Welcome to the club! As a leader you have the indubitable honor of working harder than everyone else, losing sleep at night, figuring out how to motivate and engage your workforce while striving to beat last year’s numbers. Leaders today face more game-changing decisions in a shorter time span making it harder than ever to achieve sustainable growth. Here are three things (from the book Reignite: How Everyday Companies Spark Next Stage Growth, by Margaret Reynolds) you can do to take your company to the next stage of growth.
1. Discover Your Blind Side. We all have one. It is the nontraditional competitor we don’t see coming. Since you know what to expect from your traditional competitors, the real danger is from the new entrant who changes the rules. Netflix took out Blockbuster almost overnight. Zappos, with their online business model including free returns, has transformed the shoe market into a hotbed of growth. A declining major educational institution finally realized they were focused on traditional competitors and were failing to consider “blind side” online competitors; hopefully it is not too late. By identifying your “blind side” you uncover organizational vulnerability. Next, challenge the company to overcome the problem that would allow a new market entrant in that space to be successful. Then your company can grab share from its traditional competitors.
2. Play Moneyball. The book Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game, establishes a correlation between certain performance stats and outcomes. The stage is Major League Baseball, but the same principles apply to our industries and businesses. The challenge is the stats you think matter may not be the ones that count. In baseball it is not homeruns but on base percentage that correlates with wins. For zoos, attendance revenue is linked to weather. For ophthalmology production labs, delays that cause the customer to get their glasses later than promised can eat away at their customer retention. What is the one number your company could track that will correlate with future success more than any other? What if you spent the majority of your time and resources aimed at improving the performance of that one statistic?
3. Ask, Don’t Tell. When I speak with CEO’s about growth, the number one question is how to engage employees in the journey. While you are the key communicator of your company’s growth strategy, we need to stop telling them how to implement it and start asking them. Big picture thinking may occur in the board room, but it doesn’t get implemented there. You only need to have one question in your repertoire, “How does that action/decision make this organization more likely to reach our goals?” To answer that question, your employee has to understand the strategy and how their idea fits, what the customer wants, how you make money, and market trends to know if the result would be sustainable. Encourage your managers to ask this question too. Don’t give in to the temptation to answer it for them but provide them opportunities to learn what they need to know about the business to answer it well. Eventually, your bandwidth has been multiplied and you rest better knowing there are dozens or hundreds of problem solvers working on company growth.
Each of these leadership practices helps leaders focus on what really matters, provides greater clarity to the organization about how to make valuable contributions, and establishes accountability where it belongs. As a result, the rate of performance improvement is accelerated, and the company reignites to next stage growth.