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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

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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