Thursday, March 26, 2009

Leadership Building Blocks

Danny’s Leadership Building Blocks

“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.”

“On a scale of 1 to 10, team morale and customer service receive the same score.”

“The more each team member learns from the leader, the more they trust each other. It’s the birthplace of synergy.”

“Great leaders turn lights on in corners of your mind that you didn’t know were wired for electricity.”

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

25 Lessons in High Performance Leadership

Lesson Twenty-five
Be an Island of Excellence

After speaking to an audience, I had a manager come to me and say, "Danny, I really want to grow and develop as a leader but the managers at all levels above me certainly don't. What can I do?" I gave this individual two bits of advice. One is that you can't change anyone or anything above you on the food chain. You can't manage the organization above your level, so don't even try.

The second nugget I passed along came from Joe Topper, who was in the audience I had just spoken to. He explained that, because he couldn't do much about changing anyone above him, he had decided to become an island of excellence within his sphere of influence. He would get so good at what he was doing that something great was bound to happen. That's the spirit! That's what I'm talking about!

No one is as interested in your career or your future as you are. Take the responsibility of becoming an island of excellence within your present company no matter what anyone else is doing. This will pay off for you in three ways:

• First, you will become more valuable to your present company. Perhaps even to the point of them considering you indispensable. A sustained high performance record of accomplishment can buy a bright future for you and your family.

• Second, the better you get at producing results, the more valuable you become to the competition. You are number one. You need to look after yourself and your family. If your employer won't compensate you for what you're worth, a proven record of accomplishment through sound leadership is valuable on the job market.

• Finally, there might come a time when you want to strike out on your own. Every time you learn and improve as a leader, you become more skilled as an entrepreneur. The more skilled you are as an entrepreneur the better your chances of succeeding on your own.

The ultimate threat to our future is stagnation. Continued personal and professional growth is essential to a tomorrow that will be better than today. The managerial moment of truth comes when you realize that, as the leader, you are the trigger for change in and for the organization. The people in the organization will pay the price in time, energy, and money to grow and develop in their jobs as they see you do the same as their leader. The adaptability that will prepare you for tomorrow’s leadership challenge is anchored in your personal uncompromising integrity and the other leadership qualities to which you aspire. Looking back over the past ten or twenty years, it's easy to see that the leadership challenges of tomorrow never get any easier.

Here are three things to make you the best leader you can be:

Keep an eye on the future, your own and your organization's.

Never stop doing whatever it takes to keep growing as a leader.

Always keep the growth and development of your team members as your top priority.

"Some of the world's greatest achievements were made by those who were self-instructed."

Thursday, March 19, 2009

24 Lessons in High Performance Leadership

Lesson Twenty-four
Lead Through Change

There are six fundamental phases required for successful change management:

In a busy organization, you are very possibly involved in several new projects at once. These phases of change management will help you understand where you are in the project.
The Education Phase: Inform employees ahead of time change is on the way. The head's up helps to develop the sense of confidence in your organization I talked about.
The Participation Phase: Encourage input from all employees on
planning and implementation. This bolsters confidence and enthusiasm toward the organization and the project.

The Communication Phase: This is the final presentation on how the change is about to be implemented. A storyboard showing all the final changes can be used in the presentation.

The Facilitation Phase: The change is under way. During this phase the leader’s hands on participation brings big benefits. Communicating and coaching can only go so far. The leader must get personally involved to demonstrate his or her personal investment in the project.

The Information Phase: Now the leader truly keeps his or her ear to
the ground to determine what is working and what is not working. Informal, non-threatening encounters with your people will give you most of this critical feedback. This is when you might learn that proper delegation is not occurring or thinking is still too narrow.

The Rededication Phase: Enthusiasm and energy don't last forever. After the initial hoopla is over, it is important to evaluate and analyze the progress of the new project. Necessary tune-ups and adjustments are made to enhance the improvement.

These three actions will help you avoid the "Other Shoe Syndrome," which results in cynicism in your team brought on by promoting change and not following through:

Focus on how your change initiatives are affecting morale.
Solving one problem can create others.

Anticipate doubt. People have a natural skepticism that often serves a good purpose.

Never stop selling. Your team members take their clues from you. They watch every day to see if your support and enthusiasm for change has diminished.

"Embrace change. It's saying ‘yes’ to tomorrow and ‘no’ to repeated yesterdays."

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

24 Lessons in High Performance Leadership

Lesson Twenty-three
Look at Problems as Opportunities

Some good things rise out of crisis. The Good Book says we should be thankful for problems because crisis builds character. I’ll go one step further and say that crisis also helps to identify character. Winston Churchill said, "You can tell the character of the person by the choices made under pressure." It’s important for leaders to observe how each of their people responds to crisis. Who stays cool under pressure and who doesn’t? Who is best at taking the heat and acting effectively to resolve the crisis? Are different people adept at handling different types of pressure situations? Know who is who in your organization as well as you're own problem-solving strengths and weaknesses.

Meeting problems head-on develops your organization’s ability to resolve problems over time. The more you do it, the better you become. This doesn’t mean you should arbitrarily allow or encourage problems to develop. Every time a problem is confronted and licked, it should be a character-building education for you and your entire organization. Part of getting better at problem solving is getting faster at it. An organization that has been learning from its mistakes and problem-solving experiences will have a capacity for accelerated corrective action.

A problem that remains unresolved long enough eventually become a crisis. A smoldering issue won’t get as much attention as a house on fire. If leaders and team members, for whatever reason, are unaware of the smoldering issues, there will eventually be a fire to put out. I realize this is quite a stretch to see a positive side to unresolved problems. However, one good thing about a crisis is that formerly unresolved problems will finally be handled.

People who solve problems develop increased self-confidence. The problem itself has an initial amount of power that’s proportionate to the amount of disruption the problem is causing in the organization. To resolve the issue so there is no longer any disruption implies that those who attack the problem and defeat it have greater power than the problem. Holding dominion over problems is the substance of self-confidence.

The very existence of a problem or, worse yet, a crisis, indicates that existing methods and techniques are somehow lacking and new methods and techniques are called for. Depending upon the severity of the problem, minor adjustments might be enough to provide lasting solutions. If the crisis is sufficiently threatening, an entirely new agenda might be in order. Crisis calls for something that doesn’t presently exist or, at the very least, a different dosage of existing policy.

Here are three ways to turn lemons into lemonade:

Addressing problems large or small as fast as possible.

Remain alert to the possibility that other problems might be brewing.

Seek simple and straightforward solutions. Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.

"Conflict overcome is strength gained."

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Recession Remedy?

Good morning,

A triumphant journey sometimes starts with one step or a healthy snap from a Butt Snapper as I point out in the following article. This article is my answer to the Recession.
High up and farther on,

"Butt Snapper"-- Recession Remedy?
By Danny Cox
Author of Leadership When the Heat's On
"A tiger that ain't aggressive becomes a rug." Anonymous

After spending ten years of my life flying supersonic at twice the speed of sound a major problem was solved by the Air Force. To this day I think it has some real cross over value to the business world.

As jet fighters were being introduced to the Air Force, a problem arose with ejection seats. Jets flew faster and higher than their propeller predecessors and pilot ejection, in cases of emergency, became a more sophisticated and dangerous predicament. Ejection seats were separated from the cockpit by an explosive charge equal to a 35mm artillery shell to insure that the pilot cleared the aircraft before the parachute deployed.

The pilot simply needed to roll forward out of the seat once clear of the aircraft and the parachute would be free to open. Unfortunately, a common problem started to pop up (no pun intended) in some ejections. Some pilots would pull up both arm rests exposing the ejection seat triggers and squeeze them detonating the explosive that launched the pilot and seat 150 to 175 feet above the aircraft.

Then, instead of letting go, some pilots kept a death grip on the seat handles, reluctant to separate themselves from the last tangible piece of the airplane that had, until then, always been a safe place. As long as the pilot remained in the ejection seat, the parachute remained trapped against the seat back, unable to open. Striking the ground at 200 miles per hour, still sitting in an ejection seat with an unopened parachute will ruin your whole day!

The Air Force went back to the ejection seat manufacturers with the problem and the government contractors returned with a solution. The new design called for a 2-inch webbed strap that attached to the front edge of the seat, under the pilot and behind him, and attached to an electronic take-up reel behind the headrest. Two seconds after ejection, the electronic take-up reel would immediately take up the slack, forcing the pilot forward out of the seat thus freeing the parachute to open. The pilot was “butt-snapped “ to safety.

A body in motion tends to remain in motion and a body at rest tends to remain at rest until acted upon by an external force. Dr. Alexis Carrel used this definition of inertia in a sentence:

Life leaps like a geyser for those who drill through the rock of inertia.

In a seminar, I once quoted Dr. Carrel and gave a lengthy dissertation on the role of external forces to overcoming inertia. After I had finished, one of those in attendance came up to me and winked.

“I know what you’re trying to say about overcoming inertia,” the man said. “What you mean to say is that we need butt snappers on every chair around the office.”

A butt-snapper, as he described it, is something akin to a spring-loaded whoopee cushion. The bottom line is that, when detonated, it launches your rear end out of the chair. So, if words like external forces overcoming inertia leave you uninspired, think about what butt snappers on everyone’s chairs would do to productivity around the office. Think about how much a butt snapper on your own chair would do for your personal productivity.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

24 Lessons in High Performance Leadership

Lesson Twenty-two
Create a Creativity-Inducing Environment

I developed what I came to call “imaginars” in place of seminars. These weekly meetings with my managers were, appropriately, held in our district’s Imaginar Room. While most companies were having seminars, we were having imaginars. A sign hung in our imaginar room that read: “None of us is as smart as all of us.”

Our theme was a constant reminder that no one individual could offer as much as the corporate effort of the entire group. My people went in there with the express purpose of discussing solutions to problems and creating new ideas to put into action. Creativity was not only allowed, it was encouraged. Creativity was our first order of business. When we really wanted to dig deep into ourselves for ideas, we rented a room at a local resort and got away from the clutter of daily activities. We covered the walls with flip chart sheets, filled with thoughts and ideas we later verified and put into practice.

Creativity Calls for Experimentation.
Creativity can create heat. A leader is likely to meet resistance from his or her team members as well as those higher in the organization. The thought of doing something new or different terrifies some people and makes the rest nervous. Yet the leader courageously asks, “Why don’t we try this?” The answer is almost automatic from his or her people: “Because we’ve never done it that way." To me that’s just not a valid reason to block creativity. Yet, you’ll hear it nearly every time a new idea is mentioned, if not in so many words.

Creativity Calls Playfulness.
An environment of playfulness simply means an environment that grants permission to have fun. In fact, it encourages people to have fun with what they do. Urge your people to play the "What if?" game and kick new ideas around. Some bosses will catch people brainstorming a new idea and demand they quit goofing off and get back to work. What poor, misguided souls. Their people were engaging in one of the most valuable exercises to improve production, and they were nipped in the bud.

Creativity Calls for Spontaneity. Take the "What if?" mind set seriously. Keep the door to new ideas open constantly. Encourage innovation whenever possible. I know a retail merchant, Stew Leonard, who started what he calls the One Idea Club. Each month, Stew selects about a half-dozen employees, making sure every job level and description is represented regularly, and drives them as far as two hours away to observe a store where customers are served well. The next day, the team that traveled together meets and each team member stands up and shares one new idea learned on the trip to use in their own store.

Try these creativity-enhancing techniques with your team members:

Encourage experimentation by praising "successful failures."

Encourage playfulness by relaxing old rules of conformity.

Encourage spontaneity by publicly recognizing new ideas and insights.

"A leader never forgets that creativity is contagious and can build inertia."

Friday, March 6, 2009

24 Lessons in High Performance Leadership

Lesson Twenty-one
Cultivate Creativity

When I took the beach break to see if I could figure out what had caused my office to dive from #1 to #36, I needed an answer quickly. I didn’t have the information then I’m sharing with you now. Even though I initially stumbled across the correct action to stimulate my creativity, I can now recommend such isolation to anyone who is experiencing major problems. Most people in the heat of battle will feel they can’t abandon the fight. Believe me, staying in the struggle with no good ideas or anything else to offer won’t accomplish much.

The fellow I learned some helpful principles from lost his job as a young newspaper reporter because he “lacked good ideas.” His editor back in Kansas also said that he was “void of creativity.” Nobody knows the name of that editor. But, almost everyone in the world associates the young reporter’s name, Walt Disney, with creativity. In order for anything to become successful (a book, a company, a movie, yes, even leadership style), Walt Disney said that it must have:

1. A uniqueness factor: Why should anybody get excited about something that’s ordinary?
2. A word-of-mouth factor: People can't stay quiet about a positive experience.
3. A flair factor: Do it big, do it right, and do it with class.

I think of creativity as the voice beyond silence. I’ve already talked about isolating yourself to experience a clear mind. In the silence of isolation will come the voice that is creativity. Whether or not you are able to induce creativity or it simply happens when the time is right, the following four-step process will help you make the most out of your creative experience:

1. Preparation: If your intention is to create a new product or method for doing something, it’s important to learn everything you can about that subject.

2. Incubation: Don't rush things. Give a new and creative idea time to cook in the incubator.

3. Insight: That moment, in the middle of the night, when you sit bolt upright in bed in a moment of insight. Insight is that glimpse at the suddenly clear and illuminated answer.

4. Verification: The process of verification brings it all back to reality and begins to establish boundaries.

Here are some basic ways to go about becoming more creative:

Schedule more uninterrupted private time.

Allow yourself to be gullible.

Look at far-fetched ideas.

"Aim for striking originality. It gets attention"

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

24 Lessons in High Performance Leadership

Lesson Twenty
Value Your Free Time

Leisure time is very important to me for many reasons, and effective time management improves both the quantity and quality of leisure time. One of the most beneficial features of leisure time is the opportunity to recharge your batteries. There is a point of diminishing returns in an overworked individual, and a case of burnout can render a person useless to him- or herself and others. Working oneself to death out of a personal compulsive need is not beneficial to anyone.

To avoid the erosion of morale and a general decrease in effectiveness, I’ve learned to schedule leisure time for both my staff and myself. Setting a good example when it comes to rest is just as vital as being a good model for proper work habits. Mental and physical renewal are vital components of a quality work ethic.

1. Plan some quiet time alone each day.
2. Break tough jobs down into more easily accomplished tasks.

End your workday the right way. The right way is to end on a high note or a point of accomplishment. Doing so promotes satisfaction, improves the quality of your relaxation time, and helps you return to work the following day more refreshed and eager. If you must end your day with an unresolved problem, then write down a clear summary of the problem as it stands when you leave it. Before you leave, clear your desk or work area of clutter and distraction so you can attack the problem when you first walk in the following day. These preparations will also serve you well before breaking for lunch, so you’ll get back up to speed more quickly and with less effort after your break. Reorienting yourself after a break requires energy that can be saved with a little forethought before your break.

Work effectively and then take your vacations, all of them. All too often, personal relationships with friends and family suffer because we are simply overloaded at work. This is too high a price to pay for success. What is it all for anyway? I used to pride myself in skimpy vacations until a mentor taught me that I was simply demonstrating my own lack of effectiveness in getting my work finished. Never having time to take vacations is not a badge of honor, as much as it is a mark of ineffective time management.

Take your time and relax. You’ll be a better worker, and more valuable to yourself and everyone else when you have been recharged. This also means avoiding the urge to turn leisure time into a mini-military drill. Relaxing means spending some time alone and engaging in activities that refresh you and recharge your batteries.

Here are some ways to give yourself a harmony bath (in or out of the tub) and actually get more value out of sleeping:

Turn off the 10 o’clock or 11 o’clock news, with their, “if it bleeds, it leads” format.

Spend the last 60 to 90 minutes of the day listening to relaxing music or reading or both.

"Take a harmony bath at the end of each day. "