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I’m Tracy Au and I have graduated from the Professional Writing program from university. I am an aspiring screenwriter, so this blog is used to promote my writing and attract people who will hire me to write for your TV show or movie. I write a lot about writing, TV, movies, jokes, and my daily life and opinions. I have another blog promoting my TV project at

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

"Successful leaders focus on execution"/ Lulu Cohen- Farnell

May 1, 2017 "Successful leaders focus on execution": Today I found this article by Harvey Schachter in the Globe and Mail:

Heidrick & Struggles consultants Colin Price and Sharon Toye spend most of their waking hours trying to understand why some companies succeed and others don’t. When they set out on an extensive four-year study of that puzzle, they expected to find that strategy is critical. But that’s not what they learned.

“We didn’t find strategy doesn’t matter,” Mr. Price says in an interview. “But we found it matters less than in the past.”

They looked at 22 industries, expecting that the top-four companies in each would be doing different things strategically from the bottom four. But the strategies of all the companies in an industry were usually similar, even if the differences in results could be huge. “Execution capabilities drive shareholder value these days,” Mr. Price says.

It’s often thought that some leaders succeed because they are in the right industries, while others are mired in lacklustre fields where success is unlikely. But again, the research suggests otherwise.

In their book, Accelerating Performance, they found the difference between being average in the most and least profitable industries was 19 percentage points, but the average variance between the best-performing and worst-performing companies within an industry is 34 percentage points, almost double. Again, execution is critical.

At the top of their execution recommendations: You need to value time even more than you realized. Mr. Price, in the interview, asks us to imagine a chief executive officer with 10 to 20 things on today’s plate. “Assume 95 per cent are sensible. So success is not determined by the quality of the list, but whether you get it done quicker than the next guy or gal,” he says. And that applies throughout the organization.

“Organizations with a high metabolic rate outperform others. Strategy will only get you so far. You need to accelerate the metabolic rate and outperform others,” he says.

Metabolic rate? That’s an unusual phrase for business. But it normally refers to energy and fits the 13 factors they found driving or dragging corporate performance, which they grouped into four categories under the rubric META, drawn from the first letter of each word: mobilize, execute, transform, agility.

For mobilize, what’s critical is an internal focus, fatigue and confusion. For execute, the factors are complexity (too many layers in particular), unclear accountability and skills gaps.

For transform, it’s fear (leading to missed opportunities), complacency and competition (such as silos, distrust and information hoarding).

Agility is about hindsight (always looking at the past for answers to current problems), immunity (inability to learn from mistakes and desire to avoid failure at any cost), inflexibility and fragility (unable to recover from setbacks).

That’s a lot to keep in mind, and it expands when the consultants then list 39 differentiating actions drawn from those META factors that can determine your success. Here are some they highlight:

Put big people in big jobs: Know your people and know your jobs – and make sure the best people get the big jobs. Sounds obvious, but it’s rare. If your profit was broken into 20 chunks, are the best 20 people heading those units? Usually the alignment is about 30 per cent to 40 per cent, with the big people wrapped up in today’s operations rather than dealing with tomorrow’s important activities. Do you have your firepower where it matters most?

List your priorities on one hand: Companies often have lots of priorities, with associated metrics. The important stuff can get lost in the murk. Help your team to see what are the most important actions. Usually, those will be priorities that, like dominoes, affect many other priorities.

Treat business units as guests, not family: Their research shows that companies lose 40 per cent of their possible value by staying in businesses, countries or products long after the competitive advantage has waned. Jettisoning wasted ventures will save costs and heighten focus as a smaller loss in revenue than you would expect.

They also urge you to halve the number of metrics you use and reduce layers, making “simple,” “consistent” and “scalable” your watchwords. Indeed, the biggest mistake managers make is having too many layers. Worse, often they aren’t even aware of how many they have. The leaders don’t want to change, given the politics involved and the threat to their own power. Another intriguing recommendation: Keep your people healthy. The top companies were actively investing in the physical, emotional and spiritual health of their staff while the laggards weren’t.

So don’t get fixated on strategy. Remember that execution – accelerating performance – is vital.

The Ladder: Lulu Cohen-Farnell : Today I found this article in the Globe and Mail:

Lulu Cohen-Farnell is the founder of Real Food for Real Kids (RFRK), a Toronto-based company that prepares and delivers healthy meals and snacks to more than 15,000 kids every day in childcare centres, elementary schools and camps.

I grew up in Paris with grandmothers who cooked all day long. After school, the kitchen was my playground. For me, it’s not a chore to cook – it’s an outlet for creativity, it’s psychotherapy, it’s reflection, it represents many things to me.

Within our family, healthy food and real food was a central thing. My mom was very creative and made everything from scratch. She was a very strong role model for me and told me ‘anything is possible,’ you just have to work hard. It’s a mindset.

I went to business school, but I didn’t really know what I wanted to do. I didn’t know I was going to be in the food business, but during exams, I would cook for all my friends when we studied together. At 1 a.m., when everyone was hungry, I’d make something out of nothing.

I left home at 18 and lived in different countries early in life. I lived in Italy and worked for the Gillette Group, marketing liquid paper. I lived in London for two years and worked for a restaurant group. I was good at branding and promotion, and I was good with people and relationships.

In 1997, I went to South Africa with a friend. Two weeks into my trip, I met David [Farnell], my husband, at a wine-tasting dinner. He was a 25-year-old guy from Massachusetts, and three days after we met, I moved in with him.

My husband was offered a job in Toronto, and he said, ‘What do you think? Toronto is a great city. It has great summers.’ He didn’t tell me the winters were horrible. I came here in July, 1999. I arrived on a Wednesday, and, by Saturday, I had my first cottage experience.

I think [having my son] was the start of me being an entrepreneur. I was working for a brand-strategy firm in Toronto when my son, Max, was born. After a year of [maternity] leave, I was looking for daycare and I was shocked by the state of the food for children. It didn’t matter how expensive, how great the daycares were, they all had something in common: highly processed food.

I asked my son’s daycare [at the YMCA], ‘Can I bring my food in?’ and they said yes. I always ate really well and my passion for cooking was amplified by having a child, so I was making all these purees and using chia and coconut oil and flaxseed oil. I brought Max’s food every day and it was noticed by the caregivers. One day they asked me if I could help them with snacks. We did a pilot and, after six months, they asked, ‘Can you help us expand this program to 12 more YMCAs?’ I thought, ‘I love this, I’m happy every morning, I’m changing the way these kids are eating.’ It was my calling.

I quit my job and started Real Food for Real Kids in May, 2004. David joined me about a year later. Through word of mouth, other centres heard about us, and they asked, ‘Can you do lunches [too]?’ When we started, we knew nothing about the industry, the regulations. We learned as we went, and we grew very organically.

I’m still learning about being a leader. Working with David, who is my partner in life and who I love, is a challenge in itself. We don’t always agree. But we find solutions together, we compromise. Being a leader is learning how to listen, learning how to make mistakes and remembering always there is a lesson in everything.

Hire people that share the same values. You have to find the right people who will get it, who will do the work the way you would do it. It’s about finding people that are mini-entrepreneurs, in a way. And don’t be afraid of sharing challenges with your staff. We ask everyone for feedback and have a very open policy when it comes to sharing ideas.

You need to accept that change can be good. We’re evolving constantly and we have to be adaptable to our market. Attend conferences and connect with people and nurture the relationships you have with your clients.

David and I could not have done this without each other. We have two children, and [RFRK] is our third kid and it’s probably the most challenging one. We have issues and challenges and we stick to it and we don’t give up. That’s my biggest advice to anyone: never give up.

As told to Shelley White. This interview has been edited and condensed.


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