September 2012

Shannon Wells

Better Business | by Neil Ducoff


How Leaders Lead to Win

There is a wealth of leadership knowledge to be gleaned from the London Olympics.

We watched the best-of-the-best athletes at the culmination of years of training and personal sacrifice. It's their defining moment to win an Olympic medal or return home empty handed.

It's all about winning. And then there are the coaches who push, inspire, console and accept nothing less than perfection up to and through that final competition.

It's the coach's job to find performance gains and levels of consistency that athletes cannot find on their own. The combination is a true testament to the power and potential of a single and shared vision.

As business leaders, our version of winning Olympic gold is much more subdued. We lead our companies to win by hitting goals, protecting profit margins, creating profit and positive cash flow.

We grow the value of our companies. We celebrate these wins. We coach employees to bring out their best performance. We deal with setbacks and rally our teams to overcome adversity.

But the clock never stops ticking in business. We end a month, quarter or fiscal year and start all over again. It's what we do as leaders. It's what defines the no-compromise leader.

Here are some no-compromise strategies on how leaders lead to win:

• It's focusing on the gold medal: What's your company's gold medal? It's great to have a bunch of critical numbers or revenue goals to strive for, but what truly defines what you and your company are working, striving and fighting for every day?

Survival is not a gold medal and neither is profit. Achieving customer service excellence is a gold medal. Building an extraordinary business culture is a gold medal. Being best in class is a gold medal.

Measurements are fine but creating better lives for you, your employees and customers is empowering. What's worthy of giving it everything you've got to achieve it? That's your gold medal.

• It's about self leadership: Leaders must hold themselves to a higher standard of thinking and behavior. You are the voice of your company. You set its tone, pace and direction. You manage your company's emotions and attitude in good times and bad. You bring clarity, understanding and a road map to follow in times of crisis. You establish fairness, accountability and integrity through your culture. You cannot do this if you're compromising, procrastinating, avoiding, casting blame or missing in action.

• It's persistent and unrelenting: One of my coaching clients recently asked me, "Why do employees want us to be slacker leaders?" She was referring to how employees push back when being held accountable to following procedures, rules, and other performance related issues.

Leaders, no matter if they own the company or not, are accountable to the company as a whole. Everyone wants a fun and engaging work environment, but work is still work. Dialing back too far on accountability and sense of urgency has an immediate and measurable impact on company performance.

Leaders must be persistent and unrelenting because that's the work of leadership. Slacker leaders lead underperforming companies.

• It's weeding out indifference: Indifference means, "I don't care -- it's not my job." I don't know about you, but I have a low tolerance to signing paychecks for employees that don't care about the company. In fact, if I feel I'm fighting harder to protect an employee's paycheck then he or she is - it's decision time.

The employees needs to decide to bring their best to work everyday or it's time to find another job. I'm happy to coach, train and support an employee who wants to get better. But if the situation is recurring and past efforts show little hope that a turn around is possible, it's time to weed that employee out before that behavior spreads. If you've ever asked, "How long do I wait before letting an employee go?", you've already waited to long.

Neil Ducoff is the founder and CEO of Strategies, a business training and coaching company specializing in the salon and spa industry. His is author of Fast Forward, No-Compromise Leadership and Wake Up! For signed copies, go to You can email Neil at