Goodness is the Enemy to Greatness

Author Noel Pinnock, B.S., M.P.A., C.A., CCC

www.noelpinnock.com

The basic definition of good is ‘well’ and the basic definition of great is ‘very well.’ The two are remarkably similar in context and meaning but both are competing rivals in many respects. Some settle on being good while others strive to be great. There is no wonder why there are so few people, companies, and organizations that share their place in the greatness circle. While good is ‘good,’ it is certainly not great.

For example, I live in Missouri City, a good suburb a few miles just outside of the city of Houston, which struggles to crossover into greatness because we lack essential Leadership, Engagement, Growth, and Stability or, in other words, LEGS. For some, living a good city, working for a good organization, or raising a good family is okay but to others, like me, and possibly you, we work tirelessly to overcome the paralytic and caustic sting of goodness in an effort to strive for greatness and are relentless in the pursuit of it. Leading a city is no different from leading your home, business, or non-profit organization because it requires individuals who are like pistols, hot-blooded people, not the mild manner conforming types, that will succumb to the awesome power of the existing culture. Culture is an umbrella term which encompasses social behaviors and norms found in human societies, as well as the knowledge, beliefs, arts, laws, customs, capabilities, and habits of the individuals in these groups. Culture eats strategy for lunch every day because it is that rhythm that pulls people to the dancefloor or pushes them to the threshing floor because nobody likes dancing to noise and without LEGS, we are limited in movement, function, and sometimes, purpose. Why?

Well, leadership is an essential factor in moving from good to great because leadership properly engages people in ways that not only solicit their input but also empowers them to transform that input into reality. Without engagement, people perish. Everyone has an innate desire to be a part of something great. When people are informed and engaged and understand their role in the good-to-great conversion process, great things happen. Without growth, people freeze and don’t see a clear path to the next level. This is a major reason why some acquiesce or abdicate responsibilities and elect to travel the road of the least resistance. Without stability, people flee and when they leave, they take with them institutional knowledge that can adversely impact the trajectory of progress. You see, the secret of greatness is not achieved in some complicated algorithmic equation, prophecy from a person who we consider an expert in an industry, or from the leaf pages someone’s magnum opus. It is not even achieved by understanding what your competitors are doing or not doing but is laser-focused on what you are doing and who are the people who have subscribed to the notion that we can achieve increased success that shatters the norm.  Great business, cities, organization, etc., focus on getting and hanging on the right people in the first place.

Level 5 leaders who are productively neurotic, those who are self-motivated and self-disciplined, those who wake up every day, compulsively driven to do the best they can because it is simply part of their deoxyribonucleic acid.

The reason why greatness eludes so many is because we sometimes invest a lot of time, money, and energy in “trueing-up” anecdotal things while omitting the more serious issues that lay inside themselves or inside the company or organization.  I coin this phenomenon, the logic box, in that our individual or organizational collection of knowledge, skills, abilities, and habits limits perception and act as a restriction on objective thought and creative expression. Good is the enemy of great and nothing great has ever become great by just settling on being good. Jim Collins, author of the book, Good to Great, writes:

Picture an egg. Day after day, it sits there. No one pays attention to it. No one notices it. Certainly, no one takes a picture of it or puts it on the cover of a celebrity-focused business magazine. Then one day, the shell cracks and out jumps a chicken. All of a sudden, the major magazines and newspapers jump on the story: “Stunning Turnaround at Egg!” and “The Chick Who Led the Breakthrough at Egg!” From the outside, the story always reads like an overnight sensation—as if the egg had suddenly and radically altered itself into a chicken.

Now picture the egg from the chicken’s point of view. While the outside world was ignoring this seemingly dormant egg, the chicken within was evolving, growing, developing—changing. From the chicken’s point of view, the moment of breakthrough, of cracking the egg, was simply one more step in a long chain of steps that had led to that moment. Granted, it was a big step—but it was hardly the radical transformation that it looked like from the outside.

It is a silly egg-analogy, but then our conventional way of looking at change is no less silly. Everyone looks for the “miracle moment” when the conversion from good to great happens but if you ask some good-to-great executives from Walgreens to Facebook when change happened they cannot pinpoint a single key event that exemplified their successful transition. Transitioning from good to great takes some time but time is inconsequential when you keep your eyes on the prize, proverbially speaking.  I live by a simple axiom…in God we trust, the rest show data. If we are ever to be great, we must confront the brutal facts and respond to these three questions that affect individual and organizations alike:

  1. What do you do better than anyone in the world?
  2. What drives your economic engine?
  3. What are you are most passionate about?

After answering these questions, align your organizational or personal strategy around the responses, monitor your progress, confront your new reality, and celebrate your successes or opportunities for improvement. Remember this, the good will become great and the great can become awesome because steady, consistent progress leads to eventual breakthrough! #getatit

About Noel Pinnock and Lowell Pinnock

Noel Pinnock is a published author and recognized expert with over 25 years of experience in transforming under performing companies into positions of prosperity and optimum value. He specializes in strategic, operational, and tactical services. As a nationally certified public manager, he has been responsible for overseeing many large-scale organizational transformations. We are #4given, saved by the blood of Christ.
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