From file "022_pss" entitled "PShumr02.qxd" page 01
From file "022_pss" entitled "PShumr02.qxd" page 01

While many of today's top-ranked LBM suppliers fully embrace excellence in customer service, vendor relations, and even employee satisfaction, they typically fail to realize the importance that excellence in leadership plays in achieving great results.

With the unrelenting pressures we face in the building materials supply industry, it is time for companies to wake up to the truth that excellence in leadership, both now and into the future, is the only way for our industry—and our companies—to survive. Without excellent leaders, even the most progressive organizations will struggle for an ever-diminishing percentage of sales and profits and remain trapped in the routine of yesterday's thinking.

Christophe Vorlet

But how can we transform our companies into cultures of leadership excellence that are ready to address today's problems and are prepared for tomorrow's challenges? It all begins by getting our thinking straight.

First, leadership excellence must be a prerequisite—not a goal. In other words, excellence should never be the goal—it should be the starting place. To achieve great results, we must set excellence in leadership as the minimum level of acceptable performance, what I call a “standard.” And if excellence is the standard, management must focus first and foremost on how to educate, coach, and develop leadership teams to be excellent.

Second, leadership excellence must be a habit—not an event. After 25 years in leadership development, it still amazes me that so many executives continue to believe that one speech, one training session, or one dinner event is all that is necessary for their people to reach a level of excellence. Regardless of the endeavor, excellence must become a daily (if not hourly) activity that, given time, becomes second nature, an almost unconscious competence that is ingrained within each leader with minimal forethought. By adopting this corporate culture, leaders will be conditioned to create habits of leadership excellence among managers.

Finally, leadership excellence must be a commitment—not a program. None of us will ever be excellent in anything to which we are not committed. I advise executives that commitment can be defined as satisfying long-term internal needs. Therefore, it is imperative that we determine how to align our long-term needs for leadership excellence within our companies with the long-term internal needs of our managers themselves. Only through such mutual congruence will leadership excellence become the standard and a habit within our firms. Only those who are really committed to growing excellent leaders will be able to overcome the status quo.

Think about what you have just read. How does your company fit within this scenario? Is leadership excellence the prerequisite ... or just a goal? Is leadership excellence a habit ... or a random event? Is leadership excellence a commitment ... or an occasional training program? Is leadership excellence even on your operational map?

Tomorrow's LBM supply winners will be those companies that build cultures of leadership excellence. They will be well prepared to conquer any future challenges they will face in this crazy, ever-changing industry.

Make leadership excellence a prerequisite, a habit, and a commitment within your group. Don't delay; get started today! —Dr. Jim Harris is an adviser to building supply companies in business, leadership, and people development. 877.638.7733.