As leaders, we are responsible for navigating our organizations and our teams. We can easily set a goal, but navigating toward that goal requires constant course correction. Just like the captain of a ship, we are affected by outside forces that require frequent recalibration if we are to stay on course and reach our destination.
It’s a matter of balancing force and counterforce.
There are three areas a leader must address in order to navigate well.
Changeable and Unchangeable
The unchangeables are core values, core product or service, and core branding.
Let’s say I describe to you a bottle –curved outwardly in the middle and tapered at the base so that it flows to fit the hand just right. In this bottle is a dark effervescent liquid that most find refreshing. And on the bottle – around the middle – are two hyphenated words in a very distinct font that flows just right like the shape of the bottle and the liquid inside.
If you guessed this to be Coca-Cola™, you are correct. In fact, most would have guessed it on the first hint – that distinctive bottle shape.
Coca-Cola’s product line has expanded through the years, but their core values, core product offering, and core branding have remained a constant. Their logo has been slightly modified through the years, but remains distinctively theirs. Their ideal of refreshing the world still holds true today. And their product has remained true to the original.
Some things – like these – should not change.
What if Coca-Cola™ decided to stop offering soft drinks and instead offered dish detergent in their trademark bottle shape? Would it work? Or what if they totally changed their logo to something that is nowhere near recognizable?
These kinds of foundational changes would likely have a devastating effect on their bottom line.
Outside the realm of foundational core values, core service, and core branding, companies must change on a regular basis – new product lines, new technology, and new marketing methodologies. It’s a bit like having a house. You don’t want to replace the foundation every year – it’s extremely costly, complicated, and compromises the structure. But you do want to redecorate and remodel regularly so your house is appealing to guests and future buyers.
If you don’t change in these areas, your business will die.
If you do change in the solid foundational areas, your business will also die. You will confuse and then lose your target audience.
Building and Battling
You need growth-driven individuals on your team. If you are not growth-driven, hire those who are. If your company is not growing, it is not going anywhere.
But also think of companies you know that focused almost exclusively on significant growth without battling costs. Are any of those companies that come to mind still in business? If you are extremely growth driven, that’s great. But be sure to hire a CFO who will challenge you and protect the bottom line.
Long Range and Short Term
In business, there are long-range plans to be made and short-range goals to be met. A leader must balance both ends of the spectrum, giving attention to both on a regular basis. A good example of this is a Fortune 500 company that was in the oil business. The CEO was all about growth and long-range vision, but he neglected to ensure that regular maintenance and updates were made to keep the refinery in compliance. Over time, the company grew and demand increased – but the refinery was unable to meet the growing production demands. In addition, it was no longer in regulatory compliance and had to be shut down.
As the leader of a team or company, set aside time each week to address long-range plans and to monitor progress of short-term goals as well.
If you as a leader can navigate with just these three forces and counterforces in mind, you can successfully reach your goals.