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Session 30. We’re completing this short 30-Day Micro Leadership Course. My goal when we began was to provoke thoughts, beliefs, and actions. Mostly, I wanted to help you challenge yourself and your enterprise to higher human performance! My role isn’t to tell you what to do, or how to do it. My role is to help you figure it out. I want to help you see more clearly and take positive actions that will move you forward. Always forward!
So with that, let’s wrap up our 30 days together in this course. No, it’s not the end of this podcast. It’s just the end of this 30-day series. I’ll be taking a break after today so don’t panic if you don’t hear from me for a week or two. That’ll give you an opportunity to catch up and perhaps go back to review episodes of this course that most resonated with you – or the ones that you felt might be most needed.
Pursuing The Ideal Outcome
This is the objective of all this work. We’ve mostly learned how beneficial it is, to begin with the end in view. Everybody says it and claims to practice it, but in my experience, very few people put in the work to detail it out. When pressed, people find it challenging to articulate or specify in writing their ideal outcome.
Put in the work. Sit down and write down your ideal outcome. Your leadership will never exceed your willingness, courage, and dedication to improve.
Be detailed and specific. You’re not etching it in stone. Ideal outcomes are always subject to change because life happens. Our circumstances and situations change. People come and go in our life. Relationships change. Some grow. Others diminish. Many factors impact our ideal outcome so give yourself permission to go with it and change it as needed. This is your life and your career. Take control of it. Remember, you’re writing a hero story, not a victim story. Construct your ideal outcome accordingly.
It’s The People Who Matter!
Leadership has an obvious point. It’s relationships with people. I’ve been beating the drum of leadership being all about influence and doing for others what they’re unable to do for themselves. The beneficiary of each of these activities is OTHERS. But more precisely, it’s about your ability to relate well to others.
High-performing enterprises behave differently. They’re willing to do what others aren’t. They behave differently because they think and believe differently. Those thoughts and beliefs drive them to act differently. And it impacts all the relationships. Vendors, suppliers, strategic partners, employees, leaders, management, customers – all these relationships are superior in high-performing organizations. That makes an enormous difference in the outcomes.
Part of relationship building is mutual benefit. One-sided relationships aren’t tolerated in high-performance cultures. That is, a person unwilling or unable to contribute isn’t tolerated. Suppliers unwilling to meet the expectations aren’t either. Up and down and throughout the operation, relationships must be beneficial, not detrimental.
There is a relentless pursuit of the ideal outcome coupled with compassion where judgment is focused on the honest pursuit of the ideal outcome. That doesn’t mean everybody is perfect. Mistakes will be made. Errors will happen. But in the context of learning, growing and trying things. Innovation will always be fraught with imperfection as we pursue perfection. The relationships are forged in willingness, intention, and wisdom. Relationships are damaged by unwillingness, selfishness and foolishness.
From employees to customers and every relationship in between, high-performing organizations raise the bar over which everybody must jump. Expectations are highest in excellent organizations.
The rich get richer because excellent performers attract more excellent performers. They want to be surrounded by and enjoy a relationship with other excellent people.
College football is underway as I hit the record button today. This weekend there will be lots of games played. Some teams haven’t had a winning culture in a long time, if ever. We look at the colleges that seem to always find their way to the top of the rankings each year and we could think they’re lucky, they’ve got more resources…we might even think they cheat. We can think whatever we want to think. The reality is success breeds success. So the elite college football programs can recruit better players because better players know if they go to those schools they’ll have better players as teammates. They know they won’t have to worry about having to play with somebody who is unwilling or unable to compete at the highest levels.
What do your people know?
Do they know there are weak performers whose low performances are tolerated? Do they know that if they work harder and outperform their teammates, nobody will notice or care? What kind of relationships exist internally and externally?
Look at every relationship carefully. How do leadership and management relate to the people within the enterprise? How do employees relate to management? Is there trust? Is there safety?
How are vendor and supplier relationships? Describe them. Are they ideal? Are they true partnerships or are they more adversarial?
How are your relationships with your customers?
As you survey all the lines that connect us as humans, think carefully about how you might accurately describe these relationships. How congruent are your descriptions with your ideal outcome? How are you closing the gap to make them more as you’d want?
Every high-performing organization produces predictable results. Their work is as precise as flying an airliner. Or as precise as a fast-food drive-through. They get it right all the time, with few exceptions. And when there are exceptions, they recover well.
Things that were once difficult are now easy. Nobody even thinks much about it because processes and systems are in place and people are devoted to following them so the same result occurs over and over and over. Every single time.
With such an environment in place, people can now get busy tweaking and honing things. Making things more perfect.
There’s something powerful about making a 1% improvement when you’re already performing at a high level. It’s dramatically more impactful than getting a 25% improvement from a poor performance. Excellent organizations are relentless in making things even better…then better yet still. It’s the game everybody wants to play and win.
Success is a habit. So is losing. That’s why leadership is so important. Somebody has to show us the way forward. Especially when we can’t see it for ourselves.
Last week I heard a college football coach, Sam Pittman of the University of Arkansas (a team that hasn’t enjoyed much success in recent years but got off a 2-0 start this year) say that when he got the job he made sure he and his coaching staff yelled the loudest in practice when players performed well. That’s a leader who understands the power of relationships and achieving predictable results. He insists that praise and celebration for getting it right outshine the loudness against getting it wrong.
Excellent organizations focus on finding people doing great work and they celebrate it. Poor, even average organizations, are fixated on catching people doing things wrong. That focus and behavior demonstrate the difference in their outcomes. The one focuses on great predictable results. The other concentrates on mistakes, errors, and mishaps.
Attend any youth sporting event and you’ll hear parents hollering instructions to their kids. If barking out orders worked, then every kid would be a superstar. But most aren’t. Largely because they’re learning and don’t yet know what the parents “think” they know. In too many instances, the kids will lose whatever love they may have for the game because the adults in their life can’t understand one fundamental truth. A truth that is summed up in my all-time favorite quote, a quote I’ve never been able to trace back to its original author…
Everything is hard until it’s easy.
All the things we’ve talked about in this series are relatively simple. Nothing is complex or difficult to understand. Some things may be tough for you to believe, but belief is your choice based on the evidence. Ignore it if you’d like. Choose to believe whatever you’d like. I’d encourage you to believe the truth and find a way to understand that you and your career can go much further, faster. It’s up to you. Serve yourself and your organization.
I’m going to end this series with a common story used in my coaching. A simple story to demonstrate the power we each have to choose what we think and what we believe.
Here in DFW, we have lots of traffic, the hazards of a city with over 7 million people. Road rage is common in big cities.
Picture yourself on the highway headed to the office. Suddenly, in your rearview mirrors, you see a pickup racing up behind you. The driver whips his truck around you and jumps in front of you irritating you. He races on down the road leaving you alone in your car to fume about his behavior. “What a jerk,” you say out loud (or something much more profane and foul). 😉
“Who does he think he is.” All kinds of negative emotions sweep over you. If he came close to hitting you, you’re really steamed.
By the time you arrive at your office, your blood pressure is elevated. Your emotions are high. It was half an hour ago when the pickup cut in front of you and you’re not over it yet. This will linger for as long as you’re willing to give it oxygen. All because it’s up to you. This is your choice. You’re thinking whatever you’re thinking because you choose to think these things.
Meanwhile, the driver of the pickup has no idea who you are, or how you’re feeling. Your feelings are having no impact on him. You’re only hurting yourself.
What if you were to think better of that driver?
“Why would I?” you might say.
Because it’s better for you. Because it serves you more.
What if that driver were en route to a family emergency? “He wasn’t,” is how most folks reply. “But what if he was. What if you chose to believe that he was?” I’ll say. How are you helped by extending grace to the driver of the pickup? You’re helped in every way.
I know it’s hard, but it’s helpful. I know it’s not complicated, but it’s not easy to do.
“How do I do that?” is a pretty common question I field.
“You decide,” I say. “Just make up your mind that you’re going to choose to think the best because you have no evidence to support how you’re feeling – and even if you do have evidence to think ill of that driver, it won’t do YOU any good.”
It’s been said that everything is hard. Good things. Bad things. Beautiful things. Ugly things. Things that build up. Things that tear down. Choose your hard.
That’s right because that’s profitable. It helps us. It influences us and does for us what we otherwise might not be able to do for ourselves. It’s a life of leadership as we work to control our own destiny and write our hero story.
Be well. Do good. Grow great!