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Strategic Discipline Blog

What’s a Catalyst?

Posted by Douglas A Wick on Mon, Dec 17, 2012

In Top Ten Elements to Drive Business Growth - 4-3-2-1 Formula we looked at the elements that Gazelles and Positioning Systems focus on to drive growth in small to mid-sized business.  These are fundamentals that Jim Collins discovered in his groundbreaking book Good to Great and have been further confirmed by studies at Harvard Business Review.

The last item in the 4-3-2-1 Framework is the Catalyst – a resource or tool that will help accelerate the growth of the business. The most common catalysts are people in the form of Advisors, Consultants and Coaches.

Here’s a brief look at the difference between these three types of catalysts:Catalyst   Graph resized 600

Advisor:  These are people that bring Experience & Knowledge to your organization.  We recommend every mid-size business has a board of advisors who have knowledge and experience in your industry and in business that you can rely on to attain vital objective feedback to help you run your business.

Consultants: These are people that have valuable Expertise & Specific Knowledge.  In most businesses there are elements of our business we simply don’t have the time or knowledge of that others in our industry know more about.  What we’re talking about here is specific knowledge of your industry or a specific element of your business (sales as an example or lean manufacture ring) that can help accelerate your growth.

Coaches: A coach provides Accountability & Questions.  Coaches look at your business objectively and ask questions that lead to deeper understanding and help you to avoid mistakes.  They provide a high level of accountability by helping you develop metrics and priorities that demand frequent monitoring to achieve.

Let’s define what a catalyst is.  A Catalyst is a resource or tool that enhances positive change so that the desired end outcome is achieved with less energy output and\or in a faster, more timely manner. describe the imageTake a look at the two curves on the graph – the blue curve represents the energy and time it takes to achieve a desired outcome – such at 100% revenue growth in one year; the Red curve represents the energy and time it takes to achieve a desired outcome, but it is completed with less expenditure of energy and time – because a catalyst was involved in the acceleration process. Often, the right Business Advisor, Experienced Consultant, or Seasoned Coach will act as a catalyst to the leadership team.

For those of you that believe a catalyst is only for business owners who are weak or need help let’s illustrate the power of a real life catalyst. Even the greatest leaders have catalysts to help them.  Bill Campbell is a good example of a real life personal executive Business Coach.  He’s worked with Eric Schmidt (Google), Steve Jobs (Apple) and Jeff Bezos ( Bill has been a catalyst to each of these leaders by asking them the right questions – the tough questions – and holding them accountable for their leadership and commitments. This is also what Positioning Systems and Gazelles International coaches are trained to do for our client.

Bill Campbell wasn’t always successful.  As the head football coach at Columbia University, he had a less than impressive 12-41-1 record.  In fact at one point he was hospitalized for exhaustion.  He discovered his fatal flaw: He wasn't quite tough enough in asking his players to put football above all. 

Looking for a testimony on the value of a business coach.  Watch Google's Eric Schmidt.  Google CEO, Eric Schmidt on Coaching

The problem with business owners isn't that they lack the motivation or energy, in most cases they do, the problem is their inability to leverage themselves by hiring the right people and by getting these people involved in helping them.  Too frequently the people they hire lack the proper motivation and desire, or skill set to help.  Without the help of the people inside their organization they will never achieve what their potential is.  Leadership is more than great desire, passion, and motivation; it is recognizing your strengths and weaknesses and realizing you need help to achieve it, and finding those people who can raise your game to the aspiration you aspire to.   Thus a coach can often be one of those missing links to success.

Coaching is about getting clients and businesses to change.  It's about changing the status quo.  This requires confrontation and a sincere deep desire to help others perform to their very best.  It's not comfortable and it requires a very profound, confident and deep rooted belief in what you and your services can do for a client as well as a sincere belief in your client's ability to make something happen and achieve success by applying change.  

When I look too closely at a problem, I can lose perspective. Caught up in the details, I cannot see the whole picture. Just as one must look past the trees to see the forest, I must look past minor setbacks to appreciate the full picture of my potential.  This is the kind of help every business owner needs.  A confidant he can share his concerns and feelings with without fear of losing confidence.  He needs someone who is objective who can help him navigate tough decisions without being caught up in the emotions of the situation.

Experiencing what I’ve gone through battling Acute Myeloid Leukemia has given me a rich perspective on true values in life and how to apply the 4-3-2-1 formula for growth to your business.  It’s provided a solid foundation for the absolute necessity for Strategic Discipline.  No business or person can achieve lasting success without recognizing how critically important discipline is in reaching your priorities and goals.

As Jim Collins noted in Good to Great, “A culture of discipline is not a principle of business; it is a principle of greatness.”  Contact Positioning Systems to help you apply the necessary discipline to achieve success in your business.

This past Wednesday I had my eleventh biopsy.  The call I received on Friday evening “absolutely beautiful” is a testament to setting priorities and being disciplined to achieve them. That’s next blog. 

Topics: Strategic Discipline, Coach Advisor, Catalyst, Culture of Discipline, Consultant

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1. Priorities: Determine your #1 Priority. Achieve measurable progress in 90 days.

2. Metrics: Develop measurable Key Performance Indicators. 

3. Meetings: Establish effective meeting rhythms. (Cadence of Accountability)  Compounding the value of your priority and metrics. 

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Certified Gazelles Coach

Doug Wick, President

Positioning Systems


The Strategic Discipline Blog focuses on midsize business owners with a ravenous appetite to improve his or her leadership skills and business results.

Our 3 disciplines include:

- Priorities
- Metrics
- Meeting Rhythms

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