Today’s post is courtesy of Alison Eyring, author of the new book “Pacing For Growth”. Alison, Founder and CEO of Organisation Solutions, is a global thought leader with a focus on organizational growth. We welcome and thank Alison for her contribution today.
One Secret for Growth: It Takes More Than Vision
Loads of case studies have been written about companies that had great ideas and amazing visions but failed in the execution. Kodak’s vision was a world in which cameras could be carried in a shirt pocket. Motorola envisioned a day when the world would be connected without wires. Nortel’s vision was that everyone and every device could access voice, data, and images. They all had a great vision, happy customers, great brand names, and strong balance sheets. These visions weren’t wrong; they just didn’t matter because they weren’t executed before time ran out. The companies couldn’t build growth capacity fast enough to endure.
In the research my company conducted to understand the difference between leaders in high-growth businesses compared to slow- or no-growth businesses, we saw some remarkable differences in how the Growth Leaders focused their time and attention compared to the other leaders in the study.
Whereas every company in the study had a clear statement of vision and most leaders had either translated this for their business or had articulated their own growth vision or goals, the Growth Leaders invested far more of their time and energy creating focus and aligning resources to deliver growth. They helped others say no to non-priority projects or work, and they made tough choices about when and where to allocate resources. The other leaders seldom spoke about focus. Unlike the Growth Leaders, they invested their energy communicating the company’s vision and motivating employees to align themselves with it. Moreover, they always seemed to want to do more when, in my opinion, they might have achieved more by doing less.
Like my early vision to run a marathon, companies have vague visions of growth. Often these are found in investor reports and printed on posters hanging around office reception areas. “Double the business in 5 years,” “grow faster than the industry average,” and “profitably grow our business” are what they often sound like. Over the past 25 years, nearly every leader I’ve worked with has had goals about growth. Investors expect them. Bonuses are tied to them. Employees are motivated to deliver on them, especially when they, too, get to share in the benefits.
While some visions are motivating and many are translated into specific goals, too many become empty exhortations. Broad statements of hope—whether they are called a vision, growth goals, or aspirations—often mean little to employees and fail to drive growth.
We know from decades of academic research that too many growth efforts fail. Less than half of all acquisitions actually improve shareholder value. As many as 95 percent of new products introduced each year fail, according to Cincinnati research agency AcuPOLL. Nine out of 10 start-ups fail. Too often, we create a great vision for growth and then allow ourselves and others to get distracted. We fail to build the capabilities needed to achieve the vision because we don’t know where to focus or don’t have the discipline to follow through on the focus.
Excerpted from Ch. 5 of Pacing for Growth: Why Intelligent Restraint Drives Long-term Success, by Alison Eyring (Berrett-Koehler Publishers, 2017)
Alison Eyring is a global thought leader on building organizational capacity for growth. Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Organisation Solutions, Alison has 25 years of experience in large-scale organization design and change and executive development. She works closely with global leaders and their organizations, including Royal/Dutch Shell, BHP Billiton, Chubb Group of Companies, NEC, and Thomson Reuters. She also serves as an adjunct Associate Professor at the National University of Singapore. Her book, Pacing for Growth, is launching this week.
If many leaders took the time to be self-aware and accountable, they would discover so much about how they hamper their credibility and effectiveness in their role.
In today’s world of shifting blame, wanting immediate (though unrealistic) results, and rushing from task to task without deep thought, many leader’s today run into traps that an honest self-assessment and shoring up can avoid. Here are some ways that leaders, and perhaps yourself, may be destroying our credibility as an effective and respected leader:
- Blaming others for a ball dropped on our end
- Not listening to instructions, expectations, feedback, or requests
- Pushing through to get results, or other subtle or overt ways of bullying
- Making hyperbolic claims to generate an emotional response and get a desired outcome
- Having an unrealistic time frame or expectation
- Being frustrated at other’s inefficiency or incompetence when they were not properly trained
- Not communication expectations and being frustrated when they are not met
- Being late, short in tone, or barely engaged in any personal interaction
- Calling others to account for failed performance without having all the facts
For any leader to have any success, they must be able to understand their thoughts and communicate them to everyone in their sphere. They must also come to grips with realism, both within themselves and with others, to ensure they know processes and improvement measures. Great leaders speak plainly, with facts, and take the heat for any missteps on their end. Overall, the best leaders are astute at gathering information, communicating if to everyone involved, and processing the feedback to improve performance, expectations, and processes with maximum engagement and minimal disconnect and confusion.
Determine to build these skills within yourself and watch the impact and turnaround your organization will reap from having a credible and capable leader who can properly process what goes on around them.
Today’s post is hosted by Chip R. Bell, noted leader, author, and customer experience advocate. Chip’s new book “Kaleidoscope – Innovative Service That Sparkles” launches this week, and is a solid companion to his previous release “Sprinkles” Chip’s ability to bring sensationally effective customer service ideas and simplify them in a way that empowers anyone to innovate their service is a true gift. “Kaleidoscope” does just that, as does his story below.
Lee Roy Clark was the grocer in my South Georgia hometown. He was my introduction to what it meant to be a “merchant”—courteous and eager to help all who came into his all-purpose store.
The business world is today rediscovering the value of service that permeated Lee Roy Clark’s very bones. This “rediscovery” is made to sound like a breakthrough–something absent from the past, newly found and terribly important. The Lee Roy Clarks of yesteryear get no credit for using methods now attributed to Zappos, Amazon, USAA, Nordstrom and Ritz-Carlton Hotels.
What happened between the 1950s version of small-town service and its present-day renaissance?
Before you chide that superior service involves much more than neighborly manners, let me add that Lee Roy Clark knew a lot about a service vision, customer-friendly processes and service recovery. He did what he did out of a solid grounding in the premise that serving implied an obvious devotion to his customers. Service to Lee Roy was about reciprocal power–his power to provide goods and services coupled with the customer’s power to keep him in business. Lee Roy acted out of a simple belief: “My customers are my neighbors.”
Lee Roy knew what his customers needed and expected. One day my father, a full-time banker AND full-time farmer, stopped in to buy a loaf of bread. “Mr. Bell,” said Lee Roy in his always polite voice, “I ordered you some of those fly strips for your pig house. Last time you were in here, you complained that the flies were about to take away your new farrowing house.” I wonder how many service organizations would stock an item based solely on data gathered through “fair weather” conversation. Lee Roy cared a lot more about service than inventory. And, when my father opted to NOT buy the yellow fly strips, Lee Roy acted neither hurt nor disappointed.
Lee Roy was also effective at recovering from a customer service breakdown. There was no need for a written “service guarantee”—Lee Roy WAS the guarantee. Instead of some version of “$3.00 off if…is late,” “You don’t owe me a thing” was his response. We need more Lee Roy’s instead of merchants who too frequently argue over a 99 cent carton of milk with a customer who, if loyal to that same store, could spend $40,000 over the average ten years they live in a given location.
My grandmother bought an ice cream churn from Lee Roy–the kind grandsons endlessly hand crank to turn thick cream into a summer eve’s delight. It was a July day when she unpacked it only to discover the crank was missing. “Lee Roy,” she complained, “you sold me a bum steer!” Lee Roy drove three miles out in the country with another churn. With him, he brought a fresh-baked apple pie and two gallons of “store bought” ice cream. Now, here is the best part: He sat out in the shade for a half hour with my grandmother quizzing her on her secrets for getting azaleas to grow big and healthy!
I suppose I’m on thin ice implying that it’s possible to simplify a very challenging issue. A few of the complex barriers to replicating Lee Roy’s brand of customer service include corporate bigness, bureaucracy, legal restrictions, diverse customer requirements, increased competition domestically and globally, and a scarcity of committed and competent employees.
Yet, I sometimes wonder if the question of customer loyalty really is simpler than we realize. Perhaps we just need to rekindle the passion to give customers the kind of devotion that guided Lee Roy Clark. It’s possible I am just a romantic, opting for nostalgia instead of accepting the cold reality of the present. But, then again, maybe not!
Chip R. Bell is a renowned keynote speaker and the author of several best selling books. His newest book is the just-released Kaleidoscope: Delivering Innovative Service That Sparkles. He can be reached at chipbell.com.