Saturday, November 27, 2010

Becoming A "Clutch" Leader

After watching several intense sports match ups this week, I noticed that something interesting happens at critical moments in each game: Leaders - both on the field and off - make decisions (or not) and take action (or not) that ultimately determines the outcome. Oftentimes, in the battle of two opposing teams, one leader will "choke" when everything is at stake.

What creates success in these high-pressure scenarios? What brings leaders through "in the clutch"?

When I was in charge of leadership initiatives at Disney, it was interesting to see what set the most effective leaders apart from the average leaders. A recent study done for the US military reveals some of the same insights that my team discovered when exploring what made the most significant difference:

  • Focus - Are you focused on the details that strategically relevant to this particular situation? Can you ignore any superfluous activity while leading through the challenge?
  • Discipline - Are you able to consistently follow up and generate accountability? Are you a legitimate role model with integrity?
  • Adaptability - Are you able to learn from the past, yet let go of everything that doesn't serve you or your team in this unique situation? Is there another (different) right answer?
  • Being Present - Are you able to "fly by the seat of your pants" and make decisions during the "real time" process of gathering problem solving information?
  • Fear/Desire - Are you appropriately motivated (either by fear or desire) enough to passionately move forward - despite the circumstances?

How do you measure up when it comes to these traits? What life experiences can you get involved in (now!) that can help you better develop these traits?

Your future teams - and your leadership career - will reflect your actions today regarding your leadership during difficult times. Do you want to be known as the leader who comes through in the clutch? Then...

Think about it. But more importantly, do something about!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Getting Extraordinary with Ordinary

I'm not much into formulas. I'm not a number-crunching/stats kinda guy - over and beyond the bottom line "what are the results?" type. However, after many years of talking with other leaders about what it takes to get superior results, most are stunned to hear what I have found while working with dozens of Fortune 500 companies:

Ordinary tactics + discipline = Extraordinary results.

Let me explain:

Have you noticed that when you read about what world-class companies say they do to achieve amazing outcomes, you (like most professionals) think "well, that's obvious" or "that makes sense"? Most of what these outstanding businesses do is not super-secret, mysterious proprietary strategies or tools. They follow a path to success that has been followed by many other consistently successful companies before them. the have leaders that are role models. they engage their employees in working together effectively and in creating innovative solutions. The exceed the expectations of their external customers by attending to the details that they care most about throughout their entire experience. they focus on low/no cost investments that make good business sense for the long-term.

Then why isn't everyone getting world-class results as well? They don't (sufficiently) focus on the "ordinary" discipline of consistent implementation. They fail to be consistent/fair in their accountability of behaviors. They don't take the risk of being courageous enough to be transparent in how they face the truth/reality of their individual and team performance. Ordinary "do the right thing" effort has, unfortunately, become uncommon.

It's easier to talk the talk than to walk the walk. It's easier to write a bonus check than to have a thoughtful token of appreciation. It's easier to entertain the idea of success rather than experience the sacrifice required to achieve it.

There's nothing extraordinary about proven strategies - we know what to do. If we're not getting the results, it's because we simply fail to:
- take a cold, unblinking look at ourselves
- take the time to identify root causes and the natural consequences
- invest in building healthy, long-term working relationships
- won't consistently make the constantly-required behaviors that lead to the results we desire

Those who want the easy way out always balk at this truth. It's not sexy or "business as usual". But it is simple - and what has been proven to work. Just look at those renowned organizations who are experiencing consistent success. What works - works!

So if you want extraordinary results, simply look to proven (ordinary) tactics and the tried and true (ordinary) discipline of implementing those tactics. If you need help, go out and get it, but no one achieves real success until they bridge this gap. NO one.

So, you want to be a SOMEone, or a NO one?

Think about it. But more importantly, do something about!

Monday, November 1, 2010

Not Just Hardware

I just returned from serving as a judge for the Singapore Experience Awards - an event that honors the best business practices (and results) of organizations across industries throughout Singapore. While the visit to Singapore was excellent as always, this particular trip provided an interesting new insight.

An executive of a large international technology corporation mentioned that their renowned success throughout the world was not the result of their amazing hardware, but of what he called "heartware" - the passion of his engaged employees. He recognized that without their passion for innovation and executing their plans to the highest standard, their products would simply be more in a market of mediocre "things".

Interesting that, in a land that is so well known for how they embrace technology, they have the strategic wisdom to place a premium on what actually creates that technology.

A rare insight we could all benefit from, I think.

Consider all the competitors in your industry. For the most part, you all have access to the same resources - offices, office supplies, computers, raw materials, time, etc. What typically determines the outcomes of an organization is how they utilize those common resources. The best do so in decidedly UNcommon ways.

When was the last time you focused on upgrading YOUR "heartware" at work? By shifting how you select, train, communicate, and reward your team you can transform what you achieve with your resources. Or, as Walt Disney once said "taking ordinary resources and creating extraordinary results" optimize your competitive edge.

Think about it. But more importantly, do something about!