What It Takes to Go From ‘Good’ to ‘Great’

Confront Reality

In past articles, we discussed two traits (humble yet driven leaders, and the right people) that author Jim Collins says successful companies embody. Now, we’ll touch on the third trait in Collins’ book  Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap . . . and Others Don’t.

Great Companies’ trait #3: Confront the Brutal Facts (Yet Never Lose Faith) 

Good-to-great companies have leaders who confront the reality of their situation—even when it’s less than ideal. Only by acknowledging the truth can the right decisions be made to improve the circumstances. 

Confronting the brutal facts involves:

  • Being truthful,
  • Asking for truthfulness
  • Acting upon truth 

But there’s more to it than that. Good-to-great businesses keep faith in their mission and goals. They don’t let pessimism cloud their vision for a brighter future. At the same time, they acknowledge and accept there will be hard work ahead to overcome the challenges that stand in their way of achieving that vision. 

Three Tips for Getting to the Truth of the Situation 

Collins suggests several ways business leaders can understand their company’s reality. We’ve put our own twist on three of them that we believe may be helpful for contractors. 

1. Lead with questions, not answers. Ask for opinions and input from your workers and customers to learn the facts as they really are. Don’t try to steer people into saying what retrofits into your grand vision.

This point is crucial for charismatic business owners with a strong leadership personality. Their outspokenness and strong opinions may overshadow the ideas of less-vocal workers and customers.

2. Engage in dialogue and debate, not coercion. Open the door to discussion and allow room for disagreement (in casual and formal situations). Don’t try to force people to think a certain way. Debate enables people to share different perspectives and ideas for problem-solving and improvements.  

3. Conduct autopsies without blame. When things go wrong, discuss them with your team. Take care to do so in the spirit of wanting to get better as a company rather than to condemn people for making mistakes. 

Stay tuned for more insight about going from good to great! Next time, we’ll talk about Collins’ “Hedgehog Concept.”

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