After studying the best-managed companies in the world, Jason Jennings knows a thing or two about what makes the companies special. For one thing, he has been granted unprecedented access, in many cases, to the companies and their CEOs.

The best-selling author of books such as “Hit The Ground Running” and “Think Big Act Small” shared some of his insights a few years ago at a joint annual meeting of the National Milk Producers Federation and Dairy Management Inc.

He identified five secrets to prosperity, as demonstrated by the world’s best and most profitable organizations.

Secret 1: Great leaders and companies pave a path to prosperity by turning what they do into a noble purpose or cause.  This is not the mission statement, Jennings pointed out. Mission statements are basically a waste of time, he suggested. “What changes as a result of the new mission statement? he asked the audience. And the audience responded “nothing.”  Rather than a bunch of pretty words cobbled together on paper, a noble purpose or cause should be something big and bold, such as Microsoft founder Bill Gates’ early vision of a personal computer on every desk and in every home. A noble cause or purpose also gives meaning to people’s lives, Jennings said. Too many workers have no emotional attachment to their jobs, he added, which is really the fault of their bosses. The company should create a culture where everyone is motivated for a noble purpose or cause. “The right (company) culture is the ultimate competitive advantage,” Jennings said. “Someone else can steal your production methods and people, but the only thing they can’t steal is your culture."

Secret 2: Great leaders and companies pave a path to prosperity by letting go. Conversely, not being able to let go is the No. 1 reason why many companies go out of business, Jennings said. For instance, General Motors kept trying to promote the Oldsmobile brand even though Oldsmobile had an image problem as simply a car for old people. Sometimes, it is necessary to let go of things. And, the same applies to doing things the same way they have always been done. If you do things the conventional way, you will only get conventional results, Jennings said.

Secret 3: Great leaders and companies pave a path to prosperity by making certain that everyone in the organization knows the strategy. Too many companies are exclusive when it comes to sharing information. That is, only the “important” people in the organization need to know; the “little” people don’t need to know. As a result, too many workers don’t know why they are doing what they do. In order to get people emotionally connected to their work, they need to know the overall strategy and why their jobs are so important to that strategy. 

Secret 4: Great leaders and companies pave a path to prosperity by having everyone think and act like owners. To illustrate this point, Jennings used a sports analogy. People like to watch sports on the weekend because they get a score — unlike the work week when many of them don’t get a “score” at their jobs. Regardless of the job, whether it’s a secretary or an oil-rig worker, everyone needs to know that the job he or she performs creates economic value. And once they see that, and how that economic value can be measured, stand back, because productivity will soar when people find ways to improve their own “scores.”

Secret 5: Great organizations pave a path to prosperity by being led by good stewards. Stewards place the long-term interest of the company above their own. They share information with others because they realize the more people who have knowledge, the better the execution, Jennings said. Basically, stewards realize they have had gained many opportunities through the company and now it is their role to ensure that those opportunities exist for others in the organization.  

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