Don’t Be A
Holly G. Green
Are you a rule fool?
Do you continue to use outdated rules (assumptions, beliefs
and old data) to guide your decisions regarding products, services,
customers, employees, and markets?
Some rules are timeless. Wait your turn. No pushing in
line. Yield to pedestrians. Treat others the way you would like to
be treated. Clearly, these rules are better obeyed than broken.
But many of the rules that informed and guided previous generations
of business leaders no longer apply. In today’s topsy-turvy
business world, if you’re not breaking rules on a regular basis,
your customers and markets have probably already left you behind.
Most business leaders intuitively know that they need to do
things differently. But many struggle when it comes to determining
which rules they should hang on to and which ones they should cast
aside for newer ways of thinking.
In working with clients around the world, I have found two
areas in particular where it makes sense to throw out the old
rulebook in favor of the new. One involves the skills, attitudes
and mindsets required to lead companies in rapidly changing
markets. The other has to do with how you go about managing people
and work processes. In these areas, I recommend forgetting most (or
all) of what you think you know and adopting new ways of leading
your people and your organization. For example:
Maintain the status quo.
Strive to create change: Most companies wait for change and then
react to it. Instead, learn to anticipate change, plan for it, and
make it happen on your terms. If you’re constantly reacting to
change, you’re letting others dictate the game for you.
Focus your competitive research inside your industry.
Stretch your competitive horizons: The next competitor that rocks
your world may well come from outside your industry. So it’s no
longer enough to study just your obvious competitors. In today’s
world, competitors can pop up at any time, anywhere around the
globe, and the product or service that puts you out of business
probably hasn’t even been invented yet. To stay ahead of the game,
monitor new products and trends that occur both inside and outside
your industry. In particular, watch for innovations outside your
industry that have the potential to eliminate the value you provide
Management’s job is to make decisions.
Management’s job is to facilitate decisions made by those closest to
the customer: In the old days, when business leaders held most of
the information close to their vests, it made sense to make most of
the decisions. Today, customers often have more information about
your products and markets than you do. And with the advent of
social media, you have even less control over the messages people
hear about your products and services. Your job is to put employees
in a position to make the best possible decisions for the customer
and for the company.
Rock the boat! Most people associate conflict with problems. In
reality, conflict creates opportunity to get the real issues out in
the open and help people work through them. It all depends on how
you manage it. Today’s market leaders purposefully create conflict
and manage it constructively so that people gain alignment around
where the company needs to go and what they need to do to get there.
Tell employees what to do, when to do it and how to do it.
Give employees the resources and support they need, then stand back
and let them do their jobs: The old “command and control” paradigm
makes sense in a world where little changes. In a chaotic world,
not so much. Today’s employees want to bring their brains as well
as their bodies to the workplace. If you want their full energy,
passion and commitment, communicate the goals over and over, inspire
employees about reaching them, and then turn people loose to achieve
Markets have predictable life spans and earnings curves
Today’s markets can (and do) disappear overnight: Believing that
your product or service will move smoothly along a predictable curve
invites complacency, which, in turn, invites disaster. Never take
anything for granted. Constantly check in with your customers and
ask, “What has changed for you in the past six months to a year?
How can we help you address your new circumstances?”
Strategic planning involves creating a 5-year plan.
Look 12 to 24 months (at most) into the future: Five years ago, who
would have predicted the collapse of the real estate and banking
industries? Who would have predicted Obama would get elected
president? When rapid change becomes the norm rather than the
exception, our ability to predict the future with any accuracy goes
out the window. Short-term (12 to 24 months) is the new long-term.
Perhaps the most important new rule for today’s uncertain
market realities is to constantly challenge what you think you know
about your business and the world in general. Don’t allow yourself
to get comfortable with the status quo. Don’t allow yourself to get
stuck thinking that what has made you successful so far will
continue to make you successful in the future. And if you haven’t
re-evaluated your customers’ wants and needs within the past six
months to a year, do so now!
Letting go of
rules that have served you well in the past can be difficult, but
holding on to them can be fatal. What rules are you holding onto
that you should be letting go?
Read other articles and learn more about
Holly G. Green.
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