Minimize the risk of “Shock & Disbelief” – Weekend Reflections for Leaders: December 29, 2018

Most companies work on a traditional calendar year for their financial reporting and as a result, there are a cascade of events happening within organizations at the close of the year and in the first few months of the new year. For people in leadership roles there is most likely time set aside to meet one on one with direct reports to close out the prior year and kick off the new year with a set of performance objectives to support the over-arching goals of the organization.

Many times, these year-end review discussions also contain some definitive conclusions on total compensation adjustments where there may be a pay raise, bonus payment, or some other form of compensation and recognition.

For anyone who has participated in these discussions more than once, there can be the potential for a complete misalignment of performance and hence the potential for “shock & disbelief” on the part of the direct report and/or the leader. When it comes to specifics around pay increases and bonus payments, money always seems to add fuel to the fire of “shock & disbelief” on any specific misalignment on behaviors or activities. Even with traditional sales roles where tracking of performance has been weekly or monthly throughout the year, some underlying behavior expectations or activity measures have the potential for misalignment.

It is never a good day when a leader and a direct report are completely misaligned on key areas of performance. A complete misalignment may indicate some broader organizational issues that contributed to the misalignment, but for the most part, the burden falls on the leader to be more effective in their role to minimize the risk of “shock & disbelief” when discussing performance and compensation adjustments during year-end review discussions.

Here are a few common pitfalls that leaders can avoid in order to minimize the risk of “shock & disbelief” during year-end review discussions:

  • Failure to set clear objectives from the start

When the year does not begin clear on objectives and expectations, it will most likely only go downhill from the start. Leaders need to do the hard work of defining clear objectives, outlining examples of what specific behaviors look like, and reinforcing how these objectives tie to the broader objectives of the organization.

  • Failure to consistently discuss performance throughout the year

When leaders do not have a steady cadence or rhythm throughout the year to reconnect on performance, the stage is set for a misalignment at the end of the year. Leaders and direct reports need a consistent series of one on one discussions to review objectives and activities and behaviors that are the near-term drivers of performance. In addition, leaders need to address behaviors “in the moment” on an ongoing basis to provide reinforcement and a reconnection to the larger objectives.

  • Failure to have the difficult conversation earlier in the year

It is not uncommon for leaders to shuffle along further than they should before addressing some underlying behavior issue or gap in performance of a direct report. The issue of underperformance is rarely cut and dry. Performance management is not routinely that easy. There is usually some really positive work going on combined with a behavior or activity where a direct report is falling short. A leader often hesitates in addressing the underperformance while providing over the top encouragement on the positive items in the hope that it will all come together in the end. Leaders should get in the habit of addressing all aspects of performance sooner rather than later to ensure alignment and necessary course corrections can occur throughout the year.    

As leaders prepare to close out the year, they should be proactive about identifying and sharing learnings from any shortfalls with performance management in the prior year and be intentional about raising the bar on their effort and impact in the new year.

The burden falls heavily on today’s senior executives and top talent to ensure they set a clear standard for performance management to ensure themselves and leaders on their teams minimize the risk of “shock & disbelief” during year-end performance discussions. Effective performance management is a critical aspect to building a culture that can deliver top growth in both the near and long term.

What if I were to ask you, “What is the most difficult leadership challenge you are facing today?” What would you say?

Here are a few resources to help:

  1. Download FREE resources at
  2. Contact me. Email: (M) 269-370-9275

David Esposito

Young Hispanic female waitress talks with her boss during a performance review.

External Support – Weekend Reflections for Leaders: December 22, 2018

As the marketplace continues to grow in complexity and credible competitive threats emerge rapidly, there is a significant challenge for senior executives and top talent to be well positioned to successfully lead a company for the long term.    

Over the last several decades it has been clear that large multi-national companies have been challenged to keep pace with the innovation being driven by the early & middle markets of high growth industries like technology and healthcare. As a result, large multi-national companies have accelerated their business development activities and aggressively funded their own corporate venture capital funds to secure external innovation as a more efficient and effective method of capital allocation compared to funding internally developed programs which have not kept pace with the external environment. 

In the same construct that has driven large companies to go outside to find innovation, senior executives and top talent, in order to remain at the top of their game and be positioned to successfully lead large companies in the future, need to access external support for learning and growth. Leveraging a combination of traditional internal training/development support with elements of external support will help senior executives and top talent keep pace with some of the skills and experiences being gained by leaders in the more innovative, early stage environments of high growth industries.

Below are a few ideas for external support that have been proven helpful to senior executives and top talent maintaining their competitive edge in dynamic markets:

  1. Hire an external strategic advisor and/or leadership coach.

In addition to product innovation coming out of venture capital funded start-ups in places like the Silicon Valley and Cambridge, MA is the attitude that “everyone needs a coach.” Top VC firms often require C-Suite leaders of businesses they fund to have access to an external coach. Over the last 3+ decades of building companies, they have consistently seen the value of leaders having someone external to day to day operations providing insight and support to help leaders be their best. There is a measurable and significant missed opportunity in large companies not assigning independent, one on one, outside advisors to the company’s senior executives and top talent.

2. Be proactive and intentional in about sitting on the boards of industry trade groups, university tech transfer advisory roles, and participation in early stage industry events.

One of the many challenges faced by senior executives and top talent is that large companies have a tremendous gravitational pull to remain inside the four walls of the organization. To stay current on the corporate vernacular, the political environment, not to mention the day to day activities of getting work done, can create a huge challenge for leaders to get an outside perspective or fresh ideas for the business.

The cost of giving in to the company’s strong gravitational pull and staying too internally focused is leaders will not be well versed in emerging skills and innovations that will be essential to keeping the company growing over the long term. Senior executives and top talent need to be proactive and intentional about gaining exposure to the outside industry world through trade groups, tech transfer departments within universities, and early stage investment forums to ensure they are learning and growing at the pace of their peers on the outside. With current efficient access to various online forums, LinkedIn professional groups, and other industry forums there are opportunities that can be accessed efficiently and cost effectively to broaden a leader’s experience.

3. Routinely attend traditional one/two-week programs at some of the leading business schools in the US and overseas.

Leading business schools offer some great programs on leadership topics, specific commercial focused programs, and entrepreneurship programs that can result in a step function of growth in leader’s development. These programs are taught by the current thought-leaders of our time and can provide tremendous insight to a leader in a short, focused program format. Quite often, leaders return refreshed and energized with some new ideas to tackle the everyday challenges of leading teams and delivering results. 

In addition, the connections and networking with other industry leaders that are established in these programs can prove to be fruitful to support the company’s growth initiatives.

Today’s senior executives and top talent are faced with the challenging of leading the business today while preparing to deliver long term growth in a marketplace that is rapidly changing. Today’s operational plans could be obsolete in delivering value in the future. Gaining consistent external experience and outside advice to compliment a company’s internal development plans will best position senior executives and top talent to be successful in the future.

What if I were to ask you, “What is the most difficult leadership challenge you are facing today?” What would you say?

Here are a few resources to help:

  1. Download FREE resources at
  2. Contact me. Email: (M) 269-370-9275

David Esposito

Modern city and business persons. Teamwork of business concept.

Oil for the Engine – Weekend Reflections for Leaders: December 15, 2018

Senior leadership teams spend a great deal of time and effort on making the big choices for the company. These choices are critical to define the intent of the business, the values that guide behaviors, the products/services being delivered and to efficiently allocate resources to accomplish the desired outcomes.

These strategic choices are the key components for the engine of a business.

The oil necessary to keep that engine running smoothly over the long-term is effective leadership communication.

Many strategic initiatives like entering a new market, an acquisition, a corporate culture transformation, and the attainment of routine annual growth targets often fail because of an insufficient communication plan and/or the lack of discipline to do the unglamorous work of daily executing on the plan.

The hard work to tactically deliver effective leadership communication often becomes just an after-thought to the really “cool” work of leadership teams pontificating about various strategic choices, debating the choices, and then landing on some decisions.

A crucial component of every leader’s development plan should be to continually raise the bar on their own communication effectiveness. Unfortunately, this crucial component of a leader’s development is rarely emphasized and when it is, it is usually stuck far behind strategic thinking, product development efficiencies, capital allocation effectiveness, etc.

Here are some well-proven reminders to help all of us raise the bar on our communication effectiveness:

  1. Clarity: When leaders make decisions, they should be communicated very clearly to their teams. Big decisions like “Mission” “Values” “Priorities” etc. and the “why” behind those decisions should be clearly outlined and practically placed on various communication tools like intranets, slide decks, pictures/images etc. so that teams have clear visible reminders of the big decisions made by leadership. Creativity in images and materials can assist leaders to further gain the hearts and minds of teams to remember and successfully execute on these decisions.  Clarity around decisions is the easy step.
  2. Consistency: Leaders need to be consistent in verbal and written communications to reinforce these key decisions on a daily, weekly, monthly basis. The opening of a staff meeting, an employee briefing, a routine one on one discussion, and regular email communications are ideal times to consistently reinforce “our mission”, “our priorities for year” etc. Leaders need to maintain the discipline to use these routine touch points with their teams to reinforce the major decisions of the company. Too often leaders fail to use these routine touch points to reinforce the decisions because of the false assumption that people already “get it” and maybe getting tired of the message. It is important that leaders take advantage of every opportunity to communicate and reinforce the major decisions of the company.
  3. Progress: Nothing builds momentum like highlighting small steps of progress towards to goals outlined by leaders. Highlighting an individual’s or team’s behavior that is consistent with “our values” helps to set an example for others to follow. Seeing and hearing about milestones being accomplished as stepping stones towards a product launch or some major initiative is tremendously energizing for teams. By consistently providing clear updates on progress towards goals, leaders can create the necessary energy and commitment from the team to ensure success in hitting objectives and driving towards the key goals of the company.

Today’s senior executives and top talent need to maintain a strong focus on improving their communication effectiveness. Making major strategic decisions is often the easy part. Ensuring those decisions are effectively communicated with clarity, consistency, and progress updates to ensure successful execution is quite often where leaders fall short.

PS – The images for this article were some examples of the big decisions we outlined at Armune BioScience. The real work was in effectively communicating those decisions to ensure excellent execution.

What if I were to ask you, “What is the most difficult leadership challenge you are facing today?” What would you say?

Here are a few resources to help:

  1. Download FREE resources at
  2. Contact me. Email: (M) 269-370-9275

David Esposito

A Critical Timeline for Leaders (Part II of II) – Weekend Reflections for Leaders: December 8, 2018

These two recent Weekend Reflections for Leaders address a critical timeline for leaders. Part I was about People and Part II is about the Marketplace.

The marketplace, no matter how we define it, continues to grow in intensity, uncertainty, and urgency. Customer expectations continues to rise, competition seems to come virtually overnight from previously unknown players, and technology has leveled the global playing field.

The topic for this Weekend Reflections for Leaders is about a most critical timeline that, unlike last week’s topic on people which is rarely discussed openly, this week’s topic on the marketplace is more openly discussed by executive leaders. However, discussion alone is not enough to prevent having a significant negative impact on business performance. 

The business cases are now legendary about how once dominant companies and multi-billion-dollar industries were just “Napstered” or “Ubered” or “Amazoned” seemingly overnight. From a learning context, it is important to realize that although technology has accelerated these events recently, the business cases are not unique within the modern-day technology revolution. We should all remember the once dominant US auto industry in a post WWII economy that, in a few short decades, became a small fraction of the global market. 

The most critical timeline for leaders that is so clear in hindsight, but rarely garners a sense of heart-pounding panic and urgency in the methodical rhythm of a large, multi-national corporation, is the timeline between that initial sense that disruption is happening on the fringes of the market and the time leaders actually “wake-up” to the threat and start to take meaningful action to address the challenge of survival of the business. Most businesses have a timeline that is far too long in addressing threats to the business.

A sobering reminder of how it feels in hindsight for most leaders who fail to act on threats first seen on the fringe of the market is the quote from Ernest Hemingway’s 1926 novel, The Sun Also Rises; When the main character is asked, ‘How did you go bankrupt?’ The response, ‘Two ways, gradually and then suddenly.”

The timeline of when leaders initially realize the emergence of small threats to the business and the time we actually start making progress towards addressing the threat is a timeline worthy of our attention. Responsibility to be more efficient in shortening this critical timeline rests squarely on the shoulders of leaders in the business as they are the ones that can direct action with a sense of urgency.

Here are some thoughts to help us all better address this most critical timeline:

First, what holds us back? Here are a few common obstacles:

  1. The business is most likely operating well in the near-term and there is a host of routine work that needs to get done. Our time and attention can easily remain focused on the routine tasks that are comfortable, familiar, and still important to running the business.
  2. When the business is currently performing great relative to our current competitive set, traditional financial metrics of unit volume growth, cash flow etc. are setting records, and the stock price continues to grow, we run the risk of pride becoming the barrier to us clearly seeing threats on the horizon. The Book of Proverbs reminds us that “Pride goes before the fall.”
  3. As senior executives, we don’t always listen well. (1) Our teams on the front lines who see threats first and try to communicate up through the organization don’t always get a listening ear from senior executives. Our view is a few layers removed from the front lines and we don’t feel the heat as much as those who are daily on the front lines. (2) Our customers, when we open routine channels of communication, can reveal changing expectations which usually provide hints as to where they want to go tomorrow, and we often build systems and processes that don’t listen well to customer’s changing expectations.

Second, what can we do about it? Here a few ideas:

  1. “Only the paranoid survive,” Andy Grove, former CEO of Intel. As leaders, we need to always have an element of paranoia about threats to the business. On a personal level, paranoia may not be a healthy mind-set, but in running a business, somewhere inside the organization’s belly, we need to be sensitive to and observant of threats.
  2. Assign teams to be more intentional about taking action towards companies in the lower and middle market of the industry. Meaningful action can be just a closer observance, commercial partnerships, licensing opportunities, and/or direct investments in companies beginning to make progress in the market. To be effective, this can’t be a side job of a commercial organization. A small team needs to have a primary responsibility to be fully focused on the lower and middle market of the industry.
  3. Listen better and discern better. Senior executives need to create more channels and be more effective in listening to teams on the front lines and to customers. In addition to listening, senior executives need to build their skills to be more effective in discerning emerging threats to the business. Building the skill of discernment can come through painful direct experience, external advisors, and being intentional about routinely getting outside of the natural rhythm and mind-set of the company by participating in venture capital/early stage investing forums, business incubators formed around premier business schools, etc.  Senior executives need to be intentional about routinely getting outside of the four walls of the company.

Today’s senior executives and top talent need to be careful that they do not become too comfortable in the current success of the business. The mantra to “stay humble and stay hungry” should be carved into the walls next to the flat screen that teams are routinely punch-drunk by power-point-slides at the next strategic planning session. The marketplace is moving too fast for us to think we can skate by a few more years until retirement.

What if I were to ask you, “What is the most difficult leadership challenge you are facing today?” What would you say?

Here are a few resources to help:

  1. Download FREE resources at
  2. Contact me. Email: (M) 269-370-9275

David Esposito

Determined coworkers working on computer and discussing plans at office

A Critical Timeline for Leaders (Part I of II) – Weekend Reflections for Leaders: December 1, 2018

The next two Weekend Reflections for Leaders will address a critical timeline for leaders. Part I is about People and Part II is about the Marketplace.

The clock seems to be ticking all around us.  We have a product launch plan that needs to deliver on time. We have customer response software to ensure timely and routine communications to customers are delivered on time. We have weekly, monthly, quarterly targets etc. to assess the health of the business on an ongoing basis. In most organizations, these timelines and activities are visible for all to see to help gain alignment around a team effort to deliver on the goals of the business.

Part I for this Weekend Reflections for Leaders is about a most critical timeline that is rarely discussed among a group of executive leaders and is certainly not initially visible to anyone but the individual leader. If not addressed effectively, this most critical timeline for leaders has a significant negative impact on business performance and the culture of the organization. 

The most critical timeline for leaders that rarely gets any public attention, is certainly not added as a bullet point on an update on the business, and is only genuinely known in the mind of a leader is the timeline between that initial sense that change needs to happen and the time we actually begin to make meaningful progress to bring about the needed change concerning someone on our team.

I have seen it first hand, numerous times, in my own leadership journey and I have advised other leaders on this same issue. Most of us have a timeline that is too long in having that first difficult and direct conversation on a misalignment of behaviors, lack of receptivity to growth and learning, and near-term underperformance that is not exactly crystal clear among the complexity of issues facing the business.

Sure, the easy visible issues cause us to act quickly like someone acting inappropriately in a direct and overt way, the complete breakdown in a poor response to a customer, the mismanagement of finances, etc., we can all move quickly with those.

However, the real challenge is that subtle, but recognizable in the gut of a leader that a person’s behaviors are not well aligned, hustle and hunger for the business is not totally there, and a genuine desire to grow and develop is not at pace with the dynamic marketplace we find ourselves in trying to survive.

The time we realize that change needs to happen and the time we actually start making progress towards the desired change in someone on our team is a timeline worthy of our attention. Responsibility to be more efficient in shortening this critical timeline rests squarely on the shoulders of individual leaders as they are the only ones that hold that initial sense that change needs to occur.

Here are some thoughts to help us all better address this most critical timeline:

First, what holds us back? Here are a few common obstacles:

  1. Most leaders are biased to the positive. We bring a hopeful attitude to the table and with a few positive behaviors mixed with a few subtle negative ones, we often internally decide to believe the positives will outweigh the negatives over time and we hesitate to take near-term action.
  2. Most leaders fear that an over-reaction to what seems like an initial minor issue may create a difficult working environment going forward and we hesitate to take near-term action.
  3. Most leaders are honest with themselves and realize having these conversations is not easy and not comfortable, so we hesitate to take near-term action until the pain/embarrassment of inaction outweighs the pain of taking action…usually when things become clearly visible to others or the business performance becomes disastrous.

Second, what can we do about it? Here a few ideas:

  1. Realize that this timeline is probably one of the most important developmental areas of all leaders and should be addressed with intention and courage, not avoidance.
  2. Take action and get things rolling…Experience is the mother of all learning. Climb into the ring to learn and grow. The basic principles of coaching that we all know are a great place to start: (a) reinforce expectations and goals (b) focus on specific behaviors (c) listen and understand different points of view (d) decide on some clear action steps (e) remain engaged and supportive.  
  3. Partner with an advisor/mentor (internal or external to the company…external would be most effective for a host of reasons) with whom you can very open with about your instincts, benefit from a point of view that is not so close to the fight and can be a solid sounding board to identify action steps.

Today’s senior executives and top talent need to be careful that the old Credence Clearwater Revival song about “someday never comes” does not become an anthem for the difficult conversations we need to have with people on our teams. If “someday never comes” in terms of bringing about change and does become the norm in our leadership, we will soon build a culture where people see we don’t care enough to address the tough issues and we will quickly become an irrelevant voice around the leadership table.

What if I were to ask you, “What is the most difficult leadership challenge you are facing today?” What would you say?

Here are a few resources to help:

  1. Download FREE resources at
  2. Contact me. Email: (M) 269-370-9275

David Esposito

Young team leader correcting offended senior employee working on computer in office, female manager scolding aged old worker for mistake or incompetence, different generations and age discrimination

The Decision to Move On – Weekend Reflections for Leaders: November 24, 2018

In today’s business environment the war for top talent is real and with a supposed 60%+ of people in US companies actively job-hunting, the challenge to build thriving, engaged teams is enormous for senior executives.

I have made the decision to move on to other roles a few times in my career and I am asked quite often for career advice around is it worth leaving a steady job to pursue something different or when is the right time to leave, etc. The topic for this Weekend Reflections for Leaders is focused on providing a few thoughts on what becomes a very complex and personal decision to move on from a company and/or a career.

The decision to move on. When someone feels that first itch to considering moving on, it is important to understand the reason for the search. Here are a few potential reasons people have shared with me:

  • Limited opportunity for movement into new roles that can support growth and development (either the company is not growing, or an individual is not on the short list for advancement).
  • A company culture (collective behavior of leaders) that does not align with an individual’s values. This is not simply a “bad boss.” This is a complete misalignment of values and an unhealthy environment for someone to build a career upon.
  • A desire for a more challenging career to learn and grow. The career track within the company/industry does not seem as appealing as it once did for growth and development or after some genuine soul-searching, one’s true purpose or life’s desire is not aligned to a current career path.  

It is often difficult to simplify what is a complex, multifactorial decision to consider moving on, but it has been my experience that a most thoughtful and healthy rationale is when an individual’s desire to learn and grow exceeds the apparent opportunities in both the near and medium term in their current environment. The decision is most effective when it is based on the desire to continue to learn, grow and make a positive impact versus a decision based on fear or simply seeking “fame and fortune.”

Where to go? Once a decision to search is made, the next step is to figure where to go.

If the current industry, or sub-segment of an industry, still seems appealing, then searching for growing companies in the same field makes sense. An individual already has marketable skills and can hit the ground running in a similar position. This “fresh start” can often be an enabler of rapid individual growth that has been unleashed in a new environment without the limitations that were in place in a prior company.   

If the industry does not seem appealing (macro-factors driving consolidation, limited innovation, or the industry is ripe to be “Amazoned”, “Napstered” or “Uberized”) then it is time to look for new, growing industries or at least companies that seem capable of innovating their way out of an industry that is ripe for commoditization.

Assessing opportunities. There are books written on the various factors to determine whether an opportunity is sufficient to move forward. In my experience, it comes down to two factors (1) People: The leadership, the culture, and environment to participate must be trustworthy and well-aligned to a person’s values (2) Products & Services: Priority focus placed on innovations in product development, customer service, and operations must be well-appreciated otherwise a future of commoditization and outsourcing is not far away.

Corporate roles vs. the Entrepreneur: In today’s world where the marketplace and the media glorify, and reward entrepreneurs compared to the steady Joe and Jane leading great corporations on the world’s stage, it is important to consider the factors on making a major career shift of moving from a large company to an entrepreneurial venture. This decision is often on a whole different level than the process discussed above.

The mindset of an entrepreneur is different than the mindset of most corporate cultures.

If an individual prefers to work with familiar people, doing consistent processes within a steady organizational structure, and where the guardrails are firmly established, then the entrepreneur pathway may not be for them. However, if an individual wants to be on the hook for making decisions that impact the survival of the company, personally invest in work and products that are not a sure thing, and lead others to support a clear purpose without a high degree of certainty that it will succeed, then the path of entrepreneurship may be for them.

Today’s senior executives and top talent need to be intentional about building a career path that is focused on continual growth and development. The marketplace continues to accelerate the pace of change and the mindset of a steady, one-size fits all 30-year career plan will most likely end in an undesirable outcome. Those who expand their experience, development new skills, and adapt quickly to change are the most likely to thrive going forward. 

Are you facing a challenging career decision…or should you be and just have not yet accepted the reality?

What if I were to ask you, “What is the most difficult leadership challenge you are facing today?” What would you say?

Here are a few resources to help:

  1. Download FREE resources at
  2. Contact me. Email: (M) 269-370-9275

David Esposito

The Product and The Customer – Looking Back (Part #7) – Weekend Reflections for Leaders: November 17, 2018

The intent of the Looking Back series captured in recent Weekend Reflections for Leaders is to share some learnings from my journey of leaving a successful career with a great multi-national, life science company to learn and grow in the high growth (and high risk) mid-stage and early-stage life science marketplace. Over the last decade, I led a few companies to successful exits and also experienced a few very painful failures.

This weekend’s writing is the final part of the series. Here is a summary of the last few weeks of Looking Back:

Part #1: Guiding Principles

Part #2: Risk Taking and the Value of Failure

Part #3: Teamwork   

Part #4: Inspiration

Part #5: Energy & Focus

Part #6: Leadership & Empowerment

The construct of any business, whether large or small, starts with an identified need or problem to be solved. The development of an idea for a product or service that meets that need gets the ball rolling with forming a business. However, we just have a nice research project, not a business, until we have someone willing to pay for the product or service…and we don’t have the potential for a successful business until we have those same customers coming back to buy more and inviting their network of friends and colleagues to do the same.

In companies both large and small, there is a consistent internal cultural risk that arises with an infatuation of the product and how great “we” are for developing the product, while forgetting about the original intent of meeting a customer’s needs and losing the discipline to consistently assess how customers appreciate and value the product or service.

We create a great deal of work on trying to achieve “perfection” with the product and spend very little time seeing how it will integrate in a potential customer’s current workflow, what logistics barriers need to be addressed and most importantly, if customers will actually pay for it. In many of today’s market segments, and certainly in healthcare, companies need to further assess a potential customer’s commitment to buy the product with the follow-up question, “If you are going to buy this new product, what product or service are you going to stop buying as a result.” No one has an ever-expansive budget to just keep purchasing. The economic offset and product/service trade-offs of buying something new must be well understood to manage expectations for the launch of new product or service.

In many ways, creating the product to meet a need in the market is the easy part. The logistics, the integration into workflows, the pricing structure, etc. is where the real hard work needs to be done to ensure there is a wonderful customer experience that is delivered along with our “great” product.

In one of my more painful leadership learnings, I was a key leader in a company that was overly enthusiastic about how great our product was and paid little attention to the product’s practical application in the real world of our target customers. As a result, the company slowly walked into insolvency. It was a 10+ year journey and a multi-million-dollar investment that did not end well for anyone involved. 

Successful entrepreneurs have figured out that product development really begins in the hands of customers and getting product #1 out the door and being used by customers is just the beginning to creating the next big thing. Whether it is the software analogy of “Version 1.0 & 2.0” or “New & Improved”, the construct is the same, the customer is at the heart of product development and the company’s focus is on evolving the product offering to address the ongoing learnings from customers using it in real life.

Creating the perfect product from the start is a pipe-dream.  Companies need to focus on getting to market quickly with a marketable solution and then systematically learn and adopt their offerings based on learnings gathered from customers.

Ensuring that a trustworthy, respectful, and thoughtful customer experience is delivered as part of the purchase of a product will be the foundation for customers’ willingness to remain engaged around version 2.0, 3.0, etc. in the future. In today’s competitive world, products are rapidly becoming interchangeable and it is the customer experience around that product that builds long term customer relationships that can develop into a sustainable business.  

Both large and small companies suffer from an unhealthy infatuation of the product and migrate away from the original intent of a passion for solving a large unmet need in the market.

For today’s senior executives and top talent, there is an important element in the journey of leadership to ensure the organization’s intent remains focused on solving the needs of customers and not simply adding more creative bells and whistles to our “great” product.

What if I were to ask you, “What is the most difficult leadership challenge you are facing today?” What would you say?

Here are a few resources to help:

  1. Download FREE resources at
  2. Contact me. Email: (M) 269-370-9275

David Esposito

Charming curly girl in red apron advising wine sorts to man working in wine house market.