Defining Leadership

From Success to Significance: How to Develop your Business Strategy by Defining your Core Essence

Bea Fields and Corey Blake asked:

In your business and in your life, intentional growth takes effort and focus. Sure, you may have a so-called business plan or even personal goals. You may even have them in writing. Moving from ideal to action, though, takes very specific attention to three areas of detail. Here’s where some people get lost when they decide to skirt territory that may seem a bit touchy-feely. Don’t be fooled. Defining and addressing your Core Values, Core Essence, and Core Business is not for the faint of heart. Doing so and being consistent about it demands the very best you’ve got to offer. It takes grit and guts and, yes…heart.

To address these three areas, you need to first understand what they are and what they mean to you and to building work that you love, which is integral to who you are and the way you conduct not only your work but also your life.

1) Core Values

What do your clients expect from you? How do your employees fit into the grand scheme of your business? How do you implement a strategic plan? The answer to any of those questions rests on your core values. These values are the guiding principles that help you make decisions on a daily basis and define what you stand for as a company. They are the essential, enduring tenets on which you stand. You can spend a lot of time haggling over what they are, but that what really matters is that you have them and that you allow them to guide you. Walt Disney’s core values, for example, were imagination and wholesomeness. It’s easy to see how they continue to play out.

2) Core Essence:

What is it about you that remains consistent through fads and changes in public demand that determine where your product or service line is headed? Beneath it all, there is a thread of consistency. That consistency is your essence, steadfast and true. You may think of it as the combination of your core values and your purpose.

3) Core Business

Quite simply, it’s the thing that you do best. Your company may do a lot of things, but it probably does one thing better than all of the others. Coca Cola, for instance, makes all different kinds of soft drinks, but good old Coke is an undeniable classic and without it, the company would probably not survive.

Address the Questions: Getting to your essence is a simple concept, but you’ll have to take an intentional path. Addressing these seven specific questions will make the journey quicker and more fun.

1. If you had to dump all of your products and services with the exception of the one that is most important to the sustainability of your business, which one would you keep and why?

In answering this question, don’t confuse what is most important to you with what is simply a comfortable habit. Frequently, growth is uncomfortable for a time. Go with that feeling and you’ll reward yourself later with tangible results.

2. Your best customer has just called you and told you that they are switching to your competitor. Why would someone choose your competitor over you?

Ouch. That’s a tough question. Maybe you honestly don’t know the answer or maybe you’re not even sure who or what your competition is. If so, take the opportunity to find out who else is out there and what edge they might have that you could learn from.

3. What is the one thing that you stand for so much that you are willing to lose customers and strategic partners for it?

When you know the answer to this question, your team and employees will intrinsically know it as well. Your actions do speak louder than your words, but words don’t hurt either. Don’t be afraid to speak your truth; let it speak in your advertising, your marketing, and all of your communications.

4. When you are gone, what is the one thing about you and your business that people will remember and talk about?

We all have the power to inspire and empower people. Before we can do that, we need to think about the kind of legacy that we want to leave. Be intentional about creating the kind of person, the kind of life that you want to be remembered for. If you want people to think of you as a compassionate, empowering leader, before your feet hit the floor every day, decide to take the actions that define you as such.

5. What does a company or individual gain by doing business with you that they cannot get anywhere else?

Don’t underestimate yourself and assume that other people or businesses are driven by the same values that drive you. They may use strategies that seem to speak your language, but take a deeper look at what drives them compared to what drives you. Again, it comes to intentions. Focus on what is unique and passionate about your business and your 3-5 core values.

6. Your biggest fan has to deliver a 30-second commercial about your business. What would this fan tell the 10 million viewers about you?

You’d be surprised at how people perceive you. Think long and hard about how your actions-the things that you do day in and day out-speak for you and how people respond to what you say and do. Perhaps engage your team in an exercise where each of you writes this commercial for another team member. This engaging activity will hold a mirror to the workings of your team.

7. Your closest colleague bursts into your office and says, “I’ve got the best news about your business and the worst news about your business!” What would those be?

The answers to that will be tied into what is most important to you and your business. What’s the best thing that could happen? What’s the worst thing that could happen? What would emotionally cripple you or your company? What would most empower you or your company?

When you know who you are, what you stand for, why you do what you do, and how to best accomplish it all with consistency, the sky is the limit. But don’t fool yourself. This kind of confidence is not a state of being. It’s a state of constantly becoming; intentionally becoming, every day, the kind of leader at home and at work who inspires and touches lives at every turn.

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