Creating Business Leadership: 5 Keys to Success
Recently, I had the privilege to appear on the Framework Leadership podcast, which Kent Ingle and Michael Steiner host. As we know, we live and work at a time of mass data and also immense uncertainty. One of the things we’re realizing is that we can’t master it all. It’s just not possible.
So, how could business leadership and their teams focus on growth drivers to help ensure success? That’s what Kent, Michael, and I chat about in the podcast
Problem: The modern workplace requires skills that differ from the industrial age. At that time, workers doing their jobs for business knew what they would be doing, not only day to day but also year to year. In other words, if they did a good job, they always had the consistency of knowing what to expect. That’s no longer the case.
Opportunity: The information age brings immense opportunities and significant challenges. For instance, technology allows business leadership to do things they never thought possible. For savvy leaders, if they lean into the human and technological partnership, they have a chance to scale not only locally but globally very quickly.
Solution: Therefore, business leaders and teams that want to thrive have to cultivate their emotional intelligence. Meaning, success for business—and life—isn’t going to come from trying to be all things to all people and doing everything. However, it will come from understanding oneself and human nature. Those who could ‘read’ people and grow their relationships will achieve tremendous success in the human + tech partnership age.
So, let’s explore some of the topics we spoke about on the podcast. Understanding and internalizing them will serve as your keys to success.
1. What Strategies Drive Business and Growth?
As we know, since 2020, everything’s gotten upended. If nothing else, the effects of the pandemic served as a clean break with the industrial age and business as usual. Now, I realize there’s a lot of discussion about technology, but we must look at humans first because we’re seeing the evolution of the human + tech partnership. As a result, we’re in an age of empathy. What I mean by that is that relationships with people matter, including your business team culture and your prospect and customer experiences.
Relationships are the currency in our business and personal lives. In fact, these elements are a fundamental aspect of business leadership and are vital keys to growing revenue. For instance, the Great Resignation, or the Big Quit, has to do with social reorienting. People want to work in the right environment for their bosses and companies to thrive and also for themselves. So, that means possessing a developed sense of listening, adaptation, and the ability to earn the trust of others.
2. Requiring Interdisciplinary and Cross-Functional Teams
Business leadership understands that one of the essential skills they must possess is the ability for leading change. In other words, the very nature of integrating humans with technology at the scale that’s happening now is unprecedented. Sure, people worked with technology in the past, but it’s different, especially since 2020.
What’s occurring now is truly a partnership between humans and technology. Meaning, for the first time in human history, people have to work with something (technology) that’s got more brainpower and abilities than they do.
Therefore, where all this leads business leadership is to reorient to interdisciplinary and cross-functional teams. In other words, you need people looking at data information and challenges from multiple lenses. That’s a hallmark of leadership today and is a reason why data must be a diplomat at the executive tables.
Data allows us to rise above biases and preferences and do what humans do exceptionally well—create with small amounts of essential and relevant information.
3. Ensuring Business Leadership with a Culture of Learning
It’s easy to get caught off-guard when so much happens simultaneously. However, the current business environment isn’t going to change. In fact, it’s only going to accelerate. So, something important for business leadership is to create a culture of learning, which is your competitive advantage. Again, this leans into the need for so-called soft skills with high emotional intelligence.
Patrick Lencioni articulated it well in his book about the ideal team player. You want a team of humble, hungry, and smart people. Those are the people who’ll help inform your thinking during ongoing uncertainty.
But, as a business leader, you also want to possess those skills or personal attributes. You want to surround yourself and be a humble business leader. Humble people realize they don’t have all the answers. As a result, they’re willing to learn, grow, adapt, and get exposed to new ideas and ways of doing things.
In 2020, company leaders reached a penultimate moment in their experience. Those bosses who had been sitting in their executive seats for a decade thought they were going to coast—until they couldn’t. So, you always want people who are hungry. And finally, you want intelligent people on your team. Those people can discern small details in complex problems and bring wisdom.
4. Understanding Tenure Doesn’t Matter
As mentioned in the previous point, 2020 put many business leaders on notice. One of the fascinating things about looking into a business as the CEO of a futurist and change management firm is the average tenure of the leadership team. On average, it’s between 15 and 20 years.
So, that means that they’ve spent at least a decade within that one organization—sometimes longer. Inevitably, when you have a leadership team like that, you get a myopic reality that starts to set in the company, which is detrimental in the long run.
Experience matters—to a point—because it brings wisdom. And you can’t have wisdom without experience. Nevertheless, tenure and decades of experience in the same place are not good. That’s how you get a new CEO who comes into a company and shuts down a couple of divisions—even if they’re profitable.
Ultimately, the heads of those areas wonder how it’s possible, especially because they’re making money. However, the new CEO (with a fresh viewpoint) understands those divisions will be unprofitable in 5 years, and that’s why tenure among a cohort team that doesn’t change isn’t good. Leaders today need to feel continually uncomfortable with ideas, people, and even clients that challenge them.
5. Ensuring the 360-Degree Customer Experience and View
Your team culture and business process management have to get focused on your customer experience. One of the reasons Amazon is one of the top global companies is its relentless focus on the customer experience. The points throughout this post enumerate how essential it is for business leadership not to be brittle.
It’s vital to learn, stay hungry, be open to new experiences, etc. Today’s customers expect an exceptional experience and journey with a company, and if you don’t provide it, the best they’ll do is walk away to someone else, and the worst is to call you out on social media.
Unfortunately, many companies aren’t structured appropriately for the new business environment. Yet, c-suite executives must have a holistic sense of what’s happening. For instance, when a CEO sits with executives, everyone reports on their division. And those discussions are supposed to serve as the path for seeing the entire picture.
However, with tech stacks that are ever more complex and a continuously fluid business environment, you still get a mirror that’s broken and fragmented—even if all the slivers still hang together because of the frame.
Teams must all read from the same playbook and be in it not only for themselves but for the entire company. A single spine technology architecture and revenue operations providing the singular central nervous system of the business through the hub of revenue operations is the answer.
Why Running Like an Engine is Not Efficient
I enjoyed my time with Kent and Michael and invite you to listen to the podcast for more details about our conversation. I want to close with a question they asked about my process in change management. Often, I see leaders and teams celebrating, running around like engines thinking they’re efficient.
However, we’re not computers, and that’s not how humans work. In an era of humans + technology, we have to become masters of what we do best: process and make decisions without the need to process hundreds of millions or billions of datasets. That’s what computers do, and we’re not computers.
I’m a big fan of 90-day sprints. In short, I create annual goals for life and business and break those into 90-day segments. Each segment has monthly, weekly, and daily milestones and commitments. It allows me to reassess what I do every 7-days and see how close I am to reaching my goals. I continuously discover what I did well and what needs to improve in the process. The 90-day sprints keep me curious and from having to do any Hail Mary passes as the year starts to close.
In this time of colossal change, people aren’t going to get ahead by trying to do everything and, in the process, accomplish nothing much. We’re not engines or computers that can process 24/7/365. However, we can do amazing things if we lean into what makes us human and, as business leaders, set the course for those in our companies and lives to follow.
Ben Stroup is Chief Growth Architect and President at Velocity Strategy Solutions where he helps leaders design, develop, and deploy smarter business growth strategies. Ben is a futurist, disruptor, and data champion. He leads a team that takes a structured learning approach to business challenges, which allows them to assist leaders in bridging the gap between ideas, innovation, and revenue—taking ideas from mind to market.
Velocity Strategy Solutions is an on-demand, next-generation business strategy and management consulting firm which provides clients with a relentless focus on data, execution, and results that positively impact the bottom line. Velocity delivers integrated people and revenue strategies combined with a disciplined approach to growth architecture that elevates the capacity of leaders, teams, and organizations to succeed and win more.