The Disciplines of Excellence

Time to read: 2 minutes

Ted, new salesman for a travel accessory company (toiletry kits, carry-on bags, and packing organizers) expanded sales in his region by persuading travel agents to sell his line of products. It was an unusual outlet and so successful that the company included sales pitches to travel agents in all other regions of the company.

Ted did what all successful leaders do: They open their minds and consider new (even outrageous) possibilities that help them succeed on their jobs, whatever those jobs might be. This same thinking applies to every level of the organization but is especially important for organization leaders.

The outrageous part helps them think outside the box. If they’re in sales, they consider unusual outlets for their products or services. If they’re in operations, they consider new avenues for cutting costs. If they’re in customer service, they imagine new ways to satisfy customers. Their receptive approach considers all manner of possibilities.

Although leaders vary in their definitions of excellence, and how best to achieve it, most agree that excellence is a never-ending pursuit and that whatever their challenges and opportunities are today, they’ll change tomorrow. Leaders often face nine challenges:

  1. Communication. Clarity enhances achievement. People respond to leaders who unmistakably communicate organizational objectives and methods to achieve goals. Without this crucial first step, organizations falter; with it, and the steps that follow, they have the opportunity to succeed far beyond what they may have considered possible.
  2. Accountability. Operational and financial measurements and clear lines of responsibility for results are mandatory if the organization is to have the ability to keep on track with its plans. This extends from the very bottom of the organization to the top. Everybody must be held accountable for top notch performance.
  3. Engagement. People who are actively and mentally engaged with their jobs and receive the help and direction they need are convinced that their individual contributions are meaningful and they will extend their efforts to contribute to company success.
  4. Activities connected with the company’s mission and strategy assures that everybody in the organization understands the important yardsticks for company success. Alignment helps employees focus on the most important tasks at hand. Associating each employee’s job with company goals motivates each to reach just a little bit higher.
  5. Direction. Along the same line, direction is what keeps strategy, planning, and execution aligned. Without it disconnects occur, and what at first seemed a clear path becomes muddled.
  6. People feel an inherent desire to “pass the torch” successfully, but often have trouble doing it. Highly effective leaders keep all members (new and old) of the organization in touch.
  7. Measurement and control. Without management guidance events can “feel” out of sync. The elements of control, both operational and financial, assure that the organization has the ability to quickly identify departures from plan and take lasting corrective actions. A plan without measurement and control is no plan at all.
  8. Frustration. Great leaders have the ability to sniff out problems before they get out of hand. Part of that comes from measurement and control; but that leaves out the adverse reaction employees experience when they do not have the means to handle their own work. Inadequate instructions are a leading cause as is the inability of managers to clear roadblocks for the people working for them.
  9. Risk Management. There’s a need, often unaddressed, for determining profit variability versus the projected growth rate. In most organizations, 80 percent of the problems (costs and headaches) are associated with 20 percent of the products and services offered. Left unattended, that 20 percent can severely restrict company growth.

An excellence program is an organized approach to grow the ability of leaders to deal with an ever-changing and challenging environment. The program needs to grow with the business and enable leaders and their employees to align plans and activities to support the strategies and achieve stated goals. An excellence program will address the nine issues mentioned above.

Excellence means this: Innovate, measure, learn.

Innovate purposefully. Innovation is problem-solving, and everyone has the ability to solve problems. This discipline provides principles and measurement tools that are used to help leaders set clear goals and align daily activities to meet them. These goals should align with company priorities. Then employees will be able to use their innate creativity to meet or exceed goals.

Learning. First, step back and gain perspective on the factors that affect performance. It is achieved through a series of discovery exercises, exploring externals (competitors, industry, economics) and internals such as goal performance, stakeholder feedback, corrective measures, SWOT analysis (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats).

Measure and learn means: 1) deriving a repeatable methodology to drive leadership, 2) assigning external coaching for accountability, 3) providing a system to align the activities of team members, and 4) establishing a community of like-minded people to accelerate learning. When these elements come together, leaders will see enduring change.

Jeff Wolf is the author of Seven Disciplines of a Leader and founder and president of Wolf Management Consultants, LLC, a premier global consulting firm that specializes in helping people, teams and organizations achieve maximum effectiveness. A dynamic speaker and highly requested executive coach, he was named one of the country’s top 100 thought leaders by the prestigious Leadership Excellence Magazine.


Take A Summer Vacation This Year


by Jeff Wolf

How many times have you heard your boss tell you that? In fact, how many times have you told your employees that?

Come on, fess up. Either case is as rare as a drenching rain in the Sahara. Let’s face it. Too many bosses discourage employees from taking more than a day off or a weekend here and there. And even then they don’t discourage a barrage of phone calls from work and many will expect employees to check their email several times a day. A two-week getaway to the Far East? Not a chance.

Every year, the media reports on surveys showing that large chunks of U.S. workers don’t plan on taking all their vacation time. Why does this happen, when it’s part of a worker’s compensation package? Large percentages of workers wouldn’t pass on a company-sponsored life insurance plan, or forgo a paycheck for all of December, so why are so many people willingly (or perhaps not so willingly) giving their paid time off back to their employers?

Forbes Magazine contributor Kristi Hedges nails the explanation: “The idea of a skimpy vacation as a worthy sacrifice or badge of honor is culturally embedded. The U.S. is the only rich country to not have legally mandated paid vacation and holidays.” She goes on, “science tells us that this is a very bad idea. Increasingly, studies are showing that breaks of any kind are not only good for you; they can actually increase productivity and well-being.”

Long Vacations Benefit Both Company and Employee

To create a lasting change in their organization, and maybe even greater society at large, leaders must fully embrace the practical benefits of vacations. Good leaders will be more inclined to not only grant, but also encourage employees to take not just a couple of long weekends here and there-and maybe a week off in the summer-but longer vacation time. Employees come back from a full week (or two or three) of time off when they were able to truly disconnect from work energized and recharged, with better ideas, a fresh perspective, lower stress-levels, and genuine excitement to tackle work challenges that can become overwhelming without time to recharge. Truly effective leaders recognize the value of paid time off, and understand it’s key to a productive and engaged workforce.

Here are specific steps leaders can take to make sure this happens:

  • Issue specific company policies that encourage all employees of the organization to take all vacation days due them, and in any increments they prefer.
  • Be clear the time off must not interfere with mission critical work, but also be clear that one person’s week off shouldn’t incapacitate a well-run department, and that while every department has busier times on the calendar, it is normal and expected that departments will experience slower times periodically throughout the year.
  • Require that all managers and supervisors conduct short meetings with their employees explaining the vacation policy.
  • Ask employees for feedback regarding perceived problems with the vacation policy. Since many employees may feel constrained to speak up, use a suggestion box where they can offer suggestions or voice complaints.
  • Assure that all complaints and suggestions are answered by a third-party, such as Human Resources.
  • Follow-up yearly to make sure the new vacation policy is working.

As we head in to the height of the summer, when friends and family frequently plan reunions, couples get married, families with children have the freedom to travel, as leaders it’s our job to help facilitate these getaways. Your employees will thank you for it, and ultimately, your bottom line will thank you for it too.

Jeff Wolf is the author of Seven Disciplines of a Leader and founder and president of Wolf Management Consultants, LLC, a premier global consulting firm that specializes in helping people, teams and organizations achieve maximum effectiveness.

Contact us today to discuss how we may partner with you to develop your current and future leaders or to have Jeff Wolf speak at your next meeting, conference or convention: Michael Adams 858-638-8260 or


Practical Thoughts on Leadership

By Jeff Wolf

  • Leaders maintain credibility by being honest, forthright, and open; their values, allegiances and priorities are beyond reproach
  • Leaders establish shared values among teams, instill confidence in followers, create organizational excitement and are not afraid of change
  • When strategies, objectives, and paths to success are clearly defined, individuals, teams and organizations will be motivated, inspired and energized
  • Great leaders listen with empathy and speak with honesty to gain and maintain trust with people
  • Customers are vital to your success. As a leader, you must continually enhance and reinforce the ideals of customer satisfaction from top to bottom of the organization
  • Motivated people give you a competitive advantage. As a leader, you can make the difference between those who care deeply about their roles versus those who simply show up for work every day (if you’re lucky), and go through the motions while collecting a paycheck
  • An effective leader motivates employees to work together and achieve greatness, instilling confidence and trust as they go about their everyday business

Contact us today to discuss how we may partner with you to develop your current and future leaders or to have Jeff Wolf speak at your next meeting, conference or convention: Michael Adams 858-638-8260 or

Did You Know

  • According to a Stanford Study: Nearly 66% of CEOs do not receive coaching or leadership advice from outside consultants or coaches, while 100% of them stated that they are receptive to making changes based on feedback. Nearly 80% of directors said that their CEO is receptive to coaching.
  • A global survey by PriceWaterhouseCoopers and the Association Resource Center found that the mean Return on Investment in coaching was 7 times the initial investment, and over a quarter of coaching clients reported a stunning ROI of 10 to 49 times the cost.
  • A Deloitte University Report found:Leadership development and succession planning was identified as an “urgent need” by 86% of those surveyed but only 13% believe they do an “excellent job” of preparing individuals for future leadership roles. Building a leadership pipeline demands multiple resources throughout the organization, but perhaps the most challenging aspect is the range of resources required for leadership development by the HR department.

Leadership Lessons from March Madness

12642760_446785762177881_6508244049887184718_nIt’s inevitable. Once March Madness begins, workplace productivity plunges. Office pools and brackets push aside work schedules, and employees spend more time around the water cooler discussing teams and players than working. Bosses tear their hair out trying to get the job done. And forget about fighting it. This is one of the most exciting spectator sports events of the year. Literally millions will watch the country’s best college basketball teams fight for dominance and the chance to become this year’s NCAA champion.

But there’s more to learn here than the game of basketball. You can pick up many valuable leadership lessons from the NCAA tournament. Let’s take a look at a few of those major lessons I can share with you on leadership.

  1. Just as the morale of a basketball team must start with the coach, in business, morale must start at the top and work its way through all levels of the organization. Dispassionate leaders pass their lack of engagement onto their staffs, and that sets the stage for high employee turnover. Employees, like basketball players, respond to leaders who infuse their own level of passion into their teams, resulting in improved workplace engagement and productivity.Fortunately, work passion is an achievable, do-it-yourself process. Always remember that it must be self-initiated. On the basketball court, no player has been tasked with the job of pleasing the coach. The same holds true in business. It’s your job as leader to make it happen.
  2. Basketball players learn quickly from their coaches that attitude is everything. Successful leaders, like basketball coaches, are ambitious and self-motivated. They wake up each morning with a positive attitude that carries them throughout the rest of the day.Each leader at work has a similar choice. We can either wake up with a positive attitude or grumble and groan with a negative attitude. I look at it this way: If I wake up above ground in the morning and can see myself in the mirror, I’m positive. Positive attitudes can take us a long way; leaders with positive attitudes can take everybody else around them on the same journey. They’re the pied piper of business.

    Success requires a whatever-it-takes attitude; whatever it takes to get the job done, within ethical business constraints. There are no shortcuts. Ethical business constraints is a key term because we‘ve witnessed, over the last few years, despicable behavior, with the fall of Anderson, Enron, and many other companies.

  3. Development is another key to keeping promising basketball players engaged and motivated. The same holds true in business. By encouraging and providing ongoing personnel development, you create a pipeline of talented people who are full of ideas, thoughts, and inspiration. This sends a strong, motivating message to each employee: We care and we’re willing to invest in you. You’ll then be rewarded with tremendous engagement and enthusiasm, positioning your organization as an employer of choice.
  4. On the basketball court and in business, teams fail when players lack the time and training required to complete their assignments. As leader of your organization, here’s how to prevent it: Perform a reality check. Ask yourself how much time and how much training your people need to fulfill the demands you place on them. Next, determine whether your team, based on members’ experience levels, requires more, less, or the same amount of time and training. Seek input from team members, asking them to honestly assess how long specific components of the task will take. Your goal is to develop an accurate, realistic timeline.
  5. Team captains in basketball and in business should be one of the most respected members of the group. If you have chosen a team captain in your organization to lead a task, allow this person to delegate responsibilities as he or she sees fit. Make sure the captain knows the difference between delegation and abdication. The team captain’s job is to set the vision, delineate strategies (often with the help of other team members), and provide the conditions and support needed for success.As for autonomy, don‘t micromanage your team (or team captain). Give members an attainable goal and enough autonomy to complete it. Monitor progress, but avoid being overly intrusive. You’re a manager—not a babysitter.

    Let team members feel empowered enough to embrace responsibilities and enjoy a sense of ownership. Remind the team that you are available if anyone needs a consultation.

  6. Before a successful basketball coach blames individual players for failing to handle his position well, he needs to assess first whether he fulfilled his responsibilities. No different in business. Did you, leader of your organization, clearly explain your goals and expectations? Did you communicate effectively? Did you ask team members to describe, in their own words, their perceived role in completion of the task? Did you regularly check in with team members to ensure they were on the right course? Did you follow up, as necessary? Did you inspire them? Building high-performing teams requires open communication, constructive dialogue, cooperation, and appreciation of what each person brings to the team.

Now, let’s get back to March Madness. What are your final four choices?

Jeff Wolf is the author of Seven Disciplines of a Leader and founder and president of Wolf Management Consultants, LLC, a premier global consulting firm that specializes in helping people, teams and organizations achieve maximum effectiveness. A dynamic speaker and highly requested executive coach, he was named one of the country’s top 100 thought leaders by the prestigious Leadership Excellence Magazine. (858) 638-8260

Motivate and Inspire People

According to a recent Gallup Business Journal article: only 30% of American workers…were engaged, or involved in, enthusiastic about, and committed to their workplace. An alarming 70% are not showing up to work committed to delivering their best performance, and this has serious implications for the bottom line of individual companies and the U.S. economy as a whole.

Leaders Discuss Motivation

How can leaders best motivate employees? Here are some answers, expressed in their own words:

  • “Great leaders facilitate, they don’t command or control like infantry officers in combat. Even under those dire circumstances, great infantry officers understand how to motivate troops. They recognize the need for discipline, but the best of them temper it through motivational techniques. So, why do some business leaders feel the compunction to act as infantry officers (as they see them)? It’s ego, pure and simple. And, in the long run, it doesn’t work. Great leaders understand that facilitation is the key to motivating employees.”
  • “Continuous learning is the foundation for improvement and the cornerstone of motivation. When employees learn, they grow, and when they grow they are motivated to do better jobs, to engage, to participate, to be part of the team. Learning is an inclusive experience that brings everybody into the fold.”
  • “You’ll really see the effects of motivation in periods of crisis. That’s when a motivated team pulls together, and their combined strength is mighty powerful. It’s equivalent to synergism, where one plus one equals three. Without that motivation you don’t have engagement, and when you don’t have engagement, results seldom exceed mediocrity.”
  • “Contrary to what some leaders believe, compassionate management isn’t for sissies. It doesn’t mean abandoning performance standards at the expense of placating employees. It does mean empathizing with people who have problems by driving to the core reasons for those problems and providing employees with the tools to fix those problems. Compassionate management, in that sense, is a potent motivational tool.”
  • “Never underestimate the effect your bearing, your facial expressions, how you walk and behave, has on employees. If you hold yourself erect, maintain a calm demeanor, keep the expression on your face consistent, and walk with a sense of purpose, even under the most stressful circumstances, it will spill over to employees, from workers through executives, and motivate them to face their problems with a sense of purpose and resolve.”
  • “Motivation doesn’t work when you have the wrong people working for you. Highly effective leaders hire outstanding performers, place them in the right jobs, empower them, and watch as they accomplish great things.”
  • “Successful leaders never accept the status quo. They continually ask questions and seek answers and alternatives that are thoroughly explored. This is the kind of intellect that identifies hard-thinking employees and gives them the opportunity to excel.”
  • “It’s difficult to let go, to assign employees the responsibility to what you now do. But if want a highly motivated workforce, that’s exactly what you must do. You’ll be amazed at what people accomplish when they’re given both the authority and responsibility for their work.”
  • “True leaders meet problems head on. They don’t evade, delay, avoid, and make excuses. Their ability to see things clearly, to possess the fortitude to accept responsibility, sends a clear message throughout the organization and motivates employees to do the same.”
  • “One of the most destructive influences in a company is politics that flourishes unchecked. When employees see that real achievements take a backseat to fawning, servility, and insincere flattery, their motivation goes into free fall. When you find a successful leader know that they have eliminated that pernicious influence.”
  • “In the successful company, its leaders have curbed the need to extract as much as possible from employees and replaced it with the need to instill value in them.”
  • “One of the greatest tests of any leader is the ability to identify the strengths and weaknesses of employees and find ways to place them in jobs that magnify those strengths and minimizes weaknesses.”

by Jeff Wolf

Contact us today to discuss our leadership development programs, executive coaching or to have nationally acclaimed speaker and award winning author Jeff Wolf speak at your next meeting, conference or convention: 858-638-8260 or

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