IGA Chairman Tom Haggai and I were comparing notes recently about how the retail industry has changed during the years. Tom has always been a student of the marketplace, with a deep understanding of not only the business, but also the dynamics of what makes executive teams function at the highest level. He made a comment that we dissected in detail: "The easier it is to connect, the more difficult it is to communicate..
The conversation revolved around personal interaction, establishing and achieving goals and the changing industry. I deliberated about these all-important management topics, and my first thought was I should put my 300 management books in a storage locker until somebody really figures out the best way to manage businesses in this rapidly changing, and challenging, world.
Then I pulled myself together and decided, with the help of some of my friends, and some well-known experts, to offer some thought-provoking management perspectives.
Management's Changing Role
In my opinion, the most important management responsibility is to either lead or administer your company's culture. It is the foundation from which everything emanates. Whether your span of control is five or ten, it is imperative that everyone buys into, and enforces, the reasons for existence, goals and expectations of your business. In a recent research study we conducted, when asked what was the most pressing management problem that needed improvement, the response was "Eliminating silos."
In today's evolving business world of "specialists," it's difficult for top management to feel comfortable making decisions in areas where they have had little experience or training.
Personal Leadership Skills
Thousands of books have been written about leadership skills. Every conceivable topic and "how to" has been covered. But here's a short list of the most important ones that I believe make the difference:
- The most important leadership attributes are inquisitiveness, self-learning and desire to improve.
- A goal to improve the skills of the people who report to you. When effectively developed, everything else follows a more predictable, successful process.
- Above average communications (listening) skills.
- Management experience is a better predictor of success than a formal education.
- It's critical to have conceptual skills to connect the dots.
- The ability to question the status quo, and encourage positive conflict because that results in growth.
- Intimate industry knowledge leads to evaluating information more efficiently, thus nurturing intuitive decision-making.
- An undeniable benefit is if an executive has practiced multiple disciplines, such as management, financial, marketing or technology. That executive is invaluable.
About Risk Taking
What separates the leading builders of business are those who take risks, versus those who don't. One point is certain in assessing risk: the more rewarding the goal, the more difficult it is to attain.
In their book, "How The Wise Decide", authors Bryn Zeckhauser and Aaron Sandoski write that the three major reasons that people gravitate towards loss aversion are 1) they rely on insufficient knowledge and draw the wrong conclusions; 2) they let emotions about preconceived outcomes overrule objective analysis, and 3) they find psychic comfort in following a herd mentality while ignoring positive signs and signals.
Yes, management and leadership has changed dramatically during the past 10 to 15 years. But what it will look like in another 10 years is material for another editorial.
President and CEO,