What’s Your Competitive Advantage?

Business strategy is all about competitive advantage.  An brilliant strategy is be both unique and sustainable.  If it’s not unique, then you’re simply running the same race as your competitors.  And if it’s not sustainable, then it will be replicated and no longer be an advantage.

For some companies, technology, innovation and operational excellence are good sources of competitive advantage.  Making them sustainable is the bigger challenge.

One of the smartest moves Kodak made had nothing to do with those sources of competitive advantage.  They already were low-cost producers of high-quality film; but so was Fuji.  Somehow they needed to differentiate their box of film from Fuji’s, in a way that loaded-up value for consumers.  What they did was to shift the focus from film to memories by developing marketing messages about “Kodak moments.”  It created tremendous value in the mind of consumers — value that lasted until digital cameras changed both the technology and the use of images.

What are you doing to create sustainable value for your customers?

On Getting Good Talent

There is a shortage of good talent for many key positions.  It may seem counterintuitive, but it is imperative at times like this that you be MORE selective in who you attract and select.  Here are a few very practical ideas:

  • The biggest mistake in hiring is not in hiring a poor performer (because you’ll weed them out quickly,) but rather in hiring a mediocre performer, because chances are that person will be allowed to continue on producing mediocre results for years. Refine your entire selection process to better identify high-performers.
  • Don’t satisfice. Satisficing is hiring the first person you come across who could do the job.  Don’t do it.
  • Have selection criteria. Use a multi-attribute utility model to assess at least a few candidates based on key selection criteria.
  • Your culture is very important. So, don’t let anyone into your company who does not fit the culture.
  • Be careful how you word recruitment ads. If you state certain criteria as required, many good people will not respond if they don’t have all the “required” criteria.  You’ll miss out on some very good conscientious candidates.
  • How many people do you know who are “excellent” at communication? Right — very few.  Yet, I continue to see many ads, for positions at all levels, stating that candidates must have excellent communication skills, people skills, teamwork skills, etc.
  • Interviews are the most ineffective and least reliable ways of assessing candidates. (Ever wonder why most colleges have done away with campus interviews?)  You can improve the reliability and validity of interviews through techniques such as behavior-based interviewing and structured interviews.

© Copyright 2017  Bob Legge

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Bob Legge provides organizations with the ability to exceed their most ambitious goals.  I work with leaders of Fortune 500 companies, small and mid-size companies, nonprofits, education, and government. Together, we drive strategy, lead successful change, develop high performance cultures, improve individual and organizational performance, and produce faster, sustainable growth and value.  Contact him at  bob.legge@leggecompany.com

How’s the Climate in Your Organization?

Back before culture surveys, attitude surveys, and engagement surveys, we used to have climate surveys, which were a way to measure the “climate” in an organization.  I find it to be a useful term and different from the others.  Culture is about values and behaviors, attitudes are in peoples’ heads, and engagement is about involvement, but climate is about energy — how much energy is available and used in an organization.

Organizations require constant energy to maintain a high level of performance.  The source of new energy is ideas and information; without them, entropy, or disorder, increases.  That is similar to the second law of thermodynamics — without new ideas and information, the energy available to do work will decrease or stay the same.

There are six key sources of energy in organizations:

  1. Competitive strategy.  The firm’s competitive strategy and the plan to achieve it should be energizing.
  2. Leadership. The direction, connection, and communication required to move the organization forward.
  3. Alignment.  The degree to which the organization performs as a whole.
  4. Management at every level.  Effective management techniques to improve strategy execution by generating and focusing the energy people bring.
  5. Job and Work Satisfaction.  The satisfaction and elation of making progress and achieving individual and organizational objectives.
  6. New people.  Who bring with them fresh perspectives and new ideas.

How’s the climate in your organization?  Does your climate need to change?  Could it use a boost?  What are you doing to actively improve the energy and drive within your organization?

© Copyright 2017  Bob Legge

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Bob Legge provides organizations with the ability to exceed their most ambitious goals.  I work with leaders of Fortune 500 companies, small and mid-size companies, nonprofits, education, and government. Together, we drive strategy, lead successful change, develop high performance cultures, improve individual and organizational performance, and produce faster, sustainable growth and value.  Contact him at  bob.legge@leggecompany.com

Senior Management Incentives in the News

Strategic incentives are a good idea at the top.  But getting everyone one in a large company on the same page is difficult, and it doesn’t always work.  Here are a few current examples:

  • United Airlines’ CEO Oscar Munoz reportedly has $500,000 of his bonus tied to customer satisfaction questionnaires.  You’d hardly know it from the nearly unbelievable physical ejection of a passenger, and United’s follow-up to the incident.  Some background:  In 2010, United began a botched merger with Continental.  In 2012, United had 43% of all airline consumer complaints, and has been a leader in complaints since then.  On January 14, 2016 Bloomberg’s article, “United’s Quest to be Less Awful” was published.  Clearly things have needed to change for a long time.
  • Apple’s Tim Cook made less money last year (only $10 million in salary and bonus!) than the year before.  That reflects the downward trend of the iphone business, which might pick up this year with a redesigned phone.  But Cook isn’t betting on riding the iphone into the future.  As in the past, the company’s prospects are secret, but you can bet they are working hard on innovation and disruption in other industries, continuing the path that Apple has taken throughout its history.  That’s what his focus and challenge is, and what his future bonuses will depend on.
  • Ford Motors’ board wants CEO Mark Fields to accelerate the company’s transformation and profitability beyond SUVs and pickups.  They’ve put into place a $2.5 million “strategic incentive grant” designed to reward both innovation and growth.  He received a reduced bonus last year as revenue and quality slumped.  The board realizes that making the core business more profitable won’t be enough — they need innovative solutions for the future.

Obviously, sometimes incentives get everyone on the same page, and sometimes they don’t.  Even the largest companies can’t seem to nail it, in part because transforming such large companies is a significant challenge.  But significant incentives can provide significant focus at the top.

What kinds of incentives are you using at the top?  Are they operational or strategic?

© Copyright 2017  Bob Legge

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Bob Legge provides organizations with the ability to exceed their most ambitious goals.  I work with leaders of Fortune 500 companies, small and mid-size companies, nonprofits, education, and government. Together, we drive strategy, lead successful change, develop high performance cultures, improve individual and organizational performance, and produce faster, sustainable growth and value.  Contact him at  bob.legge@leggecompany.com

10 Ways to Eliminate Mediocrity in Your Organization

An organization that accepts mediocrity is a haven for under performers, and very frustrating for high performers.  Here are ten ideas I found in my work with organizations are each effective in reducing mediocrity.  Best of all, you can put any of these ideas to work immediately.  If you can accomplish 8 to 10 of them, you’ll sharply-focus your organization, reinforce strong accountability, and dramatically improve operating results.

  1. Improve your hiring selection process to focus on behaviors that support your culture, as well as a performance track record, and an attitude of learning and growth. One of the best ways to improve overall quality of results is to make sure that you don’t hire problem performers.  Set a goal to always hire individuals who are better than your average performer, that way you’ll constantly be upgrading your talent.
  2. Educate all your managers, especially at the top, about how they should lead, manage, and coach their people. Create “the way we manage people here” mentality along with specific guidelines and company leadership values.  Too often organizations don’t do this and managers end up ‘doing their own thing.’  That’s not good quality people management.  A smart practice is to ensure that every manager has a people-related accountability and performance objective.
  3. Continually improve your strategy development process so that you have a clear direction and overall performance objectives. A good process for creating strategy involves key people so that they all understand it, contribute to the development, have buy-in, and can continually reinforce it throughout the organization.
  4. Make a conscious effort to communicate strategy throughout your organization so that know what to focus on in their daily work to help achieve the strategy. You want an organization where everyone understands where the organization is going and how it expects to get there.  I’ve seen companies not communicate strategy because they think their strategy is so confidential.  Hogwash!  How are your people to know what they are working towards if you don’t tell them.
  5. Develop a goal-setting process that aligns effort and results on key metrics. Setting overall goals and specific objectives is where the rubber meets the road.  You’ve got to translate the strategy into specific goals and objectives for groups and individuals.  Schedule goal setting to begin the year with goals; not 3-4 months after the start of the year.
  6. Provide regular performance feedback (“Here’s how you’ve done.”) and performance feed-forward (“Here’s how you can be more effective going forward.”) Of the two, feed-forward is more effective in improving performance.  Regular feedback is at least monthly, not annually.
  7. Understand that newer employees, those working remotely, recently promoted, and longer-term employees all have different needs for feedback — one standard approach is unlikely to work for   In short:  Know how much feedback each person requires.
  8. Create a system where people can track their own results and get feedback from their peers on where they stand, what they are doing well, and how they can be more effective. Incorporate your own organization’s best practices.  Make this a dynamic system.  There are some great tools available to automate this process and implement a ‘social media’ kind of performance feedback system.
  9. Identify under-performers early. Give them candid feedback, specific improvement objectives, and the opportunity to improve.  When you have a performance problem, determine whether it is a skills issue or a motivation issue — the solution is quite different for each.
  10. Develop a standard separation process to exit people from the organization while treating them fairly and with dignity. Separating people is never pleasant, but a good process will make it easier.

Stop procrastinating about this whole issue — begin today.  The best time to begin is now because every day you wait is another day that you are not getting the results you need, and another day that your best performers wonder if things will ever change.

If you want to get off to a fast start, call me and together we’ll put together a plan to immediately get better results.

© Copyright 2017  Bob Legge

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Bob Legge provides organizations with the ability to exceed their most ambitious goals.  I work with leaders of Fortune 500 companies, small and mid-size companies, nonprofits, education, and government. Together, we drive strategy, lead successful change, develop high performance cultures, improve individual and organizational performance, and produce faster, sustainable growth and value.  Contact him at  bob.legge@leggecompany.com

Are You Enabling Mediocrity in Your Organization?

Mediocrity is bad for a number of reasons.  Workplaces that allow mediocrity also de-motivate high performers.  And tolerating mediocrity reduces an organization’s energy and productivity, as well as employee engagement and satisfaction.

No one hires good people every time.  You will hire false positives.  The key is what you do about it, and the ones to be concerned about are the mediocre hires.  The truly bad new hire — who does not perform well or doesn’t fit the culture — can be addressed fairly quickly, but a mediocre hire will often be allowed to continue on.  Yet the difference in performance between a mediocre performer and a high performer is significant; and the difference adds up over time.  So address the mediocre performers:  Develop their skills to be good, solid performers; or move them to a position that better fits their abilities; or separate them.  Both of you will be happier in the long-run.

I’m not saying that all employees should be high-performers, but the majority of your people need to be solid contributors, and wanting to learn and grow.

Watch for my Executive Insights newsletter for many more tips on how to address mediocrity in an organization.

© Copyright 2017  Bob Legge

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Bob Legge provides organizations with the ability to exceed their most ambitious goals.  I work with leaders of Fortune 500 companies, small and mid-size companies, nonprofits, education, and government. Together, we drive strategy, lead successful change, develop high performance cultures, improve individual and organizational performance, and produce faster, sustainable growth and value.  Contact him at  bob.legge@leggecompany.com

Creating an Anticipatory Set

When something bad is about to happen, people will get tense.  When beginning a competition, people will become focused.  When preparing for a happy occasion, people will become relaxed.  They anticipate what the event will entail and set their own expectations and body language in preparation.

Effective teachers know this, and they will prepare their students by getting them ready to learn.  They call it the “anticipatory set.”  It makes learning more effective for the students, and easier for the themselves.

Leaders and managers can do the same thing, by creating conditions in which their people perform at higher than normal levels, depending on what the challenge is.  From high-stress to low-stress situations, an anticipatory set improves outcomes.

What is the anticipatory set that you create for your weekly staff meetings, your one-on-ones, and other key interactions?