CHALLENGE THE PROCESS
JOE BARSI HAS A SAYING taped to his computer that reads, “If you have not endured the most difficult, you cannot become the most successful.” Leaders like Joe understand that you don’t get any place different if you just keep doing the same things over and over again. Getting out of routines and ruts requires treating every job and assignment as an adventure. This involves putting your head up and looking all around, and being willing to invest your time and energy in finding out about other possibilities.
Joe’s personal-best leadership experience involved reviving a branch office of one of the world’s leading global third-party logistics providers, and this required changing their business-as-usual envi- ronment. Joe got everyone on the team to adjust their focus, to start focusing outward rather than inward, and to spend time not just understanding customer requirements but actually getting out of the office and meeting face-to-face with them. Joe himself started looking around for areas where they could further expand their customer focus, which resulted in many little actions, such as extending the
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Search for Opportunities
G E opening and closing hours of the office so that services were available
over a longer time period, conducting business reviews with their top ten customers, and analyzing their competitors for best practices in their industry.
They spent considerable time and energy gathering data to learn about how they could do their jobs better and provide enhanced services. Joe also realized that many people had a lot more product and transportation experience than he had, and he challenged them to share that experience not just with one another but with him as well. “How are we going to work together to improve this business? What will we have to do differently?” Joe asked them. At the end of two years, net revenue increased by over 140 percent, and they went from one of the lowest-ranking offices in the company to a top-thirty branch.
Sometimes challenges find leaders, and sometimes leaders find the challenges; most often, it’s a little of each, as in Joe’s situation. What Joe did is what all exemplary leaders do. He looked outward, keeping up with changing market trends and remaining sensitive to external realities. He convinced others to take seriously the chal- lenges and opportunities that were ahead of them in the future. He served as a catalyst for change, challenging the way things were being done and convincing others that new practices needed to be incor- porated to achieve greater levels of success.
Like Joe’s story, personal-best leadership cases are all about sig- nificant departures from the past, about doing things that have never been done before, and about going to places not yet discovered.
Change is the work of leaders. It’s no longer business as usual, and exemplary leaders know that they have to transform the way things are done. Delivering results beyond expectations can’t be achieved with good intentions. People, processes, systems, and strat-
egies all have to change. And all change requires that leaders actively seek ways to make things better—to grow, innovate, and improve. Exemplary leaders make the commitment to Search for Opportunities to get extraordinary things done. They make sure they engage in these two essentials: