Jim Collins delivered the Keynote at this year’s Vistage ChairWorld meeting to over 800 participants.
About Jim Collins
Jim Collins is a student and teacher of what makes great companies tick, and a Socratic advisor to leaders in the business and social sectors. He has authored 6 books that have sold more than 10 million copies worldwide. His books include:
Good to Great which examines why some companies make the leap to superior results,
Built to Last, which explores how some leaders build companies that remain visionary for generations;
Great by Choice, which is about thriving in chaos—why some do, and others don’t.
Conor’s Video Summary of Jim Collins 12 Questions
Jim Collins shared 12 questions that come out of his work over the last 25 years.
These are my notes and reflections from his Keynote address.
The 4 part video series below gives a short overview of each of the 12 questions.
#1 strive for excellence
The first step is a conscious decision on the part of leadership to decide for excellence, to decide to build an enduring great company. Often leaders are enduring great individuals, but that doesn’t make for an enduring great company. Leaders must put excellence in the company over “success” in their own individual life. (This doesn’t mean that they give up a good life, but that they are willing to pay the price of leading an Enduring Great Company.)
Differences between level 5 and level 4 leader?
Humility. This is key to level 5. Deep genuine personal humility combined with a brutal will, a fierce resolve directed at something that is not about them
Leadership: People follow when they have the choice to not follow… otherwise it is just power.
Charisma – not necessary for Level 5 leadership (“never confuse personality with leadership”)
The author of this blog with Jim Collins, best selling author of Good to Great and Built to Last, at Vistage ChairWorld, January 2019
#2 First who, then what.
Right people, then trust them to figure out where the bus is going. Great vision without great people is irrelevant. Single most important talent: select great people for the key seats. Nothing is more important that key seats filled with great people.
#3 confront the brutal facts
What brutal facts must we confront? No opinions.
#4 Hedgehog concept
Fox knows many things, hedgehog knows 1 Fox loves complexity, hedgehog loves simple Intersection of Passion, best in world, drives economic engine Big is not equal to great (think restaurants- if it were to disappear it would leave an unfillable hole)
#5 20 mile march
Driving the flywheel “Which push made the difference?” None… Cumulative effort consistently over long time Flywheel- causal links between, inevitability “I admire Nike” “what do Nike do? Products so great that pros wear them” great products + social proof Execution 1-10… flywheel accelerator at quality of execution of lowest quality of execution Best investment strategy “a highly undiversified investment where you are right” “We can make it up on a good day” fallacy. Be super careful of overextension leading to missing your March Cycle across USA… booked the hotels ahead of time: have to make it, and prepare for tomorrow and the next day “Part of the task of helping others is to be really hard on them… with love”
#6 bullets, then cannonballs
Innovation small, then massive support of small wins. Scale the right innovation. Scaling innovation is more important than innovation. Fail: Not enough bullets Bullets but no guts to fire cannonball Untargeted cannonballs
#7 don’t die
The first step of moving from good to great to built to last is “don’t die” I am terrified by good times. Complacency! Be properly terrified all the time. Fortune 500 85% carnage rate.
Productive paranoia:Prepare for the storms (cash to assets ratio 3-10 times greater)
The only mistakes you can learn from are the ones you survive
#8 clock building or time telling?
Idea-> biz-> great company = enduring success
“The genius with a thousand helpers model is not building a great company”
Shift from time telling (individual level) to clock building (at a company level). Every leader can grow to be the leader of a bigger, greater company. Don’t answer questions with answers… help people find their own answers, their own resourcefulness.
Steve Jobs 2.0 – had a yoda who helped him create a culture of geniuses. What’s your leadership 2.0?
#9 preserve the core, stimulate progress
Yin & yang Core set of unchanging values and purpose, constant progress towards your north star
#10 What’s our BHAG?
Time frame 10-25 years… anything less is just base camp
“The best people want to do the hard things”
A Good BHAG frightens mediocrity away. Test of BHAG – does it repel some people?
#11 return on Luck
You didn’t cause
Get good at making the most of when luck happens. How do you handle the unexpected? Use both good luck & bad luck (crisis allows change) to improve.
#12 Stop Doing list
Only doing is not discipline. True discipline is about what not to do first. What should you not be doing?
Peter Drucker – age 65 had written only 1/3 of his books. Age 86 wrote 10 more books.
“You will survive, you will probably succeed… The question Mr Collins is how to be useful”
Nothing brings more opportunity into your life than speaking well in public.
I have been teaching for 16 years on many leadership programs at IESE Business School. Today I’m sharing a playlist of a series of videos that we put together as an introduction for participants of future courses.
There are 10 videos in the full playlist with a total duration of about 60 minutes.
This video is inspired by George RR Martin and his view on leadership and the price of power. Kouzes and Posner in The Leadership Challenge show that being a good person gets the greatest effort out of the people around you, but just being a nice person can mean you avoid the really tough decisions of Leadership.
What’s the toughest leadership decision of all time? Answer below the video…
Tough Leadership Decisions?
The toughest decision of Leadership: Odysseus’ choice between Scylla and Charybdis.
“Some People Go 24 Hours Without Hearing a Single Positive Thing Said About Them” Coach George Raveling (on the Tim Ferriss podcast)
I was struck by this sentence. I was inspired by Tim Ferriss’ interview with Coach George Raveling. George speaks so clearly and concisely about life and learning and our role. His life has had some amazing adventures that came from him being open to the advice and suggestions of mentors at a young age.
So I made a video… back again after a couple of months away from video making for YouTube.
Who will get a positive word from you today? Don’t forget the power we each have with our words…
Leadership is about raising up those who follow you. Leadership is not so much about doing, but about having an effect on how others do.
Mark Fritz is a regular Vistage speaker who is on a mission to end micromanagement around the world. He is passionate about helping leaders create highly engaged organisations where every employee treats the business as if it were their own.
One of my favourite examples from Mark is his question: “why does nobody ever wash a rental car?”
Why Does Nobody Ever Wash a Rental Car?
Have you ever washed a rental car? No. It is not your car. You give it back covered in muck and full of litter. It’s not your problem. Its someone else’s car. It got you from A to B.
Many people treat their work like a rental car. Do your employees treat your business like it is their rental car, or do they take care of it as if it were their own vehicle?
Leaders must be great at 3 things to create Success…
The 3 Necessary Conditions for the Success of your Organisation
Clarity – when things are clear, you take more action. When things are clear, everybody takes more action.
People – it is not your people that are your most important asset, it is your people pipeline. How are you developing the next generation of people? If you are not developing people to replace your current leaders, your current leaders can’t grow into their next roles.
Influencing Skills – if your people can’t influence someone else on the team, where do they come to get help? to you. If your people can’t influence, they depend too much on you.
As a leader who really wants everyone to grow around you, you need to help people around you develop two abilities:
Check out Mark’s short video from a recent Vistage open day in the UK:
I am biased. I believe business schools are excellent at developing business judgement. During the 19 months of my MBA program at IESE Business School, I worked through 650 cases. Each case is a business decision. Each case requires some individual work to practice your own ability to focus on what is important and develop a plan. Each case then requires that you work with a small team to influence them about your plan, and to allow your ideas to be tested and changed by their influence. Each case then requires that you enter a classroom with an excellent teacher who will take the discussion even deeper. There is no better way to develop general business judgement than in the business school environment.
Learning to Influence
I have a vested interest in this. I have taught over 44,000 business leaders, MBAs and political leaders to Speak more Powerfully – specifically to Move People to Action. I would suggest you begin by taking my Speaking as a Leader online course (currently free). You can also watch the playlist on my Youtube channel (over 70K subscribers) called Develop Your Speaking Skills.
This video is about how to become someone who is inspiring to those around you.
There are 4 key ingredients of the people that get the best out of the teams around them. I shared this talk with over 800 school heads, teaching leaders and educational leaders at the Global Forum on Girls Education in Washington on June 19 this year.
The book mentioned in the video is “The Leadership Challenge” by Kouzes and Posner.
The Leadership Challenge is considered a classic on leadership principles. Kouzes and Posner have spent more than three decades studying the best practices of top leaders. In their book, they explain five practices that all great leaders engage in. Under these five practices, they also discuss ten commitments of exemplary leadership. Below are some of the ideas and quotes that stood out to me.
Practice 1 – Model the Way
1. The first step to being a great leader is to clarify your values.
“You must be able to “clearly articulate deeply held belief” (44).
“To find your voice, you have to explore your inner self. You have to discover what you care about most, what defines you, and what makes you who you are” (46).
Question: What values guide your current decisions, priorities, and actions? (69).
2. The second step is to set an example by aligning actions with shared values.
“Credibility is the foundation of leadership” (37). You have to practice what you preach. Do what you say you will do. (39).
“Titles are granted, but it’s your behavior that earns you respect” (16).
“Leader’s deeds are far more important than their words” (17).
“Leading by example is more effective than leading by command” (17).
“What you do speaks more loudly than what you say” (76).
Use stories to “pass on lessons about shared values” (91).
“How you spend your time is the single best indicator of what’s important to you” (96).
Question: How are you spending your time?
Practice 2 – Inspire a Shared Vision
3. The third step is to envision the future by imagining exciting and ennobling possibilities.
Vision begins with “one person’s imagination” (103).
“Leaders are dreamers. Leaders are idealists. Leaders are possibility thinkers” (105).
“Leaders need to spend considerable time reading, thinking, and talking about the long-term view, not only for their specific organization but also for the environment in which they operate” (110).
“Imagination is more important than intelligence” – Albert Einstein (112).
It is easier to drive fast when there is no fog on the road. This “analogy illustrates the importance of clarity of vision…You’re better able to go fast when your vision is clear” (123).
Question: What do you care about? What drives you? Where do your passions lie? What do you want to accomplish and why? (126). What ideas and visions do you hold in your mind of what can be? (100).
4. The fourth step is to enlist others in a common vision by appealing to shared aspirations.
“You can’t command commitment; you have to inspire it. You have to enlist others in a common vision by appealing to shared aspirations” (18).
“No matter how grand the dream of an individual visionary, if others don’t see in it the possibility of realizing their own hopes and desires, they won’t follow voluntarily or wholeheartedly” (117).
“The best leaders are great listeners (118).
“People commit to causes, not to plans” (121).
“People aren’t going to follow someone who’s only mildly enthusiastic about something. Leaders have to be wildly enthusiastic for constituents to give it their all” (129).
“Visions are about ideals. They’re about hopes, dreams, and aspirations. They’re about the strong desire to achieve something great. They’re ambitious. They’re expressions of optimism. Can you imagine a leader enlisting other in a cause by saying, “I’d like you to join me in doing the ordinary?” (130).
“Feeling special fosters a sense of pride” (134).
“Show people how their dreams will be realized” (138).
“Visions are images in the mind…They become real as leaders express those images in concrete terms to their constituents” (143).
Question: What common ideas are you appealing to? (152).
Practice 3 – Challenge the Process
5. The fifth step is to search for opportunities by seizing the initiative and looking outward for innovative ways to improve.
“Maintaining the status quo simply breeds mediocrity” (156).
100% of the shots you do not take will miss going into the basket (166).
“Find ways for people to stretch themselves. Set the bar incrementally higher, but at a level at which people feel they can succeed” (169).
“Be on the lookout for new ideas, wherever you are” (181).
Question: What are you doing new today in order to become better than yesterday?
6. The sixth step is to experiment and take risks by constantly generating small wins and learning from experience.
“Nothing new and nothing great is achieved by doing things the way you’ve always done them. You have to test unproven strategies…break out of the norms that box you in…venture beyond the limitations you normally place on yourself” (188).
“Big things are done by doing lots of little things” (196).
“It is hard to argue with success” (197).
“Small wins produce results because they make people feel like winners and make it easier for leaders to get others to want to go along with their requests” (199).
“Learning is the master skill” (202).
Question: How are you changing, improving, growing, and innovating?
Practice 4 – Enable others to Act
7. The seventh step is to foster collaboration by building trust and facilitating relationships.
“The team is larger than any individual on the team” (21).
“‘We’ can’t happen without trust” (219).
“When you create a climate of trust, you create an environment that allows people to freely contribute and innovate” (222).
“Placing trust in others is the safer bet with most people most of the time” (223).
“People have to believe that you know what you’re talking about and that you know what you’re doing” (226).
“Once you help others succeed, acknowledge their accomplishments, and help them shine, they’ll never forget it” (234).
“Demonstrate that you trust them before you ask them to trust you” (239).
Question: Who are you willing to trust?
8. The eighth step is to strengthen others by increasing self-determination and developing competence.
“The paradox of power: you become more powerful when you give your own power away” (244).
“Feeling powerful…comes from a deep sense of being in control of your own life” (246).
“Individual accountability is a critical element of every collaborative effort” (252).
“The more freedom of choice people have, the more personal responsibility they must accept” (253).
“If your constituents aren’t growing and learning in their jobs, they’re highly likely to leave and find better ones” (261).
Question: Do the people around you feel powerful?
Practice 5 – Encourage the Heart
9. The ninth step is to recognise contributions by showing appreciation.
“The climb to the top is arduous and steep. People become exhausted, frustrated, and disenchanted, and are often tempted to give up. Genuine acts of caring draw people forward. “recognition is the most powerful currency you have and it costs you nothing.” (23).
“Say Thank You” (294).
“Spontaneous, unexpected rewards are often more meaningful than expected, formal ones” (292).
Question: Do you say “thank you” enough?
10. The tenth step is to celebrate values and victories by creating a spirit of community.
“Leaders never get extraordinary things accomplished all by themselves” (30).
“Celebrate accomplishments in public” (307).
“Get personally involved…leadership is a relationship” (315).
“Make celebrations part of organizational life” (323).
I share a tool that I have used to become mindful of my daily activities.
This video is from the IESE EMBA Intensive week and I share an exercise that I have been doing for the last few months – that has shown me that “feeling in a rush” is one of the big detractors of my quality of life.
I was reading about how the Washington Post has changed since it’s purchase by Jeff Bezos. One of the quotes in the article struck a chord with me:
“not to fix broken things, like IT will do at a company, but build the future”.
Jeff Bezos brought in Jarrod Dicker to run technology development at the Post – a division that is called R.E.D. (Research, Experimentation and Development) and told him that he was “not to fix broken things, like IT will do at a company, but build the future”. (Read more at The Drum)
Leadership should take this as a mantra – work on what is important for the future of the enterprise, not what is broken in today’s version of the enterprise. Accenture had a similar mantra when I was working as a consultant back in the 1990’s “Don’t pave the cow path”.
We were told that the worst IT implementation is one that just automates the processes of pre-computer work. The best is to design the processes and technology for what the customers really want to achieve with their interactions with the company.