The Differentiator.
Dr. Rick Johnson, CEO Strategist, LLC
Saturday, 29th September 2007
I often ask clients, exactly what is it that makes them different than their competitors? The answers are wide ranging and include things like,....

  • World class service
  • Exceptional new product introduction
  • Technology
  • Experience
  • Our Chinese connection
  • Our design capabilities
  • Our Pricing
  • Operational excellence
  • One – Stop – Shop
  • Our logistics system
  • Locations
  • Our size
All these things are good. In fact some of them may even be classified as "Core Competencies". However, the answers I receive to that question are often disheartening to me. You see, rarely do I ever hear the answer ;

 "It's our employees that really make a difference."

 Employees matter. Let me repeat that. Employees do matter. Employees are the differentiator. Think about it. I submit to you that every answer I listed above and any other answers that you may think of become important because it's your employees that create that success. World class service is not a core competence. It is what your employees do to create that level of service that becomes the core competence. They are the differentiator.

 Your customers can buy from anyone; loyalty is an elusive factor today. They have many choices. And, don't forget, your employees have choices as well. Some companies truly believe that their employees are their most important asset. Treat them like they are not and they may just choose not to work for you anymore. Often times when employees leave --- customers follow.

 Lone Wolf – autocratic – insensitive leaders may not get it. Times have changed. New generations have entered the workforce. The number one priority of keeping your customer happy, although still paramount, has become the #2 priority. The number one priority is keeping your employees happy. If you do that, #2 becomes much easier.

 High turn-over at any organization is just not acceptable if your company is going to maximize growth and profitability. The hard cost alone is substantial and we can't even begin to measure the soft costs associated with high unplanned turn-over.  Think about these seven key concepts that will help your employees become the real "Differentiator."

Create an "Employer of Choice Culture

The first step is to insure that you not only utilize effective exit interviews to learn and improve but you create a consistent documented orientation program. Creating an Employer of Choice culture starts before you hire anyone. It starts by training all your managers on the interviewing and hiring process.

Don't make the mistake thinking that recruitment, retention, interviewing and hiring are strictly the responsibility of human resources. By the way, if you don't even have a Professional Human Resource director, you have about the same chance of becoming an "Employer of Choice" as a snowball in hell not melting.

 You need to be honest with yourself about the kind of work environment your company represents… More importantly, you need to be honest with potential new hires. If your culture isn't quite where you'd like it to be, tell your new hires about the type of company you are striving to become, tell them how you are going to get there, and how they can help and contribute."

Becoming an Employer of Choice is not easy. However, it is an investment in your future. There is plenty of material published on this topic, including several articles I have written. Do some research, it will pay big dividends.  

Be Proud of Who You Are—Your Ethics, Your Values, Your Corporate Citizenship

Success today is created by caring about more than profitability and growth. Growth and profitability are created by employees. Trust and respect for employees is paramount to creating success.  Your cultural environment regarding health and safety issues are in the public spotlight and, as a result, employees want to work for companies who take these factors into consideration.

Your reputation in the community is not only important to you but it is important to your employees as well.  Publish your company values. Make them visible to everyone. Discuss your ethics and your ideology.  But….. make sure you "Walk the Walk".

Embrace Diversity in Your Workforce

 Make your company unique by embracing diversity. A diverse workforce—in race, ethnicity, gender, age, geographic origin, education, personality, experience, etc.—creates an energy that can rarely exist in an environment of uniformity.

Companies that embrace diversity get the job done quicker and this diversity often contributes to competitive advantage.  Make sure your managers are trained in leadership, coaching and mentoring.

 Become a Lead Wolf Leader

Effective leaders are driven by a model. A model is a tool used to predict future outcomes of current decisions. Effective leaders build their models on the sum of their experiences, knowledge and deeds as well as their mistakes. This truth is at the core of learning how to be a winner instead of a survivor.

Recognition and praise raises self-esteem. Positive feedback and ample communication allow employees gratification and a newfound confidence in the organization. Command and control works for the military but leadership in the business environment must be built on dignity and respect. (e-mail rick@ceostrategist.com for a copy of the Lead Wolf Model of Leadership)

Communicate Effectively

Communication is key to creating an environment that encourages employee retention. Respect, belief in employees, empowerment and involvement are key factors in retaining employees. Effective leadership & respect must be demonstrated at every level in the organization.

 Make Personal Development a Continuous Process

Effective leaders go through a never ending development process that includes education, self study, training, experience and coaching and mentoring.  It includes creating a culture that helps direct the organization in such a way that it makes it cohesive and coherent keeping short term tactical goals and objectives in alignment with long term strategic initiatives.

The success of leadership in this process is directly influenced by the individual leaders' beliefs, values, ethics, character, knowledge and skills.

Dedicate Yourself with Passion and Commitment

Position and title may give you power but power in itself does not make you an effective leader. To become an effective leader there are specific skill sets that you must understand and master. This does not come naturally. It takes dedication, passion and commitment to the process.

That commitment, dedication and passion includes a tireless effort to improve on specific skills and the development of a personal leadership methodology.

The successful leader is constantly building advantages into the organization at a much greater rate while they are eliminating disadvantages. The belief is that you not only have to be better than your competition but you must differentiate yourself.

Employee differentiation will soar if you and your executive staff follow these principles and demonstrate a passion for success. Excitement breeds excitement. Success breeds success. The more consuming your desire to create competitive advantage through your employees, the more you demonstrate leadership and draw support from your employees.

Rick Johnson, expert speaker, wholesale distribution's "Leadership Strategist", founder of CEO Strategist, LLC a firm that helps clients create and maintain competitive advantage. Need a speaker for your next event, E-mail rick@ceostrategist.com.  Don't forget to check out the Lead Wolf Series that can help you put more profit into your business. and new CD and workbook Real World Leadership Kit --- "Learning to Lead So Others Will Follow" . www.ceostrategist.com
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