Nice piece on the practical elements of leadership from the HBR

Use High Standards to Motivate Employees

Employees constantly watch their leaders to understand what kind of people they are. So one of the most important things leaders can do is to insist on high standards. While low standards lead to low commitment, high standards are energising, even for the most self-motivated employees. But choose your arenas carefully. If you demand perfection in every aspect of performance, you’ll come across as a tyrannical nitpicker. Choose one or two things you want to be known for, such as always being prepared for meetings, insisting on product quality, or supporting excellent customer service. Whatever the standard is, consistently uphold it and demand it of others.

Adapted from “Followers Don’t See Their Leaders as Real People,” by Nathan T. Washburn and Benjamin Galvin

A Formula To Measure Likely Success

 

On a small scrap of paper is the wisdom that Peggy Collins from my Toastmasters Group shared with us last week.

Mark yourself out of Ten for the Desire to achieve a goal and the Action you will take to reach it.

Multiply to see the percentage chance of attaining it.

No amount of Desire without Action and no amount of Action without Desire will lead to success.

“Jeff, what does Day 2 look like?”

Another post via the essential Benedict Evans’ Newsletter. This is from Jeff Bezos‘ (Amazon founder & CEO) annual shareholder letter: “managing Amazon and change in a large company”. Well worth a read.

“Jeff, what does Day 2 look like?”

That’s a question I just got at our most recent all-hands meeting. I’ve been reminding people that it’s Day 1 for a couple of decades. I work in an Amazon building named Day 1, and when I moved buildings, I took the name with me. I spend time thinking about this topic.

“Day 2 is stasis. Followed by irrelevance. Followed by excruciating, painful decline. Followed by death. And that is why it is always Day 1.”

To be sure, this kind of decline would happen in extreme slow motion. An established company might harvest Day 2 for decades, but the final result would still come.

I’m interested in the question, how do you fend off Day 2? What are the techniques and tactics? How do you keep the vitality of Day 1, even inside a large organization?

Such a question can’t have a simple answer. There will be many elements, multiple paths, and many traps. I don’t know the whole answer, but I may know bits of it. Here’s a starter pack of essentials for Day 1 defense: customer obsession, a skeptical view of proxies, the eager adoption of external trends, and high-velocity decision making.

True Customer Obsession

There are many ways to center a business. You can be competitor focused, you can be product focused, you can be technology focused, you can be business model focused, and there are more. But in my view, obsessive customer focus is by far the most protective of Day 1 vitality.

Why? There are many advantages to a customer-centric approach, but here’s the big one: customers are always beautifully, wonderfully dissatisfied, even when they report being happy and business is great. Even when they don’t yet know it, customers want something better, and your desire to delight customers will drive you to invent on their behalf. No customer ever asked Amazon to create the Prime membership program, but it sure turns out they wanted it, and I could give you many such examples.

Staying in Day 1 requires you to experiment patiently, accept failures, plant seeds, protect saplings, and double down when you see customer delight. A customer-obsessed culture best creates the conditions where all of that can happen.

Resist Proxies

As companies get larger and more complex, there’s a tendency to manage to proxies. This comes in many shapes and sizes, and it’s dangerous, subtle, and very Day 2.

A common example is process as proxy. Good process serves you so you can serve customers. But if you’re not watchful, the process can become the thing. This can happen very easily in large organizations. The process becomes the proxy for the result you want. You stop looking at outcomes and just make sure you’re doing the process right. Gulp. It’s not that rare to hear a junior leader defend a bad outcome with something like, “Well, we followed the process.” A more experienced leader will use it as an opportunity to investigate and improve the process. The process is not the thing. It’s always worth asking, do we own the process or does the process own us? In a Day 2 company, you might find it’s the second.

Another example: market research and customer surveys can become proxies for customers – something that’s especially dangerous when you’re inventing and designing products. “Fifty-five percent of beta testers report being satisfied with this feature. That is up from 47% in the first survey.” That’s hard to interpret and could unintentionally mislead…….

……..Good inventors and designers deeply understand their customer. They spend tremendous energy developing that intuition. They study and understand many anecdotes rather than only the averages you’ll find on surveys. They live with the design.

I’m not against beta testing or surveys. But you, the product or service owner, must understand the customer, have a vision, and love the offering. Then, beta testing and research can help you find your blind spots. A remarkable customer experience starts with heart, intuition, curiosity, play, guts, taste. You won’t find any of it in a survey.

In full HERE take the time and read the 1997 letter which follows it – makes interesting reading.

The truth is you have no choice but to innovate…

“The truth is you have no choice but to innovate.  Business cycles are so fast now, things that work for a period of time don’t work for very long, and you have to keep changing.”

Founder and CEO of Tough Mudder, Will Dean in conversation with Sarah Robb O’Hagan.

“You just do things that you find scary and after a while, they cease to be scary.”

Full interview HERE


The Monday Morning Quote #400

“Five years from today, you will be the same person that you are today,

except for the books you read and the people you meet.” .

Charlie “Tremendous” Jones

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photo – a portion of one wall of ‘The Woodshed” at ReesAcres.ie