Good to Great

Fifteen years ago, a book was published about how companies went from being average to being 3x above average consistently. It’s a fascinating and uplifting read that has shifted my leadership paradigm. And, my mind has cycled these thoughts 1,000’s of times since I’ve read the book.

These are my favorite points: (in the order I remember them)

1) Great leaders focus on making their organization great… they don’t come in with a huge goal and convince everyone to be on board.

2) following from that… the decision to work for being the best comes from seeing success in the small changes. I mean, seriously… I guess that’s the difference from intrinsic and extrinsic motivation. Intrinsic would be the way the great leaders go… they want to be really great… and when they see they are on their way, they decide to be the best in the world at what they do. Extrinsic motivation would be needing to be the best to feel good about yourself, picking a field, deciding to be the best at it, and working your butt off.

3) Great companies knew what they could do well and ONLY did that. Interesting. I’ve long thought that musicians (and creatives in general) are poor b/c we insist on wearing 1,000,000 hats (it’s def. more fun that way!). But, by definition, when we do THAT much, we aren’t that good at it. This book showed that that principle works for companies for sure. The ones that hold onto things that don’t match with their “core” weren’t as effective with their “core.”

4) Great companies are realistic about what the market is like (no delusions [of grandeur or safety or permanence]).

5) Technology makes things that are going fast faster… it’s purpose isn’t to make sedentary objects have killer momentum.

6) Oh, I am surprised I just remembered this. Great companies get the right team before they decide where they are going…. and the right team are people who care about the vision more than money or what have you. So people before new plans…

7) Also, when implementing new plans… great leaders didn’t just cut and swipe… they built off of the momentum that was there already. (a restate of point 1) 

8) And back to the right people…. when you have people who love what they do and care about the company, you don’t have to worry about policies to keep them working well. They WILL work well. It’s in their DNA. This frees up the leader and loops around to keep attracting the best people.

9) B/c after all, bureaucracy is in place to keep lazy people doing what needs to be done. <- that might be my favorite point in the whole book.


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