Tom Peters

Leaders Shine the Light

shining a lightIn entertainment, light focused into spotlights bring attention to the people who possess such great talent and skill that audiences will flock to see and hear them perform. In medical procedures, light focused into x-rays can illuminate areas in need of repair. Each of these examples brings about the opportunity for positive results.

Leaders in all walks of life also have the ability, and the responsibility, to use light in the exact same ways in order to bring about positive results. The actions that leaders should take are rather straight forward, as we will discuss below, however only the most confident leaders can help their team shine brighter than themselves.

Spotlight Leadership Opportunities

These are the basic light shining opportunities that every leader knows they should do, many leaders do well, and most underestimate the impact. Think of everything from one-on-one meetings, team meetings, and town hall meetings. Think of phone calls, emails, and announcements. Any time a leader can shine the light on their team’s success they should do it, and here’s why:

Shining a light recognizes accomplishments. Everyone needs to hear they did a good job. It’s an easy way to keep up morale.

“Outstanding leaders go out of their way to boost the self-esteem of their personnel. If people believe in in themselves, it’s amazing what they can accomplish.” – Sam Walton

Shining a light rewards achievement. Everyone already knows who does the work, but does the leader know and publically acknowledge those that made success possible?

“Share success with the people who make it happen. It makes everybody think like an owner…” Emily Ericsen, VP of HR, Starbucks Coffee Company

Shining a light raises awareness. Everyone wants to be successful in what they do. When you shine a light on successful results, people will imitate the actions that brought success.

“Celebrate what you want to see more of.” Thomas J. Peters

X-ray Leadership Opportunities

These are the harder light shining opportunities that every leader knows they should do, some leaders do well, and most underestimate the impact. Think of everything from one-on-one meetings, mentoring sessions, and performance reviews. Think of project updates, status reports, and meeting debriefs. Any time a leader can shine the light on their team’s opportunity for improvement they should do it, and here’s why:

Shining a light reveals faults. If something is not working than a leader owes it to their team to point out the facts and let the team figure out how to get it back on track.

“Have an attitude of fact finding, not fault finding.”

Shining a light removes fear. Nothing causes fear more than the unknown. Providing the opportunity for a regular review of progress helps your team act and ensure success instead of reacting to failure.

“FEAR has two meanings: Forget Everything And Run, or Face Everything And Rise.”

Shining a light restores focus. Success relies on having a goal, developing a plan to reach the goal, and executing the plan. The best leaders know that plans are always adjusted but only with a keen focus on the goal.

“Your focus determines your success.”

Imitate or Innovate? You can do both!

Imitate or InnovateLeaders have a choice to make. Should they imitate what has already been successful done, or innovate away from the past and chart their own course?

Can a career be summed up in three words: Imitate or Innovate? In my career I have found that the answer to the question on whether to imitate or innovate is – it depends.

Imitation is preferred when you are following success. Innovation is preferred when you are defining success. Sometimes you job is to do it the right way; sometimes it’s to invent the right way.

Imitate and learn, Imitation has its purpose in learning from those that have successfully accomplished what you desire.

George Bernard Shaw said, “Imitation is not just the sincerest form of flattery – it’s the sincerest form of learning.”

And Niccolo Maachiavelli wrote in his book The Prince, “A prudent man will always try to follow in the footsteps of great men and imitate those who have been truly outstanding, so that, if he is not quite as skillful as they, at least some of their ability may rub off on him.”

Imitate and leverage. However, we all have different strengths, our own style of leadership. For that individual part of us, innovation is the choice.

Tom Peters summed up the question on imitation or innovation by saying, “Swipe from the best, then adapt.”  

You don’t always have to do it differently, you can win by just doing it better.

“Keep on the outlook for novel and interesting ideas that others have used successfully. Your idea has to be original only in its adaptation to the problem you are currently working on.” – Thomas Edison

Imitate and lead. I know that everything I set out to accomplish is possible, not because I know how to do everything, but because somewhere, someone has either already done what I want to do or has the skill and knowledge to accomplish what I want to do.

Leaders are successful when they enable their teams to use the best of each person on the team to achieve more than any one person on the team.

Marcus Aurelius said, “Because a thing seems difficult for you, do not think it impossible for anyone to accomplish.”

For those who are at the fork in the road and have to decide if they should imitate or innovate, I say, imitate what you have learned from others that worked, but innovate in your own style of implementing those successes.

 

 

Leadership success is the success of those your serve

service to others, albert einsteinA true leader is the one who strives for the success of others. Tom Peters, bestselling author of In Search for Excellence said, “Organizations exist to serve. Period. Leaders live to serve. Period.”

Now your service to those you lead won’t make them successful. Your job as a leader is to provide the opportunities for success to happen. Your service is to open doors, encourage your team to discover and use their strengths, teach and mentor, and focus on the vision. Those on the receiving end of your service must work hard to use the opportunities provided to succeed.

 

“The first responsibility of a leader is to define reality. The last is to say thank you. In between, the leader is a servant.” – Max de Pree

In the end, the leader who strives for the success of others will receive more in return than those who focus on their own success.

“What we do for ourselves dies with us. What we do for others and the world, is and remains immortal.” – Albert Pine

Your success as a leader is defined by the success of those your serve.

Those who don’t serve aren’t successful in the long run: Regardless of their position Regardless of their authority Regardless of their responsibility

Those that do serve are successful in the long run: Because of their words Because of their actions Because of their results

It is all very simple. As Mohammad Ali said, “Service to others is the rent you pay for your room here on earth.”

Building something to last – focus on the fundamentals

built to lastIn Jim Collins 1994 book Built to Last, he analyzed companies that were successful over the long term.  Not one hit wonders, not those that are remembered for a product, but those that transcended changes in technology, customer needs and wants, and changes in leadership. The basic tenant of building something to last is to focus on the fundamentals.

“In a world of constant change, the fundamentals are more important than ever” – Jim Collins

Listed below are five main themes from Built to Last.  Let’s see how each of those applies to leadership today.

“Make the company itself the ultimate product—be a clock builder, not a time teller”

This is the difference between fulfilling one need one time, or building a company, process, or person that can fulfill many needs many times.   

“Having a great idea or being a charismatic visionary leader is time telling; building a company that can prosper far beyond the tenure of any single leader and through multiple product life cycles is clock building.” – Jim Collins

Here is how you can use this theme in your leadership practices:

Companies – “We don’t have products we sell to customers, we have customers that we sell products to.” – Denis G. McLaughlin

Processes – “We don’t use people to complete projects, we use projects to complete people.” – Denis G. McLaughlin 

People – “Don’t strive to earn a million dollars, instead strive to become a person capable of earning a million dollars.” – Paul Martinelli

“Build your company around a core ideology”

Change is the only thing that will consistently happen.  The economy changes, regulations change, customer needs change, and leadership changes.  To be successful over the long term, you must adapt to these changes.  According to Collins, the only way that this can work is for a company to “be prepared to change everything about itself except its basic beliefs as it moves through corporate life.”

Here are a few examples from the book:

-3M’s dedication to innovation

-P&G’s commitment to product excellence

-Nordstrom’s ideal of heroic customer service

Other leaders have viewed this theme in their leadership practices:

We succeed only as we identify in life, or in war, or in anything else, a single overriding objective, and make all other considerations bend to that one objective.” – Dwight Eisenhower

Success demands singleness of purpose.Vince Lombardi

You have to know where you’re going. If you don’t know where you’re going, you’ll never know if you’ve arrived.” – Denis G. McLaughlin

“Build a cult-like culture”

Having a strong core ideology, or purpose, is foundational. But unless that ideology is lived out it is just words. You have to have a plan for establishing a culture that supports the ideology.  Leaders are responsible for defining the purpose, articulating the purpose, and rewarding achievement of the purpose.

Once you establish your vision, you must clearly articulate it, over and over, to maintain focus.

Theodore Hesburgh said, The very essence of leadership is that you have a vision. It’s got to be a vision you articulate clearly and forcefully on every occasion. You can’t blow an uncertain trumpet.” 

People will naturally repeat the very things that they are rewarded for achieving. First, set goals that when successful completed, lead to achieving the purpose. Second, reward the employees who participated in the successful goals.  This is more than money.  Rewards come in many forms, all which should be used with regularity, as earned:  Public and private praise, increased responsibility, new challenges, more training,

“The only way to get people to like working hard is to motivate them. Today, people must understand why they’re working hard. Every individual in an organization is motivated by something different.”  – Rick Pitino

 “Homegrow your management”

I view succession planning with equal importance as setting the vision and strategy for the company or team.  I fact everything that I do is about succession planning, including setting the vision and strategy.  Leaders should use every opportunity to teach and grow leaders in the organization. 

One of the things we often miss in succession planning is that it should be gradual and thoughtful, with lots of sharing of information and knowledge and perspective, so that it’s almost a non-event when it happens.” – Anne Mulcahy

If you aren’t teaching someone else how you do what you do, you are letting opportunity pass you by. Your main role as the leader is to prepare a successor while you lead the team. It shouldn’t be something that is part of your long term plan to get to when you are near the end of your season – that’s too late.

“From now on, choosing my successor is the most important decision I’ll make.  It occupies a considerable amount of my thought almost every day.” – Jack Welch, former CEO of General Electric, nine years before he retired.

Are homegrown managers effective?  Don’t we need new ideas from outside of the organization?  Collins summarizes the success in developing CEO’s in house with some examples from his book:

“Consider that the founders of Ford, Hewlett-Packard, Johnson & Johnson, Marriott, Merck, Motorola, Nordstrom, Philip Morris, Procter & Gamble, Sony, Wal-Mart, and Disney remained in the role of chief executive for an average of 37 years each. They were founder-entrepreneur types and manager-builder types. Not only that, their immediate successors—all homegrown insiders—remained in office for 24 years on average. 

“Stimulate progress through experimentation and continuous improvement”

Throughout this article we have stated that companies that were built to last were those that transcended changes in technology, customer needs and wants, and changes in leadership.  To survive change, one must be willing to change.  However, the willingness to change does not bring with it the perfect ability to successfully change.   

The secret to success in a changing environment is to allow for continuous improvement through small experiments that yield small successes in finding ways to take small steps forward. 

“The way to simulate the drive for progress is to create an environment that encourages people to experiment and learn—to try a lot of stuff and keep what works.” – Jim Collins

Companies that are built to last do not rest upon their current state of achievement.  Instead they are always looking forward to the next change, challenge, and championship.

“Excellent firms don’t believe in excellence – only in constant improvement and constant change.” – Tom Peters

Are people born leaders or nurtured?

joy of leadership is helping others succeedWe all know larger than life leaders.  Those we think are born leaders.  They are frequently on television, the internet, and newspapers.  We have studied them in the history books.  They are the Presidents, CEOs, Head Coaches, and Generals that command our attention.  If you are not just like these leaders, then you must not be a born leader.  So how did they get where they are?

Vince Lombardi said, “Leaders are made, they are not born. They are made by hard effort, which is the price all of us must pay to achieve any goal that is worthwhile.”  I agree with Lombardi, that leaders are truly made.  Here are a few ideas on what makes great leaders:

True leadership lies in guiding others to success.”– Bill Owens

A good objective of leadership[ is to help those who are doing poorly to do well, and to help those who are doing well do even better.” – Jim Rohn

“True leadership must be for the benefit of the followers, not the enrichment of the leaders.” – Robert Townsend

Management is about arranging and telling.  Leadership is about nurturing and enhancing.”– Tom Peters

We are all gifted with abilities that if used to their fullest can help others succeed – and that is the definition of leadership.  The nurturing comes in the seeing of what true leadership really is.

“No one is born as a leader, but everyone is born to lead.”

 

Leadership is Transformation

transformation-is-not-a-future-event-it-is-a-present-activityThe ultimate goal for every leader should be transformation.  Long term success requires continuous transformation for every company, team, and individual.  No company, team or individual can just stand still and succeed.  So if you want to transform a company you do it through its teams.  If you want to transform teams you do it through its individuals.  Therefore, all transformation is achieved through individuals.

Successful leaders know that you don’t try to transform people into what you want them to be.  You can only equip and empower people to transform into everything they can be – and only if they want to. After all, “A caterpillar only becomes a butterfly if it wants to fly so much that it is willing to give up being a caterpillar.”

Here are three key points about transformation that each individual must learn to succeed:

Transformation is possible  You may not be satisfied with your job, accomplishments, or the impact you have had on the world – so do something.  If you don’t like where you are then change, you are not a tree. You have the power to change where you are, or change right where you are. 

You decide where you plant your roots. One option for transformation is to change locations.  Get a new start.  There are opportunities all around you.  However, before you decide to pack up and leave consider that you are where you are right now in part because of you past actions.  Will you find yourself unsatisfied somewhere else?  As yourself if you have bloomed to your fullest potential right where you are?  John Maxwell has a great quote that says, “If you think the grass is greener on the other side then water your own lawn.”

Transformation takes planning  If only I could…says those that don’t.  What would you like to transform into?  Nothing happens overnight except the sunset and the sunrise.  Wherever you would like to be one year from now will take you 365 days to get there.  What is your plan for tomorrow to get you one step closer to your transformation?

Success is more about momentum around small wins than it is about big wins.” – Tom Peters

Transformation means change  Obtaining more than you have right now will require change.  Now that change could come from other people, your circumstances, your opportunities, or from you.  Of all of those possible changes, the only one you can control is you.  So while the world around you might change to meet your desires I wouldn’t suggest you count on that happening.  You will get what you seek quicker if you change first to at least meet the world halfway

Remember the wise words of Jones from Andy Andrews’ book The Noticer Returns, If you want to make a difference you have to be different.”

 

Imitate or Innovate, that is the question.

fork-in-the-road2Leaders have a choice to make. Should they imitate what has already been successfully done, or innovate away from the past and chart their own course?

Can a career be summed up in three words: Imitate or Innovate?

In my career I have found that the answer to the question on whether to imitate or innovate is – it depends.

Imitation is preferred when you are following success. Innovation is preferred when you are defining success.

Sometimes your job is to do it the right way; sometimes it’s to invent the right way.

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