Unwieldy Committees That Initiate Delays
Another common barrier to effective leadership occurs when a market condition that warrants timely action and approval is not forthcoming. If an unwieldy committee is the problem due to extensive deliberation that reaches a point of procrastination, clearly there is an obstacle. This is not to say that committees are unnecessary; the issue is where committees lose their focus, objectives are not clearly stated, urgency is misread, and little is accomplished.
What you want to avoid are those hurdles that prevent you from getting effective decisions when needed. Fluidity is what you want to achieve. Each obstacle, such as a ponderous committee, can severely alter your ability to lead with confidence and purpose.
Pressure from Aggressive Competitors
The fundamental problem here is that sudden and aggressive actions by competitors can strike fear among your employees, resulting in damaged morale and lost momentum.
Such actions can leave deep impressions that cause anxiety, and if left to fester can boil over into even stronger emotional outcomes that rob your staff of the energy, heart, and spirit to move forward. The underlying issue is that what the mind can call up, believe, and then react to becomes the individuals’ reality. And any display by your staff of a negative, fretful mind-set when under competitive pressure is not what you are looking for.
In addition to competitive actions, other triggers that shape psychological impressions include failed performance of a new product, reduced profits, changing customer behavior, or lost market share.
Such states of mind can initiate another set of emotions; some are accurate, others distorted through false or exaggerated interpretations of what they observe or heard. For whatever the cause, the effect can deepen and degrade into still lower levels of morale. This is especially troublesome when such conditions jeopardize your ability to take positive action.
Here, again, the “supreme requirements of (leadership) are a clear perception ... and an ability to examine the human factors.” Your aim, then, is to watch the various human factors and attempt to clear them up through proper communication and involving your people in solutions.
The man of action must at times trust in the sensitive instinct of judgment, derived from his native intelligence and developed through reflection, which almost unconsciously hits on the right course.
To “trust in the sensitive instinct of judgment” requires discipline, training, leadership, ambition, and self-confidence on your part as well as those you manage. We now look more closely at each influence and its impact on leadership.
Preparing your staffto bear up under intense competitive conditions involves a good deal of leadership skill. That is, any form of restraint entails sensitivity on your part if you intend to change attitudes and forms of behavior. This is particularly essential when individuals are naturally predisposed to back away from the realities of an uncertain and erratic competitive threat.
Therefore, your aim is to motivate individuals to make audacious efforts to reverse a situation and turn potential defeat into victory. As quoted elsewhere in this book, Clausewitz’s sage comment holds true, “in war [confrontation] the result is never final.”
Accordingly, your intention is to be totally aware of what psychological effects competitive conditions have on your employees. With that concept in mind, your central task is to inspire individuals by reinforcing the idea that there are always actions that can change dire conditions into successful outcomes.
The central point to understand is that, if handled skillfully, you can turn around a competitive threat and make it an opportunity. In other words, if your counteraction is set off with a disciplined strategy for survival, followed by a strategy plan for growth, you can reignite your staff’s creativity and energy to find solutions to a supposed untenable situation. As a parallel issue, taking such an approach goes a long way in strengthening how you are viewed by your subordinates.
For example, one North Carolina-based company that markets organic fertilizer and similar environmentally friendly products reported a grassroots change in behavior among its employees. When informed by the company president that market conditions were tough and there were few funds for marketing, individuals on their own initiative became their own marketing force. They went on the road and visited retailers to check on displays, talked up their products, and chatted with customers. Instead of taking a plane, staying in a hotel, and charging meals, several people drove their cars more than 1,000 miles each, going so far as to sleep in their back seats.
All ... action is permeated by intelligent forces and their effects.
What follows from discipline is the essential need for ongoing training so that you can lead “intelligent forces” to meet the demands of a variety of conditions. That means equipping your staff with new skills or updating existing ones to help them cope with such circumstances as the demands of extra travel, long hours of work, or budgetary austerity. Your aim during hard times is to prevent them from caving in to pressures. Instead, you want them to come forward with rational decisions to deal with severe competitive conditions.
What exactly do you want the training to accomplish? Use the following guidelines and modify them for your particular use. First and foremost, within the framework of this book and the nature of a competitive global economy, assume that a competitor will vigorously confront your aggressive moves in ways that would jeopardize your market position. Accordingly, develop specific training sessions aimed at creating a state of readiness. The key word is readiness: readiness to take on an opponent going after your company and your market.
Train individuals to develop a competent business strategy plan with a customer-driven outlook and one that leads to a comparative advantage against competition. Components of that training should include making certain that individuals internalize the strategic direction of the plan, they know how to write objectives that complement the vision statement, they prepare strategies to achieve the objectives, and they propose products and services to drive the organization forward.
Train your people in the vital importance of maintaining ongoing competitor intelligence (CI). This is the key component to developing and implementing competitive strategies. The central idea behind CI is that if you know your rival’s plans, you are able to monitor his moves. Then you can figure out which strategies will likely succeed and avoid those with little chance of realization. You thereby gain the advantage of knowing where your competitor’s strengths are formidable and where he is weak. What better way is there for you to establish status among your people, as you motivate them to deal with potentially harmful situations?
Initiate training that gives your group a fighting edge. As part of that training, the team should learn to deal with input from a variety of viewpoints and sort the information into a coherent and actionable format. (See Chapter 5, “Functions and Responsibilities of a Cross-Functional Team.”)
Establish interactive communications within your organization that encourage innovation among all levels of personnel. That means using the power of positive words, encouraging optimistic attitudes, sharing forward-looking plans, and fostering full participation.
There is a need for clear, organized communication that makes available to various groups current information about the following: long- and short-term company and group objectives; market, industry, and technology trends; and intelligence about competitors. Such summaries also include tactical details that concern marketing, customer service, and logistics.
Clear communication, therefore, requires an organization that utilizes a systematized information delivery process, so that there is an easy flow of information up and down the organization. Such systems are readily available; they just need to be put into service (or upgraded.)
What is essential in the temperament of a general is steadiness.
One of the overall outcomes of training is to create an environment of trust and understanding, whereby subordinates are encouraged to seize the initiative and act with a sense of purpose and loyalty. As for loyalty, it is a two-edged sword in that it is no giant leap for employees to think their leader is disloyal to the organization, to believe their leader will be unfaithful to them as well.
Also, training should aim toward innovation. As applied to readiness, it focuses on truly imaginative and differentiated products or processes, as well as those categories of perceived new products described in Table 6.2. This type of training may require a new level of thought consistent with a Web-based economy. In particular, it requires a company culture that encourages innovation and a leader with a “temperament of... steadiness.”
When people discuss a general, they always pay attention to his courage.
One of the essential qualities of a leader is ambition. There never was an outstanding leader without ambition. It is the mainspring of all actions. But for pragmatic meaning, ambition must be worthy of the organization’s mission and not a pathway to solitary power.
Ambition is difficult to separate from courage. In analyzing great leaders it is generally impossible to decide which of their actions in the face of severe problems bore the mark of courage or that of ambition. Both are characteristics of the truly outstanding leader.
It is constructive ambition and the intense desire to excel that stimulates drive in others. The magic of winning always arouses determination, which gives momentum to the organization. Therefore, nurturing positive ambition is another prime duty of the leader.
Yet the unwelcome reality exists that unrestrained personal ambition does live on, with all its excesses and potentially harmful outcomes. It is uncontrolled raw ambition that destroys employees’ careers and the economic livelihoods of communities in which the organizations operate. Such excesses and scandalous executive behavior, which decimated some of the loftiest organizations, became a shocking reality during and beyond the 2008 recession.
Consequently, if you seek competence in leadership, understand how the power of corporate culture interfaces with ambition. Corporate culture, as discussed in Chapter 5, is the cement that binds together all the qualities, gives an organization a unique personality, and forms the underpinnings of unity.
For a general unable to estimate his capabilities or comprehend the arts of expediency and flexibility when faced with the opportunity to engage the [competition] will advance in a stumbling and hesitant manner, looking anxiously first to his right and then to his left, and be unable to produce a plan. Credulous, he will place confidence in unreliable reports, believing at one moment this and at another that.
As referred to earlier, embedded in excellent leadership is the enormous power of self-confidence, whereby you will perform correctly in a critical situation. Self-confidence comes from the inner feeling that you are competent in your job and will not “advance in a stumbling and hesitant manner.” And what do your employees absolutely desire? They want a selfconfident leader who can accurately assess conditions, know what needs to be done, and demonstrate a capability to take appropriate actions.
That means, for instance, when you go into a local marketplace, be watchful that you do not become sidetracked by an isolated incident. Instead, look at the event and fit it into the framework of the entire market scene. Then test it against the broader business objectives of your business plan.
And should your self-confidence still falter and you feel your problems weighing on you more heavily, it is your obligation to take whatever steps you can to strengthen your own determination, rekindle enthusiasm, and most importantly, instill discipline in yourself and those you manage.
Begin by focusing on the strategic direction and the business plan as a whole. Once again, it is vitally important that you retain a broad view of the whole situation. Understand, too, that effective leadership supported by well-thought-out strategies can work as a counterbalance to transitory emotions. This will also help you remain steadfast about implementing the business plan.
Thus, those skilled at making the enemy move do so by creating a situation to which he must conform. Therefore, a skilled commander seeks victory from the situation and does not demand it of his subordinates. Experts in war depend especially on opportunity and expediency. They do not place the burden of accomplishment on their men alone.