How to win in 2020

Santa Clarita Valley Business Journal
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Ken Keller, SCVBJ Contributor

When Jack Welch was writing his weekly column, he addressed the loyalty factor of employees and the critical role it plays in a company. Welch said that organizations can only win when they have the best players who act in the best interests of the company.

Keith McFarland, author of “The Breakthrough Company,” has written that one method to grow a company is to hire ordinary people and give them extraordinary opportunities. In both cases, the goal is to win.

Let’s define what winning is: having a goal to achieve, perhaps more than one goal. The best kinds of goals are “SMART”: Specific, Measurable, Action-oriented, Realistic and Time-bound.

Now is the time to define winning: Do you want more revenue? More and better clients? Reduced expenses? Lower overhead? Higher profits?  

Note that each of these goals are trailing — meaning you will not know if you have achieved any of these until your reporting period is over.

What is critical to winning is to tie leading goals to each of the trailing goals. As an example, if the goal is to add more and better clients, it would be good to create leading goals with regard to prospecting, presentation and closing.

If the goal is to reduce expenses, a leading goal would be to track when contracts are coming up for renewal, so better terms and conditions can be negotiated.

Too many CEOs do not have leading goals, and so operate looking in the rear-view mirror wondering what happened instead of looking through the front windshield and seeing what needs to happen.

My observation is that creating leading goals will meet resistance. Managers and employees are simply not used to thinking about business this way.

As the leader, you must have both the leading and trailing goals laid out for your people to comment on and hopefully add to what you have prepared.  

If there is anyone in the company, even in the group that report directly to you, who doesn’t buy into this kind of thinking and shirk from being held accountable, you have departments of underperformers.

As I look back on my career, my former employers had much more potential than was realized.

There’s an old adage about “being part of the problem or being part of the solution,” and I must confess that I was not lacking in my effort to become more part of the solution as much as I could have or should have.

What made and kept my former employers mediocre was that they valued loyalty over results.

“That is the way we’ve always done it” or “That’s always worked for us” were the comments spoken by people whenever a new idea was brought forth. It was as if new ideas were beyond comprehension, beyond the realm of options.

No one wanted to be the tough manager, no one wanted to be the bad guy.

Because lip service was paid to the concept of a vigorous, candid discussion about the role and results of employees, people settled into a comfort zone of complacency.

Everyone was assured they were doing a wonderful job because no one told them any different.

When challenging times came, and the word came to reduce headcount, it was always sad. One manager I know was let go from a job she held for 16 years and never once had a written performance appraisal.

“It’s usually when they’re handing poor, unsuspecting Joe or Mary their pink slip that they (the manager) finally admits: ‘Look, all these years, you came in everyday, and you did your job, but you weren’t actually very good. And now someone has to go, it needs to be you,’” according to an excerpt from Welch.

Don’t you owe it to those that work for you to know exactly what is expected of them? Start by defining winning. So you can win big in 2020. ν

Ken Keller is an executive coach who works with small and midsize B2B company owners, CEOs and entrepreneurs. He facilitates formal top executive peer groups for business expansion, including revenue growth, improved internal efficiencies and greater profitability. Email:[email protected]. Keller’s column reflects his own views and not necessarily those of the SCVBJ.

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