10 STEPS for climbing to greater heights

Date: January 9, 2005
Publication: St. Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)
Section: Business
Edition: Five Star Lift
Page: F07

Jim Collins, in the best-selling book "Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap . . . and Others Don't," tells a story about Darwin Smith, a little-known leader of a well-known company, Kimberly-Clark. For a century, Kimberly-Clark languished in mediocrity with most of its business in traditional paper mills. Then, a mild-mannered gentleman took the reins and realized that the company's best shot at greatness was in paper-based consumer goods, a sector in which it had a side business called Kleenex. Like the general who burned the boats upon landing, leaving no retreat for his soldiers, Smith sold the traditional mills and threw proceeds into the consumer business. Today, it's No. 1 worldwide in paper-based consumer products. Of course, there was no guarantee that Kimberly-Clark would succeed in the consumer business, but the demonstration of action amid uncertainty is the lesson. There are no guarantees in anything we do. But the lack of a guarantee is the urge we need to go from where we are to where we want to be. As we begin 2005, these are 10 ways to reach the next level:

1. SET NEW GOALS Focus your efforts on quantum-leap innovations and ideas, which go beyond incremental improvements. What you've done in the past is good, but what are you going to do in the future? The goals you set should require that you stretch your professional acumen and contribution to your organization.

2. FIND THE URGENCY FOR ACTION This demands a recommitment to excellence that would enhance the organization's market position and profitability.

3. SEEK NEW CHALLENGES Dedicate yourself to seek challenges even if the odds of success are less than 20 percent. This year should be your opportunity to set and achieve goals that aren't within easy reach.

4. BELIEVE IN YOUR GOALS Instead of second-guessing yourself, embrace the notion that the right decision is the one you believe in. Recognize that success is up to you.

5. DON'T ALLOW MEMORIES T* BE GREATER THAN DREAMS You've failed in the past. So what? This year, focus on purpose and not on avoiding failure. A road without potholes is a road not worthy of the journey.

6. LEAD FROM WHERE YOU ARE Dedicate yourself to become a contributor to your organization by taking responsibility for its success. You might not have the title or position of a leader, but leadership can be exercised at any level if you're invested in the work.

7. STRIVE T* OVERCOME INTERNAL THREATS The greatest threat to your success isn't necessarily the competition. The biggest challenge can be internal. It's the willingness to tolerate a commitment level to remain at room temperature.

8. RECOMMIT YOURSELF T* BECOME RESULT-BASED You can't continue to do the same thing and hope for better results. The new year should be the point of departure when you set aside the practice of playing it safe and doing just enough to get by.

9. REDISCOVER YOUR PASSION Find a way to apply the same passion and sense of conviction to your job that you have for your favorite hobby.

10. BE JOLLY Keep a sense of humor. Laugh, smile and develop a wrinkle on your face as a result of habitual laughter. And for those of you who had your share of failures last year, I leave you with this advice: We learn more from our failures than from our successes. Failure is the call for action, resurgence and tenacity. Those of us old enough to reconcile the prejudice of experience with the enthusiasm of youth can take a risk-informed approach to breaking the shackles of failure-induced fear and strengthening the conditions for self-esteem. We get up, dust ourselves off and go back into the game.