Corporate Acceleration: Why it’s work and why it’s worth it

a white paper by Dan Coughlin

Imagine sliding into the driver’s seat of a brand new Ferrari, easing it out onto the highway, and accelerating past 90 MPH, past 120 MPH and all the way to 150 MPH. It all seems so effortless.

Okay, that’s NOT what this paper is about.

Accelerating your critical outcomes is work, hard work. Not necessarily back breaking work, although some grunt work will be required. More likely it will consist of the hardest kind of work, the mental kind. Accelerating is neither sexy nor euphoric. It requires rigor, discipline and commitment. At times, it will seem as though you will never make any progress and that colleagues you perceive as being lazy are accomplishing just as much as you.

In his best-selling book, The Road Less Traveled (Touchstone, New York, 1978), Scott Peck opened with three simple words: life is difficult. He’s right. Life really is difficult, and it is just as difficult for the accelerators as for the decliners. Years ago I was a high school math teacher and at every parent-teacher conference I was asked what it took to get an “A” in my class. I always said it took both creativity and grunt work. Creativity to solve the problems on test day, but grunt work to do the homework, pay attention, take notes, ask questions and prepare for the tests. The same is true for people who want to accelerate their critical business outcomes. They need perseverance, flexibility, insights and new approaches.

Ten Reasons Why Accelerating Is Work

1. Analyze, Don’t Paralyze

Most employees I’ve encountered, regardless of their title, are activity-driven, not analysis-driven. Fully 90% of the time, people look at their actual results, compare them to their desired results and then either increase the number of their activities if the results are disappointing or breathe a sigh of relief and slow down if the results are positive. In either case, the employee focuses on activities, not analysis. This pattern repeats itself during monthly, quarterly, mid-year and end-of-the-year evaluations. It’s a little like the dieter who weighs in once a week and then eats more or less for the next few days depending on what the scale reads.

The problem is the employee never digs into their activities to find out which activities are effective, which ones are not effective and which ones they’re not doing that would be more effective. This mindset amplifies during promotion situations. A person comes home and says to his or her spouse, “Honey, I have a chance to get promoted so I’m going to have to put in more hours to really show the boss how much value I bring.” Somehow many employees have connected “hours worked” and “number of tactics executed” with “providing more value.” Bosses are just as much at fault as employees. Have you ever heard a boss say, “If you want to get ahead in this world, you have to work longer and harder hours than anyone else”? Why does the boss talk about more hours when he or she really wants better results?

Analysis of activities is a relatively simple exercise that takes no more than 45 minutes a week. There are three areas to examine:

  • Current levels of achievement.
  • Desired levels of achievement.
  • The path to get from the former to the latter.

This exercise is displayed in Figure 1

The path represents what you are going to continue to do, what you are going to stop doing and what you are going to start doing.

This is a very simple exercise, one that I’m sure you’ve seen before. So why do I call it “work”? Because in all likelihood, your boss, colleagues and customers will look at this activity as fluff. Analyzing an event doesn’t make another sale or increase throughput at the plant or cut costs. All you’re doing is sitting and writing on a piece of paper. It looks like you’re dawdling while your peers are “working hard.” It is hard work to do analysis, even 45 minutes once a week, while everyone around you thinks you’re wasting time. However, the goal is not to look like you’re working hard. The goal is to improve results on a continuous basis. That’s why accelerators analyze their activities before moving into action again.

The work of analysis also requires that you don’t intimidate yourself to the point you become paralyzed from moving forward. Analyzing an activity can cause frustration. It would be easier to skip the analysis and move back into action without having to think about what just happened. Identifying what needs to be done to improve results can make future tasks look unrealistically hard. Don’t get emotionally bogged down. Do the analysis; identify what to keep doing, what to stop doing and what to start doing; and then get back into action.

Understanding that “analysis without paralysis” really is work will help you dive into this important activity and not get lost in it.

2. Understand Trends, Avoid Fads

Trends are what actually happen in society while fads are what people talk about. It requires work to focus on the former and avoid the latter.

Since 1983, significantly more than 50% of all college graduates are women. Since 1993, the percentage of mothers who stay at home with their children has risen by more than 13%. Consequently, we now have the most well educated stay-at-home moms in the history of the world. What does this trend mean for your organization? It meant a lot for LeapPads, a unique reading and learning device for children, and Baby Einstein videos, both of which had extraordinary sales in the late 1990s and early 2000s.

On the other hand, the Atkins diet has taken over the food industry while obesity among children and adults reaches an all-time high. Is this diet a trend or a fad? Do people eat low carbs for lunch only to finish off their day with a bowl of super-rich ice cream? What is going on here? Accelerators do the work necessary to differentiate fads from trends. They pour their efforts into leveraging trends to continually improve their desired results while resisting fads.

3. Dealing with Peer Pressure

Assume for the moment that everyone in your peer group, including yourself, is twenty pounds overweight. You decide you want to lose that extra weight and start exercising and eating better. Slowly the weight comes off and people start to make fun of what you eat. It’s work to stay the course and hang in there. It’s work to get up and exercise when you’re by yourself. It’s work to avoid the peer pressure at home and stick to your plan. It’s much easier to always go with the flow, but then, of course, you can kiss acceleration goodbye.

If you’re in sales and everyone on the team, including you, hit between five and seven percent growth in revenues last year, then it’s going to require work on your part to accelerate to 15 percent this year. Not just the sales work, but the work of resisting the peer pressure from your colleagues to not rock the boat. By definition, accelerators separate themselves from the pack over and over again. This only becomes comfortable for other people when they realize you are all about constant improvement.

4. Sidestepping Short-Term Obsessions

I call this “the fallacy of earnings per share.” I taught a course on Managerial Leadership for the MBA program at Webster University. One night a former COO of a major local publicly-owned company spoke to the class and said that the number one factor driving most business decisions was EPS, earnings per share. He said that the quarterly report was about as far out as most executives were willing to consider. When I pointed out how that mentality can destroy long-term success, he replied, “That doesn’t matter. Americans are not worried about the future; they’re focused on the present. They used to buy a ranch home with a one-car garage and dream of the two-story home with a two-car garage. Now they want the two-story home with a three-car garage when they start their careers.” He was right. This obsession with short-term results led to unthinkable acts at Enron, Parmalat, Andersen, Adelphia, WorldCom and many other organizations.

It’s double work to take your eye off of the immediate result to consider the future while simultaneously developing the skills today that you will need for tomorrow’s results. This phenomenon comes down to “label esteem” versus “self-esteem.” Label esteem means that individuals, groups and organizations only see value in themselves to the extent that their current results are extraordinary. Self-esteem refers to the value you see within yourself, regardless of your title, income or current results. In 1935, Walt Disney set out to make the first full-length animated film, Snow White. The media called it “Disney’s Folly.” While his label esteem was low, his self-esteem allowed him to prevail for long-term success. That makes it triple work. Work to learn from current results without attaching your esteem to them, work to develop skills and perspectives that will pay off in the future and work to realize your current strengths and how they can be applied for long-term success.

5. Sustaining Effort

By definition, accelerators sustain their efforts over the long-term. Luck provides many people with the occasional great outcome. Perhaps they were in the right place at the right time. Perhaps their product or service suddenly became the “in thing” and sales and profits went through the roof. This happened for the duct tape industry shortly after September 11, 2001 when it was reported that terrorists might send poisonous gas into homes. However, luck is not a sustainable strategy.

Acceleration Role Model #1, Stephen King

Starting at age 13, Stephen King submitted articles in the fantasy-horror-science fiction genre to magazines. He placed a nail on his bedroom wall to hold his rejection slips. When that was filled, he replaced the nail with a spike and kept collecting the rejections. King married his college sweetheart at age 23 and kept accumulating rejections. By the time he was 25, he had two children and worked the second shift at an all-night laundry while his wife worked at Dunkin’ Donuts. He kept writing, getting rejected and occasionally publishing an article. He then took a job as a high school English teacher, had a third child and kept on writing between teaching, grading papers and getting rejected. One night he threw away part of a transcript for a book called, Carrie, which his wife retrieved and encouraged him to finish. That book ultimately earned him a $200,000 advance. 13 years of rejections, but Stephen King sustained his efforts and ultimately became one of the most popular authors of all time.

6. Overcoming Burnout and Boredom

Invisible to the naked eye, but more powerful than most obstacles, burnout and boredom can creep into your subconscious and destroy your capacity for long-term improvement.
One day the results just don’t seem worth the efforts anymore. For some people dealing with negative feedback can overwhelm them to the point of complete withdrawal. In 1983, David Woodley was one of the youngest quarterbacks in NFL history to appear in the Super Bowl. However, he hated all of the booing and criticism that came with his job and ultimately resigned at a very young age. Same for Bjorn Borg, burned out in his late twenties while at the very top of the tennis world. Don’t kid yourself into thinking this just happens to athletes. It can happen to any of us.

How do accelerators avoid burnout and boredom? They focus on the purpose of the activity more than the results. After making the film, The Last Samurai, Tom Cruise said he still gets a thrill from the movie-making process. He said he is still enchanted by the development of a character and trying to pour his heart into each project. It’s work to generate that much passion over and over again, but the great ones can do it because they love their work. The same is true for the great teachers who’ve taught the same material for thirty years. They generate passion because they love the process of teaching. They love their work. If you truly want to accelerate, have the courage to do what generates passion in your life. My engineering degree did me no good for getting a job because I had no passion for the field. But stick me in a group wanting to go to the next level and it’s like sticking my finger in an electrical outlet. Find what turns you on and do it.

7. Dealing With Unseen Forces

How about all those people who worked at Andersen (or Enron or WorldCom) who woke up one day and found their jobs and life savings evaporated because of other people’s greed. They didn’t do anything wrong. They focused on improving results and possibly were even accelerators. Yet everything around them fell apart. And those are just the famous examples. My second job after college graduation was teaching math at a private high school. During my second year there, an alumnus of the school was caught in a major cocaine deal. Suddenly our enrollment dropped by 300 students and every new teacher in the school was let go. Bye-bye job. A dead cow in Washington is found to have a rare brain disease and major corporations lose enormous stock value in one day. Perhaps your best client for the past five years suddenly collapses due to an unseen force in another industry. Boom. You’re scrambling again.

These unseen forces happen so frequently that you might as well expect them to happen. It requires hard work to let go of the disappointment and refocus your energies on adding value, attracting opportunities and becoming even more effective. In a world-famous case in 1982, several containers of Johnson and Johnson’s Extra-Strength Tylenol were laced with cyanide and several people died. The company took all of the capsules off the shelves and replaced them. Within months of the incident, Johnson and Johnson regained and exceeded their previous market share. Accelerators proactively respond to unseen forces and convert them into inflection points on the way to the next level of achievements.

8. Maintaining Momentum Without Recognition

In a society obsessed over short-term results, the work to stay the course while receiving no recognition can seem overwhelming. Harrison Ford worked as an actor for fifteen years before he earned enough money to quit his job as a carpenter. He said his goal was simply to make a living as a good character actor.

Would you stay in the game that long? Hanging in there requires a combination of passion for the work, belief in your dream and a deep understanding that you have what it takes to be successful. Lose any of those three components and you might get stuck in the world of the status quoers. Look for role models of people who made it after years of neglect. It has been done many times before. Richard Bach, author of Jonathan Livingston Seagull, left his job as a technical writer for Douglas Aircraft and quickly found himself on the road to hungry. But he persevered. Don’t wait for recognition. Add value today and tomorrow and the day after that. Get better and better and better. Don’t assume that today you will be discovered. Just keep going and going and going. Improving and improving and improving. You don’t know who will open a door for you or how big the room will be. Just keep going.

9. Handling Success Successfully

Tiger Woods won the Masters golf tournament in 1997 and went on to win seven more majors (as of this writing). He focused simply on getting better each year. David Duval won the 2001 British Open and fell to 80th place on the money list in 2002 and to 212th in 2003. Accelerators achieve significant results and then prepare themselves for even greater achievements. Decliners achieve great results and begin to fall steadily.
Success is either seen as the mountaintop or as a point along the climb. If a great achievement becomes your mountaintop, then you have no hope of becoming an accelerator. Success, or even failure, is simply an outcome. If we analyze what we did to achieve that success or failure, we can extract crucial lessons and apply those toward achieving even better future results. If we see the great success as the culmination of our efforts and avoid analysis, we will reduce our activities to a standstill and rest on our laurels.

Regardless of how well you did last year, analyze what worked well, what did not work well and what you could have done differently. Consider your options, make a decision and move into action.

10. Avoiding Ubiquity

In the January 8, 2004 issue of The Wall Street Journal, Sony Corp. president Kunitake Ando was described as looking for a word in 2001 that would define his company’s future direction. He dismissed “network” and “mobile” and finally settled on “ubiquity,” which translated as “God is everywhere.” His concept was to make Sony integrated into every aspect of the consumer’s life.

He was not alone.

Keiji Tachikaway, president of NTT DoCoMo, said, “Let’s put wireless devices on everything that moves.” WSJ wrote, “Hitachi and other Japanese companies are making super-small chips that use radio-frequency identification technology and can be embedded in anything from dollar bills to grandmother to track the location and identity of an object or person.” They’re even considering putting chips in cartons of milk to tell the refrigerator when the expiration date has passed.

Here’s the problem.

Sony had a terrible year in 2003 with the so-called “Sony Shock” where it announced a big earnings shortfall and sliding sales in its mainstay electronics division. “Some analysts said that Sony’s problems were of their own making,” said Allen Wan, Asian Bureau Chief of CBS MarketWatch on May 29, 2003. He reported that problems included a dearth of exciting new products and a lack of focus as the company had interests ranging from music and movies to chips.

The Walt Disney Company has provided an example par excellence on how to weaken a brand. Once known for providing quality family entertainment it has evolved to a brand that somehow wants to be all things entertainment to all people. Forays for The Disney Company have included televising the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show to The Bachelor tv series to Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?, that aired four nights a week in its heyday, to Are You Hot?, an ill-conceived show that barely hit the airwaves in 2002. Mike Fleiss, reality producer for the last idea, said, “The cool thing about this show is that contestants will be judged with their clothes on and off. We’ll see what we can get away with.” Andrea Wong, ABC reality chief, said, “You don’t have to be talented to be on this show. You don’t have to sing, dance or do anything, except think you’re hot. It’s good, pure fun.” (Reuters, November 19, 2002) Not exactly The Walt Disney Company that created The Mickey Mouse Club. And the business point here is that as they diluted the brand, they’ve hurt their business performance dramatically.

In the Fortune January 26, 2004 issue, Brent Schlender wrote that “Bill Gates, who is now ensconced as chairman and chief software architect, is determined to make Microsoft even more ubiquitous, linking all kinds of computing and communications and consumer electronic devices in a mesh of software that will make the entire Internet and everything on it a single, programmable entity.” He went on to say that from January, 2000 to January, 2004, Microsoft’s market value had fallen from $600 Billion to $304 Billion.

Ubiquity is essentially being all things to all people all of the time. There’s another word for that: commodity. It requires discipline and hard work to say no to people. It takes a lot of self-esteem to admit that you are not capable of being all things to all people. However, trying to be ubiquitous involves carrying a lot of baggage, which will slow down your ascent to acceleration. Be clear about what value you add and what you do. Then work hard to not let other things pull you down. Leverage your passion, talents, time and money to accelerate from one level of achievement to the next.

BONUS: Taking Care of Today and Tomorrow Simultaneously

The ultimate challenge of acceleration is successfully executing what needs to be done for today’s achievements while simultaneously preparing for future success. Balancing these twin needs on an on-going basis is very tricky but completely essential. Increasing the rate of achievement once requires quite an effort. To go from a three percent growth to a six percent growth in revenues requires a dramatic team effort. But to follow that with an eight percent growth is virtually Herculean. The only way it’s possible is if the group has thought about what needs to be done this year, next year and the year after that all at the same time. The good news is that once an individual, group or organization has developed the mindset of continuous acceleration it requires no more effort to maintain that way of thinking than it does for the status quoer to remain stuck.

Ten Reasons Why Accelerating Is Worth It

1. Achieve Significant, Sustainable and Profitable Growth

Far more important than EPS (earnings per share) is SSPG (significant, sustainable and profitable growth). The former is based on a myriad of analyst opinions and market forces that may have nothing to do with building long-term success. However, the organization that has hired and developed the right people in terms of values and talent and passion for their desired outcomes, has a clear and effective strategy, and executes the details of their business successfully is much more of an accelerator than the organization that has a temporarily high stock price. Jim Collins, in his book Good to Great (HarperCollins, New York, 2001) clearly describes eleven organizations that achieved SSPG while not receiving any of the accolades of organizations that had brief moments of very high stock prices.

2. Know You Mattered

At the end of the day, accelerators know they made a difference. They know their involvement in a project mattered in the lives of other people. In his final speech just 24 hours before he was killed, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “I just want to leave a committed life behind.” Clearly, Dr. King was one of the greatest accelerators in the history of the world. In a matter of thirteen years he literally transformed the conscience of the United States and his impact continues to thrive well into the 21st century. And what was the goal that drove him day after day? It was simply to leave a committed life behind. To know that what he did every day mattered in the lives of other people. He was not obsessed with short-term personal results, but rather with achieving long-term greatness for our country. Imagine having that sense of purpose and passion in what you do everyday and then doing it over and over again.

3. Expand Your Skills

Many times people approach me as an Executive Coach to talk about developing their leadership skills. I always say that I don’t focus on skill development. I focus on working with people to achieve their most important business outcomes. I explain to them that on the way to achieving critical outcomes they will develop certain skills. However, the focus has to remain on the achievement of the outcome and not on the development of the skill. If you do it the other way around, you develop a toolbox of skills with no achievements. However, by going after a difficult objective, you achieve the desired result and develop skills that can be used in many other ways.

Steve Jobs, CEO of Apple, and his team members developed a myriad of skills as they continually improved the personal computer. However, along the way, they developed skills that eventually led to the Pixar animated film studio, the iTunes Music Store and to iPods. As their skill base grew, they created new ways of adding value to consumers. Similarly, The Walt Disney Company developed technology in making both animated and live-action films that was merged together in the film, Mary Poppins. After Michael Jordan retired the first time, he realized he needed to develop a new shot to compete in the NBA because age had taken the edge off of his dunking skills. Consequently, he developed an almost unstoppable fadeaway jumper. This expansion of skills allowed him to win three more championships before he retired for good.

As you move from one level of effectiveness to the next, be aware of the skills you’re developing and constantly ask yourself how you could apply those new skills toward even greater achievements.

4. Prepare For Long-Term Success

Few things are more frustrating than being a one-hit wonder. We all know people who achieved extraordinary success and then never came close to it again. Accelerators build a steady series of achievements by learning new skills, applying those skills toward a variety of meaningful objectives, and then repeating that cycle over and over again. This continuous loop of developing and applying skills actually becomes part of the accelerator’s modus operandi. As they work toward a specific objective they understand that they are honing current skills and developing new skills that will be applied in future situations. Consequently, one of the biggest benefits to being an accelerator is knowing you will achieve long-term success. You are not just developing new skills. You are developing the skill of developing skills. And the latter is much more powerful than the former.

Acceleration Role Model #2, Roger Staubach

In 1969, Roger Staubach joined the Dallas Cowboys as a backup quarterback and continued in that role until midway through the 1971 season. From 1971 through 1979, Staubach was one of the most successful quarterbacks in NFL history. He played in six NFC championship games, went to four Super Bowls and won two of them. In 1970, he began selling real estate and in 1977 started his own commercial real estate company, The Staubach Company. By 2002, his company had annual sales of $220 Million. He is a great example of developing values and skills in one profession (namely, leadership, perseverance, integrity, respect, teamwork and balance) and applying them effectively to another. What skills are you developing right now that could be applied in another group, department or industry? What skills could you develop right now that would be applicable to other groups, departments or industries?

5. Attract Disproportionate Opportunities

In corporate America, they call this “brand equity.” Brand equity is the difference between what a business unit should achieve on average and what it actually does achieve. For example, if there are ten similar retail stores in a geographic area, they should, on average, each receive 10% of the revenues generated in that market. However, that’s not what happens. The great brands attract a much higher percentage of the consumers than the weaker brands. The difference is the “brand equity.”

The same thing happens for accelerators. As they prove their ability to continually increase the rate of achievement, they are continuously given more and better opportunities. This happens in every organization. When someone develops a reputation for getting things done, people keep handing them more responsibilities.

6. Inspire Others

Oprah Winfrey has achieved extraordinary success as an entrepreneur. Not only has she led her top-rated talk show for more than twenty years and developed a best-selling magazine, but she also spawned another hit show, Dr. Phil. Yet her greatest contribution is not to herself, but to the millions of people she has inspired over the years. She inspires people everyday to reach for their dreams, stick to their principles and have the courage and tenacity to hang in there.

Sidney Poitier was one of Hollywood’s brightest stars in the 1950s and 1960s. He accelerated as an actor because of all the things discussed in this paper. He kept focusing on getting better, on honing his craft. As a result, his career grew and greater opportunities came to him. However, in the process of accelerating his career, he inspired a young girl named Oprah Winfrey. That’s what accelerators do. They inspire others to reach for greatness.

Ralph Lauren did it by creating a brand, Polo, that had an aspirational quality to it. People bought his products mainly because the purchase signified they were moving up in the world. As Ralph Lauren the individual accelerated his career he inspired many other people to reach for their dreams. This is “the accelerator’s impact.” They have a way of igniting people to pursue their passions. The benefit to the accelerator is a sense of fulfillment they cannot achieve merely through their own accomplishments.

7. Raise The Bar For Your Industry

This one could be called “The Tiger Woods Effect.” Accelerators raise the standard of what is considered great, and this impact generates a ripple effect throughout their entire industry. While it may seem to require endless hours of grueling effort to be an accelerator, the impact throughout your field of work could be extraordinary. The desire to compete with Tiger Woods caused a significant increase in conditioning for members of the Professional Golfers Association. As you continually raise your standards, you impact your colleagues and create a positive ripple effect on other people.

8. Leave A Legacy Of Excellence

It didn’t take long for executives to stop quoting Jack Welch, the former CEO of GE, and start quoting Jeff Immelt, the current CEO of GE. This is part of the passage of time. However, Welch left a legacy of excellence in terms of continually upgrading the level of management talent at GE and developing several CEOs for other major corporations. For the accelerator, it’s never about a single achievement, but rather about the overall impact they leave behind. The effort is worth it because of the legacy left behind and the on-going impact on other people’s lives.

Oprah Winfrey, Peter Drucker, Tiger Woods, Ted Drewes, Jerry Yeagley and Tom Becvar. All of these people created an on-going legacy that will far outlast any of their careers. In case you’re wondering about the last three names, Ted was my first major employer and runs a highly successful frozen custard stand in St. Louis, Jerry was head soccer coach at Indiana University where he won six national championships and was my boss for ten summers, and Tom was my high school teacher par excellence. The fact you probably have never heard of them underscores an important point: leaving a lasting legacy does not require fame or fortune. It simply means that the accelerator’s impact lasted far beyond their individual achievements.

9. Make Life Better For Other People

Increasing the rate of achievement cannot happen in a vacuum. A person goes from one level of success to another by adding value to other people. It’s impossible to do it any other way. Consequently, the greatest benefactor of any increase in sustainable growth is not the accelerator, but the people who have received value from the accelerator. Sidney Poitier certainly had a great acting career, but the greatest benefactors of his career were the millions of audience members who were touched by his performances. Mary Kay Ash built a great business in Mary Kay Cosmetics, but the greatest recipient of value were the thousands of Mary Kay reps and hundreds of thousands of customers. The greatest benefit of acceleration goes to the people whose lives are improved.

10. Prepare Yourself For The Next Climb

In the January 26, 2004 edition of Fortune magazine, Howard Schultz, Chairman of Starbucks said that Starbucks was merely in the second-inning of a nine-inning game. He had run the company for 17 years and there were 7500 Starbucks stores around the world. Yet he saw the company as just starting to gain momentum. Every accelerator sees their current status as a mere point on the climb upward. All of their experiences, knowledge and talent can now be deployed toward taking the next climb upward. Peter Drucker wrote some terrific books in his nineties, John Wooden won his first NCAA championship in his fifties, Tom Cruise continued to seek the next challenging film after twenty years in the business and Oprah Winfrey continued to create new value long after she surpassed all of her financial dreams. The greatest benefit of acceleration is the increased capacity for going onward and upward.

Acceleration Questions

  1. What are your organization’s highest priority business outcomes?
  2. What is the work you need to do to accelerate them?
  3. Why is it worth it?

Sources of Acceleration

Good To Great: why some companies make the leap and others don’t by Jim Collins (HarperCollins, 2001, New York)
This book became an overnight classic on how organizations accelerate and separate themselves from the rest of the pack. Ideas such as “First Who, Then What,” “Get the right people on the bus,” and “Level 5 Leadership” became part of everyday business language. This certainly falls in the “must read” category for anyone who seriously wants to consider the discipline of acceleration.

Walt Disney: An American Original by Bob Thomas (Hyperion, 1976, New York)
A personal favorite of mine, this admittedly pro-Walt Disney book explains how one individual overcame obstacles and adversity along the way to becoming an icon. Perhaps the greatest key to Walt Disney’s success was his capacity for applying his strengths and passions toward a meaningful objective. In doing so, he generated success far beyond his wildest dreams.

About Dan Coughlin

Visit Dan Coughlin’s Free Resource Center on Business Acceleration

Dan Coughlin teaches practical ideas on how to improve business performance. He is a business keynote speaker, management consultant, executive coach, and author of four books on leadership, sales, branding, and innovation. His books including The Management 500, and Find a Way to Win. His clients include GE Capital, McDonald’s, Coca-Cola, Marriott, Boeing, Abbott, Toyota, Subway, Kiewit, Prudential, Denny’s, and the St. Louis Cardinals.