Life on the front porch

Faith, life, kids & bikes

Reflection on “Good to Great” by Jim Collins

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This was a book that I felt I had read before.  I think because I’ve been in several of Jim Collin’s lectures and his stories were quite memorable.  The premise of the book was to show, through research, what were the common factors among companies that went from good (even mediocre) to being great performers.  The Good to Great companies had to sustain their greatness for at least 15 years and not just beat the market, but they had to beat their comparison companies, because good to great couldn’t be a measure of just a whole industry taking off.
I read this with a mind to the organizations that I’ve been in, the leaders I’ve been under and the leadership I would like to give in the social sector and my faith community.  Here are my top learnings from the main concepts:
  1. Level 5 Leadership is essential. Leaders of G2G organizations are not flashy – they subscribe to hard work, disciplined action, humility and they surrounded themselves with the right people.
  2. First Who, then What. Who you have around you is more important than the thing you are doing. The right people in the right places is essential. When the right people are in the right places, the leader doesn’t have to be the expert or the smartest – the team can passionately argue and then respectfully follow what was decided.
  3. Confront the brutal facts. The Stockdale Paradox: Be stubbornly convinced that you will reach your goal, but don’t make promises that you cannot keep. G2G companies were not optimistic, they under promised and over delivered. And, listen to the experts (your people who can see what’s actually happening).
  4. The hedgehog concept: foxes run around, try all sorts of things, but hedgehogs know one thing and have confidence that what they do will work. The secret to greatness lies in finding the one thing that you can be great at.
  5. Culture of discipline: fanatically disciplined, not bureaucratic. Within the consistency there is great freedom and great responsibility. There are no shortcuts, every action is focused around the one thing you could be great at. From the outside it looks boring and slow moving, but in reality more opportunities open up.
  6. Technology accelerators: technology is never a ticket to greatness and yet every G2G company was among the most innovative and tech savy companies. Technology had to work to enhance the one thing that they were passionate about.

The Massy Family - We're great at adventureInteresting, but I like to be practical (and I’m not leading a business or any organization at this point).  So let me think out loud here, if I were to build my family into a great family (rather than just a good family) and I took on the values of G2G:
  • Leading my family is about having a smaller ego, doing the little things over and over and focused on the right results.
  • Do you have a stop doing list?  What are you spending money on that isn’t helping you reach your goal of greatness?  What activities are you saying yes to that you need to stop?  The primary purpose of a budget is to resource what you want and starve what you don’t want.
  • Getting the right people in the right seats means that I should be doing what I’m best at and finding where all my children thrive. Put round pegs in round holes and square pegs in square holes. It’s not to keep everyone happy, but finding happiness in doing what we are created for. Learning how to disagree and allowing my kids to become experts.
  • Confronting the brutal truth means budgeting based on what is, not what could be. Living within our means and talking about it. Celebrating the little victories but keeping our eye on being great. On a challenging budget, we have continued to come through each season of life far ahead of what I’d have predicted (on the financial ledger) but not by focusing on money, by focusing on our means.
  • It’s easy to chase all sorts of dreams and doing good things that others are doing, but by focusing on one main thing, we can actually get a reputation for greatness. In our family it’s adventure – often by bike but generally in our approach to life. How would we be known? Let’s not run all over the place and change directions continuously, but know our One Main Thing.
  • Discipline has 2 sides – constraint and consistency open up room for freedom and creativity within that framework. With schedules for work, maintenance, school work it may seem like we’re busy working all the time, but we’ll have more time to play in more creative ways.
  • New toys (technology) should help us reach our goals. If they don’t, we can let the technology pass us by. We’ll use new toys to help us be more great.
This is a little much for me to all handle – can’t do everything.  And I’m no Level 5 leader – but perhaps I can start doing some of the things that great leaders do.  Here’s what I want to apply in this next season of life:
  • be better at asking good questions rather than telling the answers.
  • be a student of the people around me and help them to find their place.
  • have a schedule for work so that it can end and there’s time for play.
  • don’t focus on growth, focus on becoming great at what God made us to be great at.

And you?  What greatness are you capable of?


Author: Robb Massey

I'm a husband, dad, pastor and a coach. I love following Jesus, riding my bike and having fun with my family. We live in wonderful Winnipeg, Manitoba in the prairie heartland of Canada

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