Episode 157: Chris Zook – The Founders Mentality: A Bias For Action & Front Line Obsession

Chris Zook is a partner in Bain & Company’s Boston office. He was co-head of the Global Strategy practice for 20 years. During his more than 25 years at Bain, Chris has specialized in helping companies find new sources of profitable growth.

A best-selling author, Chris published his fifth book,The Founder’s Mentality in 2016. Based on a decade-long study of companies in more than 40 countries, The Founder’s Mentality shows how leaders can overcome the predictable crises of growth and set their companies on a path of sustainable growth. Chris has been a featured broadcast guest, including NPR, CNBC, Fox News and Bloomberg TV. He has been a keynote speaker at a wide range of international and business forums including the World Economic Forum, the World Knowledge Forum, the Forbes’ CEO Conference, the BusinessWeek CEO Conference, the Economist Summit and Endeavour’s entrepreneur summits. In the last five years, he has done over 500 talks and workshops across more than 35 different countries.

Episode 157: Chris Zook – The Founders Mentality: A Bias For Action & Front Line Obsession

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The Learning Leader Show

“The leaders who have a deep intellectual curiosity to continuously learn” will sustain excellence over an extended period of time”

In This Episode, You Will Learn:

  • Having a burning intensity and passion around a topic/cause and a love of the details will lead to sustained excellence
  • Walter Chrysler was a great example of this.. — Also Phil Knight (Nike), Elon Musk (Tesla, SpaceX)
  • The importance of a “deep intellectual curiosity to learn”
  • Front Line Obsession – Do you treat your front line sales and customer service employees as the heroes of the business? Do you do whatever it takes to support them?
  • Customer Advocacy – Do you relentlessly try to create loyalty with your customers? Is the voice of the customer fully represented in all important meetings?
  • An Owner’s mindset:
    • A bias for action – Making decisions with speed. Quick to take on personal responsibility and risk to do the right thing
    • An aversion to bureaucracy – Have you simplified your initiatives to focus on the biggest priorities? Are your planning and review processes the best in the industry and do you reallocate resources to make your front line more competitive?
  • The amount of time spent on the preparation for quarterly meetings (building PowerPoint decks, etc…) is immense — However, it’s not focused on customers, which is a problem
  • How Home Depot went from great to poor to great again… 
  • The 9 Nike Maxims — Make sure you celebrate your front line employees
  • How can a company deal with cost reductions?
  • “Train the guns on thet thinkers, not the doers” — The bureaucracy has to go
  • The importance of mindfulness
  • Have a bias for action… Be a doer, not a talker
  • 85% of a companies issues stem from internal issues
  • Why a company needs one dedicated person to owning the customer experience 
  • The hero of WWII – General James Gavin
  • New Leaders – Spend the first 6 weeks in the field. Learn what is happening and why. See it for yourself
    • Send an email to every person in your organization and take the time to thoughtfully respond to every email
  • How Chris helped build Bain from 100 employees to 5,000+
  • Thought of “Learning Leader” as an academic term originally, but after being a guest on the show views it as a way to bring ideas from an outside audience and share with others

“Complexity is the silent killer of growth”

Continue Learning:

You may also like these episodes:

Episode 078: Kat Cole – From Hooters Waitress To President of Cinnabon

Episode 071: Nate Boyer – Green Beret, Texas Football, The NFL

Episode 047: David Marquet – “Turn The Ship Around”

Episode 107: Simon Sinek – Leadership: It Starts With Why

Did you enjoy the podcast?

If you enjoyed hearing Chris Zook on the show, please don’t hesitate to send me a note on Twitter or email me.

Episode edited by the great J Scott Donnell

Bio From Bain.com

Chris has authored numerous additional books with Harvard Business Review Press, including Repeatability: Build Enduring Businesses for a World of Constant Change (2012), an argument for simple, great repeatable models to realize enduring, profitable growth. In 2010, he published Profit from the Core: A Return to Growth in Turbulent Times, an updated edition of his 2001 best-selling business book, Profit from the Core: Growth Strategy in an Era of Turbulence, which offers an approach to assessing and making the most of core business opportunities. Chris’s sequel, Beyond the Core: Expand your Market without Abandoning your Roots (2004) examines how companies that have fully exploited their core businesses can systematically and successfully expand into related, or “adjacent” areas. Unstoppable: Finding Hidden Assets to Renew the Core and Fuel Profitable Growth (2007) completes the series and examines what to do when your growth formula of the past begins to approach its limits, demanding that your company change its strategic focus and redefine its core.

These “growth trilogy” books have received widespread critical support. Beyond the Corewas recognized by The Economist as one of the top five business and economic books in the year it was published, and it was also voted one of the top 100 business books ever written. Unstoppable was identified by The Financial Times as one of the notable business books of the year. Based on his work on how companies grow, Chris was included by theTimes of London in its biannual list of the 50 Most Influential Global Business Thinkers. He has written dozens of articles with Harvard Business Review Press and other business publications, such as The Wall Street Journal, The Financial Times, The New York Times,Fortune, Forbes and BusinessWeek.

He received a bachelor of arts in mathematics and economics from Williams College, an M.Phil. in economics from Exeter College, Oxford University, and earned master’s and doctorate degrees from Harvard University.

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