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Stories about Standards

"These Suck!"

Origin: From the book Becoming Steve Jobs: The Evolution of a Reckless Upstart into a Visionary Leader by Brent Schlender. 

Lesson: Be delighted but never satisfied

Character(s): Ed Cue and Steve Jobs 

Synopsis: Steve Jobs was infamous for his ability to get his employees to create amazing products in record time. In this story Steve Jobs inspires Eddie Cue to take on the daunting challenge of creating the first online store for Apple products. Steve did it by not praising Eddie, but tearing his idea down.

 

An Uncomfortable Family Gathering

Origin: From the book Good to Great by Jim Collins 

Lesson: Have unwavering resolve toward inspired standards

Character: George Cain (CEO of Abbott Laboratories)

Synopsis: The only way this CEO could solve the mediocrity of his family’s pharmaceutical company, was to fire the family.

 

A Productive List Not a Bucket List 

Origin: From the book Becoming Steve Jobs: The Evolution of a Reckless Upstart into a Visionary Leader by Brent Schlender.

 Lesson: “The only way to do great work is to love what you do.” Steve Jobs

Character: Steve Jobs

Synopsis: When Steve Jobs came home after doctors had removed a part of his pancreas, he decided to double down on his work. Rather than create a random bucket list of experiences to have, he created a purposeful set of accomplishments to finish before he passed.

 

Honesty’s Garden

Origin: From the book The Leadership Crisis and the Free Market Cure by John A. Allison 

Lesson: If honesty sounds like an easy endeavor to you, you’re not being honest.

Character: John A. Allison

Synopsis: Honesty is an elusive concept. We can say the word, but rarely give insightful details regarding this supreme virtue. This is a story about a banker who was asked to fudge a report. Not a big lie, just a simple alteration. But even a single weed can destroy a garden, if left untended.

 

The Hall of the Wizards of Was

Origin: From the book Good to Great by Jim Collins

Lesson: Surround yourself with people you respect and admire

Character: The Philip Morris Executives (AKA: The Wizards of Was)

Synopsis: In 1964 Philip Morris underwent a transformative process that would lead to lasting greatness. For 15 consecutive years their stock was worth 7.39 times the general market. Many attributes contributed to this, but primary among them the love the executives felt for the company and each other.

 

A Billion Dollar Brain

Origin: From the book Creativity Inc by Ed Catmull

Lesson: Institutionalize Candor and Honesty

Character: Brad Bird (Director of The Incredibles)

Synopsis: Any business owner can say “give honest feedback and be as candid as possible.” Accomplishing this is incredibly difficult. There are many hindrances that hold people back from speaking their minds in a meeting. Employees feel they may be overstepping their roles. They may feel as though saying something stupid will reflect poorly on their performance. They may feel insecure in providing feedback to a superior who has accomplished multi-million dollar success. This story reveals how Pixar eliminates all of those barriers and more.

 

The Psychology of High and Low Performers 

Origin: From the book The Leadership Crisis and the Free Market Cure by John A. Allison

Lesson: First impressions can be deceiving. By Listening to the stories people tell, a good leader can identify strong and weak performers from a single encounter.

Character: John A. Allison

Synopsis: Allison (CEO of BB&T Bank) came to realize that what separated his highest performing branch managers from his lowest ones had nothing to do with upbringing, education, resume, or even experience. It all came down to what stories they told.

 

“Steve Jobs is Crying in the Parking Lot”

Origin: From the book Becoming Steve Jobs: The Evolution of a Reckless Upstart into a Visionary Leader by Brent Schlender. 

Lesson: Always remember when judging public icons, there’s more to the story.

Character: Steve Jobs

Synopsis: The image of Steve Jobs as half genius/half asshole, comes primarily from his tempestuous youth. Yet, even then he understood how he came across to people. When only 24 years old he was already the poster-child of the personal computer revolution, and CEO of the greatest startup ever. Yet he still had not learned how to work with people who did not recognize his superiority. It would take numerous doses of medicine, to which this story illustrates one.

 

From Golden State to Sin City

Origin: From the book Delivering Happiness by Tony Hsieh 

Lesson: Make all your decisions based strictly on your clearly stated values

Character: Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos.com

Synopsis: What separates great and lasting companies from those best identified as “fly-by-nights” is a company’s ability to adhere to their core values. Not merely to speak them, but to act on them. At the tenuous beginning of Zappos.com, Tony Hsieh had a difficult decision to make. Acting on his values could lead to a massive short-term financial slump. It could even lead to their destruction. But that’s what it means to act on one’s values. He did and Zappos became a billion dollar company.

 

A Dynastic Builder 

Origin: From the book Great by Choice by Jim Collins

Lesson: Greatness starts with tying your shoes

Character: Imaginary UCLA Freshman. (When telling this story you can have your audience take on the role of the imaginary freshman).

Synopsis: The man who led the UCLA Bruins to 10 NCAA Championships, the greatest basketball coach ever to live was John Wooden. His path to greatness began by the simplest of procedures that he taught his team every year for decades: how to tie your shoes.

 

The Scylla and Charybdis of Wall Street

Origin: From the book Great by Choice by Jim Collins

Lesson: Fanatic adherence to your values forces creative strategies in times of dilemma

Character: Peter Lewis, CEO of Progressive Insurance

 Synopsis: Peter Lewis was a zealot. When confronted with the choice of massive stock fluctuations due to his policy toward wall street analysts or capitulation to them, he refused either. His refusal forced a creation. The creation paved the way for other, less zealous companies.