The concept of “And” versus “Or”

May 16th, 2012

We have been having a lot of internal discussion and debate around getting “stuff” done and making “things” happen. Stuff and things are everywhere. Hiring employees, training employees, solving problems, finishing projects, having discussions. Stuff and things are all we do. The challenge that I have laid out is that compromise is not an option. As Jim Collins wrote about in his book, Built to Last, perhaps great leaders and great companies find a way to get it all done, they don’t allow “or” to creep into their stuff and things. You should never hear “or” in action. We can do this or do that. Choose or compromise. No, the best leaders and companies find a way to get it all done, meaning stuff and things, versus stuff or things.

So the concept is easy right? Bring me some real life examples to prove your point, you ask? Recently, I was given a gift of a book on leadership and soccer. The book, The Messiah Method, is a compelling read on the success that Messiah College has had as a Division III school in men’s and women’s soccer. And not just a little, they win at a 912 winning percentage! Pretty impressive stuff, the highest winning percentage in collegiate sports of a 10 year history.

Their coaches practice the “And” versus “Or” philosophy. When they recruit, they insist on toughness and skill. Both often don’t come together. They insist on team-oriented kids and the best kids on the field. Not easy to find. And finally, they expect the nicest, most caring people that become competitive and tough as nails when playing.

Work and leadership are hard. I for one have always worked hard to be an “And” leader. Both with planning and by setting the expectation for an “And” mentality. You can and should have it both ways. That is where great leadership and better companies come from.

Find yourself saying “We can’t hire for skill and culture fit”? Don’t compromise. Do it right and hire for both. The next class of hires might catapult you and your business to the next level.

Find yourself having to justify making tough choices on important projects or critical customers? Don’t do it. Find a way. Work with others. Make it happen.

“And” is about desire and belief. “And” is about your mindset. Most of us immediately assume we can’t have it both ways and we must choose. We do not demand it of ourselves first. And we do not challenge our teams. Lay it out there. Do not waver. And just maybe, you will be built to last like Messiah.

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