. But, you can spruce it up to any way you like using a numbered and / or a weighted scale as you see fit. Regardless, take it and it will give you a snapshot of where you are as a leader and will provide a perspective on where you can work to do better.

The 4Ps Leadership Assessment Snapshot:

Personality – How you’re wired.

1. Inquisitiveness: Is curious and interested in new ways of “thinking” and “doing”

2. Resolve: Has a willingness to push against status quo and maintains convictions to drive needed change

3. Emotional Intellect: Makes time to know and truly care about other people and their concerns and aspirations

4. Vitality: Is energetic and passionate about business and its evolution

5. Initiative: Is sincerely interested in producing new content that shapes new ways of thinking and doing

Proficiencies – What you do well.

6. C-Suite Impact: Possesses advanced consulting & advisory skills that have influenced action at the senior client executive level

7. Market Expertise: Is knowledgeable and is current on industry trends, disruptions, needs and can translate that understanding into big ideas that create value

8. Value Proposition Positioning: Has the ability to demonstrate how to solve client challenges within a senior leadership setting.

9. Communication: Is an outstanding communicator, skilled at messaging in both verbal and written form.

10. Teaching: Can demystify complex concepts for improving client executive understanding of them

People – How you get the best out of others.

11. Relationship-Building: Is exceptional at developing new relationships based on trust and confidence

12. Team-Building: Actively develops the capabilities of their team by leveraging the strengths and aptitudes of its individual members

13. Community-Building: Fosters an environment for sharing and developing ideas among their teams that can be used to extend market reach and industry influence

14. Coaching and Feedback: Is committed to providing advice and feedback to team members that enables improvement in individual performance

15. Diplomacy: Able to achieve desired outcomes through negotiation and tact

Presence – Your ability to generate respect and project confidence.

16. Executive Authority: Has exhibited Board and C Suite executive presence and is comfortable leading at that level of an organization

17. Results Influencing: Demonstrated ability of translating big ideas into differentiated product and service offerings

18. Market Presence: Highly credible and influential within the industry

19. Business Building: Track record of driving new net business into their organizations

20. Talent Development: Has the ability to attract, develop, retain and leverage superstar talent.

To close, my firm’s use of this diagnostic indicates that there is a high correlation between the archetype leadership attributes brought forward in the 4P Leadership Snapshot and success as a leader. While self-assessments can be skewed (some people tend to grade themselves uncompromisingly, while others are more apt to be soft graders when it comes to evaluating one’s own performance), this tool should still be able to help you to see what you do well and where you need some work. As always, if you’d like to some assistance in bringing this type of diagnostic to your organization, please reach out. And I’ll work with you on How to Become a Leader’s Leader

NOTE: This piece was originally published by Inc. on June 19, 2017.

NOTE: My Favorite Website Lately: TrikeJournal.com

Jul 7, 2017

A Conversation About Its Good To Be King

Listen-in on a wonderful conversation that I had with Kevin Eikenberry about my latest book, Its Good To Be King and what it means to be a remarkable leader.

The Remarkable Leadership Podcast is a weekly podcast with Kevin Eikenberry, speaking to leadership experts and leaders in a wide range of industries around the world. Kevin hand-picks guests to help the audience see the world differently, lead more confidently and make a bigger difference for those they lead. Topics include leadership, teamwork, organizational culture, facilitating change, organizational learning, and human potential.

James M. Kerr is global chair of the consulting practices at N2Growth, a leadership advisory firm. For nearly 30 years, he has helped his clients re-imagine the way work is organized and performed. His latest book, It’s Good To Be King, is his fifth business title. Kerr is an expert in leadership, strategy, organizational design and cultural transformation.

He specializes in strategic planning, corporate transformation and organizational redesign. For over 25 years, Jim has forged a different type of consulting practice – one that does its engagements “with” its clients, instead of “to” them.

Whether helping larger organizations, like The Home Depot re-imagine its store operations, or advising smaller firms, like Blum Shapiro open up new markets, Jim has a reputation of making a difference.

@James_M_Kerr

NOTE: My Favorite Website Lately: TrikeJournal.com
Jun 2, 2017

How A Leadership Fable Makes You a Better Leader

Read a leadership fable if you don’t want to be overburdened with heavy business jargon and over-complicated management ideas

Can a leadership fable make you a better leader? The short answer is Yes! If you don’t want to be overburdened with heavy business jargon and advanced management concepts, a fable can make you a better leader. Consider these management fables:

The Servant

by James C. Hunter

Crafts a tale about a Monk and a businessman to help the reader learn how leadership is about serving those you lead.

Who Moved My Cheese

by Spencer Johnson with Kenneth Blanchard

Presents a story of mice in a maze to drive home the point that attitude matters most in times of great transition.

Our Iceberg Is Melting

by John Kotter and Holger Rathgeber

Employs penguins on an iceberg as a device to suggest an approach to manage change.

The Five Dysfunctions of a Team

by Patrick Lencioni

Uses a fictitious CEO to help the reader learn how to overcome obstacles to success.

Each of these books offers great advice through vivid storytelling and easy-to-read and easy-to-relate-to narrative.

Indeed, fables can simplify what textbooks make complex. This style of storytelling can be particularly valuable for young professionals who are early in their leadership careers as well as everyday people who just want to be better leaders in their personal life.

That’s why I wrote, It’s Good To Be King.

I wanted to simplify the message so that leaders of all kinds — whether in business or in the community — can learn and become exceptional leaders. In fact, the book contains over 60 leadership tips which summarized for easy consumption and quick reference at the end of each chapter.

Here is a small sample of the kinds of tips that you’ll find in It’s Good To Be King:

1. New Leaders need to create and share a vivid and compelling vision in order to engage and inspire their people.

2. An “outside-in perspective” can inform what the “new normal” can and should be. Seeing the world from the viewpoint of those that an organization (or the group) serves will enable breakthrough thinking and lead to the delivery of exceptional results.

3. Communication is the key to engagement. Your people need to know where you are, what you want and how you expect them to get there. Be sure to put the right kinds of communication mechanisms in place to keep your group properly informed.

4. 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.

5. Taskmasters will devastate self-starters and those with the aspiration to contribute within a collaborative work setting.

6. Being “in it together” is the only way to drive widespread change. People want to be part of something bigger than them. Make a “cause” out of your transformation effort by helping people understand what’s in it for them and they will pull together to make it happen.

To close, regardless of the context in which you lead – at work, in the community, where you volunteer–a fable can make you a better leader. Pick one up, read it and you’ll surely agree!

 Note: This piece was originally published by Inc. on May 8, 2017.
Apr 4, 2017

10 Tips for Everyday Leaders – From It’s Good To Be King

Here are 10 leadership tips derived from my latest book

My latest book, It’s Good To Be King, just came out last week.

If you read it, it will help you to become a better leader.

If you’re a regular reader of my column, you already know that I aim to demystify what many management gurus make complex. This book is no exception. But, it is a departure from my standard fare.

It’s Good To Be King, is a leadership fable. In fact, you may want to consider it a bedtime story for modern day leaders. It is intended to be read and enjoyed by all kinds of leaders, including those who lead others in business, their communities, places of worship and volunteer organizations.

At the end of each chapter, I include some highlights (or takeaways) that you can derive from the allegorical story. There are over 60 tips intended to help everyday leaders. Here are 10 Tips for Everyday Leaders that you’ll find in the book:

1. Leadership makes or breaks every group and organization. Even prosperous enterprises cannot afford to rely on past success to assure enduring achievement.

2. Sometimes the need to lead is thrust upon you. When this happens, you have a choice: rise to the occasion or let someone else take charge and live with the consequences of that decision. Either way, a leadership void will always be filled.

3. 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.

4. Welcome those who can coach and teach. Even world-class athletes have coaches. Surround yourself with people who can make you better. Stated another way, accept your Yoda!

5. A foolish student laughs at knowledge. Begin to look backwards to inform your outlook for the future.

6. 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.

7. 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.

8. Deceitful leaders will destroy all trust within an enterprise or group. Once trust deteriorates, the culture becomes cut-throat as each team member begins to only focus on their own selfish interests.

9. Narcissistic leaders will ruin any esprit de corps that exists within a group. When the sense that we’re all “in this together” disappears, the best, most capable staff members begin to disappear, too.

10. The most talented among us want to be part of a team that shares the wealth. Be sure to the kind of leader that shares credit and promotes their team.

To close, this is just a small taste of the kinds of stuff that you’ll get out of the fable that underpins It’s Good To Be King. If you lead others, in any capacity, you will get something out of the book. It’s an easy and enjoyable read – one that I hope delights and enlightens. If you do grab a copy, please let me know what you think of it. Your feedback is sure to inform what I write about here.

NOTE: My Favorite Website Lately: TrikeJournal.com

Dec 15, 2016

C-Suite Tip Number 1 – Focus on Your Clay Layer of Leadership

Engage your middle management (a.k.a the clay layer) to secure your strategic success.

We all know about the pyramid structure. It’s a generic way to think about an enterprise and how most are organizationally design. Divided into three layers, the top layer of the pyramid is comprised of the senior-most leaders. These are the people responsible for setting strategic direction and guiding the enterprise towards its future. While certainly concerned with quarterly performance, the leaders at the top of the pyramid must also have a forward-thinking, “Where will we be in 5 years?” kind of mindset.

The middle layer of the pyramid is comprised of the middle management of the organization. These people must be able to interpret the strategic direction set forth by the senior leaders and translate it into actions that the units that report into them can understand and act upon. While these managers certainly care about strategy, their primary focus is this year. Can we do what we need to day this year to reach our goals and objectives?

The lower layer of the pyramid is comprised of supervisors and rank and file. This layer is responsible for execution. Their time frame is much different from the managers and senior leaders. Their point of reference is today. Can we do the work that must be done today, on-time and on-budget? And, they inherently understand, that they will suffer the consequences of poor performance, if they don’t.

So, when it comes time to roll-out your next key strategy, where do you begin? In the middle, of course!

The middle management team makes or breaks strategic execution! As mentioned, they’re the ones that must interpret the strategies and translate them into something that is actionable by the rank and file. If they fail to do this well, the organization falters, resources are squandered and, unfortunately, many times heads roll.

Here are 3 essential tips to get them on-board (and, by doing so, improve your chances for success in the launching your firm’s next strategic initiative):

  • Tell and Teach: Think about it, you’re asking your mid-tier managers to act as teachers. And, to teach well, they must first understand. So, commit to establishing the understanding that they’ll need to help the rest of your organization grasp and commit to your vision and strategic plan. Do all that you can to help them comprehend all of the content and nuances of those strategic elements so that they can do a bang up job of translating them for your people.
  • Jump-Start The Messaging: Don’t leave it up to your middle management to determine how they will go about the work of interpretation and translation for their teams. Instead, take the time to think about all of the implications and likely actions that you would want them and their people to tackle in helping the organization execute its strategies. Craft a template for them to use to deliver the message.
  • Orchestrate The Cascading: Once you equip your managers with the requisite know knowledge and messaging content they can begin to cascade the message throughout the rest of the organization. However, they may not do this in an disciplined and rigorous way. So, be sure to orchestrate cascading of the information by establishing a roll-out schedule that details when the managers will will do the work of strategic messaging.

After all, you want to make certain that all of your organization understands the company vision, strategies and, most importantly, their roles in the subsequent execution and achievement of your goals and objectives. If you can do this, you will have done your job.

To close, senior leaders need to focus on the middle of their organizations in order to achieve their strategic intentions. If you can engage the middle management, they will do the rest. If you don’t, your strategic execution will fall flat. It’s really as simple as that!

Note: If you like this article, which was published by Inc.com on October 31, 2016, please subscribe to my Inc. column.

 

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