leadership

The key to helping turn managers into leaders is to ensure the process you use is simple and easy to implement; you can always layer on complexity later. Here’s a five-step approach for starting down the path of developing your managers into leaders: Mentors - ask...

I was recently chatting with a colleague about one of my favorite topics, Organizational Culture; what it is? How does it form? What elements make some stand out against others? How does it bring out the best in people? Or how might it limit people’s potential? To me,...

Eight years ago, before I came to work at ViRTUS, I fell into an exciting job. The head office is in Waterloo, Ontario and I live in Vancouver. They needed a facilitator on the West Coast and so I had the much coveted clause in...

Think back to a time when you reacted to a situation in a way that you thought afterwards “I wish I wouldn’t have behaved like that”. It could have been when you were at a job interview and you panicked and got confused so the potential...

av·a·tar ˈavəˌtär/noun- Computing - an icon or figure representing a particular person in computer games, Internet forums, etc. Had you told me five years ago that I would be facilitating leadership development programs as a virtual ‘avatar’ in a 3-D gaming environment, I would have been amused...

My friend and colleague, Tana Heminsley, asked me to write the Foreword for her book a few months ago.  So I said yes and then began to read it.  I knew it would be good, I just didn’t know that I would have quite such...

As a leader, your time is valuable. So when you consider who on your team you want to spend time coaching, the concept of leverage becomes extremely important: what investment in time gives me the biggest bang for my buck? The challenge is that most...

I can remember back to the first business I ran: I was new to a leadership role and everyday I realized how much more I didn't know about people and how to lead. One of my key learnings was a few techniques that actually helped give me the freedom and flexibility to focus on my strengths.

It started one day when I realized that almost every customer service decision in the business had to flow through me in some way. Now of course, this helped me keep a pulse on everything that was happening with our customers but it was a trap that I slide right into. Everyone just assumed the easiest thing to do was "just check with Mike."

Here's what I learned: when every decision had to flow through me, no one learned and my day was filled with solving problems with no time left to focus on the areas where I created the most leverage (foreshadowing: keep reading to see what getting my leverage back led to).

Here's what I did to get out of the trap:

In the past month, I have had two unique opportunities: the first was to spend a few days in Boston with one of my clients and Frances Frei from Harvard; the second was a fireside chat with some fellow CEOs and author Malcolm Gladwell (Tipping Point, Outliers, What the Dog Saw). There were some great strategic nuggets interwoven into both conversations, and I want to share with you what I learned.

Frei is a professor in Harvard Business School’s technology and operations management unit and the chairwoman of the MBA required curriculum. Because Frei’s work focuses on how organizations can more effectively design service excellence, I was eager to hear her thoughts on organizational strategy. I was not disappointed.

Here are some key points I took away from the conversation.

Choose great over average. When you’re considering your points of differentiation as an organization the key is not to try to become five out of five on all aspects of your client value proposition; by diffusing your efforts as an organization among so many things you end up becoming three out of five (average) on everything.

Really great, standout companies figure out what they can sacrifice (areas where they are at about a one out of five), so they can truly be five out of five on the areas that count most to their customers.

Choose differentiation versus “me-too.” For true differentiation you need to do something that the competition can’t properly replicate. Consider the example of the Heavenly Bed Wars. Once Westin hotels rolled

out its heavenly beds campaign, all their competitors had to do was provide a similar quality of bed – a simple yet costly undertaking, the net result being that consumers now get better beds from all competing hotels. But each is still in the same price-competitive space: higher cost, lower margin and no differentiation. The trick is to focus on providing something to your customer that is difficult for your competitors to replicate.