The Importance of Your Leadership Vision

The core or said another way, the heart and soul of your business. Like it or not, your business is competing and we should acknowledge the learnings and approaches of other fields which we associate with tough, relentless competition. Let\s consider sports, whether footballer, rugby player, tennis player or archer, their training has two components - the physical and the mental. Both the physical and the mental have at their starting point a foundation built on the core. We all know that physical conditioning begins with the core - the midstection, and from this  all stamina, power, stability and control are derived. Likewise, but less well acknowledged the mental strength of an athlete is derived from a core as well. The ability to endure, to perservere, to deal with disappointment, to work through the pain and to finally succeed, are also contingent on a strong core. Often this is what differentiates great teams from the good teams. Your business is no different!

Noble Purpose

 To illustrate this concept, let me share with you two examples of where I have personally been involved in businesses that thought of what their purpose really was and adopted this to heart. The first was working on a Banking turn-around and the second was am Insurance business. You will agree that both of these are surely some of the hardest workforces to motivate and to invigorate. The number of times they wil shift the conversation away from the simple question, asked at a dinner table or over a drink "So, what do you do?"  will not surprise you. Who could blame them, when a minute later, they'll end up on the receiving end of some diatribe? 

As the leadership of the business we saw it as our duty to make them proud of what they did and to provide them with some kind of authentic and powerful purpose for what they did on a day to day basis.  For the insurance business, we asked some fundamental and leading questions:

  • For every rand of premium how much is paid out to businesses?
  • What was the largest payout we made this last year?
  • What was it for?
  • If we had not paid it out, what would the consequences have been?
  • Do you think we have contributed to society when you think of your job in this way?
  • So, what is it that you do?
And here are the answers:
  • Between 65 and 75 cents on the Rand.
  • ZAR 450 million
  • A packaging factory that burned to the ground.
  • 1000 people would have lost their jobs! Each of whom have around 4-5 dependents. So not paying out the claim would have severely disrupted the lives of thousands not hundreds of people!
  • Yes, we have contributed to society, because we helped save jobs!
  • I don't work at an insurance company, I help save people's jobs. I am part of a business that makes this country stronger!

I cannot over-estimate the power of providing your business with a unifying purpose, nor can I relate how difficult it is for all employees to work through the logic that you, the leadership must provide. In this instance I had actuaries, some of the brightest people you will ever meet, come and tell me they had never looked at their job in this way before. This might seem difficult for your own business, but don\t worry, we'll get there, whether you are making cosmetics, car batteries, or software!

Your Values

 These are the  rules and boundaries that define the culture and personality of your business. They should provide that litmus test for any behaviour or decision that needs to be taken. It is vital that the business leadership lead by example and that their daily actions are aligned to these values. Unfortunately, the value of these has been undermined by their very public but very poor implementation. 

Here is a sample of some values, you should create your own, but use the same approach.

A typical Value What we suggest How we test this
Dependable Our customers can always rely on us.We will never ever give up! We never have to be called twice on some issue.
We put the interests of our customers first and will not leave the office before we have resolved their issue or called them to inform them on what we are doing to resolve their issue.
We don't pass problems on, but make sure that we own them and that they are resolved to the satisfaction of our customers.
Integrity We will always treat customers in the manner in which we would ourselves would demand or expect to be treated.
If we have made a mistake we will acknowledge it, and make every attempt to never repeat it.
Have we tried our best?
Is our best good enough?
Have we treated our customer fairly?  
Customer Centric We will never sell something we ourselves would not buy if we were them.Nothing less than a thrilled customer will do! If I were standing in my customer's shoes would I accept this quality in our product or level of service?
What should we do differently to make our products better for our customers?
If we received a complaint have we used this as an opportunity to convince our customer that we value the feedback, and that we will use it to be better at what they do, and that we have turned the negative into a positive in the minds of our customer?

Your Competencies

These must support your Purpose and Values and typically should:

  • Not be easy for your competitors to copy and emulate
  • Be widely applicable across your products and services
  • Directly contribute toward the benefits your customers value
  • Directly contribute to the qualities of your product or service.

At the same time, you should recognise what your business is currently good at and conversely what you are poor at, and whather these competency evaluations are inline with your purpose and values. For example, dealing directly with wholesalers might not be a strength, and in fact need not be something you need to be good at, whilst being in touch with your customers is.

How do you bring these core attrbutes alive in your business? This is what we cover next!