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Keep It Simple

by Neil Rosenbaum

I need to lose weight my wife tells me.  Is that hard or simple?  Well… it seems really hard, but in fact, it’s simple, reduce calories and expend more! Seems simple, but it is hard to achieve, isn’t it.

An entire industry, $192 Billion worth, has developed.  In my observation, my friends who stay routinely slim follow simple practices, don’t eat late at night, stay active, away from sweets and “unhealthy foods”.  However, we are surrounded by apps, books, cards, prepared meal deliveries, etc., etc, etc.

I think it’s the same with company mission and/or vision statements.  As you sit in a waiting room, or visit a web site it is amazingly common to read a company’s mission statement and likely feel it is:

“Blah Blah Blah”

It’s long, complicated, generalizing, aspirational vs. achieved, and most importantly, can’t be recited by team members.

On the other hand, there are some companies that:

  • Create a mission or vision that is consistent with how they operate and how senior leadership “walks the talk”.
  • Create a statement that is short and meaningful.
  • Is able to be easily and quickly remembered by teammates so they can think, speak and ACT it.

When Neil Goldberg worried that as his family’s furniture company moved to hyper-growth and expanded geographically the soul of the company, founded by his father and uncle, would be lost, he created:

“Enhance The Customer’s Shopping Experience”

Meeting all the above points allowed this simple statement to bring 5,000 associates together in a unified, simple direction that provided the answer to almost any question. “Which choice best enhances the customer’s shopping experience.” Period.

Martin Luther King brought together much of a generation as well as future generations with the simple speech beginning….”I have dream….”

Dave Casullo and I started Daneli Partners, as well as its sister company Rock City Development with a simple, singular mission, having both grown up in the Mohawk Valley:

“We believe that everyone has the power and potential to lead.”

Our belief is that to credibly teach leadership, we had to demonstrate leadership.  We call Rock City Development our “living laboratory”, as we have 8 businesses with close to 70 team members so that WE “walk the talk”.  Over the last 4 years of starting and growing the business, I have learned that there are some areas of business that many, many leaders and companies make very complicated that are essential to keep simple.

  • Provide a SAFE (physically and emotionally) environment for all who share the vision and live the mission
  • RESPECT differences in the skills and abilities and the potential in all
  • COMMUNICATE where the entity is, where it is going and what is needed, often
  • REWARD people as they learn and grow
  • DESIGN compensation to be simple and understandable so the individual’s goal is clear and unmistakeable
  • CREATE a visible, unique path for all who aspire to advance their careers
  • VALUE people as an important asset and give them valuable work to do

Mary Barra, President, CEO and Chairwoman of GM who has transformed the company gained notoriety when she did a stint in Human Resources.  Tasked with re-writing the employee dress code manual which needed to cover so many different environments, cultures, geographies, and languages she came up with.

“Dress Appropriately”

In my opinion, it all comes down to TRUST.  My belief is focusing on “hiring right” trusting your teammates intention and ability is magical in what can be accomplished.  The number of times that someone proves this wrong certainly needs to start a process of corrective action and potentially separation, but my experience and observations say that this will be the small exception.

Simple is hard. So keep it simple. Don’t over complicate things or you may be at risk of confusing – and losing – your most valuable resource… your people.

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