Good Leaders Do Not Manage Change……They Lead Change!

As I mentioned in my last blog, I have had several interesting consulting engagements recently and they have provided me some great experiences to share via this blog. I guess it just makes sense that most business leaders ask for consulting help because they are struggling with some type of change that they feel is needed or in further definition or implementation of that change. When I hear business leaders or their senior teams talking about change like a project, it always causes me to focus first on getting those business leaders to understand that change is not a project like a business IT system upgrade.

I recently had a consulting opportunity where the CEO was very clear on most of the changes his business needed to make both organizationally as well as operationally. His issue was not understanding what was needed but it was clear that his problem was not knowing how to really lead his business/team to accomplish the changes necessary. One of the biggest issues with his approach to change was that he expected it to have a beginning and an end. Great businesses are lead by great leaders and great leaders are clear that change is a constant event with no beginning and end, especially when it comes to organizational competence and operating efficiency. So, I hope you can get why I feel so strongly as the title of this blog says, you have to continually lead change versus building teams, projects and organizations to manage change.

I guess you could argue that some changes are managed such as restructuring or expansions but when you talk about growth, development or fulfilling a vision those long term changes must be led not managed. Leaders who believe that change is a constant leadership challenge will always get the most from their efforts.

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Business Success Starts and Ends with the Strength of the Organization, a Reality All Too Often Overlooked

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I have been very busy over the course of the last two months with a number of new business consulting opportunities. The size of the companies involved has been from several million dollars in revenue to those well over one hundred million dollars in revenue. We have discussed broad strategic issues in each of the businesses including market competition, price opportunities, operating efficiencies, communication, service offerings for re-occuring revenue streams and a host of other initiatives. The interesting thing in all of this is how quickly we come back on each issue to the current personnel, the capability/capacity of those folks and the need to identify ways to grow, recruit and/or develop stronger personnel solutions for the needs of the business going forward. I could write about many examples in detail but I want to use one ongoing activity that really re-enforces the title of this blog.

I am working directly with the CEO of a very fast growing business that has to find ways to both continue to grow the organization dramatically, serve the customer flawlessly despite record growth, protect price and margin via best in class performance and control the cost efficiency of this very fast growing enterprise. I know this sounds like a great problem to have for many of my readers but it as challenging a situation as you can have because a few missteps and the business never gets these opportunities again. When you think about these challenges, I can not help but ask first about the organizational competence/teamwork at the CEO level of direct reports and then their direct reports. I always ask this question by asking for the rating of this leadership team as a “A”, “B” or “C” player. My definition of these ratings is “A” player –capable of moving two levels up in the organization, “B” player–capable of moving up one level in the organization or executing equally as well in a lateral move and “C” player–not performing to job standard and hurting the overall effectiveness of the organization. Typically, I have been taught to believe that you should have about 10 to 15% “A’s”, 10-15% “C’s” and the balance are “B’s” at various levels of performance in that broad spectrum. I believe this is critical to know and confront honestly in your existing organization because if you can not understand and act on your current weaknesses as well as know where to focus on promoting valuable personnel, how can you ever plan, coach, hire and mentor for success especially in a growth business.

The CEO of this particular business completed this analysis during the December timeframe and we then had a six hour dialogue about the current team, the organization structure, the team dynamics, action plans for the “C” players and promotion opportunity for a couple of “A” players as the business moves forward in the critical performance year ahead. I am extremely excited that this CEO did his homework with brutal honesty and he is now preparing for changes, communication and organizational developmental moves that will drive business success in 2012 and I believe business greatness in the years beyond that! There is simply no way to move a business forward in its overall performance without this work being organizational reality work being done year in and year out as the cornerstone of the business.

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Process Is Critical, But Personally It Can Be Very Frustrating!

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In the last blog, I wrote about the utilization of a process oriented approach to helping a business that I serve on the Board of Directors to achieve growth in prospects and close rates with those prospects. I mentioned my process oriented background and the fact that I have embraced for years that process provides solutions while “quick fixes” usually provide more problems in the long term. With that said, you would think that I would readily accept the need for process in all aspects of my life. Well in some personal instances, that is easier said than done so I do have those personal occasions where I can understand how business leaders desire for a “quick fix”. The driving force for me in that personal quick fix is the resolution of a serious health problem with an immediate family member. It is a life or death situation. Having been taught to diagnosis, analyze and fix issues issues from a process perspective in the business world, I recognize that some issues can mean the same to the viability of a business. However, just as I have learned to trust the process (but drive decisions and actions) in business, I am learning and applying that same belief to my personal situation.

I have discovered personally that much like the business orientation, you must seek out the best members to put on your team and then you need to get all the members of your team (in this case various doctors) to serve as a team. The team needs to draw on the experiences of all the members of the team as they work to craft a solution or alternative solutions. No one solution is more valuable than another until it is discussed with both pro’s and con’s by the group. Once the potential actions and solutions are crafted, the team has to act and it has to be accountable for dates and follow-up both individually and as a group. Most importantly and very difficult to apply in this personal setting is the fact that the process may call for a solution that is not fast and not guaranteed. This is always tough in business but even more so in critical personal situations. Last, the team and the facilitator have to always consider the feelings/emotions of the individual or individuals for whom the actions are being taken which means strong communication and education.

Writing this blog has been good for me to help remind me that a process approach is the right way for my personal situation despite how much I long for a “quick fix”. I hope you can identify with the values associated with a process approach following my back to back blogs from both recent business and personal activities.

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Every Day I Am Constantly Re-Enforced About The Value Of Process!

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Over the course of the past week, I have been reminded both in a business setting as well as a personal setting that the only way to drive real resolution to any issue, large or small, is through a systemic process approach oriented to a step by step solution versus a quick fix. As many of you know, I was schooled in a business environment that placed a very high value on processes and procedures. While I believed in it and that has become the baseline for how I think from a business perspective, it does not stop me or many others from desiring a faster solution or a “quick fix” at times especially when it comes to more personally oriented issues.

First, from a business perspective, I had the opportunity about a week ago to lead a Board of Directors (which I am a member of as well) and the co-owners of the business through a workout process (a well documented General Electric process) with a focus on how to grow business prospects, track the status of those prospects and close on the prospects via creating a solution that appealed to their respective needs. In this workout process, we had a rather loose structure/agenda but there was a clear process that I walked the team through to define where we are and where we need to go to drive growth. I did not provide answers but I provided the structure for them to define the needs, actions, person/persons responsible and follow up to begin to construct the solution for growth. The critical takeaways are that we followed a very process oriented structure to get everyone involved in the definition and activities to address the business needs for growth. We then established a very defined process for follow-up actions and reviews with clear dates, responsibilities and tracking mechanisms. We will improve both our number of business prospects and close rate but it will take us several months to do so as we follow the process. The other alternative so often employed is to identify as individuals or as smaller groups “shoot from the hip”alternatives or “quick fixes” that are not documented, evaluated or agreed upon as a group resulting in many initiatives with little results.

I will keep you posted on the results of this process as we move forward as a team but I can tell you a couple of results that have been accomplished already that are significant. First, we are more of a team with a stronger bond and team direction than existed before the process began. Second, we have agreed upon actions and responsibilities with involvement from all. Third, we are all focused on selling and grow regardless of our unique roles/responsibilities. Last, we have a plan that will take us forward and if the results are not what we desire we have a process for next steps as a team. Why would any team want to resolve business problems or try to operate on a daily basis without strong process orientation. In the next blog I will write about the importance of process in a personal setting as well.

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Why Is It So Hard For Leaders To Be Humble?

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I want to avoid adding to the fire of all that is being written this about the failure of responsible action on the part of leaders and the tragedy that has struck so many leaders at Penn State University. Instead I prefer to write about a key leadership skill that I think is the downfall of more leaders than not doing the right thing, which was at the heart of so many leaders failure at Penn State. I like to believe that not doing the right thing as a leader is a much smaller problem than not being humble as a leader. I recently consulted with a bright young leader who has a great team, a great business and tons of opportunity but I am truly concerned that his lack of humility may prevent him from realizing his personal or business objectives. We are working hard to overcome this issue and some of the discussions have created strong thoughts that I wanted to share in this blog.

First, I truly believe that humility enables an individual to be able to look objectively at yourself in terms of your strengths and weaknesses. For those of you who have read my book, Transformational Leadership-A Blueprint for Real Organizational Change, you will know that there was a period of time where I was not as humble a leader as I needed to be. I was running a manufacturing business in Mexico and I made a ton of leadership mistakes because my lack of humility caused me not to draw on the expertise around me and understand that I could not be a expert in everything. In other words, I was simply not admitting what “I did not know”(recall that blog subject a couple of weeks ago) and calling on the support and expertise of others to help me. In the book, you can find additional details about these failings and how it almost ruined my career early on in GE. The good news here is that I did learn from these failures in Mexico and was fortunate to turn it around and realize successes from the experience. As a current humble leader, I will remind you again that that I never learned nearly as much from my successful activities than from my failures. I believe that is what makes my book such valuable reading!

As you have probably realized at this point, I believe humility and failures are the grounds for real learning and success. I believe that to be true for three distinct reasons when it comes to humility. First, as I stated above you simply can not be an expert in everything. Some leaders are strong financially, others are great communicators and there are those who are excellent strategically. As a leader, decide what you are best at and be humble enough to hire great people and give them real authority to act in their areas of expertise. Second, humility draws out the help, opinions and acts to persuade others with whom you have chosen to lead. Always believing that you have all the answers and know what is good for all with soliciting their thoughts is the quickest way to build an empire of “yes” folks who will do little to correct the course of the business even if they know it is wrong. Last, it simply enables the leader to grow because as I said before what you don’t know as a leader always far exceeds what you do know!

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Let’s Talk About The Rocket Fuel For Great Business Ideas

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I was recently having breakfast with a close friend and business associate and he said something to me that was the basis for this blog. We are working together to get a second investment fund up and running and the opportunities that we have for investment and significantly positive returns are unlimited. However, as my friend said at breakfast, those opportunities await the team or business that simply has the capital to deploy to close on them and unless we can really move the needle on raising funding and converting prospects to investors, we will not be the team that succeeds in this venture. That same thing said in simpler terms is that a prospect is just a prospect until you close and have them become a buyer. Therefore, the rocket fuel for any great business idea is selling, closing and having the invested capital to deploy to turn your great ideas into reality. It simply will not happen without closing and raising the capital necessary!

We went on to discuss the amount of time spent and the data that we have collected on various leads and prospects. We feel many of those prospects will invest and in fact some already have done so. However, what we really lacked was really systemic clarity on the amount of time they have been a prospect, the source of their funds to invest and their timeline for decision making with good follow up processes. We are working on several fronts now to create more regular visibility to the status and aging of our prospects. That will be the baseline for us knowing week to week if we have enough prospects flowing in to our plan and the close rate over time that is the best indicator of the work to be done to achieve our objectives.

As we work this on a weekly basis, there are three things that will be critical data for us to discuss and review. First, we need to know that our prospects have the money available to invest. If the money is not really there and available for this investment, that is the first and biggest disqualifier. Second, we need to know the prospect and be close enough to the status on a regular basis to understand if this investor has the approval of others close to him/her to make this investment decision. The others that could stand in the way of a decision could be a financial planner, a spouse, a close relative or a co-worker. We need to understand their commitment versus others with whom they interface daily. Last, we need to create a desire for them to invest. What are their needs? How will this investment help fill their needs. So, the obtainment of the rocket fuel is simple but complex and it must be looked at regularly on all these fronts in order to obtain and fuel you great business ideas.

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Is Your Business Leaving A Big Financial Upside On The Table?

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I know you have all heard the reference phrase at some point in your life, “how much money did you leave on the table?” It might have been a reference to what you paid versus the asking price or it could have been a reference to what you sold for versus the price you could have received. I know that whenever this phrase has been spoken to my benefit or I was not the one leaving money on the table, I always felt much better about that outcome. I do not think that anybody wants to feel that they have achieved less than a good outcome either personally or in their business when it comes to a financial result but it is always amazing to me how many businesses do leave a real financial upside on the table.

The upside I am talking about leaving on the table that is familiar to most businesses is the upside of price. It is amazing to me that not only do businesses spend so little time thinking about price but many businesses spend even less time measuring price. Price is one of those few actions that can be taken in a business that when implemented and achieved will drop through straight to the bottom line of the business. I talk with many CEO’s who are desperately looking for ways to improve their bottom line performance. When I get to conversations about price, it is astounding the blank stares I get as I ask a series of questions. Those questions often include things such as when was the your last price action to your market, how much of your increase was realized, how much of the price increase was actually collected, and what did your competition do before or after your action on price? So, little is known by most of them about a subject that has so much power to change their profitability.

It has often been said that one percent price increase is more valuable to a business than five percent improvement in productivity! If all this is true, then why is so little accomplished in planning and implementing price increases in the day to day business thinking. I will talk about this and more in the upcoming blogs; but for now please begin to think about the past actions and future potential of more strategic pricing actions in your business.

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Leading By Example Facilitates Real Change

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For those of you who do not know me, I will let you know that we have just entered my favorite time of the year, college football season. As I watched these first few weeks of the new season, it is clear that some of the best results so far are the teams that have a head coach that is leading their teams out front with real passion and commitment. The players feed off the energy of these coaches who run up and down the sidelines engaged in every play and who more importantly have delegated the leadership of their offense and defense to their assistant coaches. In other words, like so many good business leaders the real change and success of these teams is because they have a leader that believes, engages the team around him with delegated leadership and visibly gives 110% in effort to win!

I have written before about the need to be a real, authentic person in order to be a really effective leader. Well there is no way you can be real without really setting the example for all to follow. A real leader is out in front of his/her team. Did you ever wonder why a team could perform so differently with the same players and the only change being a leadership change? Well I have personally witnessed this in three businesses and I can tell you that in order to facilitate the dramatic changes that occurred, it all began with leading the members of the business in a very visible, honest, an energized way that set the belief that we could change and win!

You know we hear it most of our lives, “set a good example.” Well there could not be better advice when it comes to leadership. Strong leadership examples who give their all, energize people who may have given up on winning. Strong leadership examples can dramatically change the results of a less than successful organization. Real leadership often facilitates real change and a future that few can see.

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Real Leadership Is Allowing Others To Think And Act

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I had a terrific time this past Monday consulting with a small business owner (revenue less than $2 million) who appears to have a very strong product but is significantly missing growth opportunities. I spent a couple of hours over the weekend reading about his product, his current customer relationships, his missed market opportunities and his organization. We then spent the better part of the first hour talking about the history of the business, the product and the current financial position of the business. At that point, I was overflowing with ideas that I felt could help short term growth, business/product market positioning and longer term broader market opportunity perspective. However, one of my most important jobs in this consulting assignment was to make sure that it was not my ideas and thoughts that drove the actions of this business’s future. This is not because I did not want to help but rather because if the actions were to get long term traction they would have to be owned by the CEO and his team not a consultant.

With this in mind I proceeded to ask lots of “what if” questions and waited for the CEO to form his own opinions about what would be needed in each of these areas. If I thought his responses were off the mark I would steer him hard to think about alternatives. In fact, in one instance I insisted that he was missing a pricing opportunity and walked him through why I thought that was true and how to do it. The longer we dialoged like this the deeper I was able to probe into some of the real issues and opportunities that were deeply rooted in the business and clearly preventing it from growing.

We ended our session with numerous short term actions to drive margin and revenue growth and many longer term possibilities to strengthen his team, his market position, his sales efforts and his own leadership style. At the end, he asked me for prioritization as he clearly felt thia was a very valuable session but one where he ended it with his mouth on the proverbial firehouse! I shared with him that I would be happy to meet again and discuss his decisions on action prioritization but as the business leader he will need to think and act with the inputs from his team for their real buy-in to all our work. In other words, I had forced him to think beyond his constraints and now I wanted him as a leader to pass that on to his team. Then the actions will be the commitments of a leader and his team who were both encouraged and allowed to think and act!!

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The One Thing That Maxmizes Organizational Results……Is Collaboration!

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When my son was in high school and playing on the baseball team, I volunteered to take on a significant leadership role in the Athletic Association for the entire high school. At the time, I was working for GE and had moved into a much bigger leadership role as well. In GE where I had hundreds of people reporting into my organization, it was easy to make things happen, because even if your hard work as influencing leader did not always work, you did still had the authority to drive consensus and get things done. However, in this athletic association there were hundreds of parents who all had good ideas and their own agendas depending upon the needs of the sport in which their child participated. So, not only was consensus impossible to drive because of lack of authority, it was also very difficult to drive because of so many conflicting opinions about the priorities for the funds raised by the association. The only real way to ever get anything done over the course of that year in that leadership role was by finding ways to drive collaboration among so many different people with so many different needs.

So, what is collaboration? Collaboration is the process of people thinking and working together to discover ways to solve problems and address complex issues/needs via the exploration of multiple options from various perspectives. Most of the obstacles to effective collaboration in business, public service or private functions are within the collaborators themselves. One of the most common issues is a negative or it can not be done attitude. I believe the second most common issue is the self-serving attitude found in various collllaborators. When we discussed fundraising in the association and pushed to think big, it was amazing how the same folks always were convinced that it could not be done long before we even started to achieve the goals. When we discussed the budgets for the association there was little regard from some folks as to what sports provided the most revenue to the budget. They wanted more than their fair share of the budget just because their child and their particular sport was more deserving in their opinion. These same attitudes exist in the business setting and sometimes even more pervasively. It is a much more effective way to impact the thinking of these few through the power of many positive people collarorating than just taking them on yourself as the leader of whatever organization you are driving forward

Collaboration is a way to energize people to work and think together and to have them see the value of broad engagement and experiences on various issues. Complex business issues that seem almost impossible to resolve in several businesses that I have lead were moved to a real breakthrough status by driving collaboration of a mix of business capabilities and divergent viewpoints on these major business issues. It is clear to me that finding solutions and a better way in today’s world of challenges is almost always much more than what one leader’s mind or a select group of leaders can handle. By pulling many in to the day to day process of collaboration as a business team, I think it drives better business speed, output, quality and ultimately profitability. My old adage has been to have the best business possible all your associates “must bring their brain to work and they must be allowed/encouraged to use it!”

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Good Leaders Do Not Manage Change……They Lead Change!

As I mentioned in my last blog, I have had several interesting consulting engagements recently and they have provided me some great experiences to … [Read More...]

Motivational Leadership Speaking Motivational Leadership SpeakingRandy continues to be an exciting motivational leadership speaker, which has been his passion for over 25 years. He honed his skill as a motivational speaker and business coach working at GE under the tutelage of Jack Welch. From line supervisor to President & CEO, Randy has successfully lead individuals through his specific motivational methods that produce tangible results. Randy is personable, authentic, and driven. He has a speaking ability that motivates and energizes individuals to achieve beyond their potential.
Executive Leadership Mentoring Executive Mentoring & Leadership ConsultingRandy Dobbs is a proven CEO with strong operational/execution skills who has demonstrated success in fix-it situations. Randy has been a mentor for over 30 years helping individuals, senior leaders, to CEO’s at GE, Phillips Medical, USIS and wcasportfolio companies. Randy was trained in mentoring while at GE and subsequently pushed to train all the top leaders in Philips and USIS while implementing mentor programs at both organizations.Randy mentors/coaches CEO’s and some of their direct reports today in his current role.
Buy Randy’s book “Transformational Leadership” Transformational Leadership

Sharing personal experience and practical business blueprints, Dobbs takes the reader on a journey through the transformational process. Leaders working in organizations of various sizes--and facing diverse challenges and opportunities--will find Dobbs' ideas transformative, personally as well as professionally. This is a book for persons who want to be change agents within their respective organizations. It is for all who want to make a difference for themselves and their coworkers.