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Smarter, Faster, Better: Strategies for Effective, Enduring, and Fulfilled Leadership
Karlin Sloan with Lindsey Pollak
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Format: Hardcover, 272pp.
Pub. Date: June 23, 2006
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Item No: 9780787982683
Excerpt from Smarter, Faster, Better: Strategies for Effective, Enduring, and Fulfilled Leadership
From Chapter 6: Fasting Together: Energizing Your Team
We don’t accomplish anything in this world alone...and whatever happens is the result of the whole tapestry of one’s life and all the weavings of individual threads from one to another that creates something.
—SANDRA DAY O’CONNOR
When you think about energy, Gary Erickson should be at the top of your mind. An avid cyclist, rock climber, backpacker, skier, and chef, Gary needs all the energy he can get—and did I mention he’s also the founder of a company that has been on Inc. magazine’s list of the fastest-growing companies in the United States for four years
Gary’s brainchild, Clif Bar Inc., has won numerous awards honoring the company for its treatment of employees, commitment to the environment, and support for important causes such as the fight against breast cancer. He is the author of Raising the Bar, which tells the story of the development of his company and of its climb to success after a last-moment decision not to sell out to one of the corporate giants.
When I asked Gary about leading an energetic culture, he had this to say:
Understanding the kind of business we are and where we are going is inspiring for people. Our vision here is to work to live rather than live to work. It’s more of a long-term vision. We’re not in the fast lane trying to grow this thing as fast as possible. The people here work really hard, they give themselves over and they’re sharing in the profits when we meet our goals. We have different bottom lines than a traditional business does. We try to have several and they’re not all money. Inspiring and taking care of our people is critical. As the shareholders, my wife and I want that to be our return on our investment. We also have a lot of the other benefits other companies have: 401(K) plans, medical and dental and so on. On top of that we try to spice things up in the atmosphere itself.
Our office is open, alive, not like a cubicle type of workplace. We’re family-friendly and dog-friendly, so we have babies and dogs around. Every week we have an all-company meeting and we all eat together, very casual—we have bagels and fruit and we sit down in the auditorium and we all just meet there and we read letters from consumers, sometimes we review the financials, sometimes we just have fun and hang out together and learn what’s going on in the company and the world outside.
We make a healthy product and people feel energized by that. Once when we got off track and jumped on the low-carb thing, it was really demotivating. Sticking to our food philosophy is something that gives life and energy to our group.
On the physical side, we have an on-site fitness center with yoga, spin, kickboxing, and so on. The gym is world class, with a separate dance studio, two full-time personal trainers, and instructors who have classes. We have some quirky things too: Thursdays we have a hair salon and a carwash. We have a washer-dryer here that people can use if they need to do their laundry. What we’re trying to do is to free people up when they get home to have more of a life. If we can do that, people get more done in a shorter amount of time.
One other thing is, at 6 P.M. around here, it’s empty. We don’t encourage people to work nights and weekends. We believe the way we plan and budget, and with how many people we have, that we’re able to get our work done in normal business hours. I know that’s not the norm, particularly living in the Bay Area and watching the Silicon Valley boom when people were working eighty to a hundred hours a week. Our particular business is very competitive.
We can’t sit still, but we know this is the way to go to get the job done. Every day is like a half-marathon. We run really hard, we play really hard, and some years are better than others. We’ve been in business since 1992, we’ve remained private, and we’re competing against Kraft and Nestlé and Coke. Everyone is jumping into this category. Our story is compelling, and we need to keep doing things right. We’re trying to do good business, and that’s working for us. I don’t take anything for granted. We work very hard, and we’re doing it the way we believe in.
How can you make your organization more like the energetic culture of Clif Bar?
Here are some strategies for saving time in the long run by slowing down long enough to set the tone for the entire culture of your organization:
- Reorient toward purpose and values. Purpose and values inspire energy. Motivation comes directly from a focus on meaning. What is your collective purpose as a team? As a company?
Recently in a strategy meeting for the board of a nonprofit arts organization, I saw the group energy waning and dissipating. We were bogged down in fundraising challenges, legal issues, and an argument between the board and the founder of the organization. The energy shifted as soon as someone said, “Remember why we are here: because we all care about the arts, and we all care about lifting the spirits of others through dance. These challenges are all important because we care about our mission.” It completely changed the tone of the room. In your next group meeting, take the opportunity to reorient toward purpose and values, and ask others to do so as well.
- Do what you want to see. As a leader, you are the model for the behavior of everyone else in your organization. The number one strategy for helping others manage time and energy more effectively is to model the behavior you want to see in others: walk the talk. I like to think of this one as the “oxygen mask” phenomenon.
On an airplane, the flight attendants tell you not to cover the nose and mouth of your child with a mask until you have put on your own mask. Once you can breathe, helping others will be much easier. Are you personally motivated, enthusiastic, high energy? What do you need to do to reenergize first and foremost? Have you taken care of your own oxygen mask first?
- Be clear about what you want. The more you say it, the more
real it becomes. “I want us to become more energized, to believe more, to focus on what we do best.” Stating your goals clearly and appreciatively as a leader has great power to effect the exact change you are seeking. There is a particular way to be clear about what you want. Don’t assume that this is a direct order. Share what you want for the group, not just yourself. Note the language: the term we has energy. Remember, what we focus on becomes our reality. How can you help your team focus on what’s working, and doing more of that? Tell them what you want to achieve together, and see how quickly it manifests.
- Look for opportunities to include people in adding value. Ask fortheir contribution. The more valued people feel, the more energy they have to contribute to the cause. Ask yourself, “Who can I tap today?”
- Create a “play ethic.” What’s useful about a work ethic? It means there’s a commitment to getting things done. What if you adopted a “play ethic”—committed to enjoying your natural-born ability to create, imagine, and make working more fun? The more we play, the more energy we cultivate for our work. Remember, productivity doesn’t mean drudgery.
- Acknowledge the need for physical replenishment. Encourage peopleto take an exercise class. Have someone who’s trained to give neck massages available once a month. Teach people how to managetheir stress effectively. Start a running team that raises moneyfor cancer research. Serve healthy food at meetings instead of donuts and coffee.
Beyond these steps, you can develop other practical strategies for building and replenishing energy in your organization.
Going Slow Organizationally
Redefinition: Fast (adj.)
Slowing down enough to find most efficient and effective use of one’s time and energy. Getting things done right the first time. Making sure the processes used to deliver work product are smooth. Helping your organization to move faster through effective pacing and energy management.
Not all time pressure, of course, is self-imposed. What if you are a leader of a public company with quarterly earnings pressure? The demands of Wall Street and the legal responsibilities of a public company to produce greater and greater rates of return for the shareholders are very real. The rules of engagement change when
you are bound by the creation of short-term wins. But what does that mean for long-term value? For the greater good? For not just the stock owners but the employees or the customers? Shareholders want to be informed about the long-term gains that come from long-term strategy. We will talk about this in much more detail in Part Three. For now, remember that thinking about short-term earnings does not have to be the sole focus of your day. You need
to address both short-term and long-term profitability.
3M commits millions of dollars per annum to innovation, which has put the company at the forefront of invention in its category. Every year it has a large number of people working to come up with great ideas that are not on an urgent schedule. Again—not urgent, but important.
George Stalk, author and world-renowned strategist at Boston Consulting Group, came up with the idea of “time-defined competition.” This theory, developed in the 1980s, said that in the United States we had to go faster, faster, faster to compete with the Japanese. Because Stalk’s theory was all about faster, companies adopted time-defined strategies. They stopped thinking about being more efficient, unless it helped them get to market faster.
But now, in a different era, Stalk is creating new strategies to propose for our current time and place.
Many ahead-of-the-curve strategists’ ideas are now less in line with time and first-to-market production, and more in line with the idea of defining your own market through innovative thinking. W. Chan Kim and Renee Mauborgne suggest in the October 2004 issue of Harvard Business Review that rather than competing within the confines of your existing industry or by trying to steal customers from rival organizations (what they call the “Red Ocean
Strategy”), the key to success is creating new market space that makes competition unimportant (their “Blue Ocean Strategy”).
If you have your own market space, time-defined competition is no longer the key to success. The bloody battlefield of the Red Ocean is overcrowded and isn’t a great place to sustain high performance. The real opportunity is to create Blue Oceans—great seas of opportunity.
In Blue Oceans, demand is created. For example, eBay created a whole new industry of online auctions. Another Blue Ocean strategy is to expand one’s existing market into a new area. Vans started making skateboarding shoes in the 1970s before anyone else had commercialized the sport. A whole new category was formed. How do these ideas happen? Slowing down, taking time to think, and coming up with new and innovative ways of creating market space.
|Red Ocean Strategy||Blue Ocean Strategy|
|Compete in existing market space.|| Create uncontested market space. |
|Beat the competition.|| Make the competition irrelevant.|
|Exploit existing demand. ||Create and capture new demand.|
|Make the value/cost trade-off.|| Break the value/cost trade-off.|
|Align the whole system of a company’s activities with its strategic choice of differentiation or low cost.|| Align the whole system of a company’s activities in pursuit of differentiation and low cost.|
Think about your organization for a moment. Do you spend more time thinking about your competitors or your own company? Are you in a Red Ocean or a Blue Ocean? How can you define a new, uncontested market space? I would argue that the time you spend finding your Blue Ocean will save you enormous amounts of time later that you might have spent trying to beat the competitors in your Red Ocean. Finding new, innovative Blue water will make you faster in the long run.
Excerpted from Smarter, Faster, Better: Strategies for Effective, Enduring, and Fulfilled Leadership by Karlin Sloan, published by Jossey Bass, June 2006.
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