Riding the Wave of a Blue-Ocean Strategy

Healthy living and exercise are good business. But in today’s marketplace differentiation in the physical fitness arena is a significant challenge.

Crossfit, as a movement and business model, has developed a Blue Ocean Strategy to create a widely successful exercise trend that has been difficult to duplicate or compete against over the last decade.

According to internationally acclaimed business professors and authors W. Chan Kim and Renée Mauborgne, a Blue Ocean Strategy is the simultaneous pursuit of differentiation and low cost to open up a new market space and create new demand. It is about creating and capturing uncontested market space, thereby making the competition irrelevant. Locally run affiliates have popped up around the world with varying degrees of success. But, one unique leadership niche within that Crossfit marketplace has been the role of women owners, trainers and coaches.

Recently, we sat down to talk about entrepreneurialism and leadership with Hillary Herring owner of CrossFit InnerStallion in Southfield, MI. On this edition of the OVP Leadership Podcast, Hillary shares her perspective on being an African-American business owner, a leader and role model for other aspiring female business owners to grow an idea into a successful operation. Listen, comment and subscribe!

CF Inner Stallion owner & entrepreneur Hillary Herring.

CF Inner Stallion owner & entrepreneur Hillary Herring.

CF Inner Stallion Headquarters in Southfield, Michigan

CF Inner Stallion Headquarters in Southfield, Michigan

Leading with Vulnerability

Leadership challenges are more complex today than ever before. 

In roles as a CEO, CFO and now as a management consultant with OVP Management Consulting Group, I have been exposed to a diverse range of organizations, teams and critical challenges. Collectively, these experiences have contributed to the person and business leader I am today.

Occasionally colleagues and newer leaders alike ask me for my perspective on leadership. When they do, I’ve noticed that even as they are faced with a multitude of complex workplace issues, trying to figure out how best to show compassion and vulnerability with people is difficult.

In her new Netflix special Brené  Brown: The Call to Courage, leadership expert and author Brené  Brown talks extensively about the need for vulnerability and courage in leadership. These meta-skills sometimes go counter to traditional problem-solving models. But, I’ve found that they are indispensable for any leader of people.

Pam Hill, Senior Management Consultant

Pam Hill, Senior Management Consultant

Today, I want to share a few of the greatest leadership lessons I have learned throughout my career.

  • Put difficulties into perspective

    Adversity is inevitable. Challenges, setbacks, disappointment, criticism – you won’t be able to avoid these for long. So when you fail, fail fast. Capture the lessons, devote time to continuous learning so that your knowledge and skills remain relevant, and move forward.  

  • Ask for help

    I was not especially open to help in my career when first starting out. I didn’t want to impose on others. I didn’t want to appear weak. But it finally dawned on me that by letting people help me, I would be giving them the gift of feeling helpful. Beyond the value of the help I received, they would shift from bystanders to engaged investors in my success.

  • Everyone can help you learn something

    It  goes without saying that everyone has their own style of leadership and personal brand. , with tools that can be leveraged across many roles. Observing how others handle themselves – peers, management, and other external leaders – and complementing these with the core competencies in our toolkit, is a great way to approach new experiences. 

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In each of these examples, leaders are forced to confront levels of vulnerability that can challenge one’s concept of being a real leader. What I have found, however, is that confronting discomfort in the workplace can result in greater group understanding and often better results.

Leadership is a constant assessment and reevaluation, so the more you can leverage your transferable skills and learn from the experiences of others – good or bad– the better off you’ll be when you’re positioned to make the decisions.

Much like scaling a mountain, leading with vulnerability and courage requires the ability to focus, assess and then climb. You may not know where you’ll find the next tow-hold. But when a new opportunity is presented to add value in larger capacity or different way, you won’t underestimate yourself, and you’ll make that move.

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Visionary Leadership: In Celebration of July 4, 1776

Great leadership requires vision, foresight, belief and a willingness to challenge orthodoxy in order to bring about change. This is the kind of example set by the signers of the Declaration of Independence, and in later years those that ratified the Constitution of the United States, the Bill of Rights and other seminal documents that have afforded the opportunities many Americans enjoy.

Yet as we know, this grand experiment in representative Democracy strives for perfection, but is not - in fact - perfect. We all are familiar with many of the troubling truths about our history that have left stains which have yet to be reconciled. Still it is the value of visionary leadership that gives us hope for a better future.

Take the time to celebrate the ideals espoused in the Declaration of Independence today. Share it with family, friends and coworkers alike. It never hurts to revisit the principles that are the foundation of the environment that we operate in. Happy Fourth of July!

Rapid Experimentation: Essential Tool for Leaders

Predictability and measurement are standard tools used by business leaders to advance the fortunes of any ongoing concern. But one tool that is often under utilized - particularly by smaller businesses - when seeking improvements is that of rapid experimentation.

By definition, rapid experimentation conjures up images of throwing something against a wall to see if it sticks. This approach to managing projects makes a lot of business leaders uncomfortable, because it is predicated on the notion that failure is expected. And failure is usually frowned upon in business. But there is plenty of evidence in the innovation space that experimentation can lead to product breakthroughs and success.

Mapping your process is key.

Mapping your process is key.

Designing processes that make activity outcomes repeatable, predictable and measurable is the hallmark of any successful business consultant. To achieve success in process design, a lot of advance research and testing must take place. But, when factoring in limitations due to time and budget leaders often find themselves in situations where they are making business decisions based on educated guesses.

Every organization has opportunities to consider quick experiments to test hypothesis regarding their operations. Here are some tips on deploying with your teams:

  • Clearly define your business challenge:

  • Analyze the current condition of your process

  • Determine a near-term target condition as a goal

  • Begin initial experimentation by removing obstacles from the current process

  • Review & measure results to determine if near-term target was achieved

  • Develop a new process map to reflect the changes reflected in the experiment

The analysis of your organization’s challenges will be greatly served by deploying rapid experiments periodically to ensure that assumptions about the current approach are valid. Meanwhile, the measurement part of the process will help to keep the experiments from becoming “shots in the dark”.