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VOL. 128 | NO. 2 | Thursday, January 3, 2013


Michael Graber

Corporate Vision: Are Your Sights Too Low?

By Michael Graber & Jocelyn Atkinson

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CEOs are responsible for setting the strategic vision and driving long-term growth. However, many are compensated based on quarterly and annual goals, which can make keeping the long view in sharp focus challenging. Incremental moves to cut costs, improve efficiency and extend product lines may yield positive metrics. But is this short-term focus on financial results ultimately harming shareholder value by limiting long-term potential?

In this month’s Harvard Business Review, the 100 best performing CEOs were scored according to the long-term value they created during their tenure. It comes as no surprise that Steve Jobs and Jeff Bezos occupy the first and second positions. What is surprising is that nine of the top 10 and 74 percent of the total set were promoted from within the company. Perhaps there is a greater sense of ownership and entrepreneurial spirit on the inside that is more willing to take short-term risk for longer-term gains?

As we move into 2013, we encourage you to examine the vision for your company. Is it too narrow and rooted in the near term? A vision like this is easier and represents less risk, it sets the bar low. Take a look at yourself too. How do you gauge personal success in your role? This is a hard thing to do if the board measures your performance solely on financial success metrics. As CEO, it is difficult to get authentic feedback from employees who are by nature keenly focused on protecting their job. Here are some questions to self-assess:

• Will the vision I have for the company foster strategies that generate significant growth?

• Can every person in the company clearly link his/her job to the vision?

• Have I hired the talent I need to drive value for this company?

• Is my team executing growth strategies that move the company forward or are they succumbing to the tyranny of the urgent?

• Is too much of my time spent monitoring performance rather than refining strategy?

• Do we have the bandwidth and expertise to uncover new innovations and growth opportunities? How fast can we bring them to market?

• Is my team made up of “yes” men or do I have senior executives that are true strategic advisers?

Regardless of how you answered the questions above, raise the bar and hold yourself to higher standards in 2013. Take on an entrepreneurial mindset and set an aggressive long-term vision. Get rid of the “yes” man mentality and don’t deceive yourself solely with short-term metrics. Strong vision and effective strategy drive the financial results everyone wants. Be on the lookout for a culture of resisting change because it represents work that no one has time to complete, and the vision may never manifest. If the vision never manifests you have not really done your job.

Jocelyn Atkinson and Michael Graber run the Southern Growth Studio, a strategic growth firm based in Memphis. Visit www.southerngrowthstudio.com to learn more.

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