Tuesday, October 20, 2020

The accelerating “Trajectory” of talent




The simplest way to start this essay is an old lesson, one that I learned years ago from some un-named boss or mentor, that is captured in the simple line….“Yesterday’s A+ is tomorrow’s B-!”  the idea being that in a business that is growing, thriving, and dynamically responding to a changing competitive landscape the exceptional performance that drove exceptional results last year will actually look pretty “un-exceptional” when faced with the expanded and accelerated results expected in years to come.


It’s always good to remind us what this “looks” like mathematically on the chart to the right. Y=mX+b is the age-old formula for the line and when “m” or the slope of the line is positive, we have a line showing positive growth….. whether it’s depicting net revenue, gross margin, or EBITDA, the “m” being positive and in growth mode is what’s key!


At the center of this concept is a belief that an organization, and the key individuals that make up that organization, needs to keep learning and growing their individual and team skills/capacities in order to generate expanding results expected in future fiscal quarters/years.  It also assumes that a stagnant organization, a group of individuals not building their skills and capacities over time won’t be able to generate and create growth oriented results for very long.


This “lesson” is very present for me in my current role at Bolthouse Farms.  As I mentioned in earlier essays, coming back to Bolthouse Farms has been an incredible opportunity to have a “2ndchance to work on your legacy” and I am trying to take full advantage of that chance. In that spirit we have rebuilt the team and have accelerated the business dramatically over the past 16 months since we bought the company back from Campbell’s.  It is in this context that I am thinking so much about this idea about “trajectory.”


As our business grows and changes, so do the needs and demands that are required from our team. Getting the business stabilized and back on its feet was job #1 ….LAST YEAR …. but now our focus is on building a platform for growth for the years to come and to build an organizational strength and depth to drive and sustain that growth for years to come as well!


This is the crux of the idea that as a business changes and grows, so the demands on and the expectations of its key executives change and grow correspondingly. What’s really interesting ( and very challenging) is when the growth itself accelerates….. e.g., when a business grew 10% last quarter, 15% this quarter and is planning on growing 25 % next quarter the reality is that the business is not just growing, but the growth rate is actually growing.  For those math nerds reading this essay, we are talking about a curve with a positive derivative as seen in this chart ….


In these business circumstances, it is very important to work to stay active in building the skills and capacities of your team.  Insure that you have a team ( and that you are modeling) which is focused on delivering the required results today AND in building their abilities to drive much greater results in the future.  Being a leader who is both an active learner and an active teacher is a key element of this “equation” working well.  As a leader be open to show all the new things that you are learning and working on…. Be open with what you have to learn to be great next quarter/next year/ etc. Too many leaders think about this as some sort of weakness…. nothing could be further from the truth! Equally have a “teachable point of view” and be active and patient as a teacher to your direct reports and your team.  Leaders that can combine both of these traits ( active learner and active teacher)  are positioned well to build organizations that can accelerate their capabilities and thus drive accelerating growth!