Last updated on May 13th, 2019 at 02:25 pm
How to make ordinary people extraordinary
By Harry S. Dennis III, for SBT
Peter Schutz, a long-time TEC speaker and former CEO of Porsche, has just produced a new book titled The Driving Force – Extraordinary Results with Ordinary People. It echoes the main message that he has been sharing with us in more than 200 presentations to TEC groups around the globe for the past 20 years.
This month, I would like to share the highlights with you.
As a sidebar, who are "ordinary people?" You can come at this from several different angles. Allow me to generalize for a moment, as these are timeless observations. The shoe fits in some cases and not at all in others:
IQ: Around 100
Education: 12 to 16 years
Need for achievement: Not a high priority
Need for control: Ditto
Need for affiliation: High!
Social awareness: Average
Physical conditioning: Not a high priority
Family relationships: Very important
Common sense: High
Loyalty potential: High
Ego needs: Not a high priority
Get the drift? This sounds like most of us. It’s not a condemnation. It’s an armchair observation. So how can we make the so-called "ordinary" "extraordinary"? This is where Peter comes into the picture.
He identifies some "driving force" principles for business leaders to get high-octane results from others:
Establish the right culture
Defining culture has always been a slippery semantic exercise. But, in general, it characterizes how we behave around and toward each other in our organizations. Here are some tidbits for establishing the right culture:
1. Hire people for who they are. Who a person is can be much more important to you than what they know and what particular skills they possess.
2. Assuming you can define the culture of the business, pick people who can readily understand and are willing to commit to your culture.
3. If an employee violates the expectations of your culture, the violation must be dealt with quickly and firmly. Cultural violations eventually lead to cultural demise.
Develop and refine your market niche
A market niche is nothing more than a customer group that has the same product and service expectations. Serving them with this knowledge is paramount to competitive success. "Ordinary" employees armed with intimate (as opposed to casual) knowledge of customers’ business needs makes them "extraordinary."
What’s the evidence of this? Prices. Even in this dismal economic storm, the guy who is the price leader more or less defines the price niche. We would all agree it’s much harder to bring down the leader than to be the leader.
Further, every employee, not just sales or customer service, should know how their performance contributes to meeting customer expectations. Employee performance assessments can be tailored to this objective. Challenge your supervisors by asking them how they contribute to meeting customer needs. Let them, in turn, do so with their subordinates.
It is tragic to see a good company suddenly lose market share. The statistical relationship between market share and profitability is indisputable, and once market share is lost, it is very difficult to regain.
Track and redefinecustomer expectations
The globalization of business and the new rules associated with it has made the playing field anything but level for the small company. It is monotonous these days to talk about the rate of change and its impact on us. But the fact remains that customer expectations are far more dynamic, given the nature of this uneven playing field, than we have witnessed in our recent US economic history. Here are some thoughts on coping and becoming "extraordinary" in the process:
1. Do regular customer satisfaction interviews (note I said interviews, not surveys) with the key "centers of influence" in yours customers’ business.
2. From this information "visualize" where they are headed so you can be there to meet their needs before the other guy.
3. Communicate this vision to every employee and reinforce it with loud drums playing in the background. Let everyone know that your business cannot be defined or managed around YOUR product or service. Instead, it must be driven by where the customers say they are going.
Extraordinary companies may not always make the best decisions, but they make them, and they have one major characteristic: they are focused and they are fun in the making.
No better place can focused decisions be seen than in efforts to expand the customer base or acquire new products or services. The input of many is motivating to the "inputers," and is one more instance where extraordinary results can be obtained from ordinary people.
There is a hitch. The decision to open up a new market, for example, can be well-defined in scope and depth of new customer penetration. Implementation is, regretfully, always the Achilles heel of decision-making. It takes a benevolent dictator to get on it, make assignments and force the game plan to action. This is life in the fast lane of business change!
I suspect that businesses by themselves seldom fail. No doubt, it is ordinary people whose environment does not promote extraordinary performance that is associated with true business failure. Maybe Darwin was right after all. Until next month, thrive extraordinarily!
Harry S. Dennis III is the president of TEC (The Executive Committee) in Wisconsin and Michigan. TEC is a professional development group for CEOs, presidents and business owners. He can be reached at 262-831-3340.
Aug. 8, 2003 Small Business Times, Milwaukee