leader and decision

Benevolent Dictatorship

Understanding the rationale for change alone when accountability is lacking is never enough. As leader, you will find yourself having to do the work of your staff in their stead.

By accountability, I mean a leader ensures there are rewards for the right behaviors and good results, and penalties if there are not.

Accountability is never a staff issue. It is always one of leadership. A CEO I know is changing his company’s business model from selling products the company manufactures through distributors to selling directly to customers. It is a good idea that makes sense, and is highly likely to succeed. The new model is not just one of disintermediation. The company will also offer high-value services along with the products, flexible and rapid customization capability, and unparalleled, proprietary, competitive technology.

Despite the CEO’s efforts to reason, persuade, and convince his leadership team of the merits of the new strategy, they remain skeptical. They listen. They critique. They catastrophize. They express agreement in principle begrudgingly, but then drag their feet in action citing all sorts of excuses as to why they cannot change the way they do business.

The CEO tries to reason with his leadership team members again. The cycle of tepid agreement, inaction, and excuses repeats. No progress is made. Yet there are no consequences.

The decisions that your staff might make if they were CEO are not necessarily the same ones you make now, and that is just fine. There is nothing wrong with considering the perspectives of your staff, but you decide the direction of the business. It is reasonable to expect your staff to support your decisions, even when they might disagree. When they are CEO, they can decide.

Accountability is no ersatz for support. You should help with understanding the rationale for any change. You should provide education and other support when needed. You should provide additional resources, whether money, time, additional staff, equipment, or something else as appropriate. You should clarify ambiguity in authority and responsibility when these are ambiguous. You should resolve internal processes in conflict.

Yet even the best support is rarely enough to effect change in behavior. Only you can hold your staff to account. Without accountability, all bets are off.

Only you can hold your staff to account. Without accountability, all bets are off. Click To Tweet

No One is Shooting at You

Years ago, I was having coffee with an entrepreneur who, at the time, was bootstrapping a software business. He had been a CIA operative during the Vietnam War, and told me about the time he had spent with a multinational special forces unit in Laos.

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Increase Your Attrition

Many companies are struggling to find the qualified people they need, so they resort to retaining the people they have whether qualified or not. They fight to eliminate or at least reduce rates of attrition when it is increased attrition that can do the business the most good. Retention of the best is all that matters.

Recently, the head of a large business unit of a major international company here in Japan told me that the company’s rate of attrition is of no particular concern to him, even though it is higher than industry average.

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Forget Recruiting. Poach.

Don’t recruit. Poach. In a tight labor market, there is no percentage in tentativeness. If there is any time to go on the offense, it is now.

I don’t know why recruiting firms call what they do a “search.” Who cares about a search? A search is easy, and often consists of little more than trawling through LinkedIn. Continue reading

There is No Japanese Mindset

Nationality and national culture are not granular enough to explain behavior. There is no  “Japanese mindset.”

I have traveled to more than twenty countries, and lived outside my native United States for almost my entire adult life. I speak Japanese and French fluently, and just enough Italian, German, and Mandarin Chinese to get myself into trouble. When I put my mind to it, I can even fake Spanish—and people understand me! I have worked with and known people from all over the world. Yet, I have never known any single person who could be described as typical of the country from which they come, because it is not nationality that really matters.

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Change First, Culture Later

If you are a leader seeking rapid change in your company, forget about culture. Culture will take care of itself. Focus on new ways of doing things. The genesis of a new culture results from a change in behavior, not the other way around. Change the way people do things. Culture change follows as a result.

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No Pain Points, No Problems

What if your prospects and clients have no pain points and no problems?

Presumption of damage is never a good way to start a relationship with anyone, whether in business or otherwise.

Not long ago, I was working with a sales team helping improve their capability to ask questions when meeting with prospects. Without fail, during role plays when I played the customer, each one asked me variations of, “Do you have any particular problems?”

When I responded, “No, we don’t have any particular problems,” each salesperson was flustered and did not know how to respond. Each one, after a few awkward exchanges simply withdrew and promised to call again at a later date.

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Retain Just the Best

You want to retain just the best in your organization.

Why?

Retention, per se, is no business objective. It is retaining the best that counts, even in the tightest of labor markets.
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