Does Success Require High Flyers Exceeding Requirements?
As one who has written many business plans and created or helped craft hundreds of goals it might seem antithetical to suggest that your best chances for success are not for your people to simply meet those goals or hit their plans but rather, when extraordinary things occur to propel accomplishment above and beyond “normal” expectation.
When others consider where you work there is often an instant reputation, sometimes a mystique about “the place” and that usually reflects the record of vision, insight and accomplishment, good or bad. Tell someone today that Google hired you and an almost instant label of talent, smarts and work ethic is pinned to your lapel. Having worked at Time Inc. for as long as I did I became used to a near instant respect, sometimes envy, occasionally awe at how we regularly moved the needle in our industry, how innovators, excellence and quality drivers flooded our ranks back in the day.
Reputations for a business are formed via a two way street of top down leadership and bottom up effort and innovation throughout. The question today is whether or not efforts that go “above and beyond” have become a requirement for “ordinary” success. Of course the definition of success and the cultural effort baseline are variable and one might argue that just doing what is asked can create plenty of success–assuming the right things are being asked! Unfortunately, business is tougher than ever. Leaders not only need instincts and skills to set the right goals and hire teams with the right stuff then motivate them the right way they need to understand generational influences, gender equality, labor compliance and technology to unprecedented degrees. The risks are higher than ever and the rewards harder to reap.
So what of setting out good goals and managing to measurement, isn’t that enough? Perhaps the simpler understanding in the marquee companies both present and past is that their culture inspired, perhaps required, and rewarded those who would contribute above and beyond. Sure, every team has its stars and great teams generally have better players. Does that mean without a full roster of stars you should accept a level of modesty in your success aspirations? Or is it more likely that what distinguishes great leaders and managers is their ability to nurture performance aspirations, recognize inspirations and meaningfully reward the efforts to make going above and beyond a broad norm for all rather than the exceptional reality of the few?
Selling more, spending less, better utilizing technology, innovating processes, incorporating diversity in all its iterations and then making a show of it for all to find pride, inspiration and reward is hardly a new concept. Perhaps the breadth of that requirement for predictable and repeatable success today is!
It behooves all leaders bent on finding success to codify and reach deep into the culture to recognize and reward the above and beyond efforts, ideas and innovations and make them repeatable and expected in the company and in themselves. That means different things in different industries and different job levels but it is the same thing in all people to appreciate there is doing less, doing what is required or doing more. When doing more or better or faster is what people want to do at work, when reinforced with recognition and reward, goals may no longer be seen as stretches or hopes or wishful thinking. They become a glass ceiling that the company takes as a challenge to always bang away at and regularly blast through.
Consider how your company recognizes and rewards those who go above and beyond. Are they inspired or encouraged to do so? Are the rewards meaningful? Is the recognition a source of pride and motivation? Is it the hope of the masses or the fiefdom of the few? To achieve success commensurate with the business challenges of today you might want to think of “above and beyond” as a requirement to set everyone shooting for the sky rather than being the provenance of a few scattered stars.