If you cannot be the best in the world at your core business, then your core business absolutely cannot form the basis of a great company. —Jim Collins
What do Great Leaders Confront?
The Brutal Facts!
Chapter 4: Confront the Brutal Facts (Yet Never Lose Faith)
Another key element of some companies’ unique ability to make the transition from Good to Great is the willingness to identify and assess defining facts in the company and in the larger business environment. In today’s market, trends in consumer preferences are constantly changing, and the inability to keep pace with these changes often results in company failure. Using the example of an extended comparative analysis of Kroger and A & P, Collins observes that Kroger recognized the trend towards modernization in the grocery industry and adjusted its business model accordingly, although doing so required a complete transformation of the company and its stores. A & P, on the other hand, resisted large-scale change, and thus guaranteed its own demise.
When we are willing to confront the brutal facts we are no longing willing to simply sit back and pretend. Leaders do not pretend and great companies confront the brutal facts head-on.
• Confront Brutal Facts – Good to Great companies started with confronting the brutal facts of the current reality head on, and as a result, they emerged from adversity even stronger.
• Right Decisions Become Self Evident – When you start with an honest and diligent effort to determine the trust of your situation, the right decisions often become self-evident. It is impossible to make good decisions without infusing the entire process with an honest confrontation of the brutal facts.
• Culture where the Truth is Heard – A primary task in taking a company from good to great is to create a culture wherein people have a tremendous opportunity to be heard and, ultimately, for the truth to be heard.
o Lead with questions, not answers.
o Engage in dialogue and debate, not coercion.
o Conduct autopsies, without blame.
o Build red flag mechanisms that turn information into information that cannot be ignored.
• Head-On – Good to Great companies faced just as much adversity as the comparison companies, but responded to that adversity differently. They hit the realities of their situation head-on, and as a result, they emerged from adversity even stronger.
• Stockdale Paradox – A key psychology for leading from Good to Great is the Stockdale Paradox:
o Retain absolute faith that you can and will prevail in the end, regardless of the difficulties, AND at the same time confront the most brutal facts of your current reality, whatever they might be.
• Don’t Rely on the Charismatic – Charisma can be as much a liability as an asset, as the strength of your leadership personality can deter people from bringing you the brutal facts.
• Get Staff to Confront Brutal Facts – Leadership does not begin just with vision; it begins with getting people to confront brutal facts and act on the implications – to take ownership.
o Spending time and energy trying to "motivate" people is a waste of effort. The real question is not, "How do we motivate our people?" If you have the right people they will be self-motivated. The key is to not de-motivate them. One of the primary ways to de-motivate people is to ignore the brutal facts of reality. Most leaders do not need motivation; they need empowerment, encouragement, authority and resources.
From the above… Collins gives us a four-step process to promote awareness of emerging trends and potential problems:
1. Lead with questions, not answers
2. Engage in dialogue and debate, not coercion
3. Conduct autopsies without blame
4. Build red flag mechanisms that turn information into information that cannot be ignored
Is your team:
• Confronting the Brutal Facts?
o What are some Brutal Facts you need to address?
• Do we lead with Questions?
o Are we listening?
• Are we engaged in a dialogue?
o What are we saying and how do we say it and where is this conversation taking place?
• Are we debriefing?
o What is our process for evaluating previous successes and failures? Do we do a post-mortem?
• Have we built any red flag mechanisms and/or systems that make us stop and face the brutal facts?
o What are they?
• Which side is harder for you: unwavering faith or confront the brutal facts? Why?
• Think of two environments that you have been in. The first being an environment that did not confront the brutal facts and where people (and the truth) were not heard. The second being an environment that did confront the brutal facts and where people had a tremendous opportunity to be heard. What accounts for the difference between the two environments? What does the contrast teach about how to construct an environment where the truth is heard?
• Do you have any red flag mechanisms in your life or organization? What ideas do you have for new ones?
• In leading a team, what is your ratio of: questions to statements?
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