By Dan Schneider, The Rawls Group
Good Enough. Is that one of the dominant beliefs in your organization? Urban legend has it that Debbie Fields, the founder of Mrs. Fields cookies, believes that “good enough, isn’t.” As you might expect, not everyone agrees with Debbie.
The “good enough” approach to life and work is born in a belief that some outcomes are so insignificant that they require only a limited amount of effort and energy. That belief sometimes leads to one or more behaviors that develop into characteristics that separate average from good performance, and good from great performance. Metrics measured by profitability, service levels, personal mastery, or whatever buzz word metric you choose to use begin to slip; and the “next level” of performance starts to be stated with words like “We’re better than the ones down the street.”
Repeated often enough, this behavior based belief becomes a habit; and habits, whether personal or organizational, are funny creatures: in the beginning, they are so weak they can’t be felt; and then they seem to become so strong they can’t be broken. Once that happens, exceptional performance and competitive edge become a dream; and you become like everyone else.
So, if you want to boost your business performance, separate yourself from the competition, and enrich your life in just about every way, how do you do it? Here are some steps that others have found useful in moving away from “good enough” to “exceptional experience.”
- Give people specific goals. Asking for performance that’s “a little better than last year’s” is a recipe for disappointment. People will set their own targets and define “a little better” in their map of the world rather than yours.
- Make your beliefs and values related to the workplace non-negotiable. Repeat them early and often in the employment relationship – the pre-screening interview is a good place to start, hold state of the company meetings, on a quarterly basis, and help your management and leadership team become better coaches.
- There’s a lot of emotional and psychological diversity in every organization. Use a variety of “languages” to share your thoughts. Some people will need to see the words; some will need to hear them; some will need to feel them; and some will need to know the reason behind them. Whatever the case, your communications need to be multi-lingual to have the most impact.
In short, you’ll have to market to your employees if you want them to do and value a higher level of performance. Part of that marketing effort means making sure that the added effort and energy have something (other than the job) of value for them. Align your pay and benefits to make sure you’re rewarding what you want to have happen.
- Define and develop a matrix or needs analysis that matches the behavioral administrative, technical, and interpersonal characteristics required to be successful in your organization. Hire, review, and promote accordingly.
- Invest in administrative, technical, and interpersonal skill development for your staff. While people may know what you want and why you want it, they may not know how to deliver. This helps them become consciously competent. As a rule of thumb, the average training and development budget comes in at 2% of payroll.
- Identify the informal leaders in your dealership and use their peer credibility as a communications tool to drive your guiding principles into the belief systems of the individuals who represent your dealership.
- When you find yourself thinking you’ve done enough, go back to step 1 and start all over. That’s about the only way you make sure that your interest in high performance is consistently believed as relevant and told in an inspirational way.
What you’ve got here are the Cliff’s notes version of building a culture. There are three other pieces involved in building cultures: symbols, key outcomes, and beliefs and behaviors. Those are outward signs instituted to give guidance. Now, decide whether or not the increase you’d like to have in business performance is worth the energy and effort it will take to get it. If it isn’t then you might want to just be happy with what you have now. If it is worth it, now you know what, how, and why you have to take certain steps to get it. It’s your choice.
Dan Schneider is a Partner/Director of The Rawls Group, a business succession planning firm, and a Board member of the International Succession Planning AssociationTM (ISPA®.) Dan specializes in dealing with the issues that must be resolved by multi-unit franchisee owners to implement succession strategies geared towards building business value. For additional information, visit www.rawlsgroup.com or call 407-578-4455.