Leading by example

With a career spanning five decades, Brian Tracy, one of HR Summit & Expo Asia 2017’s keynote presenters, speaks from a deep wealth of experience when he says only “enlightened” leadership can unlock an organisation’s potential.

In 35 years of motivational speaking and working with more than 1,000 companies globally in the areas of personal and professional development, Brian Tracy has seen the good, the bad and all of the ugly in business.

He has witnessed the evolution of management models and theories, the rapid rise and fall of technology companies in the early 2000s, and now the booming app economy.

While some may know Tracy for his YouTube videos on personal improvement, which have collectively been viewed over ten millions times, it is his expertise in business transformation and organisational psychology that continues to make him a sought-after name in the world of business speaking and consultancy.

And over the years, Tracy has found that the best leaders, from Warren Buffett to Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, built their empires on a lot of hard work, a little bit of luck, and the simple desire to never stop learning.

These leaders are also always striving to get better, and relentlessly pursuing new knowledge and skills, he says.

Quoting renowned management consultant Peter Drucker, Tracy believes that reading forms the foundation of learning.

“All good leaders are readers,” he says. “Reading is essential for everyone to learn how to become a better manager.” Indeed, Tracy’s office in Southern California is filled with over 6,000 books on management, leadership and personal success. 

As the author of over 70 books on personal and professional development himself, Tracy says his own thirst for knowledge throughout his life has been the key to his longevity.

Tracy started a successful sales career fifty years ago, travelling all over the world to market US bonds and real estate to affluent investors. Eventually, he became the Chief Operating Officer of a US$265 million development company.

His passion for helping other companies to achieve their sales objectives ultimately led him to his present career as a training and development consultant. 

Three essential qualities

Besides a hunger for improvement, Tracy says there are three other key qualities that make a good leader.

First, leaders need to be visionaries. Good leaders have a clear and exciting vision of the company’s future, and this positive outlook will naturally cascade downwards to the rest of the organisation.

Tracy says this vision also separates “leaders” from “managers”.

Furthermore, this forward-looking quality has become more pivotal than ever, especially with millennials forming the majority of the present workforce. That’s because studies have shown millennials are most motivated by the feeling of forward progress and movement.

Great leaders also accept responsibility for all successes and failures, never ever putting the blame on anyone else. This sets an example for all team leaders and line managers throughout the organisation, creating a high-trust culture in the process.

The third quality is a leader’s full commitment to excellence in all areas of the business.

“There is nothing more motivating for employees than knowing they work for a company aiming to be the best,” says Tracy.

One organisation that Tracy says possesses this quality is Amazon. Tracy says whether it is a sales or operations meeting, there will always be an empty chair in each meeting, representing the customer. The idea behind this practice is that all departments across the company should only have one goal – to always strive to be the best product in the eyes of the end-user.

It was certainly no coincidence that Jeff Bezos, Amazon’s founder, CEO, and the driver behind its continued success, was named the world’s greatest business leader by Fortune magazine in 2015.

The “golden triangle” of business

What further separates a good leader from a great leader is their ability to consistently drive peak performance at the workplace, and to meet and even surpass business objectives.

But in order to achieve that, Tracy says leaders have to implement what he calls the “golden triangle” model.

The golden triangle consists of three components: setting clear goals and objectives; measuring those goals; and creating strict schedules and deadlines.

The first thing all leaders should do it to set clear goals and objectives for each department and employee. When individuals understand what their goals are, they know what actions they have to take to achieve their targets.

The surprising problem, Tracy says, is that many organisations actually fail to articulate this across to employees.

Next comes the measurement of goals.

“The most successful leaders and companies are those who measure everything, and then continually try to improve on the most important numbers,” says Tracy, adding that every business activity will be measurable in some way. 

Recent research has shown that there are as many as 35 to 40 different sets of data recorded in most companies for the purpose of measuring success, from profit and sales figures to growth and gross margin numbers. But such large amounts of data can be confusing even for the most skilled of analysts.

“But there’s always that one big number,” Tracy affirms. “And that is the number that predicts business success more than any other number.”

“I train thousands of business owners each year and I ask them this one question: ‘What is the one number you wake up thinking about, think about all day long and go to sleep thinking about?’”

When everyone in the organisation starts focusing on and working towards this particular number, overall company performance improves, he adds.

But even further down at the individual level, employees should ask themselves: “What is the result most expected of me?”

Most employees actually have no idea what that is, but Tracy says that is where the secret to becoming a high performer truly lies: “Work on what your boss thinks is most important”.

“The more you work on low value tasks, the faster you will get fired and be replaced by someone else,” he warns.

The third point in the triangle is the strict adherence to schedules and deadlines, which Tracy says is the job of leaders to ensure. Without deadlines, all other efforts are counterproductive and it will be difficult to meet any set goals.

Tracy says these three factors affect the performance of an organisation more than anything else, adding that when everyone follows these factors, company performance can double or triple.

“20% of companies earn 80% of the profits simply because they implemented the golden triangle,” he says.

“Poor performance is usually because people are not sure what to do, how to measure it, or when it should be done.”

Underperforming organisations can turn their fortunes around by learning from the history of Japan, who Tracy says relied on these three factors of clear goals, measures and strict deadlines, to become one of the world’s top economies less than twenty years after being all but destroyed by the Second World War.

HR’s place in the equation

But none of these ideas will work if HR is not supporting the entire process by bridging gaps. 

Where HR needs to step in is in identifying the areas that employees are weak in, as well as what additional training they have to undergo in order to gain the skills and knowledge needed for them to reach their goals, Tracy says.

Delegation, for example, is one of the most important skills in management. Effective delegation helps managers to achieve better results in less time.

Yet Tracy says of all the companies he has worked with, only the largest ones provided training in delegation to their managers. Many companies think delegating is “automatic”, he says, before affirming that it is not.

 “What I’ve found is managers who know how to delegate can really increase productivity, performance and profits by ten times. One skill alone like delegation can transform a manager’s career,” Tracy shares.

HR thus plays an important part in the whole equation of the business’ success. It can facilitate the provision of regular training in delegation and supervision.

But Tracy cautions that HR practitioners might not be aware of their own influence. He says many HR professionals complain that they are not appreciated enough. They also see themselves as distant from the results of a company, which are based around sales and profitability. 

“Many HR people often say that it’s not their job. So they pull themselves back and they don’t see that everyone is going to have an effect on the bottom-line,” he says.

But to be appreciated by the top leaders, HR has to help the company achieve its business targets by contributing to areas that directly affect productivity and sales figures.

“So HR, if they are really smart, can ensure that the right people receive the right training,” says Tracy.

Up close with: Brian Tracy

Based in: Solana Beach, US

What keeps you going? As long as you do something that you enjoy and do well, it will always make you happy and give you more energy. And you would not want to stop. I know so many wealthy and successful people, they never plan to retire. They will do different things, or they may take some time off. But they will never stop working. These people are working until the day they die because they love their work.

Is this your first trip to Singapore? Well I used to live in Singapore in the 1960s. Then I was there again in the 1970s, 1990s and the first part of this century. I was there in 2015 as well. So I can get around Singapore without a map! I believe Singapore is the greatest city-state in the world.


Catch Brian Tracy Live at the HR Summit & Expo Asia 2017

Brian Tracy will be speaking at two sessions at HR Summit & Expo Asia 2017.

On the Plenary stage, Tracy will explore the psychology of motivation, as well as practical strategies and ideas on building a high performance workplace.

He will outline engaging questions, exercises, tips and best practices on:

  • Unlocking the potential of each employee
  • Building and reinforcing a positive self-concept to motivate and inspire your workforce
  • Creating a high-performance work environment
  • Recognising and rewarding in a way that energises your team

Over at the C-Suite Symposium, Tracy will discuss the 12 disciplines of leadership excellence, based on his book of the same title. These outline what is truly required for leaders and managers to master the fundamentals of great leadership and transform their organisations.


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Sandeep Aggarwal, Chief Financial Officer of Aon-Hewitt Asia-Pacific, shares his thoughts on the Workday finance and HR analytics platform. He says the cloud-based system is intuitive and easy-to-use, but still provides powerful insights across the functions.

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