Make those answers work

I’ve got a look to the July/August HBR (Harvard Business Review) Magazine while flying back to Mexico from a so briefly stay in San Francisco at the IDF 2014. One of the articles that drew most my attention was Maelle Gavet‘s one: “How We Did it… The CEO of Ozon on Building an e-Commerce Giant in a Cash-Only Economy” Maelle became the CEO at Ozon, a Russian e-Commerce Company, in 2011. Ozon has had to overcome several challenges in order to get its current success and this amazing yearly growth rate – compare to any other player in the retail market- and besides they could mostly related to a company that has been driven by its technology innovation, its most important difficulties has been connected to in-country issues related to Russian customers’ payment conditions and behaviors, that has made Ozon to focus on getting the control directly at their customer’s doors. The other important issue that they have faced was the lack of a reliable delivery service in the country.

make your answers work - leadership - a chain stronger weakest link

I invite you to read it and discover more details about this in-country difficulties and how Ozon has solved each one of them. The point of this note will be regarded how culture could make a big difference between know what is the problem and exactly what to do; and get the team that could consistently work into the solution executing every required task that they were asked.

Maelle is ending her note telling something that make me laugh in silence (In silence in order to not disturb the rest of the passengers): “Our clients already had the answers; what they wanted some kind of structure to make those answers work”. It’s the sentence that perfectly describes my continuous thoughts today.

How can we get better results base on building a culture of people highly committed to our cause. We know exactly where the challenges are, and the way to reach them. But the question is, is my team already prepared to face this new step on our path? Maelle has told something really relevant as the starting point before think to communicate your strategy: “You won’t win in a competitive marketplace unless you have people who loves their jobs and want to give their very best”.

You don’t need to be a magician to notice there will be people more engaged with your plans than others. If you are smarter enough and during your team’s meetings you ask each one of the attendees about what he/she is thinking about it, you will notice at this very moment if he/she is really excited to start on it or he/she is feeling this is just other meeting like thousands.

You can be leading people that have been at the company for years, but age don’t exactly is a sign of commitment, they could find the status quo into their desks months or years ago. You can try several times to change their attitude changing their habits or applying more pressure on them. However, there is a moment that they will be overpassed by new talented guys with more hungry to grow and to show what they are made of. This is hard, yes it is… but today’s market conditions and customer demands make you continuously change your daily plans and objectives.

A common pattern is coming up among these today’s successfully companies: meritocracy. If your employment conditions and culture helps you to push harder the concept of meritocracy, there is a better chance that you will get a better success to inject the DNA of agility and innovation into your team members, and I am pretty sure that it will pay you back with better growth rates and a better services to your customers.

Maelle has mentioned that “customers have alternatives, companies don’t”. And this is damned right! You have to ensure that any of your employees is bringing the best service to all your customers, no matters if this is a guy that is only receiving calls to dispatch them to any specialist later, if he’s ambitious and committed enough, he can learn, get more training and reach whatever position he deserves at the company. The thing is: does he really know that? And us, as leaders, we have to be really sure that they are warned about all opportunities they have in the company.

A phrase is coming up at my mind: “A chain is only as strong as its weakest link” or maybe we can modify it into: “we are as strong as our weakest element in the team” – Sorry, I don’t know who need to be referenced for the first sentence –

Well folks, see you around!

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