High performing companies led by high performing leaders who… A skype conversation with Jason Jennings

I have the pleasure of meeting Jason Jennings, author of Think Big Act Small and The Reinventors – How Extraordinary Companies Pursue Radical Continuous Change, as well as various books on corporate strategy and logic on the topic of 5 top leadership secrets.

Jason started off the conversation with the claim that these five secrets are not just based on his perspective or that of his team. It is based on research and data that he collected; based on the research of 220 thousand companies, 11 thousand CEOs and business owners, tons and tons of interview transcripts and tons more of data.

  1. High performing companies led by high performing leaders have a culture that is based on a doing well and doing good purpose.

–          Microsoft started with the idea that they wanted to put a computer on everyone’s table.

–          IKEA employees say that they are not just working at a manufacturing plant but they are designing and selling furniture for the many.

–          IKEA’s CEO Peter Agnefjäll said that he wants the many to serve the many and the the few to serve the many

–          Howard Schultz of Starbucks didn’t create the company to be a coffee shop. He wanted to create a place where people can gather and interact and innovate.

–          Sam Walton of Wal-Mart had the vision that he wanted to allow the average person to buy what rich people can buy

Jason said that the thrill of the journey is not to reach the end, but to enjoy the path you take getting there. The companies listed above and many more have this idea in mind. It is not the end goal of becoming the largest company in the world or the richest person in the world or even to service everyone in the world, but to be able to continuously walk on the path and to make progress and move forward one step at a time.

  1. High performing companies led by high performing leaders see growth as guiding principle

Everyone wants a promotion. Everyone wants a salary raise. Everyone wants to be on the winning team. But how can everyone get what they want, if there is no growth. Growth is not just making money. A company can be making money yearly, but not grow. Look at Starbucks for example, when Howard Schultz step down the first time, the annual profit decreased dramatically. But the company was still earning money just that year after year they made less and less.

–          Growth attracts people. How can a company attract the best and the brightest if they go about with the promotion by saying that they are an average company that will stay the same for years to come. Everyone wants to be on the winning team.

–          Companies that are shareholder and stocks first are not growing. Growth needs to be throughout the company and not just one aspect.

–          The only capital that is valuable in a company is the people

–          IKEA is the only global furniture brand in the world. Why? Because it is growing and it is a winning team. Ikea is about to generate about $2 million USD per employee per year

–          Nucor Steel since its founding has never layoff any employee. And believe that the employee is what the company is all about

  1. High performing companies led by high performing leaders know when to let go

–          Things to let go: Let go of yesterday’s great (whatever that got you to where you are today will not get you to where you want to go tomorrow) – Boarders was once the largest retail bookstore in the US, but because they were unable to let go of their yesterday’s success, they were too late to adopt to the changes.

–          Things to let go: Let go of ego: Bill Gates of Microsoft said that he is no leader and does not see himself as someone in a leading position.

–          Things to let go: Let go of the same old, same old (if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it) – Blackberry once dominated the smart phone industry. But they did not improve their technology because they thought it was innovative and nothing is wrong with it. There was nothing wrong with Blackberry, however, apple, Samsung, HTC, and others got into the smart phone business with another idea and today Blackberry is no longer sitting on top of the industry.

–          Things to let go: Let go of wisdom. Everyone wants unconventional results but they are trying to achieve this in a conventional business world. Budweiser was the great beer company in the country selling 1 out of every 4 beers nationwide. This is mainly thanks to its advertisements and public relation strategy of specifically targeting holidays. But today they sell 1 out of every 12 beers because they were unwilling to let go of this wisdom. People are no longer look at those horses the same way they used to

Jason talk of his favorite t-shirt that says, Change is Great – You go first. And this leads into the next point

  1. High performing companies led by high performing leaders make small bets

–          Risk is bad for any company. But great companies never get to the point where their back faces the edge of a cliff because they make small bets and small risks from time to time

–          When Howard Schultz return to Starbucks, he operated the company through a period of small bets. In a period of 18 months, Starbucks made 150 small bets, some good and other bad

–          Punishment is not good. Good companies look at risk as learning experiences and not success or failure

–          There should be a no skunking rule. All ideas should be look at no matter what because who knows.

–          Coke-Cola sends its 5 year plans to its competitors yearly because they believe that knowledge Is not power. Execution is.

  1. High performing companies led by high performing leaders do not see themselves as leaders but as good stewards.

–          The television show Undercover Boss describes this point

–          Several CEO’s Jason interview would often get their hands dirty. Some even would stay at a random store parking lot to help customers load their goods just to take with them

–          J&J has a policy where executives would do customer visits just to see how they can improve their products to better fit their customers

Jason ended the conversation by saying that he often does not like small chats, because he believe that to get to know someone well, you just have to ask the question of why do you do what you do everyday?


About t5huang

Masters in Environmental Science at UPenn Candidate
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