Company Culture

Operational Excellence: The First Part of Achieving an Executive Hero Factor

Find out why having operational excellence will take you 50 percent of the way to having the Hero Factor as a business leader.
Operational Excellence: The First Part of Achieving an Executive Hero Factor
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The following excerpt is from Jeffrey Hayzlett’s book The Hero Factor: How Great Leaders Transform Organizations and Create Winning Cultures. Buy it now from Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Apple Books | IndieBound

I believe we're at a crossroads where we have a chance for real change in the way we do business. All those people looking for purpose and direction ask: Who will lead? Who will propel innovation, change the culture of the workplace to be more inclusive, and drive the evolution of this country?

The answer: the heroes.

We need hero leaders and companies to reclaim the best parts of the American spirit of free enterprise and entrepreneurialism. We need to abandon the scarcity mentality (for me to win, you or someone else has to lose) for an abundance mentality that is win-win for all. But if we as a nation are going to do this, organizations and their leaders need to light a collective fire. And to start this fire, we need catalysts: more leaders and companies that are choosing the path of hero leadership.

What I’m asking is for you to become a person with big ideas and noble ideals. Someone of spirit and tenacity, values and purpose, goodness and selflessness, who leads your organization or team from the head and the heart. I’m looking for social entrepreneurs and CEOs, business owners small and large who have the courage and commitment to consistently and constantly give back and give more to serve others -- even when warning signs and Wall Street say to quit. The ones who welcome all people and all points of view to the table. The ones who make a difference in people’s lives and still beat the competition to win in the workplace and marketplace. Hero companies and leaders—whether they are solo practitioners or have millions of global employees -- can do all the above without dismissing the power of profit.

These heroes understand a quote attributed to Henry Ford: “A business that makes nothing but money is a poor business.” Money may be how we keep score, but any idiot can make money. We share this world with others and have a purpose beyond it. We need leaders and companies with hero mindsets who understand that. Without the right mindset, you’ll never develop the qualities and implement the strategies to be a hero leader. You’ll never have the highest Hero Factor.

The Hero Factor is made up of two scales: Operational Excellence and Hero Intensity. Most of you know what operational excellence means for what you do and how long you have been in business, but let me provide this general definition of operational excellence for any and all organizations: execution of a business strategy that leads to real, consistent, and reliable results that are measurable and sustainable, despite the risks and costs and even as your products and services change and evolve to meet marketplace demands.

For most organizations big or small, this definition means executing on all these things over time:

  • Products and/or services that exceed the competition and indus­try standards
  • Real growth and increased revenues over time
  • A broad, consistent, and connected set of customers/clients that you always focus on and create value for
  • External partners that provide expertise, reach, and knowledge beyond what you know
  • Profitability
  • Reduced costs and efficiency
  • Investment in people and productivity
  • Productive workplaces (whether you are a business of one or have teams and offices around the globe) focused on that growth and serving those customers
  • Willingness to take and mitigate risks—even when you take big ones
  • Success through tough times small and big (either self-generat­ed or brought upon you by forces beyond your control)
  • Constantly attracting and recruiting talent
  • Investment in and a plan for adding more value for the future through innovation, increased customer engagement, and new or improved products and services

Regardless of the size and scale of your company, Operational Excellence is something that changes every year—and must evolve faster than ever if you want to survive. Of course, the odds of operational excellence and success over time for those new and existing small businesses and entrepreneurs are pretty steep too, especially in the early years. Fail at one or two things on that list for even a few months, let alone a year, and things can get dicey. But if they do succeed, those companies can’t relax: They need to continue to adapt, transform, and innovate to find new sources of revenue—even as they maintain existing ones—lest they be taken down by a business that sees new and different opportunities.

But business success on the money side of things is an absolutely vital part of what makes a company great. That’s why Operational Excellence makes up half of your Hero Factor.

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