Business ‘as usual’ is unlikely to create any earth-shattering results or break any records. There is, of course, the annual planning exercises, strategic and financial, that seek to set direction and focus but do they really inspire anyone? How do you ‘rally your troops’ around a cause? Have you called-out to your people with a compelling message that alerts them to the next challenge? If you haven’t, then your business is unlikely to step forward with its full potential.
Active Knowledge Question:
What is the simple message that you have ‘called-out’ in your business to direct everyone’s energies, focus and talents?
The Elements of ‘Calling-Out’
As a business leader, there are a number of elements that comprise your signaling to your business, being everyone who works within and with it. These are the succinct messages that you and every leader within the business repeat day after day in consistent unison.
There are four parts to this messaging some of which remain constant over the years, others may evolve in the emerging marketplace, and then there are those that will be reset every three-six months. I see these four parts as follows:
The purpose for which your business exists and the motive that binds that purpose are the foundational messages. Purpose is seeded from the customer needs that your business was created to meet and should be expressed in a manner that is enduring, righteous, captures customer value and provides a lens through which to discover opportunities for growth.
Get this right, live by it, and the longevity and success of your business will be assured. Why? Because you have just tied your business’s existence to evolving customer need and focused everyone on not just meeting that need but discovering/defining the next form of that need.
Imagine if the business that first introduced the ballpoint pen to the market had said, ‘we are in the business of equipping people to capture their thoughts, to express themselves, to communicate with others’. And then continued to grow from manufacturing the simple ballpoint pen to enabling people to achieve these needs in other ways as technology opened new possibilities. It would have been a very different business.
Your quest is the summit you point to; call it your vision if you like. But it must be enticing, challenging and awe-inspiring, a quest which many will want to join in. The quest may well seem impossible to achieve, and that is good as only impossible quests will draw a commitment that will propel your business forward. Your quest will take years to fulfil but will capture the imagination of the most talented and committed people in your business. And yes, it will be aligned with purpose.
The journey is captured in the guidance that you provide as to how the business will compete effectively in its chosen marketplace as it travels forward in fulfilment of its purpose. It is the business’s competitive posture that will enable it to outcompete all others and is expressed as the simple guiding principles that instruct everyone in the business how they are to act and respond.
The challenge is the immediate task ahead that you need everyone to focus on achieving. It is the next stepping-stone in the path that you have mapped for the business to move forward.
The foundation is enduring, the quest is the summit that everyone has their eye toward, the journey reinforces for everyone the efficient and effective path to follow, and the challenge draws everyone’s attention to the next leg.
As a leader, all of these four elements must be present and aligned if you are to communicate succinctly and effectively to everyone who works within and with your business: direction, alignment and focus.
Purpose, vision and simple guiding principles are often lost in the strategic plans of a business and not communicate effectively in a business in a way that enables people to participate and contribute to their full potential.
But what is lacking the most is the challenge. The resetting of the next stepping-stone so the business can move forward in unison. It can be six-monthly, or you can make it every three months. A bit size step that everyone can understand and contribute to.
Focus on each step, celebrate as each step is completed, reset and step forward again. Look back after two years, and everyone will be amazed at what has been achieved. Stepping-stones support achievement, compounding and momentum.
Rallying Is Leading
Possessing and applying a message that you can call out to rally your troops is fundamental to being a leader. It’s not expressed in the context of authority because authority is not leadership. Leadership is the capturing of hearts, the setting of a journey that people want to be part of and enabling them to proceed to the greatest of their combined potential.
This is where motive becomes so important. Recall from above ‘motive binds purpose’. The right motive magnifies and compounds competitive strength. Whereas the wrong motive disperses and neutralises competitive strength. In business, the motive is to compete. To deliver the greatest value possible to the customer. It is around customer value that businesses compete, and if they do this well profit is one of the outcomes. Profit should never be a motive if you want to bring the real potential of your business to the forefront.
In a work and business context, the potential that people possess is often sacrificed. And this impact can be more prevalent amongst the most talented and committed people. Here are some common examples of daily work life that can sap a person’s ability, or interest, in contributing:
- They feel that day after day, they are so overrun that they actually never get the chance to do what they know is really important.
- Their days are run for them and scheduled weeks ahead with no space to breathe.
- They get caught in ‘fire-fighting’ mode solving other people’s problems where all their energies are consumed fixing one problem after another, and at the end of the day, they are exhausted and overwhelmed.
- The more senior they become in a business, the more removed they can become from the real business, the less control they can have over where their energies are applied, and the less impact they are able to have on what is important.
Calling out what is important can overcome and remove many of the barriers to performance that feed the energy-sapping realities outlined above. Leaders can energise, guide, focus and lift a business to levels of performance and achievements that no one ever thought possible. But to achieve this, there must be a structure and plan to their messaging.
Challenge Message – Eight Basic Rules
As your mind turns towards messaging and calling-out, there are eight basic rules that should be remembered especially in the challenge messages:
- Extraordinary results do not come about by accident or luck; they are directly proportional to the degree of focus. The narrower the focus, the more extraordinary the results will be.
- Focus must be built and refined. It starts in a simple linear fashion – one focus – then stepping forward, one foot after the other on a straight path. A sequence compounding on each step along the way.
- It starts with one step. What is the one step that must be done now so that all else can follow to the goal you have set? What must be done before all else can proceed, and which will enable all else to flow? And then, once that one step is completed, what is the next step? Absolute focus, sequentially.
- Focus, strength, endurance, discipline and courage are all limited resources that will wear thin as the day/week/month drain this reserve. Apply this reserve where it needs to be, where is most important – your one step. And then and only then apply it to what else may be necessary. Think the 80/20 rule in applying your reserves to your one step, and don’t become distracted. Do not try to have the business focused everywhere at one time.
- Create space to replenish your reserves. Create patterns and habits in the life of your business to sustain everyone’s reserves. One habit at a time. Create it, lock it away and then find the next important task that can become a habit. Build your business to be an achiever by building the right traits.
- Surround and immerse the business with people who build, lift up and make it be the best it can be. A tribe that fuels itself with the right energy.
- Think big, think the impossible and create a massive space to grow into with expectations no one ever thought possible.You won’t know what’s possible if you create limits.
- Your motive must be righteous to achieve the extraordinary. Greed won’t get you there. Only humility and gratitude can seed the right motive.
As a leader, there is a right structure and form to your messaging that will unleash and direct the potential that exists in your business. Don’t forego the opportunity to create an unstoppable direction, alignment and focus in your business.
An entirely new level of performance.
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All the best in the success of your business,