by Jim Clemmer
"To be good is noble, but to teach others how to be good is nobler and less trouble." - Mark Twain
A woman was asked why she was wearing her wedding band on the wrong finger. "Because I married the wrong man," she snapped. Before we make a commitment to spend time together, let's make sure this book is the right fit for you. If you're trying to change and improve a team, business, or large organization, then we're off to a good start. Where you are in the organization is less important than what you are. You need to be (or strongly aspire to become) a leader. Now that doesn't mean you must have a "leadership" job in the traditional management sense. Rather, it means you are trying to initiate and guide change and improvement in a team, business, or organization.
But before you try to change anyone else, you've got to change yourself. Self-leadership is at the heart of effectively leading others. Self-improvement is the beginning point to team or organization improvement. If that sounds as if I've been bungee jumping with a cord that was just a little too long, then we clearly aren't right for each other.
"What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us." - Ralph Waldo Emerson
This book is a result of my continuing quest to combine, compress, and connect the key principles and practices that lead to ever higher team, business, and organization performance. My first book (written with Art McNeil), The VIP Strategy: Leadership Skills for Exceptional Performance, outlined (and explained how to develop) many of the interpersonal communication, coaching, team, and cultural skills used by exceptional leaders to improve their organization's performance. My second book (written with Barry Sheehy), Firing on All Cylinders: The Service/Quality System for High-Powered Corporate Performance, outlined the strategic organizational tools and techniques of customer service improvement. After completing my third book, I debated its title with the Canadian (Macmillan of Canada) and U.S. (Irwin Professional Publishing) publishers. We decided to call it Firing on All Cylinders since the first edition was never published in the United States and the Implementation Architecture (or "cylinder model") still formed the book's central framework. However, the second edition of Firing on All Cylinders was substantially larger and broader than the first edition. It outlined in much greater depth the implementation tools and techniques of service/quality improvement, building a team-based organization, and process management.
Pathways to Performance cuts through the "labelism," jargon, buzzwords, and narrower tools of excellence, customer service, quality, benchmarking, continuous improvement, empowerment, teams, reengineering, process improvement, and the like to identify the underlying performance principles of successful organization change and improvement. The results of those efforts hinge on the leadership skills and personal effectiveness of the people leading and implementing them. So the book draws from and combines the fundamental principles underlying organization improvement, leadership development, and personal effectiveness.
Many of the issues and principles I will touch on throughout Pathways to Performance aren't new. In fact, they've been with us for decades, if not centuries. But we continually need to rediscover them for ourselves, repackage them for our time, and make them relevant for today's circumstances or sets of problems. In writing this book, as in most of my work, I am not driven by what's new as much as I am pulled toward what works. When it comes to dealing with personal and people issues, the fundamentals of what works have remained fairly constant through the years.
If we continue to spend time together, you'll be hearing these core themes many times in the pages ahead:
The themes just listed are expanded on in Chapters 1 to 4. Chapter 1 discusses the nature of change and how you might approach, anticipate, and welcome (but not manage) it. Chapter 2 lists the reasons improvement efforts often fail, reasons that reside in the misuse of tools and techniques for improvement. Chapter 3 focuses on leadership its task of managing paradox and on performance as a balance of technology, systems and processes, and people. It introduces the management-leadership balance found throughout the rest of this book. Chapter 4 provides the starting point of leadership self-leadership. Once these themes have been developed, Chapter 5 maps out the path the rest of the book will take.
Experience is a comb that nature gives us when we are bald. - Chinese proverb
Pathways to Performance flows from three paths of my intense study and experience in organization improvement, leadership development, and personal effectiveness. A brief look at these will help you understand "where I'm coming from." You'll also understand the performance and improvement biases I've developed and tried my best to embed in this book.
I've often been asked how long it took me to write a particular book. This one has taken more than 20 years. That's when I first began studying and applying the personal effectiveness principles found here.
I was raised on a dairy farm in the 1960s near a town so small that its only heavy industry was a farm equipment welding shop and a 300-pound encyclopedia salesman. My father taught (and especially modeled) the values of hard work and self-sufficiency. He had an eighth-grade education and planned for me to take over the family farm, so learning, personal development, and higher education weren't important. But my mother nurtured in me a deep love of reading. I did well in grade school, but was a C student in high school until I completely lost interest and dropped out at the end of tenth grade, when I was sixteen.
In 1974, after two years of working in a local grocery store, I took a job with Culligan Water Conditioning selling water treatment equipment. I was eighteen, and I discovered an exciting new world. The doors to that world opened when I took a Dale Carnegie improvement course and read Claude Bristol's 1950s bestseller, TNT: The Power Within You. I began to understand and apply the principles of personal development and visioning and many of the others you'll find in Chapters 4 to 9 and sprinkled through the rest of the book. I started my monthly subscription to Success magazine (which I still get today) and began studying personal development books by Napoleon Hill, Dale Carnegie, Zig Ziglar, Og Mandino, Wayne Dyer, and others. I listened to audiotapes by Earl Nightingale (and many others) in my car to and from my office and in between sales calls. I also took every personal effectiveness, communications, sales, and management course Dale Carnegie offered and began to help teach them.
At nineteen I became a Culligan sales manager and began studying and applying many of the leadership and personal development principles introduced in Chapters 3 and 4 and embedded throughout this book. The power of these principles, tools, and skills propelled me rapidly through a successful series of training and general management positions at Culligan. I continued my personal development through evening classes to finish high school and university business, writing, communications, and liberal arts courses.
By 1980, I was running one of Culligan's largest company-owned branches with full profit and loss responsibilities in the same way the company's franchised operations were managed by their owners. The organization improvement, leadership development, and personal effectiveness principles I had been studying and applying worked so successfully that I began to look for ways to help others learn and use them. I started by researching the consulting and training field in my university's library. I then began a series of interviewing and exploration discussions with companies in the field.
Early in 1981, I connected with Art McNeil. He had just started a company he called "Achieve Enterprises." One of the first training programs he offered after moving from his basement to a shared office was SUPERVISION from California-based Zenger-Miller, Inc. I found the people skills, values, and practical approach offered by SUPERVISION powerful and exciting. It was a combination of that program, the opportunity to help thousands improve their personal and organizational performance, and the attraction of owning (Art offered to sell me shares in Achieve) and managing a company with such an exciting future that convinced me to get off my fast Culligan career track, take a drop in pay, and join Achieve.
From 1981 to 1991, when Art and I sold The Achieve Group to Zenger-Miller, revenues mushroomed and multiplied many times over. Using the principles and approaches outlined in this book, we had become the largest "strategic consulting/training" company in Canada. Many of our competitors either scaled back or closed down their Canadian operations, and many of their managers applied to us for jobs.
Achieve's growth is modest compared to that of the legendary companies that hit hundreds of millions or even billions of dollars in revenues within their first 10 years. But it was just successful enough to induce me to further develop my personal experiences and applications of the principles that have found their way into this book. We did well and built a strong organization. But during those 10 years we also almost went bankrupt, missed payrolls, lived off our credit cards, invested heavily in products that didn't sell, hired the wrong people, created a bureaucratic maze of interconnected companies, and made a bunch of dumb moves. So I've got just enough entrepreneurial experience to make me dangerous. In the pages ahead, I'll use some of those Achieve experiences to provide a few firsthand illustrations of the agony and ecstasy found in the concepts we'll be exploring.
Living through the sale and merger of Achieve to Zenger-Miller (which is in turn owned by Times-Mirror Training Group) helped me get an up-close and personal understanding of the challenges that mergers, acquisitions, and culture change bring. Watching the company you raised being managed differently by someone else is very difficult. It's probably like trying to live with one of your married kids. The dynamics of your control or influence in their daily decisions and the new life and routines they've developed are now very different. That's one of the key reasons I moved back out on my own and formed The Clemmer Group at the beginning of 1994.
A Student of Organization Change and Improvement
In the early 1980s my attention was focused on establishing Achieve and carving out a presence in the very crowded leadership skill training market. In 1983, Zenger-Miller and Achieve worked with Tom Peters as his and Bob Waterman's book In Search of Excellence was gaining momentum. Our work with Tom to develop an executive action planning process built on the excellence principles was another personal turning point. I now had just enough experience with leadership skill development to understand how hard (nearly impossible) it was to sustain new behaviors if the culture didn't encourage or reinforce the new skills. The "Toward Excellence" process that emerged from our work with Tom introduced strategic keys to culture change, participation and involvement, delegating autonomy ("empowerment" later became the popular label), service and quality improvement, innovation, and system alignment. The excellence principles of vision, values, service, participation, and innovation also meshed with what I'd learned from my previous 10 years of work on personal effectiveness.
In 1984, the work with Toward Excellence kicked off an intense period of personal study, writing (dozens of articles, columns, and three books), and speaking on leadership development and organization improvement that continues to this day. I developed an extensive filing system to catalog and easily retrieve the articles I had (and continue to save) from Fortune, Harvard Business Review, Training, and many other magazines and newsletters. My expanding library contains hundreds of books I continue to use in the course of this ongoing research. I've given more than 1,200 presentations on leadership development and organization improvement. I've run nearly two hundred senior management retreats (usually two to three days in length), workshops, and seminars to help management teams understand and apply these principles and approaches. I get to see the inside of many cabs, airplanes, airports, meeting rooms, and hotel rooms. And some day I might even have half as much fun on one of these business trips as my family thinks I'm having.
This work is now my full-time job. It's coming dangerously close to being my whole life. But the main reason for telling you all this is to assure you that the principles, concepts, and suggestions contained in this book are well grounded in research and have been rigorously field tested.
How to Bend, Mutilate, and Otherwise Use this Book
We know by doing, but we don't always do by knowing.
As you'll soon discover, I've jammed as many "how to" tips and techniques into Pathways to Performance as I could without turning it into a tome that you need to put wheels on. But if all you do is read this book, I've failed. So let's start with a few suggestions for how to move this book beyond what I hope is "a good read" to a catalyst for action:
The turn-of-the-century French philosopher Henri Bergson implored us to "think like someone of action, and act like someone of thought." May this book help you to contemplate and reflect on your approaches to organization improvement, leadership development, and personal effectiveness. But most of all, may it cause you to act.