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The 11 Commandments of Leadership, part two

Last month we presented the 11 commandments of leadership. This month, we feature Jay Goltz, founder and CEO of the Goltz Group. Goltz started an art framing company in the late 1970s and has grown it to $13 million in annual revenues. Even with a modest size of about 120 employees and 70,000 square feet in facilities, Goltz Group has the largest picture framing company in the U.S.

Goltz has significant management experience and has learned from that experience. He reflects and learns (Commandment #11). Goltz has shared what he has learned in a number of books and magazines.1 Here is a snapshot of how he practices some of the leadership commandments we presented last month.

In his framing business, Goltz pays attention to satisfying customers. Goltz acknowledges that his own attitude about customer service affects everyone else. (People make important what you pay attention to; Commandment #6.) He spends much of his time and developing systems to improve and monitor customer service. For example, Goltz instituted a practice of "hot tickets" where sales consultants fill out a checklist when a problem with a customer order is detected. The checklist has about 20 things that can go wrong with a framing order; hot tickets are a mechanism to not only quickly address a problem, but to gain knowledge of common problems. Importantly, Goltz doesn't use hot tickets as a gotcha system to reprimand employees, but as an information system to support the goal of 100% satisfied customers on framing orders (they get 99%).

Although Goltz is an entrepreneur, he has learned to work through others by creating BIG jobs (#7). When another company tried to hire one of his managers, Goltz could not match the offer. Still the manager decided not to take the new offer because it was not as good a job: "It was really disorganized..." The manager goes on to say that Goltz demands quality, but that he "doesn't micromanage." In other words, Goltz uses policy: "He gives us parameters. I get to work within them the way that I want." And he lets them make mistakes: "When we make mistakes, he calls us on it, but it's a teaching thing, not punitive" (from Burlingham, p. 133). Goltz leads by providing direction and focus.

Despite engaging in specialist tasks, Goltz devotes time to managerial thinking. "In the early 1980s, I noticed that in my business the artwork our customers were framing were getting larger while their cars were getting smaller."

Noticing that it was not easy to move the pictures, he "instituted delivery service in response to these trends, and it was a tremendous success" (Goltz, 23). Positioning his company for success requires that he envision the future and get in front of trends in other industries: "If your bank undergoes a merger, for instance, think about what that means for your company" (p. 24). Managing is about thinking, not just doing (#4).

Goltz manages by what the company needs, not what he wants or enjoys doing (#2). Says Goltz, "Whatever the industry and whatever the developmental stage of your company, you have to continually ask yourself, 'What's the most important thing for my company right now, and how can I best leverage my abilities in the service of my company?'" (Goltz, 52-53). With this attitude, Goltz is more likely to do the managerial tasks that are unpleasant but necessary--to be comfortable being uncomfortable (#1).

Goltz is firm in dealing with performance issues, recognizing that too often empowerment is a term to mask unwillingness to deal with or intervene on poor performance. Goltz adds, "Your unpopularity doesn't stop with your employees. If you have to cut off a customer who has unpaid receivables, he/she may tell everyone what a jerk you are. It goes with the territory" (p. 31).

Finally, results always matter (#3). The company keeps track of production by simply posting numbers every hour. A buzzer goes off and a supervisor posts on a white board the production numbers: "It's how we keep track of daily production. They do it every hour on the half hour. Our goal is to do a hundred a day. Since the board went up, we've never had a 'bad day.' This allows people to see how they're doing and what they've done. It gives them a sense of accomplishment and nips problems in the bud. If a customer needs a frame job by one o'clock, and a meeting runs late, or someone forgot, we catch it right away" (Goltz, 134-35).

There are no random acts of management (#5) and Goltz's behaviors consistently focus people on results and working together to meet customer needs.

1The two sources cited in this article are from his own book, The Street-Smart Entrepreneur: 133 Tough Lessons I Learned the Hard Way (1998) and a book by Bo Burlingham, Small Giants, which features Goltz and his company.

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