5 ideas to help you lead for the long term.
JANUARY 17, 2012
By Dan Coughlin
The real test of leadership is not in the moment, but in the long term. Of course, the decisions you make at any moment can positively or negatively affect the long-term health of the business.
Have you ever seen a leader swoop in and be the hero of the moment only to guide the organization to long-term failure? What good is that?
As the worldwide economy continues to improve, there will be a host of leaders who will be determined to show that they are getting great results right now. You might even be one of them. I’m encouraging you to do your best to focus on long-term success as well as the next quarterly report. Here are five ideas on leading for sustained success:
1. Carefully Select Your Role Models
It’s been my experience that people tend to reflect the leaders they most admire. If they admire someone who is always sarcastic and cynical, then they tend to become more sarcastic and cynical. If they admire a leader who is always down-to-earth and friendly, they tend to be that way. Be very careful about the leaders you choose to be your role models.
My father-in-law, Reverend Arnold Bizer, is a living legend.
I’m serious. He was the senior minister of Salem Church in Alhambra, Illinois for 34 years. Alhambra has a population of 700 people. Every time my family and I go back to Alhambra with him, people line up to shake his hand. He retired 18 years ago. To me, he and his wife, Luetta, are absolutely fantastic examples of leading for sustained success. Their impact on that community continues to this day.
They are remarkably consistent with everyone they meet. Their personalities never waver. They treat everyone with respect. I’ve seen them in countless situations, and they continually amaze me. I never saw them in action at Salem Church because they retired three years before I met my wife, Barb. But I have heard from dozens of people who were impacted by their leadership, and the way their parishioners describe them matches up exactly with what I have seen from them in their retirement.
Who is someone you know that has provided leadership for sustained success? What do you admire about that person? How can you use something that they do to become an even more effective leader today?
2. Be Consistent
The most important factor in building a strong brand is consistency. The same can be said for being a leader who sustains success over the long term. I don’t mean you can’t ever try new ideas. Innovation is part of regenerating success. However, being consistent with your values and your behaviors is how people can come to trust you. I’ve seen gruff leaders and loud leaders and gentle leaders and quiet leaders all become very successful. What I have not seen is people who changed their personalities every day be effective in sustaining success over the long term.
I’ve identified three disastrous leadership styles. They are:
The Mood Ring Leader — their decisions and behaviors are based on their mood that day.
The Chameleon — says or does whatever they think the boss of the moment wants.
The Polite Dictator — tells employees what they want to hear, and then does whatever they had already decided to do before meeting with their employees.
The one thing these three types of leaders have in common is they are all very inconsistent. If you want to lead for sustained success, write down the values and beliefs you are going to stick to no matter who is in the room or what mood you are in or what your results were last quarter. People need to know that they can count on you. If you change every day, they won’t know who you are and what you stand for.
3. Pause, Think, Act
Neil Diamond had a song out a few years ago called, “Slow It Down.” Here are some of the lyrics:
Pick it up. Hurry up son. Eat on the run if you wanna get done. Greed, speed, where does it lead you? Wanna succeed? You thinking you need to? But are you really sure? It's a lot to endure, but I got me a cure. Slow it down! Slow it down, yea. Slow it down. Take your time and you'll find your time has a meaning. Easy now. Catch those sounds of your heartbeat before it's leaving.
The funny thing about that song is the first time I heard it I was eating a hamburger while driving down the highway. Maybe that’s why it stuck in my head.
There is a constant world-wide drumbeat that says, “The world is moving faster than ever before. You have to make faster decisions in order to survive.” It makes it sound like we’re on a rat race with steroids. Don’t believe it. To be a great leader, you have to have the courage to slow down and make really good decisions. Once you believe in your decision, move into action. Don’t feel compelled to meet someone else’s stopwatch.
4. Ask Yourself The Big Question of Business
The big question of business is, “Will this decision be good for our business today and in the future?”
Notice the question doesn’t say, “Will this decision be good for my career?” I think over the last decade we saw enough examples of people who made decisions that were good for their careers, at least in the short term, and bad for their businesses, at least in the long term.
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Jim Collins wrote an iconic book called "Good to Great". I liked the book very much, but I disagreed with his emphasis on humility. At least, I felt he needed to clarify better what that word means. If humility means always putting the good of the organization ahead of your own personal good, then I agree. Humility in that sense is critically important to being a leader for sustained success.
On the other hand, if humility means putting yourself down and always saying that it was other people who produced the results and that you were just plain lucky, then I think it is the wrong word to use in describing a successful leader over the long term. You should believe in your worth and acknowledge that you do bring value to the organization that helps it to succeed today and tomorrow. Just don’t put what’s good for you ahead of what’s best for the organization.
5. Remember What Got You Here
Not every company on the planet has had poor results through the recession. Some have continued to achieve remarkable results and deliver incredible performances. The challenge for leaders of every long-term successful company is to continually remind the employees and suppliers of what got them there.
Leaders who sustain success have great memories and are great historians. They know the values and decisions that guided their organization for many years, and they continually remind the current group of employees of those values.
Don’t lead for today’s headlines. Lead in a way that 52 years after you arrived, your impact is still being felt every day.
Visit www.thecoughlincompany.com. There you can sign up for Dan Coughlin’s free, monthly e-newsletter, The Business Acceleration Newsletter, watch his Free Business Acceleration Video Library, and read his complete archive of articles on business acceleration. Dan is a business keynote speaker and seminar leader on leadership, innovation, and branding. He is also an executive coach and author of four books on generating sustainable, profitable growth. His books include "Accelerate", "Corporate Catalysts", "The Management 500", and "Find a Way to Win". His clients include McDonald’s, GE, Toyota, Prudential, Coca-Cola, Marriott, Boeing, Abbott, SUBWAY, Kiewit, and the St. Louis Cardinals.
|Tips for Aspiring Women Leaders|
As aspiring women leaders move from clarifying their larger driving passion to succeeding at a specific job, it is important that they recognize both the written, and especially unwritten, rules that determine how quickly they advance in their career. While a woman's company may dictate more specific rules of the workplace, executives cited eight important pieces of acumen they wished they had known sooner in their careers, regardless of industry:
1. Identify and master critical skills first. It can take people at least six months to fully understand all the expectations of their new job and about a year to properly execute them. If a woman can focus on and perfect the core attributes of her job early on, it will build her credibility faster in the organization.
She must ensure that she is proficient in her primary duties before distracting herself with things such as networking or attending conferences.
2. Think about the end goal. As a woman moves higher up in her organization, she will find that being a technical expert is far less important than her ability to motivate and inspire people. One CFO advised that as a woman advances, "finding [her] voice as a leader is perhaps more important than getting proficient in [her] technical role."
The leaders interviewed had enough technical skill to merit their promotion, but became leaders primarily due to skills such as effectively managing a team or excellent communication. They filled their gaps in technical knowledge by surrounding themselves with others whose strengths were different than their own.
Young women should start asking themselves how they can leverage other skills besides technical knowledge to add value in their company. Envisioning what they would like to be remembered for can serve as a personal mission statement that can help track progress toward.
Whether it consists of specific improvements they made, quality relationships they built, or their ability to handle high pressure with poise, they need to think beyond technical expertise.
3. Develop a professional presence. How a woman presents herself in the workplace is critical if she is an aspiring leader. A professional presence encompasses a number of characteristics: attentive eye contact, professional attire, and a confident posture and handshake.
Features like these will help reinforce a woman's presence which is ultimately about establishing the fact that she is credible, respected, and has the ability to inspire "followership" in those she works with.
4. Develop a strategic viewpoint. Most of the leaders interviewed found that their promotions to leadership were a result of their ability not to get lost in the details of their job or department, but their capacity to assess their organization from a bird's eye viewpoint. Young women should demonstrate an awareness of how their organization works as a whole and how their particular job or department influences the big picture.
They can practice this through careful observation and by asking themselves questions on the job. For instance, how will a particular proposal affect the company as a whole? How will a decision impact the organization collectively, not just her department?
5. Stay positive. While this sounds simple, it is often forgotten how powerful a positive attitude can be when advancing within a company. A large amount of business is handled in social venues and many times business decisions are based on the likeability of the person one is interacting with.
Staying positive also keeps the focus on finding solutions to problems as opposed to constantly complaining about them. If a woman delivers strong results on the job coupled with a positive attitude, it will be hard for her to go unnoticed.
6. Be helpful, but strategically helpful. Succeeding will always require teamwork, and it is important for a young woman to demonstrate that she is team-oriented. It strengthens her alliances at work, and potentially exposes her to new skills and people.
However, too often women only demonstrate their helpfulness in "support-type tasks," or work that they have been socialized to do. For instance, women are far more likely than men to volunteer to take on administrative roles, such as taking notes at a meeting, when it is not part of their job description.
Historically women have been the ones to get the coffee, be the secretary, or generally play a supporting role. While it is important that young women lend a hand where needed, they should give pause to consistently taking these roles.
7. Take ownership of successes. Another distinct difference between men and women is the likelihood that they will claim credit for what they have achieved. While men regularly assume credit for successful initiatives, women are more likely to assume that people will notice their hard work and give them the credit they are due.
Women are more likely to dilute their contributions by stating that "we" achieved something instead of "I" achieved it. Young women should practice using a clearer, fact-based approach.
For instance, "Last year when I suggested we update our plan, I never thought it would lead us to such a major overhaul." The women interviewed all gave credit to people in their lives for giving them the support they needed to attain their executive role, but each took ownership of the improvements that she had personally made.
They added that consistent communication is crucial to taking credit. Using meetings as venues for recognizing accomplishments and follow-up emails to her boss are good ways for a woman to keep her ideas and contributions associated with her and not claimed by someone else.
8. Know one's strengths and weaknesses. Leaders distinguish themselves from managers as people who are open to and ask for both upward and downward feedback. Aspiring leaders need to demonstrate that they can take constructive criticism and use the strengths of others to balance their weaknesses.
Annual performance reviews are excellent times for women to reflect on how they have created value for their organization and where they could improve. They should come prepared to highlight specifically how they have created value but also be open to their boss' suggestions for improvement.
It is also important that they get in the habit of requesting informal feedback, always asking for input on both how they excelled and how they could improve.
This article is based on the book "The Next Generation of Women Leaders." The book summary is available online at Business Book Summaries.
Guest Post: Begging For Leadership Won’t Get You A Pocket Full of Change
Posted on December 23, 2011 by Michael Ray Hopkin
By Kaity Nakagoshi
Change is inevitable and so is the resistance to change. People are often not welcoming of change unless it is implemented by leadership correctly. It’s natural that people become complacent with the status quo and perform rote tasks without giving their actions much thought. Change brings about fear of the unknown, which creates an atmosphere of unnecessary anxiety. That doesn’t have to be the scenario if employees understand the change, the strategies that will be used, and their role in accomplishing the goals.
Effective leaders need to understand that their primary responsibility is to infuse confidence in employees and ensure that they also have the ability to assume the new responsibilities. Equally important is that employees are instilled with the mind-set that they are capable of successfully executing the change strategies for themselves and their organization.
A successful leader who leads by example and keeps his promises will gain the trust and loyalty of his employees. Valued employees are more willing to contribute to the organization’s success when they believe they have a stake in it and are motivated by their own accomplishments. Toyota is a prime example of this mindset – their engagement approach gets employees involved via quality control improvement at all levels of the organization.
Toyota Case Study
The president of the U.S. based Toyota Corporation was reminded of the importance of employee engagement to organizational success when a factory dilemma occurred. Although Toyota’s leadership style promotes employee involvement, the working environment of one of their factory sites was not motivating its front-line workers. They failed to suggest quality control improvement that is inherent in “Kaizen.” Kaizen is the Japanese philosophy of continuous incremental improvement in life that Toyota has incorporated into its leadership style.
The Toyota president’s decision to hold weekly meetings with the front-line workers to openly discuss their concerns demonstrated his leadership commitment. He learned that the lack of motivation was attributed to various workplace inadequacies; some of them as basic as poor lighting in locker rooms. As the meetings continued, the workers became more vocal and their grievances more complex. It was revealed that a critical factor for the lack of motivation was the absence of encouragement to participate in quality control improvements for the products they created every day. When the changes were made to remedy the workplace inadequacies, the result was a success, due in part to appropriate business process management practices, and an overall acceptance of “Kaizen”.
Train. Evaluate. Repeat.
Thorough training in all phases of the workflow process and an understanding of the purpose drive organizational change success. Once processes are in place, continuous evaluation is necessary to verify that workers are following procedures as designed, proficiency levels are monitored, and accountability is present based on clearly defined expectations. An exemplary leader immediately assesses any glitches with feedback from his staff and re-evaluates the process to implement improvements A.S.A.P., upon which further assessment is necessary so that additional adjustments can be made if necessary.
Basic economics: Supply and Demand
An effective leader successfully executes her organization’s processes to ultimately meet the demands of customers by focusing on what they really want and providing those goods and services. A product that is of high quality, delivered on time, with quick and effective handling of customer complaints, will enhance customer satisfaction. What matters to the customer should be incorporated into the change process and measured for its effectiveness by customer feedback, retention rates, and growth.
Communication is key
Successful communication means that dialogue must flow in all directions in order to build trust at all levels – between senior level management, middle management, supervisors and frontline workers. As noted in the Toyota example, bottom-up communication is equally important as top-down communication in preventing dissension or the perception of favoritism and distrust.
Management and leadership are not synonymous
Well managed organizations do not necessarily perform at an optimum level. Organizations that are high performing have a successful leadership structure in place that is committed to the business process, change management, and the traditional functions – budgeting, organization, planning, problem solving and staffing. Effective leadership establishes the organization’s vision and sends it in a clear direction. It also inspires and motivates its employees, aligns key personnel for collaboration, and creates an atmosphere that is conducive to cooperation. Priceless leadership is the “heart and soul” of the organization and the management system is the “brain.” Both are essential for optimal performance.
There are many different leadership and management styles, some of which are arguably better than others. More importantly, a successful leader must be able to “morph” their leadership style into the most effective for the given situation, while continuing to guide the organization toward successful change.
The University of San Francisco, in partnership with University Alliance, has provided this article. The University of San Francisco offers higher education opportunities through a variety of online master certificates, including business process management. To see additional information please visit http://www.usanfranonline.com