Wednesday, February 22, 2012

GE's Perspective on Leadership

The following is taken from an HBR article by Susan Peter, GE's vice president of executive development and chief learning officer who I worked with twenty years ago early in my career.

GE has always been progressive in Leadership development and my career and many individuals and companies have benefited.

What kind of leaders will be most effective in this novel and shifting landscape? I believe they share five common characteristics, core values that we at GE, through decades of evaluation and refinement, have found to be predictors of success:
  1. Tomorrow's global leaders possess an exemplary external focus — they collaborate not only with customers but with a wide range of stakeholders including governments, regulators, NGOs, and community groups.
  2. Leaders are adaptive and agile, clear thinkers who are not only decisive but able to connect strategy to purpose in a way that fosters commitment.
  3. Leaders possess both the imagination to innovate and the courage to implement — they're willing to take risks to champion ideas.
  4. Leaders are inclusive — it's the only way to build great teams.
  5. Leaders constantly seek to deepen their expertise and motivate others to do the same.
Great leaders never stop evolving. And in the end, they do the one thing that makes the biggest difference: They help others thrive. By creating development opportunities that align with their guiding values, we can equip leaders at all levels to overcome tomorrow's challenges and inspire them to navigate the complexities of a new age with clarity, courage, and integrity.

Friday, February 10, 2012

7 signs of a high-performance company

Every executive and business leader has a set of principles he infuses into the organization. That's where company culture comes from. Initially, it's top down. But if managers successfully use that set of principles as a blueprint for recruiting and it resonates with employees, it begins to live and grow at the grassroots level, as well.

While all great organizations have their own unique culture that motivates and engages employees, there are common signs that are visible from the outside. I've seen them in companies big and small. And their absence is just as evident. That speaks to the quality of leadership or its lack thereof.

Next time you're at work, take a look around. Do you see any of these seven signs of a high-performance company?

  1. Employees take ownership. When employees discover problems or issues, they take the initiative to ensure that they're resolved. They don't leave it for the next guy because it's not their job, not their fault, or not their responsibility. 
  2. People are happy. People look and act as if they're genuinely happy to be at work. No, they shouldn't be running around laughing like children in a playground, but you can tell that they like what they're doing and are having a good time doing it. 
  3. Managers are comfortable with their level of authority. They're clear on what their authority is and they're not resentful of what it isn't. That means decision-making occurs at the right level, no higher or lower than it should be. Managers aren't afraid to be overruled or second-guessed. 
  4. People are accountable. Folks say what they mean and mean what they say. They don't promise what they can't deliver or sandbag to get big kudos when they over-deliver. They tell you what they think they can do and are willing to be held accountable for the results. 
  5. There's a "How can I help you?" attitude. We used to call that a customer service attitude, but it's so much more than that. People never act put off, defensive, or interrupted by requests from anyone inside or outside the company. 
  6. Employees have a positive outlook. Whining and complaining is an epidemic in the modern business world. But there are companies where negative behavior is an outlier, meaning it stands out and is eventually flushed out, one way or another. 
  7. Things get done. Perhaps the most evident sign of a highly effective organization is that things just seem to get done. That's because people get things done. The company operates like a well-oiled machine. Yes, I know it's an old metaphor, but I don't know a better one.
So, you went to work and looked around. Did you see a high-performance organization or not?

By Steve Tobak

Thursday, February 9, 2012

What Should A CMO Do When The Gig Is Up?

Glass exit sign at LA Cathedral
John Ellett, Contributor @

We all know that the CMO is the most volatile position in the C-suite. So I wanted to get some perspective on what a CMO should do to prepare for the day when his or her tenure ends. Here are some insights from three executives who have recently found themselves in a transition.

Nigel Dessau was CMO at AMD for four years, a much longer-than-average tenure and a fact in which he takes pride. When a new CEO was brought in from the outside, Dessau acknowledged the possibility that his new boss would want to make changes that could affect him. After helping the CEO craft a new plan forward it was obvious to Dessau that it was going to be time for a change, so he initiated the discussions that led to an amicable separation. His advice, “Even before the new CEO was announced, I began saving to prepare for the possibility that I may be out of a job.” He is now using his free time to write a book based on the blog he’d been writing for the past three years, called The 3 Minute Mentor. He plans to travel and consult with companies on developing their value propositions while he contemplates his next move.

Julie Ann Robertson’s departure last summer from her CMO role at the National Wildlife Foundation was precipitated by the ill-health of her father. “He is very close to me and I felt I needed to spend time with him as he recovered.”  Looking back on her time at NWF, she believes that moving the organization into the digital era was the best thing she did to help her prepare for the future. “We had four print publications that we moved onto the Nook. We reduced our fundraising dependency on direct mail through the Postal Service by testing a highly successful text-to-give campaign after the Gulf oil spill.” She believes building her digital expertise was an important complement to her consumer marketing credentials earned at Burger King, 7Up and Ringling Brothers Circus. She and a former colleague are consulting for other consumer marketers as she looks for her next role.

Charlie Lawrence didn’t anticipate his end at Franke last fall as clearly at Dessau did his. After all, he’d been promoted from CMO to General Manager three years ago and was running a profitable division of the Swiss company. But when the CEO who promoted him was replaced, things changed and Lawrence found himself the victim of “corporate restructuring.” Yet he had been preparing himself for his new job search his whole career. “Networking is something that must be central to who you are and how you approach your career as a CMO. Networking includes helping recruiters when they call even if you aren’t interested. Then keeping a record of those you helped so you can ask for help when you need it. The recruiters will remember those who help them because most people don’t. If you do this starting early in your career, you will develop a reputation as a good guy who is helpful. Having said, I agree with the data that says you will find most of your new opportunities through your professional network, not recruiters. Former bosses, peers, subordinates, suppliers, customers, etc. These people will help you only if you were a good employee, did good work, were fair, honest, etc. This speaks to doing good and being a good person as the best way to get help. Don’t burn any bridges.”

Lawrence also agrees with Robertson that honing digital skills is critical. “As a marketer by training I believe finding a job is classic marketing ­ — I am now the product. With that context, I have been spending a great of time sharpening my skill set. I’m reading, investigating, networking and researching the new world of digital, mobile, social marketing. I have been on a dozen interviews in the past four months and in every interview this topic came up. That was certainly not the case six years ago. To link these two goals (marketing me and sharpening my skills) I developed a personal website, a blog and have become active on most social media channels. I participate in webinars and am moderately active in blogging. I also retweet and comment on other bloggers posts, all with the goal of learning something and staying visible and fresh.”
So how does a CMO prepare for the day the pink slip comes? Build and nurture your network, hone your digital skills and create a “rainy day fund” to tide you over until the next opportunity arises, all these seem to be part of the formula. What else would you add?

Monday, February 6, 2012

7 ways a CEO demonstrates he/she is serious about being customer centric

One of the reasons companies struggle in their quest for enhanced levels of customer focus is employees don’t buy the fact that their leadership is serious about making the change. They are looking for signs that this is not just the flavor of the month and it to will pass soon.
Here are 7 ways you can send that message:
1. Define what a customer centric culture means to your organization. What are the values of the organization and how do these translate into how you will treat customers? Even in businesses with very thin margins there are ways to create value that allow companies to differentiate. Take Ingram Micro for example, the world’s largest distributor of computer products. Ingram Micro were the first company to provide their smaller retailers a drop ship capability where they could opt to have products ship directly to customers. This service reduced handling costs for the retailers and added significant value, which Ingram was able to capitalize on through increased market share.

2. Define a customer service charter. Have you defined how customers will be serviced? Is this approach mirrored internally? There are certain fundamentals that every customer values but not every company delivers. Speed of complaint resolution is one example, has your company considered how important this is to your customers? A print shop owner would lose a lot of money if his printer stopped working and was not able to get a fast response. However, a clothing company may have a little more time to get an issue resolved. Regardless of these differences do all employees know how critical certain service elements are to the life of their customers?

3. Measure and benchmark your current levels of customer focus. Customer focus can be measured and compared with the best. You can only manage what you can measure and this goes for culture as well. Tools such as the Market Responsiveness Index (MRI) allow companies to very simply see where they stand versus the best companies across industries and the globe.
Companies with a strong culture of customer focus outperform their competitors on a consistent ongoing basis; this culture forms the bedrock of competitive advantage. Companies like Apple, Zappos, 3M and Nordstrom have dominated their markets with an unrelenting focus on customers.

4. Evaluate your decisions in light of the message they send to customers. When you decide to increase price in order to meet revenue or profit targets for a quarter, think about what message that sends to customers and employees? Is there an equal increase in value being provided? Or will it be perceived as price gouging, taking advantage of captive customers?

5. Top 10 lists of customer insights and issues. The practice of communicating what is on customer’s minds on a regular basis across the entire organization demonstrates that customer’s and their issues are important. Great customer centric companies publish these regularly and they come straight from the top. Treating all feedback as valuable and potentially actionable is energizing. Make sure complaints are viewed as opportunities by presenting them in a “here is what we are going to do about it” fashion.

6. Appoint a Chief Customer Officer (CCO). The appointment of a customer advocate at the most senior levels of an organization demonstrates a real commitment by the CEO and executive team to make customer’s a priority. There is a small but growing number of CCOs in mid-size and large companies. This reflects the trend of leveraging an end-to-end customer experience as a way to differentiate products that are increasingly commoditized.

7. Measure everyone on customer satisfaction. Elevate customer satisfaction and other customer metrics such as lifetime value to the same level as revenue and profits. Businesses succeed when their customers succeed and yet many companies bury the customer metrics in favor of only revenue and profits. But revenue and profits are the outcome of the customer metrics. In competitive markets if you see declines in customer satisfaction, increases in customer defection and reductions in customer lifetime value, a profit decrease is sure to follow. Just ask Reed Hastings of Netflix after some recent mis-steps cost the company more than 800,000 lost customers.

In business, words are meaningless without action, if your company’s vision and mission includes some statement related to customers, what tangible actions do the leaders of the organization take to reinforce this?

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Do You Have A Negative Attitude?

You  MUST take charge of your attitude.  This is critically important advice, especially when you consider that no one else in the world can do it for you.  But taking charge of your attitude can be an enormous task, so let’s understand what you’re up against.

Although attitudes can make or break us, we do have the ability to change them.  As with most challenges, it may not be immediately comfortable, but with a reasonable amount of effort you can learn to manage your attitudes and behaviors as easily as you manage your wardrobe.  It all comes down to what you choose to display to the world from your “attitude menu.”

We are all business owners of ME, Inc., and we need to keep a watchful eye on attitude and behavior because they have an enormous impact on family, friends, associates, staff and clients — not to mention our Personal Board of Directors. You can’t expect to be a successful business owner or employee if you have a chip on your shoulder, wear a perpetual frown, or allow jets of steam to shoot out of your ears just because you didn’t get your way on an important conference call or project.

Negative Thinking vs. Negative Attitude
They’re close — but not identical.  Negative thinking is also called negativity,  being negative, or just plain pessimism.  People who think negatively often have deep, unresolved self-esteem issues.  As a result, they put themselves down, are self-blaming, and have great difficulty with assertiveness.

Negative attitude (or in today’s jargon, just ‘attitude’) carries the stigma of being disagreeable, unpleasant, unkind, pessimistic, deceptive, and so on. If you have negative attitudes about life or business, most of your challenges will come from people who’ve made the decision to ignore your toxic personality.  Clearly, this will not help you get far in your career, job or personal life!

No One Values Negativity
Negative thinking, negative attitude, and negative behavior are all frowned upon and we would all be wise to look in the mirror and take an honest assessment. My experience tells me that people want to be associated with in work and socially with people that they respect at a minimum and if they like you all the better.

Borrowed from Rod Colón - Co-Host of Radio Show "YOUR CAREER IS CALLING"