The Real Costs of Poor Management & Leadership

The Cost of Management & Leadership Shortfalls

by  Andrew Cooke, Growth & Profit Solutions

The costs and risks associated with having weak managers and leaders are often overlooked.  What does it mean to you?  How can you overcome it?  And what are the benefits of doing so?

A recent report from the UK’s Department for Business, Innovation & Skills Leadership and Management Network Group (LMNG), showed the UK’s economy has been negatively impacted by a lack of training and support for new managers.  Across 18 management practices by country the UK ranked 6th, whilst Australia ranked 9th – behind France and just ahead of Mexico.  This strongly suggests that the findings for the UK are equally applicable to the Australia and that there is a stronger sense of urgency.

John Hayes MP, UK Minister of State for Further Education, Skills, and Lifelong Learning, suggests that effective leadership is what makes the difference for successful, innovative companies. “Strong leadership and management is a key factor in fostering innovation, unlocking the potential of the workforce and ensuring organisations have the right strategies to drive productivity and growth.”

However, in the UK the research shows that effective management is the exception rather than the rule.

Too many of our organisations, both private and public, are failing to achieve their full potential: managerial shortcomings and a lack of strategic thinking are holding them back. Overcoming these weaknesses and improving our leadership and management capability is fundamental to creating a culture where more organisations have the ambition, confidence, resilience and skills to respond to the current economic challenges and compete successfully both nationally and globally.”

By providing more comprehensive management training and development for budding leaders, companies can gain the edge over competitor firms.

Key Findings of the UK Research:

  • Ineffective management is estimated to be costing UK businesses over £19billion per year in lost working hours.
  • 43% of UK managers rate their own line manager as ineffective – and only one in five are qualified.
  • Nearly three quarters of organisations in England reported a deficit of management and leadership skills in 2012, contributing to the productivity gap with countries like the US, Germany and Japan.
  • Incompetence or bad management of company directors causes 56 % of corporate failures

Quite simply, improving leadership and management capability is an issue that no organisation wishing to achieve long-term success can afford to ignore. There is no question that good leadership and management can have a truly significant impact on organisational performance, both in the immediate and longer term.

  • Best-practice management development can result in a 23% increase in organisational performance.
  • Effective management can significantly improve levels of employee engagement.
  • A single point improvement in management practices (rated on a five-point scale) is associated with the same increase in output as a 25% increase in the labour force or a 65% increase in invested capital.

Business’ long-term success is dependent on developing these management and leadership skills, these  are crucial to ensuring high performance working and business success. This is especially true as more new managers and leaders will be needed over the next decade as the number of experienced baby-boomer managers and leaders who are retiring increases.

Why are businesses underperforming when it comes to developing their talent pipeline in management and leadership?  There are a number of reasons including relatively low levels of training, shortages of key skills, the failure to apply skills strategically, and employer concern about the relevance of training provision, have also been identified as potential reasons. Other factors include difficulties in recruiting graduates with the right skills, particularly for small and medium sized companies; a perception that leadership and management skills are something you “pick up” on the job; and lack of clarity about the specific leadership and management skills and behaviours managers need to display.

Improving our leadership and management capability makes sound business sense. Helping managers at all levels to develop the right skills and behaviours will ensure organisations have the ability to adapt, innovate and evolve, and seize the growth opportunities that lie ahead.

So what are you going to do?

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.

How to Focus on What You Can Influence to Get Results

You have limited time, resources and energy to expend on getting work done, projects completed and achieving the results you are looking for.  As such you need to be able to use these limited and finite resources effectively.  To do this you need to be able to distinguish between what lies within your Circle of Concern and your Circle of Influence as shown in the picture below:

Circle of Concern and Influence

  • The Circle of Concern – this larger circle encompasses  everything that you are concerned about, including those things over which you exert no control or influence e.g. the level of tax, terrorist threats, the current interest rate on loans and mortgages etcetera.  We tend to waste a lot of our time, effort and mental energy in the Circle of Concern.  This produces nothing as we are unable to overcome the inertia or have any effect.
  • The Circle of Influence is smaller, and it encompasses those things that we can do something about.  These are those things where we can be proactive and, by taking action for ourselves, address them. Here we invest our time, energy and effort on the things that we can change.  This produces results and momentum forward.

The two circles – Concern and Influence – are about the choices you make and the results you want.

The Circle of Concern is where you find people who focus on that which they cannot influence. They are reactive, stressed and ineffectual.  The Circle of Influence is where we find people who choose to focus on things that they can influence.

By focusing attention and energy on our circle of influence, people are increasingly proactive. The energy we expend is enlarging; each small victory motivates us further exert influence. We don’t waste energy on things we can do nothing about, but direct it towards what we can change. With each step we feel stronger and more creative. And so our circle of influence expands.

By focusing on what we can influence we also start to understand better what we cannot influence. We develop a better understanding of our circle of concern, and what it includes and does not include – it may even expand our circle of concern. This provides us with a fuller and better appreciation of the context in which we work, and helps us to better focus on our efforts on what we can influence. It can be incredibly liberating to realize that, in choosing how to respond to circumstances, we affect those circumstances. If we want to cope with the challenges we face, then we need to learn how we can influence them.

Share this diagram with your team, colleagues, and clients to help them distinguish between the two, what lies within their Circle of Influence whilst being aware of what lies within their Circle of Concern – and to focus their efforts on what they can influence, not that over which they have no control. This will provide greater traction, reduced stress and a more effective and productive team who can achieve results more easily.

To view or download a PDF version of this blog click here

If you found this article of use or interest please don’t hesitate to share it with others.

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.

How Middle-Management is at Risk

Why middle-management is essential for business survival and the risks you run of if you lose or alienate them.

The Challenges of Middle ManagementMiddle management.  Often described as the ‘backbone’ of the company, they provide the continuity across the business and the key people for getting things done; communicating and resolving problems up, down and across the line; translating strategy into action; leading key operational areas; have considerable expertise and experience within the business; providing linkages between senior executives and front-line staff; and are implementing and responding to change.

As such, middle management is crucial to the on-going success and survival of the business.  Senior executives are starting to appreciate their role and the impact of their work, but at a time when it becoming harder to develop and retain middle management.

Middle Management Stress & Turnover

In a recent poll by Lane4 in the UK (July 2012) more than 90% of workers believed that the vast majority of workplace stress was falling on middle management, and two in five (39%) of middle management reported that they were under severe stress.  As such, many mid-level managers are dissatisfied and would like to leave their current organization.   In harder times it is those middle managers who are your best and who perform well who find it easiest to find new roles and new opportunities.

This has several impacts on your business: firstly, the business will lose its top middle management talent, this will put an increase burden on those who are left behind; secondly, the exodus of mid-level talent seriously compromises the business’ future  leadership pipeline and its ability to have the right people in the right place to enable the business to grow and develop in the future; and finally those mid-level managers remaining will be the low-performers, who are more likely to be disengaged and who have “quit and stayed”.  All of this means that business’ ability to survive and thrive – especially in challenging times – is seriously compromised.

The Impact of Mid-Management Turnover

One of the current major growth challenges facing CEOs is the lack of key talent to enable them to grow the business.  This is exacerbated with the turnover of good mid-level manager as it compromises the business’ ability to execute the CEO’s strategy and drive results and outcomes.

Furthermore, the costs of middle management turnover are also high.  A common rule of thumb is to assess the cost of a middle manager to the bottom-line at one-and-a-half to two times their annual salary.  Assuming an average salary of $125,000 then this could mean $250,000 off your bottom line.  Alternatively, look at it in terms of the extra revenue you need to achieve just to stand still – assuming your net profit is 10%, then that is a further $2.5m of revenue required!

Practically, I think this heuristic is conservative.  Once you take into account the corporate knowledge, experience, expertise and insights that have been developed over a number of years you are looking at the loss of a very valuable contributor.  Furthermore, to recruit someone who is an equivalent is both difficult and expensive to do.

Causes of Mid-Management Stress

Middle management is under increasing stress for a number of reasons.  They are the people who have to lay off staff when the company downsizes (or more cynically “right-sizes”), in an environment of poor morale, having to do more with less, with little or no increase in salary or benefits whilst being responsible for more, a reduced opportunity for career progression, dealing with people who like them are worried and scared, and frequently being seen as an “unwanted layer” and at a high risk of being laid off themselves (often having had to lay off others first).

So what do we do?

Dealing with the Problem

In challenging times we need to maintain our middle management.  In economies which are struggling the senior executives need to work with and engage with their middle management even more closely.  It is at the mid-levels that the most important projects are, and reducing their resourcing is nigh on suicidal.  If the level of responsibility for middle management is extended, and their capacity and resources is limited or reduced, then you need to invest in their developing the necessary capabilities.  If this is not done then senior management will be faced with a “frozen” middle management compounded by cycles of low morale and low engagement.

Companies need to be resilient – leaders need to provide clear direction, they need engage the middle management and rebuild trust, and in doing so enable them to engage with their reports and teams in turn.  If you cut out the middle, then you are just left with the head and tail of the business – unable to do the necessary work effectively, and a corpse all but in name.

It may seem counter-intuitive but now is the time to invest in your middle management – this will pay off in terms of loyalty, results and longer-term growth.  Treat your key people as an investment, not a cost to be cut but people to be valued, developed and through whom you can achieve leverage and significant returns.

So what are you going to do?

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

How Trust Drives Results

What do high-performing organizations focus on as opposed from low-performing organizations, and what differentiates how they do it?

Businesses are under pressure, there is no doubt about that – but what are businesses focusing on and why in these difficult times?  A recent report from Interaction Associates (Building Trust in 2012) found the top 3 priorities for business to be:

  1. Top line/revenue growth
  2. Profit growth
  3. Improvements to Productivity and Efficiency

No surprise here – but what is interesting is the way in which high performing organizations (those whose net profit grew more than 5% over the last year) and low-performing organizations (those under 5% over the last year or shrank) approached this.

High performing organizations focused on achieving this by focusing on the people aspects of the business, these include:

  • Customer loyalty and retention
  • Attraction, deployment, and development of talent
  • Business agility (speed, flexibility, adaptability to change)

Low-performing organizations focused on:

  • Improvements to productivity & efficiency
  • Cost reduction/becoming more efficient
  • Business agility (speed, flexibility, adaptability to change)

The focus here is more on the systems and processes to drive results and create agility, rather than having the right customers and right people to drive both revenue and profit growth (as with high performers).

So what does this mean?  Greater growth and profitability is driven by people. Systems, process improvements, and cost reductions can contribute towards growth – the only problem is that there is only so many times that you can cut the lawn before it starts to die off.  Conversely, focusing your attention on business and resources on the right customers and talent, rather than squandering it in a shotgun approach, enables you to grow the business with no limit on the upside.  For this, you need to inspire trust.

The key question then is this: are you trustworthy?  More to the point do your customers and staff think you are trustworthy?  What do you think you are – honestly?  And how would you assess how trustworthy you are? Share your thoughts here.

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

How to Bait Your Hook

What do good anglers know which we can use in driving stronger business growth and results?

Fishing is one of the most popular leisure time pursuits in the world.  There is something about going out there, rod in hand, to capture that ever elusive fish.  This takes time, patience, skill and – let’s be honest – a bit of luck.

One thing that experienced anglers do is that they don’t waste time in an unproductive location.  You can try a few casts, change the bait, but if the fish are not biting then it is time to move on to a new spot.

We need to be like good anglers – if the fish do not bite quickly, then be prepared to move on and try elsewhere.  You might try for the same fish in another location, or using different bait or lures, or even go after another type of fish.  You want to be in a market where you will get a positive reaction as early as possible.

Doing this will save you time, money and embarrassment – it will also allow you to learn from the experience, and to apply it in future fishing spots.  What we do or how good we think something is not important.  There is only one judge out there and that is the market, and the market only cares if what you’ve done meets its needs.

The lesson here is that business is not about us, it is about our customers.  The question I like to ask to illustrate is this: “Why do people buy a quarter-inch drill?

I get a lot of answers – to hang a picture, for home improvements, to replace my old hand-drill etcetera.  They are all wrong.

The answer is simple: “To drill a quarter-inch hole!”

Customers are not interested in the features of the drill – such as its colour, whether it is turbo-charged, the special safety grip it has etcetera – they are only interested in the outcome from using it.

So if your product or service is not getting traction or garnering the sales you want then you need to do three things:

  1. Check that your product or service provides the outcomes that the customers/market need (have your hook properly baited);
  2. Be prepared to change fishing holes if the fish aren’t biting
  3. Continually learn from your experience so that you can:
  • produce a product/service that better meets the needs of the market (don’t confuse this with a better product which has more features but still fails to address the needs) and;
  • find and locate better fishing holes more quickly.

What do you do to find the right fishing holes?  How long do you wait before you move to a different location?  Are you really focused on delivering the outcomes a customer needs or delivering the product or service itself?

Share your ideas, insights and experience!  Share the knowledge, share the wealth!

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