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About the Author
John Cioffi received his first business education in his family's restaurant and lodging business. He later held executive positions in several companies, ranging from start-ups to a Fortune 100. He has been a business coach for nearly 20 years, is a frequent business speaker, and is the owner in Goal Makers, Inc., a business coaching firm. He received a BA from Colby College, a master's degree from Dartmouth, and an MBA from Wharton. He lives near Seattle with his wife, Amy.
The late Ken Willig was an entrepreneur, consultant, and CEO coach, and the founder of GoalMakers Management Consultants, now Goal Makers, Inc. He developed many successful businesses, received the Entrepreneur of the Year award for Southern California, and was a business partner of John Wayne. Willig founded and directed the Institute of Entrepreneurship MBA program at City University in Seattle. He graduated from Purdue and is survived by his wife, Noreen, and his six children.
Read an Excerpt
Set Goals All the Time
The Value of This Chapter
What Most Managers Do
Polls have repeatedly shown that most companies do not have effective goals. Our experience has shown that this also is true of most managers.
This leaves the managers, of course, at great professional risk. Their team members are confused, productivity and morale are low, and they and their teams are not viewed as successful. More specifically, these managers have goals that are:
- non-existent for their teams or even themselves.
- not related to the company's vision.
- "in my head," according to the manager.
- not clearly defined or can't be measured.
- clearly not achievable, but are intended as something "aspirational."
- a "slam dunk" — you'd have to be asleep to not attain them
What Winning Managers Do
Our experience has shown repeatedly that virtually everyone likes to have goals. People simply want to have a clear measure of how to achieve success, and achieving goals is a definition of success.
When employees show up each day having to guess what they should be doing, everyone loses — the employees, the manager, the company. When the employees have the correct goals, every day is focused on achieving them. Winning managers know that goals must, at a minimum, be:
- directly related to fulfilling the company's vision.
- limited in number.
- established and reset frequently.
A True Story
One of our friends, and a former client, is Royal Robbins, a big rock-wall climber who achieved world fame in the 60s and 70s for his ability to go where no one had ever gone before. Royal was the first person to solo many of the biggest rock walls in this country and around the world, including the awesomely forbidding 3,000 foot sheer face of El Capitan, the famous granite monolith in Yosemite National Park.
Royal went on to found, run, and ultimately sell the outstanding outdoor apparel business that still carries his name. He continues to climb those forbidding rock walls, and he often gets the opportunity to tell his climbing and corporate stories to business and social organizations (he's a big supporter of Rotary and the Boy Scouts of America).
One of our favorite Royal Robbins stories concerns his solo climb on El Capitan. It illustrates the determination and the goal-focused attitude that this man drew upon to become the great climber he was, and still is.
During his solo ascent, Royal was a good part of the way up the face of El Capitan when his luck seemed to change. He already had gone farther than anyone previously had, but he had reached an apparent impasse. The barriers seemed overwhelming — the handholds were too small, the footholds too narrow, and the overhangs too imposing. He simply couldn't see a way to progress to the summit.
Royal stopped his efforts at this point and used his time to assess his situation. He figured that he had two real choices.
One was to simply retreat down the wall, and to make another attempt on another day. There certainly was no shame involved in this, because he already had done better than anyone previously had. He had a lot of fun in the process, and the wall would still be there for the next attempt.
The second choice, and the one that Royal took, was merely to see if he could go another 5 feet. He put the vision of achieving the summit out of his mind, and he focused only on the rock wall immediately in front of him.
Royal felt fairly confident that he could climb another 5 feet. And he reasoned that by doing so he certainly would make additional progress. Just as important, though, was the thought that he would have done his ultimate best; he would never question whether he might have gone just a little bit farther.
And this is the way that Royal Robbins became the first solo climber of El Capitan. He did it 5 feet at a time, resetting his goals as he achieved his last. He overcame obstacles that he didn't even know existed and other obstacles that, taken in total, seemed much too overwhelming to overcome.
And this became the way that Royal Robbins lived, and continues to live, his life. What a story.
Company goals come in three flavors
When Royal started to plan his journey to the top of El Capitan, he had a vision in his mind about the outcome of his adventure. He pictured himself, happy and excited, standing on top of the granite monolith, having just become the first to climb, alone, up the 3,000 vertical feet of this famous landmark.
Royal planned this climb very carefully and purposefully, and his vision was created from his desire to be the first to solo El Capitan, as well as from his knowledge of his own skills and determination. Nevertheless, it was a highly ambitious vision — after all, no one had ever done it.
Along the way, Royal quickly discovered that this was, indeed, not just a walk in the park. He wisely broke his climb into bite-sized chunks, setting goals to move just another 5 feet at a time. Thus, he moved toward his vision in 5-feet increments, which he could easily measure by looking back, as well as ahead, to see how far he had progressed.
Highly successful managers use a similar process. They create a clear vision of success for their group or organization, and they set incremental goals that move the group ever closer to that vision. And because everyone contributes in some way to the overall organization, these managers also ensure that everyone has individual goals that contribute to the achievement of the organization's goals.
Thus, we classify business-related goals into three types. All of them are interrelated as well as individually important in achieving success. Here they are:
1. A long-term vision.
2. Near term goals.
3. Goals for each individual.
Some guidance on vision
You've probably heard the word vision used in many ways, because there is no shortage of opinion on what it means. This creates great confusion among business owners and managers, which, in turn, often leads to total inaction. Why bother?
One of our favorite pieces of guidance on vision comes from The Customer Driven Company, by Richard Whiteley:
[Vision is] a vivid picture of an ambitious, desirable future state that is connected to the customer and better in some important way than the current state.
Highly successful managers know that this picture of an ambitious future state must include all of the stakeholders in the organization, including owners, employees, and customers. When all the stakeholders are included, they all contribute to achieving the vision.
For example, if the vision were merely to "maximize shareholder return," we should not be too surprised to find that many of the employees might be somewhat less than inspired. Although we might find a way to describe such a vision clearly, and to set an ambitious level of achievement, it likely would not represent a desirable condition to many employees. People would not likely become excited about working tirelessly only for the benefit of the shareholders.
Similarly, if the vision were to exclude the customers, the company might forget about the continual actions it must take now and in the future. Financial success, after all, is measured as a past achievement — the company made $10 million last quarter. Customer success, on the other hand, is measured in the present and future — are we doing what we need to do to ensure that our customers are delighted and will continue to deal with us in the future?
Here's our guy, Mike, the founder and owner of a medium-sized construction company. He's talking about his company vision to a group of his professional friends.
"Several years ago," said Mike, "I learned that my company should exist to serve me, and that I shouldn't be working to serve my company. This notion changed the way I thought. It motivated me to design a company that would meet my needs and wants, and not require me to spend unlimited hours as a slave to the company.
"One of my friends really brought it home when he said: 'Creating a Vision for your company should be easy for you, Mike. You already visualize the completion of every customer's project before it leaves the drawing board. You just need to bring that thinking to your own business.'
"He was right! When I actually took the time to think about it, I could create in my mind the kind of company I'd like to have in the future. I decided to focus on my retirement from the firm — to fantasize about what my company would look like when I was ready to retire from it.
"So that's what I did, and it's what I continue to do. I created a company, in my mind, which:
- is better in some measurable way than it is now.
- serves my customers in a significant way.
- provides a great working environment for me and my employees.
"One of my buddies pointed out that the Declaration of Independence is our country's vision. 'We hold these truths to be self-evident. That all men are created equal ...' and so on. And our country progresses from year to year seeking to fulfill that vision. Sometimes we slip back, and sometimes we just get it wrong, but through time we work to fulfill that vision.
"It's the same with my company. Through time we work to fulfill the company vision. We don't always get it right, but we do make progress. Every year we get closer to what I imagined. And you can do the same thing, whether you own your own company or work as a manager. You just focus on your business whether it's a huge corporation or a small group."
We hope you'll take the time and thought to create your company vision. You'll be fashioning your long-term goal, thus challenging yourself to continually find ways to achieve that goal. We like the three areas of focus for your vision, identified previously, because they improve the situation of the major stakeholders in the company: owners, customers, and employees.
As Mike recognized, the company's vision is analogous to the U.S. Declaration of Independence, which represented the vision of our founding fathers. As with the Declaration, your vision should inspire people to do their best. It should energize them and provide them with true challenge and purpose. It should make each person feel that they can make a difference in your organization and perhaps the world. It becomes a rallying cry and an impetus to excellence.
A Client's Vision
One of our clients was a company that sold extruded metal products to the marine industry. They had recognized that they had no real unifying vision for the company.
Sure, people came to work every day knowing that they had to sell products at a profit. And many business people would tell you that's all the vision they need.
But the owners of this company knew that they wanted more. They wanted a clear and simple "clarion call to action" that would compel everyone to achieve a level of success far beyond the current state of the company.
They considered many ideas. Why not be "the best in the industry," or "the leader in the region," or "the Nordstrom of the marine world"?
Although these ideas, and many others, were certainly grandiose and powerful-sounding, the owners and managers were not inspired by them. They considered them to be shop-worn and overused.
Bear in mind that you might not feel that way about a similar vision for your company. Being "the leader in the region" might inspire you and your team to great things. But it didn't do so for these owners.
In the end, the owners created a vision for their company that included statements about the treatment of employees, the focus on the customer, and the attitude that would propel them to financial success. The vision also included a statement that the firm intended to have "a company product on every U.S.-made boat."
When the owners and managers talked about this new statement, they began to consider its implications. Could they really do this? They didn't have accounts with every U.S. boat maker; how could they hope to fulfill a vision like this? Didn't it make more sense to just focus on the big players and sell lots of stuff to the big boys? Maybe they should rethink this new vision.
After some discussion, they concluded that their new vision should compel the firm to create a broad reach into the market and to create national name awareness. They didn't need to have direct accounts with all boat-makers nor did they need to sell only to large accounts.
They did, however, need to have a strategy for accomplishing this vision, in the near term and in the longer term. And that's what they focused on creating.
It certainly made sense to focus attention on big accounts — after all, they were big accounts for a reason. And the company had no intention of providing these customers with anything but the very best service, supplied directly by company employees.
But the team also considered how to gain access to all U.S. boat builders, even the smaller ones. They could create a new sales force, sell through other distributors, sell over the Internet, use a rep force, and so forth.
And it was this focused thought process that resulted in strategies designed to fulfill this vision. And this vision had everyone engaged and compelled to achieve it.
There are, of course, many business people who believe that the process of creating a company vision is little more than an exercise for academics. After all, they say, we know what needs to be done, so we go in each day and do it.
Unfortunately, in far too many cases, "just doin' it" is a poor substitute for a strong vision. Most often, it is a rallying cry to continue to do things the way they always have.
Conversely, a strong vision should inspire you to great performance; a level of performance that will bring you closer to actually achieving the vision itself. It also should guide you in your daily activities to create and reinforce your company culture.
The vision also should guide you in making the right decisions. It should assist you in cutting through complex technical issues to do the things that truly add value for the customer. It should guide you during routine decision-making ("Is this the type of client relationship that will move us closer to our vision?") and during conflict.
In a now-classic example of corporate stewardship, Johnson and Johnson showed a strong vision, and a strong commitment to their customers and their values, during the Tylenol crisis in 1982. Although the arsenic-contaminated drug was the work of a madman, J&J acted quickly to pull all products from its retailers, hospitals, and distributors. The CEO immediately used the media to reassure the public of J&Js commitment to safety, and the company reintroduced the drug only after they had designed and tested new safety packaging.
Before the incident, Tylenol was the number-one-selling over-the-counter pain and headache remedy. The recall cost the company approximately $100 million. But the firm stood as a case study of responsible corporate stewardship, and public opinion remained very strong and market share was almost entirely regained within three years.
Contrast this with the actions of Audi during approximately the same period of time. Many owners complained that the automatic transmissions of their Audi automobiles inadvertently shifted into reverse. Dozens of incidents were reported, many of them involving damage or injury. Audi responded by citing data to "prove" that their customers were not driving correctly. In effect, Audi denied any wrongdoing and specifically explained how drivers could cause the condition to occur by not operating the vehicle as Audi would have them operate it. Audi owners, as well as observers on the sideline, were offended by this position, and Audi sales declined sharply. And they remained depressed for many years. (Audi worked very hard for many years afterward to change buyers' perceptions, and, at great cost, Audi is once again a respected brand in the United States.)
So what was the difference? It was a strong vision. J&J has a longstanding statement, called The Credo, which encompasses the company's vision. The first sentence states, "We believe our first responsibility is to the doctors, nurses and patients, to mothers and fathers and all others who use our products and services." And they proved it!
Creating your vision
A strong vision for your company fosters independent action, wisdom, empowerment, and willingness to take risks to do the right things. In our experience, virtually all employees embrace a clear vision as a guide in managing their own actions in a manner consistent with the company's vision. And we know that when people understand their goals, their performance and the performance of the organization improve.
Oftentimes, however, the company vision is dead on arrival because we balk at the process of creating and communicating it. Many managers and owners believe that creating a vision often seems to involve a whole lot of work. And you're awfully busy here, and you pretty much know what to do, and you've been doing it just fine for 11 years, so what's the point of taking time to do this?(Continues…)
Excerpted from "The Winning Manager's Playbook"
Copyright © 2013 John Cioffi and Ken Willig.
Excerpted by permission of Red Wheel/Weiser, LLC.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
Chapter 1 Set Goals All the Time 13
Chapter 2 Focus on the Process, Not a Plan 43
Chapter 3 Coach the Right People 75
Chapter 4 Serve the Right Customer 113
Chapter 5 Empower Your Entire Team 147
Chapter 6 Do the Right Things Right 173
Appendix A Using Your Financial Statements to Generate More Profit and More Cash 199
Appendix B Business Plan Outline and Guidance 211
Appendix C The Interviewing Process: One of a Managers Most Critical Activities 229
Appendix D The Sales Process: An Example Step 239
Appendix E Improving Communications 243
Recommended Reading 247
About the Author 255