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He'll Help You Achieve

"Art McNeil"

This Canadian Achiever believes there is a five-year-old child in all of us who is crying to be let out. The trouble is, five-year-olds can be a pain sometimes if they aren't given their own way. And do you give your direction to a five-year-old child?

R. A. "Art" McNeil is founder and president of The Achieve Group In

corporated*, a Canadian company that specializes in developing skills in people. Art was director of sales and marketing for Bell Canada and later for the Edmonton Telephone Company. In 1977 he retired to found a company in Edmonton called "The Achieve Group". His goal was to help employees and employers understand what it takes to achieve.

Art's company is now centered in Mississauga, Ontario after first starting out in Edmonton. At time of writing, "The Achieve Group" had six offices, 35 employees and sales of $7 million a year! Art collaborated with Dr. Tom Peters, co-author of "In Search of Excellence", in the development of an action sequel to the book. He also wrote his own best-selling "The 'I' of the Hurricane", and "The V.I.P. Strategy", (both with Jim Clemmer) and is an internationally recognized speaker on leadership and service quality.

"You don't have to be a rocket scientist to realize there are changes happening in every part of the world. We are now getting to an era as we enter the 21st century where people with the product are going to win and those without are going to lose. It's as simple as that. We're looking at a world where the Asian trading block and the European trading block are really going to put it to us. Unless we shape up and get skilled and discover what it is that we can do better than anyone else we are going to get beat. When you see yourself getting beat, you get energized real fast!"

But isn't it true, I asked Art, that more than ever, heads of corporations are sending their executives and employees to seminars to learn how to manage other people and make changes that will benefit the company?

"Companies have all these big elaborate plans but they don't know how to manage day to day affairs. The major innovation that I've noticed is that executives are starting to understand that their customer is the non management employee. The real link that connects the server with the served is all wrong. The problem is with the manager and the managed, not with the server and the customer.

"The first thing is to uncover the core value that everyone in the organization believes in. Things like innovation; responsiveness; quality; integrity. Something that brings the five-year-old in all of us alive and says: 'Yes, I want to belong. I want to win. This is the kind of organization I am prepared to put my commitment behind.' "

So what is it that Canadians have that no one else has?

"Around the world Canadians are known for being trustworthy. Trust is a value. We are a value-giving society. We don't recognize it as much as the rest of the world does. We also have discipline, unlike the Americans who get all excited about something but don't know where to take their energy.

* There are several companies in Canada using the world 'Achieve' in their corporate title. None form part of 'The Canadian Achievers' Group.

We Canadians are institutional in our thinking. We're terribly disciplined and organized and have a way of taking what we believe in at a slower pace to make it work. Whereas the Americans tend to get an idea and go off like a sky rocket in every direction with no discipline."

If we must improve and become innovative to stay at least abreast of the competition from Europe and Asia, what must we do?

"The world is changing so fast that you have to develop a system within your organization that continually improves. People will take a system that is not working, change it, and a year later change it again and they are still out of step. Innovation is absolutely necessary, but innovation by itself is chaos. You must have a clear notion of where you are going and what to believe in.

"In a study of 90 top leaders in the fields of business, academe, sports and the arts it was concluded that these leaders had visions or intentions that are compelling and pull people along with them. Intensity coupled with commitment is magnetic."

"When I first started out in the business, I wanted to find out what it was that prevented people from taking action. They knew what they wanted but they didn't know how to do it. Action, not talk produces excellence. After a lot of research I discovered it was an absence of skill camouflaged with a lot of defence mechanisms. They will not own up to the fact that they have a skill deficiency and use all kinds of methods to disguise it and may not even know they are doing it. My advice is, when in doubt, skill out. Practice skills and you create empowerment. The routine is quite simple: to be successful in the nineties, make sure your value space is clear, and practice your skills. "

What about that five-year-old in all of us? Is he/she in there gumming up the works all the time?

"It's true! And at every level. One thing I have learned in dealing with executives is that they are just like confused kids. They have a need to know people care; they go into traumas; they'll overwork and overplay and when you need them most they are too tired to be at their best. Five-year-olds are not concerned about or interested in plans. No reason why they should be. If you let the five-year-old in you come out and play and dream about the future it will give you an opportunity to put up with the tremendous set of problems that beset us every day.

"That's how you can stick to your plan: you keep going back and firing up the little guy with ideas." You can have both; you can set a plan and imagine possibilities. The beauty of the paradox of dreaming and planning is not making your plan become a dream and not making your dream become a plan as the dream provides energy and the plan provides the direction.

"But because of our training, we always want to merge the two and it doesn't work. In most cases, both die."

"The world is changing too fast for most people. We are programmed in negativity before the age office. Now every time we hear the word 'change' we see 12 negative pictures before we see one positive one. That means if you really want to become effective as a person, you must paint pictures of the preferred future so that the vacuum between our ears is filled with something positive."

Art McNeil ... he trains people to become Canadian Achievers.


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