With High-Stakes Growth Comes High-Stakes Opportunity

I’ve got good news and bad news.

The good news is that the economy is finally looking up. A recent survey of Silicon Valley executives showed that 63% added jobs last year, and the majority also say they’ll add jobs this year. Business leaders are rosy on the economy, and we’re finally starting to experience some growth again – the recovery has begun.

Unfortunately, this growth isn’t all risk-free.

This brings me to the bad news: Of the CEOs who were surveyed, 69% say their biggest problem right now is recruiting and retaining talented people.

With growth comes competition, which means that hiring companies are likely targeting your best and most promising team members: The talent war is back. As a result, it’s increasingly important to foster a supportive team that will show long-term commitment and loyalty – something you didn’t have to worry about quite as much before the recession hit.

This growth, then, is high stakes. But it also brings high-stakes opportunity: During this time of growth, when the market is so dynamic, leaders and laggards can change places. In no time at all, new companies can grab the attention and investments of stakeholders and see explosive growth.

These opportunities are everywhere. In fact, you have to look at the world a bit differently than you did when we went into this recession, taking into account the global opportunities that are available to you, and not just the local ones.

The world’s economic leader board has shifted significantly. Chinese private-equity funds, for instance, are currently looking to invest billions of dollars in high-quality companies in the West.

If you’re looking to lead in this period of high-stakes growth, it’s no longer enough for your company to simply grow – it has to grow faster, more creatively, and more sustainably to outmaneuver your competition. Are you up to the challenge?


Getting Local is Essential to Going Global

With the rise of the Internet, growing competition from other markets, and increasing pressure to work faster, quicker, and cheaper, the appeal of breaking into new markets is high. Foreign markets seem like an obvious answer if going global is perceived to be as simple as finding foreign vendors and hopping on an airplane, passport in hand.

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Why Perks Are Not Enough

What is it about the Silicon Valley workforce that is so unique?

First of all, it’s fairly evolved. People in Silicon Valley have to be very deep in their area of technical expertise, but they also need to be interested and involved in the direction of the company as a whole. Even engineers have to be able to make an elevator pitch for the company – they have to understand the value proposition to be able to put their work into context and understand it in relation to the goals of the entire organization.

People in Silicon Valley also seem more comfortable with failure. Most have worked at a failed startup at one point or another, so they know what it means to take chances, and that they can survive if things don’t go as planned.

Silicon Valley also has a very transient workforce. People are very well connected, and are looking to create their own opportunities.

What this does mean, though, is that they’re not particularly loyal. This doesn’t bode well for companies that are looking to recruit skilled workers for the long term.

What you have, then, is a sort of bidding war of perks in Silicon Valley, as companies compete to attract the best of the best. Some organizations are improving their learning culture, or building a sense of community. Others, like EMC, are all about flexibility and tailoring the job to the individual. And let’s not forget about Google, with its legendary cafeteria.

But perks are not enough. People who work at Google, for instance, have told me that all the free gourmet food in the world would not make them stay if they had a problematic boss. So it all comes back to leadership.

Additionally, the fact that everyone’s trying to implement these perks eventually undermines the effort, leveling the playing field again. At that point, the real difference is one’s ability to lead.

There’s no doubt that the Silicon Valley workforce is unique. You can see this from the high levels of innovation and creativity that come out of this region. But, at the end of the day, they still require – and desire – strong leadership in order to succeed.


What is the Return on Investment for Cultural Profit?

In today’s global economy, the ability to work effectively across multiple cultures is no longer a bonus – it’s an essential.

If your organization is looking to stay ahead of the game, it must develop a certain “cultural agility,” recognizing and responding appropriately to a range of cultural behaviors and worldviews. These skills will allow you to enter new markets, develop new supply-chain models, and efficiently and effectively integrate as a global organization in order to have information cross boundaries successfully.

Every organization should be striving to achieve these benefits, which are collectively referred to as “cultural profit.” But how much do you have to invest, and when will you see the results?

The return on investment (ROI) for cultural agility and cultural profit is both short-term and long-term. There are four stages of developing cultural profit:

1. Aware. A lot of companies think they’re being agile by translating their website into the local language, but really, all this means is they’re aware that there are differences – the translation is a sort of nod at the different market. If this is all you do, you’re not going to get a huge amount of ROI.

2. Attuned. If you’re in the attuned stage, effectively localizing your marketing, supply chain, and management team, then you can expect increased sales, as well as some reduced costs.

3. Adapting. If you’re truly investing in the development of local staff, and leveraging the best practices of the local market, then your ability to adapt will almost certainly pay off.

4. Agile. As a culturally agile organization, you’ll see, in the long term, a transfer of relevant best practices from, and to, each country around the world that you’re working in, and you’ll have an incredible talent pool to draw from. And that long-term ROI is far-reaching and nearly immeasurable.


Reaping the Benefits of Cultural Profit

Does your company have the ability to enter new markets, develop new supply-chain models, and efficiently and effectively integrate as a global organization so that information can cross boundaries successfully?

In today’s global economy, every organization should be striving to achieve these, and other, aspects of cultural profit. But what steps do you need to take to make that happen?

The way to achieve cultural profit is to learn how to recognize, understand, and respond appropriately to different behaviors and worldviews. Becoming “culturally agile” in this way will allow you to work within various cultural contexts to achieve profitability, and will ultimately lead your company to be successful in competing markets.

Establishing an organization that’s culturally agile can make all the difference when it comes to cultural profit. Everyone in the organization must buy into this concept and work to become culturally agile, but it’s especially important to work on skills development with the people who are customer facing and working with cross-border teams. The results make an enormous difference, distinguishing companies that make huge belly flops from those that are smoothly running and have much greater success.



Innovation is so essential to a company’s growth and development that it can’t be left to chance. It needs to be planned for.

Yes, there are times when creativity and innovation result from pressure situations, necessity being the mother of invention, but if everyone’s running around putting out fires all the time, they’re not really in the right space to create and innovate in a productive, systematic way.

If you want to establish a work environment that encourages a flow of innovative ideas, you need to make sure you have a healthy, thriving organization that has the space to create.

Only creativity that is executed on becomes innovation. Before that, it’s just a good idea. This means you need to build execution into every aspect of the strategy process, from the original idea right through to its realization. The people on your team must be accountable to this, too, as they are considered part of the strategy.

Thinking about your own organization, then, are you executing for innovation?


How to Cultivate Your Own Charisma

Do you have to be born with charisma, or is it something you can develop?

We can all think of examples of charismatic people. Steve Jobs, for instance. It hardly mattered what he said, people would be on their feet, cheering. Mark Zuckerberg, try as he might, doesn’t get quite the same reaction.

This is what leads us to wonder whether charisma is something you have to be born with. There seems to be this myth out there that you do, but I disagree. I believe charisma is something you can cultivate.

The key to cultivating charisma is to infuse meaning into the results your team is creating, so there’s a sense of fulfillment that makes their work important to them.

Meaning, of course, is subjective. So, while it’s your responsibility as a leader to infuse meaning into the results of their work, you can’t tell your employees what that meaning is – that will depend on them.

Facebook is a great example of this. The company itself doesn’t create a lot of content. We, the users of Facebook, create the content through status updates, “likes,” posts, comments, and other interactions. So, the meaning we create is our own – it’s a reflection of who we are, rather than something that Facebook imposes on us.

Mark Zuckerberg may not be as naturally charismatic as Steve Jobs was, but he certainly does have charisma. He’s cultivated this charisma by infusing so much meaning into Facebook – this is what people associate him with.

Steve Jobs similarly infused meaning in Apple by branding the company as more than just a seller of products. Yes, Apple sells a lot of cool devices, but there’s more to it than that: By purchasing a MacBook Pro instead of the latest Dell computer, you’re aligning yourself with a particular identity. Who do you want to be? A stuffy PC person, or a cutting-edge Apple person? This is the way Steve Jobs set it up, and this infused meaning is what gave him so much charisma.

When it comes to cultivating your own charisma, then, you need to infuse meaning into the results of your employees’ efforts, so the results they see will mean something to them on a personal level. This is the way to cultivate your charisma, and to motivate your team.


Hiring For Success

Are your employees motivated? Are they skilled? Do they have what it takes to work together and poise your company for success?

An organization is only as strong as its team, so it’s critical that you hire for, and foster, the right people for your company. But what should you look for in future and existing employees?

When I assess a company’s potential, I look at its employees and their development through the lens of four categories: leadership skills, technical skills, teamwork, and heart.

Leadership and technical skills are things that can be trained, and that can be imbued in your organization.

Teamwork and heart, on the other hand, are a reflection of spirit, which is something you need to hire for. Because these skills are a little bit harder to measure, it’s worth taking a closer look at them.

Teamwork. Spirit is closely related to teamwork. It’s what’s inside a person that motivates him or her to put the needs of the group ahead of his or her own personal interests.

Heart. Some people really put their heart into the things they do – they’re passionate, they take ownership of their job, and they really care about the company. These people tend to be innovative and entrepreneurial, simply because they have such a passion for what they are doing, and an interest in the direction of the company.

It’s important to try to foster a team that represents all four of these skills relatively equally, so that you don’t end up with too much spirit and not enough technical skill, or vice versa.

If you successfully hire and manage for an equal amount of spirit and skill, you’ll see your organization truly begin to grow. Look around your company. Are you fostering the right balance of skills?


Avoiding the Success Trap

If your company successfully weathered the economic storm, you might now be left in a bit of a daze, unsure how to move forward. Rebuilding your momentum isn’t easy, but you can’t leave it too long. As more and more companies see sunshine and calm waters on the horizon, competition is ramping up.

Following such a devastating economic crisis, business leaders must be particularly wary of falling into the success trap. Whether you were directly hit by the economic crisis or not, you have no doubt felt its impacts. Now that things are finally picking back up, you’re able to level up and continue on.

It’s easy to see how you might be so relieved to be floating along again that you stop worrying about growth and focus only on maintaining the status quo. If this describes your situation, then what you’re seeing now is a plateau. You’ve developed a certain level of complacency (this has worked for us before, so it should work again), and a certain amount of consistency (this is the best way to do it ­– we don’t need to look for other options). As a company, you’re tired, and you feel like a little rest would do a world of good. After all, you’ve just weathered a major economic storm!

Unfortunately, a little rest has the potential to turn into a long winter’s nap. The danger of falling into this success trap is that you run the risk of getting too comfortable – too complacent – and failing to grow and adapt to the realities of the new market.

When a rising tide is raising all boats, as in this economic recovery, it’s not enough to simply float along. To outperform and outmaneuver the competition, you need to be able to recognize when you’ve hit a plateau, and find ways to innovate so you start to grow and improve again.

Innovation really is the key to avoiding stagnation, and will help you grow and develop as the economic recovery continues to unfold.


How Do You Get Middle Management To Be Optimistic About Executing The Business Strategy?







How Do You Get Middle Management To Be Optimistic About Executing The Business Strategy?

Include them in its creation!

Surely, there’s no table big enough for everyone in the organization to have a seat at it, but you can:

1. Listen to middle managers ideas, concerns and questions

2. Communicate the strategy with them on an ongoing basis

Middle managers aren’t minions to do executives’ bidding. They serve a vital function of accomplishing the vision. Based on my experience with clients, middle-managers have the on-the-ground view that’s often missing from the C-Suite.

If they’re not optimistic – and you have the right people in place – , it could be for two reasons:

1. They don’t get it yet, or

2. Executive management doesn’t get that the organization isn’t ready to deliver

It’s not about them, it’s about you.