The second day of sessions at the Ontario Trucking Association (OTA) conference kicked off with a presentation on leadership during turbulent times.
The session was presented by Tom Connellan, a business and motivational speaker and a former founder and CEO, to a group of industry members at the 83rd annual conference held at the Ritz-Carleton in Toronto, Ontario.
Connellan led the session by asking attendees to reflect upon the success of the first-born child.
It has been statistically shown, according to Connellan, that first-born children tend to see more success and gain greater confidence over their younger siblings.
“The first-born is often more successful for three simple reasons: we expect more from the first-born, they are given more responsibility and they receive more feedback compared to their younger siblings,” Connellan said. “We need to treat business like a first-born child.”
Connellan refers to these characteristics that are the foundation of success as “High Performance Factors.”
“Expectations, responsibility and accountability and feedback – these are environmental conditions,” said Connellan. “You must ask yourself, can you repeat these conditions?”
The idea of being first-born – or new – mustn’t dissuade improving an established business because, according to Connellan, being first-born becomes irrelevant when a new child (or business model) is introduced following three or more years later.
“A gap of three or more years can create the first-born factors all over again,” said Connellan.
Knowing the high performance factors are not enough; they must be put into practice, Connellan advised the crowd.
“You have to believe in your staff,” said Connellan. “You set the tone, you lead the way and people will respond to your experience and confidence.”
According to Connellan, an integral part of being a good leader is accepting the reality of the state of your business.
“Don’t deny reality,” said Connellan. “Positive expectations are different than positive thinking. You must have a brutal assessment of the facts [where your business is concerned].”
Another asset as a leader is to understand your workforce and noting their potential.
“Learn to see people not as they are, but as they can be,” Connellan said, adding that leaders speak with conviction – you cannot convey a message or instill confidence if your words are hollow.
“A lack of accountability paves the way to mediocrity,” Connellan said. “And accountability can’t be done piecemeal.”
Connellan asserts that accountability must be built into the system of your business – the day-to-day operations.
“Don’t think about activities, but focus on results,” Connellan said. “Small shifts in behavior can produce a large increase in results.”
According to Connellan, most individuals are aware of the changes they need to make in order to become a better leader, spouse, or parent, but they don’t take the steps to make the change because it forces them out of their comfort zone.
“You’ll feel weird, awkward, uncomfortable and find it difficult,” Connellan said, but that too will change.
As an example, Connellan offers the typical method in which we acknowledge the workforce.
“We only offer negative feedback and we rarely notice the positive,” Connellan said.
Instead of noting only inefficiencies, Connellan suggested constant positive, but warranted, reinforcement.
“Reinforce on the way up, it creates traction and momentum that drives better results,” Connellan said. “Reinforce the improvements and you’ll create something stronger.”
Praise should also be specific, Connellan said, instead of using the standard, “Job well done,” replace it with an specific example, “You’ve been hitting all your sales targets, keep up the great work.”
“The more support you offer your staff, the more stress and strain can be handled,” said Connellan.
“This method of leadership is not based on my opinion,” Connellan said, ending the session by noting, “These practices are based on research and testing.”
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