How to Resolve Conflict – A Key Leadership Skill – Part 2

August 29th, 2017 by Rich Kohler

In order to achieve success in our business and career, we need to work effectively with people.

In Part 1, we pointed out the need to stick to the following helpful conflict resolution guidelines:

• Make the relationship your priority. Be respectful of the other person and his or her viewpoint.

• Focus on the present, on what you can do in the here and now to solve the problem.

• Pick your battles. Consider whether the issue is really worthy of your time and energy.

• Be willing to forgive. Resolution lies in releasing the urge to punish.

• Know when to let something go. If you can’t come to an agreement, agree to disagree, disengage and move on.

Communication Points to Remember

7% of your communications are accomplished through the words that you use.

38% of your communications are conveyed by your voice.

55% of your communications are conveyed by your body language.

Voice and body language are controlled by your state (a soup of your attitudes, world view, intentions, and emotions).

Helpful Questions to Ask

If we’re sure a conversation is going to be tough, it’s instinctive to rehearse what we’ll say. But a difficult conversation is not a performance, with an actor and an audience. Once you’ve started the discussion, your counterpart could react in any number of ways – and having a “script” in mind will hamper your ability to listen effectively and react accordingly. Instead, prepare by asking yourself:

1. What is the problem?

2. What would my counterpart say the problem is?

3. What’s my preferred outcome?

4. What’s my preferred working relationship with my counterpart?

You can also ask the other person to do the same in advance of your meeting.

Optimists tend to assume that every disagreement is just a misunderstanding between two well-intentioned people; pessimists may feel that differences of opinion are actually ill-intentioned attacks. In the fog of a hard talk, we tend to forget that we don’t have access to anyone’s intentions but our own.

Remember that you and your counterpart are both dealing with this ambiguity. If you get stuck, a handy phrase to remember is, “I’m realizing as we talk that I don’t fully understand how you see this problem.” Admitting what you don’t know can be a powerful way to get a conversation back on track.

Resolving conflict starts with a sincere desire to achieve a win-win situation. If you keep that in mind, both of you will.

Combining Vision and Innovation to Create the Future

© Rich Kohler 2017. All rights reserved. For copies, please contact Rich at rich@rich-kohler.com.

Achieving Profitable Growth – Part 2

August 22nd, 2017 by Rich Kohler

Good companies have nearly all the same ideas and competitive intent as the great ones. Studies have shown that 80% of management teams also believe they can deliver a superior proposition, yet only 8% of their customers think so.

The problem is they never execute everywhere, every time. Big initiatives launched are wildly successful in a few places, but fizzle out most everywhere else.

A second element of achieving profitable growth is that these strategies are based on some kind of repeatable model that strengthens and expands the core business. The power of a repeatable business model is its simplicity. Everyone in the organization, in effect, knows the business’s priorities, and has the skills and capabilities to make the core as strong as it can be. They can move fast when opportunities arise. In a slow growth economy, all that is invaluable.

Actually living your strategy day in and day out, is one of the most important challenges today.

Strategy is less about the big new thing and about delivering on the goals you set.

Repeatable Models

1.  A well-differentiated set of frontline activities that reflect the company’s core business. These include how the frontline employees (sales, customer service) support the customer and the activities that enable and support those employees. The company should be able to identify and measure these activities objectively, and demonstrate exactly where, why and how much the front line outperforms the competition.

2.  Regular, systematic feedback from customers, key operations and frontline employees. The steady flow of information allows the company to adapt its model to changes in technology and the larger environment – customers and competitors. The most successful companies develop processes and mechanics to ensure they maintain their adaptability. Customer feedback as with a NetPromoter type scoring system to include follow-up with dissatisfied customers, solicitation of quick feedback on new products and User Groups are examples.

3.  Encouraging employees throughout the organization to help define the strategy for themselves and buy into it – living the strategy day in and day out. Effective execution comes about only when the people understand the strategy, believe in it and incorporate it into what they do every day.

Achieving and maintaining success is less about the new big idea, and more about buying into and executing a few simple and repeatable ideas that are maintained as the core strategy for multiple years. A successful strategy must be translated into front-line activities that are delivered well, everywhere, every day.

Combining Vision and Innovation to Create the Future

© Rich Kohler 2017. All rights reserved. For copies, please contact Rich at rich@rich-kohler.com.

How to Resolve Conflict – A Key Leadership Skill – Part 1

August 15th, 2017 by Rich Kohler

In order to achieve success in our business and career, we need to work effectively with people.

Do you find yourself approaching conflicts like this:

• I’ll be really easy to get along with once you people realize I’m right.

• You sound reasonable. It must be time to up my medication.

Managing and resolving conflict can be tricky, frustrating, and even frightening. It requires emotional maturity, self-control, and empathy. You can ensure that the process is as positive as possible by sticking to the following helpful conflict resolution guidelines:

• Make the relationship your priority. Maintaining and strengthening the relationship, rather than “winning” the argument, should always be your first priority. Be respectful of the other person and his or her viewpoint.

• Focus on the present. If you’re holding on to old hurts and resentments, your ability to see the reality of the current situation will be impaired. Rather than looking to the past and assigning blame, focus on what you can do in the here and now to solve the problem.

• Pick your battles. Conflicts can be draining, so it’s important to consider whether the issue is really worthy of your time and energy. Maybe you don’t want to surrender a parking space if you’ve been circling for 15 minutes. But if there are dozens of spots, arguing over a single space isn’t worth it.

• Be willing to forgive. Resolving conflict is impossible if you’re unwilling or unable to forgive. Resolution lies in releasing the urge to punish, which can never compensate for our losses and only adds to our injury by further depleting and draining our lives.

• Know when to let something go. If you can’t come to an agreement, agree to disagree. It takes two people to keep an argument going. If a conflict is going nowhere, you can choose to disengage and move on.

Communication Points to Remember

7% of your communications in a face to face situation are accomplished through the words that you use.

38% of your communications are conveyed by your voice (pace, tone, pitch, timbre, volume).

55% of your communications are conveyed (primarily at the unconscious level) by your body language.

Voice and body language are controlled by your state (a soup of your attitudes, world view, intentions, and emotions).

Resolving conflict starts with a sincere desire to achieve a win-win situation. If you keep that in mind, both of you will.

Combining Vision and Innovation to Create the Future

© Rich Kohler 2017. All rights reserved. For copies, please contact Rich at rich@rich-kohler.com.

Quick Tips to Be Much More Productive – Part 3

August 8th, 2017 by Rich Kohler

One of the most valuable assets you have as a leader is your time.

The same goes for your Team, your colleagues and your family.

Unfortunately, we don’t give it the same level of attention as we do to the myriad of other things we do in our lives. So time just kind of slips by, and we do not maximize our use of it, or our impact.

This the 3rd in a series of quick tips for you to choose from to help you regain control of your time.

I suggest you review the following, and select five or six of these steps a week and include at least one in your Daily Planner List.

Think about what it means to accomplish this step in your mastering of time. Another idea, is to keep track of where your time kind of slips away on you over the next couple weeks. You might be surprised…maybe even horrified.

Preoccupation … Alertness … Energizing

1. When explaining an unfamiliar point, make comparisons

2. Be aware of when you are tapering off from peak levels of performance. At that point, shift to another vital priority be on time to meetings, appointments and scheduled events

3. Reduce the overlong visitor stay

4. Reduce the overlong telephone call

5. Accumulate telephone calls and handle them at a time when the chance of getting through is most likely

6. If you have a secretary, use him/her to screen incoming telephone calls and drop-in visitors

7. When a visitor stay is too long, have a co-worker or secretary interrupt you

8. Establish an appropriate balance between vocational work and management work

9. Retire early and rise early

10. Get the necessary sleep each night, but no more than is necessary

11. Be sensitive to the vital priorities of others around you

Remember, time is our friend – not our enemy – and by using it wisely, we get to do more of what we like.

Combining Vision and Innovation to Create the Future

© Rich Kohler 2017. All rights reserved. For copies, please contact Rich at rich@rich-kohler.com.

Achieving Profitable Growth – Part 1

August 1st, 2017 by Rich Kohler

Achieving profitable growth is no easy feat.

Consider an annual growth rate in sales and earnings of 4-5%. Most companies believe they can attain this level or better. Sounds reasonable enough.

Yet a study of more than 2000 companies indicated that only about one in ten actually achieve that relatively modest goal over a 10 year period. In other words, nearly 90% of companies fail to achieve that growth objective.

Competitive advantage, by definition, is scarce and fleeting given market forces. The best companies are emulated by those in the middle of the pack, and best practices become commonplace rather than a market-beating strategy. Good strategies emphasize difference vs. direct competitors, potential substitutes or potential entrants.

Business leaders therefore face a growth paradox. In an increasingly turbulent and fast moving world, fewer and fewer companies are able to sustain a modest level of growth for more than a few years. And yet the vast majority of executives feel they have ample opportunity for growth.

The greatest challenge is not the market, but instead the internal complexity that clouds their focus, slows their reaction time and strangles their company’s ability to adapt.

To beat the market, advantages have to be robust and responsive in the face of competitive challenges. While the pressures of keeping up with the market seem intense enough, it is rarely sufficient. Weaker firms win surprisingly often when they display a divergent strategy.

Five Core Growth Pillars

  1. Build a strongly defined and well-differentiated core business – that is developed to its full potential and achieves a leadership position within its market. The most successful businesses are market leaders in their core business.
  2. Utilize that leadership position as it pertains to price, cost and investment opportunities to continue to strengthen the core business and distance oneself from competitors.
  3. Develop raving fans among your customers through sustained value creation. They will not only buy more from you, but will also sing your praises to friends and colleagues thereby reducing your Marketing and Sales costs.
  4. Follow a disciplined approach to expansion in adjacent markets. As companies spread out into new products, new markets and new businesses, the odds of success decline as a ratio of the distance from the core. Disciplined expansion – adding one new element at a time – doubles the probability of success.
  5. Repeat success. Apply your core assets and greatest strengths to new contexts, thereby generating further growth. As Grandma used to say, “stick to your knitting.” As you edge out, make sure you are on solid footing.

Building a solid strategy need not be overly complicated. Just make sure you incorporate a solid foundation to assure it stands the test of time.

Combining Vision and Innovation to Create the Future

© Rich Kohler 2017. All rights reserved. For copies, please contact Rich at rich@rich-kohler.com.

Are You Surprising the Competition – Part 2?

July 25th, 2017 by Rich Kohler

In an earlier post, I pointed out that Business Strategy can take two forms: (1) the direct approach and (2) the indirect approach. The former consists of a direct advance to the competition, culminating in a powerful marketing frontal attack designed to overpower them. The indirect approach involves coming at the opponent from a round-about direction that he is not totally prepared to resist. Throughout history, most great generals have consistently chosen the indirect approach, risking almost anything to catch the enemy with his guard down.

Confederate General Stonewall Jackson’s maxim: “Mystify, mislead, surprise your enemy.” Clausewitz, the Prussian General maintained that to one degree or another, surprise is, without exception, the foundation of all military undertakings.

Hannibal led an army of 50,000 Carthaginian infantry and 9,000 cavalry on his famous march across the Pyrenees and Alps. He emerged in Northern Italy to defeat the great Roman commander Saipio’s troops on the bank of the river Ticinus. In a snowstorm, he crushed two Roman armies along the river Trebia.

Hannibal followed a shorter, but more dangerous route through treacherous marshes to come out on Roman consul Flaminius’s unprotected flank, rather than the certainty of meeting his opponents in a position of their choosing.  As the unsuspecting Romans marched into battle, the Carthaginians poured out of their hiding places and attacked from all sides, decimating them.

Business history also reveals the advantages of the indirect approach. Marketing failures have often resulted from head-on attacks against the entrenched positions of stronger marketing rivals. Even brute force and having sheer resources are often not enough to insure the right outcome.

Choosing the element of surprise, a company may quickly enter a market, with the intent of a decisive victory. The idea is to strike quickly and adjust the marketing strategy and tactics as you learn from your encounter.

Guerilla warfare advocates a sudden assault, ferocious fighting, and then an instantaneous break of contact before the larger opponent can exploit his strength – substantial resources, technology and power – and bring the weight of his material and numbers to bear. It builds upon the element of surprise.

All corporations, are trying to fight wars of quick decision – get to the marketplace first and avoid costly, protracted warfare with competitors. Small guerilla firms, more so than their larger competitors, need to make certain they win quickly. They cannot afford not to.

The element of surprise helps one to achieve a quick and favorable decision. Meticulous preplanning and preparation is the first condition of a quick win as Israel exhibited in its successful, lightning-quick six-day war.

Five guidelines for a quick guerilla attack:

• Seize the opportune moment

• Concentrate superior forces in a segment or area of expertise where you are the leader – act with your entire army

• Outflank the competition

• Operate on favorable terrain – ground of your own choosing where a relatively few determined people can stall an army (remember the 300 Spartans)

• Attack the competition where it has not established its position

The element of surprise has worked successfully throughout history, regardless of the field of play. Where might you change the game, and use the “element of surprise” to defeat an unsuspecting competitor?

You will never know, until you try.

Combining Vision and Innovation to Create the Future

© Rich Kohler 2017. All rights reserved. For copies, please contact Rich at rich@rich-kohler.com.

Quick Tips to be Much More Productive – Part 2

July 18th, 2017 by Rich Kohler

One of the most valuable assets you have as a leader is your time.

The same goes for your Team, your colleagues, your family, and for that matter, your entire social network. As such, we need to give it the same level of attention as we do to the myriad of other things we do in our lives.

Here are a number of positive action steps for you to choose from to help you regain control of your time.

I suggest you review the following, and select five or six of these steps a week and include at least one in your Daily Planner List.

Think about what it means to accomplish this step in your mastering of time. Another idea, is to keep track of where your time kind of slips away on you over the next couple weeks. You might be surprised…maybe even horrified.

Preoccupation … Alertness … Energizing

1. Set up a systematic program for reading

2. Double your speed of reading

3. Read a book like a newspaper

4. Do one thing at a time

5. Always have a high priority job with you for when you have unexpected free time

6. Keep a writing pad accessible. Draw pictures/diagrams as you explain a point to visitors

7. Replace writing letters longhand with a dictating machine

8. Dictate letters into a machine instead of directly to a secretary

9. If possible, move your home closer to work, or work closer to home, to reduce commuting time

10. Instead of bringing two or three individuals in from different parts of the country for a brief meeting, set up a “conference call”

Remember, time is our friend – not our enemy. Use it wisely.

Stay tuned, I will provide a few more productivity tips in the coming weeks.

Combining Vision and Innovation to Create the Future

© Rich Kohler 2017. All rights reserved. For copies, please contact Rich at rich@rich-kohler.com.

Are You Surprising the Competition – Part 1?

July 11th, 2017 by Rich Kohler

Business Strategy can take two forms: (1) the direct approach and (2) the indirect approach. The former consists of a direct advance to the competition, culminating in a powerful marketing frontal attack designed to overpower them. The indirect approach involves coming at the opponent from a round-about direction that he is not totally prepared to resist. Throughout history, most great generals have consistently chosen the indirect approach, risking almost anything to catch the enemy with his guard down.

Hannibal led an army of 50,000 Carthaginian infantry and 9,000 cavalry on his famous march across the Pyrenees and Alps. He emerged in Northern Italy to defeat the great Roman commander Saipio’s troops on the bank of the river Ticinus. In a snowstorm, he crushed two Roman armies along the river Trebia. Two more armies under Roman consuls Flaminius and Geminus were raised to block Hannibal’s path to Rome.

Hannibal followed a shorter, but more dangerous route through treacherous marshes to come out on Flaminius’s unprotected flank. Hannibal chose to face the most hazardous conditions, rather than the certainty of meeting his opponents in a position of their choosing. He followed this by hiding his light and heavy infantry and cavalry in gulleys near the road, so they could not be seen, and then taunted Flamininus into a foolish attack by making camp a short distance down the road from his army. As the unsuspecting Romans marched into battle, the Carthaginians poured out of their hiding places and attacked from all sides, decimating them.

Business history also reveals the advantages of the indirect approach. Marketing failures have often resulted from head-on attacks against the entrenched positions of stronger marketing rivals. Even brute force and having sheer resources are often not enough to insure the right outcome.

Surprise has been called “any commander’s greatest tactical weapon.” Confederate General Stonewall Jackson’s maxim: “Mystify, mislead, surprise your enemy.” Clausewitz, the Prussian General maintained that to one degree or another, surprise is, without exception, the foundation of all military undertakings.

Surprise follows a course of least resistance. The most stunning surprises are the result of a novel, creative idea. Creativity many times consists of merely connecting two or more heretofore unrelated ideas or things. Napoleon gained a decisive surprise by connecting cannon and manure. He ordered a rocky mountain road covered with horse droppings to muffle the sound of the wheels of his artillery carriages. This allowed him to move under the cover of night and to surprise his opponent by being in a completely new position in the morning.

In warfare, a preliminary bombardment might weaken the enemy’s lines, but also eliminates any advantage you might have gained by surprise. The use of intensive market surveys and market tests practically give away any hope of sneaking up on the competition. Choosing the element of surprise, a company may quickly enter a market, with the intent of a decisive victory. The idea is to strike quickly and adjust the marketing strategy and tactics as you learn from your encounter.

The element of surprise has worked successfully throughout history, regardless of the field of play. As the mighty Goliath, in his battle array, lay on his back after being hit between the eyes by a small smooth stone launched in a sling by a shepherd boy named David, he no doubt wondered what hit him. By then it was all over, he had lost the battle and the war.

Combining Vision and Innovation to Create the Future

© Rich Kohler 2017. All rights reserved. For copies, please contact Rich at rich@rich-kohler.com.

Getting an ROI on New Product Innovation

July 7th, 2017 by Rich Kohler

In research on what works and what does not in terms of product innovation. Some observations:

• Innovation Man, who leaps over tall buildings, overcoming roadblocks by going underground and fighting the system is more a myth than reality. Most likely he would be banned for being not in sync with the executive team. This is also not a repeatable approach you can emulate.

• Finding the BIG IDEA, while important, is not the end of the journey. It really does not pay off until you achieve commercial success.

• Encouraging all employees to innovate on their own initiative as does 3M and Google, has limited success as most people are too busy with their day job. This also assumes that there are processes and techniques in place that can leverage this time investment.

• Making innovation efficient and routine via process works ok for incremental innovation. Such an approach does not address the need for break-through or disruptive innovation.

The basic problem is that organizations are designed for on-going operations, good for today’s customers and defeating today’s competitors. Built for efficiency and accountability, they are performance engines.

We too often find from experience, that the brilliant new ideas and business opportunities derived in brain-storming sessions quickly lose momentum. The follow-through is usually relegated to too few people with too little investment. Lack of focus and commitment produces marginal results.

Innovation, which can create whole new product categories and lead to substantial change in market position, on other hand is non-routine and uncertain. Innovation in this sense needs more than ideas, it needs a special team, Innovation leaders and a plan of attack. Conceptually, the mindset is that of building a brand new company from the ground up.

Utilizing a dedicated team with a strong Project Leader that reports to Top Management has a great deal of merit. This can be carried to a separate organization as witnessed in the Aerospace Industry. Boeing Phantom Works and Lockheed Martin Skunkworks are examples of where the main focus is to investigate and prototype significant innovation and new product concepts. This dedicated team can then be supported by the performance engine or on-going operations. An acquisition in a new growth market segment could provide the dedicated team for innovation.

The process of Innovation can be supported by training, tools and methodologies used by the Innovation Team. Scenario Development, Market Segmentation, Blue Ocean Strategy can be combined with definition of Virtual Products, Dream Catalogues, Innovation Fairs and various means to introduce the Customer to truly innovative solutions to their problems. Strategic and Innovation consultants can support efforts to identify emerging growth markets, customer needs and product opportunities.

In the end, the commitment of the organization to the selection and support of a dedicated team will be the most important strategic move it will ever make to propel its new product engine.

Combining Vision and Innovation to Create the Future

© Rich Kohler 2017. All rights reserved. For copies, please contact Rich at rich@rich-kohler.com.

Where Have you Gone – General Clausewitz?

July 5th, 2017 by Rich Kohler

Like the refrain from the Simon and Garfunkel song, General Clausewitz has “left and gone away.” As the great philosopher of war, the retired Prussian general, Karl von Clausewitz wrote On War in 1832, outlining the strategic principles behind all successful wars. Warfare is based upon two immutable characteristics: strategy and tactics. And while the nature of war has changed considerably, Clausewitz’ ideas are still as relevant today.

It is interesting to note that Clausewitz saw the linkage to business, “War belongs to the province of business competition, which is also a conflict of human interests and activities.” While the classic definition of marketing leads to a focus on customer wants and needs, this approach to marketing strategy by itself is insufficient if a dozen other competing firms are already serving the same customer wants. A more successful strategy must also include being competitor-oriented.

Competitor strategy many times becomes a market research and competitive intelligence effort providing facts and figures on market share, new product launches, product and sales force assessments, management appointments, mergers and acquisitions. From this, creeping incrementalism, or being just a little bit better in the Red Ocean seems to be the normal approach to company business strategy and tactics.

The marketing plan, however, needs to go well beyond this to dissect each marketplace participant. It should also include a plan to defend against competitive strengths, the tactics and style of operation their competitors and key marketing people can be expected to employ. Better market intelligence is needed on how to anticipate competitive moves.

Marketing executives need to be prepared to wage marketing warfare, as generals do with military campaigns. Strategic planning is a critical element as companies define strategies and tactics to attack and flank their competition, defend their positions and decide when and how to wage guerilla warfare.

Finally, successful marketing leaders need to exhibit many of the same virtues that make a great military general – courage, loyalty and perseverance.

Clausewitz stated, “Some statesmen and generals try to avoid the decisive battle. History has destroyed this illusion.” While marketing does involve satisfying customer needs and wants, the true nature of marketing involves conflict between corporations. Business competition is a war, where failure leads to loss of market position, stature and profits.

In war, the competition is the enemy and the objective is to win the battle. You win by outwitting, outflanking and overpowering the enemy. Winning in business requires no less resolve and the mindset of a field general.

Combining Vision and Innovation to Create the Future

© Rich Kohler 2017. All rights reserved. For copies, please contact Rich at rich@rich-kohler.com.