Let’s say on a day in/day out, week in/week out momentum, you have a B or maybe even a B+ teammate for their performance: the reports they turn in, on the PowerPoints that they build, or anything that’s part of daily delivery and routine. The results that they deliver to your organization is a solid B+.
When you tell them, “Hey, I need an A from you this week. The board’s coming” Or, “Can you give me an A effort on this report? It is crucial.” What happens in this above average world is most people will do the A and give the A. The crucial question is, what do you think that most people will give you next week?
Most of the participants in a seminar when I ask this will say, “Oh, they know they are an “A” now, thus… an “A” …” or, “they will drop back to their B/B+ standard.”
What generally happens is they will do a “C” because they don’t want you to expect A’s from them every week. Because their personal standard that they give week in and week out is a B or B+, they are above average. They don’t want you to think of them as a consistent “A” teammate! And because most bosses love above average teammates (and that includes you, too), the boss will accept the A, and they tolerate the C because they know they asked you to give more for the A.
But when your personal standard of excellence is, “I always shoot for an A,” or, “I always shoot for a masterpiece.” It’s not that you don’t focus on your ROI and diminishing laws of return. You’re not going to put stupid resources in minimal efforts.The vital question is: what are your standards? How do you do things? What do you hold yourself to?
And most importantly, what do you teach and hold your team accountable?
Finally, is it written down? Because people know what the standard is but, generally, it’s not written down because it might make you think, “Oh heck, then I have to perform to it! If I write it down and it’s a B or it’s average or not my best, well I’m not going to write that down, I don’t want to be that person. If I write it down I have to become that person to be it, and I don’t want to fail!”
This is crucial to understand: it is one of the greatest reasons why you have high talent individuals that deliver above average results, but not top ten percent. They play it safe for a reason. You can change this psychology and “software” now if you wish with the next tool: “reframing” what the meanings are for their actions.
“Reframing” is crucial to flip what this “B/B+” phenomenon creates. Let’s do the metaphor first:
I had a client who loved this expression (and most of you do, too) “It is better to under promise and over deliver.”
It’s not a great sentence for great leaders. It’s a great sentence for managers, because they are working on lowering expectations and then exceeding them. That’s not aiming for the stars, is it? If you’re a leader, and you’re an inspired leader, then the sentence becomes, “We are going to over promise and we are going to over deliver on those promises.”
If you miss (and sometimes you will, I get that,) you still end up delivering far more… AND, it embeds the right command for failure too! There are MANY reasons to maximize what you teach!
This is such an unusual state, isn’t it, when you think about it? I had a brilliant executive in here not too long ago. He is a really successful executive and we’re arguing this. Here’s how he chose to argue this and here’s what I asked him:
“Let’s say you promise the board a 5% gain in the business model this year and you actually delivered 6% because you under promised and you over delivered. The question is, is this better than, or worse than promising the board 8% and delivering 7%?”
He thought about it, and he knew what the right answer should be, and he was honest and answered, “truthfully, I’d rather be the first. I want to be known as someone who meets their commitments.” (And I do understand this. I get it. What you the reader must understand is that it is not a path to Greatness. So what do you really want as a Leader?)
Because you realize if you are focused on 5%, you very rarely hit 7%. You can get a 6%, but it is very hard when your aim is 5% to deliver 7%. But when you promise 8%, it’s easier to deliver 7%. Do you agree? I hope so, embedded in the command is that the setting of the target is more important to the attainment than any other energy!
The executive said, “I get that 7% is bigger than 6%, but there’s too much stress and anxiety. I will just call that a ‘stretch objective.” And I said, “Yeah there is that, but the ‘stretch’ is not where greatness lies. You must understand the psychology and software of “in the 10” (a reference tool from last week’s newsletter – click here to read it.)”
These are different thoughts for most people. To over promise and over deliver is bold and outrageous, and that’s courage. Some leaders struggle in their business model with doing that.
Here’s the bottom line: You have to look really hard at what you’re demanding, what you’re driving, what the design is, who you are. Are you bold and outrageous and extraordinary and pushing into an envelope that scares the crap out of you but you just know you have to do this because you are you?
In order to inspire and reach into someone’s chest and grab their heart and make them want to follow you through the gates of hell and back because you’re an epic leader, you have to push yourself and the team to reach for the stars and hit. You and your team will feel better about yourselves when you’re delivering 7% and missing the 8% than you will about safely committing to 5% and delivering 6%. These are big, big moments as you continue to design your new leadership thoughts and actions.