Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Take Steps to Grow as a Leader

Lesson 8

You shouldn’t wait to start learning how successful leaders think and act until your boss tells you he or she is looking for your replacement.  If I had known then what I know now, my boss would have never come in and set my pants on fire.  I would have paid $10,000 for a single copy of this book back then.  Maybe even twice that.

The way others successfully handle pressure can be an education and ensure that you’ll never have to experience similar situations.  When we observe someone who never seems to be on the hot seat, it might well be that, while we were scrambling around with our nose to the grindstone, that person’s head was up where he or she could look around and learn a thing or two from other people’s experiences.  A head that’s up and looking around means:

  • Attending seminars, live or on-line
  • Reading books, magazines, and newspapers
  • Taking to lunch people from whom you can learn
  • Monitoring your own people for things you can learn
  • Gobbling up audio/video multimedia training programs
  • Regularly analyze what’s working and what isn’t
It’s not enough to merely study.  True learning is the application of knowledge.  Things get exciting for everybody when successful techniques are put into practice.  Keeping all of your great new knowledge in your head won’t do a thing to increase productivity.  I speak three to five times every week, all over North America plus a few other countries, and I've never been in front of an audience that didn’t have at least a few educated failures.  Some of them possess enormous amounts of information about the latest leadership methods, yet they’re stagnated or failing.  When I ask them how many of the new techniques and strategies they have incorporated into their organization’s daily routines, they hesitate to answer.  The truth hurts.  The fact is that most of us leave a gap between how we do our jobs and the way we know how to do our jobs.

How did you score yourself on the ten earlier leadership characteristics?  Using a scale 1-10 with 10 being highest, go back and score yourself again the way your people would probably rate you as a leader.  See yourself through their eyes.  If you’re gutsy, you might want one or more of your people who have read that chapter to do the rating.  The score your people give you is the real one.  You're only as effective as your people’s perception of you.  The rating the staff gives their leader is always the most accurate measure of effectiveness. 

Here are three tough questions to ask yourself.  Journal your answers:

  • If I were to ask my team members to graph out the improvement they've seen from me as a leader of people in the past year, what would the graph look like?
  • What do I need to start planning in order to grow as a leader in the next twelve months?
  • Where has my leadership solved a problem and what did I learn from it?

"Take a mentor to lunch before somebody else eats yours!"

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Cultivate Characteristics of an Effective Organization

Lesson 7

Creativity: These days, many businesspeople hear the word creativity and automatically think of finances in the same way that stretching used to be something you only did during exercise.  The creativity I'm referring to is originality of thought and execution, which are becoming increasingly necessary in today’s business arena.  Creativity is the steam that powers the locomotive of progress.

When the heat’s on, the same old way of handling situations just won’t cut it any more.  The same old routines are probably what gets you into trouble.  Down pressures are changing in nature and intensity.  Up pressures are coming from the rapidly changing dynamics of a workforce with a new identity.  Lack of originality in thinking and behavior is a sign that you're vise is slowly closing in.

Energy: Any effective organization has an energy you can sense as soon as you enter the office.  Even if only one person is in the office at the time, you will still be able to feel it.  The thought might even pop into your head that this could be a fun place to work.  Andrew Carnegie, the great industrialist, said, "I've found there is little success where there is little laughter."

When you walk into the other kind of office, the one with low or no energy, you feel that too.  It’s like walking into a big refrigeration unit.  The chill makes you shiver.  Even if only one person is sitting there, you still feel the chill.  Some offices might as well have a sign on the wall that says: Fun is forbidden.  Anyone caught enjoying what they’re doing will be punished.

Where there is no fun, there is no energy.  How long does it take to detect energy or lack of it in an office?  Within five seconds, you can tell how much fun it is to work there.  Your customers can tell the same thing within five seconds of being greeted by one of your team members. 

Change: Change is what happens when you mix creativity and energy.  An effective organization is a changing organization.  I don’t say that the other way around because it is possible for management to change the look, the staff, the location, and a thousand other things about an organization in an attempt to artificially produce effectiveness.

Change that does not emerge from a healthy combination of creativity and energy will look, feel, and taste synthetic.  Creativity combined with energy produces change from within.  Changes imposed from outside feel like impositions.  Changes from within are self-regulated and guided by realism.  Here are three methods of building energy, creativity, and change:   

  • Analyze the steps used to solve a very difficult problem that you or a team member experienced in recent months.
  • Learn what "vibes" the average customer picks up when they initially meet any of your team members?
  • Identify a change you can initiate right now to make your organization more effective.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Leadership When the Heat's On: 24 lessons in high-performance management

 Lesson Six

Practice Humanagement

Humanagement is simply the ability to use the job to develop the person while having fun in the process.  My entire emphasis changed as I stopped managing my people like a bunch of livestock and began leading them as people.  It occurred to me I could help each individual unlock the talent he or she had inside, as well as to:

  • Set more meaningful goals (personal and professional)
  • Better understand and plan their time
  • Use more of their creativity
  • Better handle their stress
  • Feel safe pushing their envelope

If I had an office full of happy, growing people, I thought, there’s no telling what we could accomplish.  Sure enough, when they began taking a new and enriched mind home at night, instead of a sore, tired, and aggravated one, our entire universe expanded beyond anything we would have previously thought possible.

Don’t forget the “...while having fun in the process” part.  I don’t mean you open the office with a joke every morning.  My experience has proven time and again that people who grow and develop to the point they can handle problems they would not have been big enough to handle in the past are happier people.  They are happier because they are more fulfilled and actualized.  When an office full of people becomes more fulfilled and actualized, morale goes up.  With higher morale comes higher productivity.  I’ve never seen it fail.
Staff turnover also drops.  With low staff turnover comes more bonding and team spirit.  High turnover results in suspicion and a lack of personal investment in the job.  It’s difficult to feel a part of an organization if the probability of losing your job is high.  There are the managers who swear their organization has a terrific atmosphere, but people leave because the money is not competitive.  There are also bureaucracies where people stay forever, even though they are miserable.  A good logo for them would be: Repeating Yesterday, Inc; Home of the Living Dead.

Nobody is having fun in either case.  People leave the first organization because they’re not happy, not because there's more money elsewhere.  The value of having fun on the job ranks above money.  The ability to enjoy the work and the working environment is a stronger hold on people than higher wages in an unpleasant job and environment.  Ask yourself the following three questions to help get positioned and mentally prepared to practice Humanagement: 

  • What can I do to set a better example for my team of the five bulleted points above?
  • If my team members were asked to rate how much fun they have working for me what would my grade be?
  • What's the gist of the conversations that are being carried on about me at night in the homes of the people that work for me?

“Help a team member grow, and you will receive respect in return.”

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Leadership When the Heat's On: 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 are not born with them.  The self-developed 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 that works priorities prepares a daily priority list and 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.  Used or unused, it's still there.  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 working hard in a job you love doesn't bring an early death but that working hard in a job you hate does.  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 both the physical and mental shutdown process.
7.     Unorthodox: These are the creators, the innovators, and the think out of the box types.  They learn from their successes and from their failures.  They are "originals," not "copies."
8.     Inspired enthusiasm that's contagious:  Leaders achieve this by witnessing the accomplishment of their daily goals, not just daily tasks, which are part of a larger plan.  They are acutely aware that if they don't have this contagious enthusiasm, then whatever mood they do have is also contagious.
9.     Level headed in times of crisis: These people do not get the "come aparts" or go 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 questions and "to dos" to start yourself on the road to greatness:

  • How would you rate yourself, on a scale of 1 to 10, for each characteristic?
  • How would your team members rate you on each characteristic?
  • Pick out three characteristics you'd like to improve in yourself and map out a plan for that improvement.

“An organization quits improving right after the manger quits improving.”

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Leaderhip Whenn the Heat's On: 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 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 looking for articles about successful people in newspapers and magazines.  When I came across someone local, I called them up 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, they agreed to have lunch with me.  Some sensed the urgency in my voice and others just wanted to meet the person who could single-handedly wreak havoc on an entire organization.  The one quality that every one of these success stories shared was an entrepreneurial spirit.  Each saw me as a challenge––or at least a curiosity. 

I listened 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 around you in your organization, in your industry, and your local business community, so you can learn without experiencing your own disasters.  Thomas Edison said, "The answers are out there.  Find them."

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. Any improvement you make as a leader will be reflected in your organization.  Think of it this way: somebody, somewhere is going to get better because you took the time to read this book. 

Here are some ways to start your pursuit of excellence:

Learn from 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 3, 2012

Leadership When the Heat's On

Lesson Three

Lift Your Limitations 

“High performance is often a result of a sudden change in direction”

After reaching the number one position again, our office's production amazingly leveled off at exactly where we had been when I first took over.  Once we returned to our previous level of performance, we unknowingly reached our self-imposed barrier and went no further.  I emphasize the word self because the barriers I refer to are not company-imposed or customer-imposed.  They are self-imposed. 

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.  Our production curve leveled off once we were back at the top of the office's previous performance curve.  There was no tangible barrier. 

But, pushing production higher than it had ever been before meant venturing into uncharted territory.  We had reached the collective personal barriers of the team.  My people were not slouches by any means.  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 our laurels."  Ralph Waldo Emerson put it even more profoundly when he said, "He who sits on the cushion of advantage soon 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 existing personal production records and they responded.  I asked them to focus on their own records on a daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, and 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 came to build 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:  "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 reinforce your support and appreciation for your team's effort.

"Accomplishment is your birthright. Limitations are adopted."

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Leadership When the Heat's On Lesson Two

Use Problems to Enhance Your Career

I've broken the sound barrier over 1,000 times at the controls of everything from the F-86 Sabre, to the F-102 Delta Dagger, to the F-101 Voodoo to the F-16 Viper.  I have knocked off more than my share of plaster and broken way more than my share of 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 been an excellent training ground because the transition went smoothly.  I did so well at my first job as a salesperson that the company asked me to manage one of their sales offices after only one year of experience. One year later, the same executives who had put me in that little office the year before showed up again and told me I was being promoted to manager of the top office in the 36-office chain. 

That's when I started making the same kind of 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 entire office into Danny Cox clones seemed to be what my bosses wanted me to do.  If I could get my salespeople to do their jobs exactly the way I had done mine when I was in their shoes, 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 scratching my head 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 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 does.

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.

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

Decide on one thing that 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.”

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Leadership When the Heat Is On: 24 lessons in high-performance leadership


Lesson One
Leadership When the Heat's On

Only a few feet separate the lead pilot's tailpipe from the nose of my supersonic fighter as we rip through the sky at speeds in excess of 500 miles per hour. I feel the blast from his engine vibrating through my feet on the rudder pedals and through my right hand on the control stick. There are seven more jets behind me packed just as tight in our nine-ship formation.

Almost with one motion, the nose of each fighter gently drops below the horizon. The airspeed builds until the lead pilot pulls back on the stick. The nose of every fighter rises in perfect symmetry as the G forces build. I feel the blood being forced into my legs and feet. All nine of us are now experiencing the same 5 G force ––5 times our body weight. We tighten our leg and abdominal muscles to keep blood in our upper extremities to avoid blacking out.

I concentrate on keeping my hand on the throttle. If it slips off, the G force will push it down between the side panel and my ejection seat. I will lose my ability to make minor throttle adjustments and hold precise position. As we curve over the top of our perfect loop, the world switches places with the sky. The G forces diminish down the backside. I steal a millisecond glance at the two rear view mirrors. Everyone is still tucked in tight. The G pressure builds again as our lead pilot pulls the nose back up to level flight and eight pilots follow in perfect unison.

The lead pilot takes us through a series of horizon tumbling rolls followed by a formation shift to a nine-ship diamond. It's my turn to fly center position as we make a high-speed, low-level pass over the airfield. The noise of eight other jets in front and back, and on both sides, flying two to three yards from wingtip to wingtip is deafening. It's high performance flying right to the edge. There is only one word to describe it: exhilarating. WOW! How I love it!

It's the ultimate team experience. The difference between life and death can be how well we learn from our successes and failures. Our synergy comes from courage, creativity, and being there for each other, no matter what. After leaving the Air Force and entering the corporate world, I had to transfer the principles of individual and team high performance to new challenges.

I had to make some tremendous adjustments, but my drive to again be a part of a high performance team was strong. I sought out advice and counsel from the most successful people I could find in various industries. What they taught me, along with some innovations of my own, put my new team into a supersonic climb. In five years, we increased production 800 percent, morale soared and turnover dropped to nearly zero.

Consider this your supersonic flight plan as you discover how my team broke the old records and continued to break the new ones. You're going to find out how to become the lead pilot for your team and a barrier-breaking leader.   

"The managerial moment of truth comes when you realize that, as the leader, you are the trigger for change in your organization."

Leadership When the Heat Is On: 24 lessons in high performance leadership by Danny Cox 

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

If It's To Be, It's Up To Me!!


“Success is the realization of the estimate you place upon yourself.”
                                                     Elbert Hubbard

Sometimes, people set up goals for themselves and then find reasons to keep themselves from making any meaningful progress toward those goals. Perhaps you’ve run into people who have established “deserve levels” for themselves—levels of income, or happiness, or career satisfaction that they never go much above or much below, despite the opportunity to do so.
Think about financial goals. Even people who have work situations that allow for wide disparities in monthly income totals—salespeople, say, or home entrepreneurs—somehow manage to keep themselves from moving much outside of this so-called “comfort level.” Although people will say that they want to be able to increase their incomes, they’ll often find some way to link the attainment of that goal to someone other than themselves, and their small steps won’t match up with the big goals they’ve set up. The distance between where they are and where they want to be is measured in excuses: “If only someone would take over the job of organizing things...” “If only our financial system were better targeted...” “If only I had the energy I once had...”

There are far too many unfortunate souls on this earth who think that, once they figure out what life’s all about, they’ll be able to press the “rewind” button and run themselves back to, say, age 21—or any other time when “things were better.” Sad to say, people don’t come equipped with such a button. For these poor folks, life slips by, day by day, as they wait for someone or something to show them the way.
What they’re waiting for, when you get right down to it, is the “guy on the white horse”—the person who will tackle all the mysteries, solve all the problems, ride in and rescue them. While they’re waiting for this person to show up, they disengage. Let me share a secret: You have instant access to the “man or woman on the white horse”—the person on whom our safety and success depends—at any time. All you have to do is look down, and you’ll see that you’re sitting astride that “white horse.”
You are the guy on the white horse! You are the only person who’s qualified to change your present and, thereby, change your future. Don’t wait for great occasions to step forward as your own hero; don’t assume that someone else is blocking your way. Seize common occasions for positive personal change, and make them great.
The time to commit yourself to developing the most efficient plan possible to achieve your goals is right now. And the person who must carry out that plan is you. As someone once said, “If it is to be, it is up to me.”
Immediate Action: Think about how can you take action, today, to address a challenge you had once believed to be someone else’s responsibility. Waiting for someone else to achieve a goal for us means abandoning that “molded-in-clay” goal—before it’s been put into permanent form!
Point to Ponder Before You Go On: Remember: A bad habit—like waiting for the guy on the white horse—can become so strong that it can be mistaken for destiny. Don’t let that happen to you!

Excerpted from Danny’s book, There Are No Limits: Breaking the Barriers in Personal High Performance

Thursday, June 7, 2012

The No Limits Story of Mary Lawrence

Mary Lawrence was no stranger to tragedy. For five years after her husband’s death she wandered through life with no real direction. Then late one night, a driver ran a stop sign and what had been two cars was a mass of twisted rubble.

When one of the paramedics found her broken body, he said, “Get the others. This one’s gone.”  But she wasn’t and her spirit was uninjured.  On the way back to town, an amazed medic had discovered she had a pulse!  At the hospital the doctor said she wouldn’t live through the night. She did.

She spent the next year in the hospital. Her teeth and facial bones wired together. Later they performed fifteen root canals. They explained they had to do two facial reconstruction surgeries where no anesthesia could be used. Her response!  “Let’s get started.”

A year later, she was released. Her doctor told her to go home and “take it easy.” You don’t say that to “No Limits” people unless you get out of the way first!

When she went shopping, her face still swollen, she would see people she knew were friends. She couldn’t remember their names because of the permanent brain damage. They didn’t recognize her and turned their heads rather than look at her.  She said that really hurt.

Her memory was so bad she concentrated on each word of a sentence so she wouldn’t forget what she had said at the beginning. She discovered that getting a California real estate license was very difficult because of the memory work. Typically, she said that’s what she’d do.

She would read each page of that thick real estate manual fifty to sixty times until it was engrained. She passed the full day test the first time!

Mary went to work for one broker who terminated her after a month because she was slow in memorizing the inventory. At the second company, it was the same scenario.

An hour after the second termination my phone rang. This very determined voice said, “I’m Mary Lawrence and I want to work for you.”

She was in our three-week training program a few days later. After she graduated I placed her in one of my offices. WOW! Her sales were incredible.

A year later at our annual banquet I announced her name from the stage as one of our ten Outstanding First Year Salespeople. She came up on the stage. As I handed her the plaque, she leaned over and whispered in my ear, “Save me a place.  I’ll be back up here next year.”  As I watched her walk away, I thought, she means that.

The very next morning Mary bought a long pink dress to wear one year later. She hung it up in the very center of her closet to remind herself daily of her goal.

The next year I stand on that Grand Ballroom stage of the Disneyland Hotel. I tell the back-story that she had finally told me only a month before. At the end of this triumphant story I announce that she is #1 out of our 700 salespeople in listings taken, listings sold, sales and gross commission. “Ladies and gentlemen, Mary Lawrence.”

Mary, a true “no limits” champion floats across the dance floor in the beautiful long pink gown that had acted as her daily inspiration. To add to this triumphant moment, the band is playing “The Impossible Dream” and several hundred people rise in a roaring, standing ovation. Not a dry eye in the audience!

She stands in the spotlight at center stage of the Disneyland Hotel. I move toward her with the large Number One trophy. She turns, looks me in the eye and says, “I told you I’d be back!”

Point to Ponder:
Adversity sometimes strips a person only to discover the person.

Higher up and farther on!