The Marathon Model

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<p>The Marathon ModelLeadership</p> <p>By Cynthia Huchingson</p> <p>26.2 Milestones to Superior Leadership</p> <p>Stages:1Gear Up. Having the right gear, the right plan and the right team in place will start you off right on the road to success. Train. Dont expect to be in it for the long haul without proactive training. This means seeking mentors, studying, learning the business, and practicing. Run the Race. Once you have entered the race, smart decisions and efficiency are key. Your practice should be paying off while your skills manifest naturally.</p> <p>Building a successful business is a lot of small ball. There is no grand slam. Its all consistency.-Arch Aplin, Buc-eesRunning is an individual sport. Or is it? Leaders have followers. Or do they? During the course of my research to uncover the quintessential leadership model, I realized that the key qualities defining superior leaders happen along a continuum of milestones, that, when followed and aligned effectively as a system (Bradach, 1996), produced remarkable results. Developing into a leader is not unlike growing a business or running a marathon - Its a lot of small ball. There is no grand slam. Its all consistency. (Aplin, 2012) Some people are just born to run, possessing an innate predisposition for leadership success. But no runner, regardless of whether they are running a course or running a boardroom, can do it without personally deciding to gear up, train, and run the race. It was this appreciation of consistent, deliberate actions, combined with resounding commonalities between top business leaders, that led to the development of the following 26.2 key milestones to success in leadership.</p> <p>2</p> <p>3</p> <p>1 2</p> <p>Stage 1: Gear UpGearing up in any company is about making sure you are prepared foundationally for the course ahead and whatever it brings.-Cynthia HuchingsonFrom acquiring the right gear to putting together a team to help you along with way, the following 5 milestones are an essential start Mile 1.Know what you are good at both personally and professionally. Know what your company is good at. Everyone has innate talents that, combined with care and cultivation, predispose them to success within a specific arena. Its not typically hard to tell who should be the line backer and who is better suited for marathon running. Companies work much the same way. Swedish psychologist Dr. K. Anders Ericcson purported a theory suggesting that it takes 10,000 hours of targeted, progressive practice to become an expert at something. (Ericcson) This equates to approximately 5 years working within a full time job or 10 years practicing a skill for 3 hours per day. Considering this philosophy, companies run a high risk when they dont have a plan in place to develop, protect, and keep their experts or a plan to ensure that the appropriate 2 level of expertise is assigned to each strategic department or initiative. Knowing your strengths allows you to know just how many balls you are prepared to juggle at once. Although Arch Aplin, founder of Buc-ees admits that Its dangerous if you try to be everything to everybody, every one of the entrepreneurs I interviewed had a propensity for wanting to do everything, and, similar to Bob Johnson of Honeywell, were so obsessed with their work that they pretty much worked non-stop. They sleep with their phone next the bed and when they have a thought, they act upon it. Their executive team learns to check their phones and respond as quickly as possible to the entrepreneurs needs. (Yemen &amp; Clawson, 2006) Entrepreneurs just have these fast twitch muscles that tell them Oh, this looks good, do this. Then, gosh, this is a terrible system. I can come up with something to fix this. Here you go. Lets do this. To You know, I think it would be fun to do this. Im going to do it. It was fascinating to contrast the entrepreneur interviews with the manager interviews; one would think I was speaking to two entirely different species of human.</p> <p>If youre not prepared for the first 5 miles, you might as well not even lace up your shoes.-Cynthia Huchingson</p> <p>Huchingson :: [Dec 2012]</p> <p>Entrepreneurs, Executives</p> <p>&amp; Leaders</p> <p>Dr. Rajiv Dahiya, President &amp; CEO of Oncology San Antonio, The Urology &amp; Prostate Institute, and founder of a number of independent tech start-ups, perhaps said it best when he summarized the difference between entrepreneurs, executives and leaders: Every entrepreneur is highly dependent on his executive team. These people not only ground you, but they often are the ones who find a way to say and communicate everything thats in your head and then they take your thoughts and make things happen.</p> <p>Leaders have this innate ability to jump out of the car and start pushing their team out of the ditch before they even realize theyre in the ditch.-Dr. Rajiv Dahiya</p> <p>They regularly represent you, speak for you - nearly everything they do is a reflection on you. Youve got to have an incredible amount of trust in these people. There is a difference, though, between executives and leaders. Ive met a lot of executives, successful executives. You need executives - they know their stuff and they protect your business. Leaders, though, they are different they are the ones who surprise you. Leaders have this innate ability to jump out of the car and start pushing you out of the ditch before you even realize youre in the ditch. (Dahiya, 2012) Thats the difference.</p> <p>3</p> <p>Huchingson :: [Dec 2012]</p> <p>Mile 2.Know who your customer is and develop every system around that customer. When you put new rules in place or new departments in place, make sure you remember why you are doing it. Ask yourself: Who is the customer and how does this help the customer at the end of the day? In any business decision, make sure you ask: What would a human do?, because human nature dictates everything. (Smith, 2012) Begin by assessing the customers needs and develop everything around that. Reassess those needs on a periodic basis to make sure you dont get off track. The customer doesnt care about the complex scheduling issues surrounding a closed pump at the gas station they just want to fill up their car. (Hollowell) Hollowells sentiments permeated the thoughts of nearly all leaders I interviewed - non-leaders want to tell you why they couldnt make something happen, leaders figure out a way to make it happen and keep the excuses out of it. Everything leads back to the client and its much easier if you start this in the beginning. When our staff has this end customer in mind at all times, everything is easier because they get it. The staff then ends up helping you drive the client/customer experience they want to make the statements clearer, respond to inquiries better and faster, and give better service because they understand what its all about. (Bomar, 2012) 4 Huchingson :: [Dec 2012]</p> <p>Human nature dictates everything.-Dr. George Smith, Humana</p> <p>Mile 3. Understand that people are your competitive advantage.- (O'Reilly &amp; Pfeffer, 1995)Put the right team in place. This mantra applies regardless of whether you are a start-up with two employees or a huge corporation with thousands, whether making decisions for an entire entity or for a single division. When you are hiring, know the type of person that you need to hire in order to reach your goals. There are transferable positions (like accounting, manufacturing and HR) where skill sets can transfer from industry to industry, and non-transferable positions where it is advantageous to have long term, or even life long employees. For these people, ensure your recruiting, development, and reward programs are designed to encourage longevity. Within a complex environment, it can take years to learn everything you need to know to make good decisions on behalf of the company from a high level perspective. Until you learn all of the divisions and all of the pieces you cant move up. Its not the norm anymore to keep employees for life, but for certain key roles it really makes sense you have to hire the most talented people, cultivate from within, and create an infrastructure of support and advancement for them so that they feel good about working for the company and never want to leave. (Heinz, 2012) At Wells Fargo Financial Advisors, they identified three key types of people needed within their organization that I felt were, for the most part, globally applicable those who help to grow it, those who run it, and those who protect it.</p> <p>Those who grow itBusiness cultivators are sales-driven, intrinsically motivated individuals who provide the lifeblood of growth to the organization. There is rare occasion to ever place anyone other than an A Player in this critical position. The structure of the organization and the systems must articulate with this role to ensure that these people are properly motivated to continuously produce top results. John Deere hires A+ or A- players almost 100% of the time and then we let them compete with each other to move up, so that at the end of the year when our staff has their performance reviews, normal performance tends to be higher than super performance in other companies. We only recruit the best people so that we can establish a new normal. Managers are constantly telling employees: If there is a job out there you want, you cant be #2. It is the employees job to make sure they have prepared themselves to be the best candidate for the next job they want to have. It is my job, or the managers job, to ensure they have the ability to access the training and anything else they need to make that happen. This gets us out of the business of training someone to do a job and into the business of results. (Heinz, 2012)</p> <p>Those who run itIndividuals who run the company have to become systems thinkers who are operationally aware of the myriad internal and external customers within an organization. The roles of each of the interconnected parts and personalities running each of those roles become extremely important for optimal efficiency. Individuals in operations need to be able to step back and see the organization from a birds-eye view, and then understand each zoomed in division and be close enough to each of those groups to effect positive change. John Margo, retired executive from Exxon Mobile believes strongly that within operations lies the key to a companies success. This is where opportunities are uncovered from understanding the end customer and the system in place to provide an exceptional experience for that customer, to uncovering opportunities for strategic alliances - it all happens in operations. Operations people who can create an exceptional customer experience understand well who and what drives their bottom line. At the end of the day, its all about your customer, no matter how you define customer. Further, customers with phenomenal experiences only help motivate, support, and help the sales drivers of the organization. When these items articulate - sales, operations and the customer experience, the company is ready for the next level of strategic development. (Bomar, 2012)</p> <p>Those who protect itCorporate protectors are the insurance policy on your business and its assets. Protectors need to be masters in their field and typically hold roles in accounting, billing, finance, HR, legal or compliance. Keeping clean, exact accounting records, ensuring the organization is properly insured and protecting and following all laws relevant to both the industry and the country in which you operate is essential. You can scarcely open a newspaper today without reading about the repercussions a company is facing because of the failure to have appropriate corporate protectors within the Chicago Park District, an operation with a $400 million annual budget, the lack of simple accounting payment policies and general ledger expense codes created a system of huge inefficiencies without the ability to create or monitor departmental budgets, pinpoint cost overruns or report meaningful data to stakeholders. (Clawson, 1996) Although accounting is a tedious process, developing a system of transparent and exacting processes is essential within this department.</p> <p>Huchingson :: [Dec 2012]</p> <p>Mile 4. Create the VisionMake sure you know where you are going and the route. If you cant explain your vision, no one else will be able to either. Regardless of the size of your company, both your internal and your external customers need to know your vision. Even in a small company, something as simple as a video to welcome people to the company and explain your reason for being will go a long way and save a lot of time. (Bomar, 2012)</p> <p>When launching a new division, department or new strategy, you always need to go back to Mile 3 and recreate that vision. In 2009, Ron Heinz, Manager of Dealer Technical Relations for Worldwide Crop Harvesting Equipment for John Deere, together with five of his counterparts with the same title but different product group (hay, crop care, harvesting equipment, turf, and utility) were tasked with the job of taking John Deeres U.S. help desk concept global across 40 countries, 15 new sites, and 7 languages. The challenge was that the U.S. system had developed one call center at a time over the course of about 20 years; launching this globally would be a paradigm shift for both employees and customers alike. When asked about the keys to the teams success, Ron confided:Communication was key. In the beginning, the six of us had a conference call every week for two hours and we met face to face every month. These were initially just a series of planning meetings to get our thoughts aligned as a first step to spell out as many options and possibilities as we could think of. This gave us perspective regarding locations, languages, where people were going to sit, personalities - things we wouldnt have come up with as holistically as individuals. After we amalgamated the data, we figured out how to get everyone to work together most effectively. Then we started travelling and started meeting the people who would actually be affected by the change. We put together a video showing all of the options we considered and the steps we took to uncover and synthesize those options. Before showing them our actual suggestions, we asked for their feedback. Subsequently, we continued the video, showing them our ideas for best concept and asked for their feedback again. We asked them how well the concept fit within their needs and wrote down all requests for change. We did this with all 15 groups and then the six of us re-convened in a face to face meeting, shared what we learned, and modified the plan accordingly. We then created the final proposal that we took to leadership, which had to include not only the big picture plan, but the implementation plan to include locations, capital budget requirements, goals, how we were going to measure our performance, and which of leaderships original goal...</p>