No shortcuts to being a great leader

27 11 2007

There are no shortcuts to effective sustained leadership.

It is not easy to be a leader, or to maintain a position of leadership.

There is no book, movie, seminar or short course that will turn one into a leader.

We can learn about certain elements of leadership that we may or may not possess, and incorporate these ideas into our lives and behavior.

But leadership is not about what information we possess, our good intentions, or a business title and corner office.

It’s all about what we show to others.

It’s about what we do.

Day to day actions.

Sustained leadership success comes from; listening, attention to detail, implementing ideas, perseverance in the face of adversity, willingness to embrace innovation, training and mentoring others, planning and risk identification, and the most important factor of all, providing a living example to others.

A true leader provides a model to others.

Leaders will consistently provide examples of; honesty, integrity, ethics, dignity, passion, diligence, capacity to learn, and unwillingness to be defeated.

A true leader will also provide examples of how to lose, how to accept defeat and move on, because leaders are not always winners

Leadership is not a 9 to 5 job, it’s a way of life.

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Is your company noble, moral, virtuous or ethical

15 03 2007

The terms noble, virtuous, ethical or moral seem out of date.

In fact they seem to be words right out of a fairy tale.   Words and  concepts that have faded away with the modern world and it’s complexity.

Perhaps it’s not cool to be labeled as virtuous, moral or ethical.

Is it because we live in a complicated world that has us making more decisions about the “gray areas”?

We don’t read about organizations being ethical or noble.   In fact we hear about unethical companies and employees much more often.

Business magazines doesn’t write front page articles about virtuous executives and CEO’s (I hope this is because it’s not popular and not because there aren’t any).

Are there any reasons to promote and reinforce these values in your organization?

Are there good reasons to avoid discussion of them?

Perhaps the fact that unethical behaviour is reported, and considered scandalous, is a clear signal that it is outside of “normal” business conditions and draws attention.

Let’s begin with definitions, that should clear up some of the confusion.

Moral – Conforming to a standard of what is right and wrong, correct, trustworthy.  How could anyone want to work with others who don’t know right from wrong and behave?

Ethical – Principles of conduct governing an individual or group, a set of moral values, a guiding philosophy, decent, respectable.   OK, this one sounds like it should be part of the package too.

Noble – Moral eminence and freedom from anything mean, petty or dubious in conduct and character.  In simple terms doing the “right thing” all the time, excellence.  If it looks bad, don’t do it…pretty good advice and words to live by.

Virtuous – Implies moral excellence in character.   Not only knows good from bad, and adheres to it, but is exemplary in their behaviour and practice of their beliefs, honest, good, without reproach.  I can’t find any customer, shareholder or employee who wouldn’t want their company to be virtuous.

Which of the terms can your company live without in their employees?

Are any of these characteristics that should be found and promoted in your management and leadership?

Which of these concepts and behaviours are important to you, your customers and your organization now and in the future?

Do you have a written policy in place to promote, identify, and create noble employees and a virtuous organization?

Do you point out and recognize when a person or organization has done something noble, virtuous or ethical?

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Don’t find a solution, find a way to make it better

12 03 2007

We make a large error in our business and personal lives if we believe that every problem or situation can be solved immediately or in the short term through our decisions and application of resources.

Theoretically it’s possible, but our focus on solution instead of optimizing and making changes to make it better can blindfold us toward evolutionary processes that in the long term provide better, stronger and long lasting solutions.

I’m suggesting that every situation should be initially evaluated based on two basic criteria; can it be solved now, or can it be improved now.

The situations that can be solved now or in the short term, should be. The organization should dedicate the time and resources toward the solution.

An example would be a delivery service that has 3 trucks and cannot cover the current delivery area on-time due to an increase in customers and package volume. A possible swift solution would be the purchase of another vehicle and hiring of a new driver.

A situation that cannot be solved now or ever should be approached by identifying areas where improvement should be made. The time and resources of the company should be focused upon the improvement.

An example would be government’s attempt to eliminate poverty or disease from a population. A perfect solution is not possible or practical, but by focusing on specific areas one can find great opportunities for success or enormous impact (vaccinations for children against polio).

When we look at every situation as a problem that needs to be solved right now we may be missing the best solutions and strategies required to resolve the situation over the long term. Ask yourself:

  • Can we solve the problem quickly and efficiently with simply modification of variables or a shift in technology? If the answer is yes, then set the process and resources in motion.
  • What if the problem is not able to be solved quickly or has no practical or economically viable solution? This is where the approach of resolving and modifying parts of the problem comes into play.

This evolutionary approach to problem solving is not often requested or expected in business (the quick fix is always applauded and sought after), but often the best long term strategy is optimization and gradual modification.

This evolutionary problem solving process will provide new opportunities for change and solutions to be developed in the future.The identification of areas, processes or resources that are the bottlenecks in your organization become areas of opportunity.

Modifying and improving these bottlenecks will automatically create new bottlenecks, in new areas. The focus on identifying and solving these “new” situations leads to a process of continual improvement and a better, stronger organization.

This is one of the fundamental ideas behind the Theory of Constraints (TOC).

Common sense tells us that in a complex world not all solutions are simple, quick or painless. The “quick fix” is a great idea, but not often found in everyday life.

Observation of science, technology, philosophy and business ideas and strategies show us that change occurs through the rare revolution (paradigm shifts and new discoveries) and through the more common evolution (gradual modifications leading to continual change.

What can be changed, fixed or modified today to make the organization, process, product or service incrementally better?

Related Links

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Using positive reinforcement to win customer loyalty

22 02 2007

We respond positively to positive feedback, recognition, and reinforcement of our behaviour and activities at work or home.

We get angry or lose interest in an activity, goal or organization if we don’t receive this “pat on the head” or “cheer-leading” on a continual basis.

Our customers also need reinforcement and recognition in order to maintain their motivation and good feelings toward your company or products.

What are you doing to make sure they get it?

Does the customer feel like you are just “going through the motions”?

Does it feel real?

Are you really showing that you care?

What sets you apart from your competitors AFTER the sale?

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Starting over

9 01 2007

Ever get involved in a project that requires modifications, and then those modifications led to more modifications and more and more?

Before you know it, the project has lost sight of it’s objectives, and the team is working on solving problems unrelated to the original goals.

I’m reminded of Rube Goldberg and his famous machines. We don’t intentionally try to complicate our work, but if we step back and look at the objectives, and the current processes and procedure in order to reach those objectives, we can often find distortions and diversions of comical proportions.

There are two simple actions that will eliminate and control our spiral into complexity and error.

  1. Step back and look at the problem, objectives and current procedures on a regular basis. What is working, what isn’t working, and why? What are you doing to modify or adjust the solution procedure or process instead of moving closer to a solution?
  2. When you discover that something is not working, and have analyzed why, don’t be afraid to START OVER. Throw out the current plan, and begin again.

We tend to avoid re-doing and restarting a project or activity because we want to salvage the time, money and effort that has been invested.

This inability to “do over” and start from scratch often prevents us from implementing better and more efficient solutions.

Our initial attempts to solve the problem have educated us about the requirements and environment. There is nothing wrong with starting over, in fact it may be the best and most efficient way to solve the problem.

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Rube Goldberg Website





Why do we fail

22 12 2006

No one likes to fail.

We can feel foolish, outmaneuvered, incompetent, insecure, unlucky, silly, angry, overwhelmed, frustrated and in some cases afraid to try again. after suffering a defeat.

Failure is an integral part of the learning process.

Failure is required in order to become successful.

Rare is the successful individual, product or organization that has not met adversity, failure, defeat and loss.

One of the keys to success is the ability to accept failure, learn from the experience and try again.

The fear of failure is so great in some organizations that it freezes innovation, thwarts change and stifles growth.

Organizations try to reduce or limit failure by passing on historically successful methods and accumulated knowledge to new members.

Many times this information is not useful and out of date because the elements, players and dynamics of today’s challenges are quite different from those of the past.

Use the following list to analyze your current projects (and possibly prevent or limit failure), or use the list after a setback or defeat to identify where you can improve.

Reasons for business failure can be broken into 4 main groups:

Planning

  • No plan
  • Incomplete plan
  • Wrong calculations
  • Poor or incomplete interpretation of data and research
  • Failure to take into account all factors
  • Lack of experience
  • Failure to evaluate competitor reactions correctly
  • Failure to anticipate consumer response
  • Significant difference between planned and actual costs
  • Poor cash flow calculations
  • Unrealistic goals and expected outcomes
  • Underestimate risks

Information

  • Didn’t collect all the pertinent information for planning
  • Product or service was not wanted or needed by customer
  • Lack of knowledge of market
  • Lack of knowledge of customers
  • Lack of experience in the industry
  • Lack of experience in manufacturing
  • Lack of experience in sales and marketing
  • Lack of experience in administration

Operations and Follow-through

  • Lazy, didn’t do the work required
  • Undisciplined
  • Unorganized
  • No control of suppliers
  • Did not stop in time and take corrective actions
  • Did not recognize warning signs
  • Ignored warning signs
  • Did not seek professional assistance
  • Lack of attention to logistics details
  • Failure to focus on customers needs, desires and wants
  • Poorly trained personnel
  • Lack of initial capital
  • Not enough capital to maintain operations for first years

Factors outside of our control

  • Important changes in technology
  • Environmental factors
  • International, Federal, State or local government laws, regulations and legislation
  • Aggressive competitor(s)
  • Act of God
  • Change in fashion and trends
  • Theft and fraud

Related Links

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How to determine who is your best customer

21 12 2006

How do you determine who is your best customer or best employee?

The usual method is by analyzing revenue or sales.  The customer who buys the most, or generates the most profit is the best customer.

We almost never pin the “best customer” award on the client who pushes us, complains and forces us to change, unless they meet the sales volume or profit test.  It is exactly the “uncomfortable” customer who may be providing the new ideas required in order for your organization to survive in the future.

The same criteria applies to your employees and staff.  Who is the “best employee”?  Is it the conformist, the one who never makes any waves, never creates conflict or challenges your ideas?   The disruptor, the individual who questions and challenges the status quo,  might be your organizations best friend.

There are three types of organizations; one that creates the future, one that adapts to changes in the future, and one that fails to survive.

Your “best” customers and employees should be helping you prepare for tomorrow, not just sustaining your operations today.

Related Links

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