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Ken Keller: Are you a pretender or a contender?

Posted: August 11, 2013 2:00 a.m.
Updated: August 11, 2013 2:00 a.m.
Ken Keller Ken Keller
Ken Keller

The four major sports leagues in America are all active at a crucial time of year.

The National Football League has its teams in training camps and playing exhibition games, trying to determine which players to keep and which ones to release.

The National Basketball Association is getting ready to open training camps in a few short weeks with many teams trying to finalize their rosters in the days ahead.

The National Hockey League has its players staying in shape for the upcoming season.

Major League Baseball is headed into the final 40 games of the regular season, with general managers, coaches and owners of each team trying to either unload talent or add some, depending on whether or not the team has a chance of getting into the playoffs.

According to Arizona Diamondbacks General Manager Kevin Towers, now is the time of year when teams face their toughest decisions. It starts with an honest assessment of where the team is, and facing the brutal facts about contending or pretending to be able to make it to the playoffs this season.

Towers believes that either the team can contend, or it can’t, and the responsibility of management is to advise ownership of their assessment and to recommend a course of action. The course of action is a series of decisions that need to be made.

People in baseball tend to be pretty competitive. They are interested in finding a way to winning, and winning consistently. As a result, they don’t like to raise the white flag, for their business and in front of their fans. No owner wants to see decreasing attendance and a discouraged fan base.

But sometimes the tough decisions aren’t made; they are delayed, which is a decision in itself.

The same is true for other businesses, outside of the sports industry, in organizations large and small.

Peter Drucker, the late management guru, laid out five deceivingly simple questions for leaders to answer. Those questions were: What is our mission? Who is our customer? What does the customer value? What are our results? What is our plan?

Far too many business owners haven’t taken the time to answer these questions. Behind not answering these questions lies personal and company under-performance.

If you ever ask yourself if your employees are disengaged, it is because the owner has not taken the time to share the answers of these basic questions to educate employees carrying out the mission, serving the clients in a manner they like, being focused on results, and executing to a plan.

Beyond Drucker’s questions, which need to be regularly asked and the correct answers communicated, there are four additional questions that every owner should answer: How do we define and measure winning? How will we win, what is our game plan for winning? What role does each person play in winning? What capabilities must be in place to win?

Summer vacations are pretty much over, and people are now back to work, focused on their job. Take the time now to take a step back from the hectic day to day activities and address the nine questions outlined above.

One of the most helpful tools an owner has, and should use, is that of perspective. Don’t leave a valuable tool sitting unused when it can help you finish the year on a high note. Your company can still contend in 2013 if you lead them.

Ken Keller is CEO of STAR Business Consulting Inc., a company that works with small and midsize business owners to grow top line revenue. He can be reached at Keller’s column reflects his own views and not necessarily those of The Signal.




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