Leading My Business to Perform

Originally posted on October 9, 2017

Author: Bruna Martinuzzi

Photo: Getty Images

Leading a business to perform may be challenging, especially in today's business landscape that is continually shifting and morphing. While the fundamentals of leading have not changed, the context has changed. From technology advances and hyper connectivity to competition for talent and heightened demands for trust and transparency, it's important to lead in a way that helps your business keep up and perform.

If you're looking for some guidance in leading your business to perform in this new, complex world, these few tips might provide some inspiration.

1. Beware of the skills gap.

You may have employees who have strong technical skills but who lack the necessary soft skills. The best chances for leading your business to perform may very well start with hiring more people who have the whole package: the right mix of technical skills and soft skills.

As the 20th CEO Survey released in 2017 by PwC shows, 77 percent of CEOs surveyed are concerned that key skills shortages can adversely impact the success of their companies. (The survey included 1,379 CEOs interviewed in 79 countries.)

According to the survey, the top soft skills they consider critical to success are the hardest to find. Employees who are creative, innovative and emotionally intelligent are in short supply.

Do you have the right mix of people to help you be at the pinnacle of your industry?

2. Make your job ads worker friendly.

If you want to lead your business to perform, the next step is establishing the right hiring processes for attracting the top talent you need. One of the first areas you can focus on is crafting job postings that don't unwittingly deter top talent from applying to work at your company.

Most job postings describe what the company wants. But—as a 2015 study by David Jones, a professor at the University of Vermont shows—ads that emphasize what the company can do for applicants may help attract more qualified applicants. (The research findings were based on responses from 991 applicants and 56 ads.)

Manipulating the ads to make them more employee-centric resulted in not only employers attracting a larger pool of applicants—the applicants' talent level were significantly higher. As the study suggests, simple tweaks such as indicating that the company culture encourages career advancement, and inclusion in major decisions, can help attract the superstars you need.

3. Establish trust as a core value.

Trust has never gone out of fashion. We buy from people we trust. But trust today has plunged to all-time lows in all four institutions: government, business, media and NGOs. This is the finding of 2017 Edelman Trust Barometer, a global annual trust and credibility survey, involving 28 countries and more than 33,000 respondents.

Trust in business is a three-legged stool. Treating your employees well, offering high quality products and services and listening to your customers can help establish trust in your company.

Of these, treating employees well rises to the top of the list, and can impact everything else. It goes beyond offering good pay—it entails carefully listening to employees' insights and strategically making use of these to help reshape your business in the rapidly changing world. Giving people a sense of inclusiveness may help fuel your company's performance.

4. Prioritize speed in improving your customer experience.

One of the factors that make customers feel good about doing business with your company is the speed with which everyone in the company responds to their needs.

Consider taking a hard look at your customer interactions, such as responses to queries, order fulfillment and shipping processes. In my interview with marketing expert Chris Brogan, he said that one of the key metrics he tracks is "velocity (how fast can I deliver what I sell)." Speed matters as a way to get ahead of the competition in meeting customers' elevated expectations.

Providing good customer service is essential, but doing it quickly is just as important to today's customers. There are many initiatives you can take to make this happen in leading your business to perform. For example, let's say you're in the travel industry where tracking customers' social media comments may be particularly time-sensitive but you are unable to allocate resources to actively monitor what's going on. At a minimum, consider setting up a Google alert to help you stay on top of mentions of your company so that you can respond quickly.

Another step you can take is standardizing an optimal response time to customers, whether it's inquiries through email or the company websites, or questions and comments through social media.

Consider adopting social media management tools to help you keep up with social media to take it to the next level. Examples of such tools are HelpSocial, Sprinkl, Hootsuite, SproutSocial and Lithium, to name a few. There are also messaging apps such as Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp or WeChat available.

Being known for being highly customer responsive can help your company stand out and increase performance.

5. Capitalize on gender diversity.

A 2016 study on gender diversity by Peterson Institute for International Economics examined the impact that the presence of women in corporate leadership positions may have on a company's performance.

The global survey, which involved nearly 22,000 firms from 91 countries, found that "the presence of women in corporate leadership positions may improve firm performance and that the magnitudes of the correlations are not small." For example, for profitable firms, a shift from no female leaders to 30 percent representation is associated with a 15 percent increase in the net revenue margin. The largest gains are seen in the proportion of female executives, followed by the proportion of female board members.

Another major study on gender diversity was conducted in 2015 by investment research firm MSCI. The study was based on a pool of 4,218 global companies as a representative reference. It found that companies in the MSCI World Index with strong female leadership generated a Return on Equity of 10.1 percent per year versus 7.4 percent for those without.

In leading your business to perform, you might give some thought to the gender balance in your company's leadership positions. Is there a scarcity of women in upper management roles? Does the balance need some shifting? If so, consider hiring qualified women to fill some of the leadership roles. You could also coach, mentor, educate and support more junior female employees to reach upper management.