Leadership Excellence — The Encore Leader
By: Mark Sanborn
What if . . . ?
What if a CEO or organization leader had such a reputation for effectiveness as a leader-manager that she never had to go looking for new employees? There was always a long line of job applicants ready to do whatever it took to work for her. (Example: In 2006 Google received one million job applications and made 5,000 hires.)
What if a speaker was known for making such engaging and entertaining presentations that people had to be turned away every time he spoke due to lack of space? (Example: If you want to attract a standing-room-only crowd, just announce that the speaker will be Pat Summitt, long-time coach of the championship Lady Vols basketball team at the University of Tennessee.)
What if a teacher was so extraordinary that many of her students stayed after school for tutoring, not because they needed to but because they wanted to? (This happens to teachers like Jaime Escalente, subject of the film Stand and Deliver, who changed the lives of his inner-city student's at East L.A.'s Garfield High School.)
Now let's make it personal:
What if you were so good at your work, such an asset to your company, such a remarkable leader that your boss or board of directors would do almost anything not to lose you to a competitor?
What makes a leader remarkable-or anyone else for that matter-is when he or she knows how to get people to demand more and more of what they do. I call that The Encore Effect.
You've seen an encore. In fact, you've probably been partially responsible for a few. You are so moved by a performance that you, along with the rest of the clapping, cheering, "Bravo!"-yelling, bouquet-tossing crowd absolutely refuse to let the artist leave. You don't just want more of the performance you witnessed-you're demanding it.
Leadership is a performance, and that makes you an artist. I don't mean "artist" in the traditional sense like a singer or musician or actor. But you do have a stage. Your stage is an office, a sales floor, a pulpit, a classroom, a government agency, hospital or other workplace. The stage on which you perform everyday can just as likely be the scene of an encore performance as any concert hall in the world.
So how do you create an Encore Performance?
Recognize that not everything a leader does needs to be remarkable. Encore performance should be targeted toward the important things. Filling out an expense report needs to be done accurately and on time, but not remarkably.
To be remarkable, begin by identifying the aspects of your performance you want to make truly remarkable and memorable. Once you've done that, you can apply the process I've written about in my new book, The Encore Effect: How to Give a Remarkable Performance in Anything You Do. The following is a summary overview:
Passion is the fuel for encore performances. We've heard musicians play each note technically correctly but felt that something was lacking in the performance. What was lacking was passion. Technical competency gets it right but passion makes it remarkable.
You might not be passionate about every aspect of your performance as a leader. Here's good news: passion can come from not only what you do, but how you do it and for whom you do it-coworkers, clients, shareholders, family and/or the community. That means you've got three potential wells of passion to draw from.
In my work I've observed that many leaders fail for lack of passion, or for denying their true passion. Where is your passion? You can only become remarkable by using authentic passion to infuse your performance; otherwise what you attempt will be acceptable or maybe even very good, but not extraordinary. Passion is not only the fuel that drives remarkable performance, it is the essence of emotional connection.
Preparation I believe remarkable performances are created in the preparation and practice. There are lots of things in life you can't control, but preparation isn't one of them. The great performers spend more time thinking about and planning every detail and nuance of their performance. "Winging it" is for amateurs (and, by the way, a great leader who appears to be winging it is actually drawing on years of experience and expertise). Preparation can almost guarantee a remarkable performance when done well.
Preparation can be relatively dull but the results are remarkable. What is done behind the scenes shows up when you take the stage.
Practice Fifteen minutes a day. That's the difference between Olympic athletes who win a medal and those who don't according to gymnastic medalist Peter Vidmar. Everyone must practice extensively to reach the Olympics, but the medalist invests just a little more time.
Business is one of the few performance areas often devoid of practice. Professional athletes spend more time practicing than playing (and that's one reason the sports analogy is incomplete when applied to business).
The problem is that most business leaders neither make time to practice nor know how to do it. Most "practice," loosely defined, happens "in play:" we get a little better each time we do something, but we're doing it in front of our audience, not on any practice field. I recommend you practice "off field" as well. Look for opportunities to rehearse and practice key skills before you employ them with your audience.
You can dramatically improve your performance by understanding the SCALES: Summarize Critical Activities and Learn Essential Skills. Some of the critical activities of leadership include persuading, vision-casting, coaching, communicating and executing. That may not be an exhaustive list, but the point is that these activities require certain skills which you can develop and improve with practice.
Performance This is where preparation and practice pay off. They allow you to go beyond simply interacting with your audience members to engaging them.
Engaging your audience — your colleague or customer — is about capturing his or her imagination and compelling them to take appropriate action.
Engagement is interactive. Remarkable leaders don't only change what people think, they change what people do as a result.
Leaders tell me that the hardest job they face is finding and keeping good employees. That may be difficult, but there is something even harder: engaging the good employees you've found and kept. I'd choose a good employee who is engaged over a great employee who is disengaged any day.
Polish The truly great performers are those who are always getting better. Good enough is never good enough; they keep polishing and improving every aspect of what they do so that their next performance is even more remarkable than their last.
Pitfalls These are the things that can kill a remarkable performance. Encore performers in any walk of life anticipate pitfalls and take steps to to avoid them or they prepare for pitfalls they can't control so they know what to do when they happen.
For example: when is the best time to get good media training? Before you suffer a public relations crisis at your organization. Unfortunately, we treat pitfalls much like alarm systems that get purchased after the break-in.
There is a final mark of extraordinary leadership. Ultimately, what makes a leader most remarkable is his or her ability to develop other remarkable leaders. That means not only understanding and using The Encore Effect process for yourself, but sharing it by encouraging and coaching others to do the same.
Your goal and mine should be to have people shouting for more of whatever it is we do. The world is desperately looking for those remarkable leaders who can make a bigger, better difference, produce results, and have such a positive impact, that followers demand an encore.
And that person can be you.
About the Author
Mark Sanborn is an award-winning speaker, bestselling author and president of Sanborn & Associates, Inc., an idea lab for leadership development. For an Encore Effect assessment and other free resources, visit www.TheEncoreEffect.com
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