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Xavier Lederer provides key steps on prioritization and action.

‘The essence of strategy is choosing what not to do.’– Michael Porter

“I don’t have enough time in a day to work on the most important things!” I regularly hear CEOs complain. We all have a tendency to jump on the most urgent problems – because they are urgent and also because, let’s face it: we are addicted to fixing problems.

Why priorities matter – pebbles vs. rocks

The issue is: when we focus on fighting fires we don’t work on what really helps move our business forward. A year quickly goes by and we realize that we have missed some of our goals.

A key to breaking this vicious circle is to agree on 3 to 5 quarterly priorities with your leadership team. The key question is: which ones have the biggest impact on your company in order to reach your 1-year goal and move towards your 3-year goals? There are hundreds of things that you need or want to do to move your company forward. The key is to prioritize and to find the smaller number of possible activities that will make the biggest difference.

This short video with Stephen Covey is about picking what is important first. If you focus on the pebbles first (i.e. the daily fires), you will never make true progress towards your goals. It is only by putting the rocks in first, your 3-5 strategic priorities, that you can build sustainable, profitable growth. Debating annual or quarterly priorities is the opportunity for your leadership team to agree on what is important (and what your team should focus on) vs. what is urgent. By building an execution plan around your priorities and committing time to them, you can regain control over your calendar – instead of letting your inbox control your time.

 

Key points include:

  • Defining priorities
  • Timeframes
  • Results focused

 

Read the full article, How To Set Priorities That Move The Needle, on AmbroseGrowth.com

 

Xavier Lederer identifies a key component that must be considered when building a strategy for growth. 

You are not competing directly against your competitors, you are competing to be unique in the marketplace.”

What does your most valuable prospect look like? “Probably a lot like your existing valuable customers. The easiest and most profitable growth will be achieved by adding additional customers very much like your current most valuable customers,” explains Robert Bloom in his book “The Inside Advantage.” Clients you resonate with will bring clients in the same vein. The key question is: Who is your ideal customer – how do you identify and describe them – and how will you solve their problem?

Shifting ideal customers

This wisdom is more relevant now than ever: because of Covid customers have changed. Some have disappeared, others have shifted from in-store to online, and others have increased their purchases. As a result the assumptions you had about your ideal customers may no longer be relevant. And yet: you really need to know your ideal customer if you want to grow your business.

All customers are not created equal. Your ideal customer is an existing customer (not a hypothetical one), buys from you for optimal profit and refers you to other prospects – new customers who are likely to be remarkably similar to your current, ideal customers. Once you have identified your ideal customer you can find out whether there are enough of them to reach your goals – and define whether you need to expand into an additional segment.

Your ideal customer is a breathing, living human being

The thing is: It is not enough to define your customers as a market statistic – you can’t get to know a statistic. You have a much better chance of selling to someone you really know and understand. If you can’t answer the following questions, chances are that you don’t really know your ideal customer:

How many customers generate 80% of my gross margin, and who are they?

 

Key points include:

  • Shifting ideal customers
  • Going beyond market statistics
  • Brand promise as a solution

 

Read the full post, Want To Grow Your Company? Start With Who, on AmbroseGrowth.com.

 

 

Giving feedback is a delicate process. It is a conversation that involves feelings, egos, judgment, bias, and misunderstandings. Xavier Lederer co-authored this article that provides the key steps on how to give feedback to ensure constructive outcomes. 

When I was a young manager, I was panicked by the idea of giving feedback – until I was given a clear 3-step methodology to have ego-less, collaborative, and actionable feedback conversations. Having a feedback conversation is about preparing yourself mentally in order to avoid being judgmental – towards yourself or towards the other person. Our previous post was about overcoming your fear of feedback. This article lays out three simple steps to give constructive feedback in a way that contributes to your team members’ personal development.

  1. Prepare the conversation

Remind yourself why you are giving feedback. Your goal is to improve the situation or the person’s performance. You won’t accomplish that by being harsh, critical or offensive. Focus on the person’s personal development needs: what can the person learn from your feedback? Similarly, feedback is not about venting your own frustration. Rather it is about clearly explaining the rational and emotional effects on you or the organization/business of the other person’s behavior. This is also why it is important that you describe your own emotions: don’t let the other person make assumptions about them.

Double-check your facts. Good feedback needs to be fact-based. Take the necessary time to gather all the facts and to cross-check them. Get input from several people: we all have our own biases, and you want to develop an objective picture of the reality. It also shows that you have taken the time to prepare it. The last thing that you want in a feedback conversation, is to start debating whether you have your facts right.

Stick to the facts and never make assumptions. Don’t assume people’s intentions: you don’t know what is happening in other people’s minds. A wrong assumption in a feedback conversation can be considered infuriatingly unfair by the person receiving the feedback. Your own interpretation of the facts and emotions is exactly what can create destructive feedback. Facts are things that you can observe if you would film the person. For instance: “Getting angry” is not a fact. However: “Raising your voice” or “Turning red” are facts that you can bring up in a feedback conversation. Start with describing the behavior. And if you really have to explain your assumption, make it clear (eg “I notice this behavior of yours, and I assume that it means X. Is this a correct assumption?”).

Put yourself in their shoes: for which good reasons would they act the way they did?

Ask for permission to give the feedback. Accept that the person says “no”: sometimes it’s not the right time or we are just not in the mood for feedback, even if it is well crafted. A simple “Hey, would you have time at 3 pm this afternoon for a feedback conversation?” can help the receiver be mentally ready for it.

Choose a moment in the near future – the sooner the better. If the situation upsets you though, wait a few hours until the emotion settles.

And last but not least: Build trust with your team. Asking for feedback first (instead of waiting for it) is a great way to build vulnerability-based trust – especially at the top. Our next article will deal with this topic.

 

Key points include:

  • Framing the conversation
  • Stating the facts
  • Dialogue

 

Read the full article, Feedback is a gift… when you know how to unpack it, on AmbroseGrowth.com.

 

 

Xavier Lederer shares a purposeful post that offers practical steps that can be taken to maximize the efficacy of meetings when the goal is executing the priorities of a strategy.

Many of us hate meetings. Many regular meetings are boring and ineffective indeed. They don’t have the right agenda (or no agenda at all), are not well facilitated, and don’t accomplish much.

Yet the right meetings lead to faster and better decision-making, increase accountability throughout the organization, and improve communication. In short: efficient meetings get your quarterly priorities accomplished. Together with aligning your leadership team around the top 2 to 3 quarterly priorities and measuring what matters, implementing a consistent meeting and communication rhythm enables you to focus and execute on your strategic plan.

How do you go from boring meetings to impactful meetings? Start with a good planning and communication rhythm with your leadership team, which ideally includes 5 meetings:

  • Daily huddle.
  • Weekly accountability meeting.
  • Monthly check-in and education session.
  • Quarterly planning and education session.
  • Annual planning retreat.

Each of these meetings has a different goal with a different agenda. The key is to maintain the discipline to stick to the agenda and the goal of each meeting. When you do not, meetings get too long, become ineffective, and people start skipping them. For example: While it can be tempting to discuss strategic changes in a daily or weekly meeting, this is not the right place: table this until your next quarterly meeting.

 

Key points include:

  • Synchronizing the team
  • Moving the strategy forward
  • Aligning key priorities

 

Read the full post, Meeting rhythm: the key to consistently executing on your strategic priorities, on ambrosegrowth.com.

 

 

While many companies pay lip service to company values, and many more don’t pay attention past the brand development and marketing stage, Xavier Lederer shares an evergreen post from his company blog that explains why establishing and maintaining core values are integral to a company’s direction, growth, and success.

‘Corporate culture is the only sustainable competitive advantage that is completely within the control of the entrepreneur.’

– David Cummings, Co-founder of Pardot

The #1 thing I wish I had done differently? I wish that I had developed clear core values and that I had used them in my recruiting process, to filter out candidates that didn’t fit our culture,” said the CEO of this consumer good company that went through a roller coaster over the past decade. Ten years ago his company had a lot of traction, their products were flying off the shelves, and they were in a hiring spree. Several years later they hit a number of roadblocks that put them in a tough financial position – and the impact of their toxic employees (these high-performing employees, whose values are not aligned with the company values, and therefore create a bad atmosphere within the team – and, when they are in sales, with clients) became extremely painful.

What are core values?

Core values are a handful of non-negotiable behaviors that everybody in your company lives by. Core values establish and protect the company culture: they are a set of beliefs that define the desirable and the unacceptable behaviors in the company. Core values are not aspirational – these are rules that you actually live by on an everyday basis. As such core values are timeless: they will still be the same in 100 years.

Core values in a company work just like parenting values. I learned this from my grandmother, who single-handedly managed to maintain a steady discipline in her house full of grand children during the summer months

 

Key points include:

  • Why you should care about culture
  • How to know you have the right core values
  • Clashing values

 

Read the full article, Core Values, An Anchor To Your Company Culture, on ambrosegrowth.com.

 

 

Xavier Lederer shares an evergreen post from his company blog that explains why your management style and communication needs must change as your company grows, and how it can hinder growth if you don’t. 

“My company has great growth potential, but I am so stuck in the damn dailies, I can’t find time to work on my business.  And my team, they just don’t seem to be pulling in the same direction.  I have a clear vision of our future, but they are just not executing.” sighed the 55-years old CEO of this mid-market manufacturing company. He started his company 15 years and successfully grew it – but over the past few years, growth had stalled. His efforts to re-boot his growth engine have failed as well. In short, he felt stuck. How could he un-stuck himself?

His plan was simple: grow the company and then sell it in 5 years. For him, the next step seemed obvious: he needed to hire a new salesperson.

“What happened to the last sales guy?” I asked naively.

“He left! I can’t find someone who will stick with us long enough to have an impact. The same happened to the sales guy before him. I don’t understand this new generation; they have no loyalty.”

Like many other CEOs he identified and focused on symptoms, rather than on the root cause of his company’s issues. His company had outgrown his management approach.

Complexity increases faster than size.

As your company grows, it adds more employees and therefore more complexity. When you started in your garage people management and internal communication was very efficient: your leadership team (of one) was perfectly aligned on strategy priorities, communication was seamless from strategy to execution, and customer feedback went straight from the sales team (i.e. you) to the product development team (you as well). Then you hired a couple of people, and complexity increased: you needed to divvy up work, make decisions together, follow up on other people’s work,… Complexity increased much faster than your team size: When your team went from 3 to 4 people (+33% increase in team size) your complexity doubled!

The larger the team size, the more complex its management. Managing complexity is a challenge – but the biggest challenge is to regularly adjust your management approach to increasing complexity.

 

Key points include:

  • Complexity increases faster than size
  • Management approaches for each stage of growth
  • Roadblocks to growth

 

Read the full article, My Growth Engine Has Stalled! Where Do I Go From Here? on ambrosegrowth.com. 

 

Umbrex is pleased to welcome Xavier Lederer with Ambrose Growth. Xavier was a strategy consultant with Bain & Company for 4 years in Europe (Brussels & Amsterdam office). He is now a business coach, helping CEOs of mid-market companies, who are frustrated by the way their company is growing, redefine their growth strategy/execution and their management approach, so they can get back on track to profitable growth.

Prior to starting his own practice Xavier was the President of a chocolate manufacturer in NYC. Xavier has particular expertise in helping leadership teams define an actionable growth strategy, establish an execution discipline to hold people accountable, and build stronger, more cohesive leadership teams. He lives in Connecticut with his wife and three elementary-school age children. He is a trained chocolatier and a hobbyist beekeeper. Xavier is happy to collaborate on projects in North America and across Europe to help mid-market companies redefine their growth strategy/execution and their management approach to grow faster and with less pain.