Making the Jump from Good to Great—3 ways to get started

In his book, Good to Great, author Jim Collins found that leaders at the most successful companies shared two traits—a fierce resolve toward achieving organizational goals and a deep sense of personal humility.  At the best companies, leaders worked tirelessly to keep the goals of the organization ahead of thoughts of personal accomplishment.  The result was financial performance that far outstripped the results of average organizations.

You may not be a CEO yet, but what can you do now to start building some of those qualities into your own leadership style and the way you are managing your current team?  Here are three places to get started.

Help your team discover its larger purpose.  The goal here is to have people pursuing a goal that is bigger than themselves.  Self-centered behavior is a normal condition.  Without something greater to serve, people naturally drift toward self-interest.  As a leader, your job is to lift people beyond self-interest into serving something larger.  What is the bigger mission of your team, department, or organization?  How does each individual position contribute to the overall goal?  Make this connection explicit.

Be careful with rewards and recognition.  Even well-meaning organizations have trouble with this one. How do you strike the right balance between personal and group recognition?  What types of behavior do you want to reward and encourage?  Leaders get in trouble two ways with reward and recognition. The first is when they inadvertently emphasize individual accomplishment over group accomplishment.  The second is when they use reward and recognition as the reason for doing the task.  You want to recognize individuals, but not at the expense of promoting team behaviors and results. Both of these common mistakes strip away at true motivation and collaboration. Structure reward and recognition in a way that makes it easy for people to “high five” each other and feel a sense of shared accomplishment.

Keep an eye on your personal behavior.  Actions speak louder than words.  Are you focused on individual accomplishment or team accomplishment?  If you are like most people, the answer is probably a little of both.  How does that affect your subsequent behavior?  As a leader, your actions are the single greatest teaching tool you have.  People watch your behavior for clues of what you truly believe.  What would people see if they watched you?  Consider where your own personal focus is.  Are you a serving leader—or more of a self-serving leader?  What do you personally believe about individual versus group recognition?  How does that play out in your work environment?

With a little bit of focus and some practice you can make important changes in your work environment.  Recognizing where you are is the first step.  Take that step and start making a difference in your life and the lives of the people around you.

6 thoughts on “Making the Jump from Good to Great—3 ways to get started

  1. Really good points.
    I had my comments:
    a) Help your team discover its larger purpose: True. Keeping people focused on something bigger avoid the normal shift toward self centering.

    b) Be careful with rewards and recognition: I agree is fundamental to take care of achieving a good balance between team and individual rewarding. I also add that if point can be tricky, the most difficult part to reinforce your leadership is to deal with failures: in this case, defend your group toward externals and discuss internally in an honest way of what has gone wrong

    c) Keep an eye on your personal behavior: as everything dealing with leadership, you are a role model. Be sure not to play a character, and be consistent with your actions.

    • Thanks for your comments! You bring up a great point about dealing with failure appropriately. That’s another time when people are watching carefully for clues into what an organization and a leader truly believes. The key here is to learn from the failure while still encouraging people to take appropriate risks when they are necessary to explore innovative new ideas. Too many organizations respond inappropriately. The result? People learn that it is safer to maintain the “status quo” rather than sticking your neck out. Very damaging long term.

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