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Monthly Archives: March 2012

You’re the boss, but you still spend too much time on the day-to-day. Here’s how to become the strategic leader your company needs.

In the beginning, there was just you and your partners. You did every job. You coded, you met with investors, you emptied the trash and phoned in the midnight pizza. Now you have others to do all that and it’s time for you to “be strategic.”

Whatever that means.

If you find yourself resisting “being strategic,” because it sounds like a fast track to irrelevance, or vaguely like an excuse to slack off, you’re not alone. Every leader’s temptation is to deal with what’s directly in front, because it always seems more urgent and concrete. Unfortunately, if you do that, you put your company at risk. While you concentrate on steering around potholes, you’ll miss windfall opportunities, not to mention any signals that the road you’re on is leading off a cliff.

This is a tough job, make no mistake. “We need strategic leaders!” is a pretty constant refrain at every company, large and small. One reason the job is so tough: no one really understands what it entails. It’s hard to be a strategic leader if you don’t know what strategic leaders are supposed to do.

After two decades of advising organizations large and small, my colleagues and I have formed a clear idea of what’s required of you in this role. Adaptive strategic leaders — the kind who thrive in today’s uncertain environment – do six things well:

Anticipate 

Most of the focus at most companies is on what’s directly ahead. The leaders lack “peripheral vision.” This can leave your company vulnerable to rivals who detect and act on ambiguous signals. To anticipate well, you must:

  • Look for game-changing information at the periphery of your industry
  • Search beyond the current boundaries of your business
  • Build wide external networks to help you scan the horizon better

Think Critically

“Conventional wisdom” opens you to fewer raised eyebrows and second guessing. But if you swallow every management fad, herdlike belief, and safe opinion at face value, your company loses all competitive advantage. Critical thinkers question everything. To master this skill you must force yourself to:

  • Reframe problems to get to the bottom of things, in terms of root causes
  • Challenge current beliefs and mindsets, including their own
  • Uncover hypocrisy, manipulation, and bias in organizational decisions

Interpret 

Ambiguity is unsettling. Faced with it, the temptation is to reach for a fast (and potentially wrongheaded) solution.  A good strategic leader holds steady, synthesizing information from many sources before developing a viewpoint. To get good at this, you have to:

  • Seek patterns in multiple sources of data
  • Encourage others to do the same
  • Question prevailing assumptions and test multiple hypotheses simultaneously

Decide

Many leaders fall pretty to “analysis paralysis.” You have to develop processes and enforce them, so that you arrive at a “good enough” position. To do that well, you have to:

  • Carefully frame the decision to get to the crux of the matter
  • Balance speed, rigor, quality and agility. Leave perfection to higher powers
  • Take a stand even with incomplete information and amid diverse views

 Align

Total consensus is rare. A strategic leader must foster open dialogue, build trust and engage key stakeholders, especially when views diverge.  To pull that off, you need to:

  • Understand what drives other people’s agendas, including what remains hidden
  • Bring tough issues to the surface, even when it’s uncomfortable
  • Assess risk tolerance and follow through to build the necessary support

Learn

As your company grows, honest feedback is harder and harder to come by.  You have to do what you can to keep it coming. This is crucial because success and failure–especially failure–are valuable sources of organizational learning.  Here’s what you need to do:

  • Encourage and exemplify honest, rigorous debriefs to extract lessons
  • Shift course quickly if you realize you’re off track
  • Celebrate both success and (well-intentioned) failures that provide insight

Source: http://www.inc.com

Why aren’t U.S. businesses leading the global economy to recovery? Erratic capital markets, systemic risk, tax policy, and regulatory uncertainty have all been offered as culprits, and all play their parts. But another factor is lurking that may eclipse the rest and, if left unaddressed, will continue to put the U.S. at a severe global disadvantage — the great mismatch between skilled jobs and the talent needed to fill them. The failure to find and nurture this talent is preventing U.S. companies from innovating their way to competitive advantage.

This problem is alarmingly widespread and not limited to start-ups: According to PricewaterhouseCoopers’ 15th annual CEO survey, released at last January’s World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, nearly 50% of CEOs from all sectors and all corners of the globe say that this skill gap has become more difficult to fill.

How is it possible that finding talented employees is a problem for U.S. (and European) business when unemployment rates remain so stubbornly high? Why are CEOs having just as much trouble finding talent now as they did in tighter job markets?

The problem is that the financial meltdown that has swelled the unemployment ranks is dwarfed by the on-going effects of the digital transformation of world markets. This transformation was taking place well before the financial crisis, but while other trends ended or shifted gears, the transformation to digital economies kept on going, with very little interruption.

An interesting thing happened on the way to the future. Innovations like smart phones and the ease of transporting financial data through mobile technology are having a more immediate positive effect on emerging economies than on developed ones; demographics are on their side, and there were few legacy industries that needed to be supplanted or creatively destroyed. They skipped over the heavy capital expenditure required to put infrastructure like wires in the ground and went straight to mobile phones.

Companies and industry sectors in the West are only just beginning to realize the promise of the digital revolution and to understand its profound impact. As one bank CEO interviewed for our survey put it, “Our future competitors will not be traditional banks, but large technology companies.”

The paradigm shift at work here is just now becoming apparent. Manufacturing companies are beginning to regain their competitive edge through new applications of technology in the production process. Consumer goods companies are trying to figure out how to sell directly to customers. Retailers, long viewed as mostly domestic players, are stretching their reach globally by becoming “omni-channel” retailers.

Traditionally, such transformations create skills gaps that are temporary. But a transformation of this scale will take a lot longer than such shifts have in the recent past. That means the mismatch between talent and demand for constant innovation will likely remain high on the agenda of CEOs of businesses in both the East and the West long after the financial crisis resolves.

Already, 75% of the U.S. CEOs and 70% of global CEOs in our survey say they are investing in training to ensure a future pipeline of qualified employees. Such training will likely need to be on-going, as the digital revolution plays out in continual technological innovation. However, companies can’t do it alone. As we work our way out of the greatest recession in 80 years and into this burgeoning digital economy, CEOs are looking for a partnership with government. In fact, 57% of U.S. CEOs said creating and fostering a skilled workforce should be a top priority of governments. So while the appetite to invest is there, U.S. CEOs are looking to forge more public-private partnerships, to fully embrace the challenges and opportunities of the digital transformation that in turn will help restore competitiveness.

But beyond that, for U.S. companies to become and remain competitive, they will need to find people who are not just trained in, familiar with, or comfortable with these ever-transforming technologies, but also those with the entrepreneurial drive to conceive of practical, productive — and profitable — uses for them.

Source: Harvard Business Reveiw

People who fail to achieve goals signal their intent to fail by using this common phrase. Make sure you aren’t falling into the same trap.

busy entrepreneur

People who fail to achieve goals almost always signal their intent to fail by using three little word:

“I will try…”

There are no three words in the English language that are more deceptive, both to the person who says them and the person who hears them.

People who say “I will try” have given themselves permission to fail.  No matter what happens, they can always claim that they “tried.”

People who hear “I will try” and don’t realize what it really means are fooling themselves, by thinking there’s a chance that the speaker will actually succeed.

People who really and truly achieve goals never say “I will try.”

Instead, they always say “I will do” something–or, better yet, “I must do” whatever the task is.As a wise (though fictional) guru once said: “Do, or do not. There is no ‘try.'”

Source: http://www.inc.com