No company ever becomes the best in class by accident. You have to position your business to achieve that status, and that is a mission of such size and scope that you simply cannot accomplish it without implementing winning strategies. All of this represents the type of serious commitment that will require the utmost focus, discipline, patience, persistence, tenacity, and leadership skills if you are to be successful. And yes, those are the principles and traits that Jim Collins identified in his book “Good to Great.” He found them all in abundance among level 5 leaders, and referred to this philosophy of duality as the Stockdale Paradox – a reference to the late Vice Admiral James Stockdale’s coping strategy during his imprisonment in a POW camp during the Vietnam War.
Stockdale had described the mental state that it took to survive the camps as one that recognized the importance of acknowledging your current challenges while still maintaining the focus, discipline, patience, persistence, and tenacity needed to maintain faith in your own vision for success.
That is the essential trait of leadership that is all too often lacking in the business world today. It is a principle that recognizes that leaders choose to accept the blunt and brutal facts of their reality, but never lose sight of their belief that the right team and strategy, skillfully executed, can ensure that they prevail when all is said and done.
In business, many fail to meet their goals because they never build the type of foundation that provides them with the complete package they need for success. The ability and discipline to focus on all of the things that matter, along with the passion to excel in every single department, function, and business activity, is absolutely critical for ensuring that you have the optimum opportunity for business success. You cannot afford to let yourself be blindsided by overconfidence due to a misguided faith in your ability to excel in just one or two skill sets – or hope that superiority in those areas will somehow mask your mediocrity in every other area.
It doesn’t really matter if you believe that you have tried your best, or that you have worked hard to do your part. When others on your team fail to bring their skill sets to bear in a way that helps you to excel in every area of your business, then you leave yourself open to failure. One or two areas of competency are not enough to succeed; the true measure of your competitive superiority can only be found in the total of all of your scores.
Everything is interrelated. It might seem as though poor performance in one area of your business is isolated to that function, but that is simply not the case. Poor performance in one aspect of your business degrades performance everywhere else. It means that when you are weak in certain areas of your company’s operations, your scores are not only lower in those areas but they impact the scores of other areas as well. Ultimately, that causes your overall business performance score to suffer.
Remember, your business is a complete system. Every subsystem within your company either helps or harms every other subsystem. All of those components or subsystems have an impact on the output and performance of every business function and the business as a whole. When there is weakness in any area, the business is weaker than it should be. Components that fail to perform at peak levels tend to bring down the performance of other components, and the overall impact is magnified in proportion to the total number of interdependent parts at work within the system. Moreover, the more complex the system is, the more impact each individual component has on the entirety of the company.
Complexity increases interdependence, and magnifies the impact any given component has, whether for good or ill. When components operate at peak performance, greater productivity and positive benefits can be enjoyed. When there are weaknesses, the exact opposite is true.
It can sometimes be hard to envision just how important it is to deliver a complete package, but there is an example that can offer some illumination on the subject. Just think about your favorite talent show or sports competition where winners are determined by a panel of judges, with the total scores from eight different criteria used to make that decision. A competitor who scores 10 out of 10 in two categories, but who has mediocre scores of 7 of 10 in the other six categories will ultimately lose out to the competitor who manages to score 8 of 10 across all eight categories.
And so it is with the world of business. Being the best in class in every category is always a winning strategy whenever it is tried. To be the best in class, you have to realize that everything matters, though there are always a few that matter a lot more than others. The most important of them all are the four pillars of business success; you, your great ideas, your employees, and your customers. Focus on them to improve your odds of business success.