Vol. 1 Number 4 - October 2003.
Publisher: The Filson Leadership Group, Inc.
IN THIS ISSUE: The "Results-Are-Limitless" Issue
SECTION 1: Brent Filson's Weekly Tips To Lead By.
Week 1: Results Are Limitless
Week 2: The Status Quo
Week 3: The Attack Of The Status Quo
Week 4: A Results-Are-Limitless Action Plan.
SECTION 2: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly.
SECTION 3: Guest Report
SECTION 3: Points of Light.
SECTION 5: News.
SECTION 1: Brent Filson's Tips To Lead By
(Apply these tips week by week throughout the month.)
Week 1: Results Are Limitless
That's not a supposition. That's a fact. Leaders who don't believe that don't understand Action Leadership and results. Leaders who believe it and live by their belief have an unmatched advantage over those leaders who don't.
To begin to understand how and why results-are-results are limitless, consider these facts:
* In 1878, Jean Bouillaud, member of the French Academy of Sciences, said upon hearing a demonstration of Thomas Edison's phonograph, "It is quite impossible that the noble organs of human speech could be replaced ignoble, senseless metal."
* In 1899, Charles H. Duell (Commissioner of U.S. Office of Patents.), urging President William McKinley to abolish his office, said,"Everything that can be invented has been invented."
* An 1909 article in the Scientific American stated, "The automobile has practically reached the limit of its development is suggested by the fact that during the past year no improvements of a radical nature have been introduced."
* Popular Mechanics stated in March 1949: "Where a calculator on the ENIAC is equipped with 18,000 vacuum tubes and weighs 30 tons, computers in the future may have only 1,000 vacuum tubes and perhaps only weight 11/2 tons."
The point isn't that experts are wrong. Experts, we know, have been wrong countless times. The point isn't that things change. That's obvious. The point is this: BECAUSE THINGS CHANGE, RESULTS ARE LIMITLESS. IN OTHER WORDS, WHATEVER RESULTS YOU ARE ACHIEVING, YOU CAN ALWAYS ACHIEVE MORE.
This may seem like a non sequitur. After all, leaders know that things change. But many leaders whom I have encountered don't make the connection and fail to realize that results are limitless.
But there is a connection -- a profound connection. And leaders who don't make that connection, don't live that connection, are giving short shrift to their leadership and the people they lead.
Living by the results-are-limitless credo can set you apart as a leader who consistently gets results, no matter what the challenge you face.
This week Start to take a small but well-defined step to manifest results-are-limitless leadership. (1) Identify one thing you think is NOT BEING QUESTIONED. Make sure it is something people believe has "reached the limit of its development." It may be a product or features of a product. It may be the way your organization is structured. It may be a successful engineering program. (2) Question it. Treat it as if it's fundamental premise were false. Can you shoot holes in the logical reasons for its existence? If it ain't broke, see what would happen if you break (change) it with one end in mind, achieving more results. (3) See if you can come up with answers that will lead either to replacing what you're questioning or improving it. (4) Continue this process with other things that are not being questioned.
Don't look at this as an academic assignment. It's not homework. It's the beginning of making the credo part of the DNA of your leadership.
Furthermore, see this as a leadership endeavor. Determine who are the cause leaders you need to make the change happen. Talk to them about how they would take leadership to affect that change. You should not only have "What if ... " discussions but more importantly, "Why not ... "discussions.
Week 2: The Status Quo.
The next step in manifesting results-are-limitless leadership is to get a fix on the enemy, the status quo. The status quo is simply the existing state of your organization. It may seem benign; but if you take the credo seriously, the status quo can be your worst enemy.
Look at the examples I used at the beginning of this e-zine. In each case, the status quo was being "channeled" out of the mouths of experts. They were wrong. The status quo was wrong. And you can bet that just as the status quo was wrong in the examples I cited, it is wrong now for your organization. To live by the results-are-limitless credo, you must recognize that the status quo is always wrong.
Yet, most leaders give little thought, if any, to the status quo although they interact with it daily.
This week, take the next step in manifesting a results-are-limitless leadership by clearly identifying your status quo. Make an objective determination by understanding it as literally a product, with features and benefits. What are, say, five features of the status quo? What are five benefits?
Remember, the status quo is composed for the most part of good people (your colleagues, co-workers, supervisors, direct reports, etc.), who usually have good intentions: In fact, you yourself may be an ardent member of the status quo -- without knowing it. It is not so much the individuals that are your adversary but the collective thoughts and actions engendered by the status quo.
So, keep an open mind and an understanding heart when going up against the status quo, especially in the teeth of the attacks which will surely come your way and which you will be identifying and analyzing next week.
Week 3: The Attack of the Status Quo.
Identifying the status quo and understanding its features and benefits is only the first step in dealing with it. The next step is to know that if you threaten it, it will declare war on you. I mean out-and-out war. This war may be waged in genteel surroundings with polite conversations and declarations of good will; but war it will be.
The status quo has three methods of waging war.
(1) PASSIVE RESISTENCE. History shows that one of the most effective ways of waging war is through passive resistence. They pretend to pay us and we pretend to work" was the "war" cry of people in the Communist Block. I'm convinced that the passive resistence of workers in communist countries, more than any other dynamic, defeated the Soviet system, something the monstrous German war machine failed to do.
Look at it this way: the status quo achieves results. After all, if it didn't, it would cease to exist. But it insists on getting results on its own terms in its customary ways. It sees getting results in any other way as a threat to its survival. And since self preservation is its primary purpose, it declares war when challenged to get results in another way and attacks with its most potent, time-tested weapon passive resistence.
This is exemplified by what a mid-level manager said to me, "When management wants us to do new things we don't want to do, we never, never confront them directly. Instead, we agree with them. We might even agree enthusiastically. Then we give it the lowest priority without drawing attention to ourselves. Later, in bits and pieces, we'll put it aside. Eventually, over time, it dies a natural death. Time is always on our side."
(2) PASSIVE/AGGRESSIVE RESISTENCE. If you persist in the face of passive resistence, the status quo may try more direct responses. For instance, it will have one of its affiliates, the COLD WATER CLUB, go into action. The charter of the Club is clear and simple: Throw cold water on your efforts. "We tried that before and it didn't work." "I'm too busy." "That's not my job." "You're the leader. You take care of it." "That's not the way we do things." "You'll ruin this organization." "You don't understand me." "You don't understand what I'm doing." "You don't understand our organization." "It's more complicated than you think.." "I'm doing the best I can." "Give me a break." "You're not being realistic."
(3) OPEN RESISTENCE: This involves an outright attack by enlisting powerful champions to thwart us. As a last resort, the status quo may even engage in brazen insurrection.
This week, identify how the status quo of your organization has attacked people who threaten it. Precisely how was the status quo threatened? Which of the three attack methods did it use? Analyze each attack as to its effectiveness and outcome. How might you have countered those attacks? (Counters to the status quo attacks can be found in my book "Results!Results!Results!")
Week 4: A Results-Are-Limitless Action Plan.
During the first three weeks, you engaged in a process that can help you manifest the credo of results are limitless. It's a process you can use throughout your career. The process is this: (1) Identify one thing you think is NOT changing. Make sure it is something people believe has "reached the limit of its development." It may be a product or features of a product. It may be the way your organization is structured. It may be a successful engineering program. Whatever it is, if it ain't broke, see what would happen if you break (change) it with one end in mind, achieving more results. (2) Identify cause leaders who will achieve those results. (3) Draw up an action plan. (4) Know that the status quo will attack you, your cause leaders and your initiative. Understand the methods of that attack. Be ready to counter the attack quickly. (5) Take action.
Don't look for quick success. In many cases, you will not be able to accomplish the objectives of your initiative. The process is the thing. The process of continually challenging the unquestioned aspects of your organization is often more important than the results you achieve. Even though you don't seem to be getting results, you are, in truth, always getting results. When asked how he coped with performing thousands of failed experiments in developing the storage battery, Thomas Edison said, "No results? I have great results! I know thousands of things that won't work!"
SECTION TWO: The Good. The Bad. The Ugly.
THE GOOD: Interviewed by a reporter, an 80 year old rags-to-riches multi-millionaire said, "The main reason for my success is I jump at every opportunity." The young reporter asked, "But opportunities are sometimes few and far between. What if you run out of opportunities?" He replied, "I never run out because I'm always jumping."
As long as your jumping, results are limitless.
THE BAD: Sometimes you may find that the status quo is too entrenched to change. In that case, you could face a decision that impacts your career. You can keep trying to change the status quo. You can live with it. Or you can leave it.
An insurance executive made a career choice at the end of one of my leadership seminars. She said, "Your ideas have convinced me to leave this company. I can no longer work within a CAN'T DO culture. I'm tired of being surrounded by people who are experts at why new ideas won't work. What a terrible way to spend the rest of my career!"
Unfortunately, I lost track of her after she left. If she reads this e-zine, I hope she gets in touch with me. I'm sure she has valuable observations for the reader.
THE UGLY: When anti-French passions were sweeping England in the late 18th century, Voltaire who had been living in London for several years was set upon by an angry mob. "Hang the Frenchman! Hang him!" shouted the rabble.
Voltaire responded, "Men of England! You wish to hang me because I'm French? Isn't NOT BEING BORN ENGLISH PUNISHMENT ENOUGH?" The crowd laughed and cheered and escorted him back to his quarters.
Living by a results-are-limitless credo entails cultivating the art of re-framing a challenge.
SECTION THREE: Guest Report: "Results Are Limitless, A Career Credo", by Paul Convoy.
It's one thing to believe that results are limitless, but it is another thing to stake your career on it. Several years ago, when I took over a foundering, 400-employee, materials business in Europe, my belief about the limitless of results was sorely tested. It's operating margin was negative 25 percent. It had low capacity utilization, large capitalization, was losing money in all kinds of ways and was competing in a glutted marketplace. Plus, I was an American with no experience working in Europe. The business was in crisis. I was expected to turn it around and start getting great results. People might think that I had lost my mind taking on that task, but I saw it as a great challenge.
In times of crisis, it's important to return to fundamental principles. I had come relatively fresh from Brent's Action Leadership course and the principles and processes helped me understand where the people inside and outside the business were coming from, their fears, their dreams, what was changing for them, their anger, their major problems. Furthermore, I had to understand what I myself felt passionate about and communicate that them. For instance, I felt strongly that we had to get profitable growth and started having leadership talks with the people about getting it, not only in meetings and conferences but many times, every way, every day. I understood what it took to get such growth, but the key was to get others to understand it too -- from the people on the manufacturing floor all the way up to senior leaders. Of course, it was more than simply talking to people. We had to make things happen, make people accountable for results. In that way, turning the people of the business around was absolutely necessary in turning the business itself around. For a year and a half, we made good progress. But then the trajectory of our turnaround began to level off. Suddenly, I was confronted with a different, more serious crisis.
We were improving, that's for sure, but the rate of improvement began to slow. People were getting results but also getting complacent. My job as a leader was to show people where the business was heading, where it actually should be heading, and how to close the gap. I knew if that rate continued to slow, we'd be in hot water again. So, I put together an offsite leadership meeting in an old, moribund industrial town in Belgium. The meeting was near a 100 year old glass factory, formerly the pride of the nation, now on the verge of being shut down. I selected that site because it spoke vividly to the necessity our leadership recognizing we had to control our destiny before somebody else did.
At the meeting, I emphasized that we had to come up together with the solutions to the problem of our stalled results. I had them understand that the business was THEIRS -- not just theirs individually, but their families' business as well. Being an American in Europe, I learned to listen. I facilitated their coming up with concrete solutions and plans. The upshot of the meeting is that we radically changed our business model. We came up with some innovative new services models that put us way out front in the marketplace in terms of quality and speed. The new model got the trajectory back on track. We improved our yearly operating margins by more than 30 points. The lesson is this: results ARE limitless. You may start with the low hanging fruit, but when that begins to run out, you have to bring people together, have them see your vision, have them be inspired by that vision, and finally have them to come up with the solutions. I didn't do it. THEY, the leaders of the business, did it. I'm convinced: whatever business fix you find yourself, the right solutions can always be developed -- as long as you have skilled, motivated, and accountable leaders.
One final lesson that you may be helpful for you: I learned that we should, of course, embrace success, but at the same time realize that success can often be an obstacle to maintaining a results-are-limitless mind set in the people you lead.
Paul Convoy, Honeywell, email@example.com
SECTION FOUR: Points of Light.
"There will always be among the shadows those who want to protect the status quo." -- Plato, "The Cave".
"Status quo is Latin for the mess we're in." -- Ronald Reagan.
"Most leaders are striving to get the wrong results or the right results in the wrong ways." Brent Filson
"Business is a combination of war and sport." --Andre Maoris
"The status quo is the only solution that cannot be vetoed." -- Clark Kerr
"The secret of success lies not in doing your work but in recognizing the right man to do it." Andrew Carnegie
"Poor performance is less harmful than mediocre performance disguised as good performance." Brent Filson
"They that live in a trading street are not disturbed at the passage of carts." Richard Steele
"We can't know how good we are without many times failing to be better than we are." Brent Filson
"Bureaucracy defends the status quo long past the time that the quo has lost its status." Laurence Peters
(SECTION FIVE: News.
Brent Filson's Action plan leadership sessions at the Princeton Club: October 29, November 21, December 17.
Brent's latest book, THE LEADERSHIP TALK: MOTIVATING PEOPLE TO GET MORE RESULTS FASTER, CONTINUALLY has just been printed. A major library distributor has picked up the book. It is due for publication in the spring of 04. Prepublication copies are available now for bulk purchase.
Brent is booked in a number of speaking this fall and winter, bringing the methodologies of Action Leadership to ever widening audiences. In addition, he is being interviewed on radio and TV shows. Interested in having him on your show or at your meeting, go to the Action Leadership website and click on either the "meeting planner" button or the "press room" button.
The Filson Leadership Group, Inc. is putting together a CD collection of interviews with leaders, called the Leaders Speak Series. It will begin this month and can be found on the Action Leadership website. Click on Leaders Speak CD Series. Brent says, I want to interview leaders from a broad spectrum of human endeavor to be represented. Dont be surprised to find landscape contractors, gang leaders, horse trainers, sports coaches, as well as business and political leaders. Leadership is practiced by practically everyone, and we will bring it to you on the CDs in all the richness of human relationships. For more information, call the F.L.G. headquarters, 413-458-4403 or contact Brent.
(c) Copyright 2003 The Filson Leadership Group, Inc.
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