Better Profits With A Sense Of Urgency

Many food processors need to create a sense of urgency in their companies to survive with today’s tighter consumer spending — urgency to meet goals, to satisfy customers, and to improve productivity. The inertia of business as usual is no longer an option as a flood of bad economic news washes over all segments of the prepared foods industry, and maybe you.

Many food processors need to create a sense of urgency in their companies to survive with today’s tighter consumer spending — urgency to meet goals, to satisfy customers, and to improve productivity. The inertia of business as usual is no longer an option as a flood of bad economic news washes over all segments of the prepared foods industry, and maybe you.

Oftentimes, creating a sense of urgency means the key executives of a food processor — especially a smaller one — need to develop a stronger leadership system so they can focus on key company goals, instill in their subordinate managers a desire to do their utmost to reach those goals, and overcome organizational inertia before the status quo turns into status woe.

A performance coach can help executives in smaller food processors make these changes quickly.

What is a performance coach A performance coach is a seasoned executive who understands food processing, the organizational dynamics of smaller companies where single managers juggle multiple tasks, the difficulties an executive has in focusing on his company’s key goals while delegating less important matters, and who can advise him how to re-energize his workforce — from direct reports on down. In short, he can help rid a company of inertia.

What is inertia? Inertia is “business as usual” — an acceptance of the status quo that tolerates mid-management excuses rather than reasons for not achieving goals. Inertia can be overcome with a formal compensation system that rewards managers based on their results and with an informal communications effort that motivates them to work together to achieve overall company goals. Most importantly, inertia can be overcome when an executive or owner of a food processor is taught to focus on the “big picture” — the goals his company must meet if it to be successful — and help his subordinates achieve their parts in making the big picture a reality rather than a dream. According to management guru Peter Drucker, “Inertia in management is responsible for more loss of marketshare, more loss of competitive position, and more loss of business growth than any other factor. (Drucker, Peter, Managing for the Future: the 1990’s)

What is leadership? Leadership is the ability to discern what needs to be done, what goals must be met, and how to motivate associates and subordinates to make those needs and goals their own priorities. Leadership is not to be confused with affability, nor, perhaps, with setting goals through consensus. While the need for mutual support and teamwork is clear, so are ambitious goals. Every business needs a leader to set the goals for his company. Although a company must operate as a team, every team needs a leader, and everybody on a team must cooperate to reach the ambitious goals he sets.

A leader has a strong internal drive to improve both personally and organizationally, and a dissatisfaction with any performance short of that. His leadership inspires subordinates to do the same. Leadership is not the result of consensus, does not necessarily produce popularity, but does generate a sense of achievement. My experience suggests exerting such leadership is not as simple as it sounds.

What often really happens Despite their honest belief that they strive to improve results, many prepared foods executives accept substandard results because they are reluctant to upset anybody by insisting on better performance. In today’s economy, many executives ask how they can do a better job of managing their organizations to create the urgency they want. They ask how they can motivate subordinates to exert the extra effort needed to fulfill their individual objectives, so they themselves can focus on the “big picture” — the overall goals their company needs to reach to survive, and perhaps even to prosper, in the current recession.

There are several reasons why executives find a performance coach helpful in answering these questions, and solving these problems. First, most executives and managers in smaller companies wear many hats, and are busy doing a multitude of tasks. It takes a management system to enable them to back away from details and prevent subordinate managers from “delegating upwards” responsibilities they are reluctant to undertake. Second, many owner/executives have grown their companies because they have excelled in a particular activity, be it marketing, sales, finance, or production. They cling to the matters with which they are most familiar.

The top executive is responsible for everything in a growing food processor. Even with the many hats he wears, the long hours he works, he sometimes is reluctant to let go of the details of the activities with which he is comfortable and familiar. Just where to best spend an advertising budget, or just how to use “cents-off” coupons to appeal to tight-fisted consumers wild for “organic” foods are no longer his jobs. Those are for subordinates.

Many entrepreneurs are uncomfortable taking the jump from handling familiar details to the unfamiliarity of dealing with the “big picture.” They are unfamiliar with asking, “Does doing X help us meet our key goals?” And they are uncomfortable with the question, “Just how are my subordinate managers helping us reach our key goals?”

How to do it Creating a sense of urgency in meeting company goals is often accomplished both formally and informally.

Formally, it first requires a system to ensure managers understand what their goals are, and confirms for him that his managers understand what is expected of them. Second, it requires a system of aligning individual rewards to individual results. This means gathering and reviewing operating statistics, i.e. just how managers are doing with regard to their goals. And finally, it requires a feedback mechanism so that managers are constantly aware of the progress they are making towards their goals.

Informally, creating a sense of urgency requires constant discussion with and listening to subordinates on both an individual and group basis. This interplay puts everybody on the same page and aware of any problems. It involves give-and-take discussions and sending informal signals to subordinates in order to create an environment that makes managers want to work together to achieve overall company goals.

How a performance coach can help a busy executive Most food processors face consumers now seeking value as they stretch their grocery dollars. Executives of the most successful processors use performance coaches to take the following steps:

Help them focus their own individual efforts in defining their company’s key objectives and then developing a system to monitor how well subordinate managers do in reaching those objectives. Show their managers and supervisors how to improve their own effectiveness by teaching them how to focus their time on those activities that contribute the most in reaching their individual goals. Develop feedback mechanisms to inform managers of the company’s progress in meeting overall objectives, and the managers’ own progress in meeting their parts of those objectives. Tie managerial and supervisory compensation to their progress in attaining their individual goals which further the company’s key objectives. Improve worker productivity through motivational tools including innovative pay-for-performance compensation programs.

In today’s down markets, most consumers are roaming the aisles of their grocery stores looking for bargains. Only the most innovative food processors — the ones with the lowest prices — will survive. Perhaps a Performance Coach can help your company be one of them.

Dr. Woodruff Imberman is President of Imberman and DeForest, Inc., management consultants based in Evanston, IL. His firm specializes in improving managerial effectiveness, supervisory training, productivity improvement, and performance based pay systems. He may be contacted at [email protected], or PH: 847-733-0071.