Professor Clint Longenecker shares his research-based insights on career performance improvement.
- Research revealing the 5 key things high performers have in common
- The dangers of being too busy
- The power of a strategic S.T.O.P.
Clinton Oliver Longenecker is an award winning educator, is one of “America’s leaders in the area of rapid performance improvement” and is a Distinguished University Professor and the Director of the Center for Leadership and Organizational Excellence in The College of Business and Innovation at The University of Toledo.
Items Mentioned in this Show:
- Clint’s Book: Getting Results: Five Absolutes for High Performance
- Clint’s Book: The Successful Career Survival Guide
- Clint’s Book: Two Minute Drill
- Book: Change or Die: The Three Keys to Change at Work and in Life by Alan Deutschman
- Book: Life’s Little Instruction Book by H. Jackson Brown, Jr.
- Book: The Purpose-Driven Life by Rick Warren
- School: College of Business and Innovation – University of Toledo
Clint, thanks so much for joining us here on the How To Be Awesome At Your Job podcast.
Thanks, Pete. It’s a privilege to be here and I really appreciate what you do and how you do it. And who doesn’t want to be awesome at their job? Come on.
Well, I love that attitude. I sure think it’s the only way to go in terms of enjoying and having fun and making a big impact. I understand you, from my readings about you, you like to make a big impact in your frequent travels to Haiti. What’s the story there?
Well, that’s a great question. My first trip to Haiti was in 1983, or a very, very long time ago, and I took a group of 38 high school and college kids over on a missions trip and we built a five-room school house in . . ., Haiti. And for me, at the time, I was 28, I was finishing up my Ph.D. at Penn State University, it was really a life-changer, Pete, because although I had traveled quite a bit around the world at a younger age, I had never lived in a village where there was poverty, and where there was extreme poverty, it was food shortages, malaria and cholera, and actually people literally starving to death.
So it was a perfect time in my life to remember and be reminded, first, how blessed I am to be an American and to live where I do and, secondly, to keep thing in perspective, if that makes sense. And what a great introduction, if you would, to launch one’s career being reminded of the fact that if I work hard in America there’s a very good chance I can make a good life for myself, but people in other countries, in particular Haiti, it’s not necessarily the case. You could work your heart out, your every single day but the opportunities are just not there for such a great percentage of the population there.
But I owe Haiti a lot. My wife, Cindy, and I were engaged in Haiti.
So we go back very frequently, involved with a wide variety of different things: construction projects, well-drilling projects, eye clinics and lots of things, and we built up a pretty sizeable network of people over the years. And I owe Haiti a lot. So all that to say it’s a privilege to be able to share that with you.
Oh, well, thank you for doing just that, and it’s good stuff and I’m so glad to hear you’re helping make a great impact in those ways. And so, now, to kind of shift into the meat of things here, you are known as one of the leading thinkers in the area of rapid performance improvement, and we’re all about performance improvement here.
And so I’m going to kind of go for broke and try to get a taste of the insights that you’ve shared across three books here and see just how long that takes us to get some of the goods. So could you maybe just start us off with a bit of a framing of how do you define performance and how do you think about performance just overall?
Sure. Well, performance, we use the term like, “How is your performance? How was her performance? Did we hit the performance goal?” So we use performance as a metric, and organizations are kind of quick to say, “We need better performance from people,” and they do rah-rah things at burning platforms, and speeches and they kind of send emails of, “Let’s go,” and all that stuff.
At the end of the day I want to share something with your listeners, and it’s a really important equation, and it’s equation from a lot of business leaders. It’s somewhat not revolutionary but it makes it easy to focus on the issue of performance. Performance is always a function of three things. Number one, it’s a function of talent. Do we have the requisite talent to compete at the highest possible level?
Number two, performance is always a function of motivation. So if we couple talent and ability with motivation, now we’re starting to move in the right direction. Do people want to work hard? Are there incentives to work hard? Do they have ownership in what’s going on around them? Do they feel like they are part of the team? All of those things are motivational devices that will help people feel good about plugging into work and doing a good job.
And the third part, and it’s the biggest part, Pete – and we all know this, leaders know this too – it’s the support function. So do people have the tools that they need, the information that they need, the access that they need, the technology that they need to be able to compete at the highest possible level? So when you find somebody that’s not performing really well, you can say, “Alright, what is it? Do they not have the talent? Do they not have motivation? Do they not have the tools that they need to effectively perform their job?”
Those three things work in concert and it’s a great diagnostic tool when we’re trying to figure out how to improve performance, if that makes sense.
Okay. That’ll do it.
So, in summary, it comes back to talent, it comes back to motivation and it comes back to support. So if we want to have a world-class organization that’s competing at the highest possible level we need to make sure that we take care of each of those key variables in this discussion. And if you look at the great organizations out there they make sure they hire people with talent, they help people up-gun their skills all the time, they create a motivational environment where people are engaged and they have ownership, they have skin in the game, and they typically reward high performance, and they want to provide the support necessary for people to compete at the highest possible level.
And sometimes it’s as simple as having access to a computer code, or having a budget that supports, or having the necessary information we need to have to be able to perform our jobs. So that’s my quick take on the issue of performance. Now to get at performance and to improve it, typically we’re going to manipulate or work on or hype up one of those three variables or a couple of them in concert, if that makes sense.
Certainly. Okay. So that makes sense in terms of that sort of adding up in terms of there are three layers, three levers to pull to bump up performance. And so then in your classic book Getting Results you talked about five absolutes of high performance. So how do those fit into the equation?
Right. Thanks for the set up. So here’s what we found. A number of years ago, we were approached by a Fortune 500 CEO, and he said, “Look, our organization, we put a lot of money and a lot of things but we don’t seem to be able to get the results we’re looking for.” So my colleague, Jack Simon, and he was one of my mentors when I was a young professor and a college student, we basically sat down and we decided to explore the best practices of high-performance business leaders across virtually every component of the economy, if you would.
So we looked at frontline managers, middle managers and top-level managers, but the key to being part of the 2,000-person sample was they had to be getting great results for at least three to five years. And so we interviewed them, we did the survey work with them and we broke down what they did, and we subsequently carried the study on over the last 15 years, and we found a couple of key things.
Number one, high performers have the ability and the tenacity to create focus. So they create focus for themselves, like, “Here’s what I need to be working on.” They create focus for their people with a clearly-defined mission and then they take that mission and they break it down into individual job responsibilities.
And then last, but not least, they have a scorecard, if you would, or metrics that they use to keep people focusing on the proper things. So part one is they create focus, part two – and this is key – they prepare people for battle. They make sure that the people that report to them have the tools, the talent, the technology and the plans necessary to be successful at what they do. So they make sure that they just don’t tell people, “Alright, now, go get it done.” They take time and effort to make sure that there’s a plan for getting it done, and that there’s processes in place to support that plan.
Part number three, they create a climate for high performance, and that means that they constantly coach their people to improve performance. If there’s a problem, Pete, out there that’s getting in the way of people getting their work done, you know what they do? They systematically attack it and break it down as quickly as possible because they want to make it easier for their people to get their work done.
They’re constantly measuring and monitoring the performance of their departments so that at the end of the day, when you walk into the organization, you feel this vibration, you feel this sense that people are there and they’re excited about what they’re doing and they’re committed to getting things done.
Part four is they create big time, or what I call beaucoup people power. They know how to motivate people, they breed trust in the workgroup, they communicate intensely with each other and they have ownership and engagement in everything that they do.
And then the last part of it, the fifth absolute, if you would, is this issue of renewal. So they typically renew their people by continuously developing them, they renew their processes by making sure that they’re optimal in the way they approach business, whether it’s the IT platform or workflow in a manufacturing environment, they make sure that the processes are world class and support what they’re trying to do.
And then, this is a big one, they constantly develop and renew themselves to perform at the highest possible level. And what we have found is, despite what the literature might tell you in other circles, we have found that high performers in our environment, in our studies, they don’t typically go crazy and hog-wild on 60, 70, 80-hour workweek.
They typically are focused and balanced because they know, to be successful in the long haul, you have to balance between your personal life and your professional life. And if you burn out or you go all in professional you’re going to leave a wake of trouble with your family, with your spouse, with your children and the like. So those are the five absolutes for high performance.
When that book came out, I was interviewed by somebody at the Wall Street Journal and they said, “What did you learn in this book? What was really amazing?” And I said, “Well, the biggest thing we learned,” and you’re going to laugh when I tell you this, “high-performing leaders perform the fundamentals with great effectiveness and great success more so than the rest of us.”
And so the person interviewing me said, “Well, okay, but what else did you learn that was really earth-shattering or big?” And I said, “You know, the earth-shattering part was these folks practice the fundamentals of management and leadership more effectively than others. And the footnote, and the supporting point is if you talk to the people of work form it’s big-time stuff at what they do. Even though it might seem to an outsider, just to be fairly rudimentary stuff.” Does that make sense?
I hear you, yes. Because as you laid that out, I’m like, “Okay, that makes sense. Okay, yeah, it makes sense.” There’s nothing that blew my mind and it’s like, “No way, Clint. You’ve got be kidding me.” It’s, “Well, yeah. You know, sure. A great performer should do those things.” And so then, as you’re saying, the great performers they don’t have any secret sauce or tactics or hacks up their sleeves so much as they’re just nailing these five fundamentals with great consistency and effectiveness.
Well put. And that’s a good way to put it. The secret sauce is practicing the fundamentals. And so at the end of the day, I’m asking your listeners today to think about this. Think of the best leader you’ve ever worked for. What made her, or what made him, the best? What was it? And I’d be willing to bet you that your list is something like this.
“Well, I always knew where I stood with him, and they were very clear on where we were going, and they gave me information that was useful so I could get my work done, and they typically praise me, and they didn’t hesitate to spend money to send me to a training program. But when I came back, they ask me, ‘Hey, what did you learn and would you teach me what you learned?’”
It would go something like that. They would basically be describing the five absolutes. No question about it. And that’s the fun part about this that people have access to the information to be great if we simply take the time to think. But here’s the catch, most of your listeners, and you and I included, if we’re not careful, we’re running so quickly on day-to-day basis that we don’t take time to think and to organize and to implement some of those things that we know that we should be doing. Can you relate to that?
Oh, I can relate to that. And so maybe can you highlight for us what are perhaps sort of the most frequently neglected?
Oh, I think that that’s pretty straightforward. In fact, I have a research study in front of me right now that we’re just wrapping up. And we ask people this question, “Hey, what happens to you when you become too busy?” So I want to ask your listeners again to think about that. So what happens to you when you become too busy?
So here’s what this 1800-person sample tells us. When we become too busy we don’t communicate effectively. We typically think short-term, relationships are damaged. We typically step over problems and we ignore difficult situations or conversations because we really don’t have time for them. We typically neglect their personal development and, at the end of the day, a lot of stuff goes on in our communication patterns and the way that we think and approach problems, if you would. It’s all negative stuff when we’re too busy.
So I would suggest the most important thing for personal effectiveness for most of us is to get our arms around what we’re trying to do, where we spend our time on a daily basis, and who is holding us accountable to improve our performance. So we’ve come up with this acronym, and this is talked quite a bit and I discuss this quite a bit in the new book The Successful Career Survival Guide.
I want you to think about, Pete, when I tell you this word, what’s your reaction? “Pete, stop!” Alright, what would you do? If I said, “Pete, I want you to stop,” what would you do?
I would be motionless and look at you.
Okay, good. You’d say, “Clint, what are you saying?” All right. So, good. You would cease moving, if you would. Alright, so now here’s what we find. If people are moving too quickly and rushing, most of the things that lead to high performance don’t come naturally to most of us so we have to make a conscious effort to engage in certain things if we’re going to be successful and more successful and if we’re going to be awesome at our jobs.
So I want to give you an acronym that goes along with the word stop, and it goes like this. STOP, sit, think, optimize, perform. Sit. Think. Optimize. Perform. Now here’s what we’re talking about. Strategically, depending on how busy your job is, how much variance is in your job, how challenging your job is, you might need to have a strategic stop once a month.
And in a strategic stop, each month you think, “What results am I going to get at? What activities are going to get me there? Who do I need to connect with? What resource application do I really need to be careful with, including my time? How am I going to measure performance? And who’s going to help hold me accountable this performance period?
So I have to sit down. Here’s what research shows. When people sit and are still, we open up different pathways to the brain, and we have to reprogram our brains to think more clearly, so that if we sit and we’re quiet in a quiet space, now we can think. We think about the issues that we need to deliver in the next performance period, albeit a month, albeit a quarter.
Alright, now once I’ve done that I need to make decisions to optimize my performance before I head off to work and perform. So a strategic stop is to create an umbrella where you and your boss are on the exact same page with regards to the goals you’re trying to achieve, the results you need to deliver and the activities you need to engage in.
And if we’re not on the same page with our boss, in Creole I would say, “Ou gen yon pwoblem kounye a,” which means you have a giant problem like right now in the Haitian language of Creole. So, at the end of the day, we’ve got to stop and really make sure that we’re on the same page with our boss.
Now, once we’ve done a strategic stop and where everything is in place, when we’re on the same page with our boss, we know what we have to accomplish, now we have to execute a daily stop, and we call that performance scripting. So on a daily basis, 15 minutes at the start of your day to develop your plan of attack, what you’re going to get done, what you’re going to say yes to, what you’re going to say no to, and basically that launch into your plan. And the performing part of the mix is when you show up at work.
Most of us can’t do this thought process at work because we go to work and we get mugged right away with all kinds of activities and things going on around us. So I encourage people to take 15 minutes at the start of your day, that’s the hard part, and begin a habit of doing so.
Now, the second part is, halfway through your day, take five minutes and you get out your performance script and you look at it and you say, “Now, what have I gotten done? What’s worked? What hasn’t worked? And why?” And you make adjustments for the second half of the day.
Now, I’m going to make a bet with you right now that you are a list person and the majority of your listeners are list people. Am I right or wrong?
I am, yes. That’s true.
Alright. So, good. The good part is list can be useful, but the problem is they give the illusion of being organized. Most lists are top of the head, most lists are random. So what we talked about in performance scripting is we’re going to make a list of what we want to get done and then what we realistically can get done.
And now, here is the key, attach a conservative timeframe to each activity before you launch into your day, and then you’ll find that most of us, on a nine-hour or 10-hour workday, or an eight-hour workday, we’re actually loading up and giving ourselves 12 hours’ worth of work. We’re setting ourselves up for frustration, if you would.
So what we want to do is realistically assess time going into the day, halfway through the day make adjustments in our schedule, and at the end of the day take a five-minute stop. And a five-minute stop at the end of the day is, “What did you learn? What carries over to the next day? What did you do this day that you shouldn’t have done or shouldn’t engage in that burn up your time or wasted energy or the like?”
So all that to say, it comes back to learning how to lead one’s work life with intentionality. And you know what the best part about this is, Pete? Everybody who’s listening knows how to do this. You know why? Because we all go on vacation. So how efficient are most people two and three days before they go on vacation? Come on, what do you think?
Yeah, everything has got to be wrapped up. You do it.
Bingo. We do not want to go on vacation with the sword of damn dangling on a thread above our head. So what we do is we want to make sure that we’re organized when we do these things. Now the problem is we come back from vacation, the tsunami at work that is waiting for us rolls over us, we go right back to old techniques.
Now, here’s the beauty of STOP. We have found in three different studies, if people will go through this technique and develop this habit of planning their days and strategically engaging in how to set the schedule up in the front end of things, what they want to work on, their personal effectiveness can improve at the low end of 12%, at the high end 33% with the average being around 22.3%.
Now, here’s the catch, 25 minutes on a nine-hour day is only 4.62% of your day. So I want somebody to make an empirical argument to me that they don’t have the time to do this. It’s a small fraction of your day. It’s 5%, or less, of your day. And, by the way, if you work 10 or 12 hours a day, that fraction shrinks down 2% and 3%. So why would we not become more efficient at planning our day, if you would, and working that process more consistently?
And some people with highly-scheduled and highly-structured jobs, a lot of people in professional ranks have a lot of latitude and autonomy in how they organize their day. So all that’s to say, this particular process was one of the reasons that I wrote The Successful Career Survival Guide.
Pete, what I did, as you mentioned earlier, there are 707 of these principles out there, there’s a sample size of over 13,000 people participated in the studies that have led to the findings that I present in this book. And you’re not old enough to remember this, but in 1993 a guy by the name of H. Jackson Brown wrote a book called Life’s Little Instruction Book.
And it was a bestselling book and it was kind of a warm, fuzzy thing. You open it up, and it would say, “Wave to kids on school buses. Don’t buy cheap belts and wallets. Never rain on somebody else’s parade. Never buy anybody a fruitcake in the holidays.” It was kind of some tongue-in-cheek stuff. But I started it and it was a neat thing to read because you’d read and you go, “Boy, that’s true. I should be waving at kids on school buses, and I should be taking care of my health,” and all these things that he recommended.
So what I did is I accumulated these lessons and basically teased out, if you would, a lineup of things based on our research to kind of support those lessons. So this is kind of Life’s Little Instruction Book for the modern workplace of the 21st century.
Oh, that’s great. Well, I want to follow up on something you mentioned there with that 22%. I love how I think intuitively it seem like, “Oh, that makes sense. We should do some planning, some thinking, some prioritizing.” But you’ve gone ahead and dramatically quantified the results. So how are you measuring an uptick in performance? Like what are the units there?
Well, that’s a great question. So one big challenges was we had to come up with a baseline in the frontend of these studies to ask people, “Alright, where are you at from a performance perspective right now? Where do you think you’re at?” And then we had people go through this protocol, what it was, and they tracked themselves, self-monitoring, they kept a logbook as they were doing, and they were focusing on the biggest challenges and what they were up against.
And when it was done, we said, “Okay, now, looking at the metrics that we established on the frontend, how are you doing in terms of improvement against those metrics?” And so this is a self-reported 12% to 33% range in there, but please you may note the lowest ends of the range is 12%. We asked people to talk about, in addition to performance outcomes, “How are satisfied are you at work? How is the quality of your work gone up in addition to the quantity of your work gone up? Do you feel better about what you’re doing in the workplace?”
And what’s interesting is all those things combined into that overall performance improvement score of 12% to 33%, where the range, with the midpoint being about 22%. So it’s really encouraging to see that people, when they take control of their days, take control of their relationships and their time, they’re in a much better place to deliver desired results for their employers.
Absolutely, yes. Well, so you mentioned that The Successful Career Survival Guide and that 707 helpful suggestions. Is there one or two or three that you think really just drive tremendous power and value for people as you’ve seen them and interact with them?
Yes. Here’s the key thing that people ask me all the time. My wife and I were just talking earlier today about this, but I get a phone call probably at least once a week, sometimes more often, about somebody whose career might be struggling. And so when I get these calls from all over the country, of people saying, “Hey, do you have a minute to talk? Here’s my situation. What do you think about this and that?”
And what’s interesting, I notice, frequently people talk about everything under the sun, but one of the most important variables for career success and survival, and that is we are being paid to deliver desired results for our employer. So I would say the biggest point for any discussion would be, “What are you being paid to deliver for your employer?”
Now, if you’re an entrepreneur then you have to decide what results you need to deliver for yourself to make your business more viable. And if you’re a senior military leader you have to decide, “On this particular mission, what results do I have to deliver?” So it kind of comes back to, on the frontend, defining in no uncertain terms, exactly what you’re trying to accomplish. So that would be my key point number one.
Number two, I think we have to go back and stop on a daily basis to align our activity to support the desired results we are seeking. I don’t know about you but if I’m not really careful, I can be exceptionally busy on a given day and I can use busyness as the metric, “Oh, I was really busy.” But I may not have gotten anything done.
So the biggest challenge of the modern workplace is we’re all so busy in meetings, answering emails, typing reports, doing memos, all these other things that frequently only a small percentage of those things are tied back to the results that we are trying to deliver. So I think the ability to separate the important things from the unimportant things, or less important things, is a giant deal.
One of my favorite quotes is, the great American humorist, Will Rogers said in 1938, “The urgent is seldom important, and the important is seldom urgent.” And I think, “Man, why, that is good stuff,” because it’s easy to have all these urgent things coming at you and they can quickly push aside the important things. So that would be my second point.
My third point would be we have to have great situational awareness. So we can get lulled to sleep at work and not be paying attention to what’s going on around us. So I ask this question of your listeners, “Are you situationally aware on a daily basis of how well you are performing and how others perceive you in the workplace?” So it kind of goes back to being emotionally intelligent enough to be self-monitoring and empathetic with the people around you, if you would.
And the last point is I think we have to embrace two things – change, we have to embrace accountability and feedback. And at the end of the day, I love accountability and feedback together for an important reason. I believe that we are change machines. My view is somewhat different than a lot of people. Most of us make changes day in and day out. But here’s what happens. We’ll hear people say, “I hate change.”
We hate change when we don’t own it, or when we are being told to change without the reason why, or there’s pain involved. So I would come back and I would say, at the end of the day, to be successful with anybody’s career we have got to be continuously improving ourselves and monitoring how well we’re coming off, what results we’re getting through people, and basically paying attention to the things going on around us.
And I know I rambled on and on and on, but here you go, I tell people for their career success to move forward quickly, we have go to depend not on our boss or organization to tell us what to do to move forward but we have to become more in control of our own destiny. We need to improve ourselves. We shouldn’t have to wait for our bosses, Pete, to tell us how well we’re performing. We should know how well we’re performing.
We shouldn’t have to wait for the organization’s talent manager to have a talent review with us to sit down and say, “You need to improve on these three areas.” We should know, we should have that plan in place. So we need to become more self-directed in our approach to our careers and our personal development, and I would go back and I’d throw a big one in here.
And the big one would be this: that it’s really important that we not be afraid to take risks, that we have a good enough working relationship with our boss to ask him or her for direction, to ask him or her for new assignments, or to tell them when we’re ready for more responsibility along the way. Now, they may say no but, at the end of the day, it didn’t cost you anything to ask.
And here’s the key – the next time you ask them, there’s a pretty good chance that they’re going to maybe give you a little more than you have right now. Maybe they’ll give you some of what you wanted. But if they say no, the third time you ask you’re going to know one or two things. You’re either going to hear from them that they want you to get better and they’ll give you the opportunity, or that they’re not interested in helping you develop new skills or move forward or cross train.
In those scenarios, I would suggest that your boss is not about helping you, and now you’ll know where you stand with your boss, and that’s really an important realization to come to. When you realize your boss wants you in that position for a longer while, maybe it’s because it’s easier for them but they’re not necessarily interested in helping you with your career and professional development.
So tell me, Clint, is there anything else you want to make sure to mention before hear about some of your favorite things here?
I would come back and I would just encourage people, since this book came out back in March, The Successful Career Survival Guide, I have really been encouraged. I’ve gotten emails and phone calls from all over the place where people just want to talk about where they’re going with their career, what’s going on, and share their ideas and suggestions with me.
And I think it is an awesome just opportunity to talk about our careers and how to get better. That’s why How To Be Awesome At Your Job, what you’re doing, I’m with you, Pete. I believe most people want to be awesome at their jobs. But to get there, we can’t just do it randomly. We need a plan for improvement. And, for me, that’s been the most fun thing about this particular book endeavor, is to give people a blueprint, if you would, and a plan that they can very specifically use to improve their performance and to deliver better results for their employer.
And here’s the best part. We can apply these same principles to our roles as husbands and wives , significant others, mothers and fathers, community servants and the like, because it goes back to the, “Make a difference.” We have to have a plan to make a difference. And if we leave it to randomness, without a lot of thought, sometimes we’re busy but we’re not necessarily productive or delivering the results we would like to get at.
So, for me, that’s the best part about this journey, and I’m a 62-year old guy. I’m having more fun than I ever thought and I have the privilege of working with some of the best leaders in corporate America, entrepreneurial America and the United States military across all the branches, so I’m learning every day. All that to say I’m learning every day.
Well, that is fantastic. Well, thank you. So, now, could you share with us a favorite quote, something you find inspiring?
I’ll tell you what, Mark Twain had an awesome quote, he said, “The two best days in every person’s life is the day they’re born and the day they figure out why.” Now, tell me that Twainmeister didn’t have that nailed down. The most important days in every person’s life are the day that they are born and the day they realize why they are born.
So if you were to ask me, Pete, ask me, “Clint, what’s your mission?” Go ahead.
Clint, what’s your mission?
I am on earth, Pete, to help other people be successful and to take care of my family, the people around me, my city, my country and have a good walk with the Lord. That’s it. So it’s very focused. I’m about helping other people be successful at what they do. I’m just like you from that perspective.
Awesome. Well, thank you. And how about a favorite book?
A favorite book. I’ve got a couple. I think the The Purpose-Driven Life. I don’t know how many of your listeners have heard of that but it’s an excellent book, a good retrospect, it makes you think about life and look in the mirror, and I think that that’s a very useful tool in any person’s life.
Alright. And I was going to ask next, how about a favorite tool, something that helps you be awesome at your job?
STOP, that’s not hard. That’s an easy question to answer. If I don’t stop, I’m running around, I’m busy but I’m not necessarily effective, so I have found that the whole idea of slowing down and being still and stopping is really important. I had a reporter ask me, “Clint, if you could change one thing about what you’re doing now, or you would’ve known something 15 or 20 years ago, what would you have done?”
I’ve always slowed down and thought, but I would’ve been more systematic about my thinking on a more regular basis. And that’s a tool. I want to encourage people to sit and think and optimize, and then perform. It’s an invaluable tool to help you realize your full potential.
Okay. And how about a favorite habit?
A habit, for me, I get up every day and I have a personal devotion so I spend some time thinking and then I roll right into my STOP. And I always ask myself a couple of times a month these three questions, and this might be a useful thing for everybody.
Alright. What do I need to keep doing this day, or this week, that’s really working? What do I want to keep doing? What do I need to start doing that I should’ve been doing that I haven’t been doing? And then, finally, this is the hard one. Okay, Clint, what do you need to stop doing to be more effective and to stay on task and not be a nuisance?
So the three most important questions that I can ask myself regularly, if you would, “What do I need to keep doing? What do I need to start doing? And what should I stop doing to improve my effectiveness?” And, by the way, footnote, those are great questions to take to work if you’re on a meeting to pull your team together and say, “I’m going to walk out the room right now,” if you’re the leader, “and I want you to answer these three questions as a group in my absence. I’ll come back, you’re going to walk me through what you think is, as a group, as a work team, as a work unit, what we need to keep doing, stop doing and start doing.”
That’s good. Thank you. And, tell me, if folks want to learn more or get in touch, where would you point them?
I think they can hit me with an email, Clinton.Longenecker, and that’s L-O-N-G-E-N-E-C-K-E-R, or you can go to the College of Business and Innovation at the University of Toledo and type in faculty, and Clint Longenecker will pop up, and you can go to my webpage. It’s probably the easiest way to get at my webpage.
Okay. And do you have a final challenge or call to action for those seeking to be awesome at their jobs?
Well, I would come back and say, Pete, you are a big personal development person which is awesome, and that means that people that listen to you are serious about their personal development. So the motivation is already there in the performance equation. So I would go back and say a couple things. One, take the time to stop and put together your plans regularly for the use of each and every day. That’s part one.
I go back in the other side, get an accountability partner or a small group of people you can meet with every two weeks that become your personal board of directors. I’m a big advocate. We know from all our research that the only way people really change is if they have accountability to change. Do I have two more minutes because I’ve got a great example?
Oh, sure. Do it.
Okay. Alan Deutschman wrote a book in 2007 called – and he’s got a great title – Change or Die. Alright, so, Alan, you got my attention. Alright, so what he did is a study on coronary bypass. He was a reporter with Fast Company magazine and he went off and he went to a heart clinic or a heart conference where they were discussing coronary bypass disease because it’s a multi-billion dollar industry, lots of people have coronary bypass surgeries, heart disease is prevalent and they end up shortening their lives significantly.
So here’s what they found. When people have the surgery, they come out of surgery and the docs meet with them, they give them this protocol, “Here’s 16 lifestyle behavior changes you have to make. You have to quit smoking, eat better, get exercise, take your drugs, reduce your stress levels, reduce drink, whisky that’s got to go from your diet.”
Well, here’s what they found. When people are left to themselves, only one out of nine people can make the necessary changes to avoid a second bypass surgery. One out of nine. This is life and death stuff. Here’s what they found though, that they found if the person has a plan, and they have a radical plan that’s different from what they’ve been doing, and they have accountability for implementing that plan, that success rate goes up to 77.8% or eight out of ten.
And the primary variable that drives performance improvement is, first, having that clear plan and a commitment to that plan because they’ve reframed what they want to do with their life and that they’re going to get better, but having a life coach, an accountability partner that they meet with regularly, every week if you would, until they get to this ramp up of changing behavior, and they found that that’s the game-changer.
And we had found the exact same thing in our research with executives, with frontline supervisors, with middle managers. If there is accountability and a plan, people have a better shot of changing than if they’re on their own. And I would ask people and encourage people to really think long and hard about, “Hey, who’s holding you accountable to be the best you can possibly be?” And at the end of the day, that’s pretty powerful stuff.
Absolutely. Well, I’m a big believer in accountability. So, so valuable. Clint, this has been a real treat. Thank you. Please keep on doing what you’re doing and rocking.
Pete, thank you so much for what you’re doing. And I want to just say, audience, members, thanks for investing in your personal development. And I always say this when I sign off from people, I always say, “Learn large, listen hard and lead well.” God bless everybody and thank you.