Business Strategy Planning: Is Strategy Relevant in the Absence of Leadership?

It has been said that strategy is destiny.

Robert Burgelman’s book notes that, “successful and unsuccessful strategies shape a company’s destiny. But if strategy shapes destiny, destiny has ways of asserting itself and constraining strategy.”

With COVID-19 many organizations and businesses have had to rethink and re-imagine their business strategy planning in what seems to be a blink of an eye. The tension between shifting strategy and external and internal factors is not new; what is different is the current economic climate and the impact of a pandemic on constraints of business strategy.

The limitations of the pandemic have essentially created lesser degrees of “stragility” or lesser degrees of freedom for organizations to be strategic, agile and nimble in shifting their course of action.

Given Canada has 1.78 million SME’s, a bulk of which are in the service sector, it is not surprising then that these companies are hit hard by COVID-19 and the ripple effect of closures, social distancing and economic shrinkage.  Many SME’s do not survive the first 10 years in business; in fact, Statistics Canada notes that SME’s that make it past a 10-year mark are 42.9% in the service industry.  So, is all lost and should small and medium sized business owners just give up? Are the odds just too high?

Absolutely not.  With any crisis there is opportunity.

How might you ask can there be opportunity when my bottom line is shrinking and my business model is no longer robust? 

For the first time in my lifetime, the whole world has slowed down to an unprecedented pace.  Take time to reflect on your current business model and re-evaluate your business strategy planning and what drives it.

Let’s assume the stay at home policies go well beyond 6 months…

  • What can you do differently to keep your business alive?
  • What are you selling and how are you selling it?
  • Are you using various technology and tools to leverage your brands and products?
  • Is your marketing strategy shifting to new platforms and if so, are you tracking your data to inform strategy?
  • Are you shifting your marketing methodology to align with the data and opportunities?
  • Is your marketing integrated in a way to drive profits and sales?
  • Who is your competition and what can you learn from them?
  • Does partnering to complement what you offer make better sense than competing in this environment and allow you to expand the scope of your brand and client base?
  • Can you really step back and look at your company objectively, where it fits in current market and assess it in an arms length objective way?

It has been said if you do the same thing over and over you will get the same results.

Therefore, in a climate of chaos, change is the only constant.

Change and change management, business strategy planning, and more importantly strategic implementation are all critical leadership skills that are absolutely foundational to any organization’s success and sustainability.

It is not surprising then that many SME’s maybe struggling to figure out what next? How do I re-strategize? What are my options and opportunities?

And to be fair, these are difficult questions to answer when you are a leader that is heavily invested in a business you built through hard work and doing what you have always known as best.

I would suggest companies may want to consider reaching out to a business strategy consultant to get an objective view of their landscape, a fresh set of eyes on their business model, a coach to help them work through perhaps the biggest business crisis they have dealt with – these are all worthwhile investments as they will help leaders and organizations not only re-evaluate what they do and how they do it, they will help leaders retain their confidence in leading change, making thoughtful and smart business decisions and developing new strategies that set the stage for the next phase of the organization.

Because whether we want to acknowledge this or not, there will be a next phase with a new economy and a new way of doing business post COVID-19.

How, as leaders, we reset our business strategy planning, how we use the crisis as an opportunity to rethink our business models, our offerings, our marketing, our strategic partnership and our support systems will all impact and determine if your business is going to be in the 50% that survives in the next decade.

What is Executive Presence Training (And Why it Matters More Than Ever in 2020)

When we aspire to be leaders, the underlying context of that aspiration is the desire to lead, make a positive change, inspire others to do and be better, to head up an organization, to make an impact on others and in some cases leave a lasting impression or legacy.

Leadership is often associated with key traits and skills we expect people to have, at times, we correlate leadership with positions held.

Indeed, leadership is those things and more; it is the ability to have others willingly follow your lead – regardless of position held.

For many organizations, one of the biggest challenges facing them is pipeline issues and succession planning.

While businesses know they need to develop both these tracks, few have a clear path with the exception of perhaps the most senior role(s).

However, if organizations want to thrive and prosper, they need to develop their talent pipeline and often, the most critical skill is leadership presence and in particular executive presence training.

What is Executive Presence?

So, what exactly is executive presence?

It can mean different things to different people; simply put, leadership or executive presence comes from being authentic, building confidence in others, and inspiring others to take meaningful action.

Leadership and developing your executive presence, specifically, is a journey of personal transformation of:

  • who you are;
  • the kind of leader you are;
  • and the kind of leader you want to be

Considered the gold standard in the industry for many reasons, executive presence training is anchored in 30+ years of research and is grounded on understanding the neuroscience of the brain; recognizing that positive change comes with managing triggers, behaviours and your ability to self manage in situations to achieve excellent outcomes.

How to Develop Executive Presence

While developing your leadership is achieved through different methods, executive presence training is a key differentiator because it supports the growth of your courage, confidence, and strengthens your communication skills, builds empathy and enhances your active listening.

Individuals who develop executive presence influence their leadership strategy thus impacting their personal journey and building their capacity to seek opportunity and stand out among leaders.

So why is executive presence different and cited as the gold standard?

The impact stems from the personal development of an individual such that there is a great deal of self-reflection while building capacity and skills that develop a person in a fulsome way.

For example, when we think of great leaders, we associate humble confidence and the ability to project knowledge with credibility.

But, how do you gain credibility and confidence?

It comes with developing trust and making consistently good impressions.  This lasting impression on people is created through consistency in:

  • communication;
  • knowledge of your area of specialization;
  • being authentic,
  • lifting others

For example, when we think of leaders, we associate the ability to communicate effectively and powerfully and in doing so, that quiet confidence comes through.

However, this impression is more than words we use, it is how present we are and how we present (or how we show up) that supports and defines the impression we make.

For example, if you are speaking and moving back and forth, looking down, speaking in a monotone, fidgeting, with arms crossed, imagine the impression you make to an audience regardless of how well you know the material.

Executive presence training develops and teaches an individual to hone the skills to communicate effectively such that what you say and how you say speaks to and reflects your personal brand and the high value you bring as a person along with your knowledge and contributions.

Executive presence also develops leadership in individuals by empowering them to gain a greater understanding of the executive brain and its functionality; specifically, the individual’s triggers and how to manage them and the responses effectively.

The ability to hone and strengthen your interpersonal skills can help navigate work place politics and challenges critical to leadership success.

Benefits of Executive Presence Training

Leadership and those with executive presence are highly sought after.

Every organization wants excellent staff and colleagues who have leadership skills and potential, because these individuals will rise to the occasion, and help lead the organization in times of crisis in a way that instills trust, minimizes disruption and leverages strategic competencies.

Leaders do not just focus on results; leaders with executive presence build on their knowledge and leverage their credibility, confidence and excellent interpersonal skills to make a lasting and positive impression.

Executive Presence requires developing competencies and investment in yourself to empower and expand your career potential.

At Corporate Class Inc., our executive presence training in Toronto and across the globe is designed in such a way that reflection and practice become an integral part of your personal and professional development.

Change and a growth mindset happen when individuals seek to learn, invest in their leadership journey and open themselves up to becoming a better version of themselves. Like all great skills, it also comes with practicing what you learn.

Executive presence training is an investment in your current and future self; it is the gift that keeps on giving.

Why You Need Executive Presence Coaching

When you are present, confident, and reflective and lead with authenticity, you build your Executive Presence and these skills and experience are a game changer.

Diane Craig, President of Corporate Class Inc., emphasizes that, “to be crowned a leader, a person must be recognized as a leader. Our role is empowering people to lead. Executive presence is a blend of related parts that vary according to personality and circumstance. There is no formula; every client is unique. We ensure they evolve and develop their own authentic presence.”

As one aspiring leader and participant has shared, “through our discussions, I have much greater awareness and understanding of how my behaviors and impressions may hold me back from unlocking my potential as an executive. The approach is based on research and the latest thinking on executive presence. The advice has been truthful and direct, yet delivered in a kind way that helps me internalize it, remember it in the moment, and reach for different behaviors. There are certainly other vendors in this space, but I’d be surprised if their service came close to that offered by this high touch, highly effective team.”

Corporate Class Inc. conducts executive presence workshops around the world — from the Americas, to Europe and the Gulf.

CEO’s have endorsed our training and executive presence coaching because of its strong value proposition; “The investment I made with Corporate Class has helped me personally and increased my business exponentially. This program has reinforced the value we place on a work environment that is based on respect. Understanding and consideration for our internal and external clients. This training has also supported our employees in their career development, proving to be a great professional and personal investment for everyone who attended.”

Top business schools around the world recognize Executive Presence as critical to closing the gap between talent and exceptional leadership by finding your voice, developing the quiet confidence to navigate what comes your way, leveraging and maximizing your strengths,. Our client list speaks to the impact our programs have made on our patrons and their organizations around the world.

At Corporate Class Inc. our goal is to empower people to unlock their potential. Let us help you on your journey to empower yourself and others.

What Should Diversity and Inclusion in the Workplace Look Like?

“Diversity is counting the numbers, inclusion is making the numbers count.”

Take a pause and think about that for a minute. This is one of my favourite quotes and it comes from Harvard Professor Borys Groysberg.

Let’s be honest. Many organizations have embraced the ideas of diversity and inclusion in the workplace at some level and have D&I polices in place, along with employee resource groups. Some companies have even created new roles such as directors or officers who have oversight of D&I for the organization.

  • But what does diversity and inclusion really look like in an organization?
  • Who do these roles report to and where does the ultimate authority rest for making changes?
  • Are they just counting numbers or do the numbers really count?

McKinsey has published a number of reports on this topic. Most recently they found that,

“…the business case remains robust but also that the relationship between diversity on executive teams and the likelihood of financial out performance has strengthened over time. These findings emerge from our largest data set so far, encompassing 15 countries and more than 1,000 large companies.” Therefore, expanding the diversity of an organization may be linked to enhanced bottom lines and ROI.  Is this a result of causation or correlation? McKinsey found that, “Our 2019 analysis finds that companies in the top quartile for gender diversity on executive teams were 25 percent more likely to have above-average profitability than companies in the fourth quartile”.

This is not surprising given how global the world has become, immigration patterns and greater access to education. Simply a diverse talent pool exists – no question. Thus, any excellent organization that is looking to support and expand its offerings in the diverse and international marketplace needs to reflect, at the highest level of the organization, its consumer base and global outlook.

While the dial is moving slowly on diversity, inclusion remains a challenge for many organizations.

When assessing for inclusion through ‘social listening’, McKinsey found that organizations were failing.

As a D&I strategist, this is not surprising.  Organizations often lump diversity with inclusion but they are not the same.

So, how do organizations create more inclusive environments?

Let’s be clear – this requires commitment – and work – from all levels of leadership starting from the top. And (not but) the rewards are significant in organizational performance and in terms of perception.

Ensuring the leadership team is diverse, particularly in key roles within the organization, is important, ensuring accountability, transparency and openness in hiring processes and key decisions is also critical to inclusion. Addressing bias when it occurs and using opportunities as teaching moments to affect change is important all the while taking a multipronged approach to inclusion practices.  Organizations should tap into experts – external and internal to the organization – to help navigate this.

If diversity is counting the numbers and inclusion is making the numbers count, then embracing, supporting and celebrating our differences is perhaps what successful integration looks like.