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CHANGE … which Values and Empowers your Team January 28, 2016

Posted by PerformDetectiv in Business Excellence, Change Management, Leadership, Learning Organization, Process Improvement, Team Building, Uncategorized.
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Many people find it extremely difficult to grow their organizations, because they feel that size alone restricts their ability to manage the company expansion, while still trying to maintain the same feel and culture. They sense that they can’t be on top of all of the issues as they have in the past… Guess what? … You can’t!
The critical element is that this is very much about scaling an approach of excellence across new people, new processes and then getting the desired results. The “why” of valuing your people is really the solution to the issue of managing your growth while scaling with an eye to quality. More importantly when you are people-centric you now have the ability to be the leader not the manager. This approach encourages the growth you so desperately want to encourage.

Six Rules for Change - Diagram by Esther Derby
Even more importantly, you can now duplicate and innovate as you grow because your people bring their best ideas as well. It is all about insuring that there will be ongoing productivity and your team itself can respond to challenges that may not exist currently.

The critical question then becomes “how” can I accomplish this… when I have been hands-on for such a long time? This can be a challenge but begin to build a team you can trust and then connect with them. You should know, and they should know, that you will always back them up with your support when they take care in their decision making. Be consistent in your expectations and your feedback. An article by Jeff Haden, that was in Inc Magazine, may quickly offer you a sense of these ideas and why it is so important.

You should set objectives that make sense and expectations that are transparent to your team. The balance comes in your people leadership, and how you respond to your employees and celebrate their success and innovation. If there is a need to critique or criticize, don’t do it in a public forum that would serve to embarrass or impede that enthusiasm. Encourage a sense of value for ways to continually enhance the process and increase the product improvement.

This is a way to grow … and more importantly grow your team in the process.

Dan Werner
The Performance Detective


Habits of Spectacularly Successful Organizations January 17, 2012

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Since the late 70’s we have taken a microscopic focus at what comprises successful business strategy.  It began with an evaluation of organizations by McKinsey which only secondarily looked at both “structure and people”.  Of course that initial  work was made popular by Peters and Waterman that began looking  into organizational successes.  The investigations eventually  talked about the reasons behind the  success of  business teams and companies  and then tried to identify what common threads and  practical qualities existed among those highly successful organizations as proposed in the first book “In Search of Excellence”.  After the original book was published  the business community became smitten with the book’s popularity which then helped spark  the entire “Excellence” phenomenon.  Since then many authors  have also looked in depth at better techniques to realize excellence like Ken Blanchard and his “One Minute”  type of approach.  Then there have been additional examples of company excellence illustrated by Jim Collins in “Good to Great”, which followed with multiple examples  identifying who is successful, why they continue and how all of us can  nurture our own successful organizations. The common thread seems to be recognition of building a great organization that continues to flourish, more like building a well designed clock that will operate flawlessly for many years and in many environments.

Recently in the January Forbes article, by Eric Jackson , he refreshed  Sydney Finkelstein’s “Why Smart Executives Fail” Study with Finkelstein’s 2004 list of red flags, the Seven Habits of  Spectacularly Unsuccessful Executives…

Habit #1:  They see themselves and their companies as dominating their environment

Habit #2:  They have no clear boundary between their personal interests and their corporation’s interests

Habit #3:  They think they have all the answers

Habit #4:  They ruthlessly eliminate anyone who isn’t completely behind them

Habit #5: They are consummate spokespersons, obsessed with the company image

Habit #6: They underestimate obstacles

Habit #7: They stubbornly rely on what worked for them in the past


We should focus on the importance of positive actions, recognize what are the positive  “Do’s” … what real traits and business acumen  should we engage in for a maintaining a path for personal and business excellence?

It is paramount that people focus  the hardest when you are on top, knowing that the natural inclination is to enjoy the success and forget about your competition.  The entire organization needs a good deal of “team-empowerment” and insuring the consistent “message” that everyone delivers, not just one person or one department.   One person or even one area never has all of the answers and therefore it is prudent to be vigilant about your competition and your customer’s changing needs.  In that same effort you need an operating environment that is conducive to bringing competing visions and welcomes all of your people who are willing to be thoughtful about delivering alternative visions.  The brand and message is very important but only as it delivers on quality and performance not the staleness of a never changing product or service.  As we look forward it is important to understand the economic landscape and, just like within a classic “SWOT study”, you need to appreciate both your strengths and be aware of your vulnerabilities.  Lastly knowing what worked in the past is only important in that it is a benchmark for the type of approach that was taken and not as a boilerplate for exact details moving forward.  As technologies and popularities change so to must the way businesses plan offerings and execute for the changing future.

Very often the people closest to the action are frozen  by either “bad habits” or misplaced “confidence”.   It frequently takes an objective eye and an impartial Detective to help organize a compelling vision and insure a new action-plan for the future.   Excellence is a destination and a journey which takes a real focus, a strong commitment, a relevant plan and a team all working in tandem.  Don’t sacrifice the future because you were caught up in a  successful moment-in-time.

The Performance Detective

Speed, Simplicity, Clarity … in a drive for Excellence July 1, 2011

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Speed, Simplicity, Clarity… in a drive for Excellence

What does it take to be really  be “Good” at a business today.  Many times we differentiate our discussion for either an early stage business effort or a rework of an existing business.  Essentially it has a whole lot to do with the size of the business and what it takes to accomplish positive change or new growth.  We can focus on the dynamics of delivering a service or a product, but success is in laying out a first approach or a new approach  as the identified goal.  We have an idea that things can be done better or faster or cheaper or the end result/product is just more enjoyable.

So how do we get there?  Many business analysts will provide case studies or approaches for who has succeeded in building the better mousetrap.  Businesses themselves have spent millions trying to get better or just improve in terms of; costs, efficiency, quality, productivity, satisfaction and ultimately profit.

Bottom line is that we evaluate by some sort of results measurement.  How we successfully get to that point is al about how we engage our people in this process.  Success is not only dependent on reaching toward our vision and on our clarity of purpose,  but also on developing a consistent approach which optimizes “what “ we are really intending to deliver to our customers, then optimize time, effort, quality and costs.   If we look at the overall approach of folks like Jason and David at 37 Signals,  they offer that the ultimate strength of success is all about our efficiency in… what we do?… how we do it? … and why we do it?  The power is in the efficient execution and understanding of the essential purpose.

As a detective and coach for bringing excellence to business… I agree that being focused on identifying a shorter and simpler path can be a lynchpin for productivity, it is also ultimately as critical that we stay centered on what measure of excellence we want brought to the entire process.  We are all creatures of habit and by valuing what we do and why we do it, it becomes essential to motivate our people to exceed  and innovate in the entire length of the process from selling to production and from delivery to follow-up.  Better yet… involve your people in the development, identification and execution of real process improvement.  Just do it!

The Performance Detective  @PerformDetectiv

Leading Change … but First Energize your Team March 11, 2011

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It has become so popular in Corporate America and especially for business pundits to latch on to the latest methodologies for Change and Performance Improvement.  We readily encourage and talk about the next greatest approach to improving success.  Perhaps it is the competitive nature of finding the corporate fountain of youth but certainly it is fostered by the entire race for businesses to realize new ways to somehow be better and faster and then produce it cheaper.  Somewhere along the way we have lost the vision of what it really takes to properly identify, plan for and ultimately sustain that goal.

We can look through the business literature and realize a solid evolution of finding ways for quality initiatives, effective lean processes, higher employee productivity, process re-engineering, merger and acquisition integrations, product improvement, customer service enhancements.  But where and how do we identify where to begin and what is most important to focus on. Given the complexity it is quite easy to see that we have generally not done a good job at maintaining our focus nor our objectives in this effort.  We find that in many areas American products and many services are less than enthusiastically received.

So what must we do, if we are indeed serious about competing, if not on the global level then within our own country and state or just within our own city.  Quite frankly there are many “How to?” processes and techniques from lots of different and talented sources.  It can be said that we must focus on the obvious first… but sometimes that “elephant in the room” is more of a symptom of bigger or more fundamental issues. It can accurately be said that any call-to-arms is of necessity a request for the entire team to be engaged… and at a very early stage.

One of the leading change authors has highlighted that there first needs to be a sense of urgency, built around a core group that then develops an identifiable vision.  The process then needs to insure that there is a actionable strategy a that can be communicated and taken to core employees for the beginning implementation.  Finally an ongoing process of short term wins which can consolidate and preserve the change and ultimately find ways to solidify the new approaches.  Sounds pretty solid … but it’s also related that this process eventually breaks-down more often than it succeeds.

So what can be done to help the “Change Process” along? Well it may seem simplistic but most of the time the success or failure ends to fall squarely on our inability to effectively communicate with and among all of the team members.  Once again there is a fundamental difference between leadership and management but more importantly there is a tremendous cavern between building understanding and building acceptance.  Part of this rush to perform, has been the constant emphasis for new companies that are raised on a promise of a quick IPO or potential for near term acquisition.  Somewhere we have lost the fundamentals of what makes and breaks great companies.

The sense for just needing to find increased effectiveness is a very common desire.  That productivity and performance enhancement can usually dramatically help the bottom line, but just as quickly a poorly designed program can fall apart and evaporate.  Maybe the most important element is that we all want lasting transformations to be enduring, and the only way to truly do this, is by following a plan that all of your people buy into.  So how can that happen and how is it managed?

The first step is to know your team and more importantly for each member of the team to know how to value each other, differences and all.  Second it becomes essential that the business team can effectively communicate and interact with one another.  The third step is to stress working at a higher level to infuse a new value for proper change behavior.   Fourth is to begin to understand that not everyone is able to accept change, much less being able to contribute to it.  Fifth all of this needs to be measured and communicated regularly in a positive light to the entire team. When you can regularly see the ongoing results, and it is obvious that the company and its management actually value and care about it, then you have chance to succeed.

Identify that Change is really an approach for a valued culture switch which respects well thought out innovation and continuous improvement, not just following the existing status quo. Remember that your people have the untold power to make or break all your great initiatives… make it “their initiatives”.

The Performance Detective

Lean Six Sigma… TQM from Alpha to Omega September 14, 2010

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What is the best current business quality process?  Which business expert represents the strongest variation for quality adjustment?  What can really be derived from a new quality strategy?  What makes an approach popular for a while and then fall out of favor?  Can it be determined what the very best approach is for my business?  What makes a product or service truly “excellent”?    This analysis of Quality Management is meant to expand the basic notion that quality improvement is mainly for a manufacturing application.  The fundamental quality process improvement should be even more critical in a non manufacturing application because of the influence on your People, your Process and your bottom line Performance.

The most expansive business theories have evolved over time with new people putting a slightly different twist or a new spin to make these practices more appealing and ultimately more productive. As you will appreciate, regardless of the tactics, it is strategically more important for all of your people to first understand the basics of “Who, What, When, Where, Why and How” then to jump in and immediately try and implement quality improvements.  A pragmatic approach is all about achieving measureable results and eventually maintaining vital change in a permanent way and realize new team impetus for the entire organization.

As a short history… earliest records show that the ancient Greeks and early Chinese recorded the quality concept of Continuous Improvement.  The roots of today’s Quality Management can be tracked to the early production ideas of the20’s and later concepts pioneered in Japan in the 40’s by Americans; Deming, Drucker, Feigenbum and Juran.  Later Japanese quality experts like Shingo and Taguchi expanded the original models along with newer American quality initiatives extensively written about in the 70’s 80’s and 90’s.

The roots of Quality Assessment and Total Quality Management (TQM) go back to early efforts for uncovering and optimizing the best of breed practices.  In TQM organizations the customer holds a dynamic position and the quality organization measures their progress from the customer perspective. But quality focused companies know that the commitment of the entire organization ( the “total” of TQM) creates an even stronger and more impactful benefit.  The four key targets of the quality approach insures that your product/service be consistent, meet your customer needs, be delivered on a timely basis and is offered at a fair price.  Committed TQM organizations also know that the task of staying competitive is ongoing and also demands continuous monitoring and a strong mechanism for ongoing process improvement.

The overarching success or failure of any Quality initiative is comprehensive participation and purposeful commitment to the entire quality effort.  This approach requires and “all in commitment” from top management, supervisors, and all of your team.  It demands that the process and your people commit to an action that is vital, precisely understood, properly trained for, continually engaged in and vitally encouraged to act upon.  This also means that you nurture an environment that demonstrate to all of your people that they are valued for their input and empowered to learn about the entire process within the cross functional quality teams you will establish.

So what is the main difference between TQM (Deming) and the popular Six Sigma? A quick assessment of the two quality programs is  offers that TQM improves quality by adhering to internal requirements and Six Sigma focuses on improving quality and by reducing defects.  In today’s world the current popular quality efforts also blends together “Lean and Six Sigma” which  adds the critical elements of low cost and increased productivity.  The drive for Business Excellence is a secondary advantage here but potentially more important as the company realizes an empowered work environment and a new sense of the possible with a higher level of personal achievement and product awareness.

A quick assessment of the Six Sigma action program allows for five core steps in implementing the quality changes following the “DMAIC” process;  Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve and Control.  The hidden component of the entire program is the emphasis to effectively and regularly communicate your progress.  This communication reaffirms both the needed  action for the implemented changes and also critical interaction with all of the stakeholders.  The last critical element to maintain these changes, is effectively utilizing some form of Kaizen, which means enacting a strong Continuous Improvement program to insure the recording and implementation of the vital changes you have identified.

I was fortunate to be involved with a world class organization that conducted quality efforts throughout the organization. That attitude started with the smallest self-evaluation of all processes, identifying key elements for critical procedures and pursuing a goal of Business Excellence long before it was popular as a business philosophy.  For a final overview let’s take a pragmatic view of business excellence, one  that companies should regularly strive to achieve.  Businesses usually define profitability by the volume of sales, the perceived value that the product/service possesses, and the efficiency with which the product is produced.  To cut-to-the-chase many people simply refer to it as “How fast, how good, and how cheap”.

For Business Excellence each area requires attention and an understanding of techniques needed to  manage them. “How Fast” is a combination of quality manufacturing techniques and cycle time improvement.  “How Good” is enhanced by setting a high level of quality and continuous  improvement.  Finally “How Cheap” is a variety of Rational Management Processes which include cycle time improvement, waste reduction and lean elements as well as a strong commitment to a total value process like Kepner-Tregoe.

In summary this circles back to our original set of questions and ultimately… What does it take to successfully drive a “Quality Management” implementation? We suggest that no matter what else is technically included within a quality program,  the fundamentals of any implementation must :

1)      A fulltime quality leader who oversees a formal process moving forward.

2)      From the top down the organization must be committed and involved in the effort.

3)      Identify the new vision for why and what it is to be accomplished.

4)      The entire business team should be involved, acknowledged and encouraged to contribute.

5)      A system of measurement and metrics is necessary at multiple points in the process.

6)      A dynamic and interactive knowledge management system for improvements and training.

7)      Develop a regular schedule for updates, challenges and new ideas.

8)      Establish your customers as the driver for identifying the areas of effective improvement and the ultimate measure of realized success.

9)      Make the entire process challenging and contagious for all team members  as their motivated involvement is an ultimate and lasting benefit in and of itself.

We can address the essential elements of Quality…  so take the initial steps and  discuss the challenges that you may face.  First you must identify the fundamental challenge you wish  to resolve and secondly  you must understand if you already have in place the team necessary to move forward with a new commitment to real Quality Excellence.

The Performance Detective

Maintain your Best Practices or start a Continuous Improvement Initiative or begin a Change Management program? March 1, 2010

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The question for thousands of small to medium-sized businesses is really… in what direction should we be moving?  Most successful smaller companies have enjoyed a reasonable amount of continuing business.  But they want or need to be vigilant or proactive as they move forward.  So what direction or business element should you be looking at?  Too many companies take an either/or approach in what to monitor within their own business.

An effective first approach is to both carefully evaluate the direction of the market and also measure your own customer’s temperature. It is imperative to also look internally at what you are currently doing and find out if you can improve your own effectiveness.  When and organization is most successful it provides for a measure of continuous improvement and engages its own employees in this active process.

Frequently we take a snapshot look at what we do and fail the litmus test of building a dynamic organization where our own people consistently contribute and grow our best practices. Why is it so easy to forget about the actual process that started the business down a road of growth and expansion?

People and the energy of their approach make just as much a difference as all of the attention paid to good planning and the ongoing concerns over the details of product or services delivery.  Today, companies that  look at their operations as a morphing target are more likely to be successful in the long run.  The expression that everything changes and nothing stays the same continues to be the challenge of today’s business environment regardless of the economic playing field.

Begin to know why you are doing the things you do and you will have a greater appreciation of how to be conducting your business.

The Performance Detective

Tune-up time … do you have a handle on your “Inside Big 5” … probably not! February 19, 2010

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You can breakdown the internal workings of any company into five fundamental categories... The Inside Big Five.  Everyone in the company should know your approach in all of these critical areas.  They include how you interact with your people, the relative understanding of your  product and services, how you handle your ongoing business planning, how you manage your fundamental processes and finally the execution of  your day-to-day performance.

It all sounds pretty simple doesn’t it? … if you are indeed already attending to each of these areas.   Obviously it gets more complicated in the actual execution, but starting with these fundamentals is essential to understanding your business.  Frequently a professional business detective can more easily uncover the strengths and weaknesses in your business.  But this is only possible if someone has real access and you allow that person to come in and understand how you approach all of these areas.

Think of it as a surprise safety inspection… if your are really doing all of the things where you want to be performing efficiently, then a real check-up will validate your operation.  If not, then the worst that can be said is that you will begin to understand more about those areas where you need to direct your efforts.

This type of check-up really has little to do with changing your business plan or making radical adjustments in your corporate goals… or does it?  It really has meant that people begin to understand where and how and what they might need to be doing to actually improve productivity.  Too often we take for granted that what we did last year or how we did something for the past few years, will more than allow us to continue to make progress.

In this day and time if you are standing still… you are going backwards.  Call the Performance Detective for your first professional check-up and you’ll be surprised what you find.

What Really Drives Business Excellence? February 15, 2010

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Clambering for a new solution… everyone talks about the latest business guru or most recent business philosophy de jour.  We discuss the merits of what you should do to have your business improve its sales or expand its market.  It is frequently mentioned that we must communicate a new approach or instill a new spirit or establish a new set of goals in order to truly grow your business.  But for all of the books or authors or even latest fads it frequently comes down to two questions…  How do we get everyone on the same page?  And … How do we begin?

As the Performance Detective … I see people go to great lengths to try and understand what needs to be done.  The short of it, is that most people don’t know what has to be done and are prevented from doing it because they get lost in managing everything but the basics.  They either lack an understanding of how people are brought together with a well developed plan or product or they haven’t assembled a business team that can successfully implement a value-added strategy.

We have all read long ago about successes or heard about Tom Peter’s observations in his “In Search of Excellence” series, and we have listened to recent stories of success as identified by Jim Collins in “Good to Great”.    How do you capture all of the elements that these different companies and different people have in common?  Well in many respects it is very hard because people are creatures of habit and become locked-in a certain way of doing things or just in how they approach their jobs.  On the other hand it might not be as hard as you think to exact change in a positive way.

Several basics that help companies compete at a very high level; start with the approach of their people.  And it is quite important that everyone feel valued to bring their best to the table on a regular basis. An important element is to put people before policies and to insure that you communicate an atmosphere of positive energy and make no excuses for wanting the best.

High performance is not high maintenance and if you want customers-for-life you take the time to let your own people know that they are “your” customers for life and you believe in them and believe in their decisions.

You can establish the right team by both promoting managers and executives with a thirst for continual improvement and also weeding out people that are too caught up in the position itself.  Don’t even address strategy and policies and approach until you have the right team in place and you know how to successfully interact with one another.

Having a positive action oriented organization is the end of the beginning to develop an outstanding organization.  When your own people respect and believe in one another, you will have built an organization that will strive for the very best at every level.  You will excel from business planning and product development to valued sales performance to great customer service.

Understand that the small details mean a lot to the bigger picture.  But you will never get to that big picture unless you have the trusted team that can deliver in each area of your business.  John Miller identifies personal attributes in his QBQ work and then in his more recent book provides 47 ways to make your organization Outstanding. Without a team that is first knowledgeable on how to pursue excellence or simply expecting every member of their own group to interact effectively by osmosis … then the delivery of real company-wide Excellence is indeed impossible.  The real secret is in establishing a team which understands the team dynamic and one which believes in personal responsibility then being able to deliver outstanding service at every turn because it is part of the innate business culture you have consciously nurtured and bred.

The Performance Detective

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