Category Archives: Performance Improvement

Training

A young father brings home a bicycle with training wheels for his daughter.  He is ready to teach his daughter to ride a bike.  His daughter is happy and eager. Dad better be ready to work! Before the bike riding training turns into a child riding a bike, Dad will walk with the child while she pedals. He will run and hold the back of the seat while she struggles to balance.  Even after the training wheels are removed, he will run faster and hold on to support her.  When he finally lets go to execute successful bike riding, he will pick her up when she falls.  He will clean and bandage scraped knees.  He will offer encouragement to continue her efforts.  And, when dad is successful, he will let go and chase his daughter.  Then, she will race off faster than he can run.  He may have to pick her up a few more times.  But, very soon she is riding without his help, and dad is exhausted emotionally and physically from the completed process.

This is exactly how personal improvement works.  Training starts with an idea to improve someone.  Regarding formal education, it starts in kindergarten teaching children to learn simple rules like raising your hand to talk, taking turns, earning rewards through good behavior.  In executive training, the learning process turns to thinking strategically, demonstrating leadership so that others execute your vision, creating results in areas beyond your individual expertise.  Fundamentally, training involves changing behaviors that may have been individually working just fine to behaviors that will elevate overall performance.  That step requires an investment that will result in empowering people for greater achievement.

“What if we train our people and they leave?” is a classic question for decision-makers who are reluctant to invest in training their staff.  The logical response is, “What if you don’t train them and they stay?”  The clear outcome to the response is to endure poor performance.  Personal growth is stunted.  The child never learns to ride her bike because dad never wants her to leave his sight.

But change will prevail.  This is a fact of human and organizational development.  Experts argue that changing a habit requires an average of 21 consecutive days of changed behavior.  This applies to learning a new skill, overcoming an addiction, or changing a work procedure.  The process is established: educate, empower, measure, repeat…

Believe in the process. Invest in the process.  The proverb says “to train a child in the way he should go and when he is old he will not turn from it.”  It is the process that drives ongoing improvement.  Once improved performance is achieved, repeating the process for additional rewards is a natural progression.  Don’t stray from what works if  it successfully reaches goals  And, at every accomplishment enjoy the rewards. The real benefit is helping someone else whose success is important to the helper. This fact illustrates the mutual benefit to training. To do it right, a leader must launch the process, then be ready to work.  The ultimate reward is a trainee who now rides faster than the leader can run!
-The Voice

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Preparation

“A journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step.”  In order to have a successful journey, preparation is essential!  Preparation equates to planning, and consequently precedes the first step.  The actual journey is the process to a specific, pre-determined achievement.  But, without the initial step, the journey can not be completed.  Without preparation, a traveler does not have the physical, mental, or emotional resources to begin.

Can a student reasonably excel in the classroom without first doing homework? How about a new business venture?  Without taking the time to develop a plan and secure necessary capital resources, can the venture reasonably expect to succeed?  Of course, exceptions exist.  Students earn A’s without studying for the test.  Fortunes are made solely as a result of hard work and determined execution.  A random drive results in reaching your destination.  Such miracles occur in real life.  But, miracles by definition rarely happen.  In fact, if these processes represented the expected results then they would not be miracles.

To maximize the likelihood of success, great endeavors require great efforts.  Great efforts begins with preparation.  Mentally, success requires envisioning the expected outcome.  “If you can conceive it, you can achieve it”.  Preparation begins with the proper state of mind to pursue and reach individual goals.  Preparation continues with the proper physical resources.  Even if your journey involves writing the great American novel, or the next game-changing software application, physical preparation includes having at least a pen and paper, or a computer.  Great ideas are not actionable if they are not captured.

Finally, preparation requires an emotional component.  This emotion often reveals itself as an unyielding desire, or commitment.  Without a commitment to achievement the journey will not be fruitful. Winners feel that they will win before the competition begins.  “You gotta want it!” With a winning attitude, the physical tools and an intelligently prepared plan, success is clearly in the cross-hairs.  Execution remains a necessary step.  But, who can realistically hit a target without a loaded firearm and some idea how to fire it?  Poor preparation promotes poor performance; poor performance promotes pain.  Or loss, or worse.  Prepare to excel.  Prepare to win.  Realize your achievement.

-The Voice

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Endurance

Endurance instantly brings to mind visions of long-distance running.  It requires strength, longevity and mental toughness.  In a race, endurance is a winning characteristic when durability and consistency are most valued.  Similarly, in an organization, endurance is a critical attribute involving steady and unwavering progress.  An explosive sprint, just like corporate hyper-growth, devalues endurance.  However, endurance succeeds when the objective demands a long-term perspective and ongoing high performance.

Whether describing a foot race or the rat race, endurance results from proper conditioning and preparation.  Longevity is not an accident. It requires focus and concentration.  Too often races emphasize speed.  But, superior performance is not limited to short increments.  The 100 meter dash world record holder is often called the fastest man in the world.  Business accolades are routinely awarded to the fastest growing enterprise in a given year.  However marathon runners earn medals, also.  Steady, sustained profitability wins corporations favor with bankers and stock analysts.  The reward for that prize is often more capital!  Endurance may not benefit from flashy headlines or gaudy titles.  But make no mistake, winners who emphasize endurance and resultant long-term excellence also receive their rewards.

Culturally, Americans are enamored with immediate gratification. The corporate landscape is littered with high-flying stars who delivered dazzling results only to crash in an equally spectacular fashion.  Careers flourish when professionals consistently earn victories that reflect long-term value.  Furthermore, organizations can withstand crash and burn executives as long as the organization reclaims an emphasis on continued wealth creation.  Long-term, high performance is the essential, enduring characteristic of winners.

Interestingly, children’s early lessons regarding endurance is the fable of the tortoise and the hare.  The story features a consistent and focused tortoise defeating an arrogant and undisciplined hare in a race.  The moral is slow and steady wins the race.  In today’s environment a better story is the proverb of the gazelle and the lion .  “Every morning in Africa a gazelle wakes up. It knows it must run faster than the fastest lion or it will be killed. Every morning a lion wakes up. It knows it must outrun the slowest gazelle or it will starve to death. It doesn’t matter whether you are a lion or a gazelle – when the sun comes up, you’d better be running.” 

In this scenario endurance does not lead to simply surviving the day; that is the short-term.  Endurance represents the preparation, mental toughness and consistency to perform to the best of your natural ability every day as a matter of survival.

-The Voice

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Fast

Fast describes high levels of speed and energy.  Fast can be attributed to the speed of physical events, business progress, or even career progress.  As legendary men’s collegiate basketball coach and prolific leadership author, John Wooden, famously states, “Be quick, but don’t hurry”.  In his various roles Coach Wooden accurately applies this statement to basketball, business and leadership. 

From a business perspective, fast growth is important, speed to market is important, rapid career ascension is important, but none are singularly important.  Fast equates with speed.  Quickness implies speed with deliberate, purposeful bursts.  Successfully deploying deliberate, purposeful bursts leads to predictable, consistent excellence.  On the other hand, hurry refers to speed, but implies recklessness.
 
Organizations often want to grow quickly.  Rapid growth makes headlines, it feeds egos, it makes money.  However, fast sales growth must beware of reckless behaviors which may hide exorbitant expenses or poor operating fundamentals that erode profits.  Regarding careers, young professionals often want fast starts, a lucrative first job, early promotions.  With a goal of making a lot of money, a fast start with a healthy salary helps.  With a goal to change the world, a fast start toward engaging the specific mission is good.  But, without proper discipline and consistency, the gains may be short-lived.

Speed is exciting.  Fast growth provides immediate gratification of being successful.  But, what about consequences?  Hurrying toward stratospheric growth and excessive profits in financial institutions created the recklessness that birthed the financial crisis that currently lives in America.  Similarly, the explosive, high-tech fueled business cycle that rewarded mediocre business models at the beginning of the last decade, created fast dollars followed by economic weakness and spectacular failures in corporate integrity.  Being in a hurry does not sustain lasting value.

Being fast, as in first to market, is a huge business advantage.  To surpass the competition, win the next promotion, pursue academic endeavors, or build an organization, using speed is important.  Quick bursts as it relates to consistent focus, ongoing discipline and a long-term view must be at the core.  Then, being fast can create enduring wealth, maintain fulfilling careers, and make legends.

Being fast is an advantage,  but being reckless forsakes longevity.  To be a timeless champion, sustain a legacy and produce others leaders, “be quick, but don’t hurry“.  In other words, be fast with a focus on purpose, longevity and enduring value.

– The Voice

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Launch

In 1961, President John F. Kennedy famously proclaimed that “”I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the Earth.”   In both a historical and business context, this statement exemplifies a bold vision.  President Kennedy did not detail all the required technical steps to achieve the goal.  Most of the technical details had yet to be developed.  Ironically, he did not live to see his vision‘s launch.  But, as a leader he clearly stated an enormous vision that he fully intended to achieve. The United States of America was going to launch a rocket to the moon  and return!

History tells us that in 1969, Apollo 11 launched, landed on the moon and safely returned thereby accomplishing that vision.  By 2010 having a vision resulting in a launch is almost a cliché, particularly in the business realm.  According to the US Small Business Association, annually over 600,000 new businesses move from idea to launch.  As a result of this high level of entrepreneurship, it is no wonder that launches are so prevalent in our cultural vocabulary.

But, look at the details that go into a launch.  An idea, then a bold statement, is just the start. Beginning the process does not necessarily require scientific committees, congressional hearings or press conferences as in the case of President Kennedy.  The initial idea can be conceiving a better software application, tastier recipes, a new literary character, or a better way to serve a group in need.  And, the bold statement does not even have to be audible.  It can be a marketing campaign, a written public proclamation, or a personal commitment to change.  Simply put, the bold statement must initiate action.

The launch, on the other hand, is difficult!  A successful launch has to escape the gravitational pull of self-doubt, fear, naysayers, resource limitations and/ or generally accepted physical laws.  After defying both human and physical nature, the launch requires execution.  It does not require flawless execution.  In the case of a bold vision, the details are not predetermined.  You make the plan as you go.  When Lewis & Clark pursued their vision to reach the west coast, there was no Mapquest to guide them, nor I-80 to drive, not even a creepy service station attendant to warn them about the locals.  They had no path to follow!  In launching a powerful vision, there is only execution.  If you do not return then you obviously failed.

Essentially a launch demands intentional and aggressive action.  Purpose and passion are key ingredients.  A Word from the Voice has launched.  It is attached to a vision; it is attached to a purpose.  What are you launching?  What ideas requires purposeful and passionate action?  What force of nature will you escape to execute your launch?  When will you land on the moon and return safely?
-The Voice

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