10 Paths to Growing Your Business

growth iq

Grow Your Company with Confidence

 

How organizations keep growing in the face of stiff competition, a fast-changing business environment, constant innovation, and technology changes is a constant issue for executives. In Growth IQ: Get Smarter About the Choices that Will Make or Break Your Business, Tiffani Bova shares ten simple paths to growth in this environment.

Tiffani Bova is the global customer growth and innovation evangelist at Salesforce. Her work over the last twenty years spans startups to the Fortune 500. I recently spoke with her about her work.

 

“The one thing about growth is, it is never one thing.” – Tiffani Bova

 

Common Growth Mistakes

What are some of the common mistakes leaders make when trying to reenergize growth?

One of the most vexing challenges faced by executives is determining how best to grow their business. Unfortunately, these challenges to grow have multiplied in recent years. The problem is that too many companies respond to a competitive threat, or a market disruption, with a strategic business model that worked in the past and may not work in the future. Growth strategy is a thinking game that works when you have the right mindset to inform the when, where and why of every strategic move you make. I have yet to find a company that can attribute their growth to one silver bullet. The impact of combining multiple efforts will be greater than the sum of its parts. Reenergizing growth starts with being open to getting uncomfortable with the status quo and comfortable with change.

 

Why do companies so often fail to duplicate a growth strategy from an industry rival?

Too many companies ‘benchmark’ their company against their rival or a set of competitors in the same industry. While benchmarking can be a worthwhile exercise, it can also lend itself to a limited view of what is happening in the overall market. Widening the lens to look at overall context, on the other hand, allows companies to look for best practices from other sectors and learn from innovation happening across industries. What is happening in consumer spending patterns? What technology advancements have happened which you can capitalize on? How are people engaging with brands? What is the sentiment towards big social issues? The insights we can glean from these questions are invaluable when setting a growth strategy.

Furthermore, benchmarking is an outside-in view focused mostly on products and business models. Meaning, you are only able to understand their business from an outsider’s perspective. It is the inner workings, or the mental model, of a company’s growth strategy that is their ‘secret sauce’ – it is what differentiates them from each other especially in highly competitive markets.  The fact is, companies rarely have the same products, customers, value propositions or go-to-market strategies or more importantly, culture. So, attempting to replicate another company’s strategy, may sound like a good plan, yet rarely delivers expected results, or worse it could backfire and have long-term negative impact on the company overall. There are exceptions to this statement of course, especially in highly commoditized industries where ‘price’ is what companies compete on, but any value-based product will require more than that as a solid growth strategy.

 

“Customer Experience is the new Black.” – Tiffani Bova

 

The Challenge of Customer Experience

The Top 10 Novels of All Time

top 10 novels

Books to Know

If you don’t know how much I love books, you likely are visiting this site for the first time. I suffer from an affliction called abibliophobia, which is the fear of being without a book or something to read.

Each year, I compile a list of the very best book covers of the year. I also read numerous sources to see what books hit the various bestseller lists.

Though this community primarily is focused on leadership and success books, I am equally passionate about fiction.

 

Fact: The Little Prince is the most translated novel on the #Library100Novels list, available in 78 languages.

 

 

Top Novels

That’s why I was excited to recently share a list of the top novels of all time.

You say, “Wait, I didn’t know there was such a list.”

OCLC’s Research team generated The Library 100 list, the list of the top novels held by the world’s libraries. Using WorldCat, our research scientists analyzed the collections of over 18,000 libraries and almost 2.7 billion items held in libraries. Libraries reflect popular, cultural, and scholarly interest over time. They are the stewards of the world’s literature. And so, they arguably represent the best place to create such a list.

 

Fact: Almost half of the authors have more than one book on the #Library100Novels list.

 

Here are the top 10:

How to Improve Team Effectiveness

effective team

Teamwork and Effective Teams

I read everything I can about teamwork and effective teams. Simon Mac Rory’s new book, Wake Up and Smell the Coffee: The Imperative of Teams, takes us on a journey to deliver improved team effectiveness.

Simon Mac Rory is a team development specialist and founder of the ODD Company. He says that sometimes, when he’s in a room with some teams, he says, “For Pete’s sake will you wake up and smell the coffee” which is how the title of his new book came to be. I recently asked Simon to share more about his perspectives of teams in the workplace.

 

“If teamwork is so important you would think that organizations would treat team performance as a strategic imperative, but most do not.” – Simon Mac Rory

 

What do most people get wrong when they think of the term “team”?

There are so many misconceptions about teams in the workplace that it is hard to choose one or two. If I am to choose, these are my three top gripes in terms of what people get wrong when they think of teams.

The biggest and most fundamental issue is in the assumption that teamwork happens by magic. 90% of what we do in the world of work happens through collaborative effort, and that makes teams and teamwork an imperative and a strategic imperative at that. Yet the majority of organizations have no strategy for teams. Label a group of people a team, stand back and ‘hey presto’ you will have a high performing team. Nothing could be further from the truth. If teamwork is so important, you would think that organizations would treat team performance as a strategic imperative, but most do not, preferring to muddle on with poorly performing teams and accepting mediocracy.

Contrary to popular opinion only 10% of teams are high performing, a frightening 40% are dysfunctional and detrimental to members’ experiences and lives, leaving 50% which are performing at best with small incremental results. This is what most organizations accept. I consider this unacceptable, particularly when delivering high performing teams is not rocket science. It does, however, take effort, it does take strategy, it does take time, it does take budget, and critically it takes persistence and commitment from the organization, leaders and team members. We are not all team experts, we do not operate intuitively as a team, and if organizations want high performing teams, they need to put in the effort and stop dreaming. They need to think and strategize about it and stop making so many ridiculous assumptions.

The assumption about teamwork and fun drives me crazy. Teamwork is not fun. Work is work and fun is fun. Fun is defined in the Oxford English dictionary as “behaviour or an activity that is intended purely for amusement and should not be interpreted as having any serious or malicious purpose.” Now tell me what that has to do with the world of work? The fact that it can be an enjoyable experience to work in an effective team should not be confused with it being fun. Real team development does not happen up the side of a mountain, putting life and limb at risk once a year or completing exercises with no connection to the reality of the workplace. Real team development that delivers sustainable development and effectiveness happens in the work place day-to-day. Give time to tackling real issues for the team and not worrying about how to build a house of straws, how to build a raft or how to build trust by falling backwards into someone’s arms. I come to work to work and I would much prefer to give of my time with my colleagues, dealing with and finding solutions to real work challenges. Team members are much more likely to be engaged, committed and enthusiastic if they are dealing in reality, where their opinions and ideas, and inputs to real challenges of the team are welcome and actually considered—in other words, doing the work they are employed to do. Enjoying your work is important, having fulfilling work is motivational, being challenged is good (most of the time) but do not confuse this with fun. Work is serious and not fun.

And size does matter after all. There is substantial evidence that team size has a very great impact on the effectiveness of a team in a work context.

 

“There is substantial evidence that team size has a very great impact on the effectiveness of a team.” – Simon Mac Rory

 

The issue of team size is linked to how we define a team and indeed to the way the term ‘team’ is used and understood. The term is applied generically and seems to encompass all group activity and often is used to refer to an entire department and in some instances to an entire company. These larger groups, mistakenly called teams, are in fact comprised of many teams. The term team should only be used to refer to a real team, that by definition is:

“A group of people, less than ten, that need to work together to achieve a common goal, normally with a single leader and where there is high degree of interdependence between the team members to achieve the goal or goals”.

There are several issues that have been identified when a team is in double digits – social loafing, cognitive limitations and the communication overhead. These are aside from the issue of larger teams breaking down into sub-teams and the inevitable emergence of cliques which can be very damaging to effectiveness and relationships. The biggest issue in failing to deal with team size is communication overload.  The more members in a team, the more communication channels required to keep the team informed. A team of 5 people require 10 conversations to be fully connected and informed. This rises to 45 for a team of 10 and 91 for a team of 14. The reality of the situation is simply the larger team will not be able to manage or complete the communication required.   Organizations need to get their language and definitions right. A team is not a group, a department or a company if it is comprised of more than ten people. Once you go into double digits, I can assure you that there is more than one team in play.

There are many more assumptions but these three are the biggies.

 

“Teamwork is not fun. Work is work and fun is fun.” – Simon Mac Rory

 

Wake Up and Smell the Coffee

10 Ways to Reduce Stress

This is a guest post by Charu Chandra, an aspiring leader, entrepreneur, and blogger. Charu blogs about the beneficial effects of yoga and strength training and other things fitness-related.

 

A good leader is expected to always remain in control of his emotions.

But like it or not, things don’t always go according to plan, and leaders, even good ones, are prone to emotional outbursts. And if stress is not recognized and corrected early, it usually snowballs into bigger problems.

So, it is imperative that a leader remains calm at all times. As you may have experienced, situations only tend to get worse when approached with stress.

10 ways to reduce stress in your life

1) Tidy up your workspace/room.

A cluttered room or workspace is a great way to build up stress. I have noticed that removing all unnecessary items from my desk (all I have on my desk is my laptop and a glass of water), making my bed every morning, etc. keeps my mind really calm.

 

“The objective of cleaning is not just to clean, but to feel happiness living in that environment.” -Marie Kondo

 

2) Tidy up your inbox/computer/desktop.

Since we spend a lot of time on our computers and smart phones, keeping them clutter-free is as important as keeping our physical workspace clean. For example, until recently, I had close to 7,000 unread e-mails in my inbox.  So I sat down for three hours and cleaned up the entire thing. Once I was done, I felt incredibly relaxed and peaceful.  So make sure you don’t let things get out of hand in the virtual world.

 

“One way to organize your thoughts is to tidy up, even if it’s in places where it makes no sense at all.” -Ursus Wehrli

 

3) Speak your mind.

One of the sources of stress in my life was my roommate. He used to go to bed late and would always play video games loudly late at night when I was asleep. So, the second or third time I was disturbed, I got up from bed and talked to him about this. This helped a lot as I let go of the anger in me and also because the noise stopped. So, if something needs to be said, say it.

 

“Stand before the people you fear and speak your mind, even if your voice shakes.” -Maggie Kuhn

 

4) Pinpoint the source of your stress.

Stress is not always general. Sometimes, specific events or people can stress you out. For example, a job interview scheduled for tomorrow may be causing you stress today. In my experience, the best way to deal with such situations is to do everything you can to address it and leave the rest to god/fate/luck.

5) Give up control.

Trying to control situations too much can cause stress. Don’t misunderstand me, leaders should always be in control of a situation but shouldn’t expect to be in control of its outcome. A good leader adapts to whatever turn a situation takes and is always ready for anything. Using the interview example from above, I do my best to prepare for it and then relax. Because I know that there will always be unexpected events no matter how well I prepare.

6) Take a break.

If you’ve been working hard on something, taking a short break to get away from it all is always a good idea. Taking a walk, playing with an animal or a baby, watching television, listening to calming music, taking a nap and exercising are all great ways to de-stress. Find out what helps you relax.

Sonia Sotomayor