2020 Summit Special: Positive leadership for post covid strength with Verne Harnish
It was an absolute pleasure to have, world-renowned business growth guru and author of best-selling books, The Rockefeller Habits and Scaling Up: How a Few Companies Make It…and Why the Rest Don’t, at the Summit at Foundry Farm. He joined Dominic Monkhouse for a discussion of the latest trends he has noticed in scaling businesses and leadership teams.
Verne’s talk at the Summit feels very timely. It was recorded back when the sun was still shining in September and when a “second wave” was on the horizon. Since then, most of the UK has been back into some form of a lockdown or another. Verne’s knowledge feels just as on-point as ever, so we are ecstatic to be bringing his conversation with CEOs at the Summit, to The Melting Pot. For obvious reasons, Verne was not able to make it to the farm back then, but – lucky for us – he was happy to beam in from Boulder, Colorado.
His intervention is littered with informed examples from top companies, and full of realistic optimism. He highlights the need for businesses to be brave enough to make the best of their circumstances – “to plan for the worst, but more importantly, to hope for the best”. For Verne, leadership is key to this. Leaders like those he works with, and like those that came to the Summit, need to use their own mindsets to inspire their teams. He quotes Greg Brenneman in saying “great leaders absorb fear and exude hope”.
In this episode
Scaling Up expert, Verne Harnish, lays out his key hacks to lead through a crisis:
- Mindset “planning for the worst but hoping for the best”.
- CEO communication is key – your team needs to be up to date with what’s in your head.
- Sales when you’re sailing against the wind. Why you need to drive all communication through synchronous communication.
- The most powerful question a leader can learn: “that’s fantastic… how did you do it?”.
- Strategy tips for right now.
- Execution tips and why “if your job as a company is to make the lives of others easy, then your job as a leader is to make your employees lives and jobs easy”.
Verne Harnish’s advice on positive leadership for post covid strength
Positive, powerful communication
Verne urges leaders to take an optimistic approach to planning in changing situations. They should focus on building empowered, open-minded teams, look to “plan for the worst, but hope for the best”. To lead well, they must position teams to look for opportunities to; innovate, grow into, and make the best of changing spaces.
Central to this is also the idea that the CEO needs to be constantly in touch with the leadership team. Sounds simple, but is so often understated, says Verne. He discusses the weekly communications used by the likes of business giants, Facebook, and the strategies used by his own team to keep track of the thought processes of the leadership. Having a central communication like his weekly newsletter, Where’s Verne, is paramount for business leaders to keep the whole company on the same page. Building company culture through engagement, but also by allowing the CEO to process ideas outside of their own head.
Synchronous communication to never miss an opportunity
For Verne, staying in touch is a foundation that needs to carry over to your sales teams and customer communication. Communication has always been key. But, how often do you actually sit back and look at the amount of time your customers have of your attention? Verne argues that now is the perfect time to look at this process. He believes you should never allow a proposal to go out on an email, without a human there to help the prospect through. He has also found that companies land big contracts by never leaving customer queries to be answered by email. It’s more beneficial for you, and more efficient in the long run to immediately organise a call.
Improve your praise and facilitate learning
One of the biggest mistakes leaders can make is blindly thanking a successful team. This is a huge missed opportunity, according to Verne. Instead, take advantage of the fact that people learn better, and appreciate praise more, when it comes from their peers. So, next time your team has a great success, or your new sales guy lands the deal, use what Verne describes as “the most powerful question I’ve learned as a leader: ‘That’s fantastic… how did you do it?’” Have them explain in front of the team so they are listened to, and make sure you sit back and listen as well.
Scaling up or forward to be well-positioned post-pandemic
Leaders have to take advantage of all opportunities and make their own at this time. Verne says that now is the time to reach out to and make the most of your relationships. They need to make sure they are surrounded by the best customers and the best talent. Leaders need to actively assess their current positions to be able to make the most of their current situations.
They should also be on the lookout for new opportunities; the strongest leaders will be thinking about where there might be “a new category you can pioneer coming out of this crisis?”, says Verne. You should be looking to emerge in the strongest way possible for Spring, by tightening up processes and getting prepared for growth. Even if you are not actively expanding as a business right now. Verne believes you should be taking steps to improve your overall standpoint, constantly and inexpensively; “if your job as a company is to make the lives of others easy, your job as a leader is to make your employees lives and jobs easy”. You should always be searching for ways to improve even if that does not necessarily mean expanding or investing right now, you should still strive to scale forward.
- Beat the Crisis, by Hermann Simon – particularly chapter 6.
- Good, better, best pricing, in the Harvard Business Review.