Defeat the temptation of the Silver Bullet

Temptation: it always seems like a good idea at the time

Many leaders I meet are searching for a silver bullet.Feeling pressure to improve performance, they look too quickly to the outside for answers—shuffling their management teams, buying and selling businesses, putting their faith in new technological wizardry—in the hope that a quick fix or dramatic gesture will magically solve their problems.

But Silver Bullets are a risky temptation. Do you recognise any of these scenarios?

  • The ‘Rockstar’ Hire. They arrive with a fanfare and a burnished track record. They race in to rearrange the deckchairs. They fail to appreciate the existing talent, teamwork and achievements of their new colleagues. Their mantra is, “When I was at Google/Apple/Amazon/______ (fill in the blank) we did this.” Research shows that these Rockstar Hires often disappoint, mainly because their previous success, though real, was based on all the things they’re now ignoring: teamwork, supportive relationships and talented colleagues.
  • The Acquisition. It’s easy for bosses to find themselves sequestered in the corner office with only their bankers to talk to. There, they lose touch with the actual business – with their employees and customers. Their world is reduced to a bunch of spreadsheets. And so the answer to the question, “How do I grow?” is naturally, “Do a deal. Buy something.” It’s exciting to be a deal-maker! But once you’ve bought a business, you have to integrate it. And to do that, you better know a lot about the strangers you call your employees and your customers.
  • The New IT System. How many times have you heard someone say that the answer to the company’s challenges is a new Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system, or a new Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system? To listen to the proponents of these systems you would think getting the thing set up will be a breeze, after which everyone will enthusiastically embrace their changed work routines, leading to guaranteed success. But it never seems to go as smoothly in practice.

Truth is, these supposed Silver Bullets very often fail. In fact, ‘rockstar’ hires, mergers & acquisitions and showcase IT projects are among the highest-risk things business leaders can do.

How it works in football

I was talking about all this with Paul Faulkner, CEO of Greater Birmingham Chambers of Commerce (GBCC) – under his leadership it’s become the fastest-growing Chamber in the country.

Paul’s previous roles include being Chief Executive at both Aston Villa and Nottingham Forest Football Clubs. When I mentioned the idea of Rockstar hires, he started laughing. He told me about the many times he’d been promised that dramatic new results were just one more new star player away! Of course a star player can be a huge asset, but investing in the best striker in the world won’t do you any good if the rest of the team isn’t supplying the ball.

The same applies in business and that’s why I so often emphasise starting with what you have. Work on your existing team first, and then you’ll really benefit from additional resources (and you may even find you don’t need them).

Don’t succumb to temptation – do this instead

Paul and I decided that it would be great to bring this kind of thinking to his members at the Chamber, so we put together the following report:
Multiplying Value – Improving the Productivity of Your People and Your Business Using What You’ve Already Got.

The report provides five key ideas for low-risk, low-cost growth using resources you have already:

  1. Delegate a mission, not the task
  2. Don’t impose ‘solutions’: Enable people to create their own improvements
  3. Set ‘impossible but fun’ challenges
  4. Tap into what people know but haven’t been asked
  5. Repackage what you already have

A feature I’m particularly pleased with is a collection of seven inspiring case studies from GBCC member firms. While it’s great hearing examples from the usual suspects – Amazon, Google, Apple etc – it can be even more powerful hearing about relatable local success stories. We assembled a fascinating bunch of examples, from corporates, professional services firms and SMEs, in a range of sectors.

Beware the temptations of the Silver Bullets! Instead, here are real, workable ideas that any business can use quickly.

DOWNLOAD THE REPORT: Multiplying Value – Improving the Productivity of Your People and Your Business Using What You’ve Already Got.

To chat about how these ideas apply to your business’s growth, call me on 0121 313 3594 or reply to this email.

A word from Paul Faulkner

We have published this report with Andy as a tool for businesses looking to boost their productivity, unlock the full potential of their people and ultimately, raise their bottom line. It’s also a showcase of how Greater Birmingham businesses, of all sizes and from a range of sectors, are at the forefront of best practice leadership and people management.

In these pages, we look at five key ways you can multiply value by improving the productivity of your people and your business using what you’ve already got. Each key is illustrated by case studies from Chamber members that have already inspired us. We hope they will inspire you.

Paul Faulkner
CEO, Greater Birmingham Chambers of Commerce