Three “Common Denominators”

As I touched on in a recent post, I have the chance in my consulting practice to work with a wide variety of clients and companies.  Ranging from food and technology startups, to billion dollar produce and engineering companies, to a massive global bio-technology organization the breadth of companies and verticals is significant and humbling.  What is interesting across all of my experiences/engagements is that while the companies and industries vary greatly, there continues to be a small set of common issues/challenges/opportunities… or “common denominators”… that are the center of my work across assignments.  Today I want to reflect on the three “common denominators” that I keep bumping into most often.

The Impact of Personal Leadership

Leaders matter and have a real impact on an organization and so often these individuals lose track of the importance of their roles, their work, their actions, and their impact.  Think about times in your career where there has been a leadership change and that moment signaled a real change in the business and company culture, good or bad.  I think back to a leadership change that i witnessed very closely where I left a key leadership role and watched an organization really struggle both in its marketplace performance metrics and its employee engagement and company culture.  In my consulting work, I often work with leaders who underestimate their impact and are candidly not prepared for the leadership roles they occupy.  This idea of nurturing/building future leaders has come up as a priority that I am taking into many of my client assignments today.  How can we help the future leaders of tomorrow get ready, build skills, and maybe even practice a bit in their roles today??
I have written a number of essays on leadership, two that are among the most read essays on this blog and may be worth reading (or maybe re-reading) to amplify this topic:

> “A Teachable Point of View”;

> “The Three Impact Points of Leadership”;

“Execution” is a/the strategy

In assignment after assignment I keep running into the dynamic where good or even great ideas are executed poorly in the marketplace and performance metrics suffer.  Execution matters and this idea of focusing on the “how” not just the “what” is a big deal and is becoming a major focus in my consulting practice.  Maybe it just doesn’t seem “sexy” or intellectually sophisticated to “sweat the details” and work on an execution/implementation plan for a project but as I continue on in my 30+ year business career it seems more important than ever.  Recently I wrapped up a project for a large client who has really struggled in their market over the past few years and lost a significant amount of market share.  They wanted to understand the key actions/strategies of their primary competitors, trying to understand how they took so much share over the past five years.  After digging into the data, it became clear that there was no magic equation or unique insight that the competitors brought to market, they just “out-executed” my client at every turn, across a number of years and the marketplace impact had been dramatic.  Here are a few essays on this topic that maybe helpful to review:

> “Plan the “How”, not just the “What””;

> “Good ideas executed brilliantly”;

“Focus” is key for all, do fewer things better

We live and work in a time when the tempo of business has never been faster and the need to balance and handle a wide variety of topics,priorities, and projects is a day to day reality.  Its hard to remember that I started my business career in the mid eighties, with no cell phones, no internet, just the beginning of PC’s and the technology today lets us do so much more than I could have ever imagined 30+ years ago!  It’s in this context that I have seen the need to improve our “focus” and actually work hard on doing “fewer things better.”  Just because we can “pull off” a project or a meeting doesn’t mean we should do that if we can’t do it well.  There are so many examples of this dynamic to review but a recent one brought a smile to my face.  I was sitting at the Raleigh airport, waiting for my flight back to Atlanta, and my gate just happened to be at the base of the escalators coming from security.  I watched a young man, trying to put on his belt, carry a backpack and a coat, and pull his roller-bag while texting or emailing on his phone as he stepped onto the escalator.  It was almost comic to watch, but while thankfully no one was hurt, he dropped his roller bag which fell down the escalator and somehow lost track of his belt (I am still not sure where the belt ended up) and the calamity at the bottom of the escalators was astounding.  ‘Do fewer things better” immediately came to mind in that moment as it often does in my client engagements today.  I often work to “take things off” my clients’ plates, so we can actually focus in on fewer priorities and work hard to  execute them well.  Again, the following are a few essays that bring this idea more to life:

> “Inflection points of a business, focus on fewer things to insure success” ;

> “Myopia, a strategy for sales, business, and life” :

These three “common denominators” continue to surface across my business landscape today and may be present in yours.  Take a few minutes and reflect on some of the linked essays and see how you might be able to share these ideas with your teams and put them into practice in your assignments today!