Sunday, September 26, 2010

The Power of Impact Leaders; How Little Things Make a Big Difference

It’s the little details that are vital. Little things make big things happen.
- John Wooden

I recently came across a story by Robert McGarvey about former NBA coach Pat Riley. He shares that when Riley coached the Los Angeles Lakers from 1982 to 1990, the team won four NBA Championships. In taking over the New York Knicks in 1991, Riley inherited a team with a losing record. But the Knicks seemed able to play above their abilities and even gave the eventual champions, the Chicago Bulls, their hardest competition in the playoffs.

McGarvey writes that Riley attributed his success to paying attention to detail. For example, every NBA team studies videotape and compiles statistics to evaluate players’ game and performances. But Riley’s use of these tools is more comprehensive than that of his rivals. “We measure areas of performance that are often ignored: jumping in pursuit of every rebound even if you don’t get it, swatting at every pass, diving for loose balls, letting someone smash into you in order to draw a foul,” says Riley.

After each game, the “effort” statistics are punched into a computer. “Effort,” Riley explains, “is what ultimately separates journeyman players from impact players. Knowing how well a player executes all these little things is the key to unlocking career best performances.”

Like Coach Riley, impact leaders understand that it is by attention to the little details that you and your team go from journeymen to impact players. A Persian Proverb says, “Do little things now; so shall big things come to thee by and by asking to be done.” Great things await the leader who prevails in overcoming the small things. Here are three details that impact leaders perfect to become the best and move the organization forward.

Impact leaders communicate vision. George Bernard Shaw said, “The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.” Impact leaders will not leave to chance that the vision of the company has been clearly communicated and that everyone is on board with its execution.

The implementation of the corporate vision is completed by team members who have the trust and confidence of their leader. John Kotter said, “People are more inclined to be drawn in if their leader has a compelling vision. Great leaders help people get in touch with their own aspirations and then will help them forge those aspirations into a personal vision.” And this is the secret of impact leaders who communicate vision.

Impact leaders create a culture of growth. When a culture of growth is encouraged within your organization it unleashes the creative talent your team members bring to the table. John Maxwell said, “No matter what level you’re on, leadership skills are needed at that level. Each new level requires a higher degree of skill. Your best chance of making it into the next level of “league play” is to grow on the current level so that you will be able to go to the next level.”

When impact leaders provide opportunities for personal growth within the organization it is laying the foundation for the whole team to shine. Billy Hornsby said, “It’s okay to let those you lead outshine you, for if they shine brightly enough they will reflect positively on you.” Organizational growth is achieved when the personal growth of the team becomes a priority.

Impact leaders are relationship builders. An antiquated leadership style would suggest a more fragmented practice and understanding of the power of relationships. In this structure team members are viewed suspiciously, the flow of information is selective, and trust is a far-fetched reality.

Mark Sanborn writes, “Everyday we interact with dozens of people. Often those interactions are fleeting and unmemorable. Freds, however, don’t use people as a means to an end; they use relationships to build a foundation for success. They understand that all outcomes are created by and through interactions with others. So they become students of social psychology. They understand that strong relationships create loyalty and are the basis of partnerships and teamwork.”

Impact leaders are committed to communicating vision, creating a culture of growth, and are relationship builders. As impact leaders focus on these details they create an environment in which the organization can prosper. Are you paying attention to the little details?

© 2010 Doug Dickerson

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