The term “bold moves” has become synonymous with radical strategic surgery to create new ways of making money, new innovative products, attracting masses of new customers, and boosting brand energy. Bold moves are exciting and seemingly risky. When they work, we deeply admire them. Zappos’ crazy commitment to delivering happiness was a bold move. So is TOMS Shoes commitment to giving away as many shoes as they sell. When Steve Jobs ran the show virtually every product Apple invented were all redefining bold moves.
A few months ago I started working with a technology client whose women leaders asked me to research the factors that drive successful bold moves, so together with our Apple to Zappos’ research team I studied and interviewed leaders who are brilliantly successful at creating organizations who consistently create game-changing value.
You won’t be surprised that what these leaders do to invent and implement bold moves focus on a common set of principles based on Smart Power. (Download a PDF of The Smart Power Process) What caught my attention was not just what they did but also that they had one big intangible quality in common. It’s simply this. Each of them was up to something more than just making money. Smart Power focuses on creating value based on the business model – Good, Grow, Gain.
Of course pursuing Good first creates a lot of Gain, and all of them have produced stunning financial growth and profits, but that was the result of a goal far deeper than financial returns. They each had a vision of doing something that had never been done before to create bold new value for people and often society. From Nike’s commitment to use sports to train a new generation of self-confident girls in poor nations to Tesla’s overarching focus on harnessing technology for sustainability, all these leaders were burning with values-drenched vision.
There are six other practices I found that drive successful bold moves when they are fueled by Smart Power. And the bold moves not only work for businesses but also for individuals. Here they are:
- Cut in order to grow. Not all revenue is good revenue. Creating new value requires unreasonable investments of talent and money. That comes from refocusing the organization on the few new things that matter. Steve Jobs cut Apple’s 40 “me too” products down to four original ones and reduced $7 billion in revenue to $5.7. Starbucks closed 600 stores. Ford killed 40 car models. Aggressive pruning makes for healthy growth. (So what do you have too much of in your life? The easy answers might be too much debt, too much bad food, too many non-supportive friends, too much stress… and what about too many distractions… too many activities don’t add value to your life. What could you prune right now that would create space to invest in time and energy to grow?)
- Assault the status quo. Being bold means standing at the intersection of unsolvable problems and customer desires. This requires not settling for the old ways of doing things. Throw away benchmarks. Breakthroughs come from reframing old ways and sticking your thumb in the eye of convention. You have to be willing to stand on the edge of your industry and become the new authority. (Social comparison, which is your inner-voice comparing the material abundance of your life with others who have more, is a major cause of unhappiness. If you’re looking for personal benchmarks focus on the people you admire for their love and contribution to a better future. That will not depress you. It just might inspire you.)
- Be today’s best version of yourself. Great brands keep growing. They rewrite their stories by standing on the shoulders of their heritage. Old brand promises have to be re-imagined to stay relevant to drive new allegiance with new customers. (I believe the purpose of life is simple…do your best to become your best. If you can imagine being a better person then that ideal is a gift to you.)
- Do what others are afraid to do. Great leaders are willing to create overwhelming focus and frightening force to obliterate competitors. Apple invested $193 million in advertising their iPod in the first 12 months of release. Their closest competitor invested $10 million. Having the courage to redefine a category, create enthusiastic customers, and generate benchmark-busting margins is essential for a bold move to have impact. Are you willing to invest in yourself and your personal future? (What might happen if you over-invest in learning what you need to learn, and doing what you need to do so that you stand out in a world that is pushing you to fit in?)
- Make a difference that benefits humanity. With today’s consumer if you are not up to something bigger than making money you are up to no good. Now every consumer is an activist. They demonstrate their values with their wallets. 86% of consumers say business has a direct responsibility to solve social problems and heal the environment. This is today’s centerpiece value that drives innovation, attracts talent, engages employees, and impresses customers. (We will never feel fulfilled if our work is not aligned with our values. I believe that you can make your difference every day. If that’s your intention, you will see the opportunities clearly.)
- Change fast. Bold moves are nearly always revolutionary. It requires simultaneous realignment of strategy, talent, brand, and the internal systems to support the change. Fast change is more successful than slow change because it creates focused energy. It also produces results that sustain the change. No change is perfect. In fact it’s messy. The real world demands we constantly adapt. Successful leaders will always seek new products, new channels, and new customers. It’s a growth mindset. (How much better would your life be if you became great at changing when old habits and old thinking no longer worked? Change as soon as you need to…this is the key to resilience… the single most important ability for successful life.)
As you can see these six drivers of successful bold moves are pretty scary—definitely not business as usual or even life a little better. Bold leadership requires so much courage that it’s not surprising that the commitment to change must come directly from your deepest values. Genuine bold moves come from inner convictions deep in the bones of courageous leaders who are willing to make their difference.
Do you have a vision you hold so strongly you’re unwilling to accept defeat? Nothing less will do.