Better than Best?
Why “I did my best” is not enough
Every extraordinary accomplishment, invention, or revolution was not the result of someone giving their best. Somehow that person or team found a way to do what no one else could do. They did what no one had ever done before. They did the “impossible.”
Your best is what you were capable of in the past. That’s why your best won’t be good enough tomorrow. When the goal is to accomplish greatness, to go where no one or team has gone before, you have to figure it out, try a thousand ways, lose sleep, find loopholes, research, and sweat like you never have before.
One of my favorite examples of this is Apple Computer. Back when Apple was just a startup, one of the first things new employees learned (often the hard way) was that their leader, Steve Jobs, had a “reality distortion field” that enabled him to inspire his team to change the course of computing history—with just a fraction of the resources Xerox or IBM commanded. “We did the impossible because we didn’t realize it was impossible,” said Andy Hertzfeld, one of Apple’s original developers.
“The reality distortion field was a combination of a charismatic rhetorical style, an indomitable will, and an eagerness to bend any fact to fit the purpose at hand,” said Hertzfeld. “Amazingly, the reality distortion field seemed to be effective, even if you were acutely aware of it.” Jobs’s reality distortion field was a personal refusal to accept limitations that stood in the way of his ideas, a way to convince himself and anyone on his team that anything was, in fact, possible.
Each of us has the opportunity to create such a field. What we consider “possible” and “impossible” is how we were programmed, and consensus thinking about artificial boundaries. What ideas and thoughts do you need to become unrealistic about?
Passion fuels vision
A vision is a picture of how your products or services will make a better world possible. Captivating visions inspire people to become evangelists for their brand. After all, it’s not the great idea that works, it’s the great passion behind it. Every original idea initially results in snickers, quips, and laughter. That is why most are killed long before they can ever become great. If you have a great idea, put on a bulletproof vest, a helmet, and go after it.
Passion is the emotional fuel that drives your vision. It’s what you hold onto when your ideas are challenged and people turn you down, when you are rejected by “experts” and the people closest to you. It’s the fuel that keeps you going when there is no external validation for your dream.
First, you must believe in yourself. Don’t waver. There always will be people who don’t think like you do, don’t have your vision, and who cannot comprehend being a visionary. I am more scared when everyone agrees with my ideas!
You can’t pick and choose when you want to lead. We didn’t choose to become a leader because it was going to be easy. We wanted to be the person others could count on to take control, to handle and navigate through any situation, no matter its size or complexity. Now is the time to step up. Your employees are counting on you. They believe in you.
How we lead right now says much about us. In times of adversity and change, we really discover who we are and what we’re made of. One of my favorite quotes is, “Tough times don’t build character, they reveal it.”
It is imperative to confidently show all our employees that this pandemic is temporary and will pass. We must appreciate the anxiety and stress every employee, fellow leader, vendor, and customer are experiencing in these difficult times. Morale is bound to be low. We must do our best to reduce fear and anxiety.
Communicate like never before
You are the only one to tell your story. Employees are hearing misinformation at an alarming rate from all directions, feeding their fear and anxiety and allowing them to imagine the worst. Employer communication is the most credible source of information during times like these.
Social distancing doesn’t mean social isolation. Your employees need to hear from you more than ever, and not just through emails and texting. Your #1 KPI should be measuring your communication time (preferably with live video) with colleagues, advisors, friends, and extended family each day. Dramatically up your talk time.
Months from now, not one employee will complain by saying, “My boss was so annoying during the pandemic.” In all our communication, we must be 100% transparent, especially with our team. Make sure your employees know the sacrifices everyone is making, including the company, such as tapping into lines of credit, cutting executives’ salaries, etc. While we don’t know when or how soon “normal” will return, let them know your short- and long-term strategies.
Refer back to your core values, mission, purpose, and service vision statements. This is why you created them. They are the foundation of what your business was built on. Pull them out, dust them off, and talk about what they mean during times like this. Walk the talk, and constantly share examples of how your people are modeling them through times like this.
John R. DiJulius III, author of The Customer Service Revolution, is president of The DiJulius Group, a customer service consulting firm that works with companies including Starbucks, Chick-fil-A, Ritz-Carlton, Nestle, PwC, Lexus, and many more. Contact him at 216-839-1430 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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