Strategic Thinking on Leadership

The most basic challenge of leadership is to get followers. The second most basic challenge is to keep them.

Whether it’s getting employees to stick with your vision or getting customers to stick with your brand, leadership is principally about getting and keeping followers.

San Antonio-based management consultant Keith Hughey led a strategic planning and leadership development course in Dallas last month. He offered some insights that are worth repeating.

The freshest and most intriguing concept was a descriptive juxtaposition of an organization’s vision versus the truth about that organization. Hughey’s model was built on the work of sales consulting firm Critical Path Strategies.

Two equilateral triangles sat side by side. One pointed down representing the vision, the other pointed up representing the truth. A listing down the side of the chart showed stakeholder levels, from owners and executives at the top to front line workers and customers at the bottom.

Here’s the crux: The board of directors and “C-suite” management know a lot about the organization’s vision, but only a little bit of the truth.

Conversely, customers know little of the vision but 100% of the truth about what it’s like to do business with that firm.

As you go up the stakeholder chain (front line staff, supervisors, middle management, etc.), stakeholders know progressively more about the vision, but less about the truth.

The instruction is two-fold: (1) Find ways to understand what customers actually experience about your organization; and (2) Find ways to display your company’s vision throughout all stakeholder levels, down to your customer base.

Hughey had a simple but meaningful definition of value: experience minus expectation.

If my experience of your company surpasses what I expected from it, I will assign it value. Otherwise, I will not pay for a product or service that leaves me with more expectation than satisfaction.

Addendum: Once you exceed a customer’s expectation, you just have to be consistent. You don’t necessarily have to keep raising the bar.

This principle applies to personnel, as well. Hughey says seventy per cent of voluntary turnover is caused by something a supervisor did or didn’t do. In other words, experience fell short of expectation.

“People don’t quit their job. They quit their boss,” Hughey states.

With help from the late management science guru, Peter Drucker, Hughey gives seven needs of workers: teamwork, training, communication, recognition, growth opportunities and fairness.

Lacking any of these leads to employee disengagement and turnover.

In evaluating existing staff performance, ask two questions: (1) Would you hire them today? and (2) If they told you they were leaving, would you try to keep them?

“The toughest decisions you will make have to do with people,” Hughey told us.

Finally, Hughey tossed out a twist on Einstein’s famous definition of insanity being doing the same thing and expecting different results.

“The new definition of insanity is doing the same things and expecting the same results. The world is changing too much and too fast,” Hughey believes.

Old methods of gaining and keeping followers (e.g., command and control) are quickly losing effectiveness. People have too many options.

Leadership today must be aware, intentional, convincing and value-producing.


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1 Response to “Strategic Thinking on Leadership”

  1. 1 jessestroup July 17, 2016 at 17:39

    Kevin,  This article is a “keeper.”  Many will appreciate it  – I know I do.  Einstein’s insanity definition, never did sit well with me; however the updated definition carries a lot more weight with me.Thanks you,Jesse  Jesse R. Stroup Director of Spiritual Care Lifeline Chaplaincy 1926 Chattanooga Pl. #B Dallas, TX 75235

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