Frank Zaccari
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Are You Willing to Change to Build a High Performing Culture?

Staying on top is harder than getting to the top.

Congratulations! You are having success. Things are starting to look positive. It is time to celebrate right? WRONG! If you have figured out some steps to success so has your competition. In many cases they have been monitoring you. Watching you do the heavy lifting so they can use your model. What are you going to do to keep your advantage?

High performing cultures are constantly make adjustments and fine tuning. It is this willingness to "re-invent" yourself that separates the high performing organization from the rest of the herd.

Keeping the “status quo” is a recipe for failure. Getting there is no guarantee of staying there. It is time to raise the bar. How? By improving or adding better processes and people.

I have heard people ask, “After you have achieved success how are you going to find people better than what you have?” 

I always answer this way, “I constantly continue to raise the bar. If I was successful then my business or organization has grown. As I grow I look for more of the 'right people' to join the organization and continue to replace average people who have left with right people.”

Selecting people is not an exact science. You can create a profile; run back ground checks; perform tests like Myers/Briggs; do handwriting analysis; drug tests; check references; you name it and there is a test for it. Unfortunately there is still a degree of “hit or miss” when selecting staff. I found that after I do some of the aforementioned steps, I have a face-to-face meeting. I talk about the challenges the business or organization faces. I talk about the successes we had and where we hope and plan to go. I talk about our vision. What I am looking for is the person to engage; to become involved in the conversation; someone who can both express and envision themselves achieving the vision. I often try to ascertain how they dealt with a difficult or challenging situation. I listen to see if they make excuses or look to pass the blame. I fully believe that difficult times don’t build character; difficult times reveal character. Strong character people excel during difficult or challenging situations. They talk about how they learned and grew and improved during hard times. They don’t quit or look for a scapegoat. They dig in and work harder. They find a way.

I also look in their eyes. The right people have a fire in their eyes. Their eyes widened as they talk about their goals and abilities. Their eyes often give me a tip if they are the right person. Once again, it is not an exact science.

Let me give you an example. I worked with the University of Washington volleyball program which moved from one of the worst programs in the country to the Final Four in four years. They finished third in the nation. Did head Coach Jim McLaughlin say “mission accomplished?” NO!! He knew other schools would try to exploit his model. The data showed improvement was needed in two key areas; blocking at the net and scoring from the “opposite side.” Coach McLaughlin made three major adjustments.

  1. He hired a new coach whose specialty was teaching the “swing block.”
  2. He replaced a senior middle blocker, who was a starter on the Final Four team, with a taller and more athletic sophomore.
  3. He moved his best player, an All American, to the opposite side and inserted another sophomore to play the left side.

These were all very risky moves for a Final Four team. Among the comments we heard were: “What are you doing? The team is great as is! It’s not broke so don’t fit it!” Yet Coach McLaughlin changed his processes and personnel. The result, they returned to the Final Four the next year and won the National Championship.

Do you have the courage to change when things are going well? Are you willing and able to attract better people? Is good enough not good enough? Got your attention?

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