I read an article recently by Seth Godin. In this article he suggest that in business, few people attempt to be formidable – a person to be reckoned with. It is interesting when you think about how few companies and individuals become exceptional as a leader and as a company. I suggest that choice creates formidable individuals and exceptional companies, not just chance or good fortune. There are characteristics and traits that these leaders bring to the table and they will achieve success regardless of their career or industry. In this article I want to explore the traits that are shared by these individuals and the businesses that they run.
Individuals that are formidable have a strong vision, great communication, dedication and discipline. I do not find exceptional performers to necessarily work harder, just smarter and are working toward a destination. Do you find yourself wading from one problem to another and find that you fill your days with busyness? These are symptoms of working without a plan or vision. Having a vision is important but by itself is not a cause that rallies the troops. As a leader you need to communicate this message and unite the troops to your cause. Inevitably distractions will interfere with mission accomplishment so you will need to have the discipline and focus to return to your cause as soon as possible. It is easy to take a break or allow habit to kick in and take over your days. It takes discipline and focus to achieve your vision. Formidable individuals that care about being exceptional and driving companies have these traits and are the ones that end up on the top. Opposite of this are the leaders that become victims and are followed by failure. Some leaders have the Midas Touch and are the perceived beneficiary of good luck or great circumstances. While there can be some element of luck to any great success story, there is also a need to recognize and act on these opportunities.
Exceptionalism is a discipline that needs to be recognized and acted on. In your business are you driving to a destination and do you have a strategy for recognizing and achieving this plan? In his article Seth Godin refers to skill and care as two elements of formidable individuals. Many restoration companies seek solid education – both business and technical, yet few would be considered exceptional. It should be recognized that skill is not a sole criteria of exceptionalism. This is not an issue of education and knowledge rather, a question of learning. Gaining knowledge is the easy part and often just a function of locating resources and making time. Care is the challenge. You have to care about your reputation, your success, and your achievement enough to keep driving toward your destination even in the face of distraction, failure and other challenges. Caring is the element that links knowledge and learning. Many knowledgeable people work for other people or run average businesses. Formidable people obtain the knowledge and then caring links this knowledge with their vision to create an exceptional company.
I have identified knowledge and caring as two elements on the road to organizational transformation. This is a strong foundation to build a great company but there certainly needs to be more. To create an exceptional company you need to have a clear plan that brings you to the destination. This plan needs to describe the destination in great detail as well as outlining the process to get from here to there. I love the philosophy that with good system problems will cease to be a challenge. I have also heard that effective systems are about predictable results rather than process. In designing effective systems, start with the result and then fill the process to achieve this result. These systems need to be reviewed and tweaked as needed to find efficiencies and improve the predicable achievement of results.
Exceptional companies, run by formidable leaders need to add structure to the learning that has been defined. The structure is encompassed in the company mission, vision and values. Once the mission, vision and plan have been clearly defined they need to be communicated to the entire team. I get to visit a lot of companies in my consulting. In many of these companies I see mission and vision statements, goals and even credos on the walls in fancy frames or even on plaques. More often than not the employees are not able to recite or summarize any of these statements when the sign is covered or removed. Effective leaders are able to make these statements real. The Dwyer Group has a rule that anytime they have a meeting of more than a couple of employees they recite their core values. I am sure through this process the employees know what their company stands for. I have had the pleasure of visiting their office and have witnessed and participated in this process first hand. This is an example of making theoretical statements become reality for all members of a company. This process should not be overlooked and is fundamental in developing and crafting company culture. If I had a company with a large staff then I would require that this was a foundation starting during the orientation process. I would want the employees to summarize our mission, vision and values in their own words - and yes there would be a test. These statements would be the focus of every company meeting and would be discussed in company newsletters and other communications. We would use real world examples as we live our values in our business and our community and then use these to create legendary stories to be passed on to future team members.
In summary, exceptionalism will create a formidable company built by formidable leaders. The process to achieve the anticipated results it to combine skills with desire and passion around a clear vision. Then this message needs to be communicated effectively through the organization and reinforced. As a leader, become the person that people rally around because they understand that they are following someone formidable. Become a humble champion of a cause and a person that is magic about to happen.
Formidable leaders create truly exceptional companies. They do not define success based on the marketplace and competing companies. Rather, success is defined based on world-class companies and what could be, not what is. As Seth Godin says “it is not a dream if you can do it.” What challenges lie ahead of you and how are you going to change you company, your community and the lives of all you touch? Become formidable and create a company that will be talked about years from now and serve as an example to be emulated.