The Rarity of Level 5
The Rarity of Level 5’s
I’m working with a current client who wants to make the leap from being good to being a great organization.
He’s a natural “Level 5”. You’ll remember that Level 5 is someone with Humility and Strong Professional Will. John (not his real name), has an almost ferociousness about getting things done and about holding people accountable. He was raised on a turkey farm in the upper Midwest so he knows what dung smells like. If you start spreading it around his current business establishment (not related to farming or turkeys at all), you can expect to be called on it. Yet if you challenge him authentically, and make sense, you can expect that he will change his mind completely the next day and agree with you. You see, John has figured out something Level 4’s never understand. YOUR COMPANY’S NOT ABOUT YOU. YOUR COMPANY IS ABOUT IT!
John has taken his business from a little 3 person shop 11 years ago, to 30 employees, growing 20% per year for each of the last 4 years. Of course he did this through sheer will and working 100 hours per week. Now he’s starting to hit “the wall” (see archived entry) and he needs some help. His insurance broker recommended me and I’ve been with him now for 16 weeks. My goal is to work myself out of a job there, but I love the place.
About a year ago, John had two major heart procedures (at the same time) one of which was absolutely life threatening.
In the book “Good to Great”- Why Some Companies Make The Leap and Others Don’t”, Jim Collins posits that a near death experience is sometimes the catalyst for developing the humility needed in Level 5, or perhaps a life event like a major faith conversion is needed. John has had both in his life. The addition of his selflessness, (humility) has incited his people to walk over hot coals for him, should he ask, which he would not do.
He has the uniqueness of being dogged in his pursuit of IT, (not information technology, his purpose, values and vision) and at the same time being teachable, learning, submissive (to others ideas) and grateful. He “invited” his management team to pursue the Core Ideology with him (Purpose and Values), and then humbled himself and sat there as a participant (although an influential one) and submitted to my facilitation of the process we agreed to. Here we are 12 weeks later, and we almost have the Core Ideology complete. (Many Level 4’s just announce their Core Ideology, albeit with much salesmanship and fanfare.)
His management team at first was tentative, even cautious, but he won them over with his humility, at the same time being like a dog on the hunt, but also being teachable, listening, changing, but calling out the dung when he smelled it . Can you just imagine it?
There is a saying that God opposes the proud, but gives Grace to the humble.
You can either humble yourself, or be humbled by events, either way you are better off although the second path (humiliation) is much more painful.
What does it take to humble yourself?
Mostly it is the realization that you just are NOT as important as you might think you are, and that a committed group of talented, “aligned” people, focused on the same “big idea” are exponentially more powerful than any one person could be, no matter how smart or powerful that one person might be. Begin by thinking about that over and over to see if it’s true. If you can arrive at that truth, you’ve begun the process of seeing yourself truthfully. Once you get there you’ll start to see the true value of the people around you, and First Who, Then What will start to make sense.
Hitler could make the trains run on time and ran a very efficient state, but he was defeated, as was Saddam Hussein. And no company has truly led, longer than it’s dynamic, charismatic, owner could be effective.
Lasting Greatness begins by being focused on IT, not YOU.