I’ve always been most inspired by teams that seek to become the best at what they do. I find the teams that achieve this end up being the most fun to be around and deliver the most value.
But too often, people aim low. They become satisfied with themselves when they are getting better at a task, and so they stop striving to be the best in the world. I often see teams get excited when things get better, and they should feel pleased with this progress, but they haven’t reached high enough. The result? They settle for being good, not great. Good is not good enough. You should always go for greatness.
To get there, leaders should understand and implement these four strategies:
1. Understand what great looks like.
Most people manage to meet the average. But we’re not playing for “B’s.” We’re playing for “A’s.” At eBay, when I took over customer support, the team walked me through what they were doing and how well it was going. I would tell them, “That’s great, I think it’s an ‘A’, but don’t know if it’s an ‘A’ in elementary school or in graduate school.” To figure that out, we looked outside to see what others were doing. We found that eBay was processing three-to-four emails per hour, but the industry standard was 15. With that information, we knew where we needed to be and devised a plan to get there.
Don’t settle for mediocrity. You’ll often hear, “You can’t do this, you can’t do that.” Unleash yourself from that—don’t listen. You’ll step on a little glass, but that’s okay. No one becomes great by tiptoeing the usual route.
2. Be on a constant quest to improve.
I recently returned from a three-day offsite with the top executives at a fast growing software company. While people were pleased with the company’s progress (and there was certainly plenty to be pleased with), there was a lot of introspection about what we could do better and faster. That company is great because it always wants to be greater.
If you want to strive to deliver more, ask yourself the following questions:
• Who does something way better than anyone else I know and why? What can I do differently?
• What is achievable? By when—90 days or nine months? What does success look like?
3. Be very clear about the opportunity and what you are trying to achieve—and don’t let anything get in the way.
When I joined eBay, my area was definitely weak. My team and I worked feverishly to get ahead of the curve and stay there. How can you set yourself up for success?
• Give your team the tools they need to be successful (not only budget dollars and resources, but helpful forcing functions, check-ins, access to executives, escalation rights, and practices that set them up for success). Work every day to take all the excuses away on why something can’t be done.
• Align the team so that they can make decisions quickly. At Bay Networks we worked on a fast ERP implementation that required decisions to be made quickly. We introduced a 24-hour rule where something had to be resolved within 24 hours or it would be escalated to me and the steering committee to get it resolved to keep the team moving and on track. That project ultimately succeeded, and it was even nominated for a ComputerWorld Smithsonian Award as one of the best technology implementations in the country.
4. Inspire others to greatness.
As managers, we need to inspire people and help them extend their vision to become even better. It’s your job to instill confidence in your people and have them aspire to greatness on their own. That magic happens when you inculcate this philosophy into your teams.