Greatness Is Largely A Matter Of Conscious Choice

Written by Liz Kudwa

A:  Absolutely!  Our collection of leadership books at the Capital Area District Library is fairly large.  There are many books from which to choose so I will provide a few key recommendations here.

Good To Great Why Some Companies Make The Leap & Others Don’t by Jim Collins, 2001

Review by Barnes & Noble: Jim Collins begins this book with a startling and counterintuitive claim: "Good is the enemy of great." We’ve become so conditioned to think of performance as something that develops along evolutionary lines — from poor to good to outstanding — that it takes a minute to grasp the notion that competence can actually inhibit achievement. As Collins says, "The vast majority of companies never become great, precisely because the vast majority become quite good — and that is their main problem."

Based on an extensive five-year study conducted by Collins and a research team he affectionately refers to as "the Chimps," Good to Great defines and analyzes the practices that allowed 11 companies to make the rare transition from solid to outstanding performance. One of the first surprises of the book is the list of companies Collins focuses on: Circuit City, Gillette, Walgreens, and Wells Fargo haven’t been touted as top performers in that way that GE or Coca-Cola, for instance, have. Nonetheless, the companies chosen have all met the rigorous criteria that Collins developed to measure the good- to-great transition. Some of the other revelations in the book concern the lack of correlation between executive compensation and corporate performance; the fact that technology did not in itself engender corporate transformation; and the scant attention that these upward-trending companies paid to such issues as managing change or motivating people.

Collins’s philosophy is summed up in one noteworthy phrase from the book — "Greatness is not a function of circumstance. Greatness, it turns out, is largely a matter of conscious choice." Anyone who wants to make the right choices for their business will find Good to Great instructive, accessible, and well worth reading. It is sure to be a business book that will be consulted and referred to for years to come.First Break All The Rules, What The World’s Greatest Managers Do Differently by Marcus Buckingham, 1999
Review by Barnes & Noble: In First, Break All the Rules, Marcus Buckingham and Curt Coffman of the Gallup Organization present the remarkable findings of their massive in-depth study of great managers. In today’s tight labor markets, companies compete to find and keep the best employees, using pay, benefits, promotions, and training. But no matter how generous its pay, or how renowned its training, the company that lacks great front-line managers will suffer.

Buckingham and Coffman explain how the best managers select an employee for talent rather than for skills or experience; how they set expectations’, how they motivate people by building on each person’s unique strengths; and, finally, how great managers find the right fit for each person, not the next rung on the ladder. First, Break All The Rules provides vital performance and career lessons for managers at every level. This book shows you how to apply them to your own situation.

  I’m thinking of relocating outside of Michigan.  I have my choices narrowed down to a few cities and am wondering if there are any resources at the library that can help guide me through this process?

A:  Yes!  There are a number of resources available.  My recommendations are listed below.

1. To get a general feel for the areas in which you are interested, check out a travel guide to the area.  Often you will be able to get some good general commentary on your city of interest in addition to some great travel tips, which can be helpful if you’re new to the area.

2. Money magazine recently released their annual "Best Places to Live" list which covers statistics of all types including general demographics, housing, education, quality of life, leisure, culture, weather and health.  Visit the list at http://money.cnn.com

3. Check out Cities Ranked & Rated by Bert Sperling & Peter Sander. The information provided here is similar to Money Magazine’s "Best Places to Live" list.  The Capital Area District Library has one copy available for checkout and one copy in the Reference Department.

4. To get a feel for housing prices in your cities of interest, check out www.realtor.com to search for houses for sale.

Elizabeth Kudwa  is the Business Reference Librarian at the Capital Area District Library located at 401 S. Capitol Avenue, Lansing, MI 48933.  Contact her at 517-334-1522 or by e-mail at kudwae@cadl.org.