Given the current unemployment rate, additional lay-offs that are imminent, and competition is ferocious for the few positions that are being filled, the careers of individuals need the same “building blocks.”
I know of no one else who possesses more and better business wisdom than does Jason Jennings. Be sure to read his various books, especially Think Big Act Small: How America’s Best Performing Companies Keep the Start-up Spirit Alive and Hit the Ground Running: A Manual for New Leaders, both published by Portfolio/The Penguin Group.
1. Down to Earth: Modesty and humility in word and manner are most appropriate. Outstanding performance attracts attention (not self-promotion) and speaks volumes, silently but effectively. Those with the
healthiest egos have emotional intelligence (e.g. they consider it a privilege to serve others).
2. Keep Your Hands Dirty: Volunteer for the most unpleasant tasks, offer assistance to colleagues in need of it, share credit with others. Occupy the “trenches” and you control the “battlefield.”
3. Make Short-Term Goals and Long-Term Horizons: Often, progress consists of a series of “baby steps” to achieve an especially ambitious goal. The same is true of barrier removal during change initiatives. Generate momentum with incremental success.
4. Let Go: As Jennings suggests, “If it’s DOA, bury it.” Learn from the past but don’t let your mind dwell there. Grow, reach, stretch, stumble, get up, but keep moving in the right direction.
5. Think and Act Like an Owner: Take a proprietary interest in your organization. Eliminate waste (especially wasting time), focus on what’s most important rather than on what’s urgent, and be a builder rather than a spectator.
6. Invent New Businesses: Be constantly alert to what can be improved, what can be used in new ways, what can succeed in new markets with different customers. The #1 competitor? Who you are today and what your organization is today? Constantly improve or deteriorate and eventually….
7. Create Win-Win Situations: This strategy is especially important during negotiations and also applies to relations with competitors as well as with customers. Respect others’ rights; indeed, when necessary, protect and defend them.
8. Choose Your Competitors: Both organizations and individuals should know who they are…and who they aren’t. Leverage strengths. Know “when to hold ‘em and when to fold ‘em.” And also know when to be bold, to be aggressive. Keep in mind that competitors are not enemies and these days, some competitors may soon become strategic allies.
9. Build Communities: Establish and nourish relationships with others by earning their respect for your expertise, then their respect for your character, and finally their appreciation of being associated with you.
10. Grow Future Leaders: Be unconditionally generous with the information, knowledge, and wisdom you possess as well as skills and techniques that will help others to success. Measure your own success in terms of the nature and extent of how well you collaborate with others on their success.
In addition to Think Big Act Small and Hit the Ground Running: A Manual for New Leaders, I also highly recommend Arlene Johnson’s Success Mapping: Achieve What You Want…Right Now!
Be sure to check out the following resources:
As a bagpiper, I play many gigs. Recently I was asked by a funeral director to play at a graveside service for a homeless man. He had no family or friends, so the service was to be at a pauper’s cemetery in the Kentucky back-country.
As I was not familiar with the backwoods, I got lost; and being a typical man I didn’t stop for directions. I finally arrived an hour late and saw the funeral guy had evidently gone and the hearse was nowhere in sight. There were only the diggers and crew left and they were eating lunch.
I felt badly and apologized to the men for being late.
Then I went to the side of the grave and looked down. The vault lid was already in place. I didn’t know what else to do, so I started to play. The workers put down their lunches and began to gather around. I played out my heart and soul for this man with no family and friends. I played like I’ve never played before for this homeless man.
And as I played Amazing Grace, the workers began to weep. They wept, I wept, and we all wept together.
When I finished I packed up my bagpipes and started for my car. Though my head hung low, my heart was full.
As I was opening the door to my car, I heard one of the workers say, “Sweet Mother of Jesus, I never seen nothing like that before and I’ve been putting in septic tanks for twenty years.”
Portfolio/The Penguin Group (2009)
Through a rigorous process of elimination best explained in the book, Jennings and his associates selected nine exemplar companies and their CEOs and explains how each of the nine combinations (i.e. company and its CEO) demonstrates an especially important “Rule.” Jennings devotes a separate chapter to each of the ten, the last being “Be a Fish Out of Water.” His focus is primarily on the nine CEOs and suggests that the best way to measure the performance of a CEO and compare one anther to each other is to calculate the total amount of economic value they created. “We defined economic value as the sum of the profits generated, dividends paid, increases in sales and profits, and the increase in the company’s share price during the CEO’s tenure.” After all of the nine CEOs who took over companies because of death, retirement, resignation, or the poor performance of their predecessor, they hit the ground running and “almost doubled revenues, more than tripled earnings per share, nearly tripled EBITDA, and doubled their company’s net profit margins.” How did they accomplish these exceptional results? Jennings provides the answer in this book.
The focus in this book is primarily on the first-year performance of nine CEOs: Patrick Hassey (Allegheny Technologies), Marshall Larsen (Goodrich Corporation), Frederick Eppinger (The Hanover Group), Howard Lance (Harris Corporation), Jeffrey Lorberbaum (Mohawk Industries), Ronald Sargent (Staples), Keith Rattie (Questar), Mike McCallister (Humana Inc.), and finally, Tim and Richard Smucker (The J.M. Smucker Company). After lengthy interviews, Jennings notes an obvious connection between and among them, one overpowering characteristic that all the CEOs shared: “They told the truth. None of them deceived themselves about anything, nor did they surround themselves with executives who did; they all practice the Golden Rule; and as a result, they’ve become the best performing CEOs in the nation.”
All of them stressed the importance of others’ contributions to the success achieved. Each reveals highly developed emotional intelligence as well as a profound appreciation of those with whom they are associated each day. That attitude explains how Eppinger gained credibility when he became CEO of The Hanover Group and why Lance asked his associates for their assistance when he became CEO of Harris Corporation. As is also true of the CEOs of the eleven “Good to Great” companies that Jim Collins interviewed, the nine that were interviewed by Jennings and his associates (notably Laurence Haughton) indicate almost no personal ego. They seem almost totally obsessed with the success of their companies but insist that that success is not about them. This is authentic humility, not false modesty, and (in my opinion) helps to explain why certain CEOs who are otherwise rather ordinary people have led their companies to achieving and then sustaining extraordinary success.