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This is one of the best professional development books I’ve read to date. My only regret is that I didn’t read it sooner. The book came into my “library” as part of an Executive Leadership Academy and development program I was fortunate enough to be a part of. To prove how much leadership I gleaned from the program, I made the executive decision not to immediately read this book, because it was not on the assigned reading list. Then, months later, I began researching the “best” professional development books for our 10-pages a day challenge and Good to Great kept consistently showing up.
Yadda yadda yadda. I finally read the book. That catches us up with today’s review.
Good is the enemy of great.”
This is the first sentence on the first page of the first chapter of the book. How often have we — “we” including myself — let mediocrity be the enemy of greatness? When you’re down, even friends and family will encourage you with, “it could be worse.” They’re right. It could be worse.
It could also be better.
Good to Great encourages us to be better rather than settling for good enough. Throughout the book I found myself identifying with countless examples of companies, organizations, and individuals used as analogies for the status quo: good enough.
Without strategic purpose, good enough will be the inertia that keeps us, or our organizations, from greatness. At least when you’re doing bad, everyone agrees you need to do better. When you’re doing “good enough” people remind you, “it could be worse.” Good becomes the default equivalent of great. Greatness takes hard work. And who wants to put in work, especially at work of all places?
“I didn’t come to work to work.” – ancient good enough employee proverb
Early on the show, we talked about the importance of “to do list” but recently, and of equal importance, we’ve begun talking about “to not do list.” This is described in the book as “stop doing.” In the context of the book, you should focus your energy on being great.
I believe it is no harder to build something great than to build something good. It might be statistically more rare to reach greatness, but it does not require more suffering than the perpetuation of mediocrity.”
In other words, rather than focusing on moving from bad to good or horrible to average, you conduct an honest assessment of what you’re doing now that you’re good at or could be great at. You then focus on being great, not just good. If it takes just as much unfocused discipline to be good, then why not use focused discipline to be great? It seems like a simple equation that many will spend their lifetimes not solving, languishing in the land of mediocrity and personal disappointment.
We waste a lot of time, energy, and thinking on improving from ok to slightly better than average while giving only minimal forethought to what is the one thing we could be great at. This is ultimately the question posed by the book: is it better to spend a lifetime being average at a lot of things and a master of none, or great at one thing? Many would describe this as knowing and pursuing your purpose.
Greatness is not a function of circumstance. Greatness, it turns out, is largely a matter of conscious choice.”
You’re The Average Of The Five People You Spend The Most Time With
“People are not your most important asset. The right people are.” It turns out, surrounding yourself with individuals content to be average will make you average as well. Not that there is anything wrong with that. In fact, if you’re perfectly content with where you are heading in life, I recommend you make absolutely no changes in your life at all. Instead, I wish you 1,000 years of continued success. However, if you are unhappy with the state or direction of your life, I would ask what have you, or the people supporting you, done to help improve your situation?
As a side editor’s note, this is one (of the few?) benefits of the internet. It has removed the boundaries and barriers to entry. Stated another way, if the five people around you are average, that is no longer a justifiable excuse to remain average yourself when you can log online, join a thread, forum, website, chat, mastermind or whatever medium you choose to ensure the average skews towards your favor by finding accountability partners, mentors, coaches and sponsors that can help you forge ahead on the path to greatness in this game of life we’re all playing our cards in.
The book explains, “When you have disciplined people, you don’t need hierarchy. When you have disciplined thought, you don’t need bureaucracy.” For example, for those of you who will inevitably sit in a meeting this week that should have been a phone call to prepare for another meeting that should have been an email, you might try imparting the wisdom of the following 3-part strategy with your coworkers for determining if a meeting is needed provided to us on PB26: Behind the Brilliance ft. @LisaNicoleBell:
- Do not schedule a meeting if a phone call will suffice
- Do not place a phone call if an email will do
- Do not send an email if you can answer the question yourself
Hedgehog: Big Hairy Audacious Goal (BHAG)
I will not do the book justice with the self-imposed 1,000 character limit I’ve placed on myself for these book reviews. However, I would be remiss not to cover the most important concept of discovering your pathway to greatness. You can read the book to see why Jim Collins chose, of all creatures, the hedgehog as the animal kingdom’s representative for greatness but the analogy works.
“A BHAG is a huge and daunting goal. It is clear, compelling, and people ‘get it’ right away.” That people get it might be important for a business but for yourself, it is only important that you clearly understand your goal. I searched a lot of images, but felt this BHAG Venn Diagram created by @eskimon provides the best and simplest version of a BHAG or #WIN in his rendering:
I highly recommend you read this book. Few books have left me more motivated to move beyond settling for goodness and towards striving for greatness.
There was no single defining action, no grand program, no one killer innovation, no solitary lucky break, no wrenching revolution. Good to great comes by cumulative process-step by step, action by action, decision by decision.”
You may also wonder how you can inspire greatness in others?
I’ll end with a few thoughts and a quote from the book. In my opinion, leaders inspire leaders. Rarely have I seen a successful leader (greatness) short on followers, listeners, admires and those looking to duplicate their habits. If you achieve greatness, you will encourage greatness in others. Your impact will be both conscious and subconscious. You won’t have to “teach” them anything because actions speak louder than words.
When people begin to feel the magic of momentum – when they begin to see tangible results, when they can feel the flywheel beginning to build speed – that’s when the bulk of people line up to throw their shoulders against the wheel and push.”
Most leaders, even the great ones, don’t realize they were a part of something great during their build-up to greatness. It is all the small, purposeful steps along the journey that will make the “great” change everyone else witnesses simply another step in your total journey from good to great.
You deserve more than “it could be worse.” Life can be great, too. If you aren’t already started on that path. I hope you choose to start today.