One Thing All Outstanding Organizations Do
Aspiration is useless, on its own. You aspire to excellence, success, and fulfillment. Big deal. Who doesn’t?
Aspiration apart from definition, method, and means is life lived by blind hope and dumb luck. Furthermore, defining isn’t enough.
Defining organizational excellence apart from developing clear strategies to achieve it is, “Equivalent to telling a middle-school basket-ball player that the key to success is being like Michael Jordan,” Karen Martin.
How can organizations become outstanding? How can you achieve your aspirations?
From aspiration to achievement:
“More important than the quest for certainty
is the quest for clarity.” Francois Gautier
All outstanding organizations pursue clarity, passionately. Lack of clarity comforts the mediocre.
Karen explains strategies for developing clarity in her new book, “The Outstanding Organization.”
- Embrace truth telling and truth seeking. In my experience, there is damn little of this in organizations. Nearly every organizational leader I know shades the truth; we lie. Why do “noble” leaders lie? Because we believe people can’t handle the truth. Think about it.
- Eliminate “soft” language. Martin says, “Telling someone the honest truth … about his performance, or about a challenge the company faces is fundamentally an act of respect.” Turn this around. Shading the truth is profound, degrading disrespect.
- Expose fuzzy words. I’m sick to death of terms like; better, near, almost, fast, slow, high, and low. This language is confusing at best and deceiving at worst. Be specific or shut up because you’re wasting everyone’s time and likely tooting your own horn.
- Eradicate, “Maybe,” and “I’m not sure.” Karen says, “Do your best to preface every answer with, ‘Yes,’ ‘No,’ or ‘I don’t know.’” You may need to elaborate, but if you don’t begin with clarity, it’s not likely you’ll achieve it. Karen says “Yes and no” is cheating!
Apart from seeking clarity, what strategies do you employ in your pursuit of excellence?
What do all outstanding organizations do?
Note: My rule has been to never mention books unless I’ve spoken to the author. “The Outstanding Organization,” is so good I broke that rule. Get this book and learn four elegantly simple foundations for building an outstanding organization.
Spot on, without clarity you can’t BE certain. 🙂
Thanks so much. I did get a chance to speak with Karen (in fact, this is the topic of my post tomorrow 😉 She is fantastic. My favorite is “if it’s a problem, call it a problem.”
Isn’t simplicity beautiful. There is so much more in her book. Best wishes with tomorrow’s post.
You mean don’t call it something cheesy like “an opportunity for growth” or “an movable obstacle in the way of our end of year goals?” 🙂
All outstanding organizations hire, train, and promote well.
They are obsessive about all three.
They selectively hire, train continually, and promote only those who should be promoted…but they do not delay it.
Powerful Matt. They say it’s all about the people. Welch said, “The team with the best players, wins.” Thanks for adding to the conversation.
To connect to today’s post, great people apart from clarity won’t deliver exceptional performance. Perhaps if they are left alone, they will create clarity…as long as management doesn’t block it.
On the other hand, clarity without the right people frustrates. They say you can’t get milk from turnips.
Clarity is also necessary to determine who the great people are. Great people are not universal. A great person for one organization might be a terrible hire at another.
Clarity defines who the great hires are…for me.
Apart from clarity, we need action. Once we act we can assess its value. Until we act its all a dream, things hoped for, smoke and mirrors.
Great organizations do what many individuals do not often do well.They check to see what’s working and what’s not. If its an issue, call it that, deal with it, and find the way forward. Unlike individuals, most great organizations do not stay mired in the past or focused only on previous achievements.
Movement, dreams, aspirations are about current motion toward the future.
Thank you Martina. Clarity enables action but doesn’t guarantee we’ll act. Great point!
Oh, Karen also says that clarity doesn’t mean your right. We need to check our clarity too.
Great Martina! Thanks for reminding me how important taking action is.
Love this post Dan. Gonna get this book.
Karen sounds like a straight shooter and I attempt everyday to achieve that moniker myself.
My momma taught me early on just tell the truth no matter what and keys deal with it!
That stuck but holy cow how many people are too tied up in their egos and self deceptions to just be honest.
Guess most folks have their reasons.
One of the great benefits of the disease of addiction I have is pretty much be honest or die. Being dishonest rots in my gut, that hurts and trust me I know how to ease that pain!
Problem is I have given up my right to chemical peace of mind(na book).
Anyway great post Dan, thanks,
Thanks Scott. I think you are right, ego gone awry, is one reason we lie. Karen adds a connected idea, fear makes us lie.
Love how you say..”One of the great benefits of addiction…” 🙂 Who would have thought?
As always, thanks for contributing.
Thanks so much Dan.
There were major changes in my organization recently which pulled my leadership handle. Your posts have really helped me put things in proper perspective and adapt to these changes.
I’ve always disliked sitting on the fence and wished more people will tell it like it is. When you tell one lie, you need lots more lies to cover up that initial lie.
Thanks Dan for telling it like it is!
A good word always feels good. Thank you.
Turmoil and turbulence challenge everyone. Speaking and seeking the truth may create turbulence at the beginning but it’s the only path to real, sustainable stability.
Thanks for sharing your story.
Excellent! Thanks for the post Dan – looks like Karen offers us a great book!
Wisdom reminds us that our ‘why’ is the mover behind the ‘how and what’… out of the heart come the words and deeds!
Matt – To the point, I recently reminded a friend who is looking for the next adventure that she offers exactly what a leader looks for – heart. Honesty is the value… a wise leader hires to character, knowing that skills are acquired as needed.
Thank you everyone for a great thread!
Thank you Ted. Yup! Karen’s book is a keeper, for sure.
Powerful words to start my day. Thank you!
Thank you Dusko!
Karen’s points on the power of words, soft or direct ring true. What and how communication is cooked drives clarity. Half baked-people will know it.
Another of the drivers of clarity is data. While numbers can be manipulated (and cooked too), when core elements are defined, it does become more difficult to shade.
It seems that outstanding, focused organizations have clear communication, verifiable data/outcomes which can then generate belief, faith and passion.
Always a pleasure seeing you here, Doc.
Those last few words are like cherries on a ice cream sunday. ..”belief, faith, and passion.” Who doesn’t want those qualities on their team. We just need the courage to do what it takes to develop them. What is simple isn’t always easy, at least at the beginning.
Love that quote. Thanks, Dan!
Most welcome, Margaret.
I was struck by Karen’s addressing of the soft words. We’ve started to talk as a staff about taking conversations the last 10%. Moving conversations into the places we normally walk away from. As long as the last 10% is coming from best intentions and isn’t just mean spirited. Say what you need to say over what you want to say.