Leading a company is about setting big challenges and sharing them in exciting stories that inspire and energize people. There is no excuse for being boring.
People are not motivated by the 99th time they hear about VUCA times. That is negative and gives no direction. People are not motivated by a vision. Though it is positive and gives direction, it is not a call for help. A big challenge is what motivates. Once people unite to make the not impossible happen, all a leader needs to do is give them the resources to design the first step themselves and the next and the next.
When I started as MD in a company in 2004, we were way too small to ever make a profit. We should have produced at least 10x the amount of products to meet the market standards. That had to do with the necessary investment in a machine you needed anyway that came in one size only. 10x the turnover equalled taking at least 10% market share in a market that was dominated by 3 companies (that all had over 10% share) and a very long tail of small companies none of which had even 2%. We had not even 1%. Making that business profitable, seemed impossible. All MD’s before me had tried to cut costs, but a simple calculation showed that this would never ever be the solution. We needed volume. Fast. How does one turn this into something that motivates people?
I turned it into a big challenge and called it “3 in 3” (become #3 in 3 years time). We made a list of at least 20 companies between us and that #3 position and we started, I did not even have to design the next steps, we just did what we needed to do to take the one in front of us and we celebrated every win. We had no budget. I just kept a close eye on free cash. The challenge was also clear for the shareholders: we would not be profitable in the first 3 years, as we needed the volume first. 3 years later we were #2.