Frank sat back, shook his head, and looked me straight in the eyes.
“How did you do this? I mean, to get from where you started to where you ended up must have been a hell of a story.”
It was May of 2010. We had just finished a review of one of our operating centers in Cheyenne, Wyoming. Our company was up for sale, and Frank was with a group representing one of the opening bidders getting a chance to really “kick the tires”.
They had spent the day driving and walking around, and everywhere they went, they saw smiling faces, and palpable senses of pride and dedication.
The charts and graphs on the walls also spoke of great accomplishment, a high sense of accountability, and a spirit of friendly competition.
Clearly, there was something special going on here, but for those who hadn’t seen it before this day, it looked extraordinary. After all, this was a telecommunications and cable TV operation, and they were used to observing a far different situation.
It wasn’t easy to get here. In fact it was almost impossible and more times than I could count I had almost thrown in the towel. But, having been in the business for 28 years, I knew that these past 7 had been exceptional. A trek, beginning with doubts and uncertainty and now ending with satisfaction and clarity.
But boy it felt great. As I stopped a beat to answer the question, the whole journey flashed through my head, and time seemed to stand still. How DID I do this? And how can I fit it all in one simple sentence?
There was much to sort through in this journey. But there, along that linear path, was the framework, path, and process for leadership success.
While I didn’t quite have the time to provide Frank with a full answer at that moment (actually, it ended up being one of those “aw shucks, I was just doing my job” kind of answers, since he had to go catch a plane), that question has prodded me to think about it, talk about it, and write about it, ever since.
Five years on, with the benefit of all that perspective and reflection, I can finally answer Frank in a more complete way, and lay out a path to leadership success that brought me to that “how did you do that” moment, and the More Human “success trifecta” –A great company, a happy team, and a fulfilled you.
I’m confident that if YOU take this same journey, and use these steps as your lamp posts along the way, you can get to that same place.
(and PS, thanks Frank for asking the question!)
The More Human Way: 15 Steps To Success
1) Set the “BHAG” – Teammates want to be a part of something bigger then just “profit”; find a “big, hairy, audacious goal” and run for it.
2) Use The Right Pronouns – Get rid of “I” and ‘They”. You’re all on the same bus to success.
3) Declare Values – Put them on paper, on the bulletin boards, and in every speech or talk you make.
4) Eliminate The Negative Words– Start with “can’t”. That one alone will make a huge difference.
5) Show Up (and Stay out of the Ivory Tower) – They say 90% of success is showing up? Yep, that’s about right.
6) Keep Promises – Nothing poisons a culture more than a lack of integrity at the highest levels.
7) Do First Things First – Attack the #1 things on the priority list, rather than pushing them off to the side.
8) Less Thinking, More Doing – We’ve all heard the expression “Hurry Up and Wait“; decision paralysis is a culture killer.
9) Talk (and talk) about the “why” – The leader is a “contextual conduit”, providing clarity and consistency at every opportunity. And I mean EVERY.
10) Use Full-Spectrum Accountability – Set clear expectations, and when they are exceeded, reward, and when they are not met, coach, counsel or release.
11) Raise Bars Constantly – There’s never room for complacency when you keep challenging to go higher.
12) Relentless Positive Energy – A leader sets the tone; and must bring positive energy to every interaction.
13) Use the right metrics – Each position needs objectives measure of success, from both a personal, team, and company-wide perspective. Choose them wisely, and keep them to a small and manageable number.
14) Monitor and measure, relentlessly – All the cool metrics in the world can’t do a lick of good unless there’s a human digesting (and using) them.
15) YOU show the More Human way – It all starts with YOU. You have to “walk the walk”. Care, empathize, laugh, roll up your sleeves, and love the journey (and your team).