By Dan Schneider, Partner/Director, The Rawls Group

Dictionaries give several definitions of discipline. The definition of discipline that we are talking about today is “an exercise that develops or improves a skill or habit.” It is the missing ingredient in building the personal and organizational “muscle(s)” that leads to exceptional performance.

Most of us recognize the value in building those muscles. Many of us who recognize the value are also reluctant to make the effort, either because we do not want to work that hard or because we just do not know how to go about breaking away from the old habits that keep us chained to being “average”.

If you fall into the latter category, then this article will give you the recipe for becoming more self-disciplined, personally, and organizationally. If you fall into the “it is too hard” category, then you will still know how to do it; and, maybe someday you will also decide you want to achieve more of your potential.

“The first and best victory is to conquer self.”

There are five disciplines that lead organizations to stellar performance. The first is Personal Mastery, sometimes called self-awareness. This comes first because all of us consistently perform in alignment with our currently dominant self-image. So, relying on will power alone to build or improve current skill sets is almost always ineffective in creating long-term change.

Changing self-image, whether personal or organizational, begins with recognizing strengths (character and skills) and motives (purpose). Many of us begin by recognizing what we do not do well; and, as a result, we focus on what we want to avoid rather than what we want to achieve. That means we are continually reinforcing what we do not value in our character, our skill sets, or in our sense of purpose.

We can overcome that self-limiting behavior by reframing our identity (self-image) to see ourselves as capable of activating version 2.X of our personal or organizational identity. You can find several resources by googling, youtubeing, podcasting, or Ted-talking “improving self-image” or “identifying your strengths and skills”. Why continue being your worst critic when you can become your strongest ally?

“Whether you think you can or you think you can’t, either way you’re right.”
Henry Ford

Now we are ready for taking on the second discipline: Mental Models. These mental models are also often referred to as “beliefs”; and they are the foundation of the human equivalent of an “operating system”. They trigger behavior and habit formation. Sometimes, these beliefs take the form of judgmental statements; and they are usually based upon very little evidence. Since challenging others’ beliefs is generally considered impolite in many cultures, many of our beliefs about the six primary environments we live in (work, family, social network, financial health, physical health, and value alignment) remain unchallenged. As a result, we may be limiting our potential rather than empowering ourselves and moving toward success, however we may define it.

The vaccine that prevents personal disempowerment is a truth testing serum that separates facts from opinions. For example, I may say that Frank and Mary are lazy and have no interest in moving the company forward because their project is behind schedule. That I have made such a statement is fact. Whether or not they are lazy is a personal belief or opinion that may or may not be supported by additional evidence. Be courageous in truth testing your personal belief system. Whatever you believe is truth for you.

“Just because a man lacks the use of his eyes doesn’t mean he lacks vision.”
Stevie Wonder

The third discipline is Shared Vision. When John Kennedy became president in January of1961, the Soviet Union appeared to be on the way to winning the space race. They had the first orbital satellite; they were first to have a man in space.

In May of that year, President Kennedy addressed a Joint Session of Congress and shared the vision of sending a man to the moon and returning him safely to earth by the end of the decade. To do so would require thousands of hours in space, materials that had not yet been invented, and vehicles that had not yet been designed.

What Kennedy understood was that most people want an inspirational vision; so, he gave it to them. He also gave them some autonomy in how that vision would be implemented; some education and development in rocketry and space travel; and feedback systems that allowed them to judge their progress.

There were failures and successes over the next eight years. In July 1969, two American Astronauts walked on the moon, and they returned safely to planet Earth.

Cooperation is the thorough conviction that nobody can get there unless everybody gets there.
Virginia Burden

The fourth discipline is Team Learning. Teams come in three styles and sizes: Interdependent Teams – where the outcome can only be achieved by having people work closely with each other; Independent Teams – where success occurs based on individual performance; and Ad Hoc Teams – where individuals with specific skill sets are brought together to solve a particular problem or challenge and disband once the objective is accomplished.

In every case, the primary requirement is Trust. Colleagues must believe in each other’s character and competence if everyone is going to get there. Effective teammates communicate early and often; they respect each other verbally and behaviorally; and they generally have shared leadership as opposed to individual leaders. They collaborate with each other and save their competitive energy for the rest of the world.

Systems thinking is a state of mind. Once you have this state of mind, you realize how each part of your business flows into the other.
Lisa A. Mininni

You guessed it: the fifth discipline is Systems Thinking. Peter Senge believes that the three characteristics of systems thinking include: A consistent and strong commitment to learning; a willingness to challenge your own mental model – accepting your own role in problems; and, being open to different ways of seeing and doing.

“Before you can learn, you must first unlearn.”

Following Yoda’s advice requires humility, and you must learn to wear it well. Absent a threshold level of humility, you and your dealership may remain in the land of the average for a long, long time. Using these five disciplines can give you the courage to move forward and become the powerhouse you have always envisioned.


Dan Schneider is a Partner/Director of The Rawls Group, a business succession planning firm. For additional information, visit or call 407-578-4455.

Author: Christine Corkran

Digital Dealer