Jim Collins recently provided business leaders with a rare treat – a personal appearance in Edmonton, Alberta – currently one of the world’s strongest economies.   Collins delivered an impassioned talk and spoke candidly about what it takes to become a great, enduring business.  The highlights of the messages he delivered are worth repeating for all business leaders who are on their own “good to great” journey.   Here is a summary of the wisdom that Collins imparted on the near 1000 person crowd;

The Secret to Motivating Gen Y

When asked about how to engage generation “Y” employees he cautioned against confusing rare with new.  He suggested there is no secret and it’s rare that companies focus very much time at all on ensuring they have the right people in the right seats.  Regardless of age and generation, companies having success with their people do a superb job of this and make it an ongoing priority.  This isn’t a fad or something to be considered a new way of dealing with generation “Y” exclusively.

The Importance of a Big Hairy Audacious Goal (BHAG)

The best employees never strive for mediocrity.  Leaders that downplay the importance of having an inspiring BHAG or long term organizational goal should remember one thing: great employees want to do big things.  If employers don’t challenge them to do big things then they’ll find one who will.

Good to Great is a Choice

Companies that went from good to great did it by making a choice to instill the discipline necessary to do so.  It never resulted from circumstances such as economic conditions or luck.

Transformational Leaders Are Critical

All great companies have level 5 leaders in their organization who possess the following qualities:

  • Willingness to continuously improve their leadership skills throughout their career
  • Mastering the art of getting people to do what must be done
  • The “x” factor character traits of humility and relentless drive that separates them from level 4 leaders.
  • Built a company that can be great without them.  If a company can’t continue to excel when the leader isn’t there, it’s not a great company.

 Core Values Must Be Core

The importance of deeply understood core values to repel those who don’t fit your culture and retain those who do cannot be overstated.  Companies that have done a good job with core values understand it would actually hurt to drop one of them from their values list or, worse, have them violated.  If this isn’t the case you haven’t dug deep enough.

Stay the Course in Rough Waters

Companies that failed to achieve greatness panic too much in times of uncertainty and, as a result, make too many knee jerk changes that prevent them from weathering the storm on solid footing. (Editorial Comment: having a current strategic plan that is updated quarterly significantly increases a company’s ability to “stay the course.”)

Beware the Great Decline

The stages of decline that businesses have to guard against are:

  • Undisciplined pursuit of more.  There is such a thing as too much growth (refer to the “20 Mile March”)
  • Denial of risks that could impact your business.
  • Grasping for salvation, and ultimately;
  • Death…..

The Path to a Fulfilled Life

Successful people never stop doing hard things.

Building a great life means building great relationships through helping others and making a meaningful impact.

Start asking “how can I be useful” rather than looking for what others are going to do for you.  What is the value that you can enthusiastically bring to the table?

Collins is one of the most researched business authors of our time and when he speaks, business leaders are wise to listen.  How many of his insights can you confidently check off the list right now?  Which ones do you most wish you could?  In that case, what’s stopping you?

Article by: Jeff Tetz

Image: amazon.com