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Being Wildly Successful And Three Ways to Make It Happen


Stu Danforth & Nettie Nitzberg t’s a simple idea that drives companies to wild success. Wildly successful companies — those with sky-high productivity, giant profits, and singular product and service quality — show a relentless focus on one element of their organizational strategy. These booming organizations know that their competitors don’t get it — and they capitalize on that fact. They know that most companies they compete against (and most organizations in the US) can only count on about 30% of their own work force to get the critical work done. By contrast, wildly successful companies often show greater than 70% or 80% productivity: they are able to outperform the

competition in the blink of an eye. What’s more — they have fun doing it — their offices have a buzz of people who are smiling and enjoying the hard work they face. Here is the amazing part: wildly successful companies don’t have secret knowledge that you can’t have. In fact, you have probably read about the simple idea behind this wild success in places like Forbes, The Harvard Business Review, or The Gallup Organization’s research. We’ve seen this idea in action — we have a combined 50+ years of practical experience working with organizations that range from start-ups to family-owned businesses

Being Wildly Successful And Three Ways to Make It Happen to Fortune 500 corporations. We’ve coached and developed leaders, designed corporate communication plans, and guided clients toward the remarkable impact of cultivating this strategic focus point.

Great Decision Making Happens at These Companies Think about this for a moment: your employees make hundreds of decisions on their own every day — and we’re pretty sure your employee handbook isn’t designed to be a day-to-day operating manual. How do they know what to do? In wildly successful companies, these employees make competent, on-target, and impressive decisions the vast majority of the time. Some things come easy to them: • They know how to respond to an unprecedented service request • They know when and whether to risk telling the boss about new ideas • They know how to surface problems in the company

In wildly successful companies, employees make competent, on-target, and impressive decisions. discretion to make good decisions and the freedom to get great work done. You need a relentless focus on your organization’s culture.

Wild Success and Strong Culture Go Together You aspire to be wildly successful? Then you need to cultivate a strong culture. We have seen this time and time again — the two go together. Your persistent dedication to this simple idea will build and sustain employee engagement, performance, and productivity. There is no one “right” culture that fits all organizations. Culture is distinct to your company. However, there is a consistent set of practices you and

There is no one “right” culture that fits all organizations. Culture is distinct to your company. Perhaps most importantly, they know what to do when the supervisor, boss, or the CEO isn’t in the room — which is, of course, most of the time. In order to become wildly successful, your people need guidance. But you can’t be with every person every day of the week (and that tactic doesn’t work anyway). You need to guide your employees in a way that provides them

your senior leadership team may take to intentionally drive cultural development. We have worked with corporations both large and small; we know how both entrepreneurial and late-stage companies work; we’ve coached and consulted with CEOs, senior leadership teams, and HR leaders — on down to managers on the front lines.

Based specifically on our work done with real clients, and supported by the best research in the field, we can show you the three ways to cultivate culture for wild success. Here is where the “relentless focus” part comes in, and you will need to:

1. Commit to managerial excellence 2. Develop consistent and transparent communication 3. Dedicate your team to hiring and developing the right employees Commit to Managerial Excellence In our experience, nobody really wants to admit to the problem they have with their professional management team. Until it starts to hurt. The pain of poor management can be severe: performance lags, goals start to get missed, and pretty soon some of the high performance members of the team start thinking about going elsewhere. Poor management is corrosive. Poor management makes work no fun. Poor management is at the heart of weak culture. Poor management is also prevalent in most organizations, and good management is hard to find. If your

Being Wildly Successful And Three Ways to Make It Happen company fits the national norm, in a workgroup of 10 people, only one person has the skills and talents to be a great manager. Unfortunately, too often it is not the person charged with managing that team. Research shows us about 10% of the workforce have the skills to be great managers. Another 20% can be good with training and coaching. But about 70% of your employees have no business managing other people. And, as one CEO client recently said in a moment of insight: “That’s me — I am one of 70%.” So how in the world did that CEO — and all the other poor managers — get in their positions?

The Secret of Failing Promotions Here is the dirty little secret of promotions: most people get their management job because they were good at something else: • They are recognized as highly proficient in their job, and therefore worthy of being promoted to management. For instance, they are a great engineer, so they were made a manager of engineers. Not the same job at all. • Another way to the top is to keep the body warm enough long enough to let seniority propel you into a management job — a position for which you have never been trained or adequately prepared.

Neither of these routes to the manager’s chair assesses the candidate on the skills and talents required to effectively lead other people, namely motivating, persuading, building accountability, acquiring consensus, setting priorities, and engaging team members. What’s more, most new managers receive little or no management preparation. Their only recourse is to gravitate to the style and techniques of a previous manager — and that means


Research shows us about of the workforce have the skills to be great managers. Another can be good with training and coaching. But about of your employees have no business managing other people.



Managerial excellence requires a dedication to training and development 10% for your managers — both new 20% 70% and old. the odds are they adopted their style from someone who wasn’t very good at managing. So why do companies of all sizes have difficulty talking about — and therefore fixing — this problem? Because most of the senior leaders in any organization are likely products of the same ineffective system.

Make Your Commitments A commitment to managerial excellence requires your senior leadership team to recognize how deeply your organization is mired in ineffective methods of management development and is willing to make some fundamental changes. A commitment to managerial excellence requires your organization to assess management candidates on their behavioral and social effectiveness. It also requires a dedication to training and development for your managers — both new and old.

Great managers influence, guide, mentor, motivate, discipline, activate, engage, support, and drive their team members. These are social, not technical skills. They are the skills of human engagement. Managing is difficult. Find those who are best suited to this critical organizational role and develop their talents and build their engagement. You need to give these folks the skill training, along with the tools and time they require to enhance this special competence. A commitment to managerial excellence will change your culture. It is the people in the managers’ chairs who will be actively connecting, communicating, and coaching your employees — spreading your cultural guidance from desktop to desktop. Your management team is at the center of your effort to engage your employees, spread your culture, and build a wildly successful company.

Being Wildly Successful And Three Ways to Make It Happen

Communication is the key to articulating who you are. What you do. How you do it.

support, are all walking the walk and talking the talk. They are living the company culture.

Be Consistent and Transparent Everywhere Through consistent and transparent communications prospective and new employees have a clear picture of your organization. Existing employees seek to be strong company ambassadors. They sing the praises of the organization and they are all saying the same thing.

For them to be able to perform this critical role effectively, you need clear and consistent communication throughout the organization — which is the 2nd way to become wildly successful.

everyone says the same thing. Everyone understands what they are saying and how it applies to them. They “get it.” Communication is the key to articulating who you are. What you do. How you do it.

Develop Consistent and Transparent Communication

Consistent and Transparent communication the personality of the organization will attract the right talent. Communication Shows Everyone knows what it is like to work Up Everywhere

In a wildly successful company communication is at the heart of everything. Communication of strategy and goals. Communication of values. Communication from senior leadership to management to individual contributors. Communication is across the organization and broadcast via web based tools and social media. Your communication transmits what you believe and what you care about. It doesn’t change if you have a bad quarter. It’s not random — your communication needs to be consistent and transparent. Above all, it needs to be easy to understand and repeat. Consistent and transparent communication is planned and focused. The messages are clear. The messages are concise. The messages are easily articulated. In wildly successful companies

• A candidate going through the interview process • A manager supporting a new hire through the onboarding process • A prospect visiting a tradeshow booth at a conference • A customer talking with customer service • A senior leader presenting at a conference • A person reading the website, marketing brochures, and sales literature • A visitor walking into the lobby and greeted by the receptionist • An employee telling her friends about your wildly successful company

In each of these situations successful companies ensure that what you see, hear and read are clear and consistent messages about the organization. It’s transparent and pervasive: employees from receptionist to CEO, from customer service rep to technical

Pervasive, transparent communication drives culture.

Through consistent and transparent

at this organization. What is expected of them.

The messages are clear. The messages are concise. The communication is transparent. It’s pervasive. Communication drives and develops culture. And culture drives excellent talent, the 3rd way companies become wildly successful.

Dedication To Hiring and Developing The Right Employees

Zappos is a wildly successful company. Tony Hsieh, Zappos CEO, excels in managerial excellence. Zappos is also known for their clear and transparent communications. And Zappos is certainly dedicated to hiring the right talent. As a matter of fact, due to bad hiring practices that cost them more than $100m, Zappos radically changed the way they hire. According to Hsieh, Zappos “sacrifices short-term benefits for long-term gains by spending time vetting potential employees and hiring only folks that mesh well with the company’s culture.”

Being Wildly Successful And Three Ways to Make It Happen The right talent is critical to create a wildly successful organization — and you can learn from others’ costly mistakes. If you do not have commitment to managerial excellence, and do not have consistent and transparent communication, it can be very difficult to hire and develop the right employees. And the key is the right employees.

Prepare to Succeed By Hiring Great People Reflect on this: to hire the right people, you need managerial excellence and a strong culture supported by clear and transparent communication. The three ways to become wildly successful build upon each other every day. Management, specifically hiring managers, play a critical role in identifying, connecting and engaging the right talent. It’s not a job to take for granted. You need an organized and focused team effort on the part of talent acquisition, HR and the hiring manager. It takes time, effort, coordination and thinking outside the box to find the right people, for the right job, who fit the culture of a wildly successful company. Create a persona. Want a clear picture of the person you want to hire? Create a fictional person who represents a potential employee for your organization. This is a great way to communicate who the right person is for your organization.

The right talent is critical to create a widly successful organization. A persona helps identify major characteristics and traits that are important to your organization. It helps to identify people who will be most effective in your organization. Essentially, It’s a visual representation of your ideal employee. Creating a persona takes thought, work, and insight and becomes a key communication tool for recruiters, hiring managers and HR. It requires you to accurately describe the company culture and values, as well as articulate why someone would be successful in your organization.  Use ambassadors. Social media, job boards and typical recruiting venues are good but not always the place to find the right employees.  Great employees usually have great friends. Enlist your best employees to help you find potential new hires. If your people love what they do, they are out there raving about your company. That can work for you. And remember, if your communication is consistent and transparent they are all saying the same thing. 

The commitment to professional growth and development becomes a bedrock of your culture.

Guide your Great People From the Start Create an onboarding process. Once a candidate is deemed “right” for the job and the company, and an offer is accepted, new employees need to participate in a holistic onboarding process. The faster a new employee is connected and engaged to the new organization, the business function, department, and the team, the more productive and satisfied she will be. Don’t let this occur by happenstance. The highest levels of employee engagement are typically found in the first six months of employment. Capitalize on that excitement and enthusiasm by creating an intentional program to welcome, educate, connect, and inspire your new hires. Drive development. Investing in the development of your employees will create payback in increased revenues. Why? Because the more you provide positive, professional development to your employees, the higher your customer experience and service levels become. And development drives engagement, which has been shown to directly improve productivity. High employee engagement, positive customer experience and high productivity have all been shown to boost revenue and profitability. A commitment to professional development is a key element in making a good company into a wildly successful company.

Being Wildly Successful And Three Ways to Make It Happen Give your Great People the Chance to be Greater The commitment to professional growth and development becomes a bedrock of your culture. It’s the way in which an organization creates the next generation of managers and supports succession. It’s part of the culture message when talking with candidates. It’s how an organization retains great employees. It is built into the organizational processes and systems.

Driving professional development is every manager’s role, every day. Not quarterly. Not in a three-day training class. Every day. Every conversation can promote learning and development. It’s part of managerial excellence; it’s part of consistent communication; it’s part of hiring, engaging, and activating the right people. It’s the heartbeat of the wildly successful company.

Being Wildly Successful If you truly want to boost your

Wildly successful companies… show a relentless focus on their CULTURE.

company up and over into the kind of success we have outlined here, you now have the basis to take the leap forward. Yes, your company needs a good strategy. Yes you need a competitive product or service. Yes, you need to deliver on your value proposition. But remember, it’s a simple idea that drives companies to wild success. Wildly successful companies — those with sky-high productivity, giant profits, and singular product and service quality — show a relentless focus on their CULTURE. You can show that relentless focus on your culture by: finding and promoting the best people managers; giving them the consistent communication for their conversations — both inside and outside the company; and retaining and developing great people for your organization.

Wildly Successful Culture = Extraordinary Managers + Transparent & Consistent Communications + Great People

That is the recipe for success… Every time!

ABOUT THE AUTHORS: Stu Danforth serves as Director of Positive Leadership Dynamics, with over 20 years experience in organizational behavior and leadership development. His current work focuses on establishing thriving teams, senior leadership team effectiveness, and leadership in the distributed (virtual) workforce. PLD believes that individuals, teams, leaders, and organizations achieve their greatest potential when a positive, solution-focused and strengths-based approach pervades organizational culture.

Nettie Nitzberg, principal of WOW! transformations, loves watching a cool culture take root in a company, and has made it her mission to help companies around the world create work environments that attract — and keep — top talent. Supporting the growth and development of people is what WOW! does best. Our culture, onboarding and talent development initiatives have a huge impact on talent retention, productivity and engagement. © 2014

Being Wildly Successful...  

Wildly successful companies often show greater than 70% or 80% productivity: they are able to outperform the competition in the blink of an...