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Three Signs Your Revenue Growth Strategy Will Fail

By Jill George, Ph.D.

Jill George, Ph.D

The mandate of every CEO? Growth. Not your run-of-the-mill profitability but, in many cases, revenue doubling—and over a relatively short period of time. This upswing in aggressive growth was captured in DDI and The Conference Board’s Global Leadership Forecast 2014|2015. A whopping 69 percent of organizations said they were planning expansions outside their home countries. But, no matter how thoughtful their growth strategies or favorable the market conditions, successful execution will depend on leadership talent.

So, how can you and your CEO be certain that you have the “ready-now” talent to realize your growth vision?

And, how can you help your CEO operationalize the talent requirements for growth as successfully as he or she executes the many components of successful R&D, marketing, sales, and supply chain strategies?

Chief executives often have a difficult time talking about talent in the same way they communicate these other strategies. They often fail to define the talent requirements and resources needed to drive growth and, as a result, move forward with an incomplete, destined-for-doom strategy.

Here are the three signs your revenue growth strategy will fail:

  1. You don’t know what you don’t know about your current revenue-generating skill set.
    If you haven’t defined what growth means in terms of the talent you need, and don’t have a talent dashboard that tracks your leaders’ growth-related capabilities, you won’t see the inevitable growth lag coming. Many senior leaders have multiple development needs around critical growth skills, including Selling the Vision, Networking, Influence, and Financial Acumen. These can be easily overlooked if not assessed and properly quantified.
  2. Your demand exceeds your supply.
    Demand for leaders who can scale revenue growth will be high in organizations pursuing aggressive growth. If your leadership pipeline is deficient, you won’t have the critical mass of ready leaders who can step into critical roles. You also run the risk of losing those who are ready to competitors. Examine the depth of your bench. Do you have mid- and first-level leaders who are currently proficient at growing revenue or can they be ready in two (or five) years? Consider how your current senior leaders (some of who lack critical revenue-growing skills) impact their direct reports. Are they positive models for driving revenue, coaching for product improvement, and focusing on the customer?
  3. Your hiring and development systems are one-size-fits-all and not targeted at growth skills.
    In the past five years, you may have hired more than a few senior and/or mid-level leaders. They likely arrived with impressive backgrounds and wonderful education credentials. Here’s the question: How many of them have aggressively grown your business? If the answer is “not that many” or “not enough,” then your hiring and development systems may be sub-optimized for revenue growth—and your overall growth strategy at-risk.

The performance-growth connection

But it doesn’t have to be destined to fail. You can have more highly competent executives (green), exponentially growing your revenue, instead of the flat growth (or slow decline) you see below from incompetent executives.

Figure 1. Projected revenue growth rate for organizations with high, average, and low performing executives

Revenue Growth

Sooner or later the C-suite will come knocking, wondering if your company has the talent to grow the business, meet stakeholder commitments, and demonstrate sustainability. Be prepared: As their strategic HR partner, configure your hiring and development systems to ensure your leaders are wired for growth.

Jill George, Ph.D., is DDI’s Global Manufacturing Practice Leader.

To learn how you can turn around leaders and create a ready-now talent and strategy execution, read Wiring For Growth: Are Your Leaders Revenue-Growth Ready?

Posted: 26 Feb, 2016,
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