top of page

Leader's Digest - February 2023

This edition is all about the foundations of a market-leading business. 

There is a challenge that is true for any system and organization: With increasing size comes mediocrity.

Complexity always bears the risk of complacency. Misunderstandings through miscommunication. Bureaucracy and general inefficiency. 

Steve Jobs famously said in 1998, that Apple had “10,000 mediocre employees that have to be cleaned out” and he remained on a mission to “battle organizational mediocrity”.

The question is: How do you actually enable a team to be world-class?

The answer may be disappointing to you. Because it would be ridiculous to assume, that in a complex organization of tens of thousands of people, there was a simple switch that flips the overall performance level from mediocre to world-class.

The good news is, that there is strong evidence that there are indeed practices and principles that lay the foundation for building market-leading organizations.

Here is some food for thought:

1) The big picture: How having a north star can scale your leadership through your entire organization

"When you look at less successful enterprises and organizations in general, you’ll typically find that these companies work in cycles of ups and downs. In a down-cycle, the leadership takes charge and works to turn the tide. Once things are moving upwards, politics are back and dominate the day-to-day business. Complacency is increasingly taking a hold and somehow every new initiative seems to be dragged into an abyss of organizational quicksand. Until things begin to take a turn to the worse and the cycle begins anew.

At the core of the problem you’ll often find, that whenever people in the organization don’t know how to proceed, they default into a state inaction and wait for new instructions.

So what are Microsoft, Apple, SpaceX and other leading organizations doing to bring out the best in their people?

Of course, the answer to such a complex, generalized question is complex. But there are themes that are playing through virtually all leading organizations. In hidden champions. In global players. In start-ups.”

2) The details: Where to start in order to race in the Formula 1

“Wolff is a self-admitted stickler for even the smallest details. He told me that when he first visited the Mercedes team’s factory, in Brackley, England, he walked into the lobby and sat down to wait for the team principal he would come to replace. “On the table were a crumpled Daily Mail newspaper from the week before and two old paper coffee cups,” Wolff recalled. “I went up to the office to meet him, and at the end of our conversation I said, ‘I look forward to working together. But just one thing—that reception area doesn’t say “F1,” and that’s where it needs to start if we want to win.’ He said, ‘It’s the engineering that makes us win,’ and I replied, ‘No, it’s the attitude. It all starts with an attention to detail.’” ... This mindset has contributed to the emergence of an organization that is obsessed with excellence—one that constantly aims to raise its standards and set the benchmark within its sport.”

3) The people: Relationship advice that may help you to communicate more clearly and build a truly high-performing team

“Step One: Tell them that this is who you are and they can take it or leave it.

Step Two: If they don’t accept it and keep trying to change you, you leave the relationship.

Both steps are equally important. You must decide on what you are willing to tolerate and not willing to tolerate in your relationship. If you can’t do that, then you are simply at a loss of control and will always feel reactive to the other person. This is bad.

Once you have decided what you will and will not tolerate, you express this clearly. “Hey, I really like watching Teletubbies and if you can’t handle that, then this isn’t going to work!” OK, a more serious example, “Hey, my religion is really important to me and if you can’t respect that then this isn’t going to work.”

The second step is then probably the hardest. Because you have to stand by your statement. If they violate your boundary, there have to be consequences. A lot of people are good at expressing the boundary but they don’t stick by it. As a result, the people around them learn to ignore what they say.

Other people are good at the second step but bad at the first: they are great at cutting people off but bad at expressing why. If you don’t express what boundary has been crossed, then you don’t give other people the chance to ever adjust how they treat you. Therefore, you need to state your boundary and act upon it.”

With seemingly omnipresent mediocrity, there is incredible potential for all who dare to do things differently.

If you have ideas, plans, an aspiration or a strategy and would like to discuss it or have it challenged - I'd be excited to hear them. Drop me an e-mail or schedule a quick call.



Like what you read? Join the newsletter!

Once per month the Leader's Digest gives you actionable insights on how to build, steer and lead in business. Applicable both if you have a career or your own business.


bottom of page