6 Leadership Tips from Jim Collins - PM 360 Consulting
post-template-default,single,single-post,postid-17697,single-format-standard,wp-custom-logo,theme-bridge,woocommerce-no-js,ajax_fade,page_not_loaded,,qode-content-sidebar-responsive,columns-4,qode-theme-ver-11.0,qode-theme-bridge,wpb-js-composer js-comp-ver-5.1.1,vc_responsive

6 Leadership Tips from Jim Collins

Good to Great

6 Leadership Tips from Jim Collins

Good to Great

In a previous article The 11 Leadership Secrets You’ve Never Heard About, I introduced Jim Collins, my mentor at what is now the A&E Network. Though it has been more than 25 years, the leadership lessons I learned from him remain pivotal to my life. Ordinarily, as Huck Finn might say, I don’t take much stock in “tips.” Human beings prefer the concrete to the abstract, and this largely explains why hope springs eternal for “tips” that putatively allow us to “eat anything you want and still lose weight” in every area of our lives -including business.

However, there are exceptions to every rule, and Jim Collins passed on a number of highly practical tips that I feel no qualms about passing on to you.

Collins’ first tip is never work on more than ten things. One day I was feeling so overwhelmed by my job that I asked Collins for help. Taking me to lunch, he gave me this formula that I have religiously used ever since.

  1. Create a list of every goal or task.
  2. Prioritize this list down to the ten most important. (Collins added with a grin, “It won’t hurt if the first two or three have something to do with money.”)
  3. Submit your priorities to your boss and get his sign off.
  4. Once you have your top ten put the rest of the list into a drawer and forget about it.
  5. Add new goals to your list as they come up, but never work on them unless they are important enough to supplant one of your top ten.
  6. When a goal is accomplished, go back to your list and move the most important to your top ten.
  7. But no matter what never work on more than ten things at a time.


Let fires burn is Collins’ second tip. Lack of focus is the single biggest reason for failure. Confronted by multiple fires we tend to spread ourselves so thin that we never succeed in putting any of them completely out. Successful people triage their precious time by concentrating on critical tasks while stoically ignoring the rest. In short, you must learn to say “no” to be successful.

This leadership advice stood me in good stead when a few years later I became the first head of marketing for a family run cable television operator. I spent my first two days on the job fielding phone calls from dozens of system managers in desperate need of marketing help. Yet rather than try to help them all a little, I focused entirely on one cable system where I could quickly produce meaningful results. Using this experience as a template, I then quickly rolled it out to the other systems.

The third tip is interview constantly. No matter how busy he was, Collins interviewed at least three people every Friday morning. Never wait until you need someone to start looking. Collins always had a file drawer full of candidates when one of his people suddenly resigned. According to Collins, recruiting only under pressure creates a bias toward “screening them in rather than screening them out:” a sure fire recipe for hiring the wrong person.

The next tip is move quickly. One day he said, “Remember Augie, when you take a new job, hire somebody, fire somebody, rearrange the furniture, “but whatever you do, do it fast

Never fritter away your “honeymoon period” in a new job. First impressions are critical: waiting too long to make things happen can permanently undermine the trust you need to be effective. Estimate how long your boss has allowed for you to “find your legs” in your new position. Then cut it in half. Never meet expectations; blow them away.

Tip number five is don’t burn bridges. Sooner or later we all find ourselves unhappy in a job. When this happens make a realistic appraisal: How likely is it that you can change the circumstances that are making you unhappy? If the likelihood is low or nonexistent, then immediately find a new job. Unfortunately, we often insist on fighting a hopeless rear guard action until we garner a reputation for being the quintessential “disgruntled employee.” As Collins put it, “Always go out with a party and a referral rather than a collective sigh of relief.”

The final tip from Collins is don’t procrastinate firing someone. No one likes to terminate another human being and Collins was no exception. However, he believed that we usually know when a person is “just not working out” much sooner than we are willing to admit. Prolonging the agony is not fair to the non-performing individual or the team. Collins’ rule of thumb is intervene twice: If two attempts at coaching fail to produce results then let the person go. According to Collins, while termination may elicit anger initially, in the long run it usually produces relief and a happier human being working somewhere else.

In my own career, the most difficult of Collins’ tips to master was the last. Again and again I resisted letting people go long after my gut and the metrics told me that the situation was hopeless. Collins was right: My misguided compassion only prolonged the agony, hurt morale, and made the inevitable break-up much more damaging and traumatic.


Article written by August Turak, 16 August 2012


  • tinyurl.com
    Posted at 11:17h, 26 March Reply

    Hurrah, that’s what I was seeking for, what a material!

    existing here at this weblog, thanks admin of this web site.

  • http://tinyurl.com
    Posted at 04:57h, 27 March Reply

    Hi there! This post could not be written much
    better! Looking at this article reminds me of my previous roommate!
    He continually kept talking about this. I most certainly will forward this information to him.

    Fairly certain he’s going to have a good read.
    Many thanks for sharing!

  • http://tinyurl.com/
    Posted at 05:00h, 28 March Reply

    Amazing! This blog looks exactly like my old one!
    It’s on a entirely different topic but it has pretty much the same page layout
    and design. Superb choice of colors!

  • tinyurl.com
    Posted at 20:57h, 28 March Reply

    It is appropriate time to make some plans for the long run and
    it’s time to be happy. I’ve learn this submit and if I
    could I desire to suggest you some fascinating things or tips.
    Maybe you can write next articles relating to this article.
    I want to learn more things about it!

  • how to book cheap flights
    Posted at 10:12h, 02 April Reply

    Hi there just wanted to give you a quick heads up.
    The text in your post seem to be running off the screen in Chrome.

    I’m not sure if this is a format issue or something to do with internet
    browser compatibility but I figured I’d post to
    let you know. The design look great though!
    Hope you get the issue fixed soon. Cheers

  • the cheapest flights possible
    Posted at 10:09h, 03 April Reply

    Hey would you mind stating which blog platform you’re working with?
    I’m looking to start my own blog in the near future but I’m having a hard time deciding between BlogEngine/Wordpress/B2evolution and Drupal.
    The reason I ask is because your layout seems different
    then most blogs and I’m looking for something completely unique.
    P.S My apologies for getting off-topic but I had to

  • cheapest international airline tickets possible
    Posted at 22:21h, 03 April Reply

    I couldn’t resist commenting. Very well written!

  • discount flights
    Posted at 10:56h, 04 April Reply

    Hi there colleagues, its impressive article regarding cultureand
    entirely defined, keep it up all the time.

  • plane tickets
    Posted at 22:10h, 05 April Reply

    Hey there! Would you mind if I share your blog with my twitter group?
    There’s a lot of people that I think would really appreciate your content.
    Please let me know. Thank you

  • insanely cheap flights
    Posted at 12:45h, 06 April Reply

    magnificent put up, very informative. I ponder why the opposite experts of this sector don’t realize
    this. You should continue your writing. I am sure, you have a huge readers’ base already!

  • gamefly
    Posted at 00:03h, 07 April Reply

    Woah! I’m really loving the template/theme of this
    site. It’s simple, yet effective. A lot of times it’s challenging to get that “perfect balance” between user friendliness and appearance.
    I must say you have done a excellent job with this.
    Additionally, the blog loads very quick for me on Safari. Excellent Blog!

  • gamefly
    Posted at 13:04h, 10 April Reply

    First off I want to say terrific blog! I had a
    quick question in which I’d like to ask if you don’t mind.
    I was curious to know how you center yourself and clear your mind prior to writing.
    I have had a hard time clearing my thoughts in getting my thoughts out.
    I do take pleasure in writing but it just seems like the first 10 to 15
    minutes are generally wasted simply just trying to figure
    out how to begin. Any suggestions or hints?

    Appreciate it!

  • http://tinyurl.com/y27tmj5a
    Posted at 04:59h, 10 May Reply

    This post will help the internet visitors
    for building up new web site or even a blog from start to end.

  • http://tinyurl.com
    Posted at 16:24h, 11 May Reply

    An impressive share! I have just forwarded this onto a colleague who has been conducting a little homework
    on this. And he in fact ordered me breakfast because I found it for him…
    lol. So let me reword this…. Thanks for the meal!!
    But yeah, thanx for spending some time to discuss this
    subject here on your website.

Post A Comment