By John Boggs
Why do some companies make the leap to greatness, while others falter? Discover 3 proven secrets right here…
Business leaders are constantly seeking ways to stand out and take their companies and/or departments from good to great.
It turns out that there’s a great book on this very subject! From Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap … and Others Don’t by Jim Collins is one of my top 10 favorite, most impactful books on business and leadership.
Here are the three biggest takeaways from the book that I’d like to share with you, so your company or department, too, can make the leap from good to great.
Tip 1: Have a Hedgehog Mentality
In Good to Great, Collins shares the insights he drew after studying 15 of the most amazing companies that had made a quantum leap in performance and impact compared to other companies in similar industries.
One of the core differences he discovered is that great companies gave up on trying to take advantage of every possible business opportunity. Instead, they made a conscious decision to do one thing — and to do it exceptionally well.
Collins calls this having a “hedgehog mentality.” No matter what predator is trying to attack the hedgehog, it uses only one defense strategy. It rolls up into a ball, allowing its spiky fur to provide protection. The fur is simple – and it works extremely well. So well, in fact, that it doesn’t need anything else.
Collins shares examples of the hedgehog mentality in action in the business world. For example, when asked what he was most proud of in his business career, Steve Jobs didn’t reply with the iPhone, the iPad, the iPod, the Macintosh computer or any other of his creations. His reply was more profound: “What I’m most proud of is all the things I said no to.”
As you look at your own life and business, ask yourself what can you be better at more than anybody else? What’s the one thing you would love to do in a way that makes you stand out from the rest of the world?
If you want to go from good to great, you must simplify. You must say no to a lot of things at which you can be good, so that you can become exceptional at one thing.
Tip 2: Pay Attention to the Bus
Collins uses the analogy of a bus to help you visualize the roles that your employees play within the company.
Who gets on the bus? That is, who comes into the company?
Once they are on the bus, where do they sit? How long do they stay? Who, how and when do you let people off the bus?
You can have great people on the bus, but if they are sitting in the wrong seat, it won’t serve your business. But the most important thing to pay attention to is who you let get on the bus. You need to be selective.
Collins explains that average companies typically have one genius-level leader and a bunch of people that are just following others’ instructions. But great companies do things differently. The only people allowed on the bus in great companies are employees who have great character and a great work ethic. These people have an entrepreneurial mentality; they have a high level of ownership in what they do. Those are the only people who are allowed on the bus.
If someone has all of those characteristics — a good work ethic, strong morals, a passion for what they’re doing, and so on — but they aren’t working out, great companies don’t kick them off the bus. Instead, they work diligently to find a different seat for them. Sometimes you’ll have great people who are just in the wrong role.
Find good people, then optimize to make sure they’re sitting in the right seat on your bus. Do that, and you’ll have a great company.
Tip 3: Have a Level-Five Leader
Collins says that there are five levels of leadership that we rise through in our journey to become great leaders.
First, you become a skilled worker, an employee who is really good at a particular skill.
Next, you grow into a dependable and competent co-worker.
Then, you become an organized manager. This is a very valuable level of leadership.
The fourth stage is where you become a visionary with a compelling message. Few people make it to this level.
Whether you’re leading your own company or you’re leading a department, what is the vision for your work in the world? And how compelling is your message?
You can’t have only a vision. You also must be able to share it in a way that enables others to understand what you’re working on – and that ignites their passion to join you in the pursuit of your vision.
For example, I’m passionate about building and empowering people to be transformational leaders. But what does that mean? It means you know exactly what the formula is to transform any result that you’re not in love with into results that you are in love with. There is a science, a technology and an art to that transformation. By learning and applying that system, you become a transformational leader.
The fifth and final level is the most rare. It’s where you have both extreme resolve for what you’re working on – and an extreme level of humility.
Abraham Lincoln is an excellent example of this level of leadership. Lincoln had major resolve to solve the problems of his time, and he was absolutely willing to surround himself with people who were smarter than he was and who had better ideas than he had. He was not threatened by that.
Collins discovered that great leaders have a high level of humility and resolve when he was conducting interviews. He found that they would say things like, “Well, I just happened to be lucky enough to recruit a great team. I have to give the team the credit.”
Level Five leaders give the credit to others. It’s not about them. It’s about their team, and it’s about empowering others. Be humble, surround yourself with great people, give your team the credit, and be willing to make the tough decisions.
Carve Your Path from Good to Great
To take your company or department from good to great, you need to do things differently than the average business leader or company does things. Use these three tips — adopting a hedgehog mentality, putting the right people in the right seats on your busy, and becoming a Level 5 leader – to guide the way.
Share your thoughts below about which tip you like the most!
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