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Go from Seeing an Opportunity to Becoming a Breakthrough Leader

Jan 3, 2008
A teacher was upset because very few students in his country could receive the vocational education in electrical work, plumbing, and auto mechanics that would help improve the nation's effectiveness in producing goods and services. While most would stop there, the teacher decided to do something about it.

He decided to design breakthrough methods that would expand the number of students educated by 20 times at no additional cost to the school. Teachers would receive extra pay to teach on weekends and during evenings. Part-time study at those times would allow working adults to gain additional knowledge. Enrollment methods would be improved to be sure that only qualified students who could and would succeed would start the programs. Electronic teaching supplements would allow students to learn at their own pace when the teachers were not available. Local employers would provide practical classes and have a chance to hire new graduates.

Today, hundreds of people are learning these trades who wouldn't otherwise. If the other schools in the country follow suit, the whole nation may bloom in new ways.

Most people don't try to create breakthroughs because they don't believe such important improvements are possible. With the right preparations you'll be more likely to succeed and your confidence in your future success will soar. That was certainly the case with the teacher who took this step forward.

How can we use the right preparations to replace our skepticism about breakthroughs with success?

Don't Ask Permission, Ask Forgiveness Later (If Necessary)

Sometimes the need for change is so daunting that the organization's leaders won't be able to cope. When that circumstance occurs, consider saving the organization by using what I call "stealth" change. Rather than beginning by selling the people at the top and making great promises and proclamations, keep it all hush-hush.

Launch Your Team into Escape Orbit

Before finalizing your choice of team members and leader, let those you are considering know that there's risk involved. Team members will be betting their careers with this assignment. Team members and leaders who perform well will likely be asked to solve another problem or pursue a different opportunity -- that's their career reward. If they don't execute the changes, they won't have jobs to go back to . . . but you will help them locate a new position in another organization.

You are creating personal burning platforms that will make team members realize that the project's success is essential. Take on only those who are willing to accept the personal danger from this risk.

What about financial rewards? Incentives for a special project should in no way mirror the organization's existing financial incentives. Success should result in far larger than normal bonuses for team members at their given levels. Pick incentive levels that will excite exceptional and appropriate excellence.

What to Stop Doing

You have some ineffective methods. Those have to stop. You also need to stop doing things that take up time you need for the change projects. Consider your answers to the following questions:

1. What are the habits that will push your organization in the wrong direction as you pursue the desired changes?

2. How can you encourage people to abandon those habits?

3. What incentives do you provide now for those habits that need to be removed?

4. What messages need to stop being sent?

Find the Best Change Leaders

The following questions will help you identify change leaders:

1. Who has the best track record in your organization for leading the types of changes you desire?

2. Who else could be an effective contributor to the change process through new ideas, communicating the change, or organizing the change effort?

3. Who are the people in your organization who are most excited about the potential to make these changes?

4. How well do the candidates' values match the organization's values?

Prepare the Change Leaders

Use these questions to enhance the effectiveness of your change leaders:

1. What information do the change leaders lack that can be readily provided?

2. How can that information be shared quickly and accurately?

3. What skills or training will they need to be effective?

4. How can this training be timed to help them when it will be most relevant to the tasks at hand?

5. What resources will they need?

6. How can those resources be provided in a timely way?

Activate the Change Leaders

It's not enough to have the talent and desire. You also need to be properly focused. Each of us responds differently to rewards and recognition. For each of your team members and leaders consider the answers to this question:

What combination of fulfilling desires for recognition, reward, and feedback is right for each person to help him or her reach the highest level of performance?

The best way to begin is by talking with each person about what motivates her or him for the tasks that need doing.
About the Author
Donald Mitchell is an author of seven books including Adventures of an Optimist, The 2,000 Percent Squared Solution, The 2,000 Percent Solution, and The 2,000 Percent Solution Workbook. Read about creating breakthroughs through 2,000 percent solutions and receive tips by e-mail by registering for free at

http://www.2000percentsolution.com .
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