Over two decades of research and observations have revealed the key factors that enable the best organizations to succeed and dominate. I’ve condensed this research into what I call the “Lucky 13” (I’m not superstitious): critical elements that set apart leading companies like Apple, Amazon, Google, and Microsoft.
1. Adaptability and Agility
The 2008 financial crisis and the COVID-19 pandemic have tested organizations’ resilience. Apple’s and Amazon’s ability to pivot and adapt rapidly in the face of adversity underscores the necessity of agility in today’s business landscape.
Agility and experimentation beat planning and process in times of dramatic change.
2. Innovative Commitment
Google and Tesla exemplify the power of fostering a culture of innovation. Their continuous push for breakthroughs has kept them at the forefront of their respective industries.
Innovation isn’t just the breakthrough concepts which often sets the course for extraordinary companies, but ongoing innovations small and large.
3. Effective Leadership
Satya Nadella’s transformative leadership at Microsoft demonstrates the profound impact of visionary and effective leadership. It’s crucial to develop leadership at all levels, ensuring alignment with organizational goals.
Leadership doesn’t make “a difference.” It makes “the difference.”
4. Customer Centric Focus
Zappos has excelled by prioritizing customer satisfaction, proving that a customer-centric approach is key to lasting success. The road to customer centric hell is paved with good intentions. The best companies don’t just promise and promote, they consistently perform and deliver.
5. Strong Organizational Culture
Netflix and Salesforce showcase the value of a positive and strong organizational culture, aligning employees with the mission and values of the company.
Culture can be built by design, and if inherited, changed with intention and the right actions.
6. Emphasis on Talent Management
In the fiercely competitive tech industry, attracting and retaining top talent is crucial. Companies must focus on nurturing and developing their human resources.
Finding and keeping good employees is good. Creating a culture of engaging the employees you’ve got and attracting top talent because of it is even better.
7. Data-Driven Decision Making
The advent of big data and analytics has revolutionized decision-making processes, making it essential for companies to adopt a data-driven approach.
The best leaders aim higher than simply capturing data. They derive important insights from the data.
8. Financial Health and Sustainability
Sound financial management, diversification of revenue streams, and long-term financial planning are vital in weathering financial crises and market fluctuations.
The pathway of organizational success is littered with one-hit wonders: companies that were high fliers but only temporarily.
9. Social Responsibility and Ethics
As global awareness of social and environmental issues grows, corporate responsibility and ethical practices have become more important than ever.
Balancing profit with social responsibility is far more difficult than most imagine.
10. Effective Communication
The digital age demands clear and transparent communication. Establishing open communication channels within organizations is critical.
Few organizations need more communication. All need better communication. It is about quality, not just quantity.
11. Product Development Superiority
Apple’s expertise in creating user-friendly, technologically advanced, and aesthetically pleasing products like the iPhone is unparalleled. In a crowded market place, extraordinary products stand out. Ordinary products languish.
12. Sales and Marketing Power
Amazon’s mastery in using data analytics for personalized marketing and customer service is a benchmark in the digital era. Extraordinary companies equip their sales team with the best training and technology.
13. Operations Excellence
Toyota’s operational excellence, particularly their Toyota Production System, exemplifies efficiency, quality, and continuous improvement.
Operations are the foundation of every company. You can’t build an extraordinary company on a weak foundation.
Note that I didn’t present these ideas as a 13 step process. They’re not. These are the building blocks for sustainable greatness, that separate ordinary from extraordinary companies. As a leadership team, you need all 13 focal points on your dashboard. As business history has shown, those that execute best on all 13 are remembered as extraordinary.
Mark Sanborn is motivational keynote speaker and Leadership Expert in Residence at High Point University, the Premier Life Skills University. His presentations help the best leaders get better and inspire listeners to choose to be extraordinary. For more information about his work, visit www.marksanborn.com.