People Power - December 2010
By Scott Humphrey
As I write this article, it is the Monday before Veterans’ Day, a day set aside to honor those who have sacrificed for our country by serving in the United States Armed Forces. I am reminded of the greatness of this country, a country built on the backs of innumerable patriots, businessmen, visionaries and everyday Americans whose longing for freedom and a better way of life was unquenchable. They were consumed with the belief that there was something better out there. They lived with a “never quit” mindset, always looking forward to a better day. They persevered through many trials and conflicts, and because of their sacrifice, America still stands as a beacon of light.
Though this all-consuming fire for a better way of life still lives on in pockets throughout our country, there is no doubt that the embers need to be stirred again. We are a country in need of the same mindset that brought us from fledgling nation to superpower. In this article, I want to glean lessons from the Americans who got us here, lessons that can move us beyond mediocrity to greatness once again.
No pain, no gain. We didn’t become a nation that others admire just by maintaining the status quo, and it didn’t just happen over time. Countless people suffered in some way to improve our country. Some gave the ultimate sacrifice, and to them we must remain eternally grateful.
During the last several years, as we have battled against this Great Recession, many have chosen to hunker down and ride it out, but this mentality doesn’t create greatness. At best, it creates survivors.
We seem to have forgotten the old adage, “No pain, no gain.” Surpassing your competition and becoming the premier retailer in your area will call for you to do some things that will stretch you. And as a leader it will require you to stretch your people. Continuing to do the same things you did before the recession, or even doing those same things with more vigor, will not get you out of the mire of the current predicament.
Don’t forget, there are still people succeeding today. Learn from them. They are actually growing their businesses. They have chosen to do what others are not willing to do. They have become more aggressive instead of pulling back. They have refused to let those who are caught in the present define their future. And yes, they have been willing to feel the pain temporarily because they are focused on the future gain it will produce.
As a leader, you must set the example for your team. Stretch yourself and your employees will follow.
It does matter who wins and who loses. I recently heard a report on the radio that I could not believe. The mindset is so foreign to my way of thinking that I had to share it with you.
The Sedalia Junior Outlaws football team earned a spot in the playoffs after going undefeated in their league. However, the team was banned from the playoff games because they were too good.
The team became a success by going 6-0 in the regular season in the West Central Youth Football League. They had one more wish. They wanted to go to the championship and compete for the right to be called the winner, the best. But right before the playoffs, they received an email from league officials, which stated that other teams in the league did not feel they could be competitive with the Outlaws, so officials asked the team not to participate.
In this situation, I don’t know what bothers me more—the mentality of punishing those who excel or the fact that another team will win the championship by not having to play the Outlaws and will be satisfied with that. What are we teaching our children?
Because of the press this situation is likely to receive, I am sure the Outlaws will be given numerous opportunities to prove their superiority, but what kind of message does this send? Have we fallen so far from seeking to do our best that we now punish those who do?
I am a coach. This year my girls’ soccer team won the regular season and the championship by beating the best. Not once did I tell them that winning was all that matters. But not once did I give the impression that winning didn’t matter either. We practice to perform at our highest level; otherwise, why practice? We strive to do our best so that one day we too can win. All athletes know that competing with the best improves their game.
When you allow your employees to settle, you do them no favors. In fact, you begin to ingrain in them the knowledge that you will be satisfied with mediocrity. If you desire for your team to perform at their highest level, let them know what winning means and consistently let them know who is attaining the mark.
Without a vision, the people perish. Strong performance is the result of strong leadership. I recently read that when George Washington went to battle with the British at Valley Forge, it is believed that only one out of every four Americans agreed with fighting for our independence from England. Still, Washington, driven by a desire to free the colonies from anything that constrained them, fought on. He had a vision that consumed him.
I am convinced that the primary reason our employees do not perform at a higher level is twofold. First, owners and managers have put up with mediocrity, and it has become the new normal. When a manager allows one employee to ride the coattails of others, they destroy the morale of the entire team. Ask yourself this question: in this economy, when everyone should be putting their best foot forward and presenting themselves as essential to the success of the organization, is an employee still performing at a sub-standard level capable of change?
Second, leadership has not cast a vision for employees to follow. Employees must know what is expected of them, and they must know whether they are meeting that expectation. It is imperative that you have ongoing conversations with your team to identify where improvement is needed and where others are meeting and exceeding the standard.
I grew up as the youngest of three sons. I am convinced that my life was shaped by the example of my parents, the constant striving to compete with older brothers, and the knowledge that there was something beyond “good enough.”
As you read this article, you are preparing for what many see as an uncertain 2011. You have a choice to make. You can hunker down and seek to simply survive or you can determine that 2011 will be a different year for you. I challenge you to stretch yourself, focus on winning, follow the example of other winners, like our veterans, and set high standards for achieving success in 2011. Begin now. Don’t wait for the New Year to set your focus on winning. If you lead, those that matter most, personally and professionally, will follow.
Here’s wishing you a blessed 2011!
Copyright 2010 Floor Focus