Jim Collins opened his book Good to Great with the statement, “Good is the enemy of great.” He explained that when we have good schools, good businesses and good government, we are prone to accept that level of quality as sufficient. Collins observed: “Few people attain great lives, in large part because it is so easy to settle for a good life.”
What about you and your business? Have you become comfortable—possibly complacent—with what you have accomplished? Sales have been good, your employees seem to be happy and customers rarely complain. Next year, you project, will match or even surpass (slightly) this year.
Yet deep down, you may have a silent yearning to move from being merely good to becoming recognized as great in your profession. What might prompt you to make that leap forward and upward?
Recently, several highly accomplished professional people recalled what had motivated them to shift from “doing OK” to launching a quest for their personal best.
Bill Bell, a retired advertising sales person, said his grand awakening came when he reached his fiftieth birthday. The occasion prompted him to review his financial picture: “I woke up to the realization that I had accumulated very little money though I had been a better-than-average advertising space salesman for my employer, a publisher of trade magazines. Further, this company’s retirement program was iffy at best.”
So he “set up my own firm as a publisher’s representative. One of my first clients was my former employer. Others came along fairly soon, and it was not long before I was able to start saving money for the future. The intense purpose of earning retirement money was the 24-7 motivating force that lead to attracting more clients, and hiring office staff and sales staff.”
Today, Bill Bell enjoys his retreat-style mountain home in Otto, North Carolina—part of the reward for establishing his entrepreneurial firm.
Carol Moore, Executive Director of the Georgia Mountains Center in Gainesville, Georgia, credits her mentor who “provided me with honest, on target advice. While he would never give me the decision to the dilemma, he would discuss the pros and cons to both sides of the issue and allow me to make the decision. At times when I perceived my career as ‘stalled’ I would call Don and bemoan my fate. Don never allowed me to have a pity party. He would tell me ‘If you're looking for a helping hand, you'll find one at the end of your sleeve,’ or ‘You get what you expect -- raise your expectations.’”
Lab Products Inc. President Betty Fatzie echoed the value of a mentor: “My boss felt I had the initiative to move up the corporate ladder and gave me opportunities to do so. I always gave it that extra effort to prove I could do better than a mediocre job.”
Does your company’s environment provide the incentive to generate your personal best? That was the case with Steven Freund, a veteran Ritz-Carlton Hotel executive. Freund commented: “The culture of an organization has a powerful impact on a person’s behavior. Companies that are highly competitive, where high levels of performance are held in high esteem, generally promote highly motivated behavior.”
Hospitality industry expert Dianne Henry of Baltimore wanted to excel because “My passion became my profession.” Pursuing her love of cruising, she plunged into the travel industry at top speed. Recently she ranked “number four for September and number ten for the year 2005 in sales volume out of over four hundred agents.”
Do any of these stimulating factors fit your case? If so, make the most of them. If not, consider these other incentives that propel you toward your personal best:
An excellent role model. This could be a parent, a friend or a nationally known individual.
Your reputation and legacy. Yes, you want to establish a record that your contemporaries and your successors will admire and emulate.
Internal rewards. You experience well-merited pride and serenity when you are sure you reached your highest potential in performing a task.
Family responsibilities. Your drive for success is not selfish, but is geared toward the well-being of those dearest to you.
A closing suggestion: List the people, circumstances and ideas that encourage you to set new goals, adopt more productive habits and steadily move from “good to great.” Keep the list handy for daily review, as a reminder of why you work—and why you are determined to expand your expertise and emerge from the pack of the also-rans to become a winner.