The 5 Challenges Leaders Face

What are the top 5 challenges for leaders globally, and how can you deal with them?

by Andrew Cooke, Growth & Profit Solutions

Leaders are under increasing pressure having to deal with more, with less, whilst having to handle the 5 challenges of the modern business world.

This article looks at each of the five major challenges in turn and identifies the key strategies that leaders need to develop to meet these challenges and, in doing so, become great leaders in turn and to develop leaders within the business at all levels.

Andrew’s 5 Challenges for Leaders

1. Dealing with the New Business Reality

2. Paradoxes Moving from “Either/Or” to “And”

3.Restore Confidence & Trust

4. To Collaborate & Empower

5. Building Individual & Organizational Resilience

Challenge 1: Dealing with the New Business Reality

The world for leaders is changing, and the rate at which this is occurring is increasing exponentially whilst its effects are being seen, and compounded, in 4 different areas:

  1. Volatilitythe increasing rate, amount, and magnitude of change
  2. Uncertainty – the amount of unpredictability inherent in issues and events
  3. Complexitythe increasing amount of dependency and interac­tive effects between multiple factors and driver.
  4. Ambiguity the degree to which information, situa­tions, and events can be interpreted in multiple ways.

For further information on this see How to Manage Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity and Ambiguity – Part 1

To deal with these factors, leaders need to develop on an integrated basis, the following:

  1. Vision – having a clear picture of the purpose of your business and where you are going.
  2. Understanding – the leader takes the time to stop, look and listen to what is happen, this is beyond their functional expertise and beyond just their business.
  3. Clarity – the leader needs to spend the time and effort in deliberately working to make sense of the chaos that exists.
  4. Agility – the ability to communicate openly across the organization and to move quickly to apply solutions, the rapid prototyping of ideas & actions to develop solutions.

For further information on this see How to Manage Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity and Ambiguity – Part 2.

Challenge 2: Paradoxes Moving from “Either/Or” to “And”

Leaders are having to make decisions and deal with increasingly juxtaposed areas: for example, do we mass produce or customise our offerings, do we focus on the short-term or the long-term etcetera. Usually this has been treated as an either/or choice or, at best,  achieving a blend between the two and effecting a compromise.  Either of these two ways are often sub-optimal and limit the future opportunities.

FROM

5 challenges for leaders - pic01 Leaders need to manage these paradoxical situations and to meet both sets of demands simultaneously to survive and thrive.  Leaders need to achieve a balance between multiple sets of demands, requiring them to be able to quickly weigh and evaluate the situation and to obtain multiple perspectives from others to incorporate in the development and execution of the appropriate strategy.

TO 5 challenges for leaders - pic02

Challenge 3: Restore Confidence & Trust

Research from Sirota has shown a steady decline over the last 5-6 years in the level of people’s confidence in their business, their leaders, and the future.

This is reflected in the 2013 Edelman Trust Barometer, with nearly two-thirds of people 5 challenges for leaders - pic03only believing what is said by companies having heard it three to five times.  This reflects both the high level of skepticism and the fact that messages need repeating to get through the ‘noise’ of the environment.

Leaders need to restore confidence and trust in themselves, the business and the future.  This needs to extend to include the external stakeholders, not just the only internal stakeholders (e.g. employees).  In doing this leader need to provide clear direction, clear and consistently understood the message, and that everyone is aligned with this by ensuring the core values are commonly understood and applied throughout the business.  This needs to ensure that the systems & processes and reward systems actively support this.

Challenge 4: To Collaborate & Empower

To lead in an increasingly challenging environment requires leaders, counter-intuitively, to loosen controls to gain more control.  Being able to adapt and anticipate to the new business reality requires leaders to review and refine their goals, and to create an inspiring vision which is clearly articulated and understood to all levels of the business empower-network-leverageinternally, and to external stakeholders.  In doing these leaders need to be open to new ideas and perspectives, and to extend their networks of relationships. They also need to ensure that the business has the right core values and that these are actively supported and built into how business is done.  This creates a strong, pervading culture that aligns people and what they do.

To drive better communication and coordination between departments, and to reduce internal turf-fights and conflicting objectives, the vision needs to be shared and cascaded appropriately at each level.  Furthermore, in doing this, leaders across the business and at all levels need to be empowered with the responsibility and authority to achieve their goals, to be equipped with the necessary skills and capabilities to carry them out, and enable them to perform by providing the necessary support to actively developing both their skills and potential as leaders and those of their reports.

Challenge 5: Building Individual & Organisational Resilience

In dealing with new business reality leaders need to help their people and their organization to build resilience and agility.  This includes the ability to move quickly, decisively. effectively and proactively whilst capitalizing on existing strengths, developing new strengths and identifying current strengths which may become weaknesses or liabilities as the business and market environments change,

resilience pictureThe importance of developing people resilience, including engaging people emotionally whilst growing and developing them, and providing them with a sense of purpose and belonging, is reflected in the findings of the 2012 American Psychological Association Workplace Survey reported.  In this, it reported that 41% (over two out of every five employees) of employed adults feel stressed out during the workday.

The top 5 sources of stress were identified as:

  1. Low salaries
  2. Lack of opportunity or growth or advancement
  3. Too heavy of a workload
  4. Long hours
  5. Uncertain or undefined job expectations

Furthermore, less than half of employees reported:

  • Being satisfied with the growth and development opportunities offered by their employer (46%)
  • Being satisfied with the employee recognition practices of their employer (48%).
  • Feeling they are receiving adequate monetary compensation (48%).

The importance of having employees who feel valued is also important:

  • Employed adults who report feeling valued by their employer are significantly more likely to report they are motivated to do their very best for their employer (93% vs. 33%).
  • They are also more likely to report they would recommend their workplace to others (85% vs. 19%).
  • On the other hand, those who do not feel valued are significantly more likely to report that they intend to seek employment outside of their company next year (50% vs. 21%).

Summary

In dealing with these five challenges leaders need to have an integrated and disciplined approach.  At its essence is the ability to empower, enable and equip people and leaders at all levels in the organization.  Critical to doing this is building the necessary skills and capabilities into their day to day work.

To develop the necessary individual, team and organizational agility and flexibility leaders need to develop and embed the skills into how they work, allowing experiential learning to occur as they learn and apply the new skills in addressing and gaining traction with key challenges and opportunities.  Providing the on-going support to help the teams and individuals is essential to this, and by enabling people to teach what they have learned to their peers, team members and reports they can gain mastery and continue to deliver sustainable results.  This produces not only in-house skills and capabilities but creates leadership bench strength and an on-going leadership pipeline on which the organization can draw to meet current and future needs.

Click here to find out more about Andrew Cooke and Growth & Profit Solutions.

Why Customer Satisfaction is Irrelevant

Don’t assume that because your surveys show that your clients are satisfied it will mean that they will be loyal…

by Andrew Cooke, Growth & Profit Solutions

A common mistake to make is that client satisfaction and client loyalty are positively correlated i.e. that higher the level of client satisfaction the higher the level of client loyalty. customer loyalty satisfaction

Working in a harder and more competitive environment often results in businesses focusing on marketing and selling to get new clients. While continuing to bring in new clients is necessary for a business’ survival, so is keeping your current clients loyal to your firm.

Satisfaction vs. Loyalty

How loyal are your clients?  And how loyal are your “very satisfied” clients?  The answer may surprise you, your clients might be more likely to switch to a different provider than you think. In a 2009 study, across professional service industries, it was found that:

  • Only 48% of clients are “very satisfied” with their service provider

and that

  • 60% of these clients would consider switching service providers

Results by Industry

satisfaction vs loyalty

So what does this mean?

It means that fewer clients are loyal to you than you think.  It also is likely that your perception of the real situation as regards your clients’ loyalty is significantly over-optimistic.

For example, a legal firm that equates client satisfaction with client loyalty would assume, on the basis of the above numbers, that 50% of its clients were “loyal”.  The reality is that of this 50% of “loyal” customers over half are likely to switch to another provider. This means that only 25% of the firm’s clients are loyal – it has over-estimated the number of loyal clients it has by a factor of two!  This has a significant on its ability to maintain and grow business, and the strategies and plans it needs to have in place.  In all likelihood, because people do not realise this, the firm will probably be following the wrong strategies, and this can be put the firm at risk.

As the competitive environment continues to intensify, it’s likely that other firms are marketing more aggressively to your own clients and, as this data suggests, a good portion of your clients may be open to having these switching conversations with your competitors.

Why do we make this mistake? It is because people confuse the two concepts of satisfaction and loyalty. The difference is like that between “like” and “love”. Let’s look at them separately.

Client Satisfaction

Client satisfaction is a tactical concept and measurement, and it speaks only to one moment in time – typically, right after a client has completed an interaction such as a purchase or has a problem solved. So measuring customer satisfaction merely tells you if you are doing your job, from the client’s perspective.  Clients express satisfaction in an intellectual and rational manner. In doing this, it makes people think. satisfaction guaranteed

Many organizations should be performing up to their customers’ expectations.  This is really just the basics.   While these days consumers are in the driver’s seat, the mindset tends toward “what have you done for me lately?” as opposed to “that transaction went well so I’m a customer for life.”  Thus, good customer satisfaction does not guarantee that you will continue to keep those customers.  How many times have you bought goods “satisfaction guaranteed”, yet gone to another product or provider even though you had a good or even excellent experience?  All of us have done so at one time or another.

Client Loyalty

Customer LoyaltyThis is a much more reliable and strategic measure.  True loyalty – much harder to earn than mere satisfaction – tells you that your customer wants to stick with you over the long haul and that they will share that feeling with others.  Loyalty derives not from “good” transactions but from exceeding the customer’s expectations on a repeated basis. Loyalty engages your client emotionally and makes them want to tell others about their experience of working with you and your relationship.  As such, emotions make people act!

Next Steps

It is much easier (not to mention more cost effective) to retain and grow your current clients than it is to continuously have to fill the pipeline with new prospects.   It is enough to get people to think, you need to get them act.  You need to engage them both intellectually and emotionally.

Have a look at your existing client base and assess their level of satisfaction. If you are not sure, then use this as an opportunity to ask them for constructive feedback, listen and learn.  Then begin to think, from their perspective, whether you have done enough to earn their loyalty – be specific about what you have done or not done as the client perceives it.  Do this individually and then come together as a group to discuss your scores, perceptions and to share insights.

Next Week

So, what does it take to build the type of relationships with your clients that keep them loyal and coming back to your firm year after year? We look at the 9 questions you need answered in next week’s blog.

Click here to find out more about Andrew Cooke and Growth & Profit Solutions.

The Difference Between Being Involved & Committed

The Chicken & The Pig

An executive coach is not a silver bullet for your problems.  But what do you need to do before you engage an executive coach, and to make sure you get the most out of your time with them?

Coaching is a two-way process and dialog, based on open, honest  communication and a strong commitment to self-improvement and learning.  It requires effort, discipline and humility – on both sides.

Commitment

But the question to ask yourself is are you ready to be coached?

Coaching starts with the coachee – the person being coached.  There is an old joke that goes, “How many shrinks does it take to change a light bulb? One, but the light bulb must want to change.”

If you want to be coached you need to be committed: “The difference between involvement and commitment is like ham and eggs. The chicken is involved; the pig is committed”

Unless you are willing to change, and are committed to doing so, then no coach can help you.  Before a coach can help you, you need to help yourself so you in turn can help others.  It is like being on an airplane when an emergency occurs – the first instruction is for you to put you oxygen mask on yourself before you help others.  So you need to be willing to change before any other change can take place.  Change starts with you, not with others.

Even if we think that we want to change this is not always true.  The human capacity for self-deception is well-known.  We can rationally believe that we want to change, but unless we are emotionally invested in changing it will not last.  Logic makes people think, but emotions makes people act.

We often overestimate our capacity to change ourselves.  Even in situations which can be life-threatening our resistance to changing ourselves.  Studies show that, when giving up smoking, it takes on average seven attempts and five years; and that half of those quit on New Year’s Eve start smoking again within ten days.  This is despite the overwhelming evidence and availability of information on the risks associated with smoking.

How Do We Reduce Our Resistance to Change

1. Create Commitment, Not Compliance

Research has shown that compliance, when you are responding to a demand, incentive or threat only works in the short-term.  As soon as the pressure is removed people revert to their original behavior.  This is because we are not motivated to change – motivation only comes from within yourself, not externally.  Demands, incentives or threats are there to make you avoid something.

Commitment comes from within you because you are personally engaged in achieving a personal change.  This is the only way of maintaining the change for the long-term and on an on-going basis.  As such commitment comes from your beliefs and mindset.

However, a mindset is not just brought into being.  It has to be developed – you need to view the change as an opportunity and not a problem; to see the opportunity to grow the pie rather than seeing it as of a fixed size where others only gain if you lose and vice-versa.

2.  Commit to the Coaching Process, Don’t Just Participate

When it comes to a breakfast of eggs and bacon there is a major difference – the chicken is participating, but the pig is committed.  Which are you – the chicken or the pig – when it comes to the coaching process?  You need to be invested in it and have skin in the game.

3. Be Honest with Yourself

Do you really want someone to coach you and to be candid and honest with you? Or are you looking for having you ego stroked and lots of unqualified encouragement?  If you are the latter then don’t hire a coach – save your money and don’t waste the coach’s time.

Coaching will do nothing for you unless you are willing to change.  Be clear on whether you want to be coached or not, what you want to achieve from the process, and whether you are committed to it or not.  It’s up to you.

Click here to find out more about Andrew Cooke and Growth & Profit Solutions.

9 Ways to Accelerate Customer Loyalty

9 questions to ask to help you keep clients loyal – now and in the future.

 

Customer LoyaltyLast week we looked at the difference between client satisfaction and client loyalty, and the mistake commonly made by leaders in the belief that client satisfaction and client loyalty are positively correlated i.e. that higher the level of client satisfaction the higher the level of client loyalty.

Research has shown that the more value you deliver, the more satisfied your clients will be. The more satisfied they are, the more likely they will be to stay loyal to your firm and refer other clients to you.  There is good logic here, but it makes an assumption which is often not explicit or valid in most instances.

Have you ever had a client for whom you have delivered value, for which they are highly satisfied – and who have then awarded a deal to someone else for any reason?  Most people have had this experience.  We have found that there is a disconnect between our delivering value and our realising client loyalty.

The fault is ours, not theirs.

If we are to keep our clients’ loyalty we need to focus on our clients’ perception of your value and our clients’ perception of your differentiation.  The flawed assumption that is often made is that we look at the value delivered, and how we differentiate ourselves, from our perspective not that of the client.

If you want to keep your clients loyal, you need the answers to nine questions—some of which are focused on the clients’ perception of your value, and others on the clients’ perception of your differentiation.

Five Questions for Valuevalue men

Question #1: What value do clients perceive regarding our general category of company and services?

Perhaps your clients value that you are a diversified marketing company, not just a website firm. Or, that you are a specialist in XYZ, not a generalist. Perhaps they value that you are a family business versus a corporation. How clients perceive your type and category of company will resonate with many buyers.

Question #2: What is the value clients perceive regarding us as a firm?

You might find that clients value your innovation and don’t care as much that you’re periodically unresponsive. Or, that they value your client service excellence, but your technical reputation doesn’t matter quite as much. Maybe there are areas they don’t value or where you are falling down in your delivery.  Clients are not interested in what you do, rather they are interested in the value that you can help them realise.  Be clear on what value they see from your business, and where this value is created, and when, and for how long it lasts.

Question #3: What value do clients perceive regarding the specific services we offer?

This allows you to know what’s working for clients, which services you offer that are the strongest, and where you deliver the best value.

You might also learn that your clients don’t even know you offer particular services. Familiarity, in this case, breeds contempt – one side assuming the other knows, and the other not knowing because they’ve never been told.

Question #4: What value do clients perceive in solving the specific problems they currently have?

We all have problems, but not all problems are created equally. If you know the key priorities for a client, then you can help the client tackle them.  Don’t assume that the client always knows what the problem is – by framing the problem appropriately you can help them to see problems clearly, or to see problems that they never realised they had, or that they had failed to anticipate.  This can be exceptionally valuable to a client.

Question #5: What value do clients perceive they might get if they could solve certain problems or accomplish certain things that they aren’t focusing on right now or might not see as priorities?

In doing this we help clients to create a better future or one that they may not have even known was possible. By helping clients solve problems they didn’t know they could solve, and making improvements they didn’t know they could make, service providers score higher on satisfaction (that, as we mentioned, is an indicator of future loyalty).

differentiationFour Questions on Differentiation

Question #6: What different options do the clients perceive they have regarding different categories of companies that can help solve problems or achieve goals?

Sometimes it doesn’t matter as much which specific companies your client might view as what the other options are that they might be considering.  As such you need to know the types and categories of companies offering services in your region. For example, as a management training company, with a core set of services in classroom training, you need to know if your buyers are considering e‐learning providers—and how to position yourself against them

Question #7: What different options do clients perceive they have regarding specific companies that can help them solve problems?

You need to know your distinctions, advantages, and disadvantages when compared with them. This is from the client’s perspective – not yours.

Question #8: What different options do clients perceive they have regarding specific services available to help them solve problems?

How do clients perceive they can solve their problems?  Can you create options around what they need, rather than what you, to help them think about how they could use you – rather than should they use you!

Question #9: What different options do clients perceive they have regarding other ways to solve problems, such as internal staff?

Competitors are not always the biggest source of competition.  Competition also comes from the option of the client doing it themselves, not doing it at all, changing the scope and extent of the project, or giving preference (and thus some or the entire allocated budget) to other internally competing projects and priorities.

Next Steps

Go through these questions with your clients.  Get it from the horse’s mouth.  Compare this with how you see it, where are the biggest gaps, and which areas are the priority for addressing.

Thanks to Mike Schultz of Wellesley Hills Group whose work provided the basis for much of this article.

Click here to find out more about Andrew Cooke and Growth & Profit Solutions.

5 Strategies for Hard Times

5 Things to Do When Times Are Tough

When the business environment is becoming harder, here are 5 strategies to help you focus your effort, time, resources and investment.

tough times ahead Every few years the business cycle turns down and things get tough. For good business people, this is a sign to get going because with competitors struggling, it is a great time to build your business. There are two key areas you need to focus on, your survival and your growth. This paper outlines just five things you must do to make the best out of the general business downturn. Follow the suggestions made and you will not only survive, you will prosper.

1. CASH FLOW

Cash is the lifeblood of every business.  You need to get as much cash as you can into the business and protect it once you have it.

  • Where do you have cash stored? It may be with your customers who are slow in paying you. It may be in overheads that you don’t need. It may be in assets that you don’t really need to own.
  • If you had to get some money within 30 days, how much could you get in if you really put all your effort into it?
  • Look at the cash going out of your business. Can you stop spending in any areas?  Can you slow down the speed at which it goes out?

2. RETAIN YOUR PEOPLE

In most businesses that employ people you have a third of your staff that you are lucky to have, a third you would do be better without and the remaining third are somewhere in-between. In tough times you must protect your best people, the top two-thirds (maybe you need to get rid of the bottom third?).

  • How can you make sure you keep the ones you need?
  • Do they have contracts?
  • Do you reward them?
  • Do you tell them how much you appreciate their efforts?
  • Is working with you fun?

3. RETAIN YOUR CUSTOMERS

Keeping your best customers is much like keeping your best employees. Work out who the top two-thirds are and spend time on them.

  • Find out what problems they are having and what you can do to help them.
  • Keep in close contact with them on what you are doing for them.
  • Thank them for their business; ask if they can give more business.
  • Do they have any friends who they can refer you to?
  • Are you linking your best people with your best customers?
  • How can you help your customer increase their business?

4. IMPROVE YOUR PROFIT

Cash and profit are closely related. Around 20-30% of your operational expenses are due to waste in your business. You could remove that waste and the savings become instant profit (and probably cash).

  • Can you reduce your overheads? What about your people and material costs?
  • If by law you had to double your profit within three months what would you do? Why not just do it anyway?
  • Do you really know what profit you make each year? What about each month? What about each day?
  • Where do you make your profit? Did you know that 20% of your customers and 20% of your products (and services) generates 80% of your profit? Why not just focus on these customers and products for the next six months?

5. MAINTAIN YOUR ENERGY

When you are energized your business is energized. You must develop and guard your energy levels.

  • Are you fit?
  • Do you love what you do?
  • Are the people you work with fun to be with or are they energy vampires?
  • Do you work too hard?
  • Do you make time for yourself?

Time management is the biggest thing to address in tough times. 20% of what you do generates 80% of the benefit you are to your business (and family) so what are you doing for the rest of the time? Maybe if you stop doing some of the low-value stuff, you will boost your energy levels.

Getting your business under control is critical in tough times. There is no point in growing a business that does not have good cash flow, profit or leadership. Get these five things largely right and your business will grow. Every leader and every business is different, so you need to decide where to start. All five strategies are equally important and the need for discipline and accountability for them lies with everyone – the responsibility is yours, it is up to you to make it happen.

Click here to find out more about Andrew Cooke and Growth & Profit Solutions.