Your 7-step plan to gaining a competitive advantage

Is it just me or does it seem that today’s business is more competitive and difficult than it used to be? One year you’re dominating the marketplace, the next you are looking for answers. Too often, companies find that what worked in the past is no longer effective. Leadership has no idea how to fix things.

That is when it is time to use proven techniques to gain a competitive advantage. Identify the root causes of your problems and put an action plan in place to regain your competitive advantage.

Following is a seven-step process based on sound principles that will help put a focus on leveraging your internal talent.

Step No. 1 — Employee Alignment

When a significant percentage of duties performed by employees do not fit their innate characteristics or core nature, they will not do well. For example, people low in detail orientation doing work that requires high detail. Training and development, management encouragement and other well-intended efforts will not fix alignment issues.

As Peter Drucker said, “A manager’s task is to make the strengths of people effective and their weaknesses irrelevant.”

Step No. 2 — Culture of Growth

In truth, personal growth results in professional growth. It results in a greater capacity to handle life challenges, accomplish long-term goals and work well with others. Personal growth and development includes an increased awareness of self and others, the ability to manage one’s ego, ability to manage emotions and development of innate talents to maximize productivity and effectiveness.

Most performance issues managers complain about relate to one or more of the above. These are fundamental character traits of success.

Step No. 3 — Mission Oriented

People have an innate need for meaning and purpose in what they do. This means they care about how their efforts affect the world outside themselves—people, the environment, animals, etc. Which workers do you think are more motivated? Engagement and performance are directly affected by people’s connection to the outcomes of their work.

Step No. 4 — Organizational Values

People need to feel they fit in with their social groups. Employees who are significantly out of sync with an organization’s culture and values will never make their best contribution. Having perfect alignment is not the goal, since diversity of thought and behavior allow a culture to adapt and thrive.

However, significant misalignments are damaging. It is also important for leaders to consider whether they should change their culture. Examples of this would include a culture they know is toxic and when there’s a shrinking population of workers who fit the current culture. In both cases, without the ability to attract and retain needed talent, organizations will fail.

Step No. 5 — Aligning Goals

In today’s environment, organizational goals and strategies must change to adapt. Frequently, roles and supporting job duties don’t adequately change to align with these shifts. When this occurs, some or much of employee work efforts are out of alignment and can impair the ability to achieve the desired outcomes.

For example, a company changes strategy to shift most customer communications from telephone to online, yet the employees’ duties and training continue to focus on telephone communications.

Step No. 6 — Assessing Weaknesses

Weaknesses are the negative side of strengths. It is impossible to have a strength without its vulnerable side. We have been taught to hide or deny our weaknesses despite them being obvious to others.

Our ego’s impulse to protect our self-image is normal but counterproductive. It hinders our true potential from being realized—a loss to the organization and ourselves. When leaders openly and honestly acknowledge “challenge areas,” this sets the example for others. The organization opens the door to growth and development.

Step No. 7 — Commitment

Studies on human potential and positive change demonstrate self-awareness is the first step, but it is not the last. Committing to take steps (starting with baby steps) and taking them allows for the development of positive habits that create lasting positive change.

Deliberate change intended to meet the needs of your environment creates a flexible, adaptive organization—one that is poised to thrive despite the torrent of unpredictable/unwanted change that defines your world.

Thriving in an unpredictable world is about your willingness to acknowledge change that you do not like, openly discuss it and consistently take the actions required to adapt and emerge stronger.