Dr. Simon writes, “At several of our recent workshops, we have heard a groan coming from CEOs about how much harder it is to grow than it was to fire people and shrink expenses. It didn’t matter if these decision-makers were in the residential real estate business and were seeing more people get their licenses than over the past four years put together, were growing their logistics business, or finding new markets for their events and trade shows. Some CEOs were dealing with roll-ups and consolidations; others considering acquisitions. But the uncertainties of the past few years had taken their toll and the stresses of making the right choice was creating real pain.”
Growth is full of the paradox of choice, she says, and that makes formulating a growth strategy particularly challenging. “If you have not read Bernard Schwartz’s book by the same name—Paradox of Choice—you should put it on your summer reading list,” she advises. “Dr. Schwartz will help you better understand this paradox you are facing and maybe how to at least understand it, if not deal with it.”
What Dr. Simon heard clearly from audiences was the pain associated with having to make a choice (a strategic move) to grow their businesses, and having too many options in front of them. They know what they knew, but the times have changed, and applying what used to work may, or may not, be suitable for this new period of growth. Universally, they were all happier when all they had to do was cut services or eliminate staff.
She found three recurring issues confronting these CEOs:
- Who to hire? “There were so many resumes and every time my HR hired someone they were the wrong fit,” she heard repeatedly. These business leaders knew they should be bringing in new blood and finding ways to encourage their ideas and test their different ways of getting things done. But the young had grown up digital and they thought about business problems in different ways. While that could add real power to a company it also created the tensions that came with change, difference and choice.
- What to focus on? Should they focus on what they knew and did before, such as sales promotions and old distribution channels; or was it better to refocus on what was coming, that might be unclear and made them uncomfortable. The paradox of choice was a real problem here because the old was not necessarily the even possible for the future. But the new required new skills, new ideas and new ways of doing things for new customers or old customers with new needs. Change, as we know, is just pain. So pushing yourself into areas that are unfamiliar is very challenging.
- Third was risk. Risk aversion is common. But in changing times, not trying things is as much risk as doing the wrong things. Was the company ready to create a testing mentality and reward risk-taking but manage it carefully? Without rethinking risk/rewards, people are unable to see what is before them and think in new ways. If this is stopping your company’s growth, and even your own personal growth, you should pause and think through how you are enabling risk taking and rewarding those who are willing to try new things, develop new ways of doing them and feel comfortable providing the data to sustain the new or redirect it in other directions—as long as it isn’t back to the past. In some ways you are once again seeing the world as if you are an entrepreneur.
To read Andrea’s blog in its entirety on Executive Street, click here.