Category Archives: Strategy

Ford vs. Ferrari Leadership Lessons

David Coffaro

The hit movie, Ford vs. Ferrari, tells the story of a partnership between famed American performance car designer Carroll Shelby and the Ford Motor Company. This joint venture came about to develop a Ford-branded race car for competition in the 24 Hours of Le Mans and beat Ferrari’s entrants – the race’s perennially winners. The story takes place in the mid-1960s when Ford sought to broaden their appeal and engage Baby Boomers, then in their late teens, with products like the new Mustang.

The plot weaves its way through the failed 1963 acquisition attempt of Ferrari by Ford, which fueled a racing rivalry between the two auto manufacturers. Ford Motor Company is portrayed as a traditional company hampered by bureaucracy; Carroll Shelby as an entrepreneurial, fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants innovator. Though the partnership had plenty of ups and downs, the collaboration led to creation of the Ford GT40, which delivered four Le Mans victories from 1966 – 1969.

Notwithstanding dramatic representations of conflict and egos in the storyline, the movie offers some valuable leadership lessons. Here are my top three:

1. Establish Clear Shared Goals Up-front when beginning a new project. Ford wanted to update their brand image to capture market share with Baby Boomers coming of age in the mid-1960s. Boomers wanted cool, sporty cars and Ford executives knew they had to address demand or lose share to competitors. Ford reasoned victories on the racetrack would translate to an uptick in brand perception. Beating Ferrari in races was important, but taking the checkered flag was part of a bigger goal – attracting new customers. Carroll Shelby wanted to build high-performance race cars that won races. He was innovative and pragmatic, seeking the best design and components to win races. The subtle difference between these two goals – winning car buyers vs. winning races – was the source of great frustration in the partnership.

In your work, you may have collaborated on a project with another department in your organization. Their goal was to get the project done with the lowest price tag possible; yours was to deliver the best possible product to your customers. If you didn’t know you had different goals up-front, divergence may have fed dysfunction. Establishing clear, shared goals as a first step in collaboration increases the likelihood of a successful partnership.

2. Define Cultural Values in Advance of Partnership – In the movie, Ford stressed the importance of a team victory while Shelby was portrayed valuing rugged individualism. These two approaches represent different cultural values.

Some organizations design incentives and rewards that encourage competition among colleagues while others tout sentiment like “there is no ‘I’ in team” to inspire working together. By defining your organization’s cultural values around inclusiveness, team vs. individual, winning at any cost vs. mindful success metrics clarifies what you stand for and what is expected. Consistently living clearly defined cultural values attracts like-minded talent to the organization, which reinforces and strengthens the culture.   

3. Don’t Underestimate your Competition – Ferrari executives are portrayed not taking Ford seriously as a competitor at Le Mans. At one point, Enzo Ferrari refers to Ford as an ugly company that builds ugly cars in an ugly factory. Ferrari underestimated Ford’s resolve to be a bona fide competitor.

How many times have you seen this happen? Out of nowhere, a new entrant comes into a business and conventional wisdom said “They’ll never succeed; they don’t know the business like we do”. Category killers, market disruptors or simply new approaches, unencumbered by legacy thinking, transform an industry. The moral to the story, assume the threat is real until you can prove otherwise!

Author: David Coffaro, Executive Coaches of Orange County, www.ECofOC.org

Do You Have A Balanced Board?

Dave Blankenhorn

Do you have one or two members that dominate the meetings and the conversations?

If that is the case it is the job of the Chair or E.D. to bring it back in line and to prevent an imbalance in the first place. A good Chair knows that that no one member can possibly know everything and should emphasize that the Board can only thrive with input from every member.

Even with the best guidance and intentions some Board members may still drown out other opinions. While these members can add to the discussion, they often tend to eliminate other points of view. If this is allowed to continue the Board may lose its balance and engagement.

To deal with these types of members the Chair should not allow them to dominate the meeting by thanking them for their contributions and asking others to offer their opinions on the topic at hand. If this approach doesn’t work perhaps a quiet private meeting is in order to let them know they tend to stifle other member discussions which is not healthy in the long run. If the member does not change his/her behavior you might consider their resignation.

On the flip side of the issue the Chair or E.D. should also meet with quiet or disengaged members. You need to let them know their opinions are valued and needed by the organization.

Another helpful tip for a balanced Board would to have annual discussions on how your meetings are going. What the pros and cons are and what needs to be improved? Talk about the items on the agenda, the time taken on each item and whether all members are involved. This may tie in with the annual director evaluations.

Following these best practices should be very helpful for the organization in achieving its mission.

 

Author: Dave Blankenhorn, Executive Coaches of Orange County, www.ECofOC.org

Do You Have An Effective Board of Directors?

Dave Blankenhorn

Do you have an effective Board of Directors? Are they providing the kind of direction that is important to fulfill the organization’s mission or do they meet without any meaningful outcome?

One way to find out is to have the Board do an annual self-assessment of themselves or one another. A good self-assessment can lead to improved performance for the Directors and the organization but only if you are intentional about the questions you ask and constructive about the follow up.

To do director self-assessments you can either hire a consultant to help perform them, handle them internally or pursue a blended strategy. Handling them in house maybe the least expensive option but an experienced consultant may save you time, bring impartial outside perspective and help you gather and present results to boost group performance.

If the decision is made to go it alone the Chairman and a few key board members should meet to identify the assessment goals and design the process including questionnaires and interviews. Goals should include producing a report with a SWOT analysis, spotlighting the successes or failures of commitments made by the Board and the overall effectiveness of the Board leadership. The report should also include whether they need to add new board members with specific skill sets, identify training needs, and an evaluation of the meetings and materials. Any other specific issues should also be addressed.

Peer reviews are sometimes part of an assessment and that means anonymous questionnaires. Digital questionnaires can be delivered online and streamline the process.  When completed and compiled the report should then be presented to the Board as a group with specific goals.

 

Author: Dave Blankenhorn, Executive Coaches of Orange County, www.ECofOC.org

Working Remotely…The Challenge To Teamwork

Adrianne Geiger Dumond

A recent study reported that 41% of non-profits hire staff/employees to work off-site.

The study is noted in an article published by Blue Avocado [1], which is actually a primer that all non-profits should read if they have people working remotely.

I will capture the essence of the primer, but really recommend studying the primer with those teams involved.

Clear roles, responsibilities, and accountability. Probably the best way to establish trust and respect is to have those involved meet long enough to review clear job responsibilities. It helps if each person understands the job duties of others, so work proceeds as expected. This also means distributing leadership effectively.

Participate in Constructive Conflict. All teams have times of disagreement or conflict. It can be harder to deal with if someone is working remotely. Handling conflict well means that team members meet, focus on the work being done and not on personal behavior or attacks. The challenge is how the disagreement affects the work output. Success is when those involved understand the challenge, resolve it, put it behind them and learn from the experience.

Consistently support one another. It isn’t always easy for a remotely working person to feel like an integral part of the team, or they may feel they are providing an extremely valuable service the team can’t appreciate – for example a data analysis expert, or fundraising staff, or marketing staff. As the article says, “Team members who adjust their work based on the needs of others are able to keep the work moving while empowering their teammates to do the best possible along the way.”

Consider team success vs. individual success. Being aware of the language team members use in emails, conversations and discussions can shape the feelings of being a team. If the “I” word is often used instead of “we”it makes a difference. This may be especially true for the remotely working member.  Another quote, “ Teams who focus more on giving credit rather than seeking it understand the exponential impact on the group as a whole.”

I strongly recommend this primer for sound guidance.


[1] blueavocado.org, Remote Team Environments: A How To Primer, Rachel Renock, May, 2019

Author: Adrianne Geiger DuMond, Executive Coaches of Orange County, www.ECofOC.org

2020 Vision: 3 Conversations to Have About the Future Today

David Coffaro
David Coffaro

Strategy Imagine it’s New Year’s Eve 2020. It’s getting close to midnight and under your breath, you say to yourself “I can’t believe the year went by so fast!”

You have a few quiet moments by yourself before gathering with family and friends to join the countdown to 2021, and you reflect back on highlights of the year that’s quickly coming to a close. You mentally run through some of your personal highlights: family, vacation, social gatherings, exciting events. Then like most leaders, you roll through scenes from your work life that stand out.

As you think back over 2020, what are the top two or three highlights that come to mind? What were the greatest contributions your team made to the success of your organization? Which activities that your team intentionally engaged in had the greatest impact toward fulfilling the company’s vision?

Right now, thinking about the completion of a year that hasn’t yet begun may seem far off in the future. This is the time of year when leaders are fine-tuning their financial plans and budgets for 2020 and generally focused on the question “How will we make our numbers next year?” The numbers question is important; we have to deliver expected financial results.

But numbers in isolation are simply a reflection of what’s already happened. They quantify results of the activities we’ve already completed and how effectively we executed upon them. They are not a picture of what we want to make happen. That’s where the vision thing comes into the conversation.

2020 Vision

As you think about the impact your organization will make in 2020 beyond the financial results you plan to create, consider revisiting the vision. Even if your organization’s vision has been more cosmetic than actionable, this is the perfect time for your team to delve into three strategic questions that can shape accomplishments in the upcoming year. These are three conversations about tomorrow for today:

Conversation No. 1

How well do our actions align with our company’s vision? This conversation requires a candid self-assessment of the vision to make sure it’s real and the team owns it. If there’s any doubt about true buy-in to the vision, an early strategic priority leading into 2020 is to invest leadership team time into redefining where you’re going. Vision sets an organization’s course and informs activities. 

What do we do (mission), why do we do it (purpose), and how do we fulfill our mission (strategy) are essential questions an organization must answer in order to define its place in the world. Taken together, the answers define an organization’s vision.

Conversation No. 2

What are the most important two or three strategic priorities we want to deliver beyond the expected financial results in 2020? With your vision as the guide, this conversation informs specific areas of impact your team will focus upon beginning now. Vision is irrelevant unless it informs priorities and those priorities define actions.

This conversation takes a deductive “if, then” approach: “if our No. 1 priority is acquiring and developing new talent, then we will _________”.  This conversation also leads to rich self-assessment of previously stated strategic priorities. If a team said their No. 1 priority last year was acquiring and developing talent, yet no specific actions were taken, it wasn’t really a priority.

Conversation No. 3

What are the areas in our organization we should be looking at for self-disruption? During the late 1990s tech boom, the concept of disruption grabbed the attention of the business world. New entrants in a market gave birth to novel ways of serving customers, gained share and changed industries. While disruption has become a core strategy, today the question is “where are there opportunities to self-disrupt?” 

This conversation invites your team to temporarily step outside their roles, look at the organization from a third-party observer perspective and ask the question “if we were starting this business from scratch today, how would we do it?” It requires temporarily letting go of legacy constraints and look at your operation the way a potential disruptor would see things, then challenge your organization to initiate self-disruption.

One of the greatest responsibilities we hold as leaders is driving continual evolution of the organization toward a well-defined future state. Today is the right day to begin these conversations about the 2020 vision your team wants to create. Today you can write scenes of the story you’ll look back to with great fulfillment on New Year’s Eve 2020.

Author: David Coffaro, Executive Coaches of Orange County, www.ECofOC.org