The ability to continually create leadership breakthroughs is more critical than ever in today’s rapidly changing business world. Yet in the daily hubbub of running your business, do you stop to think about what it takes to achieve and maintain breakthrough performance?
Breakthroughs happen with discipline and systematic focus. It’s about continually and consciously engaging in activities that allow you to mine for breakthrough gems. No matter where you are on the leadership ladder, you can boost your breakthrough quotient by challenging yourself in the following ways:
Refine Your Priorities: Have you ever been frustrated with an employee who complained that he or she did not have enough time to complete an important task? As a leader you know it is all about the priorities you set. Most leaders have long lists of objectives and strategies. The problem with long lists is they can overwhelm you. Instead, simplify your list to identify the “make or break” for your business. Write down the actions that need to happen, communicate them clearly to your team, then relentlessly pursue them. Make sure your team is on board with your make or break and knows why it is vitally important.
Adopt Your Customer’s Viewpoint: Every company, division and team has processes they follow. These should be constantly evolving to respond to changing customer expectations and marketplace demands. Discuss your processes regularly with your team and be clear on benchmarks for success. Evaluate your process from the customer’s perspective. Identity customer expectations at each phase of your process and the key actions you and your team, client or customer must take. As you continually realign you will discover new possibilities that may not have occurred to you before. For instance, you might set a process for your team to quickly and thoroughly respond to any customer concern. By keeping the focus on the customer, you may find that even small changes bring big breakthroughs.
Get Down in the Trenches: Often, the higher up a manager is, the more sporadic his or her visits are with the rank and file. Employees may be accustomed to seeing them only when they are there to deliver big news, good or bad. Instead, make it a point to regularly visit with the employees who produce the results your customers expect. The key here is not only doing this consistently, but committing to full engagement when you do. Participate in conversations with employees who are energetic and passionate. Ask them questions like, “What do you think?,” “How do you think we could solve this problem?” and “What would YOU do?” Doing this regularly not only makes employees feel valued, but can help you identify specific calls to action, and these will sometimes lead to breakthroughs.
Learn from Dissatisfied Clients: If a customer relationship has become rocky, fight the urge to become defensive or dismiss their concerns. Instead, think of that squeaky wheel as a chance for you to tune-up your process. Seek out the thoughts and viewpoints of dissatisfied customers and clients. Always begin by acknowledging their point of view and keep an open mind. Your objective is to listen, not to try to immediately fix the problem. As with your conversations with employees, ask: “What do you think?” and “How can we solve the problem?” What you learn may motivate you to reassess your direction and take action in fresh and creative ways. And don’t make this an occasional practice. Identify new ways to frequently and relentlessly pursue client feedback. You may discover ways to remove barriers, improve customer experience and even rebuild relationships.
Break Out of Tunnel Vision: With the demands and pace of business today, it’s critical that you step back and check your assumptions on a regular basis. Be intentional about seeking out new points of view, not only from employees, clients and customers, but also from the wider world. Read material outside of your business or industry, visit a competitor site once a week, or subscribe to a client’s trade publication. Make it a habit to systematically review blogs, podcasts and YouTube presentations to hear from thought-provoking speakers. And commit to keep expanding your network. You never know when a new point of view will help you overcome a stalemate and achieve a breakthrough.
Recharge and Reenergize: As a leader, you set the tone. If you regularly share enthusiasm, encouragement, optimism, and confidence, your team will be more motivated and breakthrough results will be more possible. However, if you are feeling drained and burned out, that will also come across to your team and it can be contagious. This is why it is essential to monitor your energy and the energy of your team. Stay attuned to the mood and know when to refuel and energize. How you recharge is up to you. It may mean a day off or vacation “unplugged.” It may be celebrating with your team upon completing a big project. The key is to step back and provide the care to reenergize yourself and your team so that you are primed for that next major breakthrough.
Being successful means always being on the lookout for the next breakthrough. If you devote time and energy on a regular basis to developing this aspect of leadership, it will pay off in huge dividends.
About the Author: Amy Fox is President, CEO and founder of Accelerated Business Results, a leader in innovative business learning solutions, and a consultant to Fortune 500 companies on training and sales performance strategies. Amy and her team are driven to meet the diverse training needs of today’s organizations, from increased sales performance and product knowledge to leadership, communication and coaching skills. For more information, visit Accelerate Business Results.
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