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Riddell: It all starts with talent

John Riddell
Not Business As Usual

In discussions with business managers and owners, it has always been a constant source of personal amazement how many of these folks confuse the terms “execution” with “direction.” It is almost as if there exists this belief that if “I say or direct it to be done, then it shall be done.”

As much as some managers might wish for this to be true, we all know that this is just plain silly. But it does beg the question as to why this false association continues to exist.

Managers and owners who fall victim to this simplistic notion and its accompanying frustration do so for a very simple reason. They simply do not accept or recognize the human component of managing. For an individual to consistently succeed or execute in a given situation a few requirements must be addressed.

First and foremost is the requirement for applicable talent or skills. Simply stated, does the individual have the requisite skills or talents to perform the expected task? So often a small business’ employees have to wear many hats. Yet it is the very rare employee upon whom a number of hats fit reasonably well.

“Today’s environment of ever changing customer requirements just does not lend itself to ‘same old, same old.’ Nothing will cause a talented employee to pursue other employment options faster than the frustration of having their talent wasted through an antiquated, stupid process.”

Said differently, someone who might be a whiz at inventory control might be absolutely horrendous at counter sales — great job of keeping down costs, lousy job of keeping up revenues. Think of a baseball team. If you have someone playing second base who can neither catch nor throw, you are not going to turn a lot of double plays. The basic skills for the task have to be present.

The second requirement, assuming a positive resolution to the skill issue, has to do with the process. Does the employee have the correct or optimum process to allow the skills to be best utilized for the benefit of the customer which directly translates into the best utilization for the company? Effective managers are always evaluating or questioning the business’s main processes. They are always looking for a simpler, more efficient process — a new “best practice.”

Many well intentioned managers get trapped into historical “best practices.” I say “trapped” because at one time these “best practices” may well have been “best.” But time and acceptable results can sometimes lull us into a false sense of security or complacency. We simply accept or believe that the way we are doing things is correct — if not the best, certainly acceptable, and not in need of changing. Today’s environment of ever changing customer requirements just does not lend itself to “same old, same old.” Nothing will cause a talented employee to pursue other employment options faster than the frustration of having their talent wasted through an antiquated, stupid process. Customer confrontation with misguided processes almost always results in dissatisfaction with a probable change in future business relationships.

The third component of execution is the ability to implement the process. This is where training comes in and is an integral part of any execution plan. Technology can provide a tremendous array of tools for new processes but most employees need some degree of training on the use of the new technology. We’ve all had experience with new counter clerks who are enthusiastic and polite only to witness their inability to operate the new cash register. On-going training and learning is an attribute of every organization that understands the meaning of sustainable success.

Finally, those same organizations that understand the meaning of sustainable success also understand that the single most effective tool they have for impacting employee execution is compensation. This topic, by itself, is of such importance that we will cover it in more detail in our next column.

Following a successful international business career, John Riddell turned his attention to small business/entrepreneurial pursuits that included corporate turn-arounds, start-ups, teaching, authoring business and sports columns and serving as VP for the Chattanooga Chamber of Commerce directing its Center for Entrepreneurial Growth.


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