The Marathon ModelLeadership
By Cynthia Huchingson
26.2 Milestones to Superior Leadership
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.
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.
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 & 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.
If youre not prepared for the first 5 miles, you might as well not even lace up your shoes.-Cynthia Huchingson
Huchingson :: [Dec 2012]
Dr. Rajiv Dahiya, President & CEO of Oncology San Antonio, The Urology & 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.
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
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.
Huchingson :: [Dec 2012]
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]
Human nature dictates everything.-Dr. George Smith, Humana
Mile 3. Understand that people are your competitive advantage.- (O'Reilly & 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.
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)
Those who run itIndividuals who run the company have to become systems thinkers who are operationally aware of the myriad internal and ext