Here’s a picture of how leadership works, from the corporate perspective. The is the corporate operating environment. It consists of a nested series of concentric circles, and it starts with the individual, at the bull’s eye.
In order for a company to be a market leader, each individual inside the company has to be as strong, helpful, and smart as possible – doing the best they can, at all times. This is personal mastery, or self-management. There are many aspects to it – and thousands of books have been written about it. In my mind, one of the best ways to think of it is that leaders are sheepdogs – not sheep or wolves. They can be depended upon to do the right thing, in any situation.
Only the people who have achieved successful self-management earn the right to lead a department. Successful departmental management requires new skills beyond self-management. You must learn how to make it easier for others to get their work done – including changing the way you think about things, talk about them, and do them. You will be working with “imperfect instruments.” There are a lot of lessons to be learned.
People who run departments successfully can become corporate leaders – either by working their way up, or by going off on their own. Corporate leaders who hire other successful self-managers and departmental managers have the one of the ingredients needed for market leadership.
This is the first thing you need to do to become a market leader. You must master yourself, learn how to be a good leader of teams, then hire and develop a team of managers who are worthy of working in a market-leading company.
The second thing you need to do is be absolutely driven to improve. Make your processes more efficient. Push the innovation envelope. Find new ways to be of service. Wherever you look, there are opportunities for improvement. Thousands more books.
The third thing you need to do is recognize that your corporate environment is just a bit player in the most important environment of all: the customer’s operating environment.
The customer lives in a world of choices, and when he needs to get a problem solved, he must go looking for the best solution among all those choices. He has large and small corporate entities to choose from. It can be a real pain trying to find a solution to his problem; most of those corporate entities are buzzing with people and their promises, and many are making promises that they will break later.
Interestingly – and tragically – many companies get so wrapped up in their own corporate operating environment that they forget they are just another entity in the customer’s vast environment. They ignore the very environment that makes their own existence possible. They come up with products that customers really don’t want. They are entranced by their own needs and dreams, and encouraged by the cheerleading coming from friends and investors. They are living in an environment of their own making. The euphoria lasts until the money runs out. But they are doomed from the start, because of their own thinking and behavior.
You can’t be a market leader if you ignore the customer’s operating environment. Conversely, and fortunately, you can become a market leader if you start by learning everything you can about the customer’s operating environment. The more you know about it, and the more compatible you become with it, the more your own company will expand. The customer’s energy – their needs and desires – will provide the energy you need to grow your company, because you are meeting their needs and desires.
The fourth thing you must do, then, is to become the company that does everything right in the customer’s operating environment. You can do that in four steps:
- Identify customer needs
- Make yourself able to meet those needs
- Articulate – aggressively – how you meet those needs
- Meet those needs
Even a one-room company can be a market leader, if the company is doing these four things. This is more true than ever before, thanks to the Internet, the great communication equalizer.
Interviews will help you learn what customers really want and how they want to buy it. Then you must make sure you are able to provide what customers want.
Most of my new clients are already offering products or services that meet customer needs. We confirm this in our customer interviews, and the analysis we do of our findings. Our job then is to articulate the promise the company keeps – that no one else can keep.
The promise is created in a brainstorming meeting we have after we have analyzed the results of the interviews. It takes some hard work to stay on track and keep looking for that unique promise, but suddenly, there it is – that eureka moment. Everyone in the room knows instantly that the right concept has been found, and they all breathe a sigh of relief. The correct concept meets all the requirements – for the company and the company’s customers.
Once the promise has been found and articulated, we work on aligning the selling process with the customers’ buying process. I coach company managers to be the leaders the market will now expect them to be. And, there are business problems that need to be solved to get the company moving in the right direction. Fortunately all business problems are solvable when you find them using the right analysis methods, and then apply the correct solutions.
Good things happen when your company starts operating in harmony with the customer’s operating environment. Managers shift from concerned to confident. Their decisions and actions reap rewards.
Customers love finding clear, honest answers and well-designed solutions. If your environment is aligned with their environment, when they find you, they feel right at home.