LEADING in an UNFAMILIAR world…

 

Recently, I gave a lecture on the perils of leadership and how our view of this sometimes vague attribute gets muddier almost every moment of every day. While going through the various challenges leaders of today experience I had one of those out of body experiences a lot of tenured lecturers have when you’re talking and you can see yourself in the audience…listening to you. I have done so many lectures in my life that I can literally see myself in the audience looking back at me, a developed sense from many years of psychoanalyzing each lecture LOL. The epiphany I had during this twilight zone experience is that leadership has become an unfamiliar trait and activity.

I’ve spoken at nauseam about the fact that leaders today have to be chameleons (e.g. able to adjust, ambiguity savants, decisively flexible, and change agents) because our society is changing rapidly both in business and life. You could argue the reason for that is the rapidity of technology and our access to information albeit “fake news” or not. The question I’ve asked myself just recently however is striving to be an effective chameleon leader enough? Certainly, you can do all the research possible to understand foreign markets/trade, better understand the various cultures you do business in or lead…but will that research become obsolete by the time you fully comprehend all that information? Almost EVERYTHING in life right now doesn’t stay the same for longer than an hour it seems, so how the hell do you stay on top of everything?  Most “leadership books” will tell you the best way to stay on top is obtaining the following traits:

  • Decisiveness
  • Knowledgeable
  • Prepared
  • Business Acumen
  • Adaptable
  • Confident
  • Honesty/Integrity

Absolutely, the list is much longer but I wanted to specifically point out the first 3 (Decisiveness, Knowledgeable, Prepared). I don’t think there would be many who would argue that being decisive, knowledgeable and prepared weren’t critical success factors of being an effective leader however could there be an argument that each of these traits need to be looked at in fresher context? For example, I understand the rational and often times benefit of being decisive but the question becomes is being decisive the best decision…or is it just making the BEST decision? In a recent article published in Harvard Business Review Magazine (“What Sets Successful CEOS Apart”) it outlines 4 behaviors most successful CEOs demonstrate: 1) Deciding with Speed and Conviction”, 2)  Engaging for Impact, 3) Adapting Proactively, 4) Delivering Reliably. In keying on the 1st behavior (“Deciding with Speed and Conviction”) this quote from the article got my attention:

“High Performing CEOs understand that a wrong decision is often better that no decision at all”

Hmmm…I guess I understand that. Quite frankly, there’s severe consequences for both actions. I’ve seen CEOs personally called incompetent when they’ve made a decisive hazardous decision costing jobs and profit, conversely I’ve seen CEOs wait before making a decision and are called “brilliantly pragmatic”. My point here is that we are living in a very unfamiliar world where the answer is NOT at our fingertips regardless of the tremendous amount of information we have access to.

How do I LEAD in an UNFAMILIAR world?

I have a variety of clients most are companies however I have a number of individual clients (e.g. CEOs, VP’s and Directors) and I tell them all the same thing…you don’t. My mother told me long ago “Son, if you become an expert of the things you can control verses the things you can’t you’ll be a success at whatever you do”? Didn’t really know what she meant by that advice then…I certainly know what she meant today. Interestingly, I have had that same advice for my clients and mentees in that the best way to lead in an unfamiliar world is replacing “LEAD” with “LEARN”. Learning is a controller able trait/activity that I believe addresses unfamiliarity and uncertainty better than any business cliché. To effectively lead today takes a tremendous amount of learning, I would argue the learning curve is the steepest it has ever been. When we look at the typical job description of a CEO you’ll see the role & responsibilities don’t actually address how this person will lead in an unfamiliar world (researched from https://www.sterling-resources.com/docs/RolesAndRespCEO.pdf ):

The Chief Executive Officer (“CEO”) is responsible for leading the development and execution of the Company’s long term strategy with a view to creating shareholder value. The CEO’s leadership role also entails being ultimately responsible for all day-to-day management decisions and for implementing the Company’s long and short term plans. The CEO acts as a direct liaison between the Board and management of the Company and communicates to the Board on behalf of management. The CEO also communicates on behalf of the Company to shareholders, employees, Government authorities, other stakeholders and the public.

Specific duties:

  1. To lead, in conjunction with the Board, the development of the Company’s strategy
  2. To lead and oversee the implementation of the Company’s long and short term plans in accordance with its strategy
  3. To ensure the Company is appropriately organized and staffed and to have the authority to hire and terminate staff as necessary to enable it to achieve the approved strategy
  4. To assess the principal risks of the Company and to ensure that these risks are being monitored and managed
  5. To ensure effective internal controls and management information systems are in place
  6. To ensure that the Company has appropriate systems to enable it to conduct its activities both lawfully and ethically
  7. To ensure that the Company maintains high standards of corporate citizenship and social responsibility wherever it does business
  8. To keep abreast of all material undertakings and activities of the Company and all material external factors affecting the Company and to ensure that processes and systems are in place to ensure that the CEO and management of the Company are adequately informed

Those are just a few specific duties but I think you get the picture and this is NOT to say the items listed are non-important on the contrary they’re must haves for the role of Chief Executive Officer. The question is where does “LEARNING” fit in after you’ve cajoled the stakeholders?

Learning tools that address an UNFAMILIAR world?

I’ve composited a series of tools I’ve worked with individual leaders on that may be of assistance to you. Here are just some of my top resources:

 

LEARNING to lead in an UNFAMILIAR world is the answer…to leading in an unfamiliar world!

 

Thank You!

LISTENING…your way to the TOP!

Man in pain holding hands on his head

 

 

LISTENING…your way to the TOP!

 

I’ve certainly had my ups in my career and Lord knows I’ve had many downs….so you can say currently I’m in a holding pattern. The journey however to understand that process which has brought me to the present has been a wonderful learning and developmental experience, an experience I’m diligently trying to share with others. All of you I’m sure have heard that old saying “It’s lonely at the Top”, I can’t tell you how much I detest that thought and whoever the author was of that ridiculous saying didn’t have adequate listening skills, which is why they probably came up with that “masterful” statement. Not that I’ve personally had a tremendous amount of success in my career to even attempt to further brow beat that statement I can say with the various experiences I have had in my career working with those who’ve had that level of pinnacle success the one thing they all had in common which led to their eventual demise…….none of them listened after reaching the top. Hubris, Egotism, Obsessed-Confidence, Arrogance, and Self-Absorbed all can be descriptions that best describe the aforementioned; “Open to Feedback” didn’t rank anywhere close.

Why do we ALL shut off the world when we reach any form of success? It’s very interesting to me when you hear about very successful people being the most miserable and this is after spending all of their life getting to that level only to find out “DAMN IT’S LONELY UP HERE”! Yes, the pressure to stay at a certain level in your career or life can be a challenge because it forces you to think consciously “how do I stay here” rather than who I can reach out too to help me stay here. There’s this thinking that once you get to that top salesperson, top vice president or top CEO that all learning stops and other’s opinion don’t matter because you’re now there. In the little success I’ve had in my career I can tell you when I had the top sales region in the country there wasn’t much you could have told me about anything, especially as it related to running a sales team and I think the reason for that is because I was scared. Yep, I was scared. There were a few things going on in my mind at the time such as, “no one’s going to get credit for my success”, “I know what it took to get here and that’s all that matters”, and (I love this one) “I’m smarter than everyone else”. These are all lack of assuredness mind games that one plays on her/himself when reaching a level of success, and inevitably these same mind games contribute to the downfall. I truly believe now (and it took some time to develop this thinking) that Humility plays a big role in how we see success….and failure. Listening and being more attentive to those around you who can keep you on top is a critical ingredient of humility but it’s also good business and practical in today’s competitive environment.

 

One of the best quotes I’ve heard in a long time came from Lawrence Taylor (NFL Hall of Famer who’s had his share of ups and downs) that once he and his team reached the Super Bowl and won it….it was one of the biggest let downs in his life.
“Success” in business or life doesn’t have to be a let down…….if you only listen just a little more.

 

Check out my presentation on “Leadership Excellence” (Accountable Leadership versus Personal Leadership):

http://www.slideshare.net/aharrell2000/l-33287676

 

Andre’ Harrell (AH2 & Beyond Consulting)

 

“High Risk Kids”…what CEOs can learn from them!

 

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“High Risk Kids”…what CEOs can learn from them!

 

The headline is not a misprint there is a ton a CEO can learn from a high risk child. This year I was asked to speak to a group of at risk high school students who have repeatedly been in and out trouble, and this program is the last opportunity to clean up or head to jail. While it was somewhat of an intimidating experience for me to speak to a group who quite frankly didn’t want to be there…let alone listen to some “chump” they do even know. The very moment when I spoke the first word I had this out of body experience where I could see myself sitting among them…it was weird. You see my childhood wasn’t too far different than theirs, although I was blessed with having a mother who was relentless in making sure I didn’t go left…when the correct direction was right. Nonetheless, I was far from a perfect child my Mom can verify that and then some.

The interaction with the group was surreal because as I peered out at each of them at the same time speaking with them all I saw was…. spiritless. I actually broke down in the car after it was over which surprised me, I just became overcome. At the beginning of “the talk” I tried with little futility to gather audience participation thinking I’m in a “corporate environment” (it was dumb thinking), and they pretty much just looked at me as if they wanted to attack me, it was that kind of stare. When I failed at the attempt to get them to open up I opened up and BOY did the flood gates open. While I wasn’t able to get most to communicate the feedback I received was valuable to me personally. You see I was there to help them but interestingly enough in an ironic way they helped me. “PERSPECTIVE” is such as strong and under-utilized word that has some many meanings, most of which we simply ignore. The life and backgrounds of these kids I learned from the program’s organizer almost brings me to tears even at this present moment as I type on this keyboard. I’m a grown man and I haven’t had the life of some of these kids and for me to say to a child “GET IT TOGETHER, SHAPE UP”!!!….misses the target totally. I was doing the best I can in a short period of time to have some impact and at the same time…just listen.

In wiping the tears from my eyes on the way home, I can honestly say I didn’t enjoy the experience nor should I have…that wasn’t the objective. The value I received and hopefully provided addressed whatever satisfaction was supposed to be gained. I’ve been asked to participate with the program again which I humbly accepted, and will follow through on.

This was just a short blog to provide my experiences on how this group of so-called “High-Risk Teenagers” pulled a quick one on me…..by helping me to be a BETTER person.

One of them hugged me when it was over……………

 

“High Risk Kids”…what CEOs can learn from them!

 

Thank you!!

Andre’ Harrell

AH2 & Beyond Consulting

 

 

 

 

MY FAILURES….are “JEWELS” for YOU!

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MY FAILURES….are “JEWELS” for YOU!

 

Because like many of you I’ve failed on more than a few occasions in my life….but I’ve succeeded a lot and not necessarily only financially or career wise but “SERVANTLY WISE”!

Prior to venturing out on my own 6 1/2 years ago I spent a lot of time working with non-profit organizations exclusively pro-bono work where I was allowed to utilized my background experiences helping foundations in a variety of business roles. I have to tell you during that time I was probably the most happiest because I remained active, but it was the 1st time in my life where I felt valued and proud. While I would never return the competencies learned in corporate America which quite frankly have been used to help, mentor, and coach others today…..the satisfaction I’ve had and continue to have today helping the less fortunate is tremendously rewarding. Returning back to what I’ve been able to develop in corporate America is the basis for this post, however, it’s also to share why my failures can be “jewels” for others. Admittingly, I was one of those people who based success on the amount of money and positional power one had and honestly while these so-called attributes to success have subsided to an extent with me…..I still remain ridiculously ambitious just in a more humble way. I will never amass millions and that’s just being honest NOT a self fulfilling prophecy, but I will amass millions in “Valued Servant Leadership” that will be priceless and someday sitting on my death bed I can say……”I made a difference”!

Please do not get me wrong anybody reading this post has the opportunity to achieve great things, the question is what are those things“. I’m also not saying developing wealth or positional stature is wrong on the contrary I think it’s admirable when done honestly with an integrity focused. I do believe however in how the universe works from a “Currency” standpoint, the flow of giving always returns to the beginning point. My experience has been that every time I give my time both intellectually & sweat for some strange reason that giving process returns back to me, I’m also my most happiest when I’ve helped someone else in earnest. Here’s the reality, this epiphany that has come over me wouldn’t have happen had I stayed in an environment where nothing mattered but my job and bank account. Whether unfortunately or fortunately the time away from the “corporate America hustle” has forced me to re-examine “What the heck am I doing here…and what am I supposed to do”?

I’m so serious about this subject that I’ve made my company’s mission to serve those clients who make “Servant Leadership” an integral part of their culture, and I certainly understand that I’m in noway in the position to pick and choose what types of customers I work with I can only note that in order for me to fulfill my objectives in serving…I cannot operate as a light bulb by turning it on and off.

 

MY FAILURES….are “JEWELS” for YOU!

Andre’ Harrell

AH2 & Beyond Consulting

www.ah2andbeyond.com

 

 

Inspiring a Sales Team…..after failure!

 

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Inspiring a Sales Team…..after failure!

 

It’s been a long year…..for some reason key territories/countries didn’t perform to expectations, important accounts haven’t delivered, market growth decreased, heavy sales rep vacancies, I can go on and on but I think you get the picture. What went wrong…..absolutely went WRONG!

I’m sure many of you who are reading this blog experienced such a year this year, I have one question for you…how are you keeping your team UP?

I’ve always felt during these types of occasions you can really see the true competency of someone placed in a leadership role and if they have what it takes to lead. I’m confident and assured in saying that most of us can lead a team of individuals when things are going well, everyone is happy, everyone is getting paid handsomely, everyone thinks you’re great….until the bottom falls out and then what? It was explained to me very early in my sales career that your legacy, competency, and leadership will be judged by how you deal with thebad times not the good ones. This really doesn’t seem fair (I know….life isn’t fair) but we bestow platitudes on those who’ve failed and have rejuvenated to succeed from those failures….a character trait right? There is however one key point of emphasis that needs to be…. well emphasized and that is the following year. You see how you end a disastrous year will have an immediate impact and I will go a step further and say a possible prediction on how the start of the next year will go. There have been numerous cases I’ve seen where sales managers who have experienced significantly down sales years go into this “schizophrenic” zone where you almost don’t recognize them, their behavior literally changes proverbially overnight. I’ve seen managers fire the majority of their team and start from scratch become “the micro-manager from hell”, over think (which happens a lot), and become hostile towards their salespeople. All behaviors that set up the following year to be as nightmarish as the last.

The key to “Leading a Sales Team….after a terrible year” is to embrace what has just occurred. YEP, embrace the failures with your team….okay let me explain. The best way to lead, coach, develop and succeed from a down year is to break through the “cognitive dissonance” that comes from always having success. My most successful years in a sales leadership capacity came off terrible years because I had the eyes, ears, and commitment from my team to buy in to our “resurrection strategy”. Failing, in some cases is therapeutic and it opens the door to more focus and commitment to overcome that failure, and in a sense it brings the team more together ironically. Literally, I had an easier time bringing my team together because we all felt “we’re in this together” from having a failing prior year. So, I believe the best way to lead a sales organization after a tough year is to embrace it, develop unity, develop a great following year sales plan, and INSPIRE your people.

Finally, below are 4 basic principles I’ve led my sales teams with and I’ve these with them so that there’s no question from a direction point of view:
• Stay Focused (the task is before you, have unwavering focus)
• Maintain a “Sense of Urgency” (passivity doesn’t increase sales)
• Handle Business One Step at a Time (reinforces focus and eliminates unproductive distractions)
• Control the “Controllable”…avoid the “Uncontrollable” (distractions that you have no control over should be avoided)

 

Inspiring a Sales Team…..after failure!

 

Take a listen to my podcast on how to be an “Inspirational Sales Leader”
http://www.blogtalkradio.com/aharrell2000/2012/06/05/my-afterthoughts-how-to-be-an-inspirational-leader

 

Andre’ Harrell (AH2 & Beyond Consulting)

 

A “PROMOTION”…could be CAREER SUICIDE!

 

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A “PROMOTION”…could be CAREER SUICIDE!

 

How many times have you seen someone placed in a higher position of responsibility….only to be not only fired later but stained forever career wise. Maybe it’s happened to you.

In the current “life” as it stands to either have or obtain a job is a true blessing….let’s just set that stage at the very beginning! Saying “NO” when you’re offered a promotion these days you have to be either crazy or crazy smart. To be chosen for advancement is an honor and should be received as that whether you accept a promotion or not, however, there’s a bigger issue here that I’d like to examine further.

In corporate America the #1 objective and you hear this incessantly “climbing the corporate latter”…and if need be QUICKLY. As a matter of fact if you were to review career development plans from those companies that believe in such a process (and some do not), I guarantee you most of the nomenclature will consist of “my next move”, “my next position”, “my objective is to be promoted too…”. Now let’s be clear, there is absolutely nothing wrong with having career aspirations as a matter of fact I support that thinking tremendously as long as its competently realistic. There’s a silent unspoken rule in corporate America that when offered a promotion YOU TAKE IT, and there’s valid reasons why. First, since promotions come few and far between these days there’s a feeling that you have to strike the iron while it’s hot because it may not come along again and there’s some validity to that. However, diagnosing that last reasoning disturbs me because there’s a fear that there will be retribution if a promotion is not accepted whether the person is ready or not. Many companies have held that albatross decision over employees heads that sometimes last an entire career, we use to call such a decision a career limiting move. I have personal experience with this as I didn’t accept an opportunity early in my career because I felt it just wasn’t the time and I was ill equipped competently to take on the task at that time. Well, that decision wasn’t well received and I was pretty much “blackballed” for next few years until “the punishment” lifted and I can tell you it was one of the best decisions I’ve made in my career.

It does take a strong person and one who is confident, humble and importantly persevering to know when it’s the right time to take on additional responsibility. I have seen in my career and actually friends of mine who have accepted promotions knowing they weren’t ready ultimately either fired or demoted in which case they left the company. The definition of succession planning differs from company to company and interestingly enough most employees have no idea what their company’s succession planning policy is or if they’re included in it. Some companies use succession planning only for their “top potential” people which creates an entire different discussion. The point here as someone who’s receiving the promotion you should be totally prepared prior to the decision you make and the consequences that come after. There’s elation and jubilation after receiving the invitation of a promotion, however, in the midst of that HIGH you should maintain a level of prudence prior to making that final decision to accept and if you’re accepting because of the philosophy “strike the iron while it’s hot”….you may just get BURNED!!


Check out my presentation on the “Management Development Process” (Centers of Excellence)

 

Andre’ Harrell
AH2 & Beyond Consulting

 

The Company’s “LIFE” comes down to your decision….do you run for the hills?

 

Business team running fast with long shadows

 

 

The evasive leader…when times are tough

 

We’ve all been in situations either personally or professionally where tough decisions by so-called leaders are avoided or dropped like a hot potato….why is that? Many of those who are in leadership positions at the highest of levels have this risk avoidance personality to not want to make the  tough call and therefore either pass the buck or delegate to someone else. You see this a lot in Corporate America where no one wants to be accountable for their decisions and unfortunately see this as a politically astute tactic. The serious problem with this type of person (and issue) is that it causes what I call a “bottleneck of sh*t” that can stop up and poison an entire corporation. Accountability becomes a major negative feature in a corporate environment where the leader or it’s leaders aren’t capable of dealing with crisis. Crisis Management hands down is the #1 competency behavior that a fair amount of corporate CEOs lack…and that’s scary. Forbes staff writer Susan Adams wrote a wonderful article titled “The Worst CEO Screw Ups Of 2013”, in it she outlines some of the most egregious decisions (some decisions just simply avoided) made by some of the most coveted CEO positions on the planet. Here are a few that made top billing:

  1. Eike Batista (Chairman/CEO of EBX Group): Destroyed tens of billions of dollars in shareholder value due to poor business decisions and practices. Decisions that were either neglected or poorly executed, bankrupted many of the companies under the EBX Group name. And of course Mr. Batista did the most noble thing many incompetent CEOs do when they find themselves in a pickle…he blamed the CEOs for the companies he ran for the problems HE created.
  2. Ronald Johnson (former CEO of J.C. Penney):  Mr. Johnson failed to make changes at critical junctures. Once a powerful figure at Apple Mr. Johnson tried to incorporate many of the strategies executed at APPLE with no success and his leadership was questionable. J.C. Penney was extremely profitable when Mr. Johnson took over…however that steadily declined throughout his tenure.
  3. Steve Ballmer (former CEO of Microsoft):  A “Master Motivator” short on business acumen and making correct decisions. Since taking over as CEO from Bill Gates in 2000, Mr. Ballmer grossly underestimated the shift from PCs to smartphones and tablets. Missed the opportunity to introduce a successful music player (know anyone who owned Zune?), and failed to compete aggressively with Google (“Bing” is not a verb).
  4. Robert Benmosche (former CEO of AIG): Took a controversial stance in supporting bonus payouts of $450 million to a unit of the business that was failing. Mr. Benmosche probably had worst judgement more so than poor decision making skills. He once said to the Wall St. Journal that “criticisms of those bonuses were as bad as Southern white supremacists lynching African-Americans”. Certainly a poor decision with the use of his tongue. 

These 4 examples are just some of the poor decisions or lack thereof made by some of the most notable of CEOs, and by no means is this a complete list. Leaders of companies not necessarily at the level of those above have similar skill issues and it is quite about time we start placing more of an emphasis on “Crisis Management Leadership” as a metric of evaluating these folks.

One of the best internet comments I’ve received on this issue (below):

“Companies have cultures, and often that’s to be risk-averse – particularly in difficult times such as those that exist in many parts of the world right now. Unfortunately, that means there is a reluctance to make decisions, because people would rather make no decision than make the wrong one, when in reality, making no decision is the worst thing you can do.

I call it the Burning Building Syndrome. Imagine you’re in a large building, and a big fire breaks out and you need to evacuate. Ideally, you spend a short time evaluating the best route to safety, then make in haste (but not panic) to the appropriate exit. But some people are afraid of taking the wrong way out. True, making down the wrong emergency route could be the last thing you do. But if you’re so worried about making the wrong choice, that you stand rooted to the spot, then you’re guaranteed to burn to death.

We need leaders who are not afraid to make decisions, because they are prepared to give their choices a chance to work out (or not) – and shareholders, employees and industry watchers provide the oxygen for them to do so. And as some decisions will be wrong – it’s a statistical fact of life – to ensure that any subsequent criticism is given constructively”.

What are your thoughts? Why do some “Business Leaders” avoid making the TOUGH CALL?

Would love to get your thoughts!

The Company’s “LIFE” comes down to your decision….do you run for the hills?

 

Andre’ Harrell (AH2 & Beyond Consulting)

www.ah2andbeyond.com

 

 

“CHANGE MANAGEMENT”…a business seduction

Businesses large and small are falling victim to the seduction of change management.  To keep up with the joneses of an evolving marketplace and conniving competitor behavior, often times the popular decision is to change course (“change” being the operative word). I’ve personally worked with companies who have featured change as a blanketed corporate growth strategy but had a difficult time understanding what that really means. Most corporate execs understand that there’s a disruption and sometimes resistance that comes with incorporating any kind of change and accept that as a way of doing business. However, in my experience very few actually understand the why and how implementing “disruption” can water positive growth. In a profit sheet kind of way I look at implementing corporate change as a P&L process. Profit being your employee productivity, operations, sales & marketing, customer service etc, and Cost being your change management strategy, new policies, new direction, new leadership etc. If the Cost of change is greater than the Profit…then “CHANGE” as a growth strategy is probably a bad strategy.  And yes, breaking even is not good either.  It has been perceived as a good business practice when something goes awry albeit temporarily to CHANGE IT. Conducting a change management strategy has to involve a close to perfect positive growth outcome. The cost of a poorly executed change management plan can destroy a company and has for some of once the most recognized companies on the planet. Remember the beverage company Snapple? Ever wondered what happened to that brand/company? Below provides an example where the “good intentions” of incorporating a change management strategy doesn’t deliver “good results”:

Quaker Oats Company and Snapple Beverage Company

Quaker Oats successfully managed the widely popular Gatorade drink and thought it could do the same with Snapple. In 1994, despite warnings from Wall Street that the company was paying $1 billion too much, the company acquired Snapple for a purchase price of $1.7 billion. In addition to overpaying, management broke a fundamental law in mergers and acquisitions: make sure you know how to run the company and bring specific value-added skills sets and expertise to the operation. Quaker Oats’ management thought it could leverage its relationships with supermarkets and large retailers; however, about half of Snapple’s sales came from smaller channels, such as convenience stores, gas stations and related independent distributors. The acquiring management also fumbled on Snapple’s advertising campaign, and the differing cultures translated into a disastrous marketing campaign for Snapple that was championed by managers not attuned to its branding sensitivities. Snapple’s previously popular advertisements became diluted with inappropriate marketing signals to customers. While these challenges befuddled Quaker Oats, gargantuan rivals Coca-Cola and PepsiCo launched a barrage of competing new products that ate away at Snapple’s positioning in the beverage market. This was the start of Snapple’s decent.

Perhaps Snapple and in this case Quaker Oats fell victim to the seduction of change management, and did not understand the why & how implementing such disruption can return positive growth.

 

Conducting Effective Change Management

To avoid becoming prey to the seduction of change management there has to be a thoughtful and microscopic approach in outlining what the end game looks like. I think often times change management is used as a fire hose strategy to put out corporate infernos without much thought on what caused the inferno in the first place. It’s our human response to react and overreact on poor results that had poor vision and execution from the outset. The best prescription in dealing with a corporate pain-point is identifying the what/why/how the pain-point occurred and are there processes already in place that have solution mechanisms that can address the pain-points. In other words, before making an uninformed decision to place in a change management strategy determine whether or not such a decision will yield a positive outcome…and not just place a Band-Aid on the problem. After you’ve dotted your “I’s” and crossed your “T’s” and made the decision to incorporate a change management plan perhaps you can review my top 5 ways to conduct the most effective Change Management Strategy:

  1. Consider your most important asset: PEOPLE. When there’s a corporate behavior change…this creates “employee issues.” Typically corporate leaders will be asked to ratchet up, jobs will be changed and sometimes lost, new competencies must be developed, and employees will be confused and resistant. Companies who deal with these issues reactively could cause chaos. A more formal approach by communicating with the leadership team and then engaging key stakeholders and leaders should be implemented proactively, and consistently followed through as change moves through the organization. This requires much data collection and analysis, planning, and implementation discipline. Processes and Execution on steroids.
  2. Leadership has to LEAD. Because change is usually uncomfortable for people at all levels of an organization, in its undertaking usually the pitchforks point straight at the CEO and leadership team. If there’s a failure in support and direction from the CEO/leadership team chances of the transformation succeeding is slim to none. The leaders have to lead by example by embracing the new approaches and inspiring the rest of the organization to follow suit. The communication from the CEO/leadership team must be consistent and unambiguous.
  3. Vision and Culture Fit. Most change management initiatives fail because the specifics of the transformation do not correspond with the corporation’s vision or culture. You see this quite often with mergers & acquisitions where the decisions are based solely on finance and not infrastructure. Corporate leadership has to ensure that any change or transformation has to be in alignment with the vision and culture of the organization…even if the financial reward is too good to be true.
  4. Empower every layer. Usually while the change management processes are taking place especially during the strategy and design phase, every layer of the organization not only has to be acknowledged they should play a role in the transformation. There’s evidence that show the most successful change management initiatives incorporate every level of an organization and requests participation/involvement by its employees during the start and finish. This way of implementing change can also identify previously unseen leaders throughout the organization and create an opportunity for those who would otherwise go unnoticed. Additionally, a wonderful way of bolstering a company’s succession planning process…and instilling a change management culture.
  5. Have a plan A, B, and C. Because no matter how much planning and preparation you put forth in devising your change management initiative…something will be amiss. Employees and the environment may react in ways that the CEO/leadership team didn’t anticipate thus the normal reaction is to immediately stop the initiative…which shows frail and indecisive leadership. Effectively leading change requires repeated reassessment of its impact and the organization’s flexibility and yes planning to adjust the next phase of transformation. Driven by validated data internally which is supported by information and solid decision-making processes, CEO/leadership team can then make the adjustments necessary to maintain momentum and drive growth results.

“CHANGE MANAGEMENT”…a business seduction

 

Thanks!

Andre’ Harrell

AH2 & Beyond Consulting

Customer Access…getting more difficult!

Regardless of the industry you’re in the #1 challenge most companies face that have a salesforce is….“Customer Access”. No matter how you slice it customers are just not making themselves available on any kind of consistent basis to the sales representative. There are reasons for this and it’s not only because they dislike dealing with salespeople and many would say that’s the #1 reason, it’s a bit more complex than that. The truth is that technology hasn’t really been a friend of the sales rep when it comes to accessing customers. I was criticized a while ago by the “CRM Homers” because of a post I wrote on “CRM….Complacent Rep Management” (which I thought was pretty clever haha!!). The premise of the post was to communicate while CRM is a wonderful tool to help source/navigate, provide background information and segment the customer….it can’t jump out of the laptop and access customers for the sales rep. Again, let me reiterate CRM is a great resource tool but I feel sometimes it becomes an excuse crutch for many salespeople having to deal with an inaccessible customer on a daily basis.

Why aren’t customers seeing salespeople on a consistent basis?

The question in itself is a somewhat arrogant and entitled inquiry…..since when are customers required to be on our agenda?! Every company on this earth has a sales forecast requirement that’s how they keep tally and quite frankly stay in business. What typically rolls down from that requirement to the sales team is a series of objectives and one of those objectives are Customer Targeting/Frequency different nomenclature exists in other industries. There are companies out there that specialize in sales territory analytics, which among other things can diagnose how many times a sales representative should call on a customer (given the market dynamics and product) in a given year. Truthfully, there are companies that can provide that level of detail the challenge however is that sometimes the analytics doesn’t coincide with “real life”. In the Life Sciences Industry (e.g. pharmaceutical, biotech, and medical devices) there was and probably still today a push to meet a “customer call frequency average” because the thinking is a specific number of scheduled calls has the likelihood of changing customer behavior. I think most strategic scholars have determined it’s NOT the number of calls that change customer behavior, it’s value and the quality of the call that matters. Getting back to the beginning question: Why aren’t customers seeing salespeople on a consistent basis? Customers who quite frankly are you and I have access to information like never before and it goes back to my comment earlier that technology really hasn’t been a friend of the sales professional. In the past before the birth of the internet (some of you reading this probably can’t even fathom that) sales reps had to truly become “hunters”, and conversely were often times the subject matter experts to the customer with regards to their product and even market intelligence. Those were truly the good ole days and the ability of sales reps to engage and obtain rapport with customers offered tremendous opportunity to make a nice living. Today, customers literally may know more about a given product than the sales rep and from that knowledge often feel there’s no need to speak with a sales rep. This has presented a difficult dilemma for companies who drive their income on customer engagement, and with access being so difficult many of them have folded up shop.

Okay, so what’s the solution?

I’ve always contended that sales companies have to sell “VALUE” first before pulling the product out of the bag. You do this by knowing and understanding “The Customer” better than they know themselves. Have you ever started a conversation with a customer that sounds something like this: “After doing some research on your company and the market you play in, I came across some challenges that you might be facing….”? The fact that customers do extensive research on your product & company stands to reason that we should take a page from that same playbook and do our own research thus bringing “VALUE” to the customer.  My whole mantra has been to blow up how we look at the role of a sales professional and change its dynamics, and the best way to do that is by selling value first before selling product.

Gaining CONSISTENT access to the customer is probably realistically gone the way of the dinosaur, but that doesn’t mean the access you do have shouldn’t create customer value……the key is knowing the customer better than they know themselves.

Checkout my presentation on: Selling “Customer Value”…..instead of your product! I provide specific ways on accomplishing such a task: http://www.slideshare.net/aharrell2000/selling-customer-value1

“CUSTOMER ACCESS”…..getting more difficult!

Thank you!

Andre’ Harrell

AH2 & Beyond Consulting

When the timing is right…JUMP!

Black Businessman Jumping

 

I’m often asked by those I keep in touch with who are still in corporate America, “when did you decide to jump ship and go out on your own”? Interestingly, every time I’m asked that question I find myself giving a different answer. In retrospect there were a variety of reasons why 6 years ago I decided to leave the comforts of getting a paycheck bi-weekly to wondering if I’ll ever get a paycheck out on my own. It’s a scary proposition and I gather those who have inquired how I did it…have that same fear. There is a timing factor or I should say factors depending on one’s circumstances, I just felt after being in corporate life for close to 30 years it was time to utilize all that intellectual capital for my own useful purposes. After many days/nights (and yes conversations with the wife LOL!) I decided to start a one-man management consulting business. I have been fortunate in my corporate America career to be involved with so many initiatives and have held numerous leadership positions, that making the decision to consult was a no brainer. Admit tingly, I didn’t realize the tremendous struggle I would have starting not only a new career…but a new life. The word “consulting” carries some baggage and similar to “sales” obtaining relationships, trust and credibility is a tough chore. When the product you’re promoting is YOU there’s a lot of self-examination let me tell you. Most people who go into the consulting business have ready-made relationships, I had very few so like marketing a widget I had to start marketing me. Six years later I’m still marketing me however I have a GREAT understanding how to start, build, and grow a business…skill sets I never had. I tell that little story because while there is timing involved in venturing out on your own, there is never perfect timing and sometimes it’s a leap of faith.

Faith without Vision = Fail

Yes, there’s some leap of faith that occurs once the decision is made to leave the corporate life, but leap should have a “Vision” of where it lands you. I absolutely had a vision prior to taking the leap and consequently that vision is still with me today. I work with small business owners a great deal and many of them are ex-corporate folks who like me who made a life altering decision to pursuit a dream of entrepreneurship. Like most new entrepreneurs the dream is “Pollyanna” in nature without the evaluation of what the vision entails or how it’s going to be executed. Inspiration, passion, and emotion are usually on peak display when I meet with them for the 1st time…then at some point reality sets in and they come to grips that this is a business. I am hyper sensitive when it comes to “Vision” and quantifying what that looks like on paper with every one of my small business entrepreneur clients, because it really sets the groundwork on whether or not the business is going to be successful or not. In a Harvard Business Review (2007) article by Tony Mayo he explains how a CEO’s vision came to life in launching one of today’s most successful newspapers:

When he launched the USA Today national newspaper 25 ago, Allen Neuharth, the CEO of Gannett Company from 1973-1986, was derided by both Wall Street analysts and the newspaper establishment. Having built a very successful chain of regional newspapers and having been named the newspaper publishing Chief Executive of the Year by the Wall Street Transcript in 1979, why would Neuharth want to take such a bold and seemingly foolish risk? Who would buy “bite-size” news? The answer today is clear — millions would buy it and continues to buy it, but that was certainly not the case in 1982 when the paper was launched. Neuharth saw a future for his family’s newspaper empire that others could not see. He also saw a time-starved consumer base that was thirsty for news in manageable chunks. Capitalizing on his regional network of newspaper organizations, Neuharth created an elaborate logistical process to produce and deliver a national newspaper to supplement, not replace, regional carriers. What was it about Neuharth that enabled him to see the vast possibilities of a national newspaper? He clearly possessed a vision of what could be and more importantly, the ability to make it a reality.

 New York Times Best Selling Author Michael Hyatt states that the “Vision” is more important than “Strategy”: “Vision and strategy are both important. But there is a priority to them. Vision always comes first. Always. If you have a clear vision, you will eventually attract the right strategy. If you don’t have a clear vision, no strategy will save you. It cannot be overstated that visually and articulately stating what your company’s vision entails is a vital component and possible prediction to your company’s success”.   

I tell my small business clients every day that your “Vision” is your GPS without it…your business will be lost.

Before you decide the timing is right to jump, consider these dos & don’ts:

“Don’t Jump”

  • No vision in place
  • Frustrated with corporate America
  • After getting fired (impulse decision)
  • No other means of income
  • Entrepreneurship is all the rage
  • “Family forcing me too”
  • “Best friend is a successful entrepreneur…I can be too”.
  • Not thoroughly researching the chosen “Business Marketplace”.
  • Still use to getting a paycheck bi-weekly (“mental habit”)
  • Bored with corporate America
  • Want to avoid “corporate politics”
  • I HATE my boss

“Go For It”

  • Lifelong vision/goal
  • Reached “corporate professional ceiling”
  • Inspiration that’s turned to “Reality Execution”
  • Was a “Side Job” that’s become successful
  • Thoroughly researched “Business Marketplace”
  • Internal Support (e.g. family, friends, investors etc)
  • Have a “Value Proposition” that can be monetized.
  • Reached out to advisors, mentors, startup experts etc
  • Confidence & Humility
  • “Thick Skin”…and a “Thin Memory”.
  • “Ready to Mingle” (networking is key)
  • Ready to learn new skills that will help you grow your business.

I’m sure you can probably come up with additional reasons why you should take that leap into entrepreneurship or not, the bottom line is you have to decide this important step in your life on your own terms. Outside influences and reactions to negative stimuli are generally not good reasons to step into a world that’s sometimes an abyss. It’s very important that you take the time to do research, ask a lot of questions, exercise physically and mentally, and do what inspires you to do. I’ve found taking these steps have helped me make the most prudent and informed decision to delve into entrepreneurship…I’m recommending you do the same if you’re ready to take that leap.

When the timing is right…JUMP!

 

Thanks!

Andre’ Harrell

AH2 & Beyond Consulting