Getting What You Want Through a Proven Leadership System

Introduction and Background to our new Blog

…A Proven System for Optimizing Productivity and Profit

Staying Competitive in a Changing World

Have you ever wondered how effective you are as a leader of your company, department, or team? Do you have tools or methods that you use to evaluate the qualities, strategies, or processes you bring to that leadership position? If you could isolate a few key elements—ones that could help you strengthen and build your company or team into the future—would you want to learn how to use them to enhance your company and your own career?

These critical elements exist, and we will show you how to put them to work for you.

We’re referring to the ability to envision your company’s potential and to recognize what needs to change in order to achieve your goals for the future. Such change begins with identifying what you need More of, what you need to do Better, and what needs to be Different about your operation.

As a leader, to get the results you want you need a system that helps you move effectively and consistently from ideas and desired outcomes to actual results. This system has to include practices and tools you can use to describe what you want the company to be, to set the goals that will get you there, and to develop the plan to achieve those goals. It begins with your commitment to move beyond the status quo.

Someone happy with the status quo typically doesn’t hold a leadership role—at least not for the long term. To these people, everything looks fine as it is. Why waste the effort, they ask, on a future that may never materialize? Effective leaders, however, see what’s working, what’s not, and what could be. They understand that the status quo can lead to complacency. They make an effort to listen and look for what might be going wrong, where there might be opportunities for improvement, what advantages might be gained by doing something different. These leaders want more for their companies—and for themselves. They envision the desired future condition, design a path to its attainment, and set out on that path to attain their goals.

but here’s the problem. According to highly successful corporate consultant and lecturer at Stanford University Mark Morgan, et al., in the book Executing Your Strategy, “Business schools unleash throngs of aspiring strategists and big-picture thinkers into the corporate world every year. Yet studies have found that less than 10 percent of effectively formulated strategies carry through to successful implementation.” 1   Why does this happen?

The Challenge of Leadership

Leaders and managers responsible for producing through the efforts of those who report to them face a variety of challenges. They typically point to things like misunderstanding, misplaced self-interest, and failure to follow through. They need to know how to motivate various kinds of employees with varying agendas. They may be frustrated at having to deal with frequent breakdowns, “blown hand-offs,” or a failure to collaborate, all of which can lead to confrontations, missed deliveries, or unhappy customers.

In some cases, companies are moving so fast that leaders are continually “fighting fires” and feel they have no time to step back, analyze what we call the Now situation, develop a plan for the Future, and then effectively implement that plan. Others fail to recognize the importance of “taking the time” to envision the future, or they lack the confidence to develop a strong plan that will carry them through to implementation. Some find it difficult to focus beyond day-to-day problems and breakdowns. Too often they struggle with balancing their attention between daily operational hurdles and long-term strategic direction.


We believe these leaders need a new approach. To that end, we have devoted much of our 25 years of coaching, consulting, and managing to the observation and examination of today’s challenges and the development of practical, reliable, real-world solutions. Our intent has been to put together a system of complementary and integrated skills, tools, practices, operating agreements, and interactions that will help leaders create a more effective working environment and achieve the outcomes they envision for their companies. What we have to offer, we believe, is a new approach: a pathway developed in increments over time and tested against real workplace situations and challenges.

Why Traditional Approaches Are Inadequate

For decades, businesses leaders have sought “solutions” to behavioral and operational problems through corporate training initiatives, management skills workshops, and how-to books. But such mediums often categorize behaviors (communicating, influencing, resolving conflict, etc.) and thus address only pieces of the problem at a time. This organizational approach makes it easier for trainers to teach new behaviors, but it also means that leaders and trainees may focus more on these individual elements and behaviors and lose sight of what the system as a whole is intended to achieve for the organization.

Programs that seek to support more long-term and sweeping changes are often large and complex, and the overall vision may be difficult to communicate clearly to frontline workers. Buy-in becomes an issue, as does the ability to keep the long-term outcome in sight while implementing the details of day-to-day process improvements. What many programs lack is a clear system of flexible yet disciplined and applicable behaviors, skills, interactions, and practices that overlay all corporate behavior and that weave seamlessly from the production line to the executive offices. As a result, successful change achieved in one department or on one level is not always matched by similar and parallel changes throughout the organization.

In our work advising and coaching leaders in a variety of companies, we have observed the breakdowns, “blown hand-offs,” and failures to collaborate that frustrate leaders every day. Over the years, leaders at all levels have asked us:

  • How can we keep up with the competition we’re facing?
  • How can I know when my strategy is not working … sooner rather than later?
  • What can I do to get visibility into all my projects, initiatives, and processes without micro-managing?
  • If execution is 90 percent people and 10 percent technical, how do I deal effectively with the 90 percent?
  • How do I bridge the chasm between my commitments and my employees’ reliability in doing the things they promise to do?

In attempting to address these concerns, we came to understand that the management paradigm from which many leaders were operating no

longer served them the way it had in the past. Rather, we needed new tools and practices to address these concerns. And we needed to incorporate them in an effective management model or system for getting things done.

What We Have Learned

As our corporate consulting services moved us in and out of large, medium, and small companies, we found that most organizations experience similar issues around producing and executing on goals and strategy. We learned that management science—the current accepted systems and processes that inform leaders on how to get results—has not kept up with the complexity, issues, and attitudes that leaders now face.

The nature of work today calls for new perspectives and new practices that have not always been taught or institutionalized. Over time, we began to see that if companies were to succeed and grow in this competitive, ever-changing environment, their leaders would have to be exposed to a new system and would need to master new tools and develop new ways of working with and through others.

Ironically, one of the problems that we didn’t see at first was that we were operating from the same “broken” leadership model as our clients and were therefore having difficulty delivering the results we had promised. Our inability to resolve their issues satisfactorily led to our being as frustrated as they were.

Early on in his career as a consultant, for example, Lauridsen promised to work with a CEO’s executives to help them better solve problems and improve work processes and relationships. He experienced his own breakdown, however, when several managers routinely failed to show up for their weekly coaching session despite having committed to do so.

Frustrated, Lauridsen sat in an office at one of his client’s sites trying to determine what had gone wrong and what, if anything, he could do about it. In that unforgettable moment he understood that managers had certain kinds of powers that he did not have at his disposal. In a hierarchical system, a manager assesses and rates his or her people, influences decisions regarding pay and position, and often has the right to promote, transfer, or fire someone. Managers can make something happen by telling someone to do something, and consequences and consequences loom behind this strong request for action.

As a consultant, however, no power of this nature rested with Lauridsen. There were no immediate or apparent consequences for employees’ failing to respond to his requests or suggestions. In fact, he did not even have the right to make requests. Nor could he strongly encourage or demand that anyone cooperate or collaborate with him. Even so, he was charged with achieving a specific result for the organization, and that outcome required people’s cooperation. Promises had been made, he was getting paid, but he couldn’t get key people to meet with him.

With this realization, it dawned on him why, in previous engagements, he had not gotten the results he intended. With that knowledge, he began to design a system that fostered cooperation and collaboration and that insisted on people supporting one another. The system also allowed him to get the support he needed in order to deliver on promises to the leader who had hired him. Finally, Lauridsen was able to bottle up the entire process, turn it into a program of skills he could deliver, and share it with leaders and managers who, he had discovered, were as frustrated as he was about not achieving intended results.

After a few similar experiences, Lauridsen and his consulting staff realized that to help clients (and themselves, as it turned out), they needed to design a teachable process that leaders could follow to set direction, establish goals, and execute on achieving those goals. The process would have to guide leaders through the effort of translating top-level concepts into understandable actions that ultimately delivered customer delight, worker satisfaction, and company profit.

Not everything the consultants tried was successful. Not all techniques worked in all environments. Yet, gradually, they found reliable methods and solutions. They began to see some tools working consistently. They observed leaders who, by employing the skills they had learned, felt empowered to diagnose problems and to apply solutions.

With lessons learned in previous failures and a sizable accumulation of observations and shared communications from clients, Lauridsen and his staff created the first versions of a high-performance productivity system that they could share with managers. Feedback from clients helped them improve the system so that it would address today’s unique leadership and managerial challenges from a new perspective. One client, Carl Reinhardt,

began to see the competitive advantage of the system being applied at his company and suggested collaborating on a book. The result is this blend of Lauridsen’s 25 years of corporate consulting experience and Reinhardt’s 25 years of leading several companies, including taking his financial firm to $3 billion in assets under management.

Reinhardt is himself no stranger to the perils of the status quo. Having reached the top of his field with his firm of financial advisors, he understands that change often gives rise to feelings of vulnerability that not only hit leaders on the inside as worry and insecurity, but that also pose real threats to a company’s continued viability and success. Reinhardt experienced this twice in his own management career. The first occurred when his firm switched from commission payouts to fee generation: a change that caused him and his partners to endure two years without income. A second period of no income followed his decision to leave his position as a top executive in order to start an investment planning firm with his wife as his only employee. To keep their business viable, neither of them drew a salary until they secured an established clientele.

Through both these experiences, Reinhardt found that staying focused on the purpose behind the change and on the desire for a new Now was critical in developing and implementing an effective plan for the Future. He realized that leaders who want—or need—to change their Now situation have to first inventory the present situation and then start the commitment process to analyze where they want to be in the future. Once they set the direction, they need the passion to keep going, knowing and believing that the future will ultimately become a new and better Now. For Reinhardt, putting together teams of capable and creative people, working in alignment with everyone, and moving toward the envisioned Future with integration and accountability have played critical roles in keeping his firm in positive territory and at the top of its field.

Similarly, the productivity system that had its beginning in Lauridsen’s earlier work has proved its value for leaders again and again. With each application, the authors have made new observations and polished their approach, learning more about how well the overall elements adapt to the specific needs and goals of each company that implements them. Their purpose in writing this book is to share with you a proven system of leadership for those working in the role of producer. Recognizing and

understanding the critical but often overlooked role of leader as producer, or the executor of strategy, is where this book begins.

How to Increase Control Over Intended Outcomes

Consider that the professional outcomes you are getting now are appropriate to the system you have in place and to the systems that may exist in your environment. Our purpose in writing this book is to show you how to increase your control over those outcomes.  Our system offers a new perspective on how work gets done and thereby optimizes the odds that what you intend to accomplish will actually happen. In that sense, it is about power. Not the kind of power associated with domination, but the power of getting done what you say you will get done through the contributions of others.

The system’s three key elements are these:

1. NOW (Circle 1)

Your journey begins with an objective reality check of the present or “Now Situation” for your business or for you as a leader in an organization. After you have determined the present situation of your business, or yourself as an owner or leader, we’ll guide you into Circle 2, which we call the Future.

2. The FUTURE (Circle 2)

In Circle 2 you begin addressing your desired Future by determining what you really intend to accomplish. You learn a simple, proven methodology that positions you for action. Then we focus on the generation of results that happens in Circle 3, the Doing.

3. The DOING (Circle 3)

Finally, in Circle 3 you have a methodology of Doing (taking action) that provides a step-by-step system for moving things forward and getting things done, whether you work alone or must depend on others for the execution of tasks and assignments.

You can use this Three-Circle Process throughout your career to continuously assess, update, and fine tune your business or your career as a leader. The process also helps you stay in alignment with your own and your customers’ and clients’ intentions and expectations.

The system we’ll be sharing in the blog is simple and transformational. It is not a disconnected set of tips and advice, but rather a complete, proven system for increasing strategy-focused productivity and innovation. Over time, we followed “star leaders,” observing their interactions (conversations and other actions). We found that while they were successful in transforming their strategy into results, they often could not tell us what they were doing. Since they were unable to articulate their productivity system, they were largely unable to train or cascade their competence to others who, as a result, remained “less competent” and often distinctly annoying to the top leaders.

Our intention here is to share the system we’ve developed in a way that will allow you to both learn and articulate what you are doing as a leader in the role of planner and producer so that you are then able to train others. To accomplish this, we will delve into each of the elements of our strategy-focused, high-performance commitment system. You will begin to see how the complementary nature of the system’s elements acts to leverage the effectiveness of its tools and methods. You will find here a system and specific steps you can use to:

  1. Set clear goals that your people agree to and stick with
  2. Set up an environment that fosters collaboration and accountability
  3. Reliably identify what works and what doesn’t in a snap
  4. Know what to do with breakdowns in delivery—right now
  5. Know how to take care of your own as well as your people’s satisfaction and vitality in the process

Down the road a bit you will understand how the system provides both an individual and a corporate competitive advantage. You will see how it can impact your present and future success.

How to Read the Blog

The blog is basically divided into three sections, as follows:

  1. 1. Determining the present situation—your Now—and identifying both opportunities and weak points for improvement
  2. 2. Planning a strategy that leads to actionable projects intended to produce desired outcomes—your Future
  3. 3. Getting those projects done—the Doing

A truly good leader can never know too much about what goes into determining the most effective means for setting and implementing goals. Although we know this, we had serious concerns that the Now and Future sections of the blog, which address transforming ideas and goals for the future into projects, would be viewed as “not in touch” with our audience and perhaps overly simplified? After all, everyone knows about goals and projects. Why would anyone read that stuff?

Yet, as we traveled the country and worked with all levels of leaders, we repeatedly encountered situations in which leaders did indeed “know” the terminology but were not, in fact, creating clear goals and projects that focused people’s energy and gained their commitment. Interestingly, those leaders with higher levels of experience and knowledge actually became our strongest advocates for revisiting in this book the goal-setting portion of the system.

That said, welcome to our leadership system. Let’s get started working from you’re NOW to your FUTURE covering the following in our first blogs:

  1. Working in and Working on the Business
  2. Your Now Situation
  3. MBDs into the Future: From Ideas to Goals

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