Of all of the principles outlined in “Good to Great,” the one presented in chapter 4 presents the biggest potential challenge. It’s probably where companies – and entrepreneurs – either make it or break it.
Collins’ research found that good-to-great companies were able to confront the brutal facts while keeping the faith that they would not only survive, but prevail (he calls this the “Stockdale Paradox,” in reference to the experiences of POW Admiral Jim Stockdale). Conviction, faith and belief were what kept them going in the face of nearly insurmountable odds. Not optimism. Not positive thinking. Not spinning the truth.
Confronting the brutal facts is about facing reality and seeing it for what it is: an opportunity, a challenge, a call to step up your game. The alternative is either facing reality and denying it (seeing only what you want to see) or burying your head in the sand (if you can’t see it, maybe it’ll go away).
The application of this principle to entrepreneurs is not a stretch.
We can become so attached to a particular vision or outcome that we fail to acknowledge reality (and therefore fail to course-correct).
We project so much confidence and success (despite brutal facts of frustration or disillusionment) that we aren’t being real with ourselves or others.
We follow too many bright shiny objects, which distract us from confronting fundamental realities. We get caught up in busy-ness rather than getting down to business.
What’s an Introvert Entrepreneur to do? Here’s where some of our super powers support holding the paradox of brutal facts and unwavering belief.
We’re great listeners. Since we generally like to listen more than talk, we’ve gotten good at the art of hearing what’s being said. We may not always like what we hear, but we hear it. We notice details. We listen between the words. We synthesize. Confronting facts while maintaining faith requires an ability to listen carefully and process before making a decision.
We’re curious. The good-to-great leaders always started from a place of curiosity rather than certainty. Introverts are naturally curious and like to understand how something works. By being open and curious, we are able to hear the facts and weigh them, unattached to what we know is “the answer.” This allows the truth to emerge.
We (generally) aren’t burdened with the “liability of charisma.” As you read in my first blog post in this series, on Level 5 Leadership, the companies led by charismatic “show horse” leaders suffered greatly in comparison to those led by quieter, more self-effacing types. Those (introvert?) leaders commanded attention and respect, in large part because they put the success of the team and company before their own. These people were approachable and accessible. Honesty could prevail, and others could be truthful without fear or ego interference. For the Introvert Entrepreneur, this means that you are more likely to get the truth from your peers when you’re looking for feedback. There’s little need to tap dance around your ego.
We have a deep well of inner strength. Collins refers to this as the “hardiness factor.” In spite of – and because of – the brutal facts, we have done enough introspection to have faith in our journey. Things outside of us can change, and we can adjust authentically because we are in touch with our core.
A frustration I’ve heard from my entrepreneurial colleagues is that we rarely get to openly acknowledge the brutal facts. There is pressure (from others, from ourselves) to always put on a brave and confident face. There’s little-to-no room to acknowledge what’s REALLY going on. So we are always spinning daunting reality into borderline deniability.
I get the idea of having an attitude of abundance. I know that coming from fear is not going to serve me or attract others to me. And there’s a difference between coming from fear and coming from reality. I choose to let the reality energize me and strengthen my resolve. When entrepreneurs can share the brutal facts within a framework of support and faith in the larger vision, we’ll all take a bigger role in shaping reality for our mutual benefit.
To Consider: What reality are you not acknowledging that may be holding you and/or your business back? What do you know to be true, in your core? What are the choices you have about any brutal facts that you’re facing?