There’s a lot of talk about innovation these days, about new models for every organizational function. Companies are always trying to understand what they can do that’s a game changer for the industry. Here’s some advice: Master the basics first.

Too many junior managers, managers – even senior leaders — are searching for something that isn’t there: “easy” leadership and management models. At Brandon Hall Group, we see this all the time. One thing is pretty apparent after being in this business for well over 20 years: leadership is hard. It is sometimes messy. As a leader, when in doubt, focus on the basics – techniques that seasoned managers have learned over many years. Here are some tenets to live by:

  • Add value to clients. Sounds easy, but it’s not. We see many organizations start to become ineffective when decisions start to be more about them than about how they add value to clients – in both corporate and consumer businesses.
  • Respond quickly to clients. Even if you do not know the answer, respond ASAP, preferably immediately. Research shows that potential clients appreciate a fast response, even if you don’t have all the answers.
  • Be honest and direct. Brevity is best. It saves time, and your message does not get diluted in rambling discourses and long meetings.
  • Make decisions based on data, not just instincts. Too many managers make decisions with zero data, research or insight.That’s a problem. Then they wonder why the outcome is not what they wanted.
  • Stop whining. We all make choices. We all struggle at times. If you are not happy with your situation, whatever it is, review the choices you’ve made. Correct your course. Take action.
  • Hire motivated people. If you have to motivate employees constantly, you’ve hired poorly. If you’ve hired people who are not great, you’ve hired poorly. I would rather have a business that has tons of competitors and a great team of talented people versus an “innovative” company with just average talent.
  • Focus on building the business. Your career will advance as does the business.
Mike Cooke

Chief Executive Officer of Brandon Hall Group Mike Cooke Prior to joining Brandon Hall Group, Mike Cooke was the Chief Executive Officer and co-founder of AC Growth. Mike held leadership and executive positions for the majority of his career, at which he was responsible for steering sales and marketing teams to drive results and profitability. His background includes more than 15 years of experience in sales, marketing, management, and operations in the research, consulting, software and technology industries. Mike has extensive experience in sales, marketing and management having worked for several early high-growth emerging businesses and has implemented technology systems to support various critical sales, finance, marketing and client service functions. He is especially skilled in organizing the sales and service strategy to fully support a company's growth strategy. The concept of growth was an absolute to Mike and a motivator in starting AC Growth, in order to help organizations achieve research driven results. Most recently, Mike was the VP and General Manager of Field Operations at Bersin & Associates, a global analyst and consulting services firm focused on all areas of enterprise learning, talent management and talent acquisition. Tasked with leading the company's global expansion, Mike led all sales operations worldwide. During Mike's tenure, the company has grown into a multi-national firm, conducting business in over 45 countries with over 4,500 multi-national organizations. Mike started his career at MicroVideo Learning Systems in 1992, eventually holding a senior management position and leading all corporate sales before founding Dynamic Minds. Mike was CEO and Co-Founder of Dynamic Minds, a custom developer of software programs, working with clients like Goldman Sachs, Prentice Hall, McGraw Hill and Merrill Lynch. Also, Mike worked for Oddcast, a leading provider of customer experience and marketing solutions, where he held a senior management position leading the company into new markets across various industries. Mike also serves on the Advisory Board for Carbon Solutions America, an independent sustainability consulting and carbon management firm that specializes in the design and implementation of greenhouse reduction and sustainability plans as well as managing the generation of carbon and renewal energy and energy efficiency credits. Mike attended University of Phoenix, studying Business Administration and Finance. He has also completed executive training at the Chicago Graduate School of Business in Chicago, IL.

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