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chapter 19
imperatives for success

As you progress to higher levels of responsibility in your career, there are ten additional overriding principles to follow to maximize your professional success, even when you become the CEO of your organization.
These important principles are:
  • Be passionate about your work whatever it is. Be fully engaged in what you are doing. Be committed to excellence and high work standards. The more you love what you are doing, the better you are going to perform your job. When you are passionate about what you are doing, you inspire others to be passionate also.
  • Conduct yourself with total integrity. This means being completely honest and trustworthy in all your dealings with others.
  • Exercise the awesome power of focus and concentration whenever you have to address any issue of consequence. If you focus all of your mental, emotional and physical faculties mightily on the subject at hand, there is almost no limit to what you can accomplish. As Bill Gates, Microsoft’s co-founder, stated, “I’ve learned that only through focus can you do world-class things, no matter how capable you are.” The trumpeter Bobby Hackett said of Louis Armstrong,“He taught me by his example that the key to music, the key to anything in life, is concentration.”
  • Think creatively, in particular about how to develop entirely new markets for your products and services, including utilizing the Internet to do so, and how your organization can partner with others to achieve greater impact and expand its “reach”. As Jeff Jarvis states in his book What Would Google Do?, one of the most important new rules of our Internet age is: “Enabling customers to collaborate with you — in creating, distributing, marketing, and supporting products — is what creates a premium in today’s market.”
  • Foster a culture of genuine tolerance, respect and appreciation for people from all backgrounds in both the workplace and the community. As Thomas Friedman wrote in The World Is Flat, “When tolerance is the norm, everyone flourishes — because tolerance breeds trust, and trust is the foundation of innovation and entrepreneurship.”
  • Refrain from becoming self-absorbed and impressed with your own importance. Take the time to give credit for “a job well done” to the other members of your TEAM on a regular basis. Write lots of small thank-you e-mails and notes. Always acknowledge the role of your co-workers whenever you receive recognition for your own accomplishments.
  • Step up and take responsibility for your mistakes. When you goof or blow it, do not try to hide or ignore it. Admit your mistake, apologize if it is appropriate for you to do so, learn from the experience, and make sure you do not repeat the same mistake in the future. Once you have acknowledged your mistake, however, push yourself on to positive ground and move on.
  • Quietly take the time on a regular basis to really THINK about the big picture and what is really important. Shut off the computer and phones, close your door and insist on no interruptions or disturbances. Allow several hours at least once a month for this purpose. Countless executives boast about how hard they work and being busy 100% of the time. But, working hard and long without really stopping to truly think on a regular basis is a guarantee of mediocre results. When he was the CEO of Amazon, at the end of every quarter Jeff Bezos, took himself away on a solo retreat for several days without any distractions to think about the most decisive things that Amazon should be doing for its future success. When Bill Gates was at Microsoft, twice a year he would engage in his “Think Week” where he spent seven days by himself in a secluded location reading reports and thinking about the future of technology and his organization.
  • Be authentic. Be who you are. Live in your own skin. Do not try to be someone else or play the role of someone other than who you really are. Be comfortable in having people say of you, “What you see is what you get.”
  • Recognize that there is a huge difference between the word and the deed. In every field of endeavor, what counts is the quality and speed of execution, creativity, and delivering high-performance results. Good intentions are meaningless unless they are followed by actions and accomplishments.
Peter Drucker, probably the most profound business consultant and writer of all time, always emphasized that there is a critical difference between efficiency and effectiveness. Being efficient is doing things right. Being effective is doing the right thing, and that is what really makes a difference to the success of any organization or enterprise. Steve Jobs took it one step further when he rightly said that success “comes from saying no to 1,000 things to make sure we don’t get on the wrong track or try to do too much. We’re always thinking about new markets we could enter, but it’s only by saying no that you can concentrate on the things that are really important.”
The Role of Luck
Jim Collins has written a number of valuable books on the subject of successful organizations and management practices. In his book Great by Choice, Collins extensively analyzes the role that luck has played in determining the best performing organizations and individuals over an extended period of time. He concludes that luck does not cause outstanding success but that people do. Individuals and organizations experience both good and bad luck. As Collins says, “The critical question is not ‘Are you lucky?’ but ‘Do you get a high return on luck?’” In other words, what counts is what you did with the luck you got, again both good and bad.
Good luck often comes disguised as bad luck. At the time, getting fired from Apple in 1985 was a tremendous blow to Steve Jobs, both personally and professionally. Yet, it caused him to seek out new opportunities, develop important skills and forge key relationships that all played a critical part in his subsequent success when Jobs was hired back by Apple in 1996. His “bad luck” ended up serving as the catalyst that enabled Jobs to become a brilliant leader responsible for creating, in his words, “insanely great products that changed the world”.
Jim Collins also rightly believes that, “Of all the luck we can get, people luck – the luck of finding the right mentor, partner, teammate, leader, friend – is one of the most important.” Building strong, enduring, mutually beneficial relationships with such individuals greatly boosts your chances of success.
Arrogance and over-sized egos are a sure recipe for causing major problems at any organization. Staying out of trouble demands a high degree of humility – of appreciating what you don’t really know. It also requires having tenacity in critically challenging the key assumptions behind any serious decision and fully understanding what could go wrong. Probe, probe, probe
When Steve Jobs was asked, “What’s the most important lesson you’ve learned?”, he answered, “Humility and the curiosity that comes with it. If you’re hungry and humble and always digging for that extra piece of knowledge, that’s how the world works.”


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