December 13, 2017

Leadership Advice from Ann’s High-Profile Network of Baltimore’s Top Business Leaders

Ann shares leadership advice from her high-profile network of Baltimore's most respected leadersTo achieve organizational success and next-level growth, it’s not enough to have a great product or service.

It’s not enough to provide a good customer experience.

And it’s not enough to decrease costs and increase profit margins.

You have to be able to lead your people where you want to go.

In fact, exceptional leadership is a highly significant (but often overlooked) differentiator in that it provides organizations with a difficult-to-replicate competitive advantage – the power of which can’t be underestimated.

So, to help you lead your people to new levels in 2018, I reached out to my high-profile network of Baltimore’s most respected business leaders and asked them:

What’s the one piece of advice you’d give to organizational leaders in 2018? 

Here’s what 10 of them had to say about leading more powerfully and effectively in the new year: Read full article

November 13, 2017

5 Critical Questions About Strategic Planning

5 Critical Questions I Want You to Ask MeEvery strategic decision you make has the power to make or break your organization.

Whether it’s a decision related to your overarching strategic plan or to key resource planning, go-to-market or growth strategy, product/service mix, pricing strategy, CEO transition, there’s always a lot on the line.

This means asking a lot of questions – especially if you’re thinking of bringing in an outside advisor.

If you’re considering doing that, start with these 5:

Why should I use a strategic advisor to plan for next year? You’ll spend less time and have a more robust process and a more actionable plan if you use the right trusted advisor.

Why should I use a strategic advisor when I know my business better than anyone? That’s exactly why an outside perspective is so important. A strategic advisor challenges your assumptions, looks at things with a fresh eye and doesn’t have any sacred cows. That product that doesn’t sell, that marketing strategy that hasn’t delivered an ROI, that team member who isn’t performing – a trusted advisor keeps you honest and doesn’t leave any stone unturned.

How does your approach and expertise compare to other advisors? I have a proven process and methodology to working with my clients to turn strategy into action and measure results. Ask any of the dozens of clients with whom I’ve worked and they’ll tell you how my approach, process and deliverable is different than other advisors in the market. 

What’s happening in the broader market? I work with a range of businesses, across industries and have a comprehensive view of current markets and external conditions to help organizational leaders understand what it means for them. As a leader, you need to factor this external data into your decision making and planning. If you’re interested in learning more, give me a call. I want to answer this question in a way that’s very specific to your organization.

Why does this matter to me? As an organizational leader, your stakeholders are counting on you to set strategy and execute strongly. You need to get it “right”. My job is to help you understand the state of the external environment, your internal capacity and give you the analysis you need to get clarity around your vision, determine the strategies to turn vision into action and produce measurable results.

October 20, 2017

The Value of Spending More Time with Failure

The value of spending more time analyzing failureI’ve been spending lots of time lately with startup companies and venture capitalists. I love the early-stage environment because there’s so much energy and innovation.

The pace is fast and every decision seems weighty – almost life and death.

Of course, we all hear about and celebrate the rising stars that succeed in moving from a startup to a growth company. These entrepreneurs have great stories to tell and there is much to learn from their experience.

We hear much less, however, about the companies that fail. The ones that either don’t make it at all, or stumble badly because of a fatal flaw in product, management, financing or customer understanding.

In these cases, people are less eager to talk about what happened along the way.

But I’d argue that failure is the constant companion of success; and the more we can accept failure as part of success, the more we can learn from it and the faster we can succeed. In fact, nothing is as important as taking the time to analyze and evaluate our failures from every angle.

It’s how we grow ourselves and our companies.

Whether you’re developing software or building an organization to tackle a social need, the reality is that at least some failure will likely be a part of your journey – so it’s imperative to learn how to leverage the experience to your benefit.

ACTION FOR THE MONTH

The first step in leveraging failure is to recognize that failure drives us to change. That’s its value.

We don’t like the feeling of failure – so, in life and in business, we learn how to do things differently to avoid that feeling.

The trick is to be more conscious during this process.

Instead of quickly moving on to the next idea, strategy or plan after failure, take a timeout and ask yourself:

What can I learn from this? Make a list of what went wrong and note the lessons you want to remember.

What could I have done differently? This will help you think about new options and approaches. In other words, it’s the transition from focusing on what went wrong to thinking about solutions.

Do I need to improve or build a skill? Sometime failure results because you just don’t know what you don’t know. Getting better at something or learning a new skill may be exactly what’s needed to achieve success next time.

Who can I learn from? All good leaders ask for help. They seek out knowledge, advice and mentors. Surrounding yourself with smart, supportive people not only reduces the risk of failure, it also provides you with an instant lifeline for when you do stumble.

What will I do next? Take time to craft an action plan that helps you set a new direction and then create a roadmap to get there.