Category Archives: Leadership Qualities

Is Your Leadership Designed for Innovation?

InnovationIs innovation important? Let’s change the question. How would you like to read the same blog article over and over again? Of course you wouldn’t! The value of a good blog is to learn something new!

Without a doubt, innovation matters. Lacking a unique product or service offering, it’s difficult to stand out and gain a competitive advantage. At the very least, continuous innovation allows you to stay relevant compared to others in the market. Ultimately, a failure to innovate is a recipe for failure itself in this fast-moving, global economy.

 

What Role Do You Play?

 As a leader, sometimes it seems like the most important innovations happen when you aren’t looking. For example, while you were busy worrying about the upcoming meeting with shareholders, one of your engineers spent the last few weeks glued to that design program or your product manager decided that the market was ready for something new after months of research. In other words, you may feel like you don’t have much of an impact but the truth is as a leader your role is critical.  How do you ensure the innovators on your team are doing their thing, day in and day out?

At V2A Solutions, we embrace innovative thinking as a competitive way of being. In fact, we notice that as a leader, you inherently impact the innovation process at your business whether you know it or not. This may make sense intuitively, but if you don’t take the time to intentionally lead in a way that innovation is encouraged, it won’t occur.  To that end, let’s take a look at some practical steps you can take to foster innovation in your business.

 

Unleashing Creativity

Simply put, innovation is the creation of something new and improved. It is the ability to see beyond the status quo and consider what might be! Thus, creativity is critical to the innovation process. Again, a very intuitive idea, but not many leaders really make an effort to act in light of that knowledge.  They might talk about how they want the organization to be more creative, but they create policies and procedures which squelch the very opportunity for creativity to happen! This often results from an inability to see innovative opportunities or make time to focus on actions and behaviors that promote creativity. After all, creativity can be a little abstract. However, a metric designed by the Martin Prosperity Institute at the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management can be very useful. Specifically, the Global Creativity Index looks at indicators of the amount of resources devoted to technological advancements, how talent is cultivated, and the level of tolerance a nation displays for minority groups. While these metrics were created for measuring the relative creative competitiveness of various countries, there are certainly lessons to be learned for any business owner.

First, businesses should ask themselves whether they are providing their team with sufficient resources to be innovative. For example, asking R&D to create an amazing new product with a small budget is probably not going to get you anywhere. Put your money where your mouth is and lead with your budget.  This takes a measure of faith, but this kind of faith is the catalyst for creativity.

Second, leaders must ask themselves whether they are truly empowering their team to become good innovators. Are they getting the skills and training they need to work collaboratively and produce synergistic results with their fellow employees? What knowledge is needed to reduce set-backs and begin producing the innovative results your business desperately needs?

Third, with respect to tolerance, a leader must ask whether others’ ideas are being respected. After all, for true innovation to take place, the last thing a business needs is groupthink. Again, innovation requires new ideas that often challenge established protocols and norms. Will your employees be willing to speak up and share their unique perspective?

 

Reframe the Experience of Failure

Consider the story of Thomas Edison. When designing the light bulb, you probably know he failed more times than he succeeded, but with each failure he learned one more way not to make a light bulb. Each failure represented an incremental improvement, driving him closer to his ultimate goal.   Shifting how you think about failure will adjust your leadership stance for innovation.

Inherent in the concept of innovation is the risk that must be taken. The status quo may be working, and trying anything but the status quo carries with it the chance for failure. The key is to encourage calculated risks, and when failure takes place, ensure employees learn everything they can from them. Train everyone to see the occasional failure as a learning opportunity.

 

Shaping Culture and Values

Whether you like it or not, as a leader, you are responsible for the culture of your business. Yes, your employees help you shape that culture, but as a leader you set the tone right from the start. As you probably learned long ago, a company’s culture is directly related to corporate values. Unfortunately, we tend to forget that how people think and act is directly related to what they value. In fact, cultural researchers are often able to explain differences between cultures by pointing to differences in cultural values along various dimensions. For instance, the World Values Survey explained 70% of its recorded variance between different nations’ behavior and attitudes by linking it to the values dominating a country.  For example, the degree to which values move in the direction of secular instead of traditional religious values impacts the degree of self-expression and tolerance of divergent lifestyles within a country.

Whether we are talking about a country or a business, the evidence is that values drive action. The best part is, once values are established and live in your business, your team will automatically pursue the right things (based on embraced values) and you won’t have to spend your precious time managing them. Often, rather than establishing annoying policies and procedures, the beliefs and values you promote become a control system built right into your business!

 

Now ask yourself the role your values play in innovation:

Does my company culture indicate that we value innovation? Do we value creativity? Do we value hard work and critical thinking?

With that said, a critical distinction must be made between stated values and lived values. For example, can a company claim that they value creativity and hard work if there are no performance incentives for innovation? Your culture and values must be aligned and authentically pursue innovation. In fact, we know that your business depends on this reality, and that’s why we’re so passionate about developing leaders with the ability to establish effective belief and value systems within their companies in a way that shapes the culture for innovation.

 

To learn more about how V2A Leadership principles encourage innovation and the ways your values can be leveraged, contact us.  We would enjoy the conversation to discover how innovation can help your business become more profitable and aligned with your dreams.

 

Leading the Business vs. “Being the Business”

Leading Alone

Whether you are an entrepreneur or a seasoned business owner, you wouldn’t be reading this unless you know that you are a leader. The very fact that you are taking the time to read about leadership suggests that you suspect it takes more than merely owning your business.

The question is: Does your leadership translate into the business results that are really valuable to you?

Unfortunately, all too often, many small business owners are not small business leaders. This puts them at risk.  Rather than empowering their team, these individuals spend most of their time looking at what things cost and thinking about how they have to do everything themselves because their employees “just don’t get it.”

BUT NOT YOU, RIGHT?  You are passionate about being more than just a business owner. You want to lead the business, not “be the business.”

Sadly, most all entrepreneurs start with the passion to build the business of their dreams.  For many, it wasn’t their fault that they fell into the sickness of “being the business” rather than leading their business. In fact, often times, the risks and warning signs are found within the very nature of a business, and this makes removing this risk even more difficult.

Here’s the good news: Knowing these warning signs can help you spot problems early and take preventative action.

4 Warning Signs That You Are At Risk for “Being the Business”

1. Being a Professional

Many professionals own their own businesses and market their personal services. Because the business wouldn’t exist if they and their unique expertise didn’t exist, it is easy for them to become self-centered.  They own the business, and it’s true that their abilities are what customers buy.

However, those who know how to lead rather than “be the business” will recognize that their real success is a result of them and the team around them. Rather than creating policies and procedures based on what makes their own lives easier, business leaders focus on all whom will be affected by the way business is conducted. In other words, rather than doing things to serve themselves, business leaders make decisions that ultimately better serve customers and the business as a whole.

2. Consistently Hiring the Wrong Candidates

As a small business leader, it can be hard to attract and hire qualified employees, especially if you don’t have a proven methodology for identifying top talent. After having several disappointing hiring experiences, employers may begin to distrust those whom they hire. This in turn leads to micromanaging rather than inspiring employees to take responsibility for their own success.

Remember: Management relies heavily on active control while leadership relies on inspiration which may not require as much direct involvement.

3. Non-stop Schedules

A small business inherently demands a lot from its owner’s schedule. Sadly, this means that the owner often has less time to devote towards thoughtful leadership or understanding the issues that employees are facing. Thus, rather than taking the time to empower and guide employees, time-pressed owners will either do it themselves or toss the problem to their team to fend for themselves. Either way is not good.  True business leaders will intentionally set some time aside to connect and reflect with their employees periodically to provide the necessary clarity and direction.

4. No Accountability/Access to Help

And finally, business owners can develop tunnel vision because they won’t seek out fresh perspectives on their leadership performance or how they run their businesses. They avoid seeking the objective feedback and accountability that would enable them to lead their businesses with greater clarity. Often, this in turn creates an exhausting scenario where leaders waste hours upon hours with costly trial-and-error problem solving—when that time could have been spent leading others to become future problem solvers!  Breakthroughs happen when leaders learn new ways of viewing their business and how to hold themselves and others accountable for greater rewards.

Now that you know the warning signs, do you see yourself heading down the dangerous road of “being the business” all by yourself? If so, feel free to reach out for help in dealing with any of the problems discussed. If it’s accountability you are looking for, I welcome the opportunity to discuss whether you could benefit from joining one of my CEO groups.

 

How To Create Value

In today’s economy value is at the heart of business success. Successful companies have products buyers value and buy. Failing companies lack products and services customers value and so they refuse to buy them—leaving products on shelves, services undelivered and jobs and income languishing. If enough companies fail, our economy remains flat, our debts unpaid and the future looks bleak.

Effective leaders have the capacity to create value by leveraging personal values to build financial and relational value. Just as King Midas turned everything he touched into gold, effective leaders turn average companies into profitable ones.

And how can you become a more valuable leader? Your personal values and the ability to honor the values of others is what value creation is all about. The ability to add value, create value, and discover the value in others is a powerful leadership skill. Understanding and leveraging the power inherent in personal and shared values is a developed skill in great leaders. Here are three simple concepts you can apply to immediately increase the value of your leadership to all aspects of your organization, including making your products more valuable to your customers.

1) Understand the principle of value exchange. Our ability to add value is directly linked to the degree to which our values are shared by others. It is not possible to add value to those who do not share your values.

Conduct a little exercise with me. Think about a person you value being with. You know; the person you can easily spend time with and whose conversation and ideas you find interesting. Then, ask yourself this question: What values the two of you have in common? Chances are if you would share many top ten values.

I learned this lesson during my years in sales. After months of inconsistent sales success I examined both successful and failed sales attempts. That’s when I discovered the principle of value exchange. Those who bought from me shared common values with the company I represented as expressed in the products offered. Once I learned this, I opened sales conversations by uncovering the values of the buyer. This enabled me to pre-qualify a potential client by discovering if they had valued what my company offered. By focusing on those with shared values, my sales numbers immediately climbed.

2) Clarify your personal values as a leader, and live them. The most trusted leaders are those whose values are obvious in their words and deed. Your ability to be consistent, predictable, and act in alignment with your values will resonate with those you lead, whether they share your values or not. People want consistent and predictable leaders. Being clear about your values enables people to know when and how to approach you. The result is clarity, certainty, and effectiveness.

3) Recognize and honor the values of others. The way to build trust and become a more valuable leader is to recognize the values of others and honor them. We can tell when people respect us. Can’t we? When they acknowledge and honor our values and deeply held beliefs, we feel good about them. We like them because they have the grace to respect our core values, even if they don’t share them. Your true identity is revealed in your values and deeply held beliefs. The fact is, our values define us, whether or not we know it.

Therefore, the secret of becoming a trusted and valued leader is the capacity to recognize the values of those we lead and honor them and in doing so strengthen the relationship.

I remember a college intern I hired to join my staff. I hired this young man because during his internship he demonstrated initiative, thoughtfulness, and creativity that impressed me. I liked him and looked forward to having him on our marketing staff. As we prepared for a trade show in Vegas, I told him he would be expected to make the trip, help set up the booth, work the show and then help tear down the display before returning home.

A few days after I explained his responsibilities in Vegas, he asked for a private meeting. Once together in my office he said, “Larry, I hate to tell you this, but I can’t make the trip. I’ve got to attend a religious meeting on that weekend.”

In that moment I wondered if I had made a mistake in hiring him. I was stunned that he would ask me to let him skip the trip when he had just taken the job. Would he have other value conflicts and ask to be relieved of other responsibilities? Instead of challenging him, I said, “I’m sorry you can’t make it. But I respect the value you place on your previous commitment. We will miss you, but can make it without you.”

He thanked me and left the room. Much to my surprise, I don’t remember any other incidents where he had a ‘values conflict’ with anything I asked him to do in his job. In fact the opposite occurred. Over time he became one of my most trusted, reliable, and passionately committed employees. By respecting his personal values in that one instance, his commitment to me, his job, and the company became consistent and predictable. The Real Value Chain

When you understand and are able to leverage the power of values in leadership, you become a more valuable leader able to bring value to every aspect of your business.