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Stop falling behind! Seven steps to gain a competitive advantage

December 6, 2019  By Brad Wolff


Doesn’t it seem that business is more competitive than it used to be? Take company ABC as an example — it previously dominated its marketplace but had suffered staggering losses in its previous fiscal year. It became apparent that what had worked in the past was no longer effective. It was time to use proven techniques for achieving a competitive advantage.

ABC engaged a firm that identified the root causes of its problems. After two years, sales and profits dramatically increased. The results came from a seven-step process based on sound principles that put a focus on leveraging internal talent. If you find your business falling behind, try putting these seven steps into practice.

1. Employee alignment
When assigning duties performed by employees that don’t fit their characteristics or core nature, they won’t perform well, like making people with poor detail orientation do work that requires high detail. Training and development, management encouragement and other well-intended efforts will not fix these issues. As management consultant and author Peter Drucker says, “A manager’s task is to make the strengths of people effective and their weaknesses irrelevant.”

2. Create a culture of personal growth and development
Personal growth results in professional growth, creating a greater capacity to handle life challenges, accomplish long-term goals and work well with others. Personal growth and development includes an increased awareness of self and others, the ability to manage one’s ego and emotions, and develop innate talents to maximize productivity and effectiveness.

3. Align employees with your company’s mission and vision
Human beings have an innate need to have meaning and purpose in what they do. For example, take assembly line workers that produce incubators for premature babies. In one scenario, the workers were only told to mechanically perform the prescribed duties. In the other scenario, they were crystal clear about the importance of their work on the survival of infants. Which workers do you think are more motivated? Engagement and performance are directly affected by people’s connection to the outcomes of their work.

4. Align employees with your company’s culture and values
People need to feel like they fit in with their social groups. Employees who are out of sync with an organization’s culture and values will never contribute their best. Being aligned is the point, since diversity of thought and behaviour allow a culture to adapt and thrive. It’s important for leaders to consider whether they should change their culture, like when it’s become toxic or when there is a decreasing number of workers that fit the current culture. Without the ability to attract and retain the needed talent, organizations will fail.

5. Align roles and to strategies and goals
In today’s environment, organizational goals and strategies must change and adapt. Often times, roles and supporting job duties don’t adequately change to align with these shifts. Think of a company that changes its strategy to shift most customer communications from telephone to email, yet the employees’ duties and training still focus on telephone communications.

6. Assess your weaknesses, starting from the top
It’s impossible to have a strength without its vulnerable side. Our ego’s impulse to protect our self-image is normal but also counterproductive. When leaders openly acknowledge challenge areas, this sets an example for employees and demonstrates transparency.

7. Commit to work on your challenges
Studies on human potential and positive change demonstrate that self-awareness is the first step, but it’s not the last. Committing to take baby steps generates positive habits that create lasting positive change. Changes intended to meet the needs of your environment create a flexible, adaptive organization poised to thrive despite unpredictable or unwanted change. Your willingness to acknowledge change that you don’t like, openly discuss it and consistently take the actions required to adapt will strengthen you. At the end of the day, leaders simply making choices that define the present and future of themselves and their organizations. There’s nothing magical about the most effective leaders — they’re just making more effective choices. Equally important choices include their willingness to objectively look at themselves and take actions to grow in areas. They choose to become a more effective version of themselves. Leaders know that what they demonstrate – not what they say – is what has the greatest impact on the entire organization.

Brad Wolff specializes in workforce and personal optimization. He is a speaker and author of People Problems? How to Create People Solutions for a Competitive Advantage. As managing partner for Atlanta-based PeopleMax, Wolff specializes in helping companies maximize the potential and results of their people to make more money with less stress. His passion is empowering people to create the business success they desire, in a deep and lasting way. For more information, please visit

This article was originally published in the December 2019 issue of PrintAction, now available online.

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