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In 1492, columbus sailed the ocean blue

In 1492, Columbus sailed the ocean blue.

If you are like me, you learned that rhyme sometime in elementary school.

Specifically, Columbus left on his first voyage on August 3, 1492, sailing in search of a seagoing route from Europe to Asia with the vision of creating a trade route for spices, silk and more.

He led a crew of three ships on that voyage and, as history shows, instead found islands of North America. While not the first European to make this discovery (the Norse did it 500 years prior), it was his voyages that lead to the widespread awareness (and eventual colonization) of “the New World”.

Enough history.

I am writing about Columbus not because of his discoveries, or even his major mistakes, but because of what his life can teach every leader.

Here are five specific lessons, as valuable today as ever, that we all can take from Columbus` legendary life.

Exercise your belief. Columbus believed the earth was smaller in circumference than most did. This belief led him to the logical (based on his beliefs) assertion that within a few weeks his ships could reach Asia. While he was wrong, he built his plan based on that belief, gathered support for his plan in spite of ridicule and disbelief, and crafted a plan to test those beliefs. This is what leaders do.

When did you last exercise your beliefs in a tangible way?

Find great supporters. Columbus didn`t have the resources, power or money to put his plan into action. He tried to build support in Portugal and England, before finally persuading Ferdinand and Isabella of Spain to support his plan. Even Royalty wasn`t enough – his supporters also included a group of Italian business interests. Great leaders know they can`t do it alone, and they are persistent in building support for their visions and beliefs.

Have you created a team of supporters for your vision?

Don`t be satisfied. Columbus found land in his first voyage (what is now the Bahamas), but he didn`t find the trade route he sought. So he went again, and again and again. Ultimately he led four voyages; each finding new territory (and getting as far as Panama). While you could classify him a failure in achieving his desired goal, you can`t call him a quitter. When your vision is clear, and your belief strong, you can lead persistently.

How persistent are you? Do you lead past the first challenge or failure?

Build a plan. Columbus didn`t just go to Queen Isabella, turn on the charm, lay out some ideas and then go hop on the ship. His navigational beliefs, his travel plans, and his funding support came together over several years. The funding process alone started seven years before he sailed. Over that time he honed his plan, made adjustments, and continued to build as he brought the plan to ultimate fruition.

Do you plan? Are you willing to adjust and modify when necessary in service of your beliefs and vision?

Think bigger. In the time of Columbus you could get spices from Asia on the overland route. Before he sailed, people had even gotten there by sea by sailing around the tip of Africa. Columbus, though, thought bigger. He believed from his study and planning that he could make it directly, more quickly and more cost effectively by sailing west. He didn`t tie himself to conventional wisdom or approaches. He thought bigger. It was this bigger thinking that ultimately helped him sell his plan.

How big do you think? Are your visions large enough to captivate, persuade and engage others to follow you?

The story of Columbus proves that we can learn from events and actions from more than 500 years ago and while the context has changed, the lessons are as real and valuable as ever. The lessons are always there, when we look for them.

The other major message of this article isn`t just the lessons, but is found in the questions after each idea; questions that beg application of the lessons. Learn the lessons, but answer the questions to really bring the lessons to life for you and those you lead.

Remarkable Leaders are continually learning and practicing the lessons of Columbus, which is just one example of why learning continually is one of the competencies of The Remarkable Leadership Learning System – a one skill at a time, one month at a time approach to becoming a more confident and successful leader. You can get two months of that unique system for free as part of our Most Remarkable Free Leadership Gift Ever today at http://MostRemarkableFreeLeadershipGiftEver.com and become the leader you were born to be.

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Establishing “total quality management” in the workplace is not as easy as some assume

Establishing “Total Quality Management” in the workplace is not as easy as some assume. The idea implies action as well as quantifiable improvements in quality and service. But some implementations turn out to be entirely ineffective. One study conducted by Canada’s Conference Board revealed that about 70% of North American companies experimenting with TQM fail even to show a useful “total quality strategy.” However, TQM is not some passing fad; many companies which could benefit have yet to give the plan a real trial. Some proponents of TQM may only be making half-hearted efforts or doing what could best be described as PQM, or “Partial Quality Management.”

Lou Holtz, a football coach for Notre Dame has observed that people often say and promise more than they will actually accomplish. In spite of all the things actually “said” and promised in the form of catchy slogans, impassioned speeches, clever advertising, well-marketed videos, pressing sales pitches, pretty brochures, quality and service provided by most companies and organizations still suffers a great deal.

It can be very difficult to make the leap from PQM to TQM. It requires that your company take more action and do less talking. Some suggestions are listed here:

Involve your Senior Management! – Lip service (not even passionate) and permission are not enough. The bosses’ visible priorities become the priorities of managers and supervisors. Improvement of service, and the quality of services are often relegated from top level, to middle level – who relegates it to the bottom level. Finning, Ltd in Vancouver (largest Caterpillar dealer in the world), Jim Shepard (CEO) and the executives have taken the initiative to be the first to take all of the service and quality training that all other employees receive. Not only that, they often train and teach the sessions to their employees as well.

Teams for Support and Focus – At the center of many of today’s high-volume organizations are work groups and departmental, branch, process improvement or progress teams. Many managers make the mistake of having more teams than they are needed. Most medium and large companies cannot host more than a handful of teams in their first few years. Organizations that are ill-prepared find that their improvement teams clash with the “old guard” managers and supervisors – these employees often feel that coaches belong in sports arenas, and the term “fostering innovation” is synonymous with “If I want to hear your ideas, I will tell you what to say”. Suggestions made to realign systems that are inhibiting quality and processes that are cross-function receive a lukewarm reception at best by these “old-guard” specialists and managers that install and micromanage them.

Improved Reporting and Planning – The quality and service improvement that should be overseen with rigor and discipline, which proper business planning is all about. Supervisors with more subordinates, money and training at improving the business has little expectation. Often it ends with even less or no service or quality. A superior organization can be most effective with teamwork from management, work teams, board members or union members, with a little extra effort from the vendors or customers that will develop the quality strategy. The same effort given to financial statements should be put into quality and service ratings and the reporting system.

An indication that PQM is being implemented is the excessive reliance on a few improvement techniques and the exclusion of others. TQM on the other hand requires using a wide range of techniques, such as awareness of what constitutes excellent customer service, understanding the basic principles behind quality improvement, understanding the meaning of value and learning how to improve processes at all levels using the Xerox principle of “management based on fact”. The goal is to incorporate all of these ideas and practices into the company culture.

Improving Both Understanding and Proficiency – Employees and managers alike can learn all the book-learning they want about team direction and overseeing processes from the most charismatic of presentations, slide shows, videos, and tons of literature, but this will not teach them the more intricate skills of conflict resolution or focusing meetings. We know that having common sense and putting that common sense into practice through action are two completely different concepts. We accept this in physical fitness training, but many programs that are used for business training purposes have no effect because they only use technology geared toward educating the minds of the trainees and leaving them energized and informed but no more skilled than they were before to act on their new-found knowledge.

When performed properly, total quality management yields excellent results. Moving from a long-standing PQM system requires consistency, discipline, and breaking old habits to acquire new ones. It can be a lot like finally getting off the diet yo-yo in your personal life and just beginning healthy eating habits. Both require dedication and commitment to a permanent and significant change.

The most respected leaders in the business world are those who head up corporations with a vision

The most respected leaders in the business world are those who head up corporations with a vision. That vision is a direct result of the leader’s ability to be a visionary. Any leader who fails to do this is destined to ride that company right into the ground. The business world today changes too quickly for businesses to have a passive approach. The C-Level executives must provide their organizations with a vision for the future.

I once was associated with an enterprise that was run by a gentleman who came from the operation’s side of the business. Over the years he ascended to the top of the organizational chart. His years spent in operations made him exceptional at handling any issues. Anything that arose he was able to take care of. It almost seemed that he was not comfortable unless there was some problem to be attacked. He could juggle 3 or 4 fires simultaneously. Looking back, I am still amazed at this individual’s skill in this area.

However, being the leader of a corporation of this size required a different type of person. As terrific as he was at handling issues, he was equally as poor at creating a vision for the future. This company suffered from a corporate culture that was old and tired. Morale was low which affected productivity. Department heads all had twenty plus years with the organization yet their attitudes were horrific. Nonetheless, years went by before all of this was exposed. This company experienced significant growth for more than a decade using an antiquated vision. Training and technology were not heavily promoted. Ironically, this company operated in a high tech industry. As you can imagine, the exposure came when the economy made a dramatic shift. All the weaknesses were highly magnified. The flaws of the old system showed how ineffective the entire company was. Sales were reduced to levels not seen in almost two decades.

Where did this leader go wrong? To begin with, he broke the first rule of running a company: don’t work in the business, work on the business. All his time was spent attending to matters within the course of the business. There was nobody working on the business. Instead of spending a large portion of his time developing strategies, the day was filled handling one detail after another. Secondly, since the focus was within, a major shift in the marketplace was missed. Naturally, this is not the first executive to fall prey to this. Yet, companies today need leaders who are willing to look out into the future and see what things will look like 5 or 10 years from now. Warren Buffet does this before he buys a company. He figures out where the market will be, not where it is presently.

Being a visionary is something that the business world is looking for. As mentioned, the world of business changes too rapidly. With globalization comes a completely new set of rules. Agility is the key factor. The dinosaurs of the past are being gobbled up almost daily. Take the furniture industry as an example. For decades, the largest manufacturers of furniture we located in North Carolina. However, 10 years ago started the shift in production to China. Today, because of the lower cost of labor, most of the furniture sold in this country is made overseas. A visionary leader would notice something like this. Someone who is spending his or her time working in the business is apt to miss it.

If you are in a leadership position, be a visionary. Determine where you want your organization to be 5, 10, and 20 years down the road. What will your corporate culture look like? Are the people in place to make that happen? Are there factors that could cause a major shift in your industry? What are they? How does technology affect your business? Can it be used to give you a competitive advantage? Is the attitude one that will move your organization to the next level? Finally, what skills do you need to acquire to be able to run a corporation that you are creating? It is important that your abilities go at a rate faster than your company.

Once your vision is set, it is time to ‘sell’ it to your employees. How to go about doing this is explained in the follow up to this article on our website. Go to http://www.yourrichlifeinc.com and click on the ‘free download’ section. Once logged in, it is under the heading of Visionary. The follow up article is ‘Selling Your Vision’.

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