Learning from Donnie Smith, CEO of Tyson Foods

We recently had the opportunity to learn from Donnie Smith upon hearing him speak at The Summit a couple of weeks ago (http://vimeo.com/channels/summit).

What inspired us is how, in our opinion, Donnie’s recommendations for leading can apply to any leader at any size organization.  Let’s see if you agree.  In this first post, we will include 10 things we learned from Donnie. While the descriptions are pretty exact, they are not exact quotes.   There are many more so look for future posts.

1. First, we must get real honest about where we are (find the truth).

2. Covey says, “Begin with the end in mind.  What would it look like if done well?”

3. On the past:  Let’s not focus too much too much on how we got here (challenges that preceeded Donnie’s tenure as CEO).  There is a reason our rear view mirror is so small and our windshield is larger.  Let’s quit looking in the rear view mirror and focus on what is in front of us and especially what we can see out of our front windshield.

4. We want to get customers to fall in love with us.

5.  We set goals to be in the top quartile of performance in every major area in which we operate.

6.  Then we went to work on building the momentum to bridge the gap.

7.  MTMTTMT – Make the main thing the main thing; in our case the main things were focus and speed.

8.  On focus, what are the five or six things we need to do?  It is all about prioritization.  The most important thing we do at Tyson Foods is manage distractions.

9.  In order to execute better, we chose to focus on our team and our customers.  Which one did we focus on first?  Most people answer customers.  We actually began with our people.

10.  If we take care of our employees, they will take care of the customers and that will take care of our owners (shareholders).

Great leaders likely don’t want to be put on some pedestal but we sure think Donnie Smith is a worthy person for whom to study should we be leading a small company, a division, a charitable cause or even a large company.

As always, we hope you find this of value.

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