There is an equally critical factor for success in companies: Teams that act as communities, integrating interests and putting aside differences to be individually and collectively obsessed with what’s good for the company. Research shows that when people feel like they are part of a supportive community at work, they are more engaged with their jobs and more productive.
Thus begins the book that you should read next. Trillion Dollar Coach: The Playbook from Silicon Valley’s Bill Campbell, by Eric Schmidt, Jonathan Rosenberg, and Alan Eagle. (The three authors were senior leaders at Google / Alphabet–and coached by Bill.)
Bill Campbell’s journey took him from head football coach at Columbia University, to the top sales and marketing job at Apple, to CEO of a couple of technology companies (Intuit and GO). Then he became a coach. He coached Steve Jobs at Apple. The three leaders and then many more at Google. And more than 80 other Silicon Valley CEOs and leaders. And his middle school football team that he coached at the same time.
He was most likely the most influential and respected man in Silicon Valley.
And his values and teaching are appropriate to all of us no matter the organization we’re with.
For example, he let everyone know his blocked time for coaching his football team of 13- and 14-year-olds. He wouldn’t answer his phone if you tried calling. One person, though, would ignore the time and call. Bill would pull his phone out of his pocket and look at the caller ID. The kids around him would look, also. They would see the name Steve Jobs, and then see Bill decline the call. They all knew that when Bill was with them, he was with them.
Read this book–and put the principles into practice in your life. You may not be building the next Google. But you can be the determining influence in someone’s life.
A team developing a Web application named itself Curious George team. You know, the mischievous monkey who was adopted by The Man in the Yellow Hat. Curiosity defined its personality.
I thought, “How cool is that?” A constant reminder to work that particular muscle.
Ever notice little kids? Maybe from 1-1/2 to 4 or so? Take a walk with them. They are curious about everything. They’ll stop and study a leaf. Or a bug. Or a worm.
What about us? When we take a walk, do we puzzle over things we see?
What are you curious about? What would you like to learn?
What a great name for a team exploring new business ideas. Or expanded service ideas.
“I’m on the Curious George team. We’re always exploring for new ideas.”
I’d heard about Jim Collins and perhaps even read one of his books. But I’d forgotten until I listened to a podcast interview with Tim Ferriss.
I bought a couple of his well-researched books. I mean, I write alone. He had 21 researchers for Good to Great. He pursued an answer to the question “can a good company (organization) become a great one”.
Short answer, yes.
After much research, the team identified 11 companies that filled the criteria of 15 years of so-so performance, an inflection point, followed by 15 years of great performance. Timelines long enough to allow for various short-term fluctuations.
They identified several characteristics. I’ve just finished reading about the first–one that surprised the team. Leaders.
But the type of leadership that build sustainable performance. The high-ego, publicly visible leader may drive performance in the short term, but seldom does that performance last.
The good to great leaders:
- Publicity shy
- Humble–always talking about company performance not personal
- Builds a strong team first thing before strategy
- Quiet, but strong
- “We”, not “I”
- Leads a simple lifestyle (no servants, large estates, and the like)
The team researched businesses, partly because there exists a wealth of data. I’ve observed the same thing in churches and other non-profits. The flamboyant, self-enhancing leader eventually flames out.
I have never been a fan-boy of Jack Welch. And the more we learn in retrospect, we see why he is not necessarily a genius to emulate. As a friend used to say, “You got your smoke; you got your mirrors.” It was growth by acquisition and using deft accounting.
Vitaliy Katsenelson is CEO of an investment company. His newsletter is on my list of informative and entertaining reads. (Plus he kicks in as a bonus a selection of classical music.)
This week’s essay—Welch vs Bezos.
Here are a few snippets to whet your appetite.
“Welch built a company with a “beat this quarter” culture. Welch’s GE was not in the business of building moats and investing for the long run; he was in the business of beating quarters. In his book, Welch raved that from the early 2000s GE always beat Wall Street estimates. He was proud of how managers of one division were able to “come up with” a few more cents of earnings if another division fell short of its forecast. I kid you not — reread that sentence, three times. If I was at the SEC I’d investigating GE’s accounting.”
Once upon a time I worked for a division of a conglomerate. For a while before collapsing it was Fortune 50. It had very few corporate staff. Executives wanted steady, reliable income for reporting to Wall Street. It invested in cyclical businesses. Go figure. Anyway, take this comment about GE:
“He was proud of how managers of one division were able to “come up with” a few more cents of earnings if another division fell short of its forecast. I kid you not — reread that sentence, three times. If I was at the SEC I’d be investigating GE’s accounting.“
Contrast with Bezos:
“Welch is on the opposite end of the spectrum from Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon.com. Bezos doesn’t even know how to spell quarterly earnings. Amazon’s founder once explained that Amazon makes decisions years out. So the current quarter’s report reflects decisions Amazon made several years ago.”
“There is another lesson here. As an investor, simplicity and transparency from a company is key. If a company’s business is complex and opaque, move on. One of the most important things in investing is what you do in-between buying or selling a stock. After you buy it is just a matter of time before your initial assumptions come under fire. Maintaining rationality throughout your ownership of the company is paramount, and to do that you need to understand the business well. That’s why I have no opinion on GE shares now.”
And your takeaway:
“Above all, never make a decision based solely on someone else’s research; use it as a starting point for your own investigation.”
We should be so beyond talk of The IT/OT convergence.
This has not been a technology issue for years. If anything it is an organization and personal issue.
Executives continue to view their organizations as constructed of a variety of separate domains. This is often because there are all these SVPs running around who need an organization to lead. So, one has operations, another IT, another design, another marketing, and so forth.
When senior management wakes up to the fact that technology has broken the barriers long ago, maybe they can get their organizations to follow suit.
This year we should be talking about how all technology is meant to serve leaders and managers who are trying to build safe, productive, profitable companies.
The story should be about benefits of using technology; not about pitting one against another.
Continuous learning is essential for economic survival in this increasingly technological world. However, I believe it is also essential for growth as a human. Sometimes we get so wrapped up in technology and organizational success that we forget that our first duty is to improve ourselves.
Drawing as Thinking
When you take notes or think about a project, what do you write? Do you use pen and paper? Or some sort of notes app or outliner on your computing device?
How about drawing mind maps or sketching ideas? On listening to a recent podcast I jotted this note
Drawing is not an artistic process; it is a thinking process.
Math as Thinking
Reading Peter Diamondis’s newsletter recently, he once again talked about how worthless math was in school—“I have never expanded a polynomial in my life.” I bet he used the logical thinking instilled by working math problems his entire life!
Wishing for Certainty
When I was young I knew old guys who had worked for the same company for many years. There was a certainty about life. I, on the other hand, have never really known that certainty. Here is a thought that once again draws out that idea of clear, logical thinking
The antidote to uncertainty is not certainty—which is impossible—but clarity.
It’s all about passion
Henry Cloud—The fruitfulness of our lives will come from our hearts. Developing our inner selves helps us prioritize our lives. Our hearts will determine the “issues” of our lives.
Your most important resources are time and energy.
Andy Stanley—Leaders who don’t listen will eventually be surrounded by people who have nothing to say.