Are you a winner or a loser?

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Here are some lessons learned from time spent listening to and talking to @RosabethKanter @ #ACBC12.  For those readers who have not heard of Rosabeth Kanter, she a renowned Harvard Business Professor who has inspired cutting-edge innovation, strategy, leadership and culture. She has worked a broad spectrum of for-profit and non-profit industries, including celebrated corporations like IBM, Proctor & Gamble and Verizon. I spent some time interviewing Rosabeth at #ACBC12 on behalf of Anthill Magazine and here is a summary of here are 5 key lessons learned from Kanter.

Her advice is equally applicable for new businesses as it is to established businesses.

Lesson # 1) Good moods, stickiness & parties!

When people in business are winning they are in a good mood and its contagious infecting others with more energy, there is less absenteeism, and people turn up even when they do not have to and take initiative rather than waiting for instruction.  Winners get invited to the best parties and thus, the opportunity to network with more successful organisations. Losers are left out.  Networks are vital and why many small companies flourish and grow.

Winner tip: Act bigger than you are if you are small and network with successful companies. Start-ups that dominate their industries usually had better partners early in their start up life.

Lesson #2) Warning! Winning can be boring! It’s hard work.

Just like an Olympian you need to practice every day and not become complacent.The people who make up teams in winning organisations may change but, the culture that perpetrates the organisation keeps the team winning.

Likewise, the complete opposite can occur for losers. There’s a U.S. college football team that lost every game of for nine years! The members of the football team changed, but the culture and attitude didn’t, so the team kept losing.

Winners monitor and measure their performance. They live by the saying ‘what gets measured gets done’

Winner tip: Use key success indicators with precision meticulously, to get things done.

Lesson #3) Winners are leaders who take responsibility.

Winners are leaders who take responsibility. Winning companies are run by people who are not afraid to say the three hardest words to say in business: ‘I was wrong.’

Losers love cover ups and do not say these words.

Winning businesses have a strong set of values and core purpose. P&G, founded in 1837, codified its values 20 years ago when it acquired Richardson Vicks.

P&G created its PVP (Purpose, Values, and Principles) to guide and unify the company with a common cause. It helped to create the company’s growth strategy of ‘improving more consumers’ lives in small but, meaningful ways, each day’. The PVP inspires P&G people to make a positive contribution every day.

These lessons are highly applicable to start ups, many of which are now writing and codifying values and purpose. Kanter pointed out a growing recognition that people cannot share in something they do not create. A PVP is a core part of a business, any business, that can be created by the whole team, not just the Founder.

Winner tip: Know what you stand for. Make sure your team does, too.

Lesson #4) Winners think small as well as big

Winners focus on small wins and one step at a time.  They get right back to work the day after a success.  If all you have is a big vision for your business then you will get demotivated  This is because the gap between the now and the vision, is too big.  Toyota changed from five year plans to five week plans. If you have a five year plan you will only start working on it in the 11th month of the 4th year!

Winners use open brainstorming, their initiative and feel everyone can make a difference to the business.  Losers go it alone, set unreasonable goals and, think no one else has valuable input.

Kanter’s advice is to focus on ‘small wins’, especially in tough times. Winning companies will provide teams with tasks and goals they can achieve.

Winner tip: Break it down; project by project. Focus on achievable components to build on success.

Lesson #5) the real difference is how winners handle losing

Winners like to get together with other winners, and share their experience. They are more likely to share mistakes and take on board feedback and, tips to improve.  Losing becomes an opportunity to learn for a winner.

Losers, by contrast, need to improve but, are less likely to heed conversations about losing. Nor do they take on board feedback to improve.

All winners have bad patches, or products or services that do not go well. They make changes, learn and stay focused and resilient.

Businesses that are resilient can always come back. McKinsey & Company gave free consulting to U.S. businesses post the GFC in the knowledge those companies would bounce back and appreciate their help in tough times. Then, when the opportunity arose for the company to engage a consultancy, McKinsey would be at the top of the list.

Winner tip: Remember Kanter’s law: Everything can look like a failure in the middle. Refocus, redirect and you can become a winner.

So, those are the five key lessons to help you and your company, be a winner and not a loser.

But wait! There’s more!

Bonus Tip #1: Innovation – be courageous but not stupid!

Kanter recalled how businesses often call her asking how they can be more innovative and immediately follow up with: ‘what are other businesses doing?’

It takes an innovator with courage to bring out something radically different and, not just something incremental. I mean, really, how many different varieties of toothpaste do we need? Do something different!

Incremental strategies reach a peak. In order to get more success, you need to have more failures. You need to try more ideas, more often, before you find the one that works.

Bonus Tip #2: Values matter! Your business is bigger than you!

Kanter points to a greater need today for openness in organisations today.  Founder-led companies can fall into bad habits because the founders can think they know everything. However, an autocracy cannot flourish.

Founders need to be surrounded by great teams. They also need to accept that they may not stay on as the CEO forever.

Bonus Tip #3: Partnering skills matter most!

Business alliances come and go and, they are really difficult to do well. Take Verizon and Google, for example. These two huge companies partnered to create the Android phone but, that alliance no longer stands.

The best alliances have a very specific outcome and an end. It needs to be recognised that the interests of the companies in the alliance can, and will, change.

What every start-up needs is the skills and knowledge to identify and make alliances with the best, and most suitable, partners.

If you are interested to read more on the differences between winners and losers, go to Kanter’s blog.

This article was published on http://anthillonline.com/are-you-a-winner-or-a-loser/ on 14 Sep 2012.

Dermott Dowling is an Innovation & International Business Consultant with a passion for building great brands, businesses and teams. He is the founding Director @Creatovate.

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Founding Director Creatovate Pty Ltd Innovation & International Business Consultancy, Melbourne, Australia Create Innovate Grow View all posts by Creatovate

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