Today, most consumer-driven companies are playing catchup in a rapidly changing world. We see mistakes made by their leaders and unexpected changes in companies’ strategic directions. The retail industry has suffered not only from badly thought-out decisions but also from the increasing pressure of online retailers.

While retail companies are trying to catch up and win back customers, I’ve decided to look at the issues from a leadership perspective. What has changed in the capabilities and skills of successful retail leaders? Who can turn things around? Who can be a future game-changer? Mark Cohen, professor at Columbia Business School and former CEO of Sears Canada, helped me with answers to these questions.

Lilia K. Staples: Let’s start with challenges. Today, in your mind, what are the top three issues of retailing leadership of large corporate enterprises?

Mark Cohen: Insuring that the entire organization is properly focused on the strategy of the company and its execution. (read more…)

I’ve been thinking a lot about wrecking balls lately, and no, not because of Miley Cyrus.

I’ve been thinking about wrecking balls because this year my company went through our own demolition. We took the momentum from a year of hard work and used the force of our collective strengths to deconstruct what we originally built and start all over again.

Sounds a little dramatic but it was the best decision we’ve ever made. Here’s why.

Anything worth building once is worth building again

When we first built 15Five — an employee-feedback platform that takes 15 minutes to write and 5 minutes to read — we dove in with the concept and figured out the other details as we went. We rapidly built our back-end technology and designed a UI to quickly get the idea out to the world to see how people would respond.

It wasn’t perfect, but it worked. (read more…)

SmartPulse — our weekly nonscientific reader poll in SmartBrief on Leadership — tracks feedback from more than 190,000 business leaders. We run the poll question each week in our e-newsletter.

Last week, we asked: How well do you model having a balanced life for the members of your team?

  • Very well — I’m the epitome of balance and they see it clearly: 16.39%
  • Well — I set a good example most of the time but not always: 53.15%
  • Not well — they likely see me as a bit out of balance: 21.01%
  • Poorly — they should avoid following my example if possible: 9.45%

Don’t ignore balance until it’s too late. We like to think we’re in balance as leaders but given our type-A personalities, it’s not likely. I’d venture to guess the 53% of you who say you’re good at it would get a different (less balanced) answer from the members of your team. (read more…)

Bill SwansonBill Swanson is North America CEO of Cartridge World, but he’s also the company’s global chief financial officer. I recently asked him how he came to hold both roles, how he balances and weighs those responsibilities, and how other companies might study a similar strategy and structure.

You have a finance background and came to Cartridge World as global CFO before adding the North America CEO role. What led to the decision to take on the second role, and how important was your background in that decision?

Cartridge World needed new leadership after the company moved its North American headquarters from California to Illinois in 2011. I came aboard as global CFO in May 2011 before adding the North American CEO title a little more than a year later.

Prior to moving to Illinois, the Cartridge World system wasn’t working. We were creating negative cash flow and had far more expenses than were sustainable based on our revenue stream. (read more…)

 Joe Griffin and Jay Swansson are co-founders and CEOs at iAcquire, a digital marketing agency that was founded in 2009. They have grown to 100 employees, with offices in Manhattan and Phoenix, serving 150-plus clients across industries. I recently asked them about how they handle and promote company culture.

What do you strive for your company culture to be? For instance, if perks and office space went away and it was simply the team in a windowless room, what core values would be untouched?

Joe: The core values that would remain untouched at iAcquire are in the form of the acronym C.R.A.F.T:

  • Creativity: We believe that creativity and out-of-the-box thinking fosters innovation. We select and develop team members who challenge marketing status quo.
  • Responsibility: We honor our clients and take it upon ourselves to always deliver results.
  • Acumen: Talent and expertise with every engagement as a strategic partner to clients.
  • Fortitude: We stand up for our beliefs in the face of challenge or adversity.
  • (read more…)