Ensure you know your purpose in business

Following up from exercise choice carefully, here’s my top 10 steps of  ‘purpose that help in answering the  ‘why are we in business’ question. The outcome of using this model is in having a transparent, engaging and involving work culture.

 

Identify Business Purpose

1. Articulate a clear sense of purpose:

Revisit ‘why’–  The “why” are we doing this business OR “why” are we going into this business.  This is the question which needs to be identified and answered with clarity. You see how the ‘choice’ you make starts affecting the outcome?

The articulation of purpose brings forth the business mission. The business mission should then be evaluated for the impact it    would have on society. This would come about from the product or services it intends to market and how it affects the consumer. This social aspect of the business’s mission would be the heart and soul of its brand identity & experience. It’s the raison d’être of the brand.

2. Create a workforce committed to your purpose:

Articulating the business purpose does two things:
(A) Provides the framework for the brand experience to be in place.
(B) More importantly, articulating with clarity the business purpose creates employee engagement on the business mission i.e. employees working together for a common goal.

3. Define how the purpose is delivered i.e. ‘how we do things around here’:

People, by nature, like to belong to groups. In order to form such a group it’s necessary to provide employees a clear value system and a common cause. These, usually, are the organisational values that lead to behaviour and become the guiding principles of how business is to be done.There are three critical factors in detailing these values:

  • ‘The understanding of the business unit in what’s the social benefit of the business’
  • ‘The understanding creates certain believes which need to be genuine and strong enough to withstand stress & tension when tested’
  • ‘And they need to be translated into practice’

4.  Manage the intangibles that the business purpose would bring up:

Financial profitability is only one dimension of the value provided by the business unit.    Other factors which add to the value of a business include:

  • Strategic Clarity: A clear strategic direction based on practicing the values articulated i.e. ‘walking the talk’
  • Leadership: A strong leadership at the top in order to champion the brand values and represent the brand identity to the stakeholders (in this case any and every one that interacts with the brand in any function)
  • Employee engagement: In order to have the brand represented and projected correctly
  • Competitive Advantage: Identify and develop a strong competitive advantage based on the brand value and
  • Delivery: Deliver, consistently, on brand value through brand experience

5. Develop a clearly articulated governance policy that would reflect the business purpose:

Ethics, adherence to specific regulations and standards should be clearly articulated and proper process flow and directions provided for employees. Special focus should be kept in the functions of investment management, compliance, competitive differentiation, reputation management and customer intelligence management. Taking preventive care at the start would automatically create a work habit that would ensure very negligible slip-ups in governance.

6. Create your brand’s personality based on its purpose:

In the end, a brand is represented by its employee. Thus, it’s critical that the personality that’s projected be reflective of the business purpose. To this end, critical personality behaviour traits should be identified and documented as ‘must-have” for potential employees.

An organisations’ employees project the brand in order to earn trust from the stakeholders.

Trust comes through managing and delivering, time and again, consistently. Having trust leads to a ‘preferred relationship’ which in turn leads to transactions over and over. In order to generate this trust, the personality projection has to be one that is liked by the stakeholder. It may be the way the employee speaks, looks, mannerisms. Small things, but things that immediately create a “like or dislike” choice in the stakeholders’ mind. ‘Perception, after all, is belief’.

7. Listen with  purpose and involve people:

In gaining trust one has to learn to listen not just hear!

If a brand does not have its finger on the pulse of stakeholders’ opinion it doesn’t have a feel for its brand health. Listening, using the variety of mediums that are available, to hear what the stakeholders are saying and thereby get into a dialogue with them and involving them in the brand’s purpose is very important in order to have continuous growth. The more engaged the people are the more involved they would be.

8. Manage risks that are identified from the business purpose:

It’s strange that ‘risk management’ is still in the purview of the finance departments. But financial risk (though the most common is, actually, step two in mapping overall brand risks). Ideally every quadrant of the brand’s activities should be evaluated and potential risk identified. Then marketing and finance jointly, should approach evaluating both the financial and brand reputation risk.

A part of risk management is to ensure the brand’s reputation stays positive. Business leaders have this responsibility and need to ensure that the brands activities protect its reputation from foreseeable risks. By identifying and managing risk,
preemptively, you can head off financial risks.

9. Leverage social change that fits your business purpose:

Businesses tend to think good corporate responsibility is about managing the footprint of their brand on society. But real progress is achieved when they use their business purpose to achieve genuine social benefit . It can be done in a way which wins trust and leads to genuine social and business benefit.

10. Invest in communications  but make it a dialogue:

There are many stories in almost every business. Bring these stories out. Communicate them to your stakeholders. After all the stories involve people and people are interested in people per se. Stories allow for a dialogue to take place by eliciting reactions. This leads to engagement and an engaged stakeholder is better than a nonchalant one!

Exercise Choice Carefully & Ensure you know your purpose in business, when used together would aid you in having a clear mission and vision statement and in explaining the same to employees & external stakeholders.

 

I hope you have liked this series on ‘Take a new look at your business’; ‘Exercise choice carefully’; & “Ensure you know your purpose in business’. Do share your comments on the site.

Taking Ownership Passionately

Title of this post is courtesy the training program run by Global Dynamics.

sumall_wand_magic_campaign

For two days, this past week, I was closeted with 19 other colleagues of mine from various functions in a training program that was all about “taking ownership passionately”. I’ll come to the “TOP—Taking Ownership Passionately” in another post.  First let me share with you two realizations that hit me during the sessions.

 The first realization was from my work perspective–the realization of the importance of “mental alignment” or in the words of the training program— “RMA: Right Mental Attitude”.

As with all training programs, as the program unfolded and the participants engaged more and more, there emerged a strong camaraderie and bonding among us participants. There was a clearly visible emotional and mental alignment of attitudes though we all hail from diverse cultural and social backgrounds.

The second realization was—with rank & file undertaking this training, it’s that much more important for the leadership of the organisation to undergo the same.

Firstly if the leadership does not go through this attitudinal change understanding and stay at the point where they are, the rest of the organisation will be moving in one direction, but the leadership will not be aligned with the team!

Secondly such training scenarios provide a fantastic environment for leaders to build camaraderie with the staff! It allows them the opportunity of being emotional, through the activities that need to be done, and thus present a human side of themselves to their teams and yet, they have the excuse (if they want) to brush off that emotionality under the pretext of doing that activity.
But then that’s not being authentic! That’s another story for another post.

As a business sustainability expert, I’ve always looked at the engagement level of staff with their leaders in order to gauge the climate of an organisation. Though they don’t yet teach this in negotiations or sales (not that I’m aware of), being able to gauge the engagement between an operational person and his/her leader helps me to know the extent of honesty in the partnership a potential organisation will bring. 

Leaders set the behaviour of an organisation. Behaviour? Yes i.e.  the culture. By displaying empathy, care, the right positive attitude and coaching leadership skills, they can obtain high engagement from the staff.  This leadership behaviour starts from the top. Not from below!

Many leaders subscribe to a fallacy– that intimacy has no place in leadership or business. But as leadership coach Lolly Daskal states in her article—Leadership—The Fallacy of Intimacy—”Leaders subscribe to this view out of fear and a need to protect themselves.”

Research studies show a clear correlation between a warm caring culture and high levels of satisfaction and teamwork and in her article—why you should care about your company’s emotional culture—author Stephanie Vozza quotes Tom Gimbel—CEO of La Salle Network a Chicago-based recruitment  firm—“People join companies but they quit managers”.

Coming back to my realization—if the leadership of an organisation does not prioritize the need for cultural, emotional and attitudinal development and be present, in person, with their team through such programs then expecting the teams to work magic is going to be akin to wishing for a lunar flight but not knowing how to build a rocket!

So leaders—get out there in the trenches with your teams and give some authentic, emotional and meaningful appreciation and feedback —and see the magic of human engagement take shape!

Evaluate, Understand & Develop a Sustainable Business Strategy

The changing business landscape has resulted in many an organisation scrambling to evaluate, understand and use resources it has in-house and competencies competitively. There’s no one-size-fits-all sort of model in order to do this. It’s a painstaking process but one that’s’ really worth it, if you want to ensure long-term success.

In my earlier posts titled the 3C’s– Community, Competency & Customisation–the importance of each of these were detailed individually.

In this post I’m putting forth three tips that would help you evaluate, understand your resources and competencies and help you develop a successful, long-term strategy.

  1. Clarity:  Provide clarity to your senior functional heads and their teams on what are the business goals and how the organisation can achieve it. Clearly identify what are the key competencies available and ask your senior team members to evaluate if those competencies can deliver the service of the organisation, in market, by the resource available. By providing clarity on what are the business goals and the competencies that (as a leader) you see, the  entire organisation knows  what areas are their key strength and how to support the same to have the competitive advantage.
  2. Understanding:  Evaluate the competencies on the basis of:
  • Is there competent human resource in key functions?
  • Is there a culture of cross-functional team work in order to deliver on time and with quality?
  • Is there a need to invest  in specific technology?

3. Cultivating: A competency mindset that:

  • No Silos–Thinks of individual business units as profit centers yet has line of sight with the organisational business goals and engages cross-functionally, in order to contribute to the same positively.
  • Accountability with Empowerment: Identify and empower staff, behind key competencies and ensure understanding that the competencies are a corporate resource and not of an individual business unit. Hold them accountable for performance deliverables.
  • Responsibility: Empower your functional heads by giving them the responsibility of getting them to identify what are the investment requirements and to what extent  should each unit contribute to it.

As you go through the process of evaluation and understanding of the competencies and resources available, you would be able to identify where (in your business units)  you need to push in resources in order to support the existing competencies. This would lead to the ability to deliver substantially in market and thereby building image and stakeholder loyalty.

Are You A Great Leader Or A Victim Leader

Last week, I read an absolutely fantastic blog article on the above topic in Linked 2 Leadership that got me thinking about the “victim leaders in the corporate world.

Thinking, about the choices one has, if one is a victim leader and how to excercise those choices in keeping oneself happy at work and allowing the team (one leads) to flourish.

The choices elaborated in this post enable you to learn how to not pass your frustrations down the line to your team (if you’re a victim leader) and to use your energy to be a buffer for your team.

Here’s the post:

Stop It or I’ll Bury You in a Box

Happy reading…

Managing change at work place

Just as shifting city and home and moving to a new place has its initial period of anxiety, a change in business direction, similarly, brings about a scenario of anxiety and with it a plethora of questions (and actions) within an organisation.

Change in any form is uncomfortable for us humans. We are creatures of habit and habit breeds its own sense of comfort and discomfort. Take for example our daily work day routine. If one of the items in our daily ‘routine’ goes out of whack, we get irritated and at times, are at a bit of a loss.

Business activities are managed by humans and thus when an organisation implements a change from what it had been doing; it brings about a fair bit of response. Some good, some not so good and some downright detrimental to the business. The ‘enthusiasts’ (or early adopters) latch on to the big picture that the changed direction portrays and willingly start to move forward in the new direction. The ‘yes sir/no sir’ (followers) go onto a ‘wait and watch’ mode to try gauge which way is the wind blowing. Lastly comes the ‘resistant brigade’! A group who clings on desperately to yesteryears and falls back on the achievements of the past years.

Each of these groups effect the brand’s identity in many ways:

1.   Enthusiasts: In their eagerness to contribute to the new strategic direction rush into activity without deeply evaluating the ability of the brand to deliver on it and the long term benefit (of the activity) to the brand and recruiting necessary manpower to deliver on the new mandates. Often the enthusiasts end up being the “Lone Ranger”—working long hours and alone leading to quick burnouts when operating at very high stress levels due to continuous delivery demands of tasks.

2.  Followers: This group’s indecisiveness and inability to ask for clarity (and understanding) leads them to either do the work activity wrong or to take too long over it and thus deliver well after the timeline is gone. In effect, making the task inefficient.

3. Resistant Brigade: Often the largest group, these try and push back through the “this is how it was done” process with the intention that if continuous resistance can be applied by using defunct processes and bureaucratic red-tape  then the enthusiasts would either burn their fire out or leave (attrition). All the resistance group succeeds in doing is (i) wasting critical time and (ii) damaging the brand image.

So, how do we manage to bring group 2 & 3 around to see the positives in the new strategic direction or change that the business unit is undertaking:

  1. Transparency:  Line managers have to understand the change and explain, at length, how that change is beneficial (or required) and tie it back to the individual roles of staff and their function with regards to the effect it has on the brand’s identity.
  2. Top-down Leadership:  Senior management has to have, in place, a support ‘team’ selected from rank & file (so as to assist in the detail work) to ensure successful delivery of key projects that would help to bring about the required change. This team should be provided written mandate as authority to put in place new processes and work flow to enable work flow change to take hold.
  3. HR in the Forefront: HR needs to be at the forefront in terms of evaluation of staff’s skills and capabilities to deliver on the new work flow. Planning for training and skills up-gradation become a priority.
  4. Deadline: An end target date for achievement of certain critical projects needs to be up in front. Critical projects that affect the brand identity (and image) should be selected from the pool of projects that is in active stage and be project managed through specific project teams.

What is the benefit of doing this?

  1. Easier management of key projects that achieve success. Thus revenue growth coupled with establishing the desired brand identity and image.
  2. Establishing a core team, across critical functions, on which senior management can depend upon to take the brand forward.
  3. Having in place efficient work flow processes that aid in forward planning of daily work.

Developing a Sustainable Business based on Community Value Creation

Community

The other day I read a very interesting post in the Harvard Business Review Blog about “Inclusive Business Models that Indian companies have (and are still) developing and delivering on, in order to – quote..”that can deliver affordable housing, healthcare, education, and financial services to those living in the middle and bottom of the pyramid.

Reading the article set me thinking about why such community benefit” oriented business models are not there.Through a discussion forum in Linked In some great points were provided.(My thanks to Anees Zaidi, Prakash Menon and Tuba Terekli for their perspective and thoughts). Perhaps it’s because we are, almost always, talking about stakeholders profit maximisation. Unfortunately, though the community is one of the stakeholders, it’s always at the bottom of the pile in terms of stakeholder priority. But is that where the community should be for a business?

Michael Porter’s The Competitive Advantage of Corporate Philanthropy provides a very logical formula as to why the corporates favour quick wins instead of basing their business objective on value creation for the community and how it comes back to haunt them. Whereas those who do focus on the community value tend to have sustainable businesses.Today the consumer environment has changed drastically. The global financial crisis and explosion of social media (as two immediate critical factors) has led consumers, geographically, to group together on the basis of common interests and sharing of information on anything (from personal status to their daily brands and the corporates owning these brands).

Consumers spending has undergone drastic change resulting from the lack of trust (between consumers and corporate brands). In sum, people are now not just communities (by traditional parameters) but by virtue of their needs, interests, opinions, thinking and pre-disposition towards the corporate world. And within this huge group of “people” are thousands of subsets(each with its own set of values, believes, perceptions) which make up the individual consumer clusters for all businesses, across all industries.

So, with such immense changes in the consumer landscape, wouldn’t a community value based business model be more efficient in achieving financial goals?

Developing a community value based business model would be sustainable, strong and profitable as it would clearly give benefits to the community and increase trust.Increasing trust would lead to increased transactions and thus to profits. The purpose of this post is to stimulate a discussion on how:

  • such inclusive business models, delivering clearly identifiable value benefit to the community, can be developed
  • and if such business models would change the way profit maximisation is achieved today
  • and if these will come about from the entrepreneurial side or from the multi-national corporates.

Of course the question remains — do we want to give value to the community to build sustainable businesses or do we want to stick to the (age-old) stakeholder profit maximisation only?

Focus and People for Profitability

Managers Focus on systems; Leaders Focus on People

The past week at work had been an exceptional one for a couple of reasons:

1.      Realisation of the fact that there were just a few executives who were stepping up beyond the call of their current roles (yours truly included and sacrificing work -life balance  in order to ensure quality deliverables on time for the benefit of progress).
2.      The various work processes were, actually, hampering work flow and decision making.

Recounting the week, made me ask myself this question—“Are processes helpful”?
The answer is Yes.

Processes play a critical role in work flow management and output. However, the work flow and its respective components are as good as the people who manage it i.e. Human Resource. To ensure that the process is effective and efficient, it’s critical to have the right skills and attitudes in the right job functions so that the team works as one.

As a business planner and marketer (just two of the three hats I often have to wear at work), whilst planning for business growth and revenue, there are two specific areas  that I’ve often found organisations overlooking  in the process of detailing  their business goals:

1.      Focus:  on the economic trends & key customer feedback and

2.      People for the job: job fit i.e.—right skills & attitudes in the right function

This, continuous, over-dependency on the process  is amazing!
The process is seen to be the job and not analysis of the information and logical fact based decision making.

But, in reality, what works is:

  • Focussing: on the external and internal environment that affects the organisations’ ability to deliver with quality and competitively.
  • Right People: having in place a select, small team of people who are the right fit to lead the implementation with various revenue units

By focussing on critical issues that needs to be addressed for the business to grow and having the right people in charge ( red that as-’empowered with authority along with responsibility’) the organisation gets the right attitude on the table.

People caught up in the “No. It’s not possible” line of thinking mistakenly think that having done the same process for years, it will still deliver and no change is needed. Unfortunately, this is a disguised form of negativity. And negativity sabotages the chance for success by keeping the team from innovating (within the process) and providing cost beneficial solutions. It creates an extremely unhealthy environment which in turn simply kills the process of ideation and thus any innovative approaches..

Secondly by having the right attitude people leading change it would bring in a work culture oflistening, discussions and simplistic evaluations.

These two functions, together, allow for implementing beneficial cross industry practices and strategic options that would enable growth and profitability.

This enables the organisation in having a motivated, passionate, engaged and objective oriented team of high performers who become brand ambassadors for the organisation.