Turning marketing on its head: The rise of Predatory Marketing

Predatory MarketingAll of us want our message heard. All of us want our message to impact our customers’ lives. All of us want to drive sales and boost profit margins.

But the brutal truth is, more than often, our messages are ignored and our perspectives – no matter how valuable — are being missed. Australians are bombarded with thousands of ads and calls-to-actions a day and the fact is: people are becoming desensitised by information overload.

Predatory Marketing is the answer to being heard above the noise. It’s a development that challenges any preconceptions we may hold about how organisations can expand their client base. To get a better understanding of how Predatory Marketing is helping companies, we sat down with 2015 TEC Speaker of the Year, Ashton Bishop, Head of Strategy at Step Change, to learn how his new tool is affecting the way companies communicate.

The new marketing reality

The way marketing is taught has followed a typical pattern for decades now – that it’s about meeting the needs of customers. But this is changing.

It’s no longer enough to assume that your target audience has needs that require fulfilling. The business world is advanced enough that most of your target audience is likely to be at least satisfied with the goods and services they already have access to. Today, the only predictable need that customers have is a need for less corporate ‘noise’ – communications that are overwhelming customers with too much information.

The challenge is now for business leaders to stop thinking about simply meeting customer needs and to target the weaknesses of their competition (more on this later). In other words, companies need to embrace Predatory Marketing.

Predator or prey?

Now that companies can no longer think solely about satisfying needs, they have to start asking, “Who has my money?” It’s a zero-sum game that businesses are operating in, and organisations now have to tailor their marketing practices to ensure they accommodate this new reality.

Failing to keep up with these changes will ultimately make it harder for companies to grow, especially as their competitors actively start trying to poach customers from their brand.

Cutting through the noise

In Australia, we spend roughly $13.3 billion on marketing per annum – translating into around a million branded messages that each of us see every year. That’s 3,000 every single day.

Of those 3,000, we will only notice 80 and react to 10. And of these 10, we instantly treat half as unwelcome intrusions into our lives – leaving only five messages a day we actually notice, react/respond positively to and absorb.

When crafting a message that can qualify as one of that handful, you also have to remember the five-ninths law. This law states that five-ninths of marketing messages will be misattributed to the leader of a market segment, rather than the company paying for the message.

For organisations that aren’t in this leadership position, they are essentially cementing the position of their leading competitor with their own marketing budget. Overcoming this gap, and crafting messages that actually move market share away from competitors is therefore key to building a successful Predatory Marketing campaign.

What does Predatory Marketing look like?

Whenever we work with clients who are looking to embrace Predatory Marketing, there are four key steps we advise them to take:

Step 1) Identify where the money would go if your company didn’t exist

Imagine your business didn’t exist – where would your customers’ money go? A competitor? Or would customers spend it on a completely different offering?

Asking these questions is the foundation of a competitor analysis. From just asking these questions, you’ll usually identify four or five competitor organisations that are offering a comparable product that your customers would gravitate towards.

From there, we are looking to narrow down the list to find a target. This means identifying a competitor that is very large or is perhaps a little lazy and isn’t meeting the needs of its customers. If you can find one of these, then you have the starting point of your Predatory Marketing campaign.

Step 2) What are the strengths of the opposition?

Now that you have a competitor lined up, you need to objectively evaluate their strengths. To do this, put yourself in the shoes of a customer or consider why a third-party would recommend them.

What you are looking at here is the natural language around what the company’s offering, rather than a slogan grounded in marketing jargon. When you can express in simple terms the strengths of your competitor, the next step is much easier: weaknesses.

Step 3) Find the weakness that comes from the opposition’s greatest strength

Within every strength is a hidden weakness. The challenge with Predatory Marketing is to find the specific weakness that arises from a particular strength and then explain it to the customers. The reality is that customers won’t necessarily notice this weakness by themselves, nor will they know that you can address this weakness – unless you tell them.

Step 4) Where are you strong?

The final step is to build your strengths to address this pain point and then convey this value to customers. You can be explicit here when communicating with prospective clients – acknowledge the strengths of a competitor before honing in on the weaknesses that your products and services can address.

Many business owners won’t have taken this step. They don’t to really understand where the value lies in their own product offering and how these match the weaknesses of their competitors.

Tailoring a Predatory approach to the market

These four steps represent the core of a Predatory Marketing campaign, but it’s also important, to tailor this offering to the specific market conditions that a firm is operating in.

For example, a firm that already occupies the dominant position within its sector usually shouldn’t be applying a Predatory Marketing approach towards its direct competitors. Instead, it’s generally smart to be using these same tactics to grow the market and bring customers into their category.

Challengers who aren’t in that dominant position will instead be looking for the competitor or class of competitor that is currently occupying that dominant position. In a very fragmented market, or one that is very generic or confused, it may even be that would be competitors are best to band together to shift a certain audience mindset.

Regardless of whether the target of a Predatory Marketing campaign is a single business, a group of businesses or potential customers, the process is relatively consistent.

Lastly, a Predatory Marketing campaign has to change with your business and with the market. Just as context is key to a great strategy, so too is it central to a Predatory Marketing campaign. If a Predatory Marketing campaign is so successful that a company has become the dominant force in their category, for example, the techniques that got them there may no longer be relevant.

It’s time to get Predatory

Customers don’t have needs anymore; their needs have been filled. We need to arm ourselves with new tactics that can help us rise above the noise of our competitors and ensure that our message is the one being heard. Predatory marketing is the best tool to disarm your competitors and will ensure your company is in a position of strength and ultimately boost your profits.

Apply Ashton Bishop’s Predatory Marketing to your business and ensure you are always ahead of your competitors and in your customers’ minds. Take action today and subscribe to Step Change’s blog to keep up with all the latest thinking around marketing, strategy, tactics and business insights. If you have any questions surrounding your own business strategy and how you can best incorporate Predatory Marketing, you can send them your enquiry here.

How to get specific and strategic about goal setting

Goal settingAs a business leader do you have a clear vision of what you want to achieve in 2016?

You may have general ideas, however once you return to the daily operations of the business it’s likely your ideas gets buried deep in the demands of the day-to-day.

Many leaders feel as though they work hard both in and on the business and yet they do not achieve the results or the work life balance they need. Often, for a business leader the key reason is they haven’t dedicated the time to think clearly and strategically without interruption on what exactly it is that they want to achieve.

An important step in defining your business and personal goals is to have a clear vision of what your top priorities are, then outlining the results you want to achieve within a certain amount of time.

Goal-setting paybacks

In New York Times bestseller What They Don‘t Teach You at Harvard Business School, Mark McCormack shares an interesting study that was conducted in 1979 on Harvard MBA students revealing the real impact of goal setting. He asked students whether they had clear, written goals for their future and if they made plans to accomplish them; 84% of students admitted they had no goals at all, while 13% had goals that were not written down. In fact, only 3% had specific goals in writing.

When interviewed 10 years later, the 13% of students who had goals were earning on average twice as much as those who had never established clear goals. However, the 3% with written goals for success had salaries that were a staggering 10 times more than the other students put together.

Ultimately, identifying effective goals and setting a strategy to achieve them helps leaders organise resources, streamline knowledge acquisition and raise motivation, particularly on long-term projects and objectives. Whether you‘re a business leader, a top athlete or a high achiever in any other field, establishing goals provides the focus needed in order to outperform.

Putting goal setting in place to move the business forward

An example of using goal setting to move the business forward is in a recent case study with TEC member Annie Flannagan, the CEO and Founder of Better Business Basics (BBB), which offers accounting and financial services to a range of organisations  throughout Australia.

Working in such a competitive market, Annie learnt early on that the company would need to invest heavily in internal processes in order to succeed. To do this, the company approached the goal-setting process as a set of scales, divided between the front-end user experience and the back-end processes within the organisation.

“We see it like an old-fashioned set of scales – those two must be in balance,” said Annie.

‘Whenever we look at setting goals at the front-end, we create a reciprocal set of goals for the back-end.’

‘All businesses have that, but for use they have to be in balance, because if they are not, we end up with either clients that aren’t being fulfilled or employees that aren’t being fulfilled.’

This has also required a unique leadership approach from Annie, especially around the formulation of company goals and strategy. By putting these processes in place, the company has been able to stay flexible and respond to organisational challenges.

‘If you look at strategy, crafting the strategy is one thing, the delivery of the strategy is the bit which needs to be in balance,’ said Annie.

‘It’s about having the right combination of allowing creative thinking, working out what is not necessary, writing your goals down and then focusing to get them executed.’

For a fast-growing organisation, having multiple perspectives on the development and implementation of company processes around goal setting has been invaluable for developing future strategy.

Struggling to Align Company Strategy with Innovation?

Innovation has become an area in which CEOs cannot afford to ignore. The importance of innovation has become a major area for senior executives to address as they look to improve their performance.

The result is that many executives now see the ability to formulate and implement an effective innovation policy as one of the most important aspects of their leadership development.

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), investments in innovation are now widespread throughout the country’s economy. In most recent figures, the ABS revealed 36 per cent of companies had introduced new innovations in 2012-13, while a further 22.8 per cent stated they were still in the process of developing new products and services.

However, innovation is also an area senior executives are struggling to align with company strategy, making it harder for companies to combine their development efforts with internal processes.

This was the finding from a recent study from Strategy&, formerly Booz and Company and part of PricewaterhouseCoopers.

The organisation’s research found that aligning company strategy with innovation is a major concern for companies in coming years, with 20 per cent stating this is the largest obstacle for a successful innovation policy.

A further 14 per cent are concerned about trying to incorporate company culture into their innovation policies, while 13 per cent are looking to build an external innovation network that could improve their performance.

The research found that product innovation is no longer the main area for companies to address, with the majority of research and development spending set to shift away from goods and towards services in the future.

Organisations are also beginning to prioritise radical innovations amongst new products, rather than investing in incrementally improving an existing product or service, according to Barry Jaruzelski, senior analyst at Strategy&.

“With the healthier market conditions, it is not surprising that business leaders say they plan to focus more on big breakthroughs. This will require companies to build new capabilities, an effort which they must not underestimate,” said Mr Jaruzelski.

“It’s not by planning or shifting spending alone that they will achieve this.”

Clearly there are weaknesses in the current approach towards innovation, meaning CEOs are going to need to spend more time aligning strategy with the development of new products and services.

How do different organisations approach strategy and innovation?

Innovation is usually assumed to be a single process, but in fact it will take different forms depending on the composition of an organisation and the different strategies that are in play.

That is the finding from a further research project from Strategy&. The organisation has formulated three unique forms that businesses can take when developing an innovation strategy.

These are:

  • Needs seekers – companies that use customer insights to drive their performance, finding innovative products that are specifically tailored to the needs of the customer.
  • Market readers – companies that are adept at reading shifts in their industry, and will then invest their research and development efforts into areas that are consistent with shifts in the marketplace.
  • Technology drivers – companies that are the most committed to out-of-the-box innovation strategies, relying on new developments and product offerings to offer something new to their customers.

Each of these different approaches to innovation require organisation-wide cohesion, which can then be applied to the specific product innovations that a company is pursuing. Strategy& also suggested that each of these models comes with a unique approach to the innovation process, with each being driven by different stakeholders within a business.
Strategy, not financing the key to effective innovation

Finally, one of the biggest mistakes CEOs can make is to assume that innovation is simply a financial exercise and that by increasing funding into a certain area they will be able to develop new products and services.

A study from the Harvard Business Review (HBR) suggests that the opposite is actually true – organisations that reduce their expenditure in research and development can actually see a greater return from their investments than those with a large budget for pursuing new products.

Using the case study of CISCO, the research suggested that innovation within an organisation consists of two different processes – explorative innovation and exploitative.

The first relates to a company’s ability to pursue big-picture thinking and develop products that are radically different to anything currently on the market. Exploitative research on the other hand, focuses on commercialising existing processes and driving new growth within an organisation.

Importantly, exploitative innovation doesn’t require a significant investment, and can often yield a greater immediate return for a business than explorative research and development.

In the case of CISCO, the researchers found that although overall investment in innovation declined in the early 2000s, the company’s output of patents – i.e. its exploitative innovation – actually increased.

Even more, successful organisations are those that can quickly change gear between these two different forms of innovation. By quickly shifting between philosophies, organisations were able to pursue the greatest number of new products and services.

Strategy underlying innovation

So how does organisational strategy factor into these findings? Well, firstly it illustrates how important company processes and management styles are for supporting research and development within a business.

Building and embedding this flexibility into the way a company approaches its internal processes is a major challenge for CEOs, especially as they look to develop a competitive organisation. Fortunately, the HBR research shows that developing the right strategy is more effective than simply expanding the budget for further innovation.

The research emphasised that effective leadership was essential for managing the strategic shift between the two forms of innovation.

“Visionary leadership is also about helping the company overcome inertia so that it can shift effectively from one frame of mind to another when the time comes. Few companies pivot easily, but those that do position themselves to ride wave after lucrative wave of exploratory, then exploitative, R&D,” stated the HBR authors.

As innovation becomes an increasingly important business function, effective CEOs are going to have to consider how they can align company strategy with innovation initiatives to drive greater value in their company.

Collaborative leadership begins with you

Collaboration: having been bandied about the boardroom for decades, it nonetheless remains an enigmatic concept in business today. Is it merely one of those hackneyed buzzwords that are so heavily frowned upon on CVs and company mission statements, or rather an incredibly relevant concept that applies to the modern organisation?

Businesses of all size and shape today will do well to ensure collaboration is still a major priority – and the onus, no doubt, falls on the organisation’s leader. This seems to hold true across the world, at least according to an extensive global study led by CEO and author John Gerzema.

In the study, researchers polled 64,000 individuals across 13 countries on the qualities they believed led to successful leaders and businesses. One of the most prominent insights garnered in the study was that most people wanted their leaders to be more collaborative, with this trait ranking among the highest, along the likes of flexibility and selflessness.

In fact, an overwhelming 84 per cent believed that greater collaboration and sharing of credit are essential to a successful modern career. So what does this mean for those sitting at the top of businesses today?

It means it’s time to take collaborative leadership seriously, if you aren’t doing so already.

What does it really mean to be a collaborative leader?

The importance of collaboration aside, it can be difficult to pinpoint exactly what it means and entails, especially in a leadership context.

It’s worth having a look around to see how different people define collaborative leadership. According to an infographic from the Collaborative Lead Training Co., the workplace is evolving towards a more collaborative future and thus redefining leadership.

The infographic lays out eight key differences between traditional leadership and collaborative leadership. Among these are the notions that in contrast with the traditional model, collaborative leadership:

  • Believes power is greatest in a collective team, rather than coming from a position of authority
  • Openly shares information and knowledge, rather than imposing ownership on it
  • Elicits suggestions and ideas from across the team – all the time
  • Empowers the team with immediate time and resources, rather than providing these only when necessary

As can be seen from the infographic’s suggestions, a collaborative leader is one who embraces a ‘flatter’ organisational structure, sharing authority and accountability around the team instead of hoarding it themselves.

Additionally, in an April 17 2013 HRZone article, leadership consultants David Archer and Alex Cameron said there are three essential skills and three essential attitudes behind a collaborative leader. Even if a leader possesses the three skills, they will not be able to be fully collaborative if they don’t have the attitudes to match.

According to Archer and Cameron, the three vital skills for collaborative leadership are mediation, influencing and engaging others. Collaborative leaders, they say, are adept at addressing and resolving conflicts the moment they arise. In addition, they are skilled at influencing peers based on the organisation’s culture – which is a critical skill to have if they hope to share control and leadership.

Lastly, engagement and relationship building are essential qualities for a collaborative leader, and this involves clear communication.

So, what are the attitudes that accompany these crucial skills? Archer and Cameron outline agility, patience and empathy as the mindsets that leaders should adopt if they wish to be collaborative.

It is clear that there are some common threads that unite the schools of thought around collaborative leadership. Leaders attempting to follow this model should place emphasis on the team rather than the individual, promote a flat and open company structure and empower their employees. This should be backed up with quick-thinking and the ability to take others’ points of view.

Why it pays to be collaborative

But why is collaborative leadership so important? Especially in the modern business world, where technology is exponentially growing in prevalence and reshaping traditional interpersonal communication, adopting a collaborative culture is essential.

This was pointed out by Carol Kinsey Goman in a February 13 2014 Forbes article. Ms Goman stresses that the dreaded silo mentality is holding back countless organisations today, and not sharing information around the company can essentially “kill” it.

As a recent study by Interaction Associates suggests, not embracing collaborative leadership can also hurt your company’s bottom line. The group conducted a study on what impacts the confluence of leadership, collaboration and trust can have on a business – including its financial performance.

In the study, Interaction Associates ranked more than 150 companies based on how well they embodied these three components. It found that those considered strong across the three traits demonstrated superior financial results – for example, their P/E ratios were 28.5 per cent higher on average for those classed as weak.

Collaboration is not just a vague ideal that companies should aim for – it is a very real concept with tangible results, and it’s time to embed this into your leadership today.

Implementing change in your organisation without risk

We work with a lot of great leaders, but even the most confident among them feel the heat when attempting to execute a serious change agenda.

What makes leading change so demanding?

From your own personal efforts to change a habit or transition from the top of the curve to the next, you know the effort and personal commitment required to make change stick. When you extend that across your organisation and through to your customers, the increased complexity of the groups combined history and entrenched views of the world makes the process much harder. At the same time, your people are instinctively assessing where they will win or lose.

Your executive team may engage and debate the direction you want to take, but it’s easy to confuse agreement and head nodding with a commitment to take the action that delivers real change. If you have good people in your organisation, the chances are they aren’t willing to adapt to every new initiative that comes along.

The pace of change can also be frustrating and non-linear. People need time to absorb what it means for them personally. Teams need additional time to plan how supporting processes, tools, behaviours and culture align to ensure change is embedded.

Let’s assume you have mastered the basics. You have a strategy that tackles key pain points, shaped a vision through consultative engagement, people you trust lead the change and you’ve defined the metrics that will determine success.

These are all essential ingredients, but not a guarantee for success. As you’ll see from the two stories we selected, even with a focus on driving change and some basic principles in place, things can still go wrong.

We have a problem in Houston

We arrived in Houston in the middle of summer. The first mistake was venturing out on foot. Sidewalks often stop for no reason and crossing a parking lot can feel like crossing a desert.

We were implementing a new system and thought most of the challenging engagement work was behind us. We were starting testing when someone had said, ‘you should reach out to the team in Houston’.

We discovered they only had a team of 25, but importantly a team that would be responsible for 95% of all transactions and the majority of data input for the next year. With tight timeframes, the design team had focused on future state, so we had a patchy view of what really happened today. The reality was that this small team was critical to the current stage of the process, but was not a part of the future state vision, hence their limited involvement.

The agenda for the meeting in Houston was to outline the six-week schedule to go live and get commitment for testing. The response we got from a team that had no input to the scope or design was rather abrupt.

In the end, the IT team had to build additional infrastructure and migrate an extra 100,000 documents to ensure that the implementation didn’t cause massive disruption across the organisation in the medium term. The project not only blew out the budget, it was delivered 6 months later than planned.

What was the cost of overlooking a small middle office team that was going to be a phased out in 18 months time? Two of your scarcest resources – time and money.

We’re shutting it down

We were asked to look at the health of a joint venture of two financial firms. The risks posing a threat to the success of the change were flagged to the executive team – culture and leadership. Because both organisations were steeped in years of service guided by the principle of ‘client first’, the leadership team viewed these as internal issues and low risk.

We spent some month’s road showing a combined set of business and leadership principles, including the need to lead by example, and that’s just what happened.

Shortly after the launch of the new business model in the largest division, one of the smaller offices walked out. The media took hold of the story reporting rumours of two other offices at the door. The Chairman took matters into his own hands. He decided the firm’s reputation was at risk, called an ad hoc meeting and announced there would be no new financial model or change to the reward structure, and that the new business model was merely a guide. The CEO was forced to stand in the shadows and watch.

If key metrics rather than instinct had been applied in that pivotal moment, they would have discovered that they were only halfway towards achieving the target size of the new enterprise in line with their strategy – a strategy that depended on voluntary attrition.

But that wasn’t the real price paid. How does one value the cost of leadership that is undermined?

What’s the true cost of getting change wrong?

The senior sponsors in both cases underestimated the complexity of the change and the need to honour a process. They ignored key transition activities, didn’t take the time to consider potential change risks and were unable to hold steady in the storm. Ultimately, they paid a price.

How do you implement change in your organisation? Do you expect your CIO, head of people or project management officer to have the capacity and skill set to anticipate and act upon potential change risks? Do you seek an independent perspective or regularly monitor the health of the change itself to ensure you haven’t missed something that could de-rail the process?

When the cost of change to your organisation, your team and your own legacy is potentially so high, it might be time to take a fresh perspective and re-evaluate the cost of getting it wrong.

Written by Tiffany Jones and Adam Sanford.

Tiffany is a master speaker for The Executive Connection, with twenty years of experience advising institutions and family offices in the art of leading with confidence and building momentum. Adam is a strategic change advisor, with significant experience leading complex, large-scale transformation programs.

Adam and Tiffany work at Momentum Advisory Group, an advisory boutique aimed at helping individuals, teams and families in business to lead with confidence.

Building an agile company: the case of McDonalds

Every business needs to be able to keep up with market changes in the face of widespread upheaval. Maintaining this organisational agility isn’t easy, especially for large companies with an international outlook.

Building an agile company the case of McDonaldsbWhile there are plenty of examples of industries that have been up-ended as a result of new competitors and changing conditions, there are also many that have managed to respond to these changes.

Among these is McDonald’s – one of the world’s largest and most iconic fast food brands that has reinvented itself in recent months by focusing on agility and innovation.

Meeting the challenge of a competitive marketplace

The food sector, and fast food in particular, has traditionally been one of the most competitive industries. The relatively low barriers to entry and large customer base have seen organisations compete on price, convenience and the shortest possible wait between ordering and eating.

While these factors have traditionally underpinned the industry, evolving market conditions and increasing competition from “fast casual” dining experiences that focus on quality have changed the industry.

For companies like McDonald’s, international economic conditions, such as slow spending in Europe, have affected sales while a generational shift away from fast food has decreased the number of young consumers dining beneath those iconic golden arches.

In the case of McDonald’s, the result has been slumping revenue and profits. The company’s revenue has dropped 11 per cent, resulting in a 30 per cent decline in profit, according to a report in Fortune Magazine.

To address this, the company has embarked on a strategy to become leaner. This year alone, the company will close around 700 under-performing stores around the world – double the original predictions. However, this shift is going much deeper than simply closing stores – the company is moving quickly to redefine its dining experience.

Reimagining the consumer experience

To reinvigorate global sales, McDonald’s has unveiled a number of new dining experiences that aim to reconnect with younger patrons, while also creating a higher-quality and more personalised product.

One such innovation has been the introduction of the Create your Taste experience in Australia, giving diners the opportunity to build their own burger from a range of 30 different ingredients. This new way of ordering uses touch-screens in participating stores that patrons can use to customise their meal.

This innovation is currently available in around 30 stores, but will be rolled out to 700 stores over the next nine months – underscoring how quickly this service is being scaled across the business.

While the Create your Taste product has been adopted across a large number of stores in Australia, other innovations have also been launched.

In Sydney, McDonald’s has launched The Corner, a redesigned McCafe that is styled to resemble an independent cafe rather than a chain. The design plays down traditional McDonald’s branding like the golden arches in favour of gourmet, personalised offerings served with metal cutlery and a range of cafe style hot beverages.

While the company has no plans to roll The Corner out nationally or internationally, it highlights the creative directions the company is pursuing in an attempt to reinvent its dining experience. This isn’t the first time Australia has seen the trial of new experiences from the company either – the first ever McCafe opened in Melbourne back in 1993.

Has this shift worked?

Transforming one of the world’s largest fast food services into an agile company that embraces modern trends is no easy undertaking. For McDonald’s, it’s too early to tell whether these organisational shifts will reverse the company’s financial position.

At an organisational level, there are signs this move is being embraced, with the company’s Australian CEO Andrew Gregory stressing these changes are designed to build a more transparent and responsive dining experience.
For other business leaders, the McDonald’s experience underscores how it is possible for even the very largest enterprises to become more agile and innovative. As market conditions continue to challenge organisations, developing, testing and implementing new strategies across multiple branches and departments will be a defining feature of successful companies.

Is your leadership style appropriate for managing change?

Is your leadership style appropriate for managing changeEvery business leader will be familiar with the notion that the corporate world is changing rapidly – faster than at any other time in human history. Faced with this evolving landscape, CEOs now need to think about how they are handling this change to position their company for future growth.

Of course, navigating this landscape also calls for leaders to evaluate their own skill set and determining whether or not they have what it takes to lead a business through a significant change.

Getting the change process right

The pace of change within a company has obviously increased, placing new pressures on organisations to adapt. Rather than simply evolving over time, many businesses are now treating widespread organisational change as an ongoing, permanent process.

While this is certainly the new reality for companies, that doesn’t mean business leaders are responding fast enough. A recent study from McKinsey and Company found that 60 per cent of respondents within businesses have seen an organisational redesign in the last two years, while 85 per cent have experienced one in the last three.

Even though organisational redesigns are occurring regularly, the ability of companies to achieve their outcomes is still muted, with the study suggesting only a quarter of organisational redesigns achieve their stated objectives.

To address this, McKinsey suggested the following nine steps to help navigate this process:

1.    Focus first on the longer-term strategic aspirations
2.    Take time to survey the scene
3.    Be structured about selecting the right blueprint
4.    Go beyond lines and boxes
5.    Be rigorous about drafting in talent
6.    Identify the necessary mind-set shifts – and change those mind-sets
7.    Establish metrics that measure short- and long-term success
8.    Make sure business leaders communicate
9.    Manage the transitional risks

While each of these offers a different angle that companies can use, among the most important steps is step eight – communication from business leaders. Fortunately, this is also the area where CEOs can most directly affect the success of a change strategy.

Managing change from the C-Suite

For leaders that are committed to improving their change management processes, there are a number of steps they can take to begin this process.

Among the most important comes from recognising current limitations imposed by existing workloads and then taking steps to address these so that staff can commit to a major shift in corporate direction.

In fact, research by the Corporate Executive Board found that 88 per cent of workers have seen their workload increase to the point where they are unwilling to put in more work to met organisational objectives.

There are a few other features that can also set a strong change management effort apart from the rest. The Harvard Business Review suggested that staff workloads are just one of four parts of the equation, with the remaining three covering project duration, commitment from senior management and the technical capabilities of the teams involved.

Put simply, companies that embark on short change management strategies, with buy-in from the C-Suite and a highly technical staff who also have the time to commit to a project achieve the strongest results. Those with the opposite qualities on the other hand, proved more likely to fail in the research.

Change management the sign of a strong company

While leading a company through a major organisational change places new pressures on a CEO, there are benefits that come from getting this process right. Business leaders that can actually achieve their stated goals will be able to set their company up for future growth, while standing apart from their competition.

With research from the Project Management Institute last year finding only 18 per cent of companies are successful at leading change initiatives, the opportunities for companies that can make this change will be in a much stronger position long-term.

Keeping step with the pace of digital disruption

By TEC Speaker Simon Waller

You don’t have to look far to see the impact that digital disruption has had on our lives. Technology that was once central to our lives now belongs in a museum, replaced by new devices that are faster, smarter and more useful to us.

While technological development has always been happening, what we have seen in the last few years is the true impact of digital disruption. Now, business processes that used to be lodged firmly in the analogue world are finding their feet in a digital existence that looks very different to anything we have seen before.

For many CEOs, the challenge is now two-fold. Not only do they need to start embracing technology within every level of the business, they also need to become the leading proponents of technology and win over sceptical workers to these new opportunities.

The end of business as usual

One of my favourite quotes comes from Kevin Kelly, a founder of Wired Magazine, who said:

If we were sent back with a time machine, even 20 years, and reported to people what we have right now and describe what we were going to get in this device in our pocket – we’d have this free encyclopaedia, and we’d have street maps to most of the cities of the world, and we’d have box scores in real time and stock quotes and weather reports, PDFs for every manual in the world – we’d make this very, very, very long list of things that we would say we would have and we get on this device in our pocket, and then we would tell them that most of this content was free. You would simply be declared insane. They would say there is no economic model to make this.

The point here is the influence of technology appears in many ways, making it hard to predict the future. Digitisation has inevitably and irreversibly changed business organisations so that there are entire industry sectors offering free services, with diverse and creative ways to be profitable.

In just about every sector there are start-ups and innovators looking to challenge the way businesses are traditionally run. These upstarts are often able to thrive thanks to their reliance on technology and their willingness to push the envelope in ways that risk-averse organisations aren’t prepared to pursue.

Kevin Kelly was also quick to point out that over the next 20 years we are going to see even greater change – the kind that will make the last 20 years look like a snail’s pace by comparison.

This change has become so widespread that even attempting to predict the future is pointless – with the words likely to feel outdated as soon as they leave our mouths. So while we cannot stop this disruption from occurring, we still don’t know what form it will take or how it will occur.

Preparing for a world where technology underpins every business

Just as the future business world cannot be predicted, it is becoming clear that every job in the future will require some level of technical or IT knowledge.

The findings in the UK Digital Skills Taskforce, published in 2014. The study found that 90 per cent of jobs will require at least a basic understanding of digital technology, while 56 per cent require an intermediate to advanced skill set.

Many workforces simply don’t have this depth of expertise that they need in order to thrive in a digital future. Building these skills require comprehensive training efforts and upskilling programs to ensure existing staff can handle an increasingly digital workload.

This is also true at the C-Suite. Many senior executives will have come of age at a time when digital technology was still in its infancy and therefore may not be familiar with the latest developments that are changing work on the shop floor. CEOs that want to make the most of digital technology need to acknowledge the limitations of their own skills as well as those of their staff members.

Technology that is truly personal

If you look at the history of technology, among the biggest changes has been taking technology and making it personal and relevant to an individual.

Take computers as an example. The very first computers were solely the preserve of governments and very large businesses. Over time, mainframe computers became standard in businesses, before being replaced by the personal computing revolution.

Of course, the PC was never really personal – it still had to sit on a desk be plugged into a wall and even with the advent of the internet, the connection still came through the wall. It has only been with the growth of mobile computing that this technology can truly be called personal.

While the march towards truly personal technology is a great boon for individuals, these same changes need to be addressed at an organisational level. CEOs need to recognise that old patterns of procuring and using technology are still done through the lens of the organisation, rather than the individual user.

Scaling technology to a personal level also demands scaling business decisions and direction to that same level as well.

Business that is led by innovation

Every company sits on a scale – from those who are leading digital disruption to those who are actively trying to preserve an old technology in the face of change.

Historically, companies at the latter end of the scale were those that were seen as successful – they had a proven track record, a specific niche and were dependable. Innovative disrupters were the opposite; treated as highly risky undertakings working on the periphery of established processes.

Now, that relationship has been inverted. Protecting old industries is now seen as a dead-end, while the top end of the disruption scale is seen as the area where real growth is occurring. A shift in business thinking needs to occur so that companies focus on moving up that scale. That’s a change that cannot come soon enough – and it has to start with the C-Suite.

Expecting the unexpected

Being told there is no way to predict the future may come as anathema to CEOs that are used to market research and sales forecasts, but it’s a realisation that needs to happen. Every industry and sector is already playing catch-up with technology and trying to keep pace with the latest innovation, and this challenge is only going to grow from here.

While there’s no sure-fire way to succeed, there are some steps CEOs can start to take. Focusing on technology skills, both their own and those of their staff, is essential for building digital-first organisations. Likewise, understanding how personal technology and innovation are now shaping the business landscape are essential for informing future business planning.

In an unpredictable future, mastering these strategies will give businesses a chance to make the most of digital disruption, rather than becoming another disrupted organisation.

9 common leadership styles: Which type of leader are you?

There is never a one-size-fits-all leadership style for every business – all companies operate differently and certain traits will be more successful in some environments than others.

However, having a thorough understanding of various leadership styles enables senior executives to not only adopt the correct characteristics for themselves, but also choose better managers throughout the organisation.

Here is a list of nine common leadership styles and a brief summary of their advantages and disadvantages.

Transformational leadership

Often considered among the most desirable employees, people who show transformational leadership typically inspire staff through effective communication and by creating an environment of intellectual stimulation.

However, these individuals are often blue-sky thinkers and may require more detail-oriented managers to successfully implement their strategic visions. For more information on transformational leadership traits, please click here.

Transactional leadership

Transactional leadership is focused on group organisation, establishing a clear chain of command and implementing a carrot-and-stick approach to management activities.

It is considered transactional because leaders offer an exchange; they reward good performances, while punishing bad practice. While this can be an effective way of completing short-term tasks, employees are unlikely to reach their full creative potential in such conditions.

Servant leadership

People who practice servant leadership prefer power-sharing models of authority, prioritising the needs of their team and encouraging collective decision-making.

Research by Catalyst has claimed this style, described as altruistic leadership by the company, can improve diversity and boost morale. However, detractors suggest servant leaders lack authority and suffer a conflict of interest by putting their employees ahead of business objectives.

Autocratic leadership

A more extreme version of transactional leadership, autocratic leaders have significant control over staff and rarely consider worker suggestions or share power.

Ruling with an iron fist is rarely appreciated by staff, which can lead to high turnover and absenteeism. There can also be a lack of creativity due to strategic direction coming from a single individual.

This leadership style is best suited to environments where jobs are fairly routine or require limited skills. It is also common in military organisations.

Laissez-faire leadership

More commonly used to describe economic environments, laissez-faire literally means “let them do” in French. This is typically translated to “let it be”. As such, laissez-faire leaders are characterised by their hands-off approach, allowing employees to get on with tasks as they see fit.

This can be effective in creative jobs or workplaces where employees are very experienced. However, it is important that leaders monitor performance and effectively communicate expectations to prevent work standards slipping.

Democratic leadership

Also known as participative leadership, this style – as the name suggests – means leaders often ask for input from team members before making a final decision.

Workers usually report higher levels of job satisfaction in these environments and the company can benefit from better creativity. On the downside, the democratic process is normally slower and may not function well in workplaces where quick decision-making is crucial.

Bureaucratic leadership

Bureaucratic leadership models are most often implemented in highly regulated or administrative environments, where adherence to the rules and a defined hierarchy are important.

These leaders ensure people follow the rules and carry out tasks by the book. Naturally, this works well in certain roles – such as health and safety – but can stifle innovation and creativity in more agile, fast-paced companies.

Charismatic leadership

There is a certain amount of overlap between charismatic and transformational leadership. Both styles rely heavily on the positive charm and personality of the leader in question.

However, charismatic leadership is usually considered less favourable, largely because the success of projects and initiatives is closely linked to the presence of the leader. While transformational leaders build confidence in a team that remains when they move on, the removal of a charismatic leader typically leaves a power vacuum.

Situational leadership

Developed by management experts Paul Hersey and Ken Blanchard in 1969, situational leadership is a theory that the best leaders utilise a range of different styles depending on the environment.

Factors such as worker seniority, the business process being performed and the complexity of relevant tasks all play an important role in what leadership style to adopt for any given situation. For example, situational leaders may adopt a democratic leadership style when discussing commercial direction with senior executives, but switch to a bureaucratic strategy when relaying new factory protocols to workers.

However, many people have a natural leadership style, which can make switching between roles challenging. It can also be difficult to gauge what style is most suitable for certain circumstances, holding up decision-making processes.

How to create the perfect LinkedIn profile

For any executive, having a social media presence isn’t optional any more. Being active on social media is now an essential part of a CEO’s efforts to build a reputation for themselves and their business.

So what makes a great LinkedIn profile? Here’s a quick guide that can help you to get the most of your LinkedIn presence:

1) Start with a brief summary of yourself

Among the first steps to take for your LinkedIn page is to add a short introduction to yourself and your experiences.

This will begin with a short description of your position, which will need to be limited to 120 characters and appears below your name. Here’s a good example:

CEO of XYZ Corporation | Our Vision: To provide exceptional products and services to ASX 200-listed organisations

This description should cover your job title, what you do, why you do it and give an example of the sort of clients your organisation works with – valuable information for anyone viewing your page.

Next, include more information on the subsequent sections of your personal profile. This should be similar to an elevator pitch or how someone might introduce you at a speaking event. The purpose is to be concise and convey all the important information about your personal brand so that people are interested and want to learn more.

As well as including useful information, you should also consider optimising the content with keywords, which are words or phrases that people associate with your business and which people might search for if they were trying to find you. Including these in your description will make it easy to find a person online.

Once you have this basic information, the next step is to personalise it and make it interesting for a reader. This means taking the time to add some personality and make your page unique. Also, consider removing and reorganising the sections on your home page. All of this information is customisable and if it isn’t holding it’s weight, deleting it can help to keep your page concise.

2) Use the right photo and background

LinkedIn users have the opportunity to use both a personal picture and a background photo to make their page more unique.

For both, it pays to use a professional image which also gives some insight into your business. A picture of a recent awards ceremony or similar achievement as a background photo can help to make the connection with your company, while a professional personal photo is also valuable

As a rule of thumb, use a profle photo of around 200 x 200 pixels and a background image of around 1,400 x 425 pixels and under eight megabytes in size.

3) Customise your URL

Rather than having a string of letters and numbers after your page, LinkedIn offers you the opportunity to select your own URL address. This means that when people share your page, it is much easier to recognise the page is yours, based on the text of the link.

To do this, go to the “Edit my Public Profile page”. The option to change your URL should appear on the right.

For example, a person named Gregory Hewitt, might change their custom URL to something like:

au.linkedin.com/in/GregoryHewitt

Or:

au.linkedin.com/in/greghewitt

4) Set your profile to public

If people cannot easily identify you, it becomes a lot harder to be visible on LinkedIn. Make sure that your profile is set so that other people can see your name and title so they can recognise you when you visit their page.

From the Edit my Public Profile page, your privacy settings should be located directly below your personal URL settings. You can then tick the boxes to display as much of your profile as you want to be viewable to the public.

5) Integrate it with your online presence

It’s important to treat your LinkedIn page as a lead generator that can direct people towards other sources of key information that are available about you online.

Linking to your personal site or blog is an easy way to further build your reputation. You can also build a badge for your personal blog or website, making it easy for people to be redirected to other parts of your online presence.

This can be accessed from the bottom of the right-hand panel of the Edit my Public Profile page, directly below your privacy settings. From there, you can choose the badge you like and copy the code into your professional blog.

6) Find new connections

One of the most useful features of LinkedIn is the ability to find new connections or engage with people you may not have had contact with for some time.

This might include fellow alumni from university, contacts from your email accounts or suggested people from LinkedIn. Each of these sources will be essential for building your reach on the network.

Once you know who you want to contact, reach out through LinkedIn’s messaging tool to try and build that connection with another user.

Rather than sending a generic message, make sure to mention how you know the person you are trying to connect with as a way to build that connection early on. That will be especially important for individuals who are receiving a high volume of messages.

Another useful tip is to think about what your goal is when making a new connection. If you are looking to build a useful industry contact, think about how you can structure this message to achieve this result.

7) Join professional groups

Almost every industry has professional groups on LinkedIn that can help to expand your networking efforts and which will allow you to engage with other leaders in your field. Membership in these groups may be restricted so it pays to take the time to understand which are worth investing your time in.

It’s also worth seeing whether the groups you are involved with in a professional capacity, like trade organisations, are active on LinkedIn. Complementing these real-world connections with a digital presence can help to boost your reputation.

If there are no groups that suit your industry, don’t be afraid to start a new one yourself.

To find possible professional groups, you can use the “groups” subcategory from the drop down menu to the left of the LinkedIn search bar. Then you can search for keywords that are relevant for your industry to find groups that are active in your area. You can also see the groups your connections are a part of by visiting their page, making it easy to spot relevant industry groups.

8) Publish your own articles on Pulse

You are now able to write and distribute their own articles on Pulse – the publishing platform that every LinkedIn user has access to. This gives CEOs a sizeable opportunity to show their expertise, while also creating articles that can be shared throughout the network.

It’s important to put the time and effort into writing a unique, thought-provoking piece when approaching this option that what you have written is meaningful and offers a unique perspective on your industry.

Publishing articles is also a great way to align your presence with that of your company, letting you play a part in your organisation’s broader LinkedIn strategy.

By following these steps, you can build a solid LinkedIn profile that is ready to be noticed online. Make sure you are investing the time to ensure that your network is continuing to grow.

From West to East: Australia’s Window into Asia

Introduction

The focus of the world has shifted east in recent years – the 21st century has been hailed as the ‘Asian Century’ and the center of trade for the world has moved from the Atlantic to the Pacific.

This is certainly not a new trend; however recent events have highlighted increasing strategic options for Australian SMEs to explore.

For instance the internationalisation of the Chinese Yuan is an example of the new economic strength that is found in the Asian region, with foreign companies now experiencing unprecedented access to Asian markets, and vice versa.

With the recent signing of the China-Australia Free Trade Agreement, after a 10 year negotiation period,  it is expected that trade will double from the existing levels as the local tariff barriers have been lifted between Australian exports and the Chinese Markets.

For Australian and New Zealand SMEs, this presents exciting new opportunities being the best-positioned, geographically and in business to make the most of this shift in the world economy.

Of course, with these opportunities comes a new set of challenges. Small businesses will need to start thinking internationally if they want to capitalise on the opportunities presented in coming decades. By being agile and taking the time to truly engage with the new powerhouse economies of the Asia Pacific, businesses will be well-placed to grow throughout the Asian Century.

Opportunities

In recent article released by ANZ, Mark Whelan Managing Director of Global Commercial Banking stated “all too often there is a difficulty in translating such a huge opportunity into success for individual firms or even industries. Today, only a small fraction of our small and medium-sized businesses in Australia export and a recent report by the Economist Intelligence Unit tells us only 19 per cent of businesses have taken advantage of recent FTAs”.

Without a doubt, Asia is the most dynamic and rapidly changing part of the world. Backed by almost half the world’s population, economies in the region are responsible for some of the highest expansion rates globally and will continue to be a major source of global growth into the future.

China is Australia’s largest export market of goods and services, accounting for approximately a third of total exports.

According to a recent report by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), Asian countries will continue to see dramatic growth in coming decades; by 2028 the report suggests that China, which has already become the largest country in the world by purchasing power parity, will be overtaking the US in market exchange rate.


An Expert’s Insight

TEC BRIC Speaker David ThomasDavid Thomas, TEC Speaker and BRIC expert on global hotspots,  suggested  “the Australia-China relationship is about to enter a ‘Golden Phase’ with the signing of the China-Australia Free Trade Agreement, the visit to Australia by President Xi Jinping, and the increasing awareness of Australia’s agricultural resources and services capabilities in particular sectors”.

David regularly works with many wealthy Chinese entrepreneurs, investors and business leaders who are building links into Australia for a combination of business, investment and migration purposes. He highlighted that this is creating opportunities for local financial services providers (wealth managers, insurance brokers, accountants, banks, lawyers etc.) to provide support and services for them on the ground in all of our major cities and regional centres.

“Many arrive with limited or no knowledge of Australia’s complex tax, superannuation, insurance and business environment. Many of them are looking to set up local businesses, local companies, superannuation funds, bank accounts and to insure themselves against a combination of personal and business risks,”

“They also have to decide where to live, whether to buy or rent, where to send their kids to school and how to develop a local network of personal and professional contacts. This is creating enormous opportunities for local SMEs to provide the relevant services, support and advice, and to upgrade their capabilities, language and cross-cultural skills to service this lucrative and rapidly growing market,” said David.

“China’s ‘Going Out’ strategy is in full swing. Nearly half of China’s wealthiest people are planning to move to another country within the next five years and there is already evidence of a sharp increase in numbers, interest and motivation amongst those who have Australia in their sights,” Concluded David.

Clearly East Asia’s importance is only going to increase in the future. For SMEs, though, the question still remains: How can this expansion drive business growth locally?

Why SMEs need to get involved

The rise of new economic superpowers in Asia is going to create radical changes for SMEs in Australia and New Zealand. While the biggest changes will be for exporters that are looking to earn a share of new consumer demand for the Asian region, this change will affect businesses at every level.

Free trade agreements are just one example. The recent deals signed with Japan, South Korea and China – three of the largest economies in East Asia – means the door has already opened for enhanced trade and market access.

Of course these agreements and engagement is a two-way street. SMEs have greater access than ever before to these economies, businesses can now compete directly with local businesses.

This means that competitors are no longer confined to the same town or state. Now, competition is on a global scale, with many innovative Asian enterprises looking to unlock new opportunities throughout Australia and New Zealand.

Hitting the export trail

China is the world’s largest food and beverage consumer in the world with a population of 1.3 billion, capitalising on the ‘dining boom’ across Asia is an increasing trend for Australian businesses.

Recent events in the F&B sector are providing more opportunities for Australian exporters than ever before.  China’s strong economy and wealthy cities are in demand of sanitary high quality meat, dairy, fruit and other products from Australian exporters.

One example of this is TEC member and Managing Director of Beerenberg Farms, Anthony Paech who has expanded his family business into a global operation, exporting an increased percentage of their products overseas. Their premium products are 100 per cent Australian, sourced directly from their farm in Adelaide. This particularly appeals to Asian customers and the five star hotels they supply.

Another shining example is award winning TEC member company Craig Mostyn Group, a leading diversified food and agribusiness with revenues in excess of A$310 million, who operate locally and throughout Asia. With close to 30 per cent of pork products exported to Singapore and the recent investment into abalone farming exporting over 95 per cent of its high value product into Japan and China.

Once you begin exporting into another country you are scaling your business to a much higher level, it is strongly advised to have a formal strategy in place. HSBC states that 73 per cent of Australia’s exports go to Asia and estimates that by 2020, it will increase to 80 per cent.

Many SMEs find it difficult to determine where the best point of entry for their products is. The best approach is to do your homework, undertake research and then approach Asian countries that have the right market conditions and infrastructure aligned to your products and services.

Risks and operational challenges

Cultural differences are also an important factor in effectively approaching business engagement in Asia. Even within a single country, markets conditions are incredibly diverse and present their unique operational challenges, having a strong cultural understanding will prove beneficial and minimise the risks.

According to TEC Chair Max Robertson, “the risks in most of Asia will be from the ‘unknown unknowns’ or the things you are oblivious to. SMEs need to get educated about the characteristics of the individual countries they are interested in. For example, within Indonesia, pork has a good market in Bali but not in Java due to the different religions in the two areas.”

“You need to be aware of the differences between countries and that most countries are not homogeneous. There are enormous cultural and linguistic differences you need to understand. You need to be sensitive and aware of the differences and how they can impact upon business opportunities.”

Cultural factors aren’t the only risks that organisations will need to overcome when approaching a foreign market either – there are also bureaucratic obstacles for companies to navigate.

Tax is just one example. Even as western taxation and accounting standards become widespread in the Asian region, these areas are still less developed than SMEs will be used to in Australia and New Zealand. The same is true for legal practices and many other structural factors that underpin a successful business.

“Get advice from accounting firms on tax and don’t make assumptions about the rule of law and payments. You can’t generalise.”

“There are terrific opportunities in Asia, but there are also major risks if you get the wrong joint venture. There can also be problems in some countries with repatriating profits, as some of the universities have found. Companies need to be acutely sensitive of how difficult it is to move money around,” explains Max.

TEC member and Managing Partner of WMS Chartered Accountants, Aaron Lavell is an example of how Australian expertise is training Malaysia’s accountants. “As Malaysia is currently rolling out the implementation of a new GST, we’ve found there is a market for Australian expertise and training on this topic,” Aaron explains. The training covers areas such as tax rules, legal requirements, cash flow and system issues that arise when a country transitions to a GST regime, as Malaysia will in April 2015.

Businesses looking to address strategic risks when entering Asian markets must remember to expect the unexpected. Often the best way around this is to build partnerships with local companies and embark on joint ventures in order to enter Asian markets.

Not only does this make financial sense for Australian companies, it is also a good strategy for reducing the risk posed by entering a new market.

Offshoring for cost reductions

The potential of Asian markets isn’t limited just to exports – SMEs can also benefit from moving their business processes to East Asian markets in order to become true multinationals.

Currently manufacturers have been the most prolific users of outsourcing to the Asian region, with mainland China firmly established as the ‘factory of the world’. However, the next step is going to involve moving services and other business processes to overseas markets in order to make the most of lower input costs.

While lower costs might be a major advantage, this shift in labour will also allow Australian companies to invest more in their local staff, keeping high-value processes in Australia, while moving low-skilled work overseas.

Many SMEs may never have considered the possibility of outsourcing their processes to another country, especially if they are still focusing on building a strong business. But, with cost pressures rising, it is now more important than ever to look for new growth opportunities.

Here are some of the core benefits:

  • Lower costs
  • Accessing skilled experts
  • Reduced overheads
  • Greater flexibility among staff
  • Increased efficiency

Shorter turnarounds

Of course, offshoring part of a business isn’t a process that can be completed overnight. SMEs in Australia and New Zealand will need to invest time in understanding everything that’s involved and finding partner organisations that can assist with their outsourcing efforts. As with any major development, a strong plan and comprehensive risk management strategy are essential.

There are clearly obstacles that organisations will need to undertake, regardless of whether they are looking to export to Asian markets or outsource their business processes. However, companies in Australia and New Zealand are better placed than many in other countries to capitalise on the coming Asian Century.

For those who commit to this process and truly engage with these markets, the potential for future growth is virtually limitless.

About the Author

David is well known in Asia Pacific for his experience, credibility and passion for identifying, building and facilitating business and investment relationships between developed and emerging countries. David brings personal insights, anecdotes, stories and observations to every presentation to show business leaders and forward thinking organisations how to profit from a fast changing world.

2015 Modern leadership: working smarter not harder

As a C-level executive do you have a clear vision of what you want to achieve both personally and professionally this year? What about over the next 18 months to 5 years? You may have general ideas, however once you return to the daily operations of the business it’s likely they get buried in the demands of the day-to-day.

But how important is it to get specific and strategic about goal setting?

Many leaders feel as though they work very hard both in and on their businesses and yet they don’t achieve the results they want or the work life balance they need. A key reason is they haven’t dedicated time to think clearly and strategically about what it is they want to achieve. There is also a lack of accountability and follow through on implementation. An important step is to have a clear vision of what your leadership priorities are, and what you want to achieve; having a clear vision.

“More than 80% of the 300 small business owners surveyed in the recent 4th Annual Staples National Small Business Survey said that they don’t keep track of their business goals, and 77% have yet to achieve their vision for their company,” writes Peter Vanden Bos for Inc.

What if we told you the solution is to work smarter, not harder?

In New York Times bestseller What They Don’t Teach You at Harvard Business School, Mark McCormack shares an interesting study that was conducted in 1979 on Harvard MBA students revealing the real impact of goal setting.

He asked students whether they had clear, written goals for their future and made plans to accomplish them.

84% of students admitted they had no goals at all, while 13% had goals that weren’t written down. In fact, only 3% had specific goals in writing.

When interviewed 10 years later, the 13% of students who had goals were earning on average twice as much as those who had never established clear goals.

However, the 3% with written objectives for success had salaries that were a staggering 10 times as much as the other students put together

Goal-setting paybacks

Identifying effective goals and setting a plan to achieve them helps leaders organise resources, streamline knowledge acquisition and raise motivation, particularly on long-term projects and objectives.

This has a significant impact on productivity that is difficult to ignore, both on a personal and professional level. Whether you’re a business leader, a top athlete or a high achiever in any other field, establishing goals provides the additional focus that is essential to reaching the top.

American business consultant and author Jim Collins offers similar advice, which is why he’s famous for coining the term ‘Big Hairy Audacious Goals’ – or BHAG.

The phrase refers to the long-term proposals that are the hallmark to some of the world’s most successful business leaders. “It is about goal setting. It is about picking a goal that will stimulate change and progress and making a resolute commitment to it,” Collins explains. “This is not about writing a mission statement. This is about going on a mission.”

Working smarter, not harder

The SMART format for goal setting has been around for many years and it’s a common practice among high achievers, as it establishes a helpful framework for gauging the effectiveness of goals and objectives.

Specific – target a specific area for improvement.
Measurable – quantify or at least suggest an indicator of progress.
Achievable – specify who will do it.
Results orientated – state what results can realistically be achieved, given available resources.
Time sensitive – specify when the result(s) can be achieved.

Goals that meet this criteria have a much better chance of positive outcomes, in Peter F. Drucker’s popular HBR article What Makes an Effective Executive he states  ‘executives are doers; they execute. Knowledge is useless to executives until it has been transformed into deeds. But before springing into action, the executive needs to plan their course’.

‘Without an action plan, the executive becomes a prisoner of events. And without check-ins to re-examine the plan as events unfold, the executive has no way of knowing which events really matter and which are only noise’.

Ultimately, leaders who set goals both personally and professionally have the direction and focus required to pursue powerful strategic objectives. Modern leaders have the ability to set and achieve progressive goals and distil this into business metrics.

So how do you drive strategic goal setting? Every leader has business obligations whether it’s focused on innovation, becoming the premier distributing vendor, taking your company public or creating the best consumer experience. TEC Goal Setting is an effective way to incorporate this into your personal and professional life through a highly customised learning experience, credible resource of content and accountability.