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Discipline
July 2, 2012
Written By: Russell Jensen

For many years, we’ve looked to the work of the Jim Collins to initiate conversations about leadership.  So, when Collins and Gino Wickman, author of the book Traction, recently came to Des Moines to speak at the ABI conference, it made sense for us to host a group of two dozen Jensen Consulting Executive Roundtable clients and guests.

Following the Collins session, this diverse group of business owners and leaders from across Iowa met over lunch to debrief and talk about key learnings from the morning.  To get the ball rolling, we asked the group two discussion questions: “What ideas resonated with you from this morning?” and “What are you going to make happen on Monday as a result of this morning?” Three clear themes emerged, one was expected, and the other two were a bit more surprising.

What resonated with leaders?

The theme of discipline is woven into almost all of Collins’ work over the years in various ways, and this theme clearly resonated with our group of leaders. A number them talked about the concepts of the 20-mile march (the unfailing commitment to advance 20 miles each day toward your goal regardless of conditions, no more, no less), the need to balance innovation with strong discipline, the importance of implementing a “stop doing” list, and discipline in general. This didn’t surprise me much. Most of our clients over the years have a clear understanding of the key drivers in their business, but often struggle with discipline and focus.

On a more personal level, the concept of servant leadership, and Collins’ message about the importance of deep personal relationships, clearly resonated with people. One leader said he was going to rethink his perspective on what it means for him to leave a legacy, refocusing on contribution versus personal gain. Much of our discussion was driven by Collins’ very personal story about the value of relationships and the importance of “who luck.” “Who luck” is the understanding that the most important people in your life often arrive by luck, and you need to capitalize on that luck to benefit from those relationships. Several executives spoke candidly about the power of this lesson and their need to reflect on their “who luck” and reevaluate where they invest their time and energy.

What are these leaders going to make happen?

Discipline, discipline, discipline. While the discussion around servant leadership and the value of relationships was powerful and will likely drive personal changes, when we asked our leaders what actions they planned to take as a result of the morning there was a very clear theme -- implement more discipline in their business and their personal lives in various ways. In fact, several determined that they would be implementing a “stop doing” list as an action they would take Monday.  (And, just in case you’re wondering, we’ll check in to see how that list is going.)

A few other observations and thoughts from our participants:

  • “We need to dial down the innovation noise a bit and crank up the discipline.”
  • “Collins’ to do list was great. His stop doing list idea was better.”
  • “As a CFO it is scary sometimes to use all your gunpowder even when you know it is time to fire the cannons. This was great.”
  • “We will revisit our core values and implement regular and formal brutal facts reviews.”
  • “My (college age) kids lives will change because of today. We’re going to sit down and talk about their personal Hedgehogs.”

 

From my perspective the day was invaluable not only for our clients but for me personally. There was very little Wickman or Collins said that our group of business executives didn’t already know. Wickman shared his tried, true and trademarked system for getting things done. Collins reinforced his big ideas with data validated by research, and with his own moving personal stories. The real value was that both gave our group of successful executives reason to pause, reevaluate what they were doing and why, and refocus their time and activity to better align with their personal and business priorities. Our group of Iowa executives finished Friday with a sense of anticipation and purpose for Monday.

 

 


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