Avoiding the Business Acumen Gap
Business Acumen is a foundational competency for all leaders. You will lose credibility quickly if people perceive that you are weak at “knowing your stuff”. As with other skills and/or competencies, business acumen is an on-going process. Surprisingly, leaders can fall into a business acumen gap. They get so busy in the day to day activities of “taking care of business” that they fail to grow in business acumen. Or, worse, they have the belief they “know it all”. This is not just detrimental to that leader; it can have major repercussions for the organization, employees and the customers.
What does good business acumen look like?
Leaders with great Business Acumen can be described as someone who has a clear understanding of the industry trends, economic environment, market dynamics, and their organization’s strengths and weaknesses. And with that understanding is able to integrate multiple perspectives, exercise good judgment in recognizing the right opportunities with the most potential for innovation and growth. Then, they must create and execute a strategic plan that produces a good return on investment. No small feat!
To keep that business acumen gap small, here are some recommendations:
- Set aside regular times to grow your acumen. Make it a habit of carving out a daily time to read, listen, or engage in dialogue about your business. Fifteen minutes of focused daily activity can reap big benefits.
- Access the usual places such as trade magazines, Wall Street Journal, related blogs, books, etc.
- Become an expert investigator of failed companies.
- Become an expert investigator of successful companies.
- Engage your employees not just those that work directly with you. Leave your desk or call someone in another part of the organization. Talk to all levels. We’re sure that they will give you important insight and teach you something.
- Talk to you customers. What do they know or not know about your business? What do they see that you’re not seeing?
- Ask your vendors, contractors, etc. to share their knowledge and perception of your company.
- Seek out people who don’t know anything about your organization but are successful in their own companies.
- Create a “study” group whose purpose is to grow each other’s business acumen.
- Hire a coach to challenge and support your growth.
Exceptional leaders know their stuff. They create a culture of learning. And they (plus the organization) reap the benefits!
What do you think? What would you add to the list above? Where can you do better and what are you already doing to narrow the gap?
Photo courtesy of Ambro