Outstanding!: 47 Ways to Make Your Organization Exceptional Audio CD – Audiobook, Jan 12 2010
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About the Author
Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.
• CHAPTER ONE•
While ordering lunch at a fast-food place (on this particular day, it was a Wendy’s), I noticed a digital clock on the wall where they were handling drive-through customers. In big red numbers, it would start at zero, tick up in time by seconds, and then suddenly reset back to zero and start counting up again. I asked the woman taking my money what the clock was for, and she said, “That shows us how quickly we’re handling the customers outside.” Interesting, I thought. So I continued, “And what do you do with the information? Do you look at your average serve time daily?” And right then, her supervisor, listening to our conversation, jumped in enthusiastically and answered my question: “Oh, no, we check our score every three hours. We need to be fast, you know!” And I thought, Don’t we all.
How fast is your organization?
Outstanding organizations have a tremendous sense of urgency. People get things done—quickly. There is little waiting around for approval, there are few meetings, and even fewer “committee decisions.” They resist creating burdensome policies, and where policies do become roadblocks, managers carry a sharp pair of scissors, constantly clearing the way for their people by cutting the red tape.
An executive at H. B. Fuller, an esteemed organization founded in 1887 in St. Paul, Minnesota, once shared with me this colorful metaphor: “John, it’s a bad day for us when a snake slithers into the lobby and we all encircle the reptile to assess the situation, discuss where it came from, who let it in, and what species it is. It’s a good day when someone just grabs a shovel and cuts its head off.” Apologies to snake lovers—of which I’m one—but what he was saying is true. When the bullets are flying, don’t call a meeting. Don’t stand around and contemplate. Do something!
The fact is, some decisions simply do not need to be a big deal. If there’s a snake in the lobby, take care of it. If you’re looking for a vendor to help on a project, find some candidates, check them out, and pick one. Way too often the many hoops organizations make their people jump through, plus the number of people invited into the decision-making process, cause decisions that should realistically take a day or a week to drag on for months, sometimes years.
What ineffective organizations don’t understand is how much money is pouring out the back door due to these sorts of things. Not only does it cost the time and energy—and compensation—of everyone involved, but every minute spent on one thing is a minute not available to work on something else. I have honestly seen “buying committees” spend, say, $250,000 in collective salary cost to make a $50,000 decision. I bet you’ve seen this happen, too. It’s math that just doesn’t add up. One manager at a Fortune 500 firm shared candidly, “I do not work for an outstanding organization. We are a good organization with a good reputation, but decisions take too long. Our market moves at lightning speed, and it seems we’re always a step or two behind while some unknown, unnamed committee meets to plan their next meeting. We’ve lost multimillion-dollar contracts while waiting and waiting and waiting for decisions to be reached.”
To be fast does not mean we should be foolish and be in such a rush that we make mistakes. Taking the time to make good decisions is critical—but outstanding organizations make good decisions faster. And they do it by creating a culture that sends the message: Let’s get it done... yesterday!
In a way, we’re all like the staff at Wendy’s, with a clock on the wall, ticking away precious time. Let’s make the best use of every second.
• CHAPTER TWO •
When I left the training firm I sold for after a decade of calling on senior managers, I really wanted to author a book titled The Arrogance of Management. But, alas, I didn’t think executives would buy it.
Ben Franklin said this about pride: “Even if I could conceive that I had completely overcome it, I would probably be proud of my humility.” That tongue-in-cheek humor really states a truth: After making the big sale, delivering the project on time, launching a winning product, or landing a promotion, it can be seriously hard to show humility. Yet that’s what we find in outstanding organizations.
Sheryll, a project coordinator in information services with a major healthcare organization, told me, “Our CIO sent an amazing message to all the employees in our department. It makes me want to give him a big hug! But since it’s probably not appropriate to do that, I am just going to stop by his office to thank him for being a marvelous role model, and let him know how much I appreciate his accountable actions!”
She went on to tell me about an incident that seemed minor initially, but snowballed into a problem for this executive. To save money, he had decided to change cake vendors. Yes, you read that right: cake. His technology team has a long-standing and highly valued “Cake Day” tradition in which they recognize service anniversaries, birthdays, and other such milestones by getting cake for everyone to share, and the CIO had made the decision to switch to a cheaper cake supplier. Naturally, these celebrations are important to the hundreds of people in the department, but the CIO didn’t understand how important they were—and that’s fair. Often in life one person doesn’t know what something means to another. However, on top of making the change to a possibly less tasty product, his email to everyone announcing the switch also facetiously described the change as a “drastic cost-cutting measure.” Though there was absolutely no bad intent on his part, the proverbial molehill grew into the mountain, and in came feedback indicating that he now had a minicrisis on his hands.
So he handled it with grace and aplomb, taking a rare action by those “at the top”: He apologized. In a broadcast email, he wrote contritely that he shouldn’t have made light of this change and that he owed them a sincere apology. He accepted responsibility for the mess and even claimed poor judgment. He went on to confess that he doesn’t always choose the right words, but assured everyone that his colleagues mean the world to him and are his highest priority.
Rarely have I come across such a powerful example of being humble. I believe that humility is the cornerstone of leadership. Others do, too. Russ Gasdia, vice president of sales and marketing for Purdue Pharma, sums it up well. When asked to list three characteristics of an “effective leader,” he said, “Humility, humility, and humility. They know they make mistakes, accept feedback from others in order to learn, admit they don’t always know what’s right, and recognize it’s not ‘all about them.’ When they succeed, they are humble. When they fail, they are humble. And lastly, they never think they are more important than the customer!”
Humility is a key trait of outstanding organizations—and of individuals. Humility helps people be more likable and approachable, work better with others, and give better service to customers. It enables departments and teams to collaborate with other departments and teams. Perhaps most important, it allows people to communicate more freely, creating a culture of authenticity and accountability that every outstanding organization requires. Beyond all this, it might even win us a hug or two—and maybe there’s nothing wrong with that!--This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
I am not striking out "on my own" to start a consulting firm that does not succeed. I don't lead my family, so we can be average, just get by, merely survive.
In each of these endeavors, I want to excel, to be outstanding, to win. What does it mean to "win"? I think a leader's vision is the answer to that question. Vision is what gives us hope each day, the motivation to work hard, because I have a mental image of the outcome, whether that is at the end of the day, week, year, or lifetime. But it's more than that, because if no one buys into the vision, than a leader has no followers, so "winning" is a team's shared outlook.
I've read John's other two books, QBQ and Flipping the Switch, and now this one. In all three, he writes with concise clarity. By that, I mean that he explains and illustrates each principal in just a few short pages.
This is the essence of Multiplying Leadership with atoms--small, fundamental principles that exist independently, building blocks. In this case, they are building blocks of organizational excellence. I didn't need to read the whole book to walk away with one actionable idea. In fact, I can absorb a whole chapter that stands alone, an introduction to an idea that has endless possibilities for application that I can easily imagine, in the time it takes to read four pages.
Who should read it? Anyone who feels they are accountable, in some degree, for the excellence of their organization or team or family or relationship.
What is it about? 47 concepts you can implement today...that take a lifetime to master--ideas to help you accept responsibility for and achieve an exceptional organizational culture.
When? It doesn't matter where you are in your journey of leadership or what level your at in the company org chart--don't wait until you are in a position of leadership. Read it now--you can finish in one weekend.
Where can you get it? Amazon is cheapest: Outstanding! 47 Ways to Make Your Organization Exceptional (affiliate link). But it is available at any bookstore or the author's website [...]. John is very friendly and real, and he even answered my email within minutes. You can follow him on twitter @qbqguy or facebook/theqbq.
Each of Miller's 47 points are given a chapter. Each one is valuable in its' own way. In Chapter 3, I realized why some of my training initiatives fail. I don't always put purpose first. If people don't have a good understanding of why it is necessary for them to do things a certain way, they are much less likely to adopt it as their own. This one little piece of knowledge and understanding on my part will totally change how I develop and delivery new initiatives.
In Chapter 5, I learned the true definition of a customer. A customer is anyone who has a legitimate expectation of you. This opens up a whole new realm and an entirely new dynamic on how we view people. Customers are not just people who buy from us, they are our vendors, supervisors, family members, co-workers, etc. If we treat these relationships with the same respect and regard as we give our "paying customers", imagine the results we will see.
Chapter 44 is a refresher course in doing the little things that will make a difference for customers. These are just a few things you'll find here. There are tips of doing a better job of coaching, the importance of encouragement, even ways to hire better people.
As I read Chapter 12, aptly titled "Value Ideas Over Politics", I kept remembering Ronald Reagan when he said, "It's amazing what can be accomplished when we don't care who gets the credit."
This should become required reading for anyone at the corporate level. I'm giving this one my highest recommendation. As always, Miller writes clearly with direct points and succinct summaries. QBQ set a pretty high bar for Miller, but he may have succeeded in surpassing that bar with Outstanding!
John has a way of writing that encourages people who typically aren't too fond of business-type books to find the time to read his books. He's an expert at using real life experiences and stories to illustrate his various points and topics.
For those who've been involved with personnel training, you'll appreciate that John uses humor and makes his content entertaining without losing substance.
Outstanding!, just like his other books, is an easy read but is filled with excellent educational material that benefits all levels of management- from executives to front-line supervisors. It has 47 short chapters that quickly get to the point and make you think. I found myself saying throughout the book, "I've had to deal with that" or, "I can relate to this" or, "I wish I would have done that!"
John's also not afraid to tell it like it really is. How many other business books have you read with a chapter titled, "Fire Customers (If Necessary)!". Any of your associates who've ever had to deal with the "customer from hell" will appreciate it. But it makes sense. As John writes, "...standing up for your people in the face of mistreatment by customers makes our staff feel truly valued."
This is a book that you will want everyone on your team to read and absorb. Every chapter could easily become a mini-training class that creates meaningful discussion.
Thank you for outlining in detail, and yet in a concise and entertaining (audio book) manner the principles in your book. I was pleasantly surprised to see I am doing so many things right as a leader however I am also not too egotistical to say that I will be getting started right away on many of these ideas. Chapter 2 Be Humble is a lifestyle choice I live by daily. Your ego nor your wallet can enter the room before you do, and it's nice to see I'm not the only one who feels that way. In Chapter 3 you bring up a great point that I often times overlook; Keep the Mission at the Top. Whenever I am confronted by a large decision or a marketing concept I need to remind myself if this is in line with the Mission.
In your chapter Fight the Fat, I found the concept: Sales cover Sins to be huge. If I am truly honest with my personal success as well as any company I have worked for or owned I will find that I should be more critical, and more focused on the details while times are good. Thanks for the reminder. Another reminder that I implemented this morning was to Make Meetings Meaningful. Often times as a relational person I tend to not keep focused at meetings by asking people personal questions and encouraging chit chat. Which in turn creates an atmosphere of unfocused side conversations that require to be reeled back in. The other concept of releasing those who are done from the meeting makes enormous sense. This says to that individual they are important and so is their time. Finally I would like to thank you for permission to Fire Customers as discussed in Chapter 33. As a people person I am constantly trying to live by the customer is always right. However sometimes people take advantage of companies and their time and resources. I learned here that it is okay if I fire a customer. Granted I don't want to make a habit of it but I sure do appreciate learning Outstanding Organizations do sometimes. Overall I found your book to be as it is titled. I would recommend this to anyone looking to grow personally as well as their organization. Thank you for also making it available on audio. As a salesperson my vehicle often times becomes a rolling library. I wish you continued success and look forward to digging in and being outstanding.
Live the Dream!
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