Leaders Know How to Set the PACE

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Whether or not you’re a fan, you are probably familiar with the most important car in the starting field of most any major race event.  It’s the one car at the beginning of the race, the pace car, that provides the most important lessons since it plays a vital role in leading the way and helping the race get off to the appropriate start. There’s a lot for leaders to learn from that role.

Having led countless nonprofits and business teams, and now consulting with them, I often deal with the person who is out in front, setting the expectations, and making certain the team stays on track.  With today’s demands, technology, and competition, setting the pace is not just a good idea, it positions you squarely ahead of the pack and that’s where most leaders strive to be.

To be successful, the vision, message and narrative needs to be conveyed clearly.  Everyone on your team must have an appreciation for what it means to set yourself apart, attain the goals and understand how doing so impacts the big picture.  I like the people I work with to own the importance and expectation of setting the PACE, standing out, and being the best of the best.  I developed the PACE acronym for leadership, and it represents the actions that will impact any group wanting to demonstrate leadership for their colleagues.

P = Promote the Positive

It was Winston Churchill who said, “The positive thinker sees the invisible, feels the intangible, and achieves the impossible.”  Need I say more?  Today, when social media allows negative comments to be thrown about from the safety of a keyboard, positivity may be more important than ever.  Effective leaders make it a way of life.  When facing major decisions and change, leaders always promote the positive first.  Yes, the naysayers will come about soon enough, but the positive side is what drives the change.  Reality tells us, there are negative connotations to most every movement made, but the positives outweigh those, and they are what led to the decision in the first place.  Let that fact be known upfront and promote the heck out of it. 

A = Accommodate Access

Access is what sets leaders, divisions, departments and customer service agents apart. Transparency is just another form of access.  Giving customers access they need, when they need it, is the first step in superior customer service.  Negative reviews and bad customer experiences are rooted in having unnecessary barriers arise during the transaction.  Commonly used phrases like “You’ll have to go over to the…….,” and “You need to call back when…….” are in no way accommodating access, in fact they are only giving orders.  Often, service agents aren’t even aware of the connotations unless attention is called to the negativity. 

From an employee perspective, dissatisfaction arises when access to leaders is difficult.  The “open door” policy is often not so open, and stating that it is, only erodes the trust.  Some organizations have leaders so bogged down in meetings and delivering reports that access is limited at best.  How often have we heard that “he/she is always in meetings?”  The best leaders accommodate access and make time for their associates, creating the perception that they are just as important as the other meetings and reports.

C = Commit to Change

Today, change is inevitable and fighting it only consumes extra energy.  Leaders know they can use that energy elsewhere.  Make the commitment.  Recognize the absolute best leaders don’t just implement change, they embrace it.  They understand that they are weaved within the change, and that it will always be their responsibility to make it easier for others.  Commit to seeing it through and stay above the tidal wave of those questioning “why?” Peter Senge said, “People don’t resist change, they resist being changed.”   It’s true, involving those who will experience the change, in determining how it happens will help, but leaders will often need to provide the appropriate line of sight for those in the trenches. 

E = Exceed Expectations

Nothing can build the proverbial, emotional bank account, often referenced by Steven Covey, more than exceeding the expectations.  It may be as easy as managing the expectations, or “under promise and over deliver.”  E.G. Tell your customer or associate you’ll have it by next week when you’re confident  you can get it done later during this week.  Ultimately, true leaders surprise the rest of the field by blazing the trail.  They are the first to turn in the report. They respond to the customer before they expect.  They generally go above and beyond, and that’s how they build a loyal following, by exceeding expectations.

In the end, being out in front and setting the PACE is not always an easy proposition but it is often a winning one.  Give it a try and see how it will bring lasting benefits to you and your organization.

David Fry is president and chief executive officer of Effective Advancement Strategies in Greensburg.

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