Thursday, September 19, 2013

#014 Significance over Success

"The mediocre teacher tells
The good teacher explains
The superior teacher demonstrates
The great teacher inspires"
by William Arthur Ward

A few posts back I talked about the book Good to Great.  I mentioned in that post that I would probably refer to it fairly often because of the uniqueness of the research and conclusions the author makes.  Today I want to talk about the concept the author, Jim Collins, developed in the book about the Level 5 Leader.

Because the book delved into what made good companies become long-lasting sustainable companies great, they looked closely at the leadership in all of the Fortune 500 companies they researched.  It was truly eye-opening and quite educational for me to read about the examples of the leadership and why those companies became great because of those leaders.

The anecdotes that truly blew me away were about the leaders who left their prospering company they built for one reason or another, and even in their absence, the company continued to sustain a high level of growth and prosperity.  Here lies the difference between what Jim Collins defined as the Level 4 and Level 5 leaders.  A Level 4 leader was 100% hands on, "jump on my back," "let's get this done" worker.  A Level 4 Leader's company does very well and prospers under that person's leadership.  Sounds pretty good, right?

Here lies the rub...a Level 5 Leader hires the right people and directs them on how to be great even in their absence.  Think about that from a teacher's or coach's perspective.  Are you the leader who drives their players/students into greatness or do you teach them how to be great?

A long time ago, I listened to a brilliant University executive (and I wish I could remember her name - sorry) speak about the difference between success and significance.  I clearly remember her telling us (I worked under at Saint Louis University) that she wanted us to remove the word success from our vocabulary.  I can't remember the metaphor she used, but I know that over the past 15 years I have used a similar metaphor for my teams:

Anyone can walk into a gym, throw the ball in the air and put it through the hoop.  That person will feel a sense of success because they accomplished a simple goal.  Significance is knowing how to put that ball in the hoop over and over again and knowing how and why it is going in or not going in.

You may have also heard this concept in just about any church in the world.  It goes something like this:

Give a man a fish, and he won't be hungry for a day.  Teach a man to fish, and he will never be hungry.

As teachers, we have a responsibility to focus our energies on significant learning.  It is a tough world/environment/generation for this type of leadership because most kids want the quick confirmation and award.  They cram for tests to get a good grade instead of studying the material to own the knowledge.  I've coached many a player who simply did not want to learn how to shoot the ball properly or get down in the defensive stance every possession or simply let their athleticism and instincts rule the outcome of their play.  It was my great challenge as their teacher/leader to help them learn how to learn.  Some accepted it with open arms.  Some spurned my teachings like the plague.  In the end, most of my players learned that when they worked to accomplish significance, that the game all of a sudden became easy.  Muscle memory and routine allowed them to soar to heights they never thought they were capable of.

As you go about your business of teaching, coaching, parenting, etc., think about being significant.  I know I can be flat out terrible at remembering that advice at times because I want to win as much as the next person.  Over the years, I have learned to accept losing when I see growth in the group and the individuals. 

We may have lost the game, but we made strides to win the big game down the road.

It will be the hardest lesson you will learn as a teacher or coach, but when you buy into choosing to be a Level 5 Leader over a Level 4 Leader, you will find yourself becoming a great student as well.

Good luck with your team or family or life.  I wish you an immensity of significance!
Matt Rogers
Twitter:  @madcoachdiary