In Now, Build a Great Business! authors Mark Thompson and Brian Tracy offer easy, tried-and-true ways to think about and plan organizational growth, especially in tough economic times. Here are three short excerpts to give you a taste of what they offer.
If You Don't Buy It, Why Should Anyone Else?
You need to believe you're creating an excellent product or service, in every way, to inspire others to join you in that great cause, great new team or great company that you're building.
At the same time, you must learn to be excellent at the key capabilities and functions of leadership, and set yourself on a course of continual improvement throughout your career. "You need the humility to remind yourself that you've got to get better at everything you do,"insisted Amazon founder, Jeff Bezos. He looked out at the snow piling up outside the window. He had come to Davos, Switzerland, to share insights about entrepreneurship at the World Economic Forum, where I interviewed him. "I don't know about you, but I'm never done growing my company or myself!"
Management guru, Jim Collins, calls this "Level 5 leadership."The most fascinating and distinguishing characteristic of Level 5 is an often-misunderstood trait: Humility.
No, humility doesn't actually mean humble. People who are crazy enough to launch businesses as the economy is falling apart and fight Goliath-sized adversaries are not exactly humble. It means you have a "burning, driving, relentless ambition to serve and to win,"Collins told me after his keynote at the University of Pittsburgh. You must be driven to succeed, "without the arrogance to delude yourself into believing that you are all knowing or always right."
As a Level 5 leader, you don't believe you're perfect. You're just convinced that you can get better. You're always looking for new ways to take your game to the next level.
Bezos' belief that he could create a new type of store with a mission so massive as to justify the wildly optimistic metaphor of Amazon as his company's name was anything but humble! Yet he had the humility to craft a business plan that focused on the fundamentals of leadership in customer service at a time when it was unpopular and at odds with his the dot com era competitors. While other Internet companies expanded at the speed of light, Amazon's obsession with getting their products and services working better than anyone else ironically resulted in complaints about "slower" growth and unprofitability.
When the dot-com bubble burst, Amazon survived and prospered while others imploded. The humility and discipline to commit yourself to continuous organizational and personal improvement is what gives you the "winning edge"in your position and enables your company to outperform your competition.
"That's only possible if you love what you do and believe that what you're doing will make a difference," Bezos told me.
"You need to make it really obvious to customers that your focus is on excellence,"he said, pounding the table with his trademark laugh. "That means everything works for customers: great products, great recommendations and great delivery -- particularly in the toughest times."
Leaders Are Made, Not Born
Peter Drucker wrote, "There may be natural born leaders, but there are so few of them that they make no difference in the greater scheme of things."
Leaders are self-developed, by working on themselves continually. In his book, Talent is Overrated, Fortune editor Geoff Colvin shows how business leaders starting from the beginning of their careers, develop themselves through hours and hours of "deliberate practice." Like parts of a mosaic, you must work on essential skills for a decade -- or at least 10,000 hours -- to master them.
For our book, Now, Build a Great Business!, we conducted a World Success Survey in 110 nations to determine the key traits of leaders whose impact has lasted more than 20 years. We found seven key steps to maximize the impact of your organization.
Just as Peter Drucker’s famous "five questions" are deceptively simple -- but extraordinarily poignant and challenging to answer -- so too are our seven principles. These questions are necessary for every leader to address in order to create a great organization.
- Become a Great Leader: How will you develop yourself and hold yourself accountable as a leader?
- Plan: What will it take to create a useful business plan?
- Surround Yourself With Great People: How will you attract and honor your team?
- Offer a Great Service: How will your products make a real difference?
- Design Great Marketing: Why should this organization matter to others?
- Perfect a Great Sales Process: How will you engage and educate customers to buy-in to your mission?
- Create a Great Customer Experience: How will you engage them in a extraordinary client experience?
Great People Defined: Five Key Success Factors
Before you can attract and keep great people throughout your business, you need a clear idea of how you define a "great person." The critical measure of success in any business is the ability to get results, and therefore great employees are those who get the job done quickly and well, consistently and at high levels of quality.
- Great people are good team players. Does your team work well together? Are they focused on doing whatever is necessary to make a meaningful contribution to team goals? You want and need people who treat each other with respect - - despite what may make them different - - because they share a common cause or goal. For that reason, they will help each other to perform well, giving support and guidance whenever necessary.
- Great people are more concerned with what's right rather than who's right. When there is disagreement, it should be focused on the issues - - achieving the goal - - rather than blaming or making excuses. Do you regularly create a "safe" environment for staff meetings, where people can address difficult issues without making them personal, or do people have to avoid tough subjects for fear of reprisal? If team members are truly hungry to achieve the goal - - and are allowed to be frank and even argue about how to get there - - they will be much more effective than teams that attack each other or whose members don't bring up important but challenging topics.
- Great people are intensely results oriented. Your best players focus on contribution, on doing those things that make a real difference to your company. They set priorities and use their time well. They focus on key tasks.
- Great people accept high levels of responsibility for the outcomes required of them. They don't require close supervision because they feel personally accountable for results.
- Great people consider the company a great place to work. They see themselves as a family. They treat the company as if it belonged to them personally, and they treat their jobs as important responsibilities. Work life becomes a part of their "identity," and they socialize with their colleagues outside of work.