The Spin On Unacceptable Performance

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Food and CPG leaders are putting a spin on failure with reports that company profits surged while revenues fell–blaming industry conditions for the latter.

This is unacceptable…

…proving just how far removed they are from new value elements in their customer base and market environment.

The carnage of one-sided performance is staggering. On what platforms will these companies rebuild?

Boards have not set the right expectations. They pronounce slashing costs as acceptable without first re-examining business models or conducting a thorough review of factors essential to value creation and growth…including failures in the integration phases of their acquisition strategies.

Control is irresponsibly handed over to big-name consulting firms paid to make outrageous, value-destroying recommendations.

The greater tragedy is that reported results socialize failures into the industry as justification for others to perform similarly.

Growth has people at its core. Profits surge and revenues increase when CEO’s mobilize their people to do innovative and valuable things for customers.

Subsequent market traction is what drives momentum, thrust.

When revenue growth unravels, so does momentum. When that happens, amassing profits alone means little.

Food and CPG chiefs must realize that today more than ever, their organizations are just one innovation, just one lost customer away from getting whacked by a competitor—eliminating further need for them in the marketplace.

They are subject to the same lessons learned by those in more enlightened industries: The capability of Doing Better with Less must be assimilated into organizations and performance expectations.

Unfortunately, top food and CPG companies are Not Doing Better With Less.

They are Doing Less With Less.

There’s nothing acceptable about that. Nothing to applaud. Nothing to feel good about.

No matter the spin.

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Culture Fix

Books-and-Glasses bing freeFrom Jim Collins to The Oz Principle, best-selling books attract leaders with their resonating philosophy. Folding their methodology into the organization puts a checkmark in the “repaired” box on the CEO’s culture to-do list.

We’d like to take aim at starry-eyed devotion to plug-and-play solutions to business problems.

Take the Oz Principle and its cult-like following. Problems are bundled under “lack of accountability”. Accusatory labels are pinned on people who may be wrestling with bad top-down processes, poor communication or lack of resources. Often silent and resentful over an air of preached values that gets thinner at the top, they are told that company goals are everyone’s goals…yet are keenly aware of the power disparity in goal-setting, rewards and punishment that are doled out by a party of few. In our opinion, the Oz Principle is a goldmine of bias for leaders who are blind to their own or other failings.

It’s hard to ignore the halo around anything written by Jim Collins. But Dr. Bret Simmons points to the flawed approach in taking data that starts with Effect and works backwards to the Cause as confirmation of an argument. He says, and we agree, that failure to hypothesize a Cause first and follow it over time to examine its actual Effect is Good to Great’s defect. Editors saw dollar signs in the book’s premise and many leaders are still drinking the Kool-Aid.

We believe great gems of knowledge can be found when giving thought-leadership from these and other sources their due.

But we also believe that CEOs are in that position for a reason. The very best possess human engagement know-how that starts by getting good information from people.

Culture has been described as that which occupies the white space on a canvas after a plan has been written.

No best seller takes the place of a CEO sitting with a group of people inside the organization armed with three simple but very telling, powerful questions asked in an open-ended way:

  • Do you believe in our mission?
  • Do we have the capabilities to support it?
  • Do you like your fellow employees?

Leaders with human engagement know-how work through responses using a filter of common-sense, without going blindly forth with a method that is impossibly transferrable to the masses.

Priceless insights tell the CEO about the culture he/she has created and what must be done to shape it on the plan’s canvas.

In the end, the goal of the company is to improve earnings. The goal of employees is to participate in a community that is rewarding to them. Real solutions to balancing these needs are seldom found in scholarly writing.

Fairness

Much is written about Trust in leadership. Trust has many facets.

Here’s one: Fairness.

Fairness is a polite word with powerful synonyms: integrity, decorum, goodness, honor, duty, humanity, decency, give and take.

And its antonyms pack a real punch: deception, bias, falsehood, immoral, lying, rudeness, disregard, disrespect, wrong.

There are always occasional life-isn’t-fair situations. In this case, I’m talking about chronic bias, partiality and imbalance of fairness as a pattern that creeps into organizations or business relationships.

Fairness is defined as equal application of values. It’s root word is rendered as “what is right”. There is no distinction between what is right and fairness.

For those on the receiving end, the documentary, “Monkey Puzzle” confirmed how hard-wired fairness is in all of us. When a monkey’s companion received a tastier or larger food reward for performing an identical task, the first monkey became agitated, refused food and chose to go hungry rather than accept the lesser reward.

Fair treatment outranks self-interest.

Humans have a similar built-in mechanism. Studies show that people revolt, act out and subtly ‘punish’ leaders who treat them unfairly. Journalist and political commentator Brit Hume said, “Fairness is not an attitude. It’s a professional skill that must be developed and exercised.”

When there are double-standards in an organization–one set of rules for executives, another set of rules for everyone else–people notice. They become frustrated and distracted.

As the CEO, it would be wise to think honestly and deeply on this topic. Self-scrutinize whether you promote fair and consistent application of values, or whether you overlook or make excuses for violators in your organization’s high places. Do you turn a blind eye to avoid uncomfortable and hard decisions with your direct reports when warranted? Do you inconsistently and selectively apply values while subjecting others to the deflating experiences of double standards?

If Yes, it is imperative to understand that you may have indeed earned ‘punishment’ from others in covert forms as expressions of their mistrust. Stop blaming them and hold yourself accountable first. Take another look at the synonyms and antonyms to fairness above. Decide to take steps to change, grow and stand tall as a leader.

Fairness may not be as sexy as wielding power but in the end, the path to gaining, maintaining and recovering Trust from others is paved in it.

Courage = Fear + Action

Oxford Leadership’s Carl Lindeborg speaks fabulously on the topic of Courage in business. Moving and inspiring, a few of his highlights:

  • The reason for indecision or non-action in business is Fear.
  • We are born with only two fears: Fear of falling, and Fear of high pitch sounds. All others are learned.
  • Yielding to fear makes us less smart. According to an HP study, it reduces our IQ by 10%.
  • The root word for Courage is Latin for “Heart”, Courage comes from the heart and the fear we must overcome is very personal.
  • Courage is defined as being fearful but taking action anyway. The formula: Courage = Fear + Action
  • When fearful, we tend to focus on Getting. Getting something for ourselves. Connected to ego, ‘Getting’ blocks us from seeing the big picture of a situation or opportunity.
  • Focus instead on Giving. Giving something to others. ‘Giving’ is disconnected from ego and expands us to reach outside our comfort zones.
  • If we don’t expand, we shrink.
  • Fears are reduced when our focus shifts from Get to Give.

courage4We love Carl’s points and offer our own as follows:

We believe Courage is choosing the Hard Right over the Easy Wrong.

What’s Wrong is often Easy. Easy carries no Fear, no risk. Contentment fosters the status quo and we learn to live with its many consequences. Without fear, things are very Wrong. Comfort shrinks us as leaders.

What’s Right is often Hard. Hard because we feel Fear. Of getting it wrong, Of getting judged. Of making changes. Fear aches. Courage is feeling the Fear and taking action anyway because it’s Right. The ‘hard’ expands us as leaders.

Look fear in the face. Stare it down. Call it out. Move past it and take action.

Because in the end, Courage is liberating. Courage is freedom.