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04-17-17

#12:  THE DISCIPLINE OF INSPIRATION

Good executive teams manage the business.  Great executive teams lead the business. 

But world-class executive team inspire the business.

For me, Holy Week is always the most inspiring week of the year.

And it was a good reminder of how important it is for executive teams to inspire. 

I think it is too easy for executive teams to get caught up in goals, plans, KPIs, and ops reviews, and lose sight of their ultimate responsibility.

Which is to inspire your company.

In addition, far too many executive teams have money as their ultimate definition of success.  It has been said that money is an excellent servant, but a terrible master.

Making money is a good thing.  Shareholders expect a return, and employees expect a paycheck.

But your company needs a higher purpose.  Your company needs to make the world a better place.  Your vision needs to articulate these things in an inspiring way.

Virtually every company has a mission, vision, and values.  Candidly, most are the kind of corporate blah-blah-blah that everyone tunes out.

So, my challenge to executive teams is to write a corporate purpose statement.  A corporate purpose statement answers a very simple question.

Why do you exist?

And, if you want to inspire your team, the answer better not be, “to make money.”

SHIFTPOINTS® helps companies create a Differentiating Competitive Advantage.

02-27-17

#11: THE DISCIPLINE OF DECISIVENESS

One of the most dysfunctional and destructive organizational pathologies is undermining, especially at executive levels.

Unfortunately, we see this all the time. 

Issues are discussed at the executive meeting.  Alternatives are debated.  And eventually, a decision about the best course of action is made.

Far too often, what happens next is that executives who did not get there way undermine the decision.  Sometimes, their undermining is overt, blatant, and public such as when executives say, “They made a dumb decision.” 

Most of the time, however, the undermining is much more covert.  Whispering at the water cooler.  Backstabbing in the bathroom.  Sniping at Starbucks.

This kind of behavior, especially at executive levels, must never be tolerated.

In contrast, high-performance executive teams debate, decide, and align. 

First, there is an open and candid debate.  The CEO – or the most senior leader in the group – plays a critical role in creating the environment that facilitates this.  Far too often, decisions are made by a CEO who is in monologue mode.

Second, there is a decision.  There are many ways that executive teams make decisions.  Sometimes, the CEO decides unilaterally.  Sometimes, there is a group consensus.  Sometimes, one executive makes a recommendation and the team endorses it.

Finally, once a decision is made, everyone aligns behind it, even it if wasn’t their preferred course of action. This is the discipline of decisiveness.

A few check-points for your executive team to consider:

  • Does your team have productive debates about strategically important issues?
  • Does your team make effective decisions in a timely manner?
  • Is your team suffering from undermining?

SHIFTPOINTS® helps companies create a Differentiating Competitive Advantage.

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02-20-17

#10: THE DISCIPLINE OF A SINGLE METRIC

Executive teams track and evaluate many metrics to get a complete view of performance, but high-performers identify One Number as the main one.  

Because you can’t win if your team doesn’t know how you keep score.

The problem with most dashboards is that they are too complex.  They present a mind-numbing array of information.

Many numbers are important, but it is the job of the executive team to decide which One Number is the most important one.

Revenue.  Revenue Growth.  Profitability.  Market Share.  Customer Satisfaction.  Net Promoter.  Employee Engagement.  Human Sigma.  Economic Value Added.  Return on Assets.  Earnings per Share.  Share Price. 

All of these metrics (and more) are important. 

Which one is the most important?  That depends on how you define success. 

Ideally, find One Number that is simple to measure and simple to communicate.  Something that is a leading indicator, rather than a look in the rear-view mirror.  Something that drives your economic engine, fuels your growth, and ignites your passion. This is the discipline of a single metric. 

SHIFTPOINTS® helps companies create a Differentiating Competitive Advantage.

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02-12-17

#9: THE DISCIPLINE OF PRIORITIZATION

For seventeen years, Ford used an incredible tagline.

Quality is Job One.

The Ford executive team had the courage to admit that their cars had quality problems, and fixing them was critical to the company’s survival.

So critical that the Ford executive team made it Job One.

Every organization has a multitude of issues.  They have a multitude of opportunities.  All of them are important.

But only one of them can be Job One!

High performance executive teams apply the discipline of prioritization to make one thing Job One. 

Providing this kind of specificity requires what Jim Collins calls "piercing clarity."  Most executive teams lack the courage or discipline to do it.  They have twenty-seven priorities… and wonder why the organization is confused about what is important.

So, what is your organization’s Job One?  Profitability?  Sales?  Customer service?  Employee engagement?  Cost control?  Quality?

In addition, Ford made quality their Job One for seventeen years!  Most executive teams can’t stay on one thing for seventeen minutes.

High-performance executive teams know that it takes a long time for organizational performance to improve.  Pick One Thing.  Make it Job One.  Stay with it… for seventeen years – or as long as it takes.

SHIFTPOINTS® helps companies create a Differentiating Competitive Advantage.


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02-06-17

#8: THE DISCIPLINE OF PERSEVERANCE

Congratulations to Tom Brady and the New England Patriots for winning Super Bowl 51.

Their dramatic comeback was the greatest in Super Bowl history.

When I started SHIFTPOINTS, I came across a great quote.  “The defining trait of a successful entrepreneur is… irrational perseverance.”

It is also the defining trait of high-performance executive teams. 

Like Brady and the Patriots, most companies go through tough times.  The loss of a big customer.  The failure of a new product.  The disruption of their market.

High-performance executive teams come together to persevere through tough times.  They galvanize the company with a compelling new vision.  They energize the company with an intensely focused strategy.  They identify a new source of differentiation and competitive advantage.

And most importantly, high-performance executive teams simply refuse to quit.  They follow the discipline of perseverance. 

So, if your company is going through a tough time, I hope Brady and the Patriots inspire you to persevere.  

SHIFTPOINTS® helps companies create a Differentiating Competitive Advantage.

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01-30-17

#7: THE DISCIPLINE OF CANDOR

Every executive team has discussions.

Unfortunately, most discussions never really get to the heart of the issue.

Why?  Because executives are afraid to speak their minds.  Their need for self-preservation kicks in.  They decide that telling the emperor that they have no clothes would be a career limiting move.

We see this all the time.  We can tell that executives are “holding something back.”  We can see their discomfort with the discussion or the decision that is about to be made.  Yet, they are afraid to speak up.

Google just did a fascinating study about teams.  They concluded that “psychological safety” was a key component of high-performance teams.  It is this psychological safety that creates the environment for executive teams to have vigorous and candid debates about the company.

Psychological safety is the prerequisite to candor.  And the discipline of candor is the key to productive debates.

Creating psychological safety starts at the top.  CEOs must create an environment where candor is valued and opinions can be expressed without retribution.

Many CEOs struggle with this.  Having an outside consultant – such as a SHIFTPOINTS strategy coach – can help.

SHIFTPOINTS® helps companies create a Differentiating Competitive Advantage.

PS:  After a brief vacation from the blog, we have restarted our series about The Twelve Disciplines of high-performance executive teams.  We look forward to your feedback.

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01-23-17

#6: THE DISCIPLINE OF TEAMWORK

In theory, every executive team is a team.

But in reality, most executive teams struggle with the discipline of teamwork.

There are many reasons for this. Executive teams have unique dynamics that make them unlike any other team in the organization. (More on this in the weeks to come.) Most function like a golf team, where everyone is playing their own individual game.

In contrast, high-performance executive teams operate more like a basketball team. They have a high degree of interdependency. They model unselfishness and demonstrate a “we before me” attitude.

You don’t develop this kind of teamwork by sitting in a conference room presenting PowerPoint slides to each other. You must spend time as a team working together to solve your company’s most pressing problems. You must also take time celebrate your company’s biggest victories.

A few Check Points for your consideration:

  • Does your executive team have a strong foundation of trust?
  • How much of executive compensation is based on overall corporate performance?
  • Are you tolerating any executive behaviors that undermine teamwork?

SHIFTPOINTS® helps companies create a Differentiating Competitive Advantage.

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01-16-17

#5: THE DISCIPLINE OF EXCELLENCE

Every executive performs.

But most executive teams have at least one member who is not meeting expectations.

In contrast, high-performance executive teams optimize the performance of every member of the team.

This starts with high – and continuously elevating – expectations of performance. High-performance executive teams are constantly raising the bar.

They set high targets and challenge each other to get better.

Thus, every executive must commit to both individual excellence and continuous improvement. (I’m astonished by how many reach the executive level and then stop growing and learning.)

In addition, as companies grow and evolve, the executive team must also grow and evolve to embody the discipline of excellence. 

Sports teams are great examples of the relentless quest for excellence. They trade for players who can upgrade the team. They are constantly evaluating performance. Raising the bar is just part of the process.

Here are a few Check Points for your consideration:

  • Is every executive on the team really performing up to your standards?
  • Does your executive team have a culture of challenging each other to “raise the bar?”
  • What are you doing to help each executive develop their professional skills?

SHIFTPOINTS® helps companies create a Differentiating Competitive Advantage. 

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01-09-17

#4: THE DISCIPLINE OF DESIGN

Every team has people. 
 
But most executive teams struggle to get the right people in the right roles.

As we discussed last week in The Discipline of Purpose, clarity of purpose is a prerequisite to building a high-performance executive team. 
 
Once the purpose is clear, you must apply The Discipline of Design.  Answering a few questions can accelerate the process:

  • What are the skills, strengths, and experiences required to accomplish your executive team’s unique purpose?
  • What are the skills, strengths, and experiences of the existing executive team?  What are your gaps? How can you close them?
  • What roles are required?  Which executives are best positioned to fill those roles? (Note: these roles do not have to be linked to the executive’s title.  For example, if the CFO is the person with the most experience with employee engagement, perhaps they should lead that initiative, not the VP of HR.)

Of course, there are many other questions that impact the design of the executive team.  The key point is that great executive teams don’t just happen.  They are designed.

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SHIFTPOINTS® helps companies create a Differentiating Competitive Advantage. 
01-02-17

#3: THE DISCIPLINE OF PURPOSE

Every team has a purpose. 
 
But most executive teams have never taken the time to clarify what theirs is.

In contrast, high-performance executive teams have a clear – and unique – sense of the discipline of purpose.
 
This seems like it should be obvious, but there are many different kinds of executive teams.  In the same way that each company should have a unique purpose, the executive team running that company should have a unique purpose as well.  (A church’s executive team has a very different purpose than a construction company’s executive team.)
 
To clarify your executive team’s unique purpose, consider three factors: decisions, outputs, and outcomes.
 
Decisions are the unique things that your executives decide as a team.  (Like approve bonuses.)  In some companies, this list is actually quite small, since most of the decisions are made by individual executives without bringing the issue to the entire executive team.
 
Outputs are the unique deliverables produced by your executives as a team.  These include things like corporate strategy documents, annual budgets, or organizational goals. 
 
Outcomes are the unique results that your executive team is responsible for as a team.  These include things like financial results or employee engagement.

Once you know your executive team’s unique purpose, you can design the team to accomplish it.

SHIFTPOINTS® helps companies create a Differentiating Competitive Advantage. 

 

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