Leadership Today
Reflections from Good to Great and Beyond Great, part 19

Corporate Culture – Creating the Place

When we speak about initiating corporate transformation, we are talking about processes to shift the culture of the organization. Culture has to do with the surrounding circumstances and environment in a place—those things that impact the behaviors and activities of people. To paraphrase Edgar Schein, Professor at the MIT Sloan School of Management, corporate culture is the set of beliefs, values and actions shaped by the organization’s top executives.

  • These tend to be broadly shared by a corporation’s members.
     
  • They can be faithfully transmitted from generation to generation of employees.

 

James Autry authored a wonderful book and video entitled Love and Profit. In his book and presentation on the “art of caring leadership,” he often refers to the leaders’ role as “to create the place.” That is a beautiful way to look at the overall role of the leader—to create the place where people can come to do great work, to share in rewards, and to fulfill their hopes and dreams while experiencing a “job well done.”

The “place” Autry is referring to is much more than the building. It is the environment—the culture that surrounds everyone there. It influences their work and their lives.

Many thanks,

 
Larry Meeker
President, Advanced Team Concepts
 

 

 
 

 

Reflections from Good to Great and Beyond Great, part 18


Our focus of this discussion in recent weeks has been personal preparation. A lot of work remains, and we will explore it in later weeks, but as we've noted, the ground should be prepared for success.

We need to move forward intentionally and with discipline. We need to understand the nature of transformation. 
 
  • It is a process. The inner nature may change, but the outer evidence of it takes time.
  •  Transformational change is radical. People can see and detect the difference.
  • It requires perseverance and work to come to fruition.
 
This post and this series are intended as business pieces, not with the intentional theological focus that we sometimes take. Some people may not own it or allow it, but our business lives and our spiritual lives are not mutually exclusive. We may try to keep them in separate boxes, but they are not.
 
It is intriguing that in Good to Great and other books, there are hints that transformation involves something larger than oneself. The exact source goes unidentified, or it is attributed to luck. Sadly, the true source of greatness and success is missed. Unfortunately it can come across as some sort of new-age mystical thing. People/writers skirt the edges of this important topic, our spiritual dimension, without taking a stand.
 
I would be remiss if I were not transparent with you regarding where I stand on this. The most powerful personal transformation is when a person commits his or her life to Jesus Christ—that point begins a special and personal relationship with him as a personal Savior.
 
A Life Focused on Christ Brings about Transformation
 
In Beyond Great, we strove to acknowledge the essence and source of this greatest of all personal transformations. 
 
Extraordinary results are possible; in fact, supernatural results are also possible if true transformation occurs.
 
Through our own efforts we can make changes, but it is God who transforms. 
 
Equipped with Him, we are powerfully enabled and prepared to begin the work of transforming a corporation or other organization.
 
 Many thanks,
 
Larry Meeker
President, Advanced Team Concepts
 
 
 
Reflections from Good to Great and Beyond Great, part 17


Last time we used consider a breakout of three aspects of humanity. These three components enter into most all of our problem solving and planning activities. We often engage these three elements in the sequence we mentioned last time, shown here, not always, but normally.

  • Mind—our intellect
  • Heart—our desire
  • Will—our drive to act
 
Let’s think about how we function in these elements. For example, what part of us is first provoked in the process of considering or deciding something new?
 
Mind – As humans, our first step is typically with our minds. This should be especially true for people in leadership roles, who have a base of experience and knowledge to pull from.   In the best of circumstances, we begin our decision making with our heads. We think about things, sometimes deeply. 
 
It is often a reflection of the current reality combined with a creative process of thinking about the possibilities. That is mental work.
 
Emotion is not absent. In some cases it is emotion that drives us to think and take action. That was probably true in the example we shared a few weeks ago with John Newton as his ship was helplessly tossed at sea—he was face-to-face with the emotion of fear. 
 
In normal instances, though, the change or transformation begins with thinking. We can see this  modeled when we examine great decision makers around us.  Strong leaders will often engage others in the thinking process, understanding that good thinking around important issues is often a team sport, especially when creativity is desired or required.
 
Heart – Once we have “thought” about our direction and potential change, another part of us is essential if we are to commit. We use our hearts. At this point it becomes more than an intellectual process. We internalize the change in our core. We cultivate personal beliefs about it, weighing potential impact against our personal and group value systems.
 
This allows us to check the "rightness" of the solution we are thinking of.
 
Will – Once we have thought about it and committed with our hearts, it becomes critical to take action. This moves our commitment into tangible processes that enable transformation. Without action, there probably is not transformation.
 
In transformation, our behaviors reflect the changes operating within us.
 
This personal transformation involves the whole person. It is critical that we:
 
  • Think about our choices—what we choose to believe.
  • Search our hearts for what we feel—what we desire, what we believe at our core, what we will commit to.
  • Determine what we will do—how we will behave, how we will lead.
 
This prepares us to successfully move forward.
 
It prepares us for the work ahead.
 
Many thanks,
 
 
Larry Meeker
President, Advanced Team Concepts
 
 
 
Reflections from Good to Great and Beyond Great, part 16


Last time we used John Newton as an example of personal transformation.

Newton transformed. It began at his core, in his soul. Let’s think for a minute about our core, the pieces that cut to our very souls.

In the diagram below are the elements of our makeup.
  • Mind—our intellect
    Our minds contain what we think and believe.
  • Heart—our desire
    In our hearts we find values, feelings and emotions, as well as our longings and passions.
  • Will—our drive to act
    Our wills drive and influence what we do and to what we will commit.

 

 
 
 
In some ways you could say these three areas define us. They represent who we are. It is at the center of the diagram, where these elements overlap, that we can start to envision what is at our core.
Next time we will begin to examine each of these three areas individually.
 
Have a great week,
 
Larry Meeker
President, Advanced Team Concepts
 
 
 

 

Reflections from Good to Great and Beyond Great, part 15


We have talked about the two pieces of transformation—personal and corporate. There is logic to it. After all, a company is a collection of individuals. Organizations reflect the beliefs of their members, particularly their leaders.

The issue of personal transformation is the correct place to begin. As leaders, we cannot expect to guide transformation through an organization without having our own heart in the right place. 
 
On the surface, corporate transformation sounds fairly straightforward—bringing about positive change in the company. You may have already led your company through a range of changes. Some changes likely had positive impact. 
 
This one may be a little more daunting. It requires our transformation in order to begin.
 
History provides inspiring examples of personal transformation. One example in the spotlight now is John Newton. A movie released early in 2007, Amazing Grace, focuses on issues related to the times and circumstances that surrounded the transformation that Newton experienced.  
 
Newton was an Englishman who operated a slave ship in the 1700’s. His business was very unsavory—the selling of human beings into slavery. He described himself as a person without any boundaries or controls in his life. 
 
During one of his slave trading journeys, a terrible storm developed while they were at sea. Newton, in his fear for his life, cried out for God. At this moment when it appeared his time on earth had come to an end, he found a need for a connection with God to fill his spiritual void.
 
In those fear-filled moments in that treacherous storm, he committed in his heart then and there to start a process of personal transformation. He survived that mighty storm and began the journey to keep the commitment he had made to God. Newton’s transformation affected every aspect of his life: his vocation, his desires, and his activities. Later he began to serve his local community as a minister and hymn writer. He even rose above his past to help the world prevail over the wicked business that had once been his own. He played a role in abolishing slave trading in England.  
 
His was a complete change, from the inside outward, to the point where he could ultimately acknowledge the “amazing grace” that God had extended to him. That, of course, is the title of the worship hymn for which John Newton is most remembered.
 
Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound,
That saved a wretch like me....
I once was lost but now am found,
Was blind, but now, I see.…
 
Please visit again next week. Our conversation continues,
 

Larry Meeker
President, Advanced Team Concepts

 

 

Reflections from Good to Great and Beyond Great, part 14


As we discussed last time, our desire is for a spiritual foundation that will successfully underpin our organizations.

True transformation happens when there is a change of character/nature. 

Now, to consider transformation for a company, we will need to think deeply about how it can experience a change of character.
We can see that corporate transformation will not be found in a single model. 
Given that, it is useful to have a process. That is where Beyond Great fits in. Instead of trying to fit into a model, we will be working on steps to help the transformation emerge from within. 
We are talking about a process. We are talking about a journey. Our purpose is to transform the corporation to a higher purpose. 
On our journey we will include these major pieces:
  • How we think — Transforming truth
   Transforming focus
  • Our practices regarding people — Transforming leadership
Transforming teams
  • Our ability to act and press forward — Transforming discipline
Transforming perseverance
How can we transform our company to the higher purpose of its potential? That is our question.

Larry Meeker
President, Advanced Team Concepts

 

 

Reflections from Good to Great and Beyond Great, part 13


With Beyond Great we are shooting for more. We want a spiritual foundation that will underpin our business practices and set the stage for real impact.   

The basis of true transformation is the acquisition of a new nature. In other words, we replace the old nature with a new one.
The difference between “conformed” and “transformed” may be clearer with a simple example from nature.
A chameleon may change its color, but by nature it is still the same chameleon—it is not transformed. It is destined to always be a chameleon. It may grow bigger. Its colors may vary to “conform” to its surroundings, but it is still the same creature. It is always going to be a chameleon.
Now consider a caterpillar. It starts life having one nature, but along the way it undergoes a fundamental change, a “transformation.” It becomes a new creation. Thus, what starts as a caterpillar experiences a radical change in its nature, becoming a thing of real beauty, a butterfly.  
Conformed
Schema – (Greek) an outer change in appearance only.
Transformed
Metamorphoo – (Greek) an outer change as a result of the inner nature.
The transformation to a butterfly is something beautiful and amazing. The metaphor of the butterfly is powerful at another level, too. 
It is awesome to realize that the caterpillar has everything it needs in terms of potential already within it. It is born equipped with the DNA and ability to make this beautiful transformation. 
In a similar fashion, we can transform—within our hearts we already have the potential.
More to come...

Larry Meeker
President, Advanced Team Concepts

 

 

Reflections from Good to Great and Beyond Great, part 12


As mentioned last time, Good to Great
 brought eleven companies to the surface from their research and findings as “great.” These groups offer wonderful examples. Their models and knowledge are validated with financial performance data. 

We are not trying to dissuade you from examining models and studying great examples and cases. You can pick up important insights and techniques. 
Look at them for clues to behaviors and practices that can deliver better outcomes. Applying some of their lessons can be useful in our companies. Simply keep in mind that this is an attempt to “conform” to, or apply, their best practices.
Our point is that just conforming to the patterns of others might miss the true potential of your company. To stretch to greatness and beyond, we are after a true transformation. We want to embrace principles that let us emerge as something different. This can enable us to discover and unlock our maximum potential.
It is More Than Benchmarking
You are probably familiar with benchmarking. Over the past couple of decades many companies began to create formal processes to “benchmark” from other companies, even competitors. That strategy evolved.
  1. The goal at first was to learn techniques and processes that would enable a company to obtain similar results to the company being “benchmarked.” 
  2. Savvy leaders saw that the goal of benchmarking should be more. What competitive use was it simply to “conform”—reach an equitable level with another company? The goal should be to learn from the others in order to leap past them. The target/goal for benchmarking was raised.  
So, as we study and embrace examples of “great” companies and the models that result, our eyes should be on a loftier goal. We should use what we learn in order to stretch even beyond the levels of greatness achieved by the groups we are studying.
We won’t just copy the tactics and processes of successful companies. We will explore a deeper meaning for our actions.
More to come...

Larry Meeker
President, Advanced Team Concepts

 

 

Reflections from Good to Great and Beyond Great, part 11


Welcome back. I hope your Christmas and New Year breaks and celebrations were great. We are ready to press on with our discussions for reshaping our leadership paradigms.

 
We left off before the holidays preparing to discuss transformation. Specifically, we talked about challenges of change, but recognizing that transformation might be the goal.
So, What about Transformation?
As we prepare to discuss deep transformation in ourselves and our organizations, we will know that it is important to understand those strategies for navigating the challenges of change we have discussed. They will apply to some degree. 
Our capacity to help people see the new reality we are striving for will be important among those strategies.
  • It will help them participate
  • It will enable them to have personal power to contribute
  • We need them on-board as we seek a supremely better future state for the company
As we have moved in our discussion toward “Corporate Transformation,” we recognized that it involves two parts—personal and organizational. 
With this in mind, prepare to start with you.  Start with your heart.  Work on strengthening your commitment to a preferred future.  Your own vision can be a powerful and compelling motivation.
It is important to recognize that it is a big deal, too, this goal to transform. It is more than just trying to conform to what appears to work for others.  There is a huge difference between conformation (apply) and transformation (become).  We can “apply” models and techniques in our efforts to improve. That is conforming—adopting the practices and suggestions that have been offered.
In past posts, we've referenced Good to Great several times. Collins and team illuminated eleven companies surfaced from their research and findings as “great.” These groups offer wonderful examples. Their models and knowledge are validated with financial performance data. 
In the next post we will discuss that type of study and the real goal for using the information learned. 
Stay tuned.

Larry Meeker
President, Advanced Team Concepts

 

 

Reflections from Good to Great and Beyond Great, part 10


Change is Stressful

Recall the physiology associated with stress—the “fight or flight” response. That instinctive reaction has not somehow retired from our human condition. It is normal, alive and well.
When we are under stress, when emotions are strong, the chemical changes in the body are very real. The responses to increased adrenaline can be vivid.
A lot of people know about the health risks associated with heavy-duty stress. They can have serious consequences.
Another aspect of the “stress response” is not so widely recognized. When we are under a lot of stress, our bodies prepare for physical activity. But, what these reactions don’t equip us for is great thinking. The preparation to react is not preparation to be deeply thoughtful and logical. 
That increases the challenge. Logically addressing change is compounded by what is happening to us physiologically as a function of the stress. 
That does not mean that some people don’t thrive on high stress. You probably know some. We do. They seem to live for the “adventure of change”—trying new ways to achieve preferred results.
It is true; not everyone is affected to the same degree by change and stress. Several personality tools are based on Hippocrates’ four quadrant model of personality styles—Sanguine, Phlegmatic, Choleric and Melancholic. An in-depth tool that we use is the PREP: People, Reading, Effectiveness, Profile instrument (Copyright © 2006 PREP Profile Systems, Inc.) It measures intensity in CORE behavioral categories:
C- Controlling vs. supportive
O-
Outgoing vs. introspective
R-
Relaxed vs. urgent
E-
Exacting vs. generalizing
This tool helps us recognize our natural personality strengths, and also highlights patterns of preference that are a function of the combination of intensities in all of the elements. In other words, we are not one style and absent of all of the others. It is these categories in combination that lead to the way we prefer to act and behave.
The research indicates that people with a stronger preference in some behavior elements can be more comfortable with change. They do not mind so much the changes if they enable better outcomes. On the other hand, some people are uncomfortable with change. They prefer to navigate in the environment in which they are accustomed.
Here, as with any area of change, we recognize that we are individual human beings. As you study to navigate transformational steps for your organization, prepare to embrace the human reactions that you will encounter, in yourself and in others.
Many thanks,

Larry Meeker
President, Advanced Team Concepts

 

 

Reflections from Good to Great and Beyond Great, part 9


Reaction to Change

There will always be some interesting reactions to change in our workplaces (and lives). It can create some interesting and demanding leadership challenges when we implement new methods, tools, and technologies as our organization pursue improvement (or transformation).
One common change model illustrates that the human reaction typically involves four stages which can be plotted as a function of organizational performance. 
Stage One—Let's begin in the upper left-hand quadrant of this graphic. It shows the direction of performance motivation immediately following communication about or implementatoin of change. Performance can plummets. That initial reaction to the change is often “denial.”—
·         “They will never do that here.”
·         “They cannot do that in our industry.” 
·         “It cannot be true.”
·         Etc.
As people spiral into preoccupation and speculation about the changes, they take the eye off of the business things that we need them to be closely attending to. It is easy to see how this impacts day-to-day results and output. More time is spent in the rumor mill that normal, and business can suffer.
Stage Two—“resistance” is also very emotional. People see that the organizational intent is real, but they are still preoccupied with what it all will mean for them personally.  Those in authority are moving to implement the change.  Everyone else is watching. They may not speak it or share it openly, but the thought process can be ripe with resistance—
·         “They just think that will work here.”
·         “We will show them that it won’t work.”
Again, the performance curve continues its downward drop.
Stage Three—“exploration” is the point at which people start to let go of the emotional response. They have begun to more or less internalize that the change is going to happen. Many people will be feel a need to better examine the possibilities and see how to navigate.  At this stage, performance begins a climb out of the ditch.
Stage Four—“moving on” includes a vision about where everything is headed. People are adapting. Performance climbs. Progress is apparent.
Now, the key truth we need to realize through the “chaos” of change is that we cannot somehow eliminate or by-pass these emotional reactions.  We might want to do it, but we can’t just short circuit these stages.  Managers that become effective at facilitating change recognize and embrace this human reaction. These leaders focus on how to help people begin to explore the possibilities more quickly. The key is to use techniques that let you navigate through the reactions more rapidly. Examples of techniques these leaders will employ include:
·         They help their people grasp the “vision” driving the change.  It is true for all of us, we are not so reluctant or resistant if we can see where we are going. Vision and direction, thus, are critical and should be shared.
·         They engage their employees in the processes to explore and implement the new requirements.  Another truth for us all is that we do not react as strongly if we are empowered and have the space to participate and contribute to the future—perhaps working on how the changes will be implemented.
·         They recognize the stress attached to change and open up opportunities to answer questions and talk about fears and frustrations. Communication, abundant information, becomes critical for effective change management.
There are volumes published on change management, so we won't pursue this farther. As you explore those volumes on methods and techniques, be on the lookout for how they map into this phenomenon related to the human reaction to change.
Many thanks,

Larry Meeker
President, Advanced Team Concepts

 

 

Reflections from Good to Great and Beyond Great, part 8


Change and Its Paradoxes

Improvement is desirable, right? We made the case for that last time. When we ask any business audience if they can pin point opportunities to improve, we always get positive responses--even enthusiastic dreams for improvement.
Here is the catch. It rests in another question.
The answer to this question will always be different. -- If you come into your office or workplace next week, is it okay if things are changed dramatically? Are you okay with doing things differently than you always have in the past?
No logic is involved in the response to this. We just don’t like it.
The answer may not be an emphatic “no,” but it is usually no. Sometimes the “no” emerges as questions:
·         “Why do we have to do that?”
·          “Whose idea is this?”
·          “What is the reason for a change like this?” 
Or, it may take shape as derogatory statements and assertions: “That will never work here,” or “What idiot thought this up?”
Our response last time to the question of desiring improvement was based on logic, correct? If we can get better, it is logical that we desire to improve.
The answer this time is not based on logic, is it? No, these responses tend to be extremely emotional
Therein Lies the Paradox
Improvement is seen as positive—it is logical to want to be better.
Change is perceived as negative—it is a strong emotional response.
The paradox?—we cannot improve if we are not willing to change. 
I imagine all of you have heard some version of how Edward Deming addressed this in the early 1980s as a part of the quality movement. Some people have called it the definition of insanity—“to think you can keep doing the same things in the same ways and somehow get different and improved results.”  
Regardless of the paradox, if we seek transformation one message continues to be clear—dramatic improvement must be coupled with dramatic change.
Therefore, we need to understand this emotional human response to change so that we are prepared for it.
We have a model that does a nice job of illustrating graphically this human reaction. We will take a look at it next week.
Thank you,

Larry Meeker
President, Advanced Team Concepts

 

 

Reflections from Good to Great and Beyond Great, part 7


Transformation -- the Essence of Beyond Great

Transformation holds promise of great things, but we also recognize that it implies change.  For most of us, change can be uncomfortable, if not downright traumatic. 
Before we move on, let’s take a minute to review the implications of change.
Change and its challenges are addressed by many experts.  There are many books that teach about “change management.”  Consultants and “change gurus” always seem to have a lot of business. 
Change has been a full-time part of business in recent decades. It demands high levels of attention in most companies.  Even though we have tools, processes and resources to help us navigate change, it still can lead to chaotic times within our companies.
There is a paradox associated with change. We want to drive toward improvement, right?
It may simply be improvement in the financial success of the company.
It may be improvement in market penetration, quality, customer retention and/or satisfaction, and so on. 
If you ask any business audience questions like the following (and we do frequently), you will always get positive responses:
·         Is there anything that you would like to see improved in this operation?
(Everyone working in organizations can pinpoint some items that need improvement. It never fails.)
·         If you could improve those items immediately, would that be good? Would you be pleased?
(The reaction to potential improvement is always positive.  If we can be better, we want to be better. It is logical. Our reaction is very positive to improvement.)
Improvement is desirable. Next time, we will examine the "paradox" and its implications.
Thanks,

Larry Meeker
President, Advanced Team Concepts

 

 

Reflections from Good to Great and Beyond Great, part 6

From Pain to Significance

We have been talking about "man's search for significance." We continue the discussion today. You might, at the same time, ask yourself some questions for reflection.

What evidence have you seen and experienced in your life related to your desire for purpose?
If you have experienced, or are experiencing, a longing to do something significant, how have you tried to fulfill it to-date? What has that been like? What has worked and/or not worked?
Have you ever imagined that your business might be a vehicle to accomplish things of eternal impact? How might that be?
We have mentioned that we are talking about more than simply a change. It is more of a transformation. Last time we mentioned that professionals sometimes make conscious, positive choices to leave one career and enter another into which they fill called.
The stories of transformation are not always launched from pleasant platforms of success. For some of us, the motivation arises more from a platform of pain.
Untold numbers of business leaders and professionals get caught up in the spiral described by Chuck Swindoll in the previous post. They often end up in a lot of pain—business failures (such as Enron a few years ago), broken homes, severed relationships, losses and tears.
Regardless of which direction they come at it from, whether from riches/fame or pain/struggles, individuals often begin to search for more in life. In the process, some of them are discovering how to serve.
Through the lens of service, they are making significant contributions.
In Rick Warren’s fabulously successful best seller, The Purpose Driven Life[1], the first sentence of Chapter One nails the answer. It is through discovering that “It is not about you.” 
Warren points out the fallacies of following all of the “self-help” books on success. They tell you to aim high, work hard, be disciplined, believe in yourself and never give up. Rick points out, “Of course, these recommendations often lead to great success. You can usually succeed in reaching a goal if you put your mind to it. But being successful and fulfilling your life’s purpose are not at all the same issue! You could reach all your personal goals, becoming a raving success by the world’s standard, and still miss the purposes for which God created you.”
Beyond Great is about discovering what the higher level purposes are for you and your organization or company. 
  • It is not about leaving your company to pursue another direction. 
  • It is about finding and living out something of meaning in the context of running your business. 
 Beyond Great is about transformation that can enable you and your enterprise to stretch toward significance, meaning and eternal impact.
Many thanks for your interest,

Larry Meeker
President, Advanced Team Concepts

 


[1] Richard Warren, The Purpose Driven Life:  What on Earth Am I Here for? (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2002).

 

Reflections from Good to Great and Beyond Great, part 5


Last time we talked about man's "search for significance." We continue in that vein today.

Some societies and cultures encourage people to pursue tangible/physical dreams. In the United States there are expressions such as “living the American dream.” This phrase boasts that people can dream of accomplishing things for themselves and their family, and in the USA there is the freedom to work hard to accomplish it. It is a powerful motivator. Sometimes people flee from one country to another simply to have that kind of freedom and opportunity.
These types of accomplishments alone though, even with their powerful motivation, come up short in terms of eternal significance. Chuck Swindoll, Pastor of Stonebriar Community Church in Frisco, Texas, recently spoke about the spiral of pursuit that can trap us in earthly dreams. 
He warned:
“We work hard.
We earn more.
We spend more.
 
We climb higher.
We work harder.
We earn even more.
We spend still more.”
 
And the cycle repeats. It can leave us simply exhausted, and at the same time frustrated with the lack of meaning and significance—“chasing after the wind.”
A Dallas business man, Bob Buford, illustrates that some people, after accomplishing “greatness” in business, fight to find a fulfillment in the second half of their lives. He authored a book called Halftime[1] that focuses on this. 
He personally decided to leave his position as CEO and owner of a highly successful television cable service company so that he could pursue “meaning” on another path. Bob founded and now leads “The Buford Foundation and Leadership Network.” They support churches with leadership resources. The Christian Management Association awarded Mr. Buford its most prestigious award in 2005 to recognize the accomplishments of his “second half.”
 
Buford has now written another book that tells the stories of some 60 professionals who have accomplished significant things in their second career-life. That book is called Finishing Well[2].
The point is that no matter the riches and earthly accomplishments, some professionals are now making dramatic, life changing transformations in their careers and lives in order to find and pursue something of significance.
Some of us are moved in a direction of transformation due to "pain." Next time we will consider that circumstance.
Many thanks,

Larry Meeker
President, Advanced Team Concepts



[1] Bob Buford, Halftime: Changing your Game Plan from Success to Significance (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1994).
[2] Bob Buford, Finishing Well: What People Who Really Live Do Differently? (Nashville: Integrity Publishers, 2004).

 

Reflections from Good to Great and Beyond Great, part 4


Every human being needs meaning in his or her life—something of importance, something that has direction and purpose. At times, for people in leadership roles, it can be a very conscious longing. It can even be painful—to realize that despite lots of hard work, we have not accomplished anything of eternal significance. We are tired from our labor and yet struggle to find meaning in all that we have done.

A classic book addressing the importance of purpose to humans is Man’s Search for Meaning by Dr. Victor E. Frankl.[1] His knowledge on this subject is grounded in his personal story. You see, he was a survivor of the concentration camp, Auschwitz, during World War II. 
Dr. Frankl was a psychiatrist. He had enjoyed a good practice; he and his family lived the good life. During World War II he was rounded up with millions of others and taken to a “hell on earth.” His book and his later theories in the field of psychiatry are based on what he experienced and learned in those circumstances that were more horrific than most of us can even imagine.
In his book, Frankl shares stories that relay how important meaning was to those who were not executed, but instead put to work. “Meaning” in their lives turned out to be essential, even to survive. It sustained them. They leaned toward it as a way to pass through the helplessness and pain of the present.
Having something significant yet to do can be an essential driver in our lives. I encourage you to ponder this deeply. Try to imagine how your business might be a vehicle for you to accomplish things on a higher level.
Next time we will consider a few thoughts by Charles Swindoll and Bob Buford on this topic.
Many thanks for following the discussion,

Larry Meeker
President, Advanced Team Concepts




[1] Viktor E Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning (Washington: First Washington Square Press, 1985).

 

 

 

Reflections from Good to Great and Beyond Great, part 3


Beyond Great

Much has been written about how to achieve business success—volumes of literature and theories. Walk into any large bookstore, enter the section on “management and business” and you can be overwhelmed with the assortment of books to choose from. Log into your favorite search engine. Key in “leadership.” You will get a return of hundreds of millions of articles, companies, websites and resources.
Much of this information suggests strategies for success. Unfortunately, much of it comes up short in explaining the underlying foundational principles that make the observations true or possible. The findings are interesting, and the instructions are often helpful. To reach great and go beyond, we will need to understand the critical foundational principles and then build on them. 
 “Good” levels of company performance, or maybe even “great” levels, might be obtainable by simply applying principles—in other words, by trying to conform to the models or techniques of others.
With Beyond Great we will be looking for a radical result. Rather than conforming, it will require transformation. One must embrace the principles and live them, not just apply them. 
Transformation then, is the unifying essence of stretching Beyond Great.
The essence of Beyond Great—to fulfill more than just financial success; to have success that in addition satisfies and fulfills the spirit, of ourselves and of all those we include in the enterprises that we lead.
At this point, we hope you find this to be very thought provoking. To go Beyond Great, company leaders must put their eyes on the eternal horizon. Christian leaders seem best suited to do this. They are familiar with important eternal lessons God provides in order to stretch us in supremely important areas of success.
In some respects, Beyond Great is a “wakeup call” to organizational leaders. The status quo may be far short of the potential eternal impact of the company.

Warm regards,

Larry Meeker
President, Advanced Team Concepts


Reflections from Good to Great and Beyond Great, part 2


Definitions for Success

When the Good to Great team had identified their set of “great” companies via a rigid set of diagnostics, they dug in to find key differentiators that propelled companies ahead of their competition—similar organizations in the same industries. Several key areas emerged as truly important. Collins and his team homed in on those that seemed to be common threads among the great performers. Their book illuminates the findings in areas such as:
  • Leadership
  • Team composition
  • Capacity to confront facts, even “brutal” facts
  • Adhering to a central focus—a Hedgehog Concept
  • Wisely using technology accelerators
The companies featured as “great” in Collins’ book could be the envy of many business leaders. They set the stage for us to ask key questions:
  • What is a “good” company? 
     
  • What is great in the context of a company? 
     
  • Why desire to strive “Beyond Great”? 
     
  • What exactly do we mean by “Beyond Great”?
We will keep the definitions of these concepts straightforward.
Good—this is okay performance. 
Truthfully, for some companies in recent years, goodness has simply been the capacity to survive in very difficult times. In the most simple of definitions, we would say that a “good” company is profitable, and, if not growing, certainly stable.
Great—this involves significantly better financial performance than a good company. 
For companies to make the cut in Collins’ book, financial performance had to be head and shoulders above their competitors. Collins laid out the performance of the “comparison” companies side-by-side with the performance of the great corporations.
Beyond Great—this would have to take a company to some still higher reach.
To do that, we have to consider more than money. It cannot be as simple as financial success. What we want to do is add an eternal implication—economic success coupled to enduring impact.  
Beyond Great organizations achieve impact that exceeds the “bottom line” – i.e. the companies succeed, but also the people of the enterprise, their families, the community and God’s world benefit from their work and success. 
Thank you for your interest. We will continue the discussion next time.
Larry Meeker
President, Advanced Team Concepts
 
 
Reflections from Good to Great and Beyond Great, part 1


Striving for Success

Every owner and stockholder wants his or her company to succeed, right? We want to work in a good company. Most of us would like it to be a greatcompany if possible. Who would not? 
Business leaders, the CEO’s and executives, all want to see their companies rise in stature and success. This may be rooted in a range of motivations. It can vary from:
 A personal connection between performance and compensation—the more successful the company, the higher the executive pay.
to:
A passion for the mission of the company. 
Success rests to a large extent on financial performance, especially in the “for-profit” world. It may have different measures and elements of emphasis, but the bottom line is important. 
Non-profit organizations may look more to mission specific measures, but even they must pay attention to the financials if they are to remain in business.
In addition to the “bottom-line,” groups measure quality, customer satisfaction, market share, employee satisfaction and many other metrics. Tools such as balance scorecards are sometimes used to provide a well rounded accounting of how the company is really doing. Even so, none of this attention seems to dilute emphasis on financial profit and growth.
Jim Collins and his research team have done some interesting analysis of “great” organizations. The resulting book by Collins’ and team is Good to Great.  It highlights important characteristics essential for a company to become truly great.  Their research is based on actual financial performance and sustained success, objective measures that CEO’s relate to. The book is very popular. The data cannot be easily dismissed, nor would we want to. In our discussion, we want to learn from it…and more.
We will look at some of the basis of that analysis next time. We will also examine reflections from this author's book, Beyond Great.  From the two books we will be able to pull some key lessons and principles.

Thanks,

Larry Meeker
President, Advanced Team Concepts

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