Wednesday, January 28, 2009

24 Lessons in High Performance Leadership

Lesson Fourteen
Set Goals When the Heat's On

Come back a few years and picture you and me standing beside my fighter that is capable of speeds near twice the speed of sound. You’re about ready to crawl into the rear cockpit for a ride with me as your pilot-in-command. Before climbing up the side of this sleek, needle nosed, high performance fighter, you might have a few questions.
The first is, “Which way are we going to take off?”
“We’re parked in this direction," I answer. "We might as well take-off the same way."
“Which way are we going to go once we’re airborne?” you ask.
“This direction’s as good as the other 359 available to us,” I respond.
“How high are we going to go?”
“Until the jet quits climbing.”
“How far are we going to go?”
“I don’t know exactly but until we run out of fuel.”

About then you will probably decide to skip the flight. “Thanks anyway!”

Many managers try to manage like that and can’t figure out why they can’t get a long-term commitment from their team members. To build a strong, committed high performance team, each individual must be able to describe in detail what the leaders’ vision is for the organization and how they will achieve it. Equally important is the vision the team members have for themselves.

The vision we invite our people to share with us is the future as it best suits the organization and the people who make up the organization. Helping your people experience the future through their own eyes is critical to effective leadership. Do you know what you’re working for? Can you see it in great detail? If you can’t, how can you help your people see what they’re working for? Helping your people truly see what they’re working for is one of the greatest, lifelong gifts you can ever give them.

The great Mad Magazine cover boy philosopher, Alfred E. Newman, said, “Most folks don’t know what they want, but they’re pretty sure they don’t have it.” Leading your team blindly without clear goals renders all of your sophisticated navigation equipment useless. Being driven by a sense of dissatisfaction with the present is not enough if there is no clear course established. A clearly charted course or plan is the second-best thing to having a distinct goal. With a clearly charted course, you and your organization know in which direction you want to go. You are intending toward something…even if the something is not well defined.

Here are three important steps to get started setting goals:

Determine what you really want: What is your vision? How does that translate into specific goals?

Calculate what it will cost you: How much time, money, and energy will it take you to reach your goals?

Decide if you are willing to pay that price: If so, when should I start paying the price?

"Deciding not to have a specific goal is a specific goal."

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

24 Lessons in High Performance Leadership

Lesson Thirteen
Find the Right Manager

Suppose that you will not be allowed to hire any new people for the next five years. Would you rethink how you lead the people you have now? If no new blood was allowed to enter your organization, could you continue to grow and prosper? You bet!

If you face a true moratorium on hiring, I believe you would begin discovering some diamonds in the rough. You will be amazed at the untapped potential in your people if you look at them through different eyes and fully own the long reach you have into their lives.

Your top performers might look at management positions as a way to move up in the organization. There's no doubt that top performers deserve to be rewarded. But, moving them into management positions might not be the best thing for the individual or the organization. The mistaken notion is that managers are overpaid and under worked. That's why team members often refer to promotions as, "retiring into management."

You might not have a managerial candidate chomping at the bit, even though you need a manager. In that case, you need to go out looking. Henry Ford said, "Asking who ought to be the boss is like asking who ought to be the tenor in the quartet. Obviously, the man who can sing tenor." To determine who has the most potential based upon peer respect, go directly to team members and ask, "To whom do you take your problems if your manager isn't around?"

You’re likely to discover that you have a highly respected and well-qualified individual right under your nose--someone who is already demonstrating good coaching and people building abilities.

Your leadership development process should include the following three steps:

Present the realities of managing: Sit down with anyone who is a potential leader and make it clear that managing is not easy. In fact, it is much harder and more challenging than anything he or she has done. If you teach the lesson well, many candidates for management positions will excuse themselves and reconsider the position in which they’ve found success.

Provide opportunities to show management capabilities: If the candidate still thinks that she or he has leadership potential, make temporary assignments that will place the candidate in a typical management situation. Make sure the assignment simulates a challenge that real leaders must regularly deal with. The way he or she handles the assignment will demonstrate the candidate's management capabilities to both of you.

Evaluate progress: If your company has a management development program, your candidate is likely to be enrolled by now. Evaluate his or her progress in regularly scheduled review sessions. Have the potential manager complete a manager's evaluation checklist that you work out together. More than anything else, keep monitoring his or her continuing interest in making the move to management.

"A person out of place in his or her vocation is only half a person."

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

24 Lessons in High Performance Leadership

Lesson Twelve
Continue to Grow as a Leader

Right now, I’m extending my arm four to six years into the future and plucking something out to give you. It's the Yellow Pages from the future. For some people, it’s the stock exchange index or Dun and Bradstreet directory. For many, it’s the company organization chart. Is your name listed? In what capacity? Are you surprised at what you see? If you have a sense of urgency about growth and effectiveness as a leader, you and your organization should be in a prominent position. If you don’t, chances are good that there won’t be a trace of you left. Your attitude, shaped by your sense of urgency, will be largely responsible for producing the results you want.

Do you have room to grow? What are your team members saying about you at home to their spouses and children? You're not a topic of conversation––you're the topic of conversation. When someone comes to work for you, he or she is essentially saying, “I trust you and this organization to do right by me and my family.” That is a heavy responsibility. If that person wastes a year or two of his or her life, that time will never be recovered. People’s lives should be enhanced and opportunities should abound for them and their families because they had the good sense to come to work for you. The lives of your employees should be better because they had the good sense to come to work for you. Your effectiveness as a leader affects people’s lives.

A strong desire to do the right thing, beginning with ourselves and permeating every personal and professional relationship we have, marks our commitment to excellence. A healthy discontent for the way things are should make it slightly uncomfortable to sit back and coast. When Walt Disney told his people not to rest on their laurels, it was because he was a leader who understood the consequences of complacency. We should certainly feel pride and a sense of accomplishment when we do a job well, but we must constantly look for new directions and ways to improve and to continue to grow in new directions.

Walt Disney illustrated the need to constantly scan the horizon for growth opportunities when he resisted his advisers’ urging to produce a sequel to the enormously successful Three Little Pigs. They pressured him and he reluctantly agreed. After the sequel (The Big Bad Wolf) turned out to be a box office bust, Disney called his advisers together and announced a new law that is heard around the Disney organization to this very day: "You can’t top pigs with pigs.”

Invest some time and energy in developing the following three important leadership characteristics:

Develop a sense of urgency: How can you grow as a leader? How can you be more effective––now?

Develop a healthy discontent with the way things are: What could you and your people be doing better? How?

Develop an appreciation for the awesome responsibilities of leadership: Think about how you affect your employees, both at work and in their lives beyond work.

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

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

24 Lessons in High Performance Leadership

Lesson Eleven
Motivate to a Progressively Higher Level

Motivation is the by-product of desire. Desire and motivation can’t be separated. They are always at the same level. Motivation, true motivation, can't be cranked up any higher than the level of desire. To best understand how desire increases, and motivation along with it, you must know the three levels of motivation.

Level One: Compliance
The lowest level is compliance. Compliance is doing something because you were told to, without much motivation or personal desire. Character is not built at the compliance level.

"Because I said so" is about all of the management ability needed to get somebody to Level One. Simply order the person around as if he or she can’t think or reason and has no special ability or investment in getting the job done, other than to avoid being fired.

Level Two: Goal Identification
The next higher level is identification with the goal. Identification gives the individual a feeling of investment in the goal and produces increased desire and motivation.

To help people reach Level Two, you must clearly and simply communicate the benefits of achieving the goal. Discuss with them why the job needs to be done and how it is in the best interest for all to do it well. When there is something to gain, people invest more. Many a company turnaround has started at this level.

Level Three: Commitment
The highest level of motivation is commitment. There is no greater motivation than when someone feels the goal is truly his or her own.

To reach Level Three, a person needs to understand why he or she is uniquely suited for the task. Show that person how his or her strengths (not yours) can be used to help achieve the goal. Not only will that person feel there is a personal benefit for a job well done, she or he will also bring a part of himself or herself to the job.

Nobody in your organization will be able to sustain a level of motivation higher than you have as the leader. These three activities will help you motivate to the next highest level:

Rate each team member’s motivation: Who’s only at Level One? Who’s at Level Two? Who’s up to Level Three?

Find out about personal goals: Ask each team member what his or her personal goals are. If they'll work on personal goals, they are more apt to work on company goals.

Coach each person: Use the strengths you now know that each individual has, to help him or her achieve the desired personal or company goal.

"We're tied by straw and think it's chain."