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Elementary my dear Watson… January 20, 2010

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Is it business-as-usual in today’s business climate?

Many would say … “far from it!”  But the basic information necessary for truly understanding your people, your process, your product and ultimate your Profit are still there… Albeit  that basic information can be hidden from you for a variety of reasons.  Possibly having fresh eyes like a Sherlock Holmes or maybe more importantly having an intuitive perspective that allows the appropriate discernment to take place. That’s what The Performance Detective provides.

All business, just like a good police department, not only need a set of  “fresh eyes” but also someone trained to gather and examine both the obvious facts and uncover the subtle clues at “the scene-of-the-crime”. We are frequently amazed that the resulting report or business summary seems so apparently obvious once the sum total of information is gathered and then appropriately presented.

We all need the chance to step-back from the immediate glare of both familiarity and a traditional expectation, and then try to look at all of the pertinent facts with a fresh set of eyes.  It is helpful to have someone gather that information who both possesses a wide variety of business experiences but also knows to avoid jumping to conclusions early in the gathering process.  It is also critical to relentlessly probe, and question, and examine, and look, and record, and then review ALL of the information and the people that make up the “scene of the crime”.

Too often this investigative task is colored by both intimacy and bias. The initial report or informative study needs to simply evaluate “what” has occurred and attempt to uncover the breadth of the “how“, but most importantly not delve into the “why” if you really want a productive understanding  of the case at hand.

Eventually developing an impartial report or organizing a set of marching orders for a new direction, or even deciding on a solid commitment to stay-the-course,  becomes an entirely separate and impartial effort.  It is quite easy to either simplify or gloss over the existing business environment or to complicate and over-study the issues.  In the case of  “good detective work” it really is important to clearly see and uncover as many of the facts as possible to ultimately know what is truly happening.  It’s surprising to learn,what any of us can really have missed, when it seemingly is right in front of us.

The Performance Detective wishes you good luck and good hunting, but … be careful out there!

What makes up Real Leadership? January 18, 2010

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I have had the good fortune to have worked around several influential  and successful people over the years.  I would say they represented themselves as great leaders in their areas of expertise and all for a variety of reasons and at different moments in time.  But what is the definition of leadership that  encompassed their actions or their impact on us.  If we go to a dictionary we would probably find something like…

LEADERSHIP is an interpersonal influence directed toward the achievement of a goal or goals.

We can always look for a formal description for a word, an action or even measuring the resultant  effect.  But the ultimate definition of real leadership , or our impression of a true leader, goes well beyond  just a notion of  some sort of  influence.  We would necessarily want to discuss attributes of Leaders that we all have known or have learned about.  We would probably want people to know or understand how those people have impacted us individually and collectively.  We may talk about not only their influence at a particular time, place or moment, but their ongoing impact in our own approach to people and circumstances.  Greater still… the ongoing impression that we have about a memorable leader probably has a lasting influence on how we would wish ourselves to rise up and act during a challenging event.

It is also right to consider multiple aspects as far as the situation or circumstance that the leader found themselves in and how we also perceived the breadth of those challenges.  We often speak about how   circumstances can dictate not only the leader’s actions but the response from the group or team that the leader is part of.   Winston Churchill was by most estimations a great leader at a pivotal time in history. When you  actually research the history before and after his most influential leadership moments, you also begin to see why it is important to consider all aspects of circumstance as well as the actual words or actions that a leader has been credited with.  He was very popular as a wartime leader but quite ineffective both before and after because of a wide variety of conditions.

So if we understand that the popularity of memorable leadership takes into account a set of conditions as well as actions we begin to understand the broader context of being a good leader.  My contention is that truly great leaders have basic personal character traits that transcend just the decision making moment.  The leaders or heroes that we should actually emulate understand character is not a sometimes thing.  They practice and live these qualities of  “who you are?” and ultimately “what you are?” on a daily basis.  I believe that these Character Traits include an approach that practices:

  • Confidence carried lightly
  • Leadership that engenders trust
  • Passion that’s contagious
  • Humor without derision
  • Integrity without guile
  • Character that commits
  • Loyalty that holds on
  • Desire that dreams
  • Interest that increases knowledge

I’ve borrowed these descriptions from Robert Beaudine’s The Power of Who,  because he aptly characterizes not only the trait but also the real action and attitude in delivery that accompanies an admirable trait.

The next time that you see a leader or a leadership action defined as being stellar… see if they have brought  that level of commitment to their actions or their business strategy.  This kind of approach is the true measure of great leadership!

The Performance Detective

Keys to Maintaining Business Productivity January 18, 2010

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7 Critical Elements of ongoing Business Productivity

One of the biggest challenges for most people, and for many companies, is to continue to stay alert and stay fresh in today’s fast moving marketplace.  Once a process, product or service becomes successful, we all have a tendency to become complacent in its continual execution.  We fall victim to it being routine  and after several quarters or several years of increasing results or even stable performance… we lose a quality edge.  In many cases this is not because we don’t have “quality control” metrics in place but rather something as simple as an ongoing vigilance to the market itself, or we have simply not considered a natural product life-cycle.

Any of us would be hard pressed to always be vigilant, or to be so  in every situation, but that is why it is important that we establish a company-wide approach to the “how” and “what” and even “why” of our execution.  The underlying issues are all intertwined with the entire process we have established and expect from every member of our team.  For purposes of a quick overview, it is possible to take a broad look at all of areas that a company needs to address and break them down into Seven Critical areas…

1.  PEOPLE :  Do you value your team, do you know your team’s strengths and weaknesses and do you encourage new contributions and tactical innovations.

2.  PRODUCT : Do you have a product or service that your customers want, and at a price that they can afford, and is it evaluated and updated on a regular basis?

3.  PROCESS : Do you have a process that delivers quality, encourages improvement and is consistently replicated?

4.  PERFORMANCE : Do you encourage a reliable performance by maintaining your best practices?

5.  POPULARITY : Does your business provide a memorable product, a system for telling your story and something that your customers believe in and recommend?

6.  PROFIT : Have you developed a pricing strategy and do you have proceeds to reinvest in the business, can update your support systems and are able to reward your team?

7.  PASSION : Do you communicate regularly with your entire team and does your business organization operate with a sense of urgency, commitment and excitement?

All of these elements have a fundamental thread, beyond just adherence to the Business Plan itself or the Tactical execution of our mission, it comes full circle with a comprehensive approach to what we have defined as a commitment to maintain business and employee excellence.  Many books have been written about what it takes to get to the top, like examples cited years ago by In Search of Excellence, and even what it takes to get your team self motivated  to actually stay on top, like A-Ha Performance.  But ultimately it takes a commitment to develop our people so that everyone has a hand in the process and feels motivated to continue.  When your business team is built with a commitment to the value of their individual ownership, then the processes and procedures necessary for continual vigilance, will be part of goals that the Business Team aspires to achieve on an ongoing basis.

— The Performance Detective