Monday, October 27, 2008

24 Lessons in High-Performance Management

Lesson Five
Develop Characteristics of Great Leaders

Here is a list of 10 characteristics that are common in high performing leaders. They do not come naturally. Great leaders develop them. The characteristics of great leaders are universal and timeless. They reflect what leaders choose to believe and how they decide to behave. Great leaders demonstrate all ten characteristics––-regardless of their field.

1. Uncompromising integrity: It's the foundation for quality and service to both internal and external customers. The would-be leader who doesn't have this will be a "flash in the pan".
2. Absence of pettiness: The greatest drain of energy in an organization is pettiness. Eliminating it results in high energy. Leaders understand the difference between interesting and important.
3. Works on things by priority: This results in stability under pressure and makes for an excellent problem solver. A leader who works by priorities prepares a daily priority list; he or she starts with #1 and doesn't deal with #2 when finished, but instead deals with the new #1, and so on.
4. Courageous: Leaders don't lead life meekly, they know there is a deep well of courage within each of us, whether or no we use it. Leaders do what they fear to keep fear from taking charge. Their credo is "It's always too soon to quit!"
5. Committed: Leaders know that they won’t die an early death by working hard in a job they love. They never hear low achievers saying to them, "Slow down! You're going to ruin your health!" Their work is a developed art form.
6. Goal oriented: Focus is the antidote for pain in the accomplishment of stellar goals. Leaders understand that a lack of goals starts the process of both physical and mental shutdown.
7. Unorthodox: These are the creators, the innovators, and the think-outside-the-box types. They learn from their successes and from their failures. They are originals, not copies.
8. Inspired enthusiasm that's contagious: Leaders grow enthusiastic as they achieve their daily goals, which are part of a larger plan, not just daily tasks. They are acutely aware that without this contagious enthusiasm whatever mood they have will also be contagious.
9. Level headed in times of crisis: These people do not come aparts or cry in their beer. They are steady and therefore grasp the needed facts quickly. They know that conflict overcome is strength gained.
10. Desire to help others grow: Leaders know there is no saturation to education and that passing along knowledge and growth experiences builds synergistic relations and camaraderie.

Here are some suggestions for taking the road to greatness:

Rate yourself for each characteristic: On a scale of 1 to 10, how great are you?

Rate yourself from the prospective of your team members: Would they agree with how you’re rated yourself? If not, why not?

Focus on three points for improvement: Pick out three characteristics to improve in yourself and map out a plan for that improvement.

"An organization quits improving right after the manger quits improving."

Monday, October 20, 2008

24 Lessons in High-Performance Management

Lesson Four
Search for What Works

I love it when people fight against incredible odds to triumph over problems. Dr. Norman Vincent Peale once said, "You're only as big as the problem that stops you." I am thankful for men and women who were bigger than the problems that would have stopped and did stop so many others. The world got better right after they got better.

During the dark hours when my boss was out looking for my replacement, I started reading articles about successful people in newspapers and magazines. When I came across someone local, I called the person and said, "You don't know me, but my name is Danny Cox and I've just destroyed the number one office in my company by taking it from first place to thirty-sixth in three months. My boss is looking for my replacement right now. Can I have lunch with you?"

These successful people not only took my calls, but also agreed to have lunch with me. Some sensed the urgency in my voice; others just wanted to meet the person who could single-handedly wreak havoc on an entire organization. The one quality in every one of these success stories was an entrepreneurial spirit. Each saw me as a challenge––or at least a curiosity.

I listened and learned and immediately started applying the lessons. I have never stopped seeking out the advice and counsel of effective leaders. Take someone to lunch before someone else eats yours. Pay attention to what's happening in your organization, your industry, and your local business community, so you can learn without experiencing your own disasters.

Work on yourself first. Your pursuit of excellence will set the agenda for everyone in your organization. Just before you drift off to sleep, ask yourself, "Who am I impressing…?" When people are impressed, they say, "You do good work." When they're inspired, they say, "I wish I did my work as well as you do yours."

You must lead by your example of excellence. Think of it this way: Somebody somewhere is going to get better because you’re reading this book.

Here are some ways to start your pursuit of excellence:

Learn from the leaders around you: List the three people you admire most within your organization and the three you admire most outside of your organization. They should be accessible to you. Take these people individually to lunch or, at least, talk with them about their secrets to successful leadership. They’ll enjoy telling you.

Put those methods and techniques to work: Apply what you learn to your leadership challenges. Give your benefactors feedback on how their methods and techniques work for you––and tell them about any innovations you come up with.

Focus on inspiring rather than impressing: When you impress, you rise above others. When you inspire, you bring them up with you.

"To achieve great things, know more than the average person considers necessary."

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

24 Lessons in High-Performance Management

Lesson Three
Lift Your Limitations

After returning to the top position, our office leveled off in production exactly where we had been when I took over. Once we returned to our previous level of performance, we went no further; we unknowingly reached our self-imposed barrier.

I emphasize the word self because the barriers are not imposed by the company or customers. A self-imposed barrier is nothing more than the dividing line between developed and undeveloped potential. Yet, we look at that line as though it’s a wall. Self-imposed barriers are not walls around our lives. They are the margins of our lives where nothing has been written––yet. A self-imposed barrier is nothing more than the dividing line between developed and undeveloped potential. Yet, we look at that line as though it's a wall.

Imagine what the world would be like if explorers throughout history believed that they couldn't go anywhere for the first time. That's what we were up against after my office was back at number one. Pushing production higher than ever before meant venturing into uncharted territory. We had reached the collective personal barriers of the team.

My people were not slouches. They were the best in the company and would have been the best in any company. We were already receiving monthly awards for being the top office. Success became a barrier for us. Walt Disney is remembered to this day throughout the Disney organization for warning his staff against “resting on their laurels." Ralph Waldo Emerson put it even more profoundly when he said, "A great man is always willing to be little. Whilst he sits on the cushion of advantages, he goes to sleep."

Another great executive once said to me, "Good is the enemy of best and best is the enemy of better." When most people get to be good, they start to think, "What's the point of struggling to be best? Isn't good, good enough?"

I challenged my team to break through their personal production records and they responded. I asked them to focus on their own records on a daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, yearly basis, instead of other people's records. When they did, energy, morale, and production skyrocketed.

As our performance received increasing acclamation and overall attention, I was asked where I got all of those great people and how I built such a record-breaking team. Did I steal top producers from our competition or recruit at the top business schools? The one-word answer was "no." They were just ordinary people who discovered they could do the most extraordinary things with their newly discovered potential.

Here are some things you can do right now to help develop undeveloped potential in your team:

Meet individually with your key people to set goals: Tell them, "Don't worry about breaking anyone else's personal record. Just think about breaking your own record on a daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, and yearly basis."

Monitor each team member's progress continuously: Help that person stay focused.

Celebrate record-breaking performances: Do this on a regular basis to show your support and appreciation for your team's effort.

"Accomplishment is your birthright. Limitations are adopted."


Each time there has been a downturn in economic conditions the requests for my “Leadership When the Heat’s On” program have gone up. Such is the case now. Presentations are tailored for each particular client’s needs. The structure is built around the maxims in my “Leader’s Dozen” which are listed below.

Please keep in mind my track record where 145 salespeople increased production 800% in a five and one-half year period and that included two recession years.

The best IS yet to be!


The Leader’s Dozen:

1. The ultimate reward for the leader of people is to be able to say at the end of the day, “I saw someone grow today and I helped.”

2. Charisma = Intensity (goal, focus and direction) and Enthusiasm (expectancy of better things to come).

3. High performance is often the result of a sudden change of direction.

4. To achieve great things, know more than the average manager considers necessary.

5. An organization quits improving right after the manager does.

6. Help a team member grow and you receive respect in return.

7. On a scale of 1 – 10, team morale and customer service receive the same score.

8. Take a mentor to lunch before somebody else eats yours. (It’s not necessary the mentor be in your industry since great leadership principles are non-industry specific.)

9. Be aware of a team member’s weaknesses but talk to his or her strengths.

10. An organization will never rise above the quality of its leadership.

11. Fear has no strength of its own, only that which you choose to give it. Ironically, that’s the very strength you need to overcome it.

12. Your team members are just as good as you are at planning their time.

13. If you don’t have enthusiasm that’s contagious what ever you do have is also contagious.

Danny Cox Acceleration Unlimited
Copyright 2008

Monday, October 6, 2008

24 Lessons in High-Performance Management

Lesson Two
Use Problems to Enhance Your Career

I've broken the sound barrier over 2,000 times at the controls of everything from the F-86 Sabre and the F-102 Delta Dagger to the F-101 Voodoo and the F-16 Viper. I have knocked off a lot of plaster and broken countless windows. My extra duty job in the Air Force was to speak to groups of upset, hostile civilians and convince them that those sonic booms were "the sound of freedom."

Having built a reputation in the military as the "sonic boom salesman," I got into sales when I stopped flying. Those hostile audiences must have provided excellent training, because the transition went smoothly. I did so well in my first year as a salesperson that the company executives asked me to manage one of the sales offices.

I managed that small office for a year with some success. One year later, the same executives showed up again to promote me to manager of the top office in the 36-office chain.

That's when I started making the same mistakes nearly every manager makes. I urged my people not to think of me as their boss, but as a friend who was always right. My goal was to turn everyone in that office into a copy of me. It made perfect sense at the time. Turning the salespeople into Danny Cox clones seemed to be what my bosses wanted to do. If I could get my salespeople to do the job exactly as I had done it, they wouldn't bring me any problems that I hadn't already solved.

Under my management, the number-one office plummeted to number 36 out of 36. One day, as I was trying to figure out the problem, my boss showed up in my office, unannounced, without his usual smile and pleasant demeanor.

"Cox," he said through clenched teeth. "I can now see that it was a mistake making you the manager of this office and I feel it's only fair to tell you that I'm already looking for your replacement."

That was the shortest and the most effective motivational seminar I ever attended. I needed to learn how to lead––and I needed to learn fast.

I sought out the counsel of many successful people and soon learned that I needed to work on myself, not the salespeople. Salespeople get better right after their manager.

The techniques I began using had such an immediate effect that within two weeks my boss stopped looking for a replacement. We were heading back to number one.

Here are three ways you can start turning problems into opportunities:

Think of a problem in the past that turned out to be a positive.

Chose a problem that you can turn into a positive if you apply the right attitude and plan.

Decide on one thing you can do in the next 24 hours to improve your leadership style.

"High performance is often the result of a sudden change in direction."