For most people, researching and analyzing a market is a lot like going to the dentist. Despite market competition racing at incredibly faster rates that started with content rich driven marketing, our analysis of the marketplace reveals a sorry state of affairs: fewer than 20% of medium size or larger corporation employees can state the value proposition and strategy currently in place and the majority of senior executives spend as little as 10% of their month on strategy. The good news is that there are companies out there bucking the trend, and there are observations we can make about how they are doing it.
Senior leaders are intense until “The Big” solution is found. Leaders’ outlook and beliefs have more impact than all of the lower management’s voice combined. One spirited speech with follow-through actions from a CEO can cause more change in a company than 500 hours of sales training. It’s because doing something with authority always trumps talking about it. When employees see their leader doing something they want to follow along and copy the behavior.
Identify your strong middle-tier leaders and invest heavily in them. The future of a company is often found in the lower ranks. Time and again companies select ‘the next in line’ thinking this is fair. It probably is, but it’s also quite likely not the best choice to be made. Once you know who are the ‘next leaders’ hold onto them like bars of gold and don’t let them get away.
Never use a dip in your sales to make HR decisions. This is a practice we see over and over and frankly it’s ridiculous to lay off key staff members because the market decided to not purchase your products or services. Okay, there are companies who are bloated and need to lighten the load. The US auto industry comes to mind. But for the most part since 2009 most companies have already leaned up their companies so using pink slips to shore up sales is not a strategy for the short or long term. The truth is the problems in the trenches are usually because of bad planning at the top.
Integrity, from the top down among leaders and teams. This intrinsic quality is one that inspires and encourages employees at their locale. Strong teams are built when teams themselves size up a problem and know what to do using an impressive hands-on approach. Really smart companies both encourage and reward this behavior and promote those that can make things happen in such a positive and profound way.
Ensure the primary strategy is fully defined and communicated before expecting the plan to work. Few leaders want to sign their name to a specific strategy. What might happen if it doesn’t work makes them take the middle road, sacrificing what might have otherwise been a standout idea. Conversely, some leaders just throw ideas onto the wall seeing what sticks. Employees know when a solid strategy has been presented, and so do buyers and consumers, so it’s curious leaders do not feel the demand to produce truly inspired strategies.
So there you have it: five things that can really make a difference. It’s interesting to see that they are somewhat disconnected and not the tactics practiced in most companies. It’s easy to make the mistake of moving ahead with safe projects that need to be done – over the hard work of creating a significant strategy that will last for a decade or two. If you do decide to pursue this approach you just might find the answers to the problems you’ve been struggling with for some time.