A couple weeks ago I finished my second marathon. My effort was nothing terribly notable, except that I was hoping to beat my first time by a significant margin. I did. I ran 15 minutes faster than my first.
However, my time is discouraging when I compare it to my potential. I’ve only been a runner for about 3 years; I know I have plenty of room for improvement. Plus, I know how fast other guys my same age and build are running. Scores of them are significantly faster than I am. For example, I came in 174th place in my age group (out of 416). The guy who took second place in the marathon OVERALL was one year older than me! Now that’s something to strive for.
So what’s the best way to improve? Compare myself to me or compare myself to others? I think the answer is both.
Often in business we compare ourselves to the rest of the field. How are the top players in our industry faring. Where is our market share? How fast are we growing? Are we number one? There is healthy competition that can motivate an entire organization to rally behind significant revenue and growth goals, in pursuit of that top prize.
Then again, it’s also important that we don’t just settle for being on top of the heap. Oh sure, it feels good to be in first place. But we should also compare ourselves against our own potential. When we don’t, we could be settling for good enough instead of becoming our very best.
Living The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People is a tried and true method of balancing both approaches to success. The Private Victory is represented by the first three Habits of Be Proactive, Begin with the End in Mind, and Put First Things First. These lead me to mastery over self. Coupled with the Public Victory of Habits 4, 5 and 6, Think Win-Win, Seek First to Understand…, and Synergize, they permit me to collaborate with others in a way that differentiates our collective performance, allowing us to stand apart from the crowd and achieve our very best.
So, I suppose the next marathon I’m running in May 2011 will give me a chance to test this theory. My focus during training: Keep one eye on pushing for ever-faster splits and pace while training my other eye on the pace of those who ran the same race last year.
Ask yourself: In what ways can I and my organization learn from the successes of our competition? Where are we not testing our potential, because we’ve become complacent with “good enough?”
For the past several weeks I’ve had the privilege of working with a large client in the Southeast on improving the overall trust in a large manufacturing plant, one leader at a time. I’m humbled to witness each frontline manager present his or her own case study in front of the senior leadership team to tell the story of how each one of them has been building trust with his or her associates in new and meaningful ways.
They are confronting the realities of sub-optimal performance. They are righting past wrongs. They are talking straight, clarifying expectations, practicing accountability, and, above all, making time to really listen to what employees are saying and feeling.
Today, folowing one group’s presentations to management, the VP of Operations explained how several frontline associates had approached him spontaneously in recent weeks to thank him for the training their managers are getting! Even employees who haven’t attended the training are recognizing the little things their managers are doing to lead at “the speed of trust.”
Most newly promoted managers in all organizations appreciate the least bit of guidance they get on how to be a good boss. G.E.’s 20-year-long CEO, Jack Welch, put it this way, “The moment you become a manager, it stops being about you and it starts being about them.” I couldn’t agree more.
Managers who get it will spend the balance of their careers recognizing and unleashing the hidden talent that exists in everyone.
What kind of leader are you? What kind of leader will you become?