What No One Tells You About Learning

 

Learning drives competitive advantage. I

If everyone in your company does pretty much the same work every day, you will standstill and lose your competitive edge. You need everyone to be learning, seizing to new opportunities, improving processes, and taking advantage of new technologies and techniques. Tell them that you expect them to learn new and valuable ways of doing their jobs. Challenge them to be creative, to find improvements, and be experts in your industry – not just in your company.

  • A 1% improvement each day will result in being twice as good in about 70 days.
  • A 1% improvement each week will result in being twice as good in less than 1.5 years.

A caveat: The learning must be applied to things that directly support your business strategy, or innovations that will improve your competitiveness.

Do your employees know that you expect this?

The Executive’s Quick Guide to Coaching Functional Managers

If you listen to the business press, you might come away thinking that developing people is all about culture. The message is something like: ‘leaders don’t grow people, they create the conditions within which people grow’.

No doubt, the conditions/culture are important, but don’t neglect how important it is for you to do one-on-one coaching. Every one of your direct reports manages an area that is important to your business success. Even if you don’t fully understand their work as well as they do, you can still coach them on a range of topics.

One of the most important topics is a thorough understanding of the business strategy and how their functional areas play a key role in its success. This is fundamental to organization alignment.

Another important coaching topic is a whole-business mindset. Each manager sees the business through his/her own functional filter. Don’t let them work in functional isolation. Make sure their objectives support the business, not just their functions.

One of the best ways to jump-start this is through your strategic planning sessions.

Copyright 2018 Bob Legge
___________________________
I am a trusted advisor on strategy implementation and executive effectiveness to leaders of Fortune 500 companies, mid-size companies, nonprofits, education, and government. My work helps leaders drive strategy, lead successful change, develop high performance cultures, improve individual and organizational performance, and produce faster, sustainable growth and value.

If you want to seize new opportunities, dramatically improve your leadership effectiveness, and free-up more time for yourself and your family, give me a call.
My website is http://www.boblegge.com
Contact me at: bob@boblegge.com

Pay Attention to Your Pay Practice

Amazon made news last week by raising all employee pay to a minimum of $15. No doubt this was in part a political move to take pressure off after reports of low pay and difficult working conditions. But it’s also a smart move at a time when unemployment has reached historically low levels and it’s difficult to find people to hire.

I often counsel companies in ways to attract and retain employees, and when doing so I usually assume that pay rates are competitive. However, these days you cannot just assume that pay is competitive – you need to know where your pay practice stands.

Most of all you have to be concerned about keeping your high performers. Having a good boss, good working conditions, and growth opportunities are important, but the specter of more take-home pay is always compelling and the cost of losing good talent is significant.

Those costs include advertising, interviewing, reference checking, the cost of having a vacancy, as well as the costs of training and bringing a new on-board and up-to-speed.

We’ve had a long stretch of very low pay increases and controlling compensation costs. Don’t get complacent about it. Employee engagement and diversity initiatives are important, but pay is fundamental and can always be tempting.

Are you ensuring competitive pay practices?

Copyright 2018 Bob Legge
___________________________
I am a trusted advisor on strategy implementation and executive effectiveness to leaders of Fortune 500 companies, mid-size companies, nonprofits, education, and government. My work helps leaders drive strategy, lead successful change, develop high performance cultures, improve individual and organizational performance, and produce faster, sustainable growth and value.

If you want to seize new opportunities, dramatically improve your leadership effectiveness, and free-up more time for yourself and your family, give me a call.

My website is www.boblegge.com
Contact me at: bob@boblegge.com

Is Your Organization Aligned with Your Strategy?

Make sure your organization is aligned with your strategy. It’s not enough to communicate the strategy.

Two examples:
Example #1: I was called with an urgent need by a gas and electric company to help with change management. The company had a strategic imperative to implement an SAP enterprise-wide resource management (ERP) system, yet the implementation was failing because people refused to use the new system.

I discovered that employees weren’t the problem; it was senior management.

When asked if they should work on the SAP implementation or department objectives, managers would say, “Work on our department objectives. SAP is finance’s program.”

Once I made that clear to the senior team that they were not in alignment, the SAP implementation moved ahead and was completed on time and under budget.

Example #2: A major nationwide broadband company needed it’s customer service reps to improve both solving customer problems on the first time and up-selling additional services.

They conducted an extensive training program for thousands of customer service reps at five major call centers of 250-500 seats and ten other call centers with 100 or more seats each. They put thousands of call center employees through training to to ensure customers were getting their problems solved the first time and offering them more services.

After all the training, the customer service measures showed little change in customer satisfaction or increased sales.

Here’s what employees told me:
“Yes, I know we’re supposed to increase customer satisfaction and cross-sell.”
“Why do you think it’s not happening?”
“Because our pay is determined by ‘handle time’ – the less time we spend with each customer, the more customers we talk to and the more money our incentive pays.”

We changed the incentives and immediately began seeing the desired results.

My point: It’s not enough to have a strategy, you must ensure alignment throughout the organization.

The Art of Leadership

Last week I was in Chicago and visited the world’s largest and most respected maker of fine stringed instruments, William Harris Lee & Company. They make violins, cellos, and other instruments for professional musicians worldwide. Bill Lee started out making violins himself in 1978 and has grown the business becoming a highly-successful entrepreneur.

As I visited their various workrooms I couldn’t help but think of the art involved in creation of these fine instruments as well as the art of using the instruments to create the highest levels of fine music. I thought too of Peter Drucker’s notion of an orchestra conductor as a metaphor for a leader.

Like conductors, leaders need to know where they want to take their organizations. They know the strategy (the score) and the tempo and the dynamics of what to emphasize. They rely on each performer to know their jobs better than anyone else, including the leader.

The ‘art’ of leadership is bringing together highly-talented individuals, conducting the overall strategy, and having the skill to help them excel individually and to achieve collectively more than they thought possible. It requires a set of leadership skills as well as a body of specialized, technical, and managerial knowledge.

How to Align Priorities

As a leader, you need to make sure that priorities are aligned throughout your organization, and that people are working on those priorities. To accomplish alignment, do the following:

  1. Provide context continuously. This means the big picture – what is our business strategy? What is the role of different parts of the organization in achieving that strategy?
  2. Check priorities regularly. Tell your associates what your priorities are. Say, “This is what I am focusing on.” Then ask each of them, “What are you focusing on?”

Without the context and priorities, people will do what they think are the priorities and they may be very different from what you need from them.

For example, a manager might do what will reflect well on her career. Or a manager might want to create overly complex or sophisticated processes, instead of what will help achieve overall business goals. People have conflicting demands; make sure they are working on the right ones.

I worked with a large organization on strategy and structure of a rapidly-growing division which was structured around serving a specific market, and the intent was to strengthen the focus. But in conversations with the CEO and COO it became clear that the overall business strategy called for a new purpose and structure that would add tremendous value to both the overall organization and to specific market. The context provided vital direction.

If you really want to sharpen focus, send a short email to each associate noting what you discussed, agreed to with time frame.

Copyright 2018 Bob Legge
___________________________
I am a trusted advisor on strategy implementation and executive effectiveness to leaders of Fortune 500 companies, mid-size companies, nonprofits, education, and government. My work helps leaders drive strategy, lead successful change, develop high performance cultures, improve individual and organizational performance, and produce faster, sustainable growth and value.

If you want to seize new opportunities, dramatically improve your leadership effectiveness, and free-up more time for yourself and your family, contact me.
My website is www.boblegge.com
Contact me at: bob (at) boblegge.com

The Transition Every Executive Must Make

Last week I was in Rhode Island where Autumn is beginning to take hold. It got me thinking about transitions and especially the transition that any new executive must make to shift from an operational perspective to a broader business-wide perspective.

When you become a senior leader, you have to change the way you think about both your role and the business. Senior leaders who don’t do this will be ineffective at best, and fail at worse.

Operational management is focused on getting sales, improving processes, and internal performance on a number of measures. But senior executives must be concerned with the business. And the position challenges are very different as a senior leader. You have to be concerned with how to grow the business, how to increase competitive advantage, how to provide a return that is better than the cost of capital, how to sustain profitability, and so on.

Those challenges require a different, more strategic perspective on the business, and new skills, not the least of which is how best to use your time.

As a senior leader, you need competent people to handle operations so that you have time to focus on overall business challenges.

The success of the business depends on you making this transition. But it’s not easy because the temptation is to get involved with operational issues and decisions – where you likely feel comfortable and have been successful in the past.

And importantly, you are in a position where you can feel very much isolated and alone facing key decisions for which you are fully accountable.

I have had significant success working with senior executives on this transition and the many other singular issues facing senior executives. If you, or another executive in your organization, want to make faster, surer progress, contact me. I’d welcome the opportunity to talk and explore how we could work together.

Copyright 2018 Bob Legge
___________________________
I am a trusted advisor on strategy implementation and executive effectiveness to leaders of Fortune 500 companies, mid-size companies, nonprofits, education, and government. My work helps leaders drive strategy, lead successful change, develop high performance cultures, improve individual and organizational performance, and produce faster, sustainable growth and value.

If you want to seize new opportunities, dramatically improve your leadership effectiveness, and free-up more time for yourself and your family, give me a call.
My website is http://www.boblegge.com
Contact me at: bob@boblegge.com