Manage Your Boss


Multitudes of career climbing Managers are absolutely obsessed with the mentation of securing the Credit for an Idea.  These grasping self-image constructors maneuver situations, twist conversations, compose politics, and employ devious tactics, to insure they receive the credit “they deserve”; all in the name of their own fair play.  They are convinced and believe their ideas are uniquely exceptional to the pool of creative

Taking Credit for Ideas

thought and without their brilliant sentiments the organization would be immovable in its own mire.   At best they are braggarts; at worst self-centered egotist set on marginalizing everyone around them.  Focused on “scoring points” as their primary “get ahead” strategy they calculate moves like a Chess master purposefully moving pieces into play.  Their intent of gaining the advantage and capture of “credit for the idea” sets up a win-lose game in which they must prevail.

These lustful credit abductors often become boisterous and obnoxious as they brag about the origin of their thought.  They insist the whole world fathom and concede the origination and proprietorship of their idea, so there will be no doubt who should receive the credit for it.

If the idea is fruitfully implemented, they crave the need to thrust themselves out front of the Team in an attempt to claim a personal victory.  When their boss gets credit for an idea’s successful execution, the credit monger feels slighted, undermined, and even pilfered.  Without their due credit rancor builds manifesting a bitter victim, bent getting even.  This “Go or No Go” Strategy based on credit redemption results in a half accomplished agenda at best.

These credit monger Managers promote their ideas at every turn for one primary reason.  If the idea works out, they expect recognition and praise showered upon them as an individual.  They expect their future value to increase over those around them as they take one more step up the ladder of success.  After all, without their idea, wouldn’t everyone else have lingered lost and hopeless?  Of course, should the idea fail they

Taking the Credit

quickly fade into the background orphaning the failure as unequivocally and neatly as possible.

So what is the debauchery with a little “blowing your own horn” and taking credit for a legitimate idea.  After all, there is undoubtedly nothing wrong with producing breakthrough ideas.  It is an imperative portion of every Leader’s trade to do precisely this – create great ideas.  Much of a Manager’s success will be determined not only by his ability to generate great ideas, but his capacity to effectively implement them with his Team and meet the organization’s goals.  However, when an idea’s path and strategy is manipulated and cajoled in an effort to attain the net gain of getting credit for it, a Manager has stopped thinking about what is best for the company and has selfishly focused on his own pride.

Leaders advance their position, improve their stature, and fortify their power base through the operative implementation of ideas.  It is the idea’s results that ultimately matters.  Strong and effective Leaders realize the price paid for focusing on “getting the credit” is too high to pay.  Taking credit is the #1 obstacle to getting things done.

Once rewards are secured to idea creation two things begin to happen.  First, people begin to pick and choose the ideas they put forth based on their calculated assessment of their own self-interest moving forward.  This premeditation stunts creativity, shuts down brainstorming, and undermines collaborative efforts.  Secondly, they arise to shoot down and kill the ideas of others.  Why should they work hard on another’s idea if the glory only goes to the originator?

As a Leader you must focus yourself and your Team on the execution of ideas and the accomplishment of goals if you want true enduring recognition and success.  You must be willing to forgo the boasting and the “pats on the back” for your great ideas and shift the focus continually to the efforts of the Team’s accomplishments

“It is amazing what you can accomplish if you don’t care who gets the credit”.

President Harry S. Truman

 President Harry Truman

The speediest and most assured method to advance momentum for an idea is to “give the credit away”! Allowing people to think something was their idea, is one of the most effective tactics for the efficacious flight of a plan.  When you permit people to share in the creation of an idea, they become personally invested in its success; their desire and personal need to see the idea prosper increases exponentially. As a Leader, if you can help 10 different people believe they each contributed to the development (even a small part) of a great idea; you will have generated an exceptionally motivated and driven Team set on triumphing over their objective.  If you are capable of duplicating this scenario over and over again, your Team will catapult itself to the top of the organization.  At that point there will be enough credit and recognition for all.

One of the common grievances, I mentioned above, is from Managers who mind their bosses taking credit for their ideas.  Exasperation over this occurrence is a fool’s folly.  Even the most reckless instances of abuse, such as a boss putting his name on a paper you have created, are losing battles.  Some so called manager advice columnist tend to prescribe two possible paths of action to console the affronted, the first being confrontation and the second a withdrawal of future ideas.  They are wrong.  Both pieces of advice are guaranteed to stop your career dead in its tracks.  The confrontation will certainly result in your boss acknowledging the idea was yours.  But the credit will be accompanied with the justification that he either verbally passed on your contribution or the explanation that as part of his Team, “it is your job to provide ideas for him” (a stance I wouldn’t disagree with).  Either way, you have built resentment with your boss.  Having been called a thief and a cheat, he will surely move you to the back of the pack.  Withholding ideas fodders the deluded dream that your boss will fall flat on his face without your great ideas.  Although this may feel virtuous to your ego temporarily, in the long run it is a self-destructive unfulfilling choice.  By withholding your ideas, you will disengage yourself, flounder and certainly move yourself to the back of the pack.

Common Complaint - Boss Steals Ideas

As to others who steal your ideas, never let someone’s bad behavior compromise your values.  You should give your company 100% effort and commitment (for your own sake).  The cream usually rises to the top, if not you should leave, knowing you gave it your all, and find another opportunity.  Turning in a less than “Your Personal Best” to satisfy a grievance just devalues you as an individual. Good Leaders can always spot the stars in their organization.  Don’t take the shine off of your own star by sacrificing your Commitment to Personal Quality for anyone.  You have only one person who is going to look back at you in the mirror at the end of the day. How did he do?

Great Leaders know that ideas are communal property.  Mutual creation produces an atmosphere and expectation from each member of the Team to bring their full experience, creativity, and intellect, to every challenge and openly contribute to the exchange of progressive ideas.  All ideas should be given value and freedom, but not significance in their premature state.  The terribly bad ones help us choose the right course to follow through elimination.  And the brilliant ones are only scratches on the whiteboard until someone executes them into a reality.  Leaders must use their best wisdom in sorting out the bad and good ideas as they determining which ones to act upon.  From there, they must focus the Team’s commitment and efforts on the accomplishment of the idea regardless of its origin.

Once an idea is implemented and becomes a reality, it is time to recognize and thank its creators.  Without the original thoughts of the creative and unique idea nothing would have changed.  But at the same time, a respected and effective Leader will also cheer and praise the Team that brought the idea home.

Giving the credit away is not about modesty and humility.  It is the effectual tactic of a Leader who wants to Get Things Done!  Ideas without implementation are frivolous leaps of fantasy.  The more credit a Leader attempts to ingest for ideas, the more he disenfranchises his entire Team.  Gaining participation from the Team in the creation and rewards of a great idea not only procures their commitment, it elevates their passion.  A Street Smart Leader understands the ultimate supremacy of a passionate, driven, and rewarded A-Team will get things done and accelerate his career far more than taking credit for ideas ever could.

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(This is Part III of a three part series on the Performance Plus Planning System which focuses on the Four P’s – Plan, Platform, Process, People, to create synergistic accountable organizations.)

 

Each of the architectural elements plotted below warrant their own detailed explanations, however, in this article I am attempting to provide only the “framework” to build a prosperous integrated business operation capable of achieving Next Level Accountability.  

THE PROCESS

A Leader must insure his team distinguishes how to operate with competence and consistency in order to harvest a level of “competitive:” quality which outstrips the anticipations of

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clients.  The Team must appreciate “who does what when” and possess the competency to produce impregnable outcomes.  The formation of a rock-solid Plan and investment of a superior Platform is squandered without a proficient, smooth, trustworthy, Process to carry it out.

Process improvement is one of the most conversed necessities for any business attempting to advance performance.  A pure and present Plan and an organizationally supportive Platform momentously intensifies the likelihood that Process improvement will have an evocative and enduring impact.

Reengineering and Continuous Process Improvement programs employed by a fixated Leader require a company-wide effort to scrutinize all tasks and their relevancy in achieving Strategic Goals.  Team based approaches which gather information, seek out solutions and accumulate buy-in should be used as an imperative portion of Process Development.

Since most organizations lack resources to apply a complete re-engineering approach, Leaders must look at set systems and develop Processes generating more resourceful and operative results.

As a part of the planning process, measurements should be developed to determine progress to the plan.  A Leader must also fix metrics that can be effortlessly and habitually monitored for results of the Process Improvement Program.

The Process

Re-engineering

A Leaders commitment to the continuous advancement of Quality is indispensable to long-term Customer Value Proposition.  Involvement and solutions for these advancements should be pursued throughout all expanses of the company.  Process Leaders should acquire proficiency and usage in Kaizen based events to ascertain and implement these improvements.

A Street Smart Leader preserves an “external focus” on improvements which are driven by customer needs to pilot the organization to a leading industry position. The conveyance of a performance based organization must be cultured continuously to insure costs are driven down and the competitive position is enhanced.

Quality improvement programs should be examined to determine if customer satisfaction is the driving force behind any new processes and ideals.  An introverted quality program that focuses only on reducing costs without regard to customer impact will produce a company which profitably goes out of business. The effectual organization is able to conceive methods of accomplishing more with less.

The Re-Engineering

Systems

Deliberations of Systems tend to be framed in terms of information processed on computers and through the Platform Structure.  But often much of the information vital to the realization of an organization’s project or strategic plan is processed through a multiplicity of people and offline systems.  These offline systems can vary to a wide degree depending on the individual in control, possibly creating serious fissures in productivity and quality.

Often these online and offline systems are treated as separate entities resulting in a “disconnect” throughout the entire process.  Leaders must work with their teams to map both process types into one all-inclusive exploration.  Once this is completed all team members involved will now understand the entire picture.

Understanding where online systems and offline systems intertwine with each other is a Leaders first step setting the groundwork for process improvement.  Once understood, he can then begin to construct connections safeguarding check and balances are built-in to the systems to prevent the “ball from dropping” thus creating true widespread organizational productivity.

The Systems

Metrics

The establishment of a resilient Metrics program conveys accountability upon an organization.  Performance gains are based on knowing where one is starting from and where they desire to go.  Comprehensive Measurement is the best methodology to track and communicate headway.  A Leaders challenge is in determining what to measure, how to measure it, and what the results really conclude.

Developing a “root cause” mentality from the onset of Strategic Planning sets the stage for determining what to measure.  Your team will focus attention and effort in the areas the company measures.  Therefore, it is imperative to insure Measurements support goals directly without creating conflict within the organizational factions.

Leaders should concentrate Measurements in the areas of Quality (external measurements), Productivity (internal measurements), and Growth (financial measurements).

The Metrics

THE PEOPLE

A Leader’s greatest Plans, Platforms, and Processes will spiral into a tailspin without an A-Team in place.  And probabilities are, his customers will notice it before he does.  Becoming a performance based organization is reliant on people strength at every position within the organization.

Team members must unmistakably apprehend the big picture strategy and their roles within it to realize triumph.  The quality of their character, drive and skills must consistently meet the highest standards.  And the Leader must generate and sustain a workplace in which team members surpassing these criteria excel to heightened levels of personal and professional culmination.

A-Players are the “competitive advantage” of the future.  The ability of a Leader to attract the “best” and provide them with ongoing inspiration is reliant on a Vision and Plan which is stimulating, a Platform that does not get in the way and a Process which allow the A-Team to deliver superior results of which they can be proud.

People focused Leaders must evaluate the capability, drive and character of their team.  Leaders also need to assess the future probability of success each team member is likely to attain in the organizations “next level’ and determine if they are adept to “step up and grow”.  The cultural elements that positively and negatively affect performance must also be evaluated and acted upon by the Leader.

The People

Roles

The performance based organization desires to recognize the needs of customers more piercingly than customers themselves. They not only strive to comprehend what is imperative today but also what will be compulsory tomorrow, and the day after.  Leaders must work with their teams to see they become ultra-sensitive to the essentials of the customer.  As management, sales, and marketing uncover customer desires a system must be in place to disseminate this information throughout the team so that all team members accept responsibility for satiating these requirements.

Every team member must become personally engaged in customer fulfillment.  Each team and function must apprehend the customer’s needs and be devoted to delivering only the best they have to offer; not only understanding their role but also the role of others who they are responsible for functioning with and supporting.

Leaders must instill in their team that performance based service must be recognized as an imperative consequence everyone partakes in.  It is not just the job of some other department. Politics, the Blame Game, shifting and other disastrous behaviors must be sought out and eradicated.  The “common goal” of delivering Customer Value Proposition must be the focus and stand as the pinnacle for company integration.

The Roles

People Quality

A performance based organization must be strenuously unyielding in communicating the Customer Value Proposition to each team member.  Education and training must be carefully planned to insure all team members are capable of conveying customer value.  This training and education must go beyond job function and include elements that teach team members about the needs and requirements of the customer from their perspective.  Teams should then be given an understanding on the company as a whole and how each area’s goals contribute to the Customer Value Proposition.

There are many ways in which to communicate, train, and educate employees, from formal classes and seminars to on the job activities.  The strongest bond in developing team involvement is to have a strongly oriented performance based culture that creates a tidal wave of positive attitude towards the company’s Mission and wins.  A Leader must lay the foundation for this cultural strength.

World Class Organizations demand the best from each team member.  For this phenomenon to perpetually renew Leaders must be committed to the personal and professional development of each team member.  A learning environment must be created in which team members feel free to grow their careers without risk.  At the same time it must be understood that performance problems will not be tolerated and will be dealt with swiftly and professionally.

People Quality

Morale

The most effective plan will not flourish without stout Team Morale.  Perhaps nothing is more telling of the climate of the company’s culture than to perform an employee audit.  Leaders should look for outside assistance to perform a credible audit as a part of the internal analysis.  Leadership should address problems creating low morale before long-term performance improvements are affected.  In areas where Leadership cannot enact changes due to external forces (such as challenging economic times), strong internal communications and support should be provided to fortify the understanding and acceptance of the team.  No organization can move towards “being the best” without a exceedingly motivated work force.

The culture should be one that strives to deliver the Customer Value Proposition.  It should strive for internal effectiveness and constantly search for areas of improvement.  Since quality of work becomes a reflection of the quality of working conditions, a Leadership must commit himself to providing top working conditions for his A-Team.  Everywhere quality becomes the top priority for delivering value.  Team members should have a fundamental understanding of the importance of the customer and the direct correlation of the customer’s fulfillment on their personal career and future prosperity.

The Morale

Developing proficient Processes and building a fantastic A-Team of People allows a Leader to catapult off of the prodigious Plan and Platform they have developed and achieve previously undiscovered summits as a Performance Organization.  Leaders capable of building an organizational architecture on the principles of the 4Ps will establish an enduring, prosperous, and mounting organizational model.  The Performance Plus process is a comprehensive hands-on approach into your organization’s depths to gather information, solve problems, create new ideas, and discover breakthrough possibilities while directly leading your people “into the fold”.  A Street Smart Leader knows the Performance Plus Process is about realizing results.  In striving to create Next Level Accountability, he moves past the conference room “feel-good” banter and materializes real Deliverables to propel his Performance’s progress and Teams success.

4P Deliverables

THE PERFORMANCE PLUS SYSTEM

NEXT LEVEL ACCOUNTABILITY

The Performance Plus System

(This is the Introduction of a three part series on the Performance Plus Planning System which focuses on the Four P’s – Plan, Platform, Process, People, to create synergistic accountable organizations.)

As a young manager, I engulfed every business book I could amass with a voracious appetite. I was determined to master my craft and ascertain knowledge at a rate outpacing

my years.  The gurus of the time fascinated my interest and fostered my ambition.  I envisaged the day when I would be able to mark major initiatives, beyond my localized teams, with the concepts of strategy, marketing, customer service, and organizational structures which enthralled me.  As my roles expanded and my responsibilities grew into executive management realms, I eventually realized my place at the table where guiding and driving decisions about the company were formulated.  As a Leader, it was now my duty to construct the essential decisions which would shape our future.

Consultants often brought with them abundant theories to be deployed for the improvement of our business issues. But over time, I came to rely more on my direct experience as a “business operator” to increase performance through specific and actionable plans followed up with impactful execution.  In developing overall strategies it became vital to set foundations, implement strategies and systems and then train management teams to become effective directors of these programs ensuring short term challenges were met while setting the building blocks for the long term vision.

Through the years, I developed my own methods of organizational architecture for building stronger, more robust, more results driven companies.  With each success these systems evolved into a comprehensive architectural planning program for the development of a synergistic business unit.  The result is a Planning Tool I have dubbed Performance Plus which strives to drive Next Level Accountability through the development of the “Four P’s” –Plan, Platform, Process, and People.

Integrated Organizational Architecture

PERFORMANCE PLUS – Performance Based Service Organization

 The Performance Plus Model strives to build a Performance Based Organization as the preeminent defense against competition.  Nothing else can realize long-term growth and profits in the way a steadfast relationship with customers can.  Inventions and technological advancements are quickly tracked by the competition.  Lower costs are a never-ending duel constantly being pursued in the marketplace.  Superior marketing efforts will not compensate for inferior products that are not supported at every turn.  Even new product development becomes yesterday’s news and fails alone to “attract” a customer following over the long term.

As a Leader you must mold your organization to deliver the highest quality products bundled with incomparable customer quality if you are to position your company for permanency and prosperity.  Performance based service can become the “make or break” component for any industry.  For the company that excels at fulfilling the requirements of its customers, customer satisfaction becomes an offensive weapon allowing the organization to define the industry standards and their place in it. The Leader that decides to sit back and wait for the game to be defined by the competition and then follow minimum expectations is assuming a dangerous and vulnerable position.

Ron Zemke, co-author of Service America, states “extensive research leads to the obvious conclusion that those organizations willing to commit to superior customer service, profit on the bottom line. Those unwilling or unable to meet that standard do not and will not thrive – and possibly may not even survive.” Therefore the question becomes not one of whether a Company should strive for service excellence but how to properly go about it.

Planning and prioritizing – setting strategic and tactical plans – understanding the characteristics and elements of performance based service – implementing strategy with employee support – timing and available resources – These and many more are the decisions that need to be carefully planned and implemented by Leaders. It is an ongoing tough challenge in which a company’s culture must be able to undergo necessary transformations.      

Many Leaders understand the powerful impact of performance based service to the overall quality effort of providing the customer with a Total Value Proposition.  Tomorrow’s successful organizations must tear down the distinction between product quality and service support. Strong Leaders will integrate these concepts into a homogeneous organization focused on the customer while meeting corporate objectives.

 

TODAY’S ORGANIZATIONAL CHALLENGE

 Leaders are facing a turning point in organizational development.  As industries emerges from the severe recessionary impact of the last few years pressure will be placed on organization to deliver higher volumes of sales at lower margins on the product.  It is necessary for the models that have existed for years to change if they are to survive.

 Over the last several years customer knowledge of the supplier process has improved, placing further pressures on the supplier for higher levels of performance while at the same time expecting the best pricing the market will bear.  Clients are becoming less attached to product standards and shifting towards decisions that provide perceived value at the moment of purchase.

Leaders must compete in a future environment of driving volume, reducing margins and providing excellent customer service.  The following organizational capabilities must become core competencies in developing the model of the service driven company of the future.

  •   Ability to power Growth and Profit.
  •   Creation of a plan clearly identifying to all employees where the company is going and how it will get there.
  •   Balance in the planning process to ensure short and long term goals are accounted for.
  •   Cause and effect methodology that will take the strategy past the “talk” and into action mode.
  •   Defined tactics and accountability to deliver real results.
  •   Structural alignment to provide a platform for success.
  •   Teamwork to create meaningful and lasting change.
  •   Improved process flow for better service and efficiency.
  •   People strength to gain a competitive advantage.
  •   An integrated Management Team with shared responsibility, working together to reach all organization goals in unison
  •   Reach the “next level” Accountability and gain a competitive advantage driving market share and customer loyalty

INTEGRATED ORGANIZATIONAL ARCHITECTURE

 Leaders must build a program which founds a synergistic connection integrating an organization’s Plan, Platform, Process, and People.  Programs focused on creating vision and accountability through significant cross-functional results will determine today’s competitive advantage.

 The lack of success in the implementation of performance based service architecture is often in moving forward without a plan for the introduction and integration of each step.  Leaders often get excited and rush forward in a ready, fire, aim manner.  The strategy must been seen as a complete effort.  If viewed as a set of individual tasks, gaps appear in the system through which customer’s needs, productivity and employee satisfaction fall.  If goals are disjointed in the organization, internal workings become confused and departments fail to understand the entire picture.  The focus must persist on the overall goals and refrain from the mentality of task specialization for efficiency.

 Many improvement programs have yielded disappointing results due to fragmentation or focus on achieving specific economic outcomes without a linkage to the organization’s overall strategy.  Breakthroughs in performance require major change in the measurement and management systems used by an organization.  Being more competitive and capability driven cannot be accomplished by merely monitoring measures of past performance.

 Leader’s ability to move employees towards working together in harmony ensures customer quality is delivered, shareholder return is maximized and employee satisfaction continually rises all at the same time.  The achievement of this balance propels organizations towards lasting performance and the ability to reach the “next level” of success.

Performance Plus System


It is Time for Leaders to unshackle the survival mode of the last few years and begin to aggressively embark on developing the Strategic Strategies that will propel their growth and profitability forward in the next economy.  When building an organization for competitive effectiveness a Leader must focus on Plan, Platform, Process, and People.  Each of these structural cornerstones must be properly planned, integrated and implemented if a company is to be successful in both the short and long run.  Today’s Leader must be capable of dealing with the immediate needs of his business’ survivability while constantly working towards the “big picture” strategies of tomorrow that will insure stable, replicable performance.  A Street Smart Leader knows when the Four P’s emanate to generate a holistic, result driven accountable business model, many other P’s spring forth such as Profitability, Prosperity, Popularity and Perseverance!

One of the incomparable sensations of any Leader’s quest for achievement is the realization that his toiled unbreakable determination has prevailed through difficulties and overwhelmed impediments to finally grasp a triumph which becomes recognized and honored with the bequeathment of a Promotion.  In this moment his chest lifts and his eyes gaze onward to the promise of a brighter future.  Proudly he carries the “fruit of his labor” home and celebrates his exhilaration with his family.  It is a time of jubilation which builds a sense of rising and evolving self-worth and value.

The determination of Promotions extends beyond sheer accomplishments and reflects additional dynamics such as character, values, fit, and potential Leadership facility.

Promotions are a culmination of what you have done, who you are and how much you can grow.  A Promotion validates you have “what it takes” to contribute to the company’s impending success.  This “whole picture” amalgamation of attributes often results in a promotion being awarded to someone other than the highest statistical performer of a group.  And therefore, as the freshly endorsed manager is reveling at home, some peers are congregating around their dining tables questioning and rebuking the verdict of upper management.  However contented and supportive they were as peers, the game has now transformed and the newly anointed one begins all over again, trying to prove himself as their new Leader.

Managing former peers is one of the most difficult encounters in a Leader’s career.  Whether a front line position or breaking into the C-Level, he must now lead the group that he has been a part of.  They have seen him bare, candid, and imperfect.  He must be prepared to encircle the uncomfortable and problematic challenge of power if he is to effectively cultivate this new station of leadership among his peers.

My first leap into this abyss remains crystal clear in my mind.  At 17 years of age, I began working loading trucks in the shipping department and managed to pick up slightly better tasks as my drive and ethic was detected.   One day my twentyish peers were submerged in a gossip involving our manger’s purported scandalous behavior.  With the scuttlebutt swelling, each professed their personal prophecies of the outcome.  On the first count, everyone had it exact as the manager was dishonorably relegated back to the group.  But their flapping jaws suddenly twisted to open mouth silence when our revered and crusty Transportation Director, Marvin Shultz, ordained me the new manager.  With Marvin’s iron-handed mentoring, I traversed through the initial scorn and doubt and began my initiation into managing my former peers.  Moving out from peers repeated itself often over the ensuing years as I climbed the corporate ladder and with each new promotion, I learned how to more adeptly master the next one.

If you find yourself in this position, Congratulations, “take a bow”, you have done well.  Next, immediately abandon any idealistic philosophies about how you might still be a part of the gang and how nothing has to change between you and them.  You are now their boss.  There are those who are exultant for you without necessarily acquiescing their validation, those who are covetous or distressed and those who just do not care.  Regardless of where they stand, Get over it!  As their boss you are there to deal with the good, the bad, and the ugly.  Your focus must shift to building a strong A-Team from within them.  It is not about keeping or making friends.  It is about creating results to further the goals of your company.  Your peers will not accept you as their boss until “you” accept that you are their boss.

The two most substantial recommendations I can make when leading former peers is to embark on your new relationship as a Tough Leader and carry yourself Quietly Bold.  You can always temper toughness as directives become effortlessly accepted and engaged by all.  But leniency in the hopes of being affable followed by an attempt to harden up later, when necessary, becomes a fool’s mission.  Disregard bravado and any urge for chest pounding.  A boisterous style will appear as if the power has gone to your head.  Ensure you are listening and discerning your new team’s reactions.  Focus on understanding and prioritizing your boss’s agenda.  Be unobtrusive, but do not yield to manipulations or intimidations.  Be bold enough to make decisions, take stands, and have honest conversations.  Set about your new relationships as tough, quiet and bold.

During your first 30 days as a new leader you must size up your team quickly and understand their dynamics and propensities towards you.  It is a common mistake to believe your friends will help you and your detractors will try and harm you.  There are many possible outcomes as your tenure progresses.  Friends can become quickly frustrated with your new obligations and can become very difficult to manage.  And prior skeptics may welcome the changes you are pioneering and get on board easier than you think.  You can categorize your team members into Supporters, Apathetics, and Dissenters who will be either weld influence or not.  Understanding how to use each group to your advantage is a key to early success. My experience is that 50% of your newly inherited group will not be with you in one year.

Sizing Up Your New Team

Once you have sized up your Team it is time for you to begin to take action.  By now, you should possess a vibrant passionate understanding of your boss’s goals and priorities and what he expects of you and your team to advance his purpose.  During your Start-Up Cycle your complete focus is to accomplish your boss’s short term objectives.  There will be abundant opportunity to initiate your own ideas and campaigns once you have built a “power base” with your boss.  The Start-Up Cycle delivers meaningful results to confirm that your benefactor made the right decision in spite of what he will be hearing from the “back door” Dissenters you are dealing with.

The Start-Up Cycle begins with communicating what needs to be executed with your Team and garnering their contribution as to how the task might be best accomplished.  Do not open the agenda to the mistake of asking the team “what should we do?”  Stick with your mandates and focus your discussion and efforts on “how” you are going to carry out your tasks.  This is a time to raise the expectations of your team, particularly from your Supporters.  Let them know you expect the very best they have to give in pursuit of the Team’s Goals.  Do not debate the task and kill any serious opposition if you are tested.  Be passionate about winning the issue.  With each footstep of improvement progress is multiplied and your power base is strengthened.  Repeating the Start-Up Cycle several times with different directives throughout your first six months will build a foundation of confidence with your boss.  This foundation will place you in a position to reward your Supporters, eradicate your Dissenters, and coerce Apathetics “off of the fence”.  From this position of strength you will be able to launch your own enterprises for the future advance of your team and career.

The first months of leading your former peers are a crucial time.  You are under close examination and scrutiny from above and beneath (not to mention your new peer group).  This is a time for self-improvement; for learning new things, absorbing new ideas, and demonstrating new skills. It is a time for you to dress better, think better, and be better.  You must conduct yourself as a leader, size-up your support, and demonstrate your ability to accomplish the important tasks which your boss has charged you with.  Place your feet squarely on the ground with purpose and determination void of manipulations from Friends and negotiations with Dissenters.  A Street Smart Leader rises above the tribulations of his former peer group and confidently looks forward to the future.

read more about “The Challenge for Your Authority

 

SUPPORTERS APATHETIC DISSENTERS
How You Recognize Them
Supporters believe that change is necessary and they possess the skills and the desire to help you accomplish your mission The apathetic are often considered harmless and ignored.  But these “fence sitters” are the hidden threat to your agenda.  They are waiting to see if you make it. The dissenters clearly wish to maintain the status quo by watching you fail in any way possible. They do not want to change … at least for your benefit.
INFLUENCERS
Who They Are
Supporters of Influence are your biggest asset to generating change and creating success Fence Sitters of Influence detract commitment from others stealing valuable time and resources This group is Challenging Your Authority and will deliberately attempt to trip you up.
What They Say
“What wall do you want us to run through next?” “I’ve heard all this before.” “Why do I have to listen to you?”
How to Use Them
These Champions can get quick points on the board to validate your cause.  They set the standards for the group and make those “not on board” look obvious. The Apathetic must be pressured and confronted from the beginning.  Most will not have the guts to become dissenters and instead become Non-Influence Supporters These double threats must be identified quickly.  Within the first six months you will want to fire the ringleader of this group regardless of their importance. Play it smart and they will give you the opportunity
NON-INFLUENCERS
Who They Are
These Supporters are willing to quickly follow success and do their part. This group is not a threat, but they can suck the passion from a program. They will try and stay under the radar. These Dissenters are stifled by the ringleaders and are non-performers.  They believe you are not going to make it.
What They Say
“I think he has good ideas.” “Just tell me what to do and I’ll do it.” “I’ll do as little as I can to keep my job.”
How to Use Them
Keep these supporters closely in the loop and feeling a part of the team.  Do not spend too much time with this group they will follow. They are your “work horses”. At best this group becomes your “C-Players”. Begin to weed them out from the beginning and replace with Supportive Influencers. These misguided followers often helps make your best case for need to change.  To almost everyone they recognizably the “problem”.  With the ringleader fired this group quickly falls apart.  Eventually you will end up firing most of this group.

Upon visiting Barcelona years ago, I attended one of Spain’s most legendary and notorious sports undertakings, the Bullfight.  Open to the experience, I absorbed the cultural

The Bullfight

tradition, historical pageantry, and deadly tournament of man against beast.  I found my ethics deeply confounded between the incontrovertible proficiency of the Matador pitted against the vicious lethal conclusion for the Bull.  Once seen, no one can question the passionate dissension and controversy which surrounds the Spanish tradition.  But regardless of one’s viewpoint, I learned there is nothing which elevates a collective visceral disgust, even among the aficionados, more than a “bad kill”.  Finally the Bullfighter poses instants away from the “moment of truth”, cape and sword hand in hand, with a solitary clarifying resolve; to confront and kill the bull – courageously, skillfully, swiftly, and faithfully.  Mishandling the charge gives rise to a spectacle of superfluous agony and suffering that infuriates the crowd bringing dishonor and tragedy to the contest.  A matador incapable of executing his primordial obligation with decisive professionalism is hastily castigated by the crowd and jeopardizes ignominy.

Leaders face these critical moments when confronted with the task of terminating an employee.  In order to build an A-Team and perpetuate a climate of motivation and winning, underperforming and incapable employees must be removed.  Unfortunately, this means their employment must be terminated.  We can attempt to masquerade the rhetoric, but in reality this is a serious Leadership undertaking which severely impacts someone’s life.  Such a responsibility can never be taken lightly.

Termination is a testing shock to even the most hardened of employees.  It is also an enormously grim assignment to carry out for the person performing the termination.  It may appear effortless to those who have never headed the process and call out for another person to be fired or question why a particular employee remains.  But many agitators would quickly feint from their ostensible convictions if faced with actually personally terminating someone else.  Sitting across from a person and looking them “dead in the eye”

from the movie "Up in the Air"

while explaining they are going home today to their family with no job can weigh on the psyche of the toughest Leaders.  Regardless of how many times a Leader has performed the act, most still get a knot in their stomach in preparation for the final confrontation.

Once you determine an employee is incapable of contributing to you A-Team, whether purposeful or incapable, you must develop the essential plans to replace them.  You must possess the confidence in your skill of the termination process so as to prevent the uncomfortable actual act from creating anxiety which results in procrastination.  Although it may seem harsh, the ability to effectively terminate an employee is a required skill and performed well will prevent unnecessary pain and suffering of the individual facing the consequences.

It is important before terminating an individual that you comprehend and follow the policies and guidelines of your company.  They exist to prevent exploitation and limit exposure.  In most cases, you will want to provide the employee with reasonable warning and opportunity to correct their actions and avoid the termination.  There will be times however, when because of the seriousness of an infraction or threat posed to the organization, a warning becomes imprudent.  Or you may be faced with a person, who regardless of their best efforts, is just not up to the required commission.  Regardless of the policies followed or the situation at hand, as much as we wish they expected it, most people are utterly flabbergasted with the reality they are being fired.  And it is this element of disbelief that makes the confrontation so precarious.

HR will provide you with what to say, what not to say, and how to say it.  With this routine instruction most managers can remain out of trouble and get the job done.  Firing techniques are seldom discussed because they run the risk of “bad form”, but a messy termination confrontation can create collateral damage throughout your team causing a serious set-back to winning momentum.  If you want to be proficient and compassionate when terminating an employee, add these Street Smart Leader lessons to your HR repertoire.

Do Not Torment

The component of the bullfight which most often offends the sensibilities of onlookers is the perception of torturous acts being committed.  There is often a window of time

Tortured Bull - Disgraceful

between the decision to terminate an employee and the actual event.  Immature managers often use this time to berate and criticize the employee.  It is as if they plan to weaken the employee’s resistance and fight for the imminent meeting.  They would like to create a certain “resignation” in the employee’s demeanor as a way of weakening possible opposition.  While this may appear to be giving the employee a “heads up” it is a coward’s way out and should be avoided at all costs.  Make the decision, understand the time frame, and wait for the moment to perform the termination honorably.  You have other priorities to focus on in the meantime.

Care for the Living

Once you have honed your skills in this arena it will not be necessary to over-think and over-plot the actual termination meeting.  It will be on your calendar and you will handle it with the professionalism of any other appointment.  Before then, your priority should be focused on the Care of the Living.  You must understand this actions impact on the organization.  What will be the ramifications felt by fellow employees?  As a Leader, you need to ensure that regardless of one person’s failure the remainder of the team remains charged up and ready to go forward.  The impact possibilities must be clearly understood at the “people level” and plans should be prepared to maintain a positive environment for the remaining team members.  How will you keep you team intact, unaffected and moving forward during this transition?

Terminate without Discussion

When the appointed time comes, find a private place to have a conversation other than your office.  This is an important key not to be overlooked in efficiently handling the termination.  It is a rookie mistake to become trapped in your own office by someone who becomes argumentative or emotional.  By planning the meeting in a conference room or neutral place, you are able to have a brief conversation and then have the option to leave the room if you must.

Next, leave your emotions outside the door.  Chances are good that you are angry, happy, disappointed, sad, or regrettable about this person’s outcome.  Any of these emotions can be used to trip you up during the conversation and cause problems down the road.  Enter the room unemotional with a job to do.  Anything more is a liability.

Your meeting should be brief.  You want to make it clear individual why you are there.  Within the first two sentences you should let them know they are being fired.  “Sally, I am sorry this is going to be a difficult meeting because we have made the decision to let you go.  We are terminating your employment because we do not feel you are the right fit for our company any longer.”  It is a blunder to engage in any explanatory conversation regarding your reasoning.  If they ask why, or for specifics, you must answer that,” this decision has been carefully thought through and it is final.”  If they persist, you must become repetitive with your answer.  There is not anything you can say during an employee’s termination which is going to make the situation better for them and you will never convince them that you are right or a nice guy.   Some companies prefer to have another individual in the room as a witness.  If someone is with you make sure only one person does the talking.  Two people going back and forth create a conversation, which is exactly what you do not want to happen.  Your entire meeting should take less than 5 minutes.

It is difficult to envisage how an employee will react after hearing these words.  Some become quiet or upset or argumentative; they are in this moment dealing with a very difficult reality.  I believe they should be allowed their reaction, provided it is not violent.  It is your job to respect their reaction and stay calm and cool under any distress. Give them a quite unresponsive moment to absorb the gravity of the situation.  Once they realize they will not be able to argue the merits of their case they will typically shut down or break down.  Now clearly and quickly move them through your company’s exit process (typically clearing out their desk, receiving the termination paperwork, turning in company equipment).

Get Your Message Out Quickly

As soon as this process begins other employees will quickly determine what is happening.  Your key managers should be “on deck” ready to deal with other employee’s early reactions.  If you have planned correctly, with the termination concluded, you should be in a position to quickly and concisely communicate to your team.  You can explain what has happened and how you will be moving forward.  You cannot explain why it has happened.  “Trashing” the terminated employee is never a good idea.  Emotions run high for everyone when someone falls.  Be decisive and without sounding threatening make sure the team understands that we need A-Players in every position, all of the time, if we are going to win together.  Let them know how difficult these decisions are to make but they are necessary if the team is to stay strong and move forward towards its goals.  This is not a time for explanations as to why you terminated an employee but rather an excellent opportunity to reset expectations.

Lead a Unified Transition

Even the best termination decision will be quickly questioned if the team’s work begins to fall apart.  Any lapse in customer service, production, or any other important function will be considered your failure once the employee leaves the building.  You are responsible to make sure there is a seamless flow of work activity along with your decision to terminate the employee.  Do not expect relief or understanding from anyone including your boss as to the difficulties the termination has created.  You made the decision and you are responsible for the results.  Expect the key members of your team to pick up the slack and make sure to roll up your sleeves and jump in wherever necessary.  Your immediate goal is to make sure everyone perceives an improvement in the team’s overall performance immediately following the termination.

You cannot afford failure at this time.  Your boss, your peers, and your team will be very critical of any performance letdown.  This is a time to prove to everyone you were right

Difficult Job - Well Done

to remove the “dead weight” from the team.  More often than not, if you have built an A-Team, they will rise to the occasion and support the transition beautifully.  Being ready with a working plan and executing it flawlessly will keep the leverage of the situation on your side.  Moving forward, your team will understand that if they do not perform as individuals you are just as capable of replacing them.  It is a harsh reality, but you have just “raised the bar”.

Terminating an employee is a serious and difficult responsibility for any Leader.  And it should be!  A Leader should be on unshakable footing and possess the skills to correctly carry out his duty.  Culling the non-performers continues to sharpen and build the skills of your A-Team and unfortunately is a never ending requirement.   A good manager understands the employee handbook and how to carry out the termination policies.  A Street Smart Leader knows how to make a good, quick, clean, and efficient professional termination.  He knows how to treat the person with respect while conducting the difficult assignment inside his preset protective parameters.  Most importantly he understands the importance of Caring for the Living and moving forward with unquestionable grounding.  Messy and poorly executed terminations leave your team infuriated and disgraced.  Terminations will continue to be a somber and intimidating part of the Leadership job.  But with compassionate courage and thoughtful skill a Great Leader can bring honor to his team even during these difficult transitions.

Leaders make Decisions!  In a world of quantum communication and overloaded information it should be no revelation when confronted by every man’s entitlement to a vocalized opinion.  In our era, society has imparted uncontested prominence to a person’s opinion.  Whether a derivative of careful thought, precise data, or notorious feelings – the right to “my opinion” is firmly entrenched in our culture’s fairness equation. “Well, that’s my opinion”, has become the justifiable explanation of any inexplicable reasoning or concept.  The resulting implication from these free-wielding opines is a stolen momentary sense of Authority which charms even the weakest of characters.  Observe a heated debate regarding a controversial topic and take notice of the abundant expertise of unsubstantiated solutions filling the room.  The empowerment of an authority capturing thought is an addictive substance for any conference table groupie.  But observe how Authority runs and hides when time is finished and a Decision is required.  A silence falls on the repartee,

Making Decisions

distraction lurks, shifting begins and everyone looks to the Leader … to make the Decision!

Opinions are weightless luxuries of shiftless minds.  They can be put forth with various methodologies, heavy-handed or sneakily, but in the final analysis they can effortlessly be discarded and abandoned.  The Authority of ideas and feelings, however great or passionate, is a passing plaything.  Only the Decision produces a “final” choice; a determined course of action to be embarked upon.  Making Decisions has little to do with captured “Authority” and everything to do with accepting “Responsibility”.  And Responsibility carries weight … the weight of consequence!

DECISION EQUALS CONSEQUENCE

REWARD or FAILURE

Good Leaders make Good Decisions.  Or is it the reverse? Regardless, when opinions are at odds it is a Leader’s responsibility to step up and choose one course of action for success.  The right “Decision” is the keystone towards advancement of goals and winning teams.  So, how do Leaders make decisions?

Good decision creation comes from a variety of techniques.  Leaders learn to blend contributing factors into overall analysis to determine the best possibilities for a prosperous consequence while limiting the risk of unintended surprises.  Whether decisions are made from Rational Analysis, Intuition, Advice, Avoidance, or Inspiration, a decision maker must be capable of sorting through the infiltrating influences to gain clarity of the dilemma.

At the aggressive age of 30, I was challenged with a philosophical disputation which forever changed my outlook on the decision making process.  As Vice President of Operations, I had become responsible for a handful of recently acquired unhealthy businesses with the goal of converting them to profitable, well run, prosperous, “Company Store” branches.  After months of “road work” the results were beginning to show.  I instituted vigorous tough change initiatives to progress performance and with a “take no prisoners” attitude began to see measurable improvements throughout the system.  Development was increasingly taking hold and I had every reason to believe we were on the right path.

About then, a great mentor of mine, Mike White (owner of the company) decided to make a road trip with me.  The establishment of direct distribution was one of his personal pet projects and he was very passionate, supportive, and protective about the program’s triumph.  We traveled to several of the branch offices and conducted multiple meetings.  Although the sales and productivity gains were very evident, Mike detected the grind our “changes” had put the employees through.  The contentious feedback from employees was not in-sync with the “on paper” results.  On our last leg back home, at 35,000 feet, Mike downloaded me with his thoughts.  Although he was proud of the progress made, he questioned if we could accomplish our goals without the workforce being more positive about the changes.  Quickly and adeptly I pulled my charts from the briefcase and began presenting my case to regain the affirmative position.  Not only had productivity, consistency and growth all improved, we also had been able to increase compensation and working conditions for many of the employees.  “Mike,” I petitioned, “Look at the facts, they are wrong.”  As I began to rant about their resistance to change, Mike stopped me cold with the words that would puzzle me for years. He said, “John, their Perception is their Reality.  And your job is to change their perception, not argue about it.”

Disputing facts and data with personal feelings and perceptions was a difficult pill for me to swallow.  I may have been right, but I had to accept that it did not matter if perception was against me.  Over the next few years, I matured as a Leader and the wisdom of Mike’s words set into my core and became a part of my reality.  With his constant guidance, he taught me to realize it takes more than facts and figures to make good decisions.  He helped me understand good decisions are based in the capacity to evaluate and mobilize people into the action we envisioned.  Realizing the vital importance of other people’s perceptions instead of my contrived reality was one tough lesson to absorb, but it opened a world of new insights and possibilities.

People tend to believe what they experience

And they tend to experience what they believe

As a Leader you need to understand the importance of the hard data.  But good decisions are grounded in the “perceived” reality of any given situation.  And although one can logically argue the premise of “Perception is Reality”, you cannot dismiss it.  Whether it is your employees, your boss, or your customers, you cannot escape the consequence of how they “perceive” your thoughts, actions, and contributions.

Through the years of struggling with this enigmatic question I came to appreciate the difference between Facts and Truths and the quandary between Perception and Reality.

  • Facts – A fact is an elementary principle which is indisputable by a personal belief and remains unchanged throughout time.  Example: 2+2=4 is a fact.
  • Truths – Something is thought to be a Truth when two or more people agree on the interpretation of an idea or event.  Truth is subjective, requiring a point of view.  It is a “consensus reality”.  Example: Those believing in God share a truth which the Atheist does not.
  • Perception – One’s knowledge and interpretation of past experiences.  These experiences form preconceived concepts through which new information is viewed, thus creating a personal reality.  Example: Someone perceives the world to be unfair.
  • Reality – Reality is the state of things as they actually exist, rather than as they may appear or may be thought to be. Example: ? no one really knows.

Your team will follow you only if they believe your decision making talent is sound and verified.  Your ability to connect to them and to the realm where your business lives is of paramount importance.  Resilient decisions are conceived from understanding the entirety of the circumstance.  It would be a simple feat to feed data to a computer, add a few variables, and have it produce the best probable outcome.  But we know that isn’t enough.  Even with its data crushing dominance, no one is going to walk into battle based on a computer program.  Your team has instincts and their own perceptions.  And yes, they have opinions about whether you “get it” or “haven’t a clue”.  The Facts, Truths, Perceptions and Reality must all be considered in your deliberations if you expect conscientious action and lasting results.

The Wisdom of Decision Making

 

Structured learning and practice to assist you in making better decisions does not exist.  You cannot learn about people and their proclivities from a book.  But your awareness and curiosity into the human condition will accelerate your learning curve.  You must be smart to get ahead, but a true Leader seizes a much more valuable instrument with his “people” knowledge, experience, and judgment.  He cumulates the profoundness of Wisdom.

Wisdom is a deep understanding and realizing of people, things, events or situations, resulting in the ability to choose or act to consistently produce the optimum results with a minimum of time and energy. It is the ability to optimally (effectively and efficiently) apply perceptions and knowledge and so produce the desired results. Wisdom is also the comprehension of what is true or right coupled with optimum judgment as to action.   (Definition from Wikipedia)

With Intelligence you will be noticed, but the accumulation and manifestation of Wisdom will set you apart and earn the respect of others.  A Street Smart Leader gets out of the way of his own reality and focuses on the soft elements and perceptions of the situation or opportunity.  Great Leaders are the difference between good opinions and good Decisions.  They crave the responsibility that comes with “making the call” and the opportunity to put themselves “on the line” to grab the prize.  Good Decisions do make Good Leaders, so choose yours wisely.  20 years ago, Mike White put me on a path leading to Wisdom and although its destination continues to elude me, the journey has provided a wealth of knowledge and understanding with which to grow as a Leader.

The unending permeation of the term “Value’ continues to ingrain itself throughout our business purposes, campaigns, and slogans.  The contemporary perspective for this traditional cost vs. benefit protagonist is called the Value Proposition.  Evolving beyond the preceding concepts of “getting a good deal” through the expectation of greater features for less cost, today’s Value Proposition has become an intricate industry fixated on the differentiating summation of a vendor’s promise to offer customers the inevitable clear choice favoring their product.

Conventionally, the Value Model brought an advantageous financial benefit to the customer.  As features increased and costs decreased the “value” of a product automatically improved.  The simplicity of the equation was guaranteed to attract customers to the logical conclusion of purchasing your product above all others.   Value equaled providing more and charging less.

Traditional Value Model

Value Propositions strive to extend beyond feature/benefit approaches and incorporate the customer’s experience, emotions, and psyche into the value equation.  These Value Propositions develop an ethereal benefit which adds a “soft” factor into the customary value equation and often results in a value decision based on the perception of a better product for a higher price.

Today's Value Proposition Model

Regardless of the “Value” level of a product, it is important for Leaders to understand that Value is a constantly declining position.  Once established, Value becomes reactive to the forces of competition, improvements, innovations, and passions.  Whether a traditional “cost vs. benefit” model has been established or a “soft benefit” component has been added to the strategy, value is diminishing with time.

THE FOUR LEVELS OF VALUE

The Value of a product or service can be perceived by a customer in one of four strata:

Prospective Value – Here a company is proposing the promise and aspirations of products and services of the future.  Customers are engrossed to this value package because they hunger to be “first”, on the leading edge.  Companies successful with this value offering typically have a demonstrated track-record of delivering on their predictive visions.  They are offering the “next best thing” and the prospect for their customers to “be there” when it happens.  The Prospective Level produces Partnerships between companies and customers with long reaching potential.  These customers are obtaining the “Promise of Tomorrow”.

Enhanced Value – Products and services which are provided with additional features beyond the customer’s expectations deliver Enhanced Value.  Products and services at this level exceed what has come to be customary in the traditional product offering.  Instead they offer an “extraordinary” result.  We have become familiar with the term Value Added for this value category.  Here customers are “Wow’d by Extras” they did not expect.

Anticipated Value – In this level, products and services presented have become “expected” by the customer.  The customer knows what they are buying and presumes the minimum requirements to be met.  A company delivering a product at this level must focus on Quality as its differentiation.  Customers purchasing Anticipated Value are looking for “Reliability and Consistency” of a known product.

Accustomed Value – In this bracket, a customer sees no difference of value in the product or service they need.  It is considered a commodity offering.  Attempting to imply value at an additional cost in this scenario turns your value equation upside-down resulting in a “no sale”.  Customers who are accustomed to this generic product are concerned only with the “Low Cost Provider”.

It makes no difference where your product value is targeted as long as you are focused on the appropriate customer drivers for attraction and purchasing.  Companies can be very successful at any Value Level as long as they offer the matching deliverable.

Prospective Value – Partnership

Enhanced Value – Valued Added

Anticipated Value – Quality

Accustomed Value – Low Cost

THE DIMINISHING VALUE REALITY

It is vital that you understand Value is constantly slipping in the eyes of customers.  Prospective Value is becoming Enhanced which in turn is falling to Anticipated.  Unique offerings are quickly followed by competitors focusing on Quality and Lower Cost Structures in an attempt to “knock off” the innovative successes of others.

The Diminishing Value Effect

As a child, I recollect the seductions of the “Car of the Future”.  Auto Companies flooded our sensations with the new features we would experience driving their automobiles (a tactic still in use today).  They built partnerships around my father’s generation with the GM and Ford.  As seat belts, power windows, and eight track stereos made their entrance on the scene, we were truly “Wow’d” and could not wait to be capable of affording these advanced options.  Soon we anticipated them focusing on which contraption was superior.  Then they became something we demanded the dealer “throw in”.  Remarkable how no one today would ever expect to see the price of power windows called out as a benefit.  Power windows went from a dream to a commodity. Sirius radio, MP3 compatibility, fuel efficiency and the like are on the same path, spiraling down the value chain.  You may not be able to see it, but it is happening right in front of your eyes.

As a Leader, you must understand the level at which your Value is being delivered. From there you must determine whether your goals should focus on innovation, adding value, improving quality, or driving out costs.  Producing any of these deliverables with a “best in class” result will establish you as a serious competitor in your field.

In an effort to lift the value of a product we have witnessed “bundling strategies”.  Here a company offers a product with diminished value attached to another one for a reduced price.  The resulting “two for one bundle” constitutes a renewed value which often extends the life of a product’s value.  Bundling is a “loss leader” strategy which can usually only be successfully implemented through excellent market research and a commanding industry position.  It is not a favorable solution for most.

The key to dominating your competitors is in ones ability to provide multiple levels of value for a product or service at the same time.  If you can innovate with quality or provide a high quality product at the lowest cost, you will gain leaps and bounds on your competition.  Leaders capable of mounting a multi-front attack on diminishing value will be the victors!

THE POWER OF “CORE VALUES”

You are facing a highly competitive environment where the most innovative advances are quickly followed by others.  In my article, The People Age, I point out:

“Over the last two decades, more people than ever have gained access to the once differentiating resources of Knowledge and Technology. … Everyone has it! This decrease in differentiation has flattened the competitive arena between businesses, markets, and global influences. Every company has access to Knowledge and Technology at ever increasing speeds. And with Knowledge and Technology outpacing development, the result becomes a temporary market advantage at best. Today, a “competitive void” exists for most businesses.”

To counteract the “flattening” effect many companies are adding Core Values to their Value Proposition.  They are infusing the “economic value” of their products and services with the “ethical Core Values” of who they are and why they do what they do.  Ethical Values and Beliefs have been around business for decades as part of Strategic Plans (and usually posted in the corner of the CEO’s office).  But now companies are taking their Core Values off the wall and offering them to their customers as a value-add component.  Core Values which successfully connect to customers result in the building of a “Brand”.  Unlike a diminishing value, a Brand built on Core Values can stand the test of time.

For example, ask yourself the following question.  “Do you value relationships, or are Relationships a Value?”  The difference between the twist on words is significant.  The first phrase implies something more transitional which could be replaced tomorrow, by let’s say profits.  But the later, constitutes a foundation of permanency, which a customer will invest in for the long haul.  Examine your company’s Core Values and determine to build your Brand around them.  A strong identifiable Brand built on values allows a company to constantly re-invent itself in a world of diminishing value.  Core Values are the new Secret Weapon in building a Value Proposition.

The New Value Proposition Model

In today’s battle to attract and keep customers through the delivery of incomparable value, you must realize you are affecting a constantly changing field.  Your product’s perceived value is continually slipping in the minds of your customers, and if you are not adding to it, improving the quality of it, or driving the cost out of it, your customers will soon be procuring from someone else.  Understand that a great Value Proposition is built on strong features/benefits and buying experiences.  But if you want to be a Street Smart Leader, incorporate “who you are” into your Value Proposition and build a customer base that will stay with your Brand throughout the cycles of diminishing value.

And one additional quick thought for Street Smart’s sake. The Value you bring to the table is influenced in the same way.  Does your boss see your personal value as a partnership necessary to stay on the cutting edge or as a low cost commodity based provider?  If you want to succeed, you need to stay innovative and add value beyond his expectations!

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