Within every corporate and structure, there exists a stair-step ladder. One enters the ladder at some professional level and is considered valuable for the category of services for which he or she has expertise. This ladder holds true for managers and employees within the organization, as well as outside consultants brought in.
Each professional rung on the ladder is important. At whatever level one enters the ladder, he-she should be trained, measured for performance and fit into the organization’s overall scope. This is the stair-step, paralleling The Business Tree:
- Resource. One has experience with equipment, tools, materials and schedules.
- Skills and Tasks. One is concerned with activities, procedures and project fulfillment.
- Role and Job. The position is defined according to assignments, responsibilities, functions, relationships, follow-through and accountability.
- Systems and Processes. These are managers, concerned with structure, hiring, control, work design, supervision and the effects of management decisions.
- Strategy. These executives spend much of their energies on planning, tactics, organizational development and business development.
- Culture and Mission. Upper management is most effective when it frames business decisions toward values, customs, beliefs, goals, objectives and the benchmarking of tactics.
- Philosophy. These are the visionaries who advise management in refining the organizational purpose, vision, quality of life, ethics and contributions toward the company’s long-term growth.
One rarely advances more than one rung on the ladder during the course of service to the organization unless he/she embodies that wider scope. The professional who succeeds the most is the one who sees himself/herself in the bigger picture and contextualizes what they do accordingly.
Value-added leadership is a healthy way of professional life that puts collaborations first. When all succeed, then profitability is much higher and more sustained than under the Hard Nose management style.
Value-added leadership requires a senior team commitment. Managers and employees begin seeing themselves as leaders and grow steadily into those roles. It is not acceptable to be a clone of what you perceive someone else to be. Those organizations and managers who use terms like ‘world class’ are usually wanna-be’s who won’t ever quite make the measuring stick.
Leadership means being consistently excellent and upholding standards to remain so. There is no such thing as perfection. Yet, excellence is a definitive process of achievement, dedication and expeditious use of resources. Exponential improvement each year is the objective.
Good professionals must be role models. Leadership comes from inner quests, ethical pursuits and professional diligence. Often, we teach others what we were never taught or what we learned the hard way. That’s how this book came into being…there was no executive encyclopedia for those to make it long-term. Those who take that knowledge into practice will lead their business and industry.
If every executive devoted at least 10% of his-her time to these activities, then corporate scandals would not occur. Thinking and reasoning skills are not taught in school, and they are amassed through a wealth of professional experiences. Planning is the thread woven through this book, and it is the key to the future. One can never review progress enough, with benchmarking being the key to implementing plans.
Many organizations fall into the trap of calling what they are doing a ‘tradition.’ That is an excuse used by many to avoid change and accountability. Just because something has been done one or two times, realize that it will get old and stale. Traditions are philosophies that are regularly fine-tuned, with elements added. Traditions are not stuck in ruts, though failing companies are.
If I could determine curriculum, every business school would require public speaking and writing courses. I’d have every professional development program devote more to leadership and thinking skills than they do to computer training. I’d also have courses with such titles as ‘The Business Executive as Community Leader,’ ‘Mentoring Your Own Staff’ and ‘Role Model 101.’
Management leads in strategically planned companies
Companies that are planned and have developed strategies to meet the future now subscribe to results based management, with the goal to improve program effectiveness, accountability and achieve results. This means that company leadership is committed to:
We are the products of those who believe in us. Find role models and set out to be one yourself. To get, you must give. Career and life are not a short stint. Do what it takes to run the decathlon. Set personal and professional goals, standards and accountability.
Stand for something. Making money is not enough. You must do something worth leaving behind, mentoring to others and of recognizable substance. Your views of professionalism must be known and shown.
Mentoring and lifelong learning
Professionals who succeed the most are the products of mentoring. I heartily endorse those that find a great mentor. I have had many excellent ones in my long career and have in turn mentored hundreds of others.
The mentor is a resource for business trends, societal issues and opportunities. The mentor becomes a role model, offering insights about their own life-career. This reflection shows the mentee levels of thinking and perception which were not previously available. The mentor is an advocate for progress and change. Such work empowers the mentee to hear, accept, believe and get results. The sharing of trust and ideas leads to developing business philosophies.
The mentor endorses the mentee, messages ways to approach issues, helps draw distinctions and paints pictures of success. The mentor opens doors for the mentee. The mentor requests pro-active changes of mentee, evaluates realism of goals and offers truths about path to success and shortcomings of mentee’s approaches. This is a bonded collaboration toward each other’s success. The mentor stands for mentees throughout their careers and celebrates their successes. This is a lifelong dedication toward mentorship… in all aspects of one’s life.
The most significant lessons that I learned in my business life from mentors, verified with experience, are shared here:
- You cannot go through life as a carbon copy of someone else.
- You must establish your own identity, which is a long, exacting process.
- As you establish a unique identity, others will criticize. Being different, you become a moving target.
- People criticize you because of what you represent, not who you are. It is rarely personal against you. Your success may bring out insecurities within others. You might be what they cannot or are not willing to become.
- If you cannot take the dirtiest job in any company and do it yourself, then you will never become ‘management.’
- Approach your career as a body of work. This requires planning, purpose and commitment. It’s a career, not just a series of jobs.
- The person who is only identified with one career accomplishment or by the identity of one company for whom he-she formerly worked is a one-hit wonder and, thus, has no body of work.
- The management that takes steps to “fix themselves” rather than always projecting problems upon other people will have a successful organization.
- It’s not when you learn. It’s that you learn.
- Many people do without the substantive insights into business because they have not really developed critical thinking skills.
- Analytical and reasoning skills are extensions of critical thinking skills.
- You perform your best work for free. How you fulfill commitments and pro-bono work speaks to the kind of professional that you are.
- People worry so much what others think about them. If they knew how little others thought, they wouldn’t worry so much. This too is your challenge to frame how they see you and your company.
- Fame is fleeting and artificial. The public is fickle and quick to jump on the newest flavor, without showing loyalty to the old ones, especially those who are truly original. Working in radio, I was taught, ‘They only care about you when you’re behind the microphone.’
- The pioneer and ‘one of a kind’ professional has a tough lot in life. It is tough to be first or so far ahead of the curve that others cannot see it. Few will understand you. Others will attain success with portions of what you did. None will do it as well.
- Consumers are under-educated and don’t know the substance of a pioneer. Our society takes more to the copycats and latest fads. Only the pioneer knows and appreciates what he/she really accomplished. That reassurance will have to be enough.
- Life and careers include peaks and valleys. It’s how one copes during the ‘down times’ that is the true measure of success.
- Long-term success must be earned. It is not automatic and is worthless if ill-gotten. The more dues one pays, the more you must continue paying.
- The next best achievement is the one you’re working on now, inspired by your body of knowledge to date.
- The person who never has aggressively pursued a dream or mounted a series of achievements cannot understand the quest of one with a deeply committed dream.
- A great percentage of the population does not achieve huge goals but still admires and learns from those who do persevere and succeed. The achiever thus becomes a lifelong mentor to others.
- Achievement is a continuum, but it must be benchmarked and enjoyed along the way.
These are my concluding pieces of leadership advice. Know where you are going. Develop, update and maintain a career growth document. Keep a diary of lessons learned but not soon forgotten. Learn the reasons for success and, more importantly, from failure.
Good bosses were good employees. They have keen understanding for both roles. Bad bosses likely were not ideal employees. They too are consistent in career history.
Being your own boss is yet another lesson. People who were downsized from a corporate environment suddenly enter the entrepreneurial world and find the transition to be tough.
Poor people skills cloud any job performance and overshadow good technical skills. The worst bosses do not sustain long careers at the top. Their track record catches up with them, whether they choose to acknowledge it or not.
Good workers don’t automatically become good bosses. Just because someone is technically proficient or is an exemplary producer does not mean that he-she will transition to being a boss. The best school teachers do not want to become principals, for that reason. Good job performers are better left doing what they do best. Administrators, at all levels, need to be properly trained as such, not bumped up from the field to do something for which they have no inclination.
Truth and ethics must be woven into how you conduct business. If you do not ‘walk the talk,’ who will? Realize that very little of what happens to you in business is personal. Find common meeting grounds with colleagues. The only workable solution is a win-win.
Leadership and executive development skills are steadily learned and continually sharpened. One course or a quick-read book will not instill them. The best leaders are prepared to go the distance. Professional enrichment must be life-long. Early formal education is but a starting point. Study trends in business, in your industry and in the industries of your customers.
People skills mastery applies to every profession. There is no organization that does not have to communicate to others about what it does. The process of open company dialogues must be developed to address conflicts, facilitate win-win solutions and further organizational goals.
About the Author
Hank Moore has advised 5,000+ client organizations worldwide (including 100 of the Fortune 500, public sector agencies, small businesses and non-profit organizations). He has advised two U.S. Presidents and spoke at five Economic Summits. He guides companies through growth strategies, visioning, strategic planning, executive leadership development, Futurism and Big Picture issues which profoundly affect the business climate. He conducts company evaluations, creates the big ideas and anchors the enterprise to its next tier. The Business Tree™ is his trademarked approach to growing, strengthening and evolving business, while mastering change. To read Hank’s complete biography, click here.