Who’s in charge of growth strategy at your company?
When the answer is anything other than EVERYONE, there is a business problem that requires attention. Doing more with less and dealing with change shapes where there is growth potential.
The process to learn where to look for growth may mean “unlearning." Unlearning what worked in the past (because it isn’t working now). Unlearning where we have assumptions about our own strengths, and our team’s strengths (because gaps in needed skills limit possibility). Unlearning that decisions have lasting effects (because change happens so quickly).
Traditionally, we’ve been taught that business is linear, cyclical, even predictable. When happening in a consistently straight line, a few key people could handle growth strategy planning and execution. Today, however, is different.
The ability to leverage every position within your organization to execute a growth strategy is necessary to sustain market placement, customer loyalty, and competitive advantage.
A key component of execution is being accountable for specific outcomes. To be accountable requires both accepting responsibility for growth goals and the willingness to do the work and coordinate the efforts of others to reach the achievement (i.e. rapid growth strategy).
How confident are you that you can achieve your rapid growth strategy?
In a group, you may feel anxious that as a facilitator I’d ask you to indicate your level of confidence. You are reading this, so take a deep breath. Notice the uncomfortable, the anxious. This discord is an indicator. When we notice dissonance, we increase our awareness. This is part of trusting ourselves and increasing our confidence that we will achieve growth.
Now with a completed awareness check-in on the amount of discord felt about your confidence in the ability to achieve the desired growth strategy, I ask that you choose to be honest with yourself. Put a percentage to your confidence about achieving growth: 25%, 40%, 75%, 87%….
Change can occur only when there is acceptance of what the actual situation is.
Once we define the setting, we can change it – provided we are open and willing. Here are three sets of questions to assist with honing in on what will be useful as a guide to finding the true north for rapid growth. You will be ready for change and recognize opportunities when the answers to all these questions are “yes."
True North for Growth Strategy Commitment Assessment:
- Have you stated growth goals to every person in your organization? Are growth goals written down? Do these growth goals have a place in decision-making and employee reviews? If “yes" to all, then ask: What is the frequency, when was the last time? What was the other person’s response?
- Can you rattle off where you and the team are in achieving your growth goal? Can you state the hiccups along the way? Can you share the leaps? What strengths and weaknesses contribute to hiccups and leaps? If “yes" to all, then: Make sure the details are written down. Communicate them with your team and strategic partners.
- Do you know what your competitors are doing? Do you know how customers respond to competitor products? Do you know what makes you different despite the external competitive pressure? If “yes" to all, then: Write down the answers. Check in at least monthly. (This set of questions is important for every person charged with achieving growth to-dos.)
The information you gather with these questions creates an internal pulse and an idea of an external pulse. Combine this data with the numbers – the reports you already run – and see where you can find new opportunities.
Most of us learn this by trial and error, or even figuring out who to watch and model. The thing is, even if we seek out the expertise of another by discovering what worked for them … the process is just a how-to. No one has the exact formula that works for us. Just like no other company has the exact advantage that yours does. I’m no exception.
Early in my career I actively managed and grew multiple companies That. Did. The. Exact. Same. Thing. They processed credit cards and delivered licenses for software companies. In spite of myself, and my lack of knowing “the right way," my leadership got results and every one of those companies grew by double digits year after year.
There were two distinct threads of action in play: running multiple companies with different teams and the use of different technologies under the same company … AND there were many competitors in the space.
After working with technology companies, leading similar companies at the same time, and then continuing the workaround rapid growth with other companies since I’ve seen a lot. Here’s what I know:
- Not accepting the industry norms ensures clearer competitive advantage.
- Knowing what to know is the most important part of the growth strategy.
- How we do what we do evolves with our development as leaders, and how we develop those around us.
There is no easy answer. If I tell you to do one task in this way because it worked for me … well, you already know the answer and the outcome. What I will tell you is that there are activities that – when integrated to strengthen interpersonal communication, stating clear objectives, and creating accountability at every level – will increase your confidence in achieving growth goals.
The research is in – we must make choices even when we don’t have all the information.
There are three brains in our body … are you only using one?
We’ve all heard it … the many different types of leadership, the ways to engage, and even that leaders are what we want instead of managers.
In my research around growth strategy, I’ve found a few amazing rabbit holes, and one is that not only do our bodies have a head brain … but also two other brains! In the neuroscience research, Grant Sooalu and Marvin Oka introduce that the heart works independently of the brain, and the gut does too. They call the three brains of leadership mBIT (multiple brain integration techniques).
Sooalu and Oka are using science to document what we’ve seen in the best leaders: the use of data/reports (indicating performance to a certain point) with empathy (our ability to connect with others and their choice to hitch their personal mission to ours), and facing ambiguity with confidence (all decisions are made with imperfect information).
The more we use all three brains, the better we get at making decisions. When visible positive results occur from our decisions, we increase our confidence about how to achieve growth goals.
How do you check in with your growth mindset?
Innately, we have a way we look at the world: with the possibility (what can I do to learn more, do more, experience more) or with knowing (I already know everything I need to know). Carol Dweck’s work around mindset made big waves because she uncovered that people who know will do everything they can to protect their knowing. This limits everything we do – what we will try and what we think about to protect what we already know. She also uncovered that the fixed mindset, the “I already know," can be changed to a growth mindset which is filled with opportunity.
As leaders, we necessarily deal with the unknown every day. The more comfortable we can get with the unknown, the more we are able to gather, experience, and find ways to be informed to make choices with confidence.
Do you do the deep work?
When we remove ourselves from distraction, we can build our “focus muscle." Cal Newport’s work around focus and success shows that when we step back, close ourselves off, create a boundary – for a period of time – the removal of interruptions for our own work ripples out.
The way we work as leaders is the way our teams work. When we put a priority on being focused, we develop the ability to move through information efficiently, filter out what’s needed to make the decision at hand and to act with confidence because we’ve made space to think about the task at hand.
Some would say thinking on our feet is a great skill, and I would agree – in fact, it’s one of my strengths. But creating a counterbalance to that by slowing down to think ensures that we don’t create a work environment that is fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants.
When our work is purposeful and deliberate, we move toward achieving growth with confidence.
The real impact to increase your team’s ability to achieve growth goals.
What we do is defined by how we work and the way we use time. Time is what all of us have in common, which means one way to add value is to maximize what we do with our time.
Can you think of a way to add value that doesn’t just center on efficient processes? When we are transparent with growth goals, and incorporate growth strategy into everyday work, the way our employees think changes. Their performance becomes based on growth and adding value – what they see to address leaky pipes, as well as how effective they are at solving the problems faced to create momentum and potential.
Steve Jobs did not just think differently. His actions and leadership aligned to his thinking. Part of thinking differently is knowing what data and information can be collected. Overlooked is asking for in-depth feedback about a situation. You may ask and get a surface answer, yet when you are ready with probing questions that can uncover more than what’s on the surface you’ll get more answers. Help yourself get what you need to make decisions with confidence by asking the questions you truly need answers to.
I’ve developed a process to take a recess from email, meetings, and calls with employees, clients, and stakeholders. To consciously set a boundary in which to ruminate. Time to think, plan, dream. This period uses the latest financial reports to determine where your company was (reflection), where your company is (present), and where the company is going (growth strategy). Finding the current direction allows you to adjust and find your true north – the cardinal direction for achieving your growth strategy. You’ve got the confidence assessment, outlined above.
It’s your turn.
Gaining confidence in your:
- growth strategy;
- people; and
- ability to know what can actually be done
requires purposeful action. You’ve got a tool to begin. This is how you will use the confidence assessment to check in and be real about your confidence in achieving the growth goals you’ve set.
Use the True North for Growth Strategy Commitment Assessment tool to begin assessing the commitment to growth for yourself and your team. As a recap, here are the three questions to begin:
- Have you stated growth goals to every person in your organization?
- Can you rattle off where you and the team are in achieving your growth goal?
- Do you know what your competitors are doing?
The purpose of this assessment is to remind you that you do have important information. Anything that triggers erosion of your confidence about your business decisions – use these questions to ground with. Your answers will bring into sight your company’s true north. With the direction clear, you have the foundation to ask questions, evaluate, and make the next decision. Then the next.
When we are the most unsure, we still must move forward with every action to achieve our growth strategy.
In a world of instant results and feedback, developing confidence around longer-term goals with less immediate results is an area to flex that confidence muscle. I received a client call recently and they wanted to talk about their current pressure point. They had identified it, named it, and even knew the outcome they wanted. As their consultant and advisor, my role was to bring the right people together on the team and equip them with the accountability plan.
You could hear a pin drop when I’d finished sharing the plan. They’d closed down. They knew what they needed yet it bumped up against an area they regularly shied away from. I pulled out these questions, we answered them together, and then in light of having their true north present in the conversation, dialog opened back up. When they lacked confidence in making the decision to go for growth, using the True North for Growth Strategy Assessment reminded the company of where they committed to go. And, they are on the path.