COMPETITIVE PRESSURE is causing organizations in every segment of the economy to place a greater importance on their performance, whether it relates to finances, operation, service, quality, or innovation. That means managers must become more proficient at obtaining the desired results.
How do they do that? Through the “five absolutes” of high performance: getting everyone on the same page, preparing for battle, creating a climate for results, using people power, and believing in renewal.
That's the theory of Dr. Clinton Longenecker, an award-winning business educator and the Stranahan Professor of Leadership and Organizational Excellence in the College of Business Administration at the University of Toledo. Longenecker, who wrote the best-selling book, Getting Results: Five Absolutes For High Performance, conducted a session by the same name earlier this year at the Motor & Equipment Manufacturers Association's Heavy Duty Aftermarket Week in Las Vegas.
“The organizational mandate for improved performance and better results is a never-ending cycle,” said Longenecker, whose book describes the best practices of over 2,000 high-performance managers and how they achieve outstanding performance. “An essential question must be asked by managers operating under this mandate: What do I need to do to get better results? Results-oriented managers place a tremendous emphasis on creating a workplace that brings out the best in people while simultaneously developing effective systems and processes that improve performance.
“Every manager can improve performance by building a model of key practices that support getting results. (The five absolutes) are critical management practices that are necessary for eliciting high performance and getting results.”
Questions that must be asked
Longenecker said a manager needs to ask these questions:
What results are key to my success?
What specific things do I need to do to get better results?
What skills, practices, and habits do I need to perfect to get better performance and results?
Do I spend time doing the things that lead to better results?
Are my working relationships working?
Do I have a real plan for continuous improvement?
Who is holding me accountable for improvement? His seven-step plan to achieve that:
Create a results-based focus by clarifying your value-added organizational role and goals. “What specific results are you really being paid to achieve for your organization?”
Determine the activities that will get you better results: analyze, evaluate, implement, and focus.
Develop the skills and habits that are most critical to getting better results: know your strengths and weaknesses.
Take control of your time. “Do I really spend time doing the things that lead to better results?”
Work hard to nurture strong working relationships, especially with the people critical to getting results. Longenecker cited this quote from a Fortune 500 supply manager: “The glue that holds most customer-supplier relationships together is the level of trust between the two parties and the overall quality of the working relationship. The problem is that relationships take time and the trust factor can easily be broken when people are moving at a thousand miles an hour.”
Break bad habits fast: practice continuous improvement for yourself and your operation. “What must happen when real and rapid action is called for to improve performance? A sense of urgency is required. Focus on desired results, do not waste time and resources, and clarify expectations. Everyone must know the score. Put the right players on the field, measure performance, provide ongoing feedback, and make adjustments quickly.”
Create personal accountability: establish a strong relationship with a mentor you trust. Longenecker cited a quote from a Fortune magazine cover story on New York Yankees manager Joe Torre: “Everybody needs a coach, a trainer, a mentor … call it what you want, but we all need somebody to help us be the best we can be.”
“Don't do stupid stuff,” Longenecker said. “Learn and benefit from your mistakes, and think.”
He said that's the only sign found in the office of IBM founder Tom Watson Sr.
He also cited one CEO's view of the real challenge:
“A manager's ultimate job these days is to get desired results — the results that the organization ultimately needs to satisfy the customer, make money, and create a quality workplace. This is the true test of leadership.”
He said a leader is someone who influences others toward the achievement of goals, causes others to do things they might not otherwise do, demonstrates prowess in a given endeavor, and makes things happen and gets results.
He cited this quote from Dr. Peter Drucker, an Austrian regarded as the greatest management visionary of the modern age: “In all my many years of studying the art of management, I have come to the conclusion that far too often we make things tougher than they need be, and in doing so, common sense and our customers are the victims. So often it just comes down to doing the fundamentals better than one's competitors!”
Why would someone want to do business with you and your enterprise? He said his research showed that the factors are cost, location, relationships, customer service, product superiority, and problem-solving skills.
What are the current business challenges you face?
He said they are increased competition, growing customer expectations, protecting the bottom-line, workforce productivity, healthcare costs and overall cost containment, attracting and retaining good people, alignment (strategic and operational), faster continuous improvement, fostering teamwork and cooperation, technology issues and mandates, and extreme time pressures.
“What happens if we do not effectively respond to these challenges? Frustration and failure,” he said.
He cited a quote from The Wizard of Oz: “If you continue to do what you have always done, you'll always get what you always got.”
He says results-oriented leaders need to ask themselves three questions to improve the performance of their organization: What must I keep doing? What must I stop doing? What must I start doing?
Socrates once said, “The ongoing challenges of life mandate that we apply all our wisdom to daily situations lest we fall prey to our own folly.”
He says ignorance is “when a person does not know what to do in a given situation,” and stupidity is “when a person knows what to do but for whatever reason does not do it.”
He said stupidity is keeping ineffective leaders in place, not fixing ongoing customer problems, having great plans but weak execution, rewarding the wrong behaviors, wasting resources in meetings, not developing people/leaders, maintaining continuous improvement processes that don't improve, and wallowing in analysis paralysis.
“The real question is, do you walk the talk?” he said. “If we were to follow you around for one week, would we see a strong correlation between what you are trying to achieve and your daily behavior, activity, and time usage? Leaders must lead!”