Jim Collins

Don’t stop at good, go for great

good to great nelson mandelaI have been working in business for thirty years and have a successful career.

I started writing in addition to my career because I saw it as a way to reach and teach many more people than I could just one-on-one or speaking to groups. I still mentor, teach, and speak today and enjoy every opportunity but I also write a blog and have a following on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter where I share my thoughts on leadership. That was a big step for me to now reach over 10,000 people regularly.

Three years ago I published my first book, The Leadership GPS, and it became an Amazon Best Seller.

These have all been steps on my personal journey from good to great and I’m not done – I am in the process of writing my next book. You see, I call my goal from good to great, Change The World Through Leadership Now.

After each step towards my goal I could see the next step I needed to take. It is just like Nelson Mandela said, “After climbing a great hill, one only finds that there are many more hills to climb.”

I want to share with you the three steps I consistently take on my journey from good to great:

Sharpen your focus. Life can be full of issues that need to be resolved. We can get really good at managing them. Many of these issues are important and need your investment – it’s ok if you take care of them, just don’t let this become your life’s work. Keep focused on your good to great goal and get back to it regularly – and if you can, perhaps you can use solving the issues as part of your good to great goal.

“Managing your problems can only make you good, whereas building your opportunities is the only way to become great.” – Jim Collins, Good to Great

Accomplish small steps. Great things are rarely achieved with the first try. It’s a process that builds on itself. With each small step of success ask yourself “What’s next?” And use what you’ve built to reach the next step.

“Great things are done by a series of small things brought together.” – Vincent Van Gogh

Finish with great. Great is a life-long dream. Believe you will reach it and keep climbing.   No matter how many times you may slip, pick yourself up, learn from what happened and get going again.

“Most great people have attained their greatest success just one step beyond their greatest failure.” – Napoleon Hill

 

Seating Chart Leadership

classroom seating chartIn school classes each teacher has a seating chart. These are first set up alphabetically to help the teacher learn each student’s name. As the year progresses, students may move to seats that better suit their particular needs. Some students do their best in the front of the room as they see the board better, others move closer to their friends because they learn best in social settings. No matter the system used to place students on the seating chart, it is all done to help them achieve the best possible outcome.

Successfully leading a team also requires a seating chart. Like the school classroom example, this seating chart needs to adapt over time to help your team achieve success. In his book Good to Great Jim Collins talks about great companies as a bus. The bus drivers are the leaders and their main job is to get the right people in the right seats on the bus so they can arrive at the right destination.

Here are three ways leaders can use the seating chart to help their team achieve the best possible outcomes:

Help your team align to their talents

The best performing teams recognize the diverse talents of each individual, make sure they are in the right seats, and fit them together to achieve a common purpose. According to Gallup, “The best opportunity for people to grow and develop is to identify the ways in which they most naturally think, feel, and behave, and then build on those talents to create strengths.”

People want to be personally successful and on a successful team. Unless we all operate in our strength zone, we will be less successful than we could be. Aligning people with their talents is a sure way to give them the best shot at being all the can be.

Help your team aspire to be great

Being in the right seat and excelling in the right seat are two different things. People may be naturally gifted with talent, but it takes work to become great. Reaching greatness requires diligently practicing to hone your strengths. Inspirational author H. Jackson Brown, Jr. says it this way, “Talent without discipline is like an octopus on roller skates. There’s plenty of movement, but you never know if it’s going to be forward, backwards, or sideways.”

There are many self-motivated people who may challenge themselves each day, but sometimes it is easier for others to see what we can become. The leader’s role here is to challenge your team to succeed today beyond yesterday and tomorrow beyond today. Ralph Waldo Emerson put it like this, “Our chief want is someone who will inspire us to be what we know we could be.”

Help your team help others

Achieving personal greatness by being in the right seat and becoming your personal best is a great accomplishment worth celebrating and emulating. The ultimate in success is never just our own personal achievements. The real accomplishment is always in helping others learn from our actions and succeed even beyond our results.

For those driven to success, the steps from personal to team success and from team success to other’s success are mere extensions of the same desire to be the best. Those who want to be the best will be searching for the next step. Zig Ziglar highlights this search when he says, “There is a certain amount of dissatisfaction that goes with knowing that your time, talent and abilities are not being properly used.”

Your role as the leader is to now change the seating chart once again so that the best individuals can become the best leaders.   As Ronald Reagan said, “The greatest leader is not necessarily the one who does the greatest things. He is the one that gets people to do the greatest things.”

It’s time for the midyear review. How am I doing?

midyear reviewAt midyear we stop and reflect on where we are in relation to our goals.  You will be looking at your employees’ accomplishments and talking to them about the second half of the year.  If you have an employee who is not quite where you would like them to be, what do you do?  Start at the beginning and refocus.

All employees are given resources like money, training, equipment, and sometimes a team of their own to lead.  These resources are an investment from their owner intended to fulfill the goals of the company.  If the goals are not being met then the employee is spending the resources that were provided in areas that don’t generate the expected return for the team or the company.

If you find that one of your team members is fully using every resource that you have provided but not generating the success that was expected, they are likely focused on the wrong goals.  From the surface it often appears that they ignored the goals that you had for them and pursued other goals that achieved individual success but did not accomplish the purpose of your team.

Before you settle on the easy conclusion that this employee only cares about themselves, I suggest you follow the advice from Jim Collins, author of Good to Great.  In essence he said, “In times of success great leaders look out the window to credit others, and in times of trouble great leaders look in the mirror to evaluate what they could have done better.”

You see, people are very capable of generating success when provided adequate resources.  Your job as the leader is to focus your team’s strengths on successfully accomplishing the vision of the team.

Here are four questions to review together with each employee that is not on goal:

Do you understand the purpose of the team? If you have not fully defined the purpose of the team, your team has two choices; operate with no purpose or define their own purpose. Absent a clear purpose, the employee who is geared to success, will have chosen their own purpose.  You are responsible for defining the purpose of the team so each employee will seek to accomplish the same end.

“You have to know where you’re going. If you don’t know where you’re going, you’ll never know if you’ve arrived,” – Denis G. McLaughlin, The Leadership GPS

Do you understand how the vision achieves the purpose? Even if you have a clearly defined purpose for your team, there are many ways to achieve it.  Your vision sets the route your team will take to reach its purpose.  If you don’t over communicate how your team will achieve its purpose than you aren’t communicating enough.  Left undefined, the employee will define their own vision.

The very essence of leadership is that you have a vision. It’s got to be a vision you articulate clearly and forcefully on every occasion. You can’t blow an uncertain trumpet.” – Theodore Hesburgh, as quoted in The Leadership GPS

Does you understand how what you do fits into the vision? Ok, so you have a clearly defined purpose and vision for your team.  There is one more level of understanding you must focus on: taking the vision down to the employee level.  The employee may struggle in seeing the connection between their individual goals and the larger vision and purpose of the team.  Remember, employees are success driven, without this connection they will instead focus on what they think will help achieve the team’s goals.

“Great leaders are almost always great simplifiers, who…offer a solution everybody can understand.”  – Colin Powell, as quoted in The Leadership GPS

Are you achieving personal success in accomplishing the success of the team?  Each person is looking for personal satisfaction in their life and in their job.  For your vision to be effective you have to set it in motion and it must have an immediate impact on your team members.  With each success, they need to feel that their job satisfaction is improving, along with the purpose if the team being accomplished.

“Successfully achieving your team’s purpose comes through a vision that consistently delivers small successes for each team member.” – Denis G. McLaughlin, The Leadership GPS.

 

 

 

Leaders: What steps do you take when success seems to be a thing of the past?

steps to successYour team used to be a success.  Every project was delivered on time and under budget.  Team morale was high and you were the “Go-To Team.” You don’t know what happened but success now seems out of reach.

Here are three quick fixes that you may be tempted to try:

1-Just do more of what you are already doing.  It might not be working now, but maybe more of the same will bring success.  Grow more, spend more, centralize more, decentralize more.

2-Just ignore any negative data and amplify the positive data.  And if you don’t really understand the data find away to make it positive.

3-Just do something big and bold:  change the entire leadership team, launch a bold but untested strategy, dive into a radical transformation, roll out a hoped-for blockbuster product.

In his book Why the Mighty Fall Jim Collins shared stories of companies that tried these quick fixes.  You can tell from the title of his book that these companies did not achieve success.  Quick fixes never work for long term success.

“The elevator to success is out of order.  You’ll have to use the stairs…one step at a time.” – Joe Girard

Here are three steps that you should take to return to success:

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The prodigal employee – it’s all about the right goals.

20130619-170211.jpgMany people mistakenly believe prodigal means lost, wayward, or not achieving up to one’s potential. This notion comes from the Bible story named the Prodigal Son in which a son leaves the family and is welcomed back upon his return. The word prodigal actually means extravagant, extremely generous and overly free in giving away valuables. If you further study the Prodigal Son parable, you will see that it is about a son who asks his living father for his inheritance so he can leave the family and spend lavishly on himself and his friends. He does return, but only when he has spent all of his riches and has nothing to show for it.

How does that lead us to a prodigal employee?
All employees are given resources like money, training, equipment, and sometimes a team of their own to lead. These resources are an investment from their owner intended to fulfill the goals of the company. A prodigal employee therefore is not one that is lost, or wayward, or not living up to their potential. No, like the parable, a prodigal employee is spending the resources that were provided in areas that don’t generate the expected return for the team or the company.

How do you handle the prodigal employee?
If you find that one of your team members is fully using every resource that you have provided but not generating the success that was expected, they are focused on the wrong goals. From the surface it often appears that they ignored the goals that you had for them and pursued other goals that achieved individual success but did not accomplish the purpose of your team.

Before you settle on the easy conclusion that the prodigals only care about themselves, I suggest you follow the advice from Jim Collins, author of Good to Great. In essence he said, “In times of success great leaders look out the window to credit others, and in times of trouble great leaders look in the mirror to evaluate what they could have done better.”

You see, prodigals are very capable of generating success when provided adequate resources. Your job as the leader is to focus your team’s strengths on successfully accomplishing the vision of the team.

Here are four questions to review with a prodigal employee:
Once you review these four questions with the prodigal employee, then it is up to them to turn their focus to the right goals.

1) Does the prodigal employee understand the purpose of the team?

If you have not fully defined the purpose of the team, your team has two choices; operate with no purpose or define their own purpose. Absent a clear purpose, the prodigal employee, who is geared to success, will have chosen their own purpose. You are responsible for defining the purpose of the team so each employee will seek to accomplish the same end.

“You have to know where you’re going. If you don’t know where you’re going, you’ll never know if you’ve arrived.” – Denis G. McLaughlin, The Leadership GPS

2) Does the prodigal employee understand how your vision achieves the purpose?

Even if you have a clearly defined purpose for your team, there are many ways to achieve it. Your vision sets the route your team will take to reach its purpose. If you don’t over communicate how your team will achieve it’s purpose than you aren’t communicating enough. Left undefined, the prodigal employee will define their own vision.

“The very essence of leadership is that you have a vision. It’s got to be a vision you articulate clearly and forcefully on every occasion. You can’t blow an uncertain trumpet.”
– Theodore Hesburgh, as quoted in The Leadership GPS

3) Does the prodigal employee understand how what they do fits into the vision?

Ok, so you have a clearly defined purpose and vision for your team. There is one more level of understanding you must focus on: taking the vision down to the employee level. The prodigal employee may struggle in seeing the connection between their individual goals and the larger vision and purpose of the team. Remember, the prodigal employee is success driven, without this connection they will instead focus on what they think will help achieve the teams goals.

“Great leaders are almost always great simplifiers, who…offer a solution everybody can understand.”
– Colin Powell, as quoted in The Leadership GPS

4) Does the prodigal employee obtain personal success in accomplishing the success of the team?

Each person is looking for personal satisfaction in their life and in their job, the prodigal employee is no exception. For your vision to be effective you have to set it in motion and it must have an immediate impact on your team members. With each success, they need to feel that their job satisfaction is improving, along with the purpose of the team being accomplished.

“Successfully achieving your team’s purpose comes through a vision that consistently delivers small successes for each team member.” – Denis G. McLaughlin, The Leadership GPS.

The reflection of great leadership.

When you look at your leadership reflection in the mirror each morning, whmirror_catat do you see?  Do you like what you see? I don’t mean are you perfect, and I don’t mean have you always made the right decisions.  What I do mean is mean do you see someone who has overcome many obstacles to become who you are today and someone who is capable of accomplishing greatness?

That is an accurate reflection of all leaders and a positive leadership self-image. Heading out the door each day with that thought to guide you will lead you to greatness.

Why is an accurate yet positive leadership self-image so important?  Brian Tracey says, “The person we believe ourselves to be will always act in a manner consistent with our self-image.”

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Think Big; Plan Big; Achieve Big

“Make no little plans. They have no magic to stir men’s blood and probably themselves will not be realized. Make big plans; aim high in hope and work…Remember that our sons and grandsons are going to do things that would stagger us…Think big.”

I first heard this quote from Daniel Burnham on an Architectural tour of Chicago.  Shortly after moving to The Windy City, my family and I boarded a small boat to learn the history of downtown Chicago.  The tour guide mentioned Burnham’s name many times when describing the classical buildings we admired.

He then described the man who changed the face of architecture in Chicago and cities across America because he accepted the challenge to Think Big.  

Daniel Burnham was one of the most sought after architects in America in the early 20th century.  He designed one of the first American skyscrapers: the Masonic Temple Building in Chicago, and was influential in shaping the design of the National Mall of Washington D.C. under the McMillan plan.  He and his company designed over forty well known buildings across America.

His best known work was his design of the Chicago World’s Fair of 1893.  The World’s Fair held in Chicago in 1893 celebrated the 400th anniversary of Christopher Columbus’ arrival in the New World in 1492. It also demonstrated to the world that Chicago had risen again from the great fire which destroyed much of the city in 1871.

Over 27 million people attended the fair during its six month run.   It covered more than 600 acres, and featured 200 new buildings of neoclassical architecture and people and cultures from around the world.  Its scale exceeded any other world fair before it, and it was the first world fair to have international pavilions for forty-six nations.  It was the prototype of what Burnham thought a city should be; the first example of city planning.

The Big Plans of the Chicago World’s Fair of 1893 left quite an impression on the world.  The design brought international prominence to Daniel Burnham, and is said to have inspired the Emerald City of the Land of Oz and Walt Disney’s theme parks.

In his book Built to Last, Jim Collins highlights great successful companies that Achieved Big.  Most had what Collins calls Big Harry Audacious Goals or BHAGS.  Like Jack Welch and General Electric whose BHAG was, “To become #1 or #2 in every market we serve and revolutionize this company to have the speed and agility of a small enterprise.”

In leadership you need to inspire your teams to achieve greatness.  For your vision to be successful you must Think Big; Plan Big and you will Achieve Big.

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