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John Maxwell Team

John Maxwell Team Certified Member

Priscilla Archangel is a John Maxwell Team Certified Coach, Teacher and Speaker.

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    10 Key Questions for Leaders – Part 1

    Leaders are faced with a myriad of issues each day, but one of their most critical responsibilities is to step back from the urgent and focus on the important. They must achieve a balance between the reactionary crisis mode and the proactive planning mode. This means pausing and reflecting on how they’re influencing behaviors to ensure the right outcomes. To accomplish that, there are 10 key important questions that, properly addressed, will strengthen both their leadership and their organizational effectiveness.

     

    1. google imageDisruption. What is the disruptive threat to your business model? Leaders should be constantly aware of ongoing threats to their business model and its products or services, and take action to address it. Jim Kennedy, Chairman and former CEO of Cox Enterprises provided a great example when he diversified his business away from classified ads to leverage the growing role of the internet, by successfully launching Autotrader.com. So make a list of all the products and services provided by your organization, your team, and even you, based on your skillsets. Now for each one, think about two or three ways that your product, service or skillset can be provided faster, cheaper or differently. What technological advances might make your current products or services obsolete? How might consumer preferences shift away from your current model? Believe in the possibility and probability of those ideas, then focus on how you’ll anticipate the future and address that threat. Shift your business model to where the customers are going, instead of where they are now.
    2. Purpose. Why are you doing what you’re doing? Many organizations and teams shift into automatic mode as their activities become routinized. They assume that demand will continue for their products and services, and evolve into placing more focus on what they’re doing, or how they’re doing it, instead of WHY they’re doing it. But asking the question WHY, connects you to the purpose of your activities. It’s the motivator and driving force that inspires the team to the appropriate behaviors that will support it. Once they understand your WHY, an emotional link can form as they pinpoint their contribution to accomplishing it. The underlying WHY or purpose of an individual, team or organization typically does not change, because it’s a fundamental belief and value. According to Simon Sinek, the how and what changes as necessary to continue to support the WHY. When you know your purpose or your WHY and communicate it effectively, this clarity attracts others to you who recognize a benefit from it.
    3. Failure. Where have you failed, and what insights have you learned from it? If you’ve never failed, you’ve never attempted something of impact and significance, relative to your abilities. Failure can add value when we learn something from it, and build upon it. Thomas Edison failed many times in trying to develop a light bulb. The Wright brothers failed initially before leveraging their underdog status to become the first in flight. J. C. Penney was sick and bankrupt before he built his namesake store into a retailing giant. But they learned from their failures, kept trying and eventually succeeded. The only bad failure is if you fall into shame and shut down afterwards. Instead, find a stepping stone to move forward. Failure is a requirement for growth. It’s accompanied by exploration, curiosity, pursuit, action, and flexibility. And most importantly, reflecting on and learning lessons that can be constructively shared with others.
    4. Curiosity. What are you curious about? Curiosity is a precursor to learning. Though it’s easy to be consumed with the daily challenges of leadership roles, it’s important to take time to explore insights in related areas to stimulate thought processes, and spur new ideas. Research shows that successful CEOs are curious, and this curiosity leads to growth. Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook started his Year of Books online reading club to encourage discovery about different beliefs, cultures and technologies. And Richard Kinder, Chairman and CEO of Kinder Morgan reads about 50 books a year. He learns from how other leaders have confronted challenges, particularly overwhelming ones for which they had few ready answers. His curiosity in reading is linked to his interests, and fuels his passion for learning. So dig into those areas that you’re curious about, and your learning will form the basis for future growth.
    5. Service. What does my team need from me in order for them to be successful? As a leader, your responsibility is to serve your employees, enabling them in turn to provide value to customers, investors, and the community. You serve your team by creating a compelling vision, and providing the processes, tools and structure to support innovation, recognition, teamwork, and success. Service requires a continual focus on others to understand their needs, motivations, and aspirations, and to provide them with opportunities for growth. This includes a measure of humility to steer the focus from your own, to the teams’ accomplishments, and to ensure that your decisions serve them and not yourself. Service also provides a greater connection to the team as you partner together in the organization’s success. Leaders who focus on service take responsibility when things go wrong. Leaders who focus on service empower their team. Leaders who focus on service attract, retain and develop talented people.

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    The Mighty Ones

    The applause was deafening. The congratulations overwhelmed your email box. The press clippings were glowing.  Everyone was buzzing, because your recent product launch was successful. Last quarter’s earnings beat even the analysts’ predictions.  The company’s stock price was up 15%. Operating costs were down, and sales volumes were number one in the industry.

    So how do you follow that act? All of this excitement doesn’t build a platform upon which to rest. Instead it forms a bar, higher than the last one, over which you must hurdle. After all, the stockholders expect more earnings. Customers expect better products. Employees expect more career opportunity. And so it goes. How do you manage all of these expectations for continuous improvement against the best strategy for the company’s growth? How do you compete for market dominance without succumbing to market vulnerabilities?

    Mighty Ones (200x133)This is the pivotal point. The choices you make will become either a stepping stone to greater success, or the rock that trips up your company, your team, or your own leadership success. Companies and people don’t automatically enter a “safe” zone when they reach a measure of accomplishment. But in some cases, their behavior suggests that they think their momentum can’t be stopped.

    You’ve heard the saying, “the higher you climb, the harder you fall.”  While that doesn’t necessarily have to be the case, in the midst of success, it’s important to remain grounded; like holding onto a guardrail.


    Jim Collins, author of the best-selling books Good to Great and Built to Last, provides an explanation on how once-mighty companies fall. He highlights five stages in his book How the Mighty Fall: And Why Some Companies Never Give In.

    1. Hubris born of success. Here an organization or team exhibits extreme pride and arrogance based on past accomplishments.
    2. Undisciplined pursuit of more.  Companies in this stage overreach, become obsessed with growth, and fail to manage the process and pace effectively, ultimately undermining their long-term value.
    3. Denial of risk and peril. By this stage, companies are so caught up in successes that they become blind to the possibilities of failure.
    4. Grasping for salvation. This is the moment where the company’s decisions lead to new life or certain death.
    5.  Capitulation to irrelevance or death. At this point organizations are spiraling out of control and either give in to certain death, or shrink into irrelevance.

    So how does one avoid this death spiral, whether within your team, your organization or for your own leadership abilities? Here are a few tips from my playbook.

    1. Build a culture of humility. Keep the focus on the value you provide to your customers; and the “why” of your organization. What’s the impact if you cease to exist? It’s really not all about your company. It’s about the value you provide to others. This is a giving mentality, where long term relationships, integrity and quality products or services are most important; instead of a getting mentality, where there’s constant pressure on the customer to buy.
    2. Find your truth teller. Unfortunately, some leaders surround themselves with other leaders who will tell them what they want to hear. Or they don’t create a culture where their team feels comfortable fully informing them about business issues. Make sure you surround yourself with people who are encouraged and willing to speak up and say the difficult things or raise questions that may be contrary to the prevailing direction.
    3. Strike your balance. If you try to be all things to all customers; if you overreach in too many different directions, you lose your balance and end up grasping for a lifeline. A tightrope walker is constantly shifting his weight to keep his center of mass above his feet. This alignment is critical in your organization or team to ensure stability between competing priorities.
    4. Exhibit learning leadership. Only when the leader of the team demonstrates a continual desire to learn, to admit faults and deficiencies, and to seek input from the entire team and others outside the company, will others in the organization follow suit.
    5. Master discipline. Establish a system that produces results, and keep repeating it.  Measure the right factors. Ensure team members are learning agile and will support the culture. Focus on a consistent vision. Stick to what works.

    Note that these recommendations have nothing to do with functional or technical skills. You can hire individuals on your team to fulfill those roles. This has everything to do with pure leadership; influencing others to move forward in the right direction, based on the right decisions. These are important steps in building a “mighty” organization. So, are you a “mighty” leader?

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