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."

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