The Only Thing You Need to Know

I really hate the following phrase: "the only thing you need to know." Hence, I want to talk to you about ... the only thing you need to know.

The formulation that follows came from a speech I gave in Shanghai a couple of weeks ago. I was part of a program that included consultants, economists, etc. For better or for worse, I stuck to character and began by trashing ... consultants and economists. I said, "In the next several hours you will hear many prescriptions for dealing with today's shaky times—and preparing for China's future. Many of those prescriptions will involve the role of the government in the economy, the sort of help that big firms and smaller firms need. Despite my rather snide remarks, I will in fact find many of the suggestions on the money—figuratively and literally."

I meant every word of it.

But then I added that my role was to simplify—to boldly, and perhaps foolheartedly, assert that there was only One Thing that mattered in the long run to the health of the enterprise—and, indeed, the economy as a whole.

The quality of the work force.
(And, perhaps 1.5, the devotion of the leadership to developing that work force to the utmost extent of its talents and prospective talents.)

I said "there is only one 'winning formula.'"
People who are 100%, everybody, no exceptions, Receptionist to EVP R&D:

Committed.
Engaged.
Growing.
Learning.
Fearless (unfailingly encouraged to try new things).
Respected.
Trusted.
Appreciated.
Independent-minded.
Team focused.
Focused themselves, even when fresh caught, on the growth of others
Passionate about their work, their mates, and their customers.
Informed.
Open (fanatic about sharing).
Caring.
Committed to EXCELLENCE in everything they do.

And, in turn, that demands 100% "servant leaders," to shamelessly steal from Robert Greenleaf, who are 100% devoted—as Priority & Job #1—to developing people, in good times or bad—100% of people—who are:

Committed.
Engaged.
Growing.
Learning.
Fearless (unfailingly encouraged to try new things).
Respected.
Trusted.
Appreciated.
Independent-minded.
Team focused.
Focused themselves, even when fresh caught, on the growth of others
Passionate about their work, their mates, and their customers.
Informed.
Open (fanatic about sharing).
Caring.
Committed to EXCELLENCE in everything they do.

I explained that, in my opinion:

This applies throughout the world—in America and Brazil and Lithuania and Estonia and Korea. And in China, as it pursues a future obviously more and more dependent on incorporating intellectual capital into its economic portfolio (already China bridles at being assigned a role as "the world's workshop").

This applies to 100% of people in the workforce. As in a football team or symphony, there are no "bit players."

This applies in every industry and every pricepoint strategy therein. In Brazil, Magazine Luiza, the country's Wal*Mart, is invariably near the top of the "Best Companies to Work For" list, just as Wegmans, the regional grocer, and the Container Store are at the head of the pack, peers of Google and Amgen, on the American "Best" list.

This applies to companies of all sizes—from microscopic to humongous.

This applies in good times—and especially bad times. Engaged workers and an unwavering Commitment to EXCELLENCE will not make problems in the market evaporate, but they, nonetheless, represent the best chance of weathering the storm and coming out stronger on the back end.

Strategy is important.
Systems are important.
Financing is important.

But this is ... The Only Thing You Need to Know.
I'd bet my life on it.
(I guess I have.)