Growth & Leadership Insights

3 Ways to Launch Productive Change

Bob Schultek
Author of
The Gauntlet

In today’s increasingly flat, networked and collaborative organizations, leaders seeking to drive productive change actively engage with their teams to make something better that improves performance, strengthens competitive advantage and creates strategic value. 

Most teams want to do meaningful work, to make a difference beyond their functional responsibilities; but they need their leaders to provide direction and grounds to act on this aspiration. Their leaders perceive change initiatives as opportunities to produce positive outcomes while enabling them to practice and refine their relational, communicative, interpretive, and affective skills. So all involved share the ownership for a change initiative, and the benefits produced when its promise is fulfilled. 

The most effective way to begin building ownership for a change is for the leader and team to collaborate on identifying the right first project. Here are three ways forward: 

Conduct an operations assessment. The leader facilitates a discussion about which department processes are working well in producing quantifiable benefits for the organization, and which require improvement. Processes targeted for an upgrade are then prioritized by (1) estimating quantifiable benefits expected from a process improvement (moving faster, increasing adaptability, reducing waste), (2) projecting when those benefits might be realized, and (3) identifying likely obstacles to be overcome. The rankings from this exercise then guide the selection of which initiative will be launched. Review a […]

By |November 5th, 2019|Grolistic, Growth & Leadership Insights|0 Comments

Considering Problems and Opportunities

Bob Schultek
Author of
The Gauntlet

There are always problems – a parade of challenges that command your attention. Systems are down, people or organizations are working against you, or there’s a compelling difficulty without a resolution. 

There are always opportunities – innovative ideas or new relationships waiting to be embraced. These are chances to create value, to share or give, to move faster or make something better. 

And there are always limits – limited time, energy, money and other resources. 

Where do you focus the majority of your limited resources? Your answer shapes your attitude, your actions and your future. 

As a leader, deliberating about problems too heavily can weigh you down, turn your focus inward, and inhibit your ability to act on opportunities. The problem with problems is that they consume resources that would be better directed towards opportunities that could create value for your customers and your business. 

There are managers in your operation whose primary function is to resolve problems. It’s your principal responsibility to focus on opportunities that could contribute to your future success. If you don’t invest your valuable time and energy to do this, who will? 

Focusing on your opportunities doesn’t mean the problems don’t exist; it simply means that investing more of your limited resources on opportunities is far more likely to produce something that matters, something that creates […]

By |October 30th, 2019|Grolistic, Growth & Leadership Insights|0 Comments

Winning at Strategy

Bob Schultek
Author of
The Gauntlet

Strategy execution is essential, but only possible when the strategy is realistic. And once you invest in execution, it’s difficult to turn away when it becomes clear that the strategy is not working. 

To avoid wasted time and energy, consider Roger Martin’s (HBR) approach to strategy development. Rather than focusing too heavily on SWOT or other analyses, or on broad, future-based projections, or direction changes, Roger suggests that answering the following five connected questions, which flow logically from the first to the last, offers an effective means to win at strategy development:

What are your broad aspirations for your organization and the specific goals against which you can measure progress? Across the potential markets available to you, where will you choose to invest and not invest? In your targeted market(s), how will you choose to win against the competitors there? What capabilities/resources are necessary to build and sustain your winning value proposition? What management systems must function to cultivate and maintain these key capabilities?

The answers to these five questions must be consistent with one another and actually reinforce one another. For example, a strategy that relies on superior distribution cannot be successfully executed without a related plan to build the capabilities and management system to sustain it. 

To create the connectivity between your answers to these questions, Roger recommends an iterative process – think a bit about Aspirations […]

By |October 24th, 2019|Grolistic, Growth & Leadership Insights|0 Comments

Was Your Message Received?

Bob Schultek
Author of
The Gauntlet

Communication succeeds when the message is received. 

Communication experts counsel that less than 10% of the words you speak are heard and acknowledged. How your message is communicated accounts for about 40% of a successful message receipt, with the remaining 50% related to what your audience observes while you’re delivering your message. 

Successful communications connect with the audience in 4 ways:

What people see (visual connection): All communication creates an impression of the communicator that either strengthens or weakens the message. For a connection to be received openly, causing a positive dialogue to begin, be aware of how you look to others – dress and act appropriately for the audience, the situation and the message. What people understand (intellectual connection): A productive intellectual connection requires that your knowledge of a subject be credible and that it reflects your conviction. Sharing a personal experience often opens people’s hearts and minds. What people feel (emotional connection): People feel your attitude, positive or negative, when you’re communicating. While you speak, they observe your energy, intensity and sincerity. This either attracts or alienates them, impacting your connection attempt. Your attitude always overpowers your words. What people hear (verbal connection): Everything you do with your voice while communicating affects your potential to connect. Your […]

By |October 16th, 2019|Grolistic, Growth & Leadership Insights|0 Comments

3 Qualities of a High Performance Culture

Bob Schultek
Author of
The Gauntlet

“Culture can account for up to half of the difference in operating profit between two organizations in the same business.” (Heskett @ Harvard) Consider these 3 qualities of a high performance culture:

Across the organization, there is a shared ownership for customer success and business progress. People understand how they create value by making a difference for customers, for each other and for the Company. The purpose and profit motives for the business are aligned. Cross-functional collaboration and initiative are encouraged in the relentless, strategic pursuit of innovation and improvement that is necessary to preserve current customers, develop new relationships, and sustain the enterprise. Leaders inspire their people to invest discretionary effort in making things better, enthusiastically providing opportunities for them to act. Leadership appreciates that the Company’s people are its most sustainable competitive advantage and invests accordingly in their development. There is transparency and a structure for leaders to engage with personnel, exchange ideas and collect feedback. It is understood that each employee’s ability to master their responsibilities and do meaningful work is strengthened through mindful, one-on-one dialogue with their manager about goal achievement, consistency of expected behaviors and career development.

How closely does your business resemble this model?

How might you strengthen your organization’s culture?

By |October 9th, 2019|Grolistic, Growth & Leadership Insights|0 Comments

Conflict and Commitment

Bob Schultek
Author of
The Gauntlet

There can be no team commitment without a dialogue that captures every team member’s opinion. And without commitment, there can be no shared ownership of a decision, and no shared accountability. 

As a leader, you may believe that you already know the best way forward. You may be reluctant to open a discussion which could generate information that is inconsistent with your preconceived conclusions. You might even feel that your ideas are threatened by such a dialogue. 

But the best decisions emerge by first acknowledging that what you don’t know is far greater than what you do. So, your objective for opening a team conversation about a pending decision is not to convince the others that you are right, but to discover what more should be known before the decision is made. Could vital information be missed by not hearing all perspectives? 

Providing an opportunity for emotions to be vented and conflicting opinions to be shared enables the exploration of multiple perspectives, which is how we learn. Reaching commitment requires that you be as eager to listen to other ideas as you are to promote your own. Seek to gain as great an understanding as possible about competing ideas. Encourage […]

By |October 2nd, 2019|Grolistic, Growth & Leadership Insights|0 Comments

The Hard Part

Bob Schultek
Author of
The Gauntlet

When I was a CEO, one of the lessons I learned over and over again, was that our business lived on the street, with the customers…not in our facilities. 

While our Operations personnel made essential contributions to the success of the business, delivering on promises made by our marketing, sales and customer service folks, they operated primarily with established expectations and known variables around product, process, and due dates. They challenged the status quo to make us better, improving quality, efficiency and profitability; they generated data to accelerate decision-making, and ensured that we got paid. The business could not have succeeded without their commitment, initiative and consistently fine work. 

But despite reliably meeting the multitude of challenges confronting them, their efforts were not the hard part of growing the business. 

The hard part was, and continues to be, earning a customer’s attention and trust. It’s discovering what a customer values and why, and then appreciating that this insight evolves with time to meet their customers’ changing needs. It’s about recognizing our responsibility to earn their trust every day. 

The hard part is navigating unclear expectations, unknown variables and rapidly changing circumstances to promptly propose viable solutions for the customer, and then helping them choose […]

By |September 25th, 2019|Grolistic, Grolistic, Growth & Leadership Insights|0 Comments

3 Ways to Nurture Innovation

Bob Schultek
Author of
The Gauntlet

Businesses seek to create value by moving faster, being more agile, and unleashing innovation. An innovative culture challenges people to take risks, promotes curiosity and learning, and encourages independent thinking that cultivates engagement, enthusiasm and meaningfulness. All of which strengthens your competitive advantage. Here are 3 ways to nurture an innovative culture:

Consistently communicate that innovation is essential for the success and sustainability of your business. Your personnel must understand that it is not optional. Promote collaboration with customers to develop novel concepts which meet their needs while enabling them to achieve an aspiration. Provide time and space to brainstorm during weekly meetings or independently with associates. Establish guidelines for ideas or suggestions to ensure that those submitted cite quantifiable benefits like revenue generation, quality or productivity improvements, or cost/time savings. Launch a cross-functional team to evaluate and prioritize proposed ideas and suggestions using these guidelines. Allow sufficient time for innovative ideas to develop. Encourage champions, recognizing and rewarding those whose innovations are validated, and the managers who excel at motivating their teams to improve and innovate. Drive fear of failure from your workplace. Leaders who react negatively to a new idea or a failed attempt, create a fear of failure that constrains innovation. […]

By |September 18th, 2019|Grolistic, Growth & Leadership Insights|0 Comments

The Value of “Why”

Bob Schultek Author of The Gauntlet

Asking “why” produces valuable insight. 

Asking why requires reflection that leads to understanding, often uncovering root cause. Challenging people to think is what stimulates discovery, solutions and growth. 

In a customer relationship setting, asking why establishes what a customer truly values, beyond their expressed need.   

In a quality assurance scenario, asking why something happened, after learning what occurred or how it occurred, accelerates the diagnostic evaluation and identification of productive remedies. 

In an employee development situation, asking why communicates a deeper level of empathy, beyond what can be accomplished through active listening alone. 

But when employing a why question, be aware of two caveats. 

First, because reflection is the objective for asking why questions, allow time for the respondent(s) to answer. This could involve waiting a few minutes, or perhaps sending everyone off to think about the issue, research possible reasons, and return later with an answer. 

Also, the tone used when asking a why question makes all the difference. If your tone is accusatory, reflection about cause will be replaced by reflection about self-defense, producing minimal productive insight. 

How often are you employing why questions?

How has asking why accelerated discovery and decision-making in your operation?

By |September 11th, 2019|Grolistic, Growth & Leadership Insights|0 Comments

Moment of Truth

Bob Schultek Author of The Gauntlet

In every customer relationship, there is the moment of truth – the moment when something goes wrong. 

It’s in that moment, when your promise has been broken, that your customer experiences the real nature of your business. What your company truly values is exposed. 

When a business is young, every customer relationship is precious. Promises made to customers reflect a personal commitment and depth of caring that adds value to an offering and cultivates a customer’s trust. 

As the business grows, so does its awareness of risk. There’s more to lose. Policies are created to protect what has been earned. Policies generate procedures, which then require a bureaucracy to manage them. In time, to justify its value, the bureaucracy defends itself – often during moments of truth. What prevails in your moments of truth? Is it your promised care for a customer expressed in your company’s values, or the policy that claims to make things right but is actually intended to protect your company? Which approach enables you and the customer to move forward? In moments of truth, how well your business demonstrates care and commitment is what makes the difference. It’s your people who reveal how much you care – people with the […]

By |August 28th, 2019|Grolistic, Growth & Leadership Insights|0 Comments