Leadership

Five rules for the new business environment

Leadership coach John M. McKee provides five new rules for success in an environment that's still too difficult to forecast with confidence.

 Today, perhaps more than at any time since World War II, leaders and employees don't seem to agree on many things.

Perspective, as they say, is everything. Subtle changes in the markets that encourage management may be of little importance to those at lower levels. Increasing headcounts regarded as a positive by one group may be a concern to another. Productivity improvements hailed by executives could be looked at by those performing the work as just more work.

I believe we have entered into an era of a "new normal." In August 2008 in Tech Republic I wrote this column in which I cited four "megatrends" I expected to make life more difficult. As a result of them (and before the stock markets collapsed) I said it would become much harder to maintain a good standard of living. I noted that many jobs were destined to move elsewhere, perhaps forever.

Now, with things looking up (at least modestly) for many organizations, it's time for leaders to act accordingly. Trade in old behaviors and approaches that aren't going to be effective in this new "normal." In their place consider:

Rule #1: Results, first and foremost

Do whatever it takes to get your employees and teams entirely focused on getting the job done. That may mean throwing out old pay grades, promotional schedules, and hiring and training programs. Consider moving to a ROWE (results only work environment) model like Best Buy did nearly two years ago. They're not concerned with how long or when someone's at the office -- as long as they do the task. And Best Buy is thriving.

Rule # 2: Competition will only increase

That may be either obvious or "indirect" competition. With less money, many organizations are being forced to choose between nonsimilar purchases;for example, "Will it be office supplies or shipping costs?" or "Do we spend on executive bonuses or furniture?" Keep in mind that no economists are sure this fragile economy is going to stick, let alone grow.

Rule #3: Keep an eye on Elance. And the rest

I am constantly surprised by how few leaders in most industries are aware of the impact of sites like Guru.com, Elance, or EGuru. These networks match jobs, projects, and tasks up with freelancers or people who are "daylighting" while still employed. The "employer" gets her or his work completed quickly and at very competitive prices. The established company is left wondering why revenues are still not picking up.

Rule #4: Those "sure things" may not be

Two years ago, who would have bet that Ford would sell the most cars in the U.S. in February 2009? Or that Toyota, top-ranked for quality for years, would be under pressure because of product deficiencies it couldn't identify, let alone fix?  Make good plans, execute well, and always anticipate the downside.

Rule #5: Everyone is in the marketing game

For many executives, the whole concept of marketing is a bit distasteful. I've had clients tell me that marketing is simply "BS, smoke and mirrors, or boondoggles." Whether or not you agree, recognize that this new environment calls for new thinking. Andrea Jung, CEO of Avon, believes only 13% of people who are trading down will go back to their old spending levels. This applies equally to business purchases too. Act accordingly.

john

Leadership Coach

About

John M. McKee is the founder and CEO of BusinessSuccessCoach.net, an international consulting and coaching practice with subscribers in 43 countries. One of the founding senior executives of DIRECTV, his hands-on experience includes leading billion d...

10 comments
Fregeus
Fregeus

Rule #1 - Flawed behond belief. There is an old saying that says "The end does not justify the means" and believe it or not, it still applies today. No you say? Tell that to the millions of Americans that lost Billions of dollars in retirement fund money because of a few morons on Wall Street who were only concerned with making money. Rule #2 - That's a "Well duh" kinda rule. Competition only decreases when the market decreases. Rule #3 - I don't know those sites, will have to check them out. Rule #4 - Another "Well duh" rule. If you think "sure things" still exist, Where have you been the last year and a half? For almost a century, the real estate market was a "sure thing". Wall Street took care of that. Rule #5 - Sorry, don't quite get what the author is refering to in there. TCB Edited for spelling

davin
davin

Rule #1... Great idea. NOT!!!

FlNightWizard
FlNightWizard

I went to www.eguru.com as this article suggests. Google has marked it as a malicious site as of 3/18

Jack Flash
Jack Flash

I'd stress that marketing is also the most important game. It is what will show you where the future goes to (since marketing includes market research, market understanding and market leadership). I will let you choose the right products and services to develop and it will then be the tool that enables sales and customer's loyalty, referals and growth. I would also add social media positioning as part of marketing, being a massive customer relations channel. I also advise on my blog how to turn your career as an IT Professional to be a one man's business. This inludes marketing yourself, your team, creating business and marketing initiaties. IT Professional - You are not Alone Anymore Join the party here: http://budurl.com/ITMM

CareerCoach
CareerCoach

"Business as usual" is not going to make it any longer.

alistair.k
alistair.k

I guess point 5 is what P Y Gerbeau describes as "be the brand". Understand what your company is about and push that all the time. A buddy of mine works for a large auto manufacturer, spends all his time talking trash about that company product. You even see one in the street and he's calling it a POS. This is an extreme reverse example of the negative effect of the employee doing their own marketting. When people ask about where I work they get only the good stuff, and I talk about our acheivements and what we are doing for the future. Not because I am paid to evangelise my employer but why the heck would I cut my own throat (financially speaking) in public! Get your employees on board with your mission, make them happy employees who like theplace they work, then when they go out and talk to people in the world outside your doors then they will talk about the good things too. Its human nature. This builds the reputation of the organization by informal marketing. Maybe it won't generate sales, investors, "quality hires", etc. maybe it will. Can't do any harm either way.

alistair.k
alistair.k

Why waste time enforcing out of date policies about often irrelevant things and concentrate on what actually matters to the business. IMO/IME IT and other "supporting" functions are extremely bad at this. We love our rules. But if those rules aren't helping the bottom line, throw them out. This is an arguement we are having in our organization right now on several issues. Obviously you still have to assess your new reduced rules set against regulatory compliance or any of the non-negotiable stuff, but at the end of the day its the results that count, not how many internal audits you perform, how many risk reports you write, how you have to complete ITIL duty change control for a every trivial user request etc. etc. If people want a radio on in their office - why not? If people want to work hours which suit their child care - why not? If your organisation operates this way not only are you heading towards ROWE and all that good management stuff but you will attract better employees and you will retain them better.

alistair.k
alistair.k

It is infected with Conficker according to my AV. I presume it will be fixed and off the black list soon/ish.

kellybriefworld
kellybriefworld

I am an IT management consultant and trust me when I say that when approaching your IT department about social media you should arrive armed with knowledge and facts. This is a whitepaper in a language they may understand best... http://bit.ly/d2NZRp. It's an interesting whitepaper on the safety and security of your network and why employees should have access to their social media apps. Pass it along to your IT department for a little education if you are an employer or an employee. Best of luck! Let me know what you think... kelly@briefworld.com