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How to Drive a Culture of Commercial Excellence: Seven Tools for Effective Leaders


How to Drive a Culture of Commercial Excellence: Seven Tools for Effective Leaders

by David Bowman

Senior Consultant

I have no doubt that improving business performance is as much about behavioural change as it is about having a technical toolkit. High performing organisations strive for commercial excellence and understand that this requires cultural change not just a training intervention.

However, gathering colleagues in a room and trying to teach them commercial excellence is a recipe for failure. Rather they need to feel, taste and touch what it means to be making commercial decisions. Connecting business results to the decisions people take is a sure-fire way of creating and building a culture of commercial excellence.

If an organisation wants its people to have a more commercial outlook , it must create the conditions for them to be successful; an effective leader will make this cultural change a core element of the development of their team. To this end, there are seven activities the leader can engage in to instill a culture of commercial excellence:

Be a Translator

Create meaning by translating the high-level business strategy into clear aligned actions for the team. Take feedback from the team and interpret that and provide feedback to the senior leadership team. Demonstrate that people are being listened to.

Create a Vision

Give the team clarity on your vision. Divide it into what it means for customers, how the team is organised, the need for operational excellence and the expected bottom-line financials. Strive to find that link between the activity of the team and commercial outcomes. Communicate your vision, it needs to be aspirational, compelling and directional.

Bring the outside in

Encourage the team to look outside of their near environment and explore the far environment – what is happening in other businesses and other industries. Give them some simple but effective tools to help them analyse the world around them and the industry within which they operate.

Mind the gap

Provide the team with an honest assessment of the gap between your desired state (the vision) and actual state but be clear on how you are planning to close the gap by building capability in the team. Set the expectation that they will need to help you close the gap.

Be Consistent

Make sure what you say is aligned to what you role model which is in turn aligned to what you sanction and finally what you praise and reward. What you praise and reward is three time more powerful that what you say. Just because you say it does not mean people hear it.

Provide support

Remember you are there as leader to create the conditions for success and you need to ensure the team is ready to embrace a more commercially focused culture of excellence. Give them the opportunity to explore options and try things out in a safe environment. Using simulations is a great way to create a safe development space

Listen to the team

Allowing the team the opportunity to explore what it might feel like to operate in a more commercial way will in itself provide them with new insights in how they might operate. Encourage this thinking and build the outputs into your plan.

Creating a more commercially minded team is no easy task and is a significant challenge, but one that effective leaders embrace. To be successful, the leader will need to continuously challenge their thinking; the commercial world changes fast. They must give and ask for feedback constantly, create meaning for the team, be open and honest, continue to assess capability and direction of travel, and finally continue to embrace and be comfortable with change.

IDG have a suite of services designed to develop Commercial Excellence. Find out more here.

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