Archive for April, 2014

Mandat Growth Tip of the Day: Self-Investment

Wednesday, April 30th, 2014

What investments in yourself will you make this year? Yes, your heard correctly. As an entrepreneur, a CEO, a board member, or a senior executive, you are accustomed to making investment decisions and seeing them through. At the same time, I observe that investments in yourself usually fall significantly short of the mark.

What developments for yourself will you put into effect this year? Toward that end, what time- and financial resources will you mobilize? It should be obvious that further development doesn’t somehow happen by itself. Bottom line: What are you going to do in terms of personal development? What investments are you going to make in your most important resource – in yourself.

© 2014, Prof. Dr. Guido Quelle, Mandat Consulting Group, Dortmund, London, New York. All rights reserved.

Urgently Wanted: “We”-Awareness and “I”-Awareness

Monday, April 28th, 2014

Does the clamor for an ever-larger role for government make you stop and think? Does it not increasingly bother you that “freedom” seems to have steadily less importance in the constellation of core values. It does me. Time and again, you hear that “the politicians,” “the state,” “the government, “the economy,” or simply “all of the above” are doing something wrong and that you can’t put it right, in any case. On the other hand, insofar there is a demand for public services, more is asked of the state. Those ideas are incompatible.

I’m looking for more “we”-awareness. We are the state. We elect the politicians. We determine who the government will be. And – that’s right – we are also “the economy.” We should challenge this instead of continuing to ignore it. We should become more involved in order to call attention to our particular issues. Beyond that, we should go a step further and recover that much sought-after “I”-awareness, because each and every one of us has considerably more room for maneuver than most of us seem to believe. “When seeking a helping hand, look no farther than the end of your arm,” goes the saying. How true.

© 2014, Prof. Dr. Guido Quelle, Mandat Consulting Group, Dortmund, London, New York. All rights reserved.

Guido’s Personal View: Official Warning of Wind Gusts

Friday, April 25th, 2014

Nowadays, since the arrival of weather apps, “official warnings” are on the rise. It seems that every other day during the fall, we are officially warned of wind gusts. Such as: “There are wind gusts up to 40 mph.” I can’t remember having so many warnings of gusting winds, and I don’t think it’s because forecasting tools have improved. I’m also not talking about squalls, hurricane-force winds or more serious events. Just wind gusts. A brief gust of 40 mph might unsettle a sailor. In a city, on the other hand, it could simply be taken note of.

Increasingly, we are being deprived of our self-reliance. At night, people stop when the walk light is red, even though no vehicle is to be seen, and none is likely to come along anytime soon. We are warned of the absence of handrails on forest paths. Did your car conk out on you? We warned you. In the meantime, we have become accustomed to seeing a “hot” warning on every take-out cup of coffee. Really? As hot as all that? I’d rather have mine cold. “Caution: Cold!”

There is a notice, in the form or a pictograph attached to our RV, that’s supposed to save us from getting under way with the blackout curtain blocking the windshield and the front side-windows. Too bad. I’ve always wanted to try that. Flying blind in a six-wheeler. You can’t do anything these days.

Enough of sarcasm. We can do a lot in our businesses. First and foremost, we can encourage our employees to improve their judgment, to gain experience – which lead to their becoming more confident in every situation they may encounter. In the wake of this loss of self-reliance, we can – and should – have a different slogan: “Caution, independent-minded citizens.” That would also make a nice sign.

© 2014, Prof. Dr. Guido Quelle, Mandat Consulting Group, Dortmund, London, New York. All rights reserved.

Sustainability – Too Often Misunderstood

Thursday, April 24th, 2014

As proponents of profitable growth that rests on several pillars, we at Mandat are accustomed to having disputes with so-called growth critics. We are glad to do it. As is well known, whenever slogans become a kind of shorthand, a threat of undue polarization arises. It is not a pretty sight when this happens intentionally, because then, sometimes, deceitfulness or at least some (usually ideologically-influenced) agenda may be in play.

It’s the same with sustainability. Unjustifiably, vested interests time and again see sustainability only in terms of ecology. If you want to act sustainably, you must act ecologically. It is often arbitrarily suggested that doing so is not only necessary, but sufficient.

But that is by no means the case. Sustainability and sustainable behavior have several aspects, just as profitable growth, as we understand it, has several facets. We call this “multidimensional.” If you really want to act sustainably, then also consider social and economic aspects alongside the ecological. Only with this triad of the ecological, the social, and the economic does sustainability become whole. Forcing things into an ecological-corner without considering social and economic factors leads us astray.

Whoever might insinuate this is the perspective of a management consultant, who merely wants to see the economic aspects accommodated somewhere, might also ask the World Wildlife Fund (WWF). Dr. Dirk Reinsberg, director of marketing for the WWF, fully illustrated these very three aspects of sustainability at the 9th International Brands Colloquium, giving participants plenty of topics for discussion in the process.

The lesson: Before we employ slogans, we should examine what’s behind them.

© 2014, Prof. Dr. Guido Quelle, Mandat Consulting Group, Dortmund, London, New York. All rights reserved.

Mandat Growth Tip of the Day: Three Goals, Not Ten

Wednesday, April 23rd, 2014

What have you resolved to do in 2014? What won’t get done?

Here is my advice, which works beautifully: From your presumably numerous goals, pick the three most important ones and write them on your office flip chart (You don’t have one? Then it’s high time.), or in your calendar, or enter them into your smart phone. Or hang the three goals on the wall. Whatever. What’s important is that you always keep in mind the three (not ten, five, seven) of them.

For each of them, ask yourself: What am I doing right now to reach this goal? How much I am putting into it? If the answer is “nothing,” then why bother with the goal at all? Don’t tell yourself that it’s beyond your control; that’s a sorry excuse.

Three goals, not ten. Give it a try. Come the end of 2014, you’ll reap the rewards.

© 2014, Prof. Dr. Guido Quelle, Mandat Consulting Group, Dortmund, London, New York. All rights reserved.

The Absurdity of External Motivation

Monday, April 21st, 2014

The chatter about external motivation never stops. We’ll try to remedy that here: Motivation from the outside is neither possible nor necessary. Executives should inspire, not motivate. They should discover and develop talent, and not stage a walking-on-hot-coals kind of theater. Employees are highly motivated when they start a job. Take pains to see that they remain so.

And the talk – I nearly called it “blather” – about lazy youngsters or young adults, who only want to have fun and not to accomplish anything, can’t be allowed to stand. As a professor at the SRH College for Logistics and the Economy in Hamm, Germany, I am really quite close to young adults and their level of performance – which every now and then, I see as right noteworthy. First, you don’t get good grades from me as a gift. Second, I don’t give them for rote learning. And yet, consistently there are students who have earned a well-justified “A” from me. That comes only through internal motivation, which is where achievement originates.

Instead, let’s seek out talent, help it to find itself, and give it the structure it needs to achieve excellence. Is everyone willing to do that? No, but we can change those people only to a very limited extent. First and foremost, this is not about “motivation.” That’s too trivial.

© 2014, Prof. Dr. Guido Quelle, Mandat Consulting Group, Dortmund, London, New York. All rights reserved.

The Roper

Thursday, April 17th, 2014

Not long ago, I watched a roper at work. In the traditional way, the roper stretched “threads” into his – hand-operated – machine and twisted these threads together in a certain way to become a strong, rugged, durable hemp rope. Various hand operations were still needed to really complete the whole thing, and from the individual components emerged a product that would be suitable for a specific purpose.

Much like the roper performs his work, we in business must see to it that our issues mesh together. Which individual components can be effectively combined into a durable whole? In what way does splicing things together make sense? Dozens of projects running in parallel make no sense if they can’t be tied together in some way. The implementation of a growth strategy consists of many parallel strands which, at some point, must be brought together into a strong, durable rope.

In our work, we often act like the roper: We see the strands, lay them side by side and, with our clients in place, twist the strands n such a way as to meld them all together.

© 2014, Prof. Dr. Guido Quelle, Mandat Consulting Group, Dortmund, London, New York. All rights reserved.

Mandat Growth Tip of the Day: Relationships

Wednesday, April 16th, 2014

Relationships are crucial to business. It’s not price, product quality, or any other such factual elements that are at issue. We would all rather purchase something from someone we like than from someone we don’t. We have long-standing business partners with whom we share a history and with whom we have a good relationship. Sometimes we lose sight of those to whom we have no such connection, or with whom we no longer have contact.

Two things make a good relationship: a) trust, and b) respect for one another. Trust is a function of investment and time Investment, because a leap of faith is required at the beginning of a relationship; and time, because trust doesn’t accelerate from zero to 60 in an instant. Thus, investment needs to be part of your time line. Respect is a matter of dealing with each other constructively, even if that means constructive criticism. Yes-men get no respect. Perpetual naysayers get neither trust nor respect.

Find the balance. But don’t try to convince someone of the advantages of a product or service when there is no relationship between you. It won’t work.

© 2014, Prof. Dr. Guido Quelle, Mandat Consulting Group, Dortmund, London, New York. All rights reserved.

Mandat Growth Tip of the Day: Question the Conventional

Monday, April 14th, 2014
  • A prospective client while discussing a project with me: “You’ll be implementing our process for change?” – Me: “No, YOU do that.”
  • The CEO of a company on the evening before a retreat to discuss strategy: “So, we’re to have you lead us in this.” – Me: “I haven’t brought an agenda with me. We’ll be discussing strategy.”
  • A client we’re coaching: “At some point, I need two hours of your time.” – Me: “Why two hours? We can talk, but we don’t necessarily need two hours.”

New understanding regularly emerges from the three foregoing examples. The client is of course responsible for implementing change; otherwise such a project cannot succeed. A strategizing retreat with a strict agenda is no strategizing retreat at all, and two hours quickly become 20 minutes when someone with the right experience asks the right questions.

Too readily do we accept what is. Too often, what always has been drives the next step. Too rarely do we question the conventional and create something genuinely new. Deliberately question the conventional. If you do so systematically, you’ll see that, little by little, growth will take place.

© 2014, Prof. Dr. Guido Quelle, Mandat Consulting Group, Dortmund, London, New York. All rights reserved.

How Strategically Are You Thinking?

Friday, April 11th, 2014

Fortunately, the number of people who think that “strategy” is pure hokum – this was until a few years ago still the well-established view, especially among medium-size companies – has waned significantly. We hear much more often that you have to think “strategically.” Indeed, the concept sometimes suffers from overuse.

To think strategically means much more than grappling with the competition and your own products. To think strategically also means grappling with global developments, changes in social values, and technological trends, to name only three dimensions.

  • How much does it influence your strategy that women are increasingly found in more responsible positions of leadership?
  • With respect to your strategy, what about the change in values as seen in the acceptance of diminished privacy ?
  • Or with increased purchasing power in far-away countries?
  • How is the dramatic decline in the price of technology affecting your strategy – as of late, for example, a small 3-D printer can be had for $830.

I could ask dozens of additional questions. And indeed, that’s what I do in retreats with our clients. At such times, we have fruitful exchanges about such things and discuss various assumptions and their implications

Do you think that all of this doesn’t impinge on your strategy, that you would rather stick to your local knitting? Fine. But don’t be surprised if you are overtaken at the speed of light by those who systematically pose these questions – as well as others like them – as they manage their businesses. Do the answers to questions like these always have immediate implications? No, but they immediately take the business to a new realm of thought. You may very well be minding the store. But in the medium term, it might be the wrong store.

© 2014, Prof. Dr. Guido Quelle, Mandat Consulting Group, Dortmund, London, New York. All rights reserved.