The three P’s of powerful leadership

Leadership is not a position!

A newspaper I read has a daily section titled “Progressions” allowing companies to publicly recognize employees who have been promoted to leadership positions such as general manager. The announcement is a very nice recognition for the new leader, but the promotion, in and of itself, doesn’t make the person a powerful, productive leader. The promotion does allow the new leader to exercise the roles and responsibilities of the position, but the promotion has very little to do with the leadership effectiveness of the person who received it.

The power of the position and the potential of the leader are maximized only when the leader understands and leverages his or her performance, presence and profitability.

  1. Performance is simply what you do. Like it or not, at the end of the day, or quarter, or year (or term if you are a politician), leaders are evaluated by what they get done and get done through others. Leaders are paid to get results. They are not paid for their intentions or mere activity.

Intentions matter, results rule!

“I meant to have a discussion with the underperforming team member but I just haven’t had a chance to talk to them,” says the well-meaning leader. The question is not, “Did you talk to them?;” the question is, “Did the underperforming team member’s behavior improve?” Intentions without actions create nothing. Action — having the talk with the underperformer — that doesn’t produce results; it is simply activity not productivity. Performance is measured by results.

Aesop rightly stated, “When all is said and done, more is said than done.” Performance, measured by results, is the metric of your leadership ability.

  1. Presence is who you are. You can’t be one type of person and another type of leader! Although you can try to fool people, and maybe even obtain pseudo-success for a short season, time will ultimately reveal the real you. Who you are, in the core of your being, will determine your presence. How big is your presence?

Someone who is physically large is noticed when they simply walk into a room. Former NBA superstar Shaquille O’Neal is over 7 feet tall, weighing in at more than300 pounds. Everywhere he goes, his physical presence is commanding.

When you enter a room, are you noticed? Are you respected? Do people want your input? Are you listened to? Are you commanding? Your presence is the key to positively and powerfully influencing people.

Remember, a title or position does not a leader make. A position can be conferred on you. When something is conferred it is placed and bestowed on you by someone else. It is recognition of a position. Your position allows you to perform the roles and functions of a leader, but it is your presence that determines your effectiveness. Presence is inferred upon you. Something inferred involves a conclusion. People are concluding, “This person has a dynamic presence about them that makes me want to follow them!”

Are you working as hard on who you are as you are working at the job you do? Your job functions are important and your ability to be highly functional in your job as a leader is directly proportional to your presence. Your presence increases as you grow as a person. When you become great at who you are, you become remarkable at what you do! Constantly invest time and money in personal growth.

  1. Profitability is the value you bring to those you lead. The bottom line number reflects profitability, but it is more than that. Is your team profitable because of you?

In the arena of interaction with those you lead, are you profiting from them? Are they better—more profitable themselves—because they are around you? Do you inspire? Do you motivate? Do you create synergy?

There are many world-class athletes playing in team sports who have tremendous individual skills, yet their team fails to obtain championship status. Michael Jordan was arguably the greatest basketball player of all time. His greatness wasn’t only measured by his ability to make baskets and his incredible desire to win, but by making others better. Many of his years in the NBA he was surrounded by, at best, serviceable role players. Yet his presence made others profitable because he brought out the best in his other team members. He helped raise the entire team to a winning, championship level.

Your potential is maximized and your power exploited when you leverage:

1)         Your productivity: your effective actions, not your noble intentions.

2)         Your presence: constantly investing in yourself, stretching and growing to increase the size of your presence.

3)         Your profitability: evaluate yourself by looking to the outcome—is there profitability in your leadership in the bottom line and are people better because they have been influenced by you?

When you maximize the Three P’s, productivity, presence and profitability, it is likely you will not only show up in the “Progressions” section of your local newspaper, but also make the front page headline as well. If you are not on your newspaper’s front page, you will certainly make the headlines with the most important people in your sphere of influence — those who are following you.

David Waits, founder of Waits Consulting Group, Inc., helps his clients create a thriving organizational environment that facilitates rapid growth, innovative development and on-going profitability.  For more information, visit

The ‘Quit and Stay’ Syndrome: a business epidemic that’s a silent profit killer

Businesses must be on a constant vigil to spot and eliminate a silent killer of productivity and profits. Like with other impairments, it must be treated using techniques similar to those employed by physicians to stem unhealthy conditions.

The affliction to which I refer is the “Quit and Stay” Syndrome. Basically, it’s when employees stop trying while they coast and scheme to remain undetected.

This scourge manifests itself in many different ways in organizations of all sizes. There is no one simple diagnostic technique to discover the carriers of this malady, but there are symptoms to help identify which strains must be triaged first.

There are many variations of “Quit and Stay.” The most obvious include the “Too Cushy, Too Soon,” where a worker rises quickly in the organization and seems to get the job done. Suddenly, instead of continuing to take on new challenges, he or she allows complacency to set in as the work gets easier with experience and the raises keep coming. The heretofore good producer begins to do the absolute minimum to get by. This type of ailment is the most perplexing and hardest to treat. Sometimes taking out the paddles and shocking these individuals back into reality works best, starting with a good come-to-their-maker conversation.

Then there are the “Hide and Seekers,” who, as the name implies, are the most difficult to identify. They have made doing as little as possible an art form. Most have been around for years, and are practiced at looking busy while nobody quite understands just what they do all day. Although an ankle bracelet to track them might be in order, it may be more practical to administer a few strong doses of accountability and give them a chart so that their productivity can be monitored weekly in order to get them on the road to recovery.

The “World Owes Me a Living” employees are easy to spot. The protocol to make them healthy is to provide therapy in the form of coaching and counseling (aka tough love). If that fails, follow up with surgical precision to remove them from the organization — after you create a paper trail documenting their transgressions. Unfortunately, a “watch and wait” strategy frequently used in medicine usually doesn’t work in business.

Much like a constant low-grade fever, the “It’s Not My Job” disorder manifests itself with different symptoms. Not being a team player is one, and disappearing when there is extra work to be done is another. The treatment for this is not much different than the other maladies, except that if it goes undetected or isn’t treated properly it can spread.

Alas, there are no vaccines to prevent poor performance, but with vigilant supervision these infirmities exhibited by the unproductive can be diagnosed quickly and treated appropriately. It does, however, require management practitioners who are disciplined and know what medicines to use to prevent an epidemic.

Michael Feuer co-founded OfficeMax in 1988, with $20,000. During a 16-year span as CEO, he grew the company to 1,000 stores worldwide with sales of $5 billion. 

Lowe’s closes stores, slashes new store plan while citing profitability concerns

NEW YORK ― Lowe’s Cos. Inc. said on Monday it is closing 20 of its U.S. stores, eliminating nearly 2,000 jobs, and the home improvement retailer now plans to open far fewer locations in the future, citing the need to improve its profitability.

Lowe’s, which operates about 1,700 stores in the United States, said it closed 10 stores on Sunday and would close another 10 within a month. The expenses associated with the closing will come to 17 cents to 20 cents per share.

Some 1,950 workers will lose their jobs.

It also said it plans to open only 10 to 15 new North American stores per year starting in 2012, down from a previous goal of 30.

Chief Executive Robert Niblock said in a statement that the company has to “make tough decisions” to improve profitability.

Lowe’s reduced its full-year sales and profit outlook in August as U.S. homeowners put off renovations.

Lowe’s becomes the latest retailer to pare the number of stores it operates amid tepid consumer demand.

Gap Inc. last week reaffirmed a plan announced in June to close 200 out of its 889 namesake U.S. stores while luxury retailer Saks Inc. has closed seven of its department stores in the past two years and plans to eventually close a few more over time.

People vs. profit

Fred Koury

Fred Koury, CEO, Smart Business Magazine

In this hyper-competitive economy, everything is about speed. How quickly can you get a new product out the door? How fast can you deliver a service to a client? How long until that report is done? No one needs anything now; they needed it 30 minutes ago.

The result is an environment that demands ultra efficiency at every level. Companies of every size have been turned into machines, with senior managers tasked with fine-tuning them to the specifications set by the CEOs. If a particular part of the machine is slowing it down, that part needs to be changed out for a better, more efficient one. The moral dilemma comes when you start looking at the parts — they are people, not pieces of metal. Too many CEOs are looking at people as a means to an end, rather than human beings.

It’s a danger of our capitalist society that some leaders look at just the numbers, forgetting that there are many names and faces behind each line on the budget. You can be torn between building a cash reserve or achieving maximum profitability to please investors and being fair to the people who may not be performing up to the standards you would like to see. The question is, what do you do about it?

The easiest solution is to simply get rid of the people who you think are holding you back. This was Jack Welch’s philosophy — chuck the bottom 10 percent each year and your machine will continue to get better. There’s no room in business for having a soft spot for underachievers and there is no time to bother with them, so out they go.

While this model may be best for the short-term finances, is it really the best way to go? How many of those people had potential, but didn’t understand what they were supposed to be doing? How many of them simply needed clear goals they could strive for? And was productivity hurt as people in the middle continually fretted about where they ranked within the organization? Also, at some point, your organization would be as efficient as it could be, meaning those in the bottom 10 percent might be pretty good employees — and you might be hard-pressed to do better when you go to replace them.

The tougher solution, at least from a straight business perspective because of the cost in time and money, is to invest in the people who aren’t allowing you to reach peak efficiency. This could range from making sure they understand their goals and the company objectives to investing in training and development so they have the right skill set to do their job in the best way.

If given the time and the opportunity to improve, many of the people on the low end of the performance scale will improve, and a select few will even blossom into full-blown superstars.

The new economy isn’t just a rat race; it’s a digital rat race with speeds increasing exponentially each year. You may want to invest in people, but your competitive environment may simply not allow you the time to do so.

Each business is unique, and there are pros and cons to both strategies. But what’s most important is that, regardless of which direction you choose, you never lose sight of the fact that there are people behind the numbers, and people are what matter most.

Staying afloat

Rich Tehrani, CEO, TMC

Rich Tehrani, CEO, TMC

In these tough economic times, the ability for companies to become more profitable is being challenged not only by a more competitive business climate but tremendous business uncertainty, which is caused by the government. Moreover, many organizations must deal with inflation, which is increasing commodity costs in an environment where these additional expenses are difficult to pass along to customers.

In such a situation where everything is in flux and everyone, it seems, is demonizing business while simultaneously asking it to hire more and increase its costs, you must do everything you can to become and stay profitable.

These are the steps I would prescribe to help your company become and stay profitable.

1. Eliminate waste at every level, scrutinize every cost, and do it publicly. The worst thing you can do is allow an environment to flourish where workers believe management does not care about costs.

2. Have no sacred cows. Look at everything from a fresh perspective.

3. Be transparent. Some managers may be concerned about sharing too many facts with workers, but the reality is rumors can be much worse than the reality you share. If your company is in a cash crunch, discuss how you plan on getting out of it and how the team can come together to help you get through it.

4. Talk to the star performers separately — let them know how valuable they are. Be sure to do everything you can to keep them with you as you navigate tough times. Offer them incentives to stay on and continue doing positive work.

5. Use technology and cloud-based applications from companies like Google and that are often a fraction of the cost of in-house solutions that require servers and a tech support team.

6. Explore unified communications and VoIP to save money and allow you to take advantage of lower-cost workers who are not physically located in your office.

7. Find freelancers to help lower costs and pay them based on performance. Use sites like Craigslist and Elance and others specific sites in your industry.

8. Consider a shorter workweek — four days instead of five or a week off over the holidays or summer. Unemployment payments from the government will offset some of the financial pain this could bring on.

9. Solicit ideas from your team on how you can lower costs, and give a reward to the best suggestion.

10. Do not cut the little things like bagels, doughnuts or other cultural cornerstones of your company.

11. Remind everyone that most companies and industries go through cycles: GE was thought to be going bankrupt; GM needed government assistance to survive and so did AIG and myriad banks.

12. Look at recognizing top performers in other ways besides using money: Give awards for best performer, best team player and best customer support, etc.

13. Hold regular meetings to ensure people see you are confident about the company’s future. Remember, your fear and concern about the future can be amplified by your workers and can do worse harm to your business than the original problem.

14. Do not be aloof or act in any way that will make your workers think they aren’t appreciated.

15. Have a vision for the company’s future and share it frequently — nothing is worse than working in the dark in an uncertain economy.

Rich Tehrani is CEO of TMC, a global media company serving the communications and technology markets and reaching more than 2 million global decision-makers each month. Many of the ideas above have been gained from navigating a publishing company through the tech and telecom bubble bursts of 2001 and transforming an organization relying on revenue from printed magazines into one which generates most of its revenue online. His company can be reached at and his blog is located at