“Staying The Course”…strategy’s PARANOIA



“Patience is a Virtue”, “Good things happen to those who wait”…beautiful sayings…never followed. Why do we champion such quotes yet we live in a society that rewards victory TOMORROW? Microwave success happens very rarely yet it’s expected as the standard of excellence. The question then becomes how long do we expect to see marked performance, which is a loaded question because it depends on who’s asking and what’s the situation. I’ll admit I’m in the category of wanting to see success in the next 5 minutes, you’re reading a post from someone who expected to get at least 20 clients lined up at the door when the “consulting open” sign posted in the window. Yet, I often tell myself and my clients that success from “Staying the Course” is like fine wine it tastes so much better when time and work has been put in. There is this sense of hurriedness however that you feel every day that comes from the need to either finish or accomplish something, and not doing so feels empty. Each day I have an agenda of things I need to have completed sounds like many of you right? But, often times my “neurosis” starts to kick in and I deviate from the prepared agenda for fear that I’m missing something…staying the course becomes paranoia. Now, I know some of you have already diagnosed my problem as “A.D.D.” and I thought about that but I’m so anal about completing things that that prognosis wouldn’t be possible. No, the problem I have like many of you is this thirst to find something every day that I can mark as a success story….not status quo (or “staying the course”). My conundrum (again, like many of you) is I understand the value of sticking to a plan and working the plan, it’s the environment that yells SPEED IT UP that forces you to push down on the gas pedal. I absolutely understand there are pressures in corporate America having been there myself for close to 30 years the energy to quickly attain a high level of performance oozes through the cubicle panels, but make no mistake that same energy is also present in the entrepreneur world (sometimes even more intense). The discipline to stick with a strategy until absolutely necessary is very rare in today’s business world and those who do so have an amazing record of success. For example, let’s take a look at Coca-Cola who over the years has had to deal with such a competitor landscape that it’s miraculous how they’ve been able to sustain a top presence in the soft drink space.  Selling “Happiness” has been a mantra/strategy of the Coca-Cola brand since its inception (1886-129 years ago), and while the company has gone through many metamorphosis it’s never deviated from “Life Tastes Good”. Everything the company does is inspired around the question; “How do we continue to promote, develop and create happiness?  Coca-Cola in a steadfast way drives the message of happiness across all points of customer contact, from Facebook to the vending machines you see at the mall. Author Jim Stengel captures Coca-Cola’s “Stay the Course” strategy the best: “They never forget why they started and where they came from, which means a lot to consumers”.

The “Trust/Confidence Factor”

To have trust along with confidence with a particular decision is a stalwart leadership behavior trait in my opinion. Staying the course when things are tumbling around you is probably one of the most difficult decisions anyone can make, and the ability to remain confident and trustful in staying put takes a great deal of courage. One of the things we haven’t talked about up to this point in this post and is the pink elephant in the corner… is PEOPLE. I would say 99.9% of the time most decisions to stay the course involve people; the .1% leftover probably doesn’t matter. The “Trust/Confident Factor” we place in each other to execute an objective takes place every second of the day whether at work or home, our dependence to get things done through others is in our DNA. So, when you think about an important decision that has to be made on whether you dissolve a department due to lackluster sales or staying the course because you have trust/confidence in the people from the department can turn it around…then the “people component” becomes critical.  I’ve had my eye on Yahoo’s CEO Marissa Mayer since she took over the reins in 2012 partly because she has a very interesting story/background, and because very few people wanted her in that role. Whether the fact that Mrs. Mayer is female operating one of the biggest technology search engine companies on the planet, or that she looks like she could model for the “forever 21” store her performance to date has been topsy/turvy. However, what attracts me to her is what I keep reading regarding her stubbornness to stay the course of what made Yahoo the golden child of internet search engine back in the day, and how she’s depended on the people at Yahoo to keep focused on that vision. Below outlines the beginning of Mrs. Mayer’s experience as Yahoo’s Chief Executive and why she’s been able to develop trust/confidence in the people at Yahoo…and solidify that trust/confidence back:

Some of the people in the room were angry — angry about refused promotions and pay raises, angry that their jobs now seemed to entail an endless series of tasks done only because “Marissa said so,” or angry that new employees were coming into the company and making a lot more money. They were angry because, to them, it seemed like Marissa Mayer had said one thing and done another. Most of the gathered Yahoo employees and executives weren’t so mad. They were just confused. They believed Mayer was brilliant, hardworking, and sincerely interested in the welfare of Yahoo, its employees, and its users. They’d decided this after Mayer came to Yahoo from Google in July 2012 and brought with her sweeping changes that reenergized the entire company. Before Mayer joined, Yahoo’s parking lots were empty for the weekend by 4:30 p.m. Thursday. It took years for Yahoo to refresh its products, while competitors took months or just weeks. Yahoo’s apps for Android and iPhone were embarrassing. Within weeks of Mayer’s arrival, the lots were packed and the headquarters was humming till Friday evenings. Within months, Yahoo was launching products at a pace it hadn’t hit in more than a decade. Within a year, Yahoo was winning awards and praise from the press for its product design. By the summer of 2013, tens of thousands of people were applying for Yahoo jobs every quarter. Yahoo finally had a team of hundreds working on apps for smartphones. Now, in November 2013, the many Yahoos who had admired all Mayer’s progress wondered: Why was Mayer throwing away all the goodwill she had earned with a series of policies that were, at best, poorly rolled out and badly explained to employees or, at worst, plain mistakes. They wondered, more seriously than at any time since she joined, if Mayer was actually up for the job of saving Yahoo. One of Mayer’s first moves after joining Yahoo was to institute a weekly Friday afternoon meeting of all Yahoo employees, called FYI. The point of the meetings was to bring “radical transparency” to a company where, for many years, employees had to learn about what management was up to by reading the press — mostly reports from a journalist named Kara Swisher. FYI meetings would begin with a confidentiality reminder. Mayer would announce new hires and work anniversaries. Then she would go over Yahoo’s “wins of the week.” Mayer or another executive would go into “deep dives,” giving presentations on topics like why Yahoo had acquired a certain company or how a new Yahoo product worked. At the end of the meeting, Mayer would take questions from Yahoo employees and either answer them herself or ask one of her direct reports to squirm in the spotlight.

Marissa Mayer as the full article states arrived at Yahoo like a superhero full of confidence and trust in her ability to rejuvenate what was back then a tumbling brand. Even through a series of mistakes some on her and Yahoo’s history she’s been able to gain trust/confidence from her new team and conversely has grown to have that same faith in them.

To read more on Marissa Mayer: http://www.businessinsider.com/marissa-mayer-yahoo-nicholas-carlson-book-excerpt-2014-12#ixzz3gYKzSQSm

In this “Microwave World” staying the course is becoming a dying strategy and that quite frankly is too bad considering the reality that “Success” doesn’t happen overnight (another cliché that has merit). There’s a reason why the word investing exists and why those who invest for the long term understand that “Staying the Course”…can be a very lucrative trip!

“Staying The Course”…strategy’s PARANOIA

Thank you so much!

Andre’ Harrell

AH2 & Beyond Consulting

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