It’s a New World.
Every day we read reports of all the things that are wrong with the US. We will not waste your time listing them, you read them too. They are all over cable news, newspapers, and social media. You know what is missing? Solutions.
Great companies live their work lives to solve their client’s problems. Companies are people. People solve problems for people. People make businesses work. Experts make businesses great. In a perfect company (there is not one) every person at every level takes the personal responsibility to become an expert in their position. People become experts.
We see it every time. You as a person are either working towards success or working towards failure. So is the company, your company. It is a hard truth. If you are fortunate you are working for a company that has the resources and tenacity to overcome not only your mistakes, but also the larger, companywide strategic mistakes.
Most are not so fortunate.
A Harsh Reality
In speaking with companies, managers, CEOs and employees each day we see one trend that exists consistently in virtually every company. That is the trend towards mediocrity. Moving along at a steady state is not sustainable in business. It erodes the performance expectations at each position, and ultimately creates opportunities for competitors to take bites out of your future.
We have often posted on our social media channels (LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram, X/Twitter) about this very trend. Coasting cannot ever happen if your intention is to be a sustainable company that brings value to your clients and customers. There are no days off in the modern economy. It is a fact. Why? Because there are always competitors seeking to eat your pie. There are always people ready to be more committed than you.
So how does a company operate in today’s economy, or tomorrow’s economy or even yesterday’s economy continue to move forward? How does it prevent the urge to coast? How does a company prevent the decent into mediocrity?
Begin with these 2 Steps
A company sets standards of excellence.
You may have read this before. It sounds great. Frankly it also sounds like a classic, prosaic statement tossed about by consultants who have never achieved excellence nor operated in an environment that requires it.
Creating these standards is a team effort. Identify your best strategic minds. These may be people from any part of your organization, from Level 1 employees through to the C-Suite.
Pro Hint: Do not make that fatal mistake and include people in the Standards of Excellence Team who hold high level positions but lack any real strategic vision. They are easily identified. They are the smart, professional people who have learned how to cut corners, reduce their own workloads, and maintain an acceptable level of performance. This is not about acceptable, it’s about excellence. Bringing even one of these people into the discussion will only reduce the level of your standards.
Once your team is selected, the process is straight forward. At least at first. Your team discusses what your standards should be. Make them specific. “We need to be the best.” is not a “standard.” “Our headsets need to be the benchmark for noise cancellation at a price point that is attainable for 20-year-olds.” That is a standard.
Standards of excellence must be attainable and something your team must reach for. If you are a multiple product or services company, you will need standards of excellence for each product or each service.
Take the time needed to determine these standards and make them as discrete as you can make them. In the “headset” example given, each component or piece of software needs to meet its standard of excellence for the end product to achieve the standard of excellence for the whole.
Once you have agreed to the standard(s), publish them internally and move to the next most major step.
Create your In-house Experts.
Maybe, you already have a few. Maybe, you call your best people “experts.” Chances are they are not. More than likely, they are the best you have at your company. You need to raise their levels to “Expert.”
You do this in an extremely basic way. You tell them. You give them that responsibility. You give them the time and the goal to become “Expert.”
It is an interesting and engaging process for these people. Each will take their own path. Some will spend substantial amounts of time doing research. Some will want to strengthen their skills through functional, learning programs (think undergraduate or master’s level courses). Some will simply dig in.
The one thing you cannot know is where they need to build their skills level(s). Ask them about it—that formally sets a standard. Do not worry, these people all know their weaknesses, what they need to improve upon, what they need to do to get there. They have just never been given the opportunity or the mandate to do it, so they have not yet. Yet, they are naturally inclined to put in the time and effort to get there.
You will not even need to tell them when they are “Expert.” They will know. Treat them as the in-house Expert and then they will work like mad to maintain that personal standard. All the while they will be applying their expertise to meet the goals set by your company in point 1.
These budding experts will possess a motivation based upon knowledge and performance that will push the people around them and the company’s product or service to the established standard of excellence. Most will be humble and recognize their value to the performance of your company. Some will be near tyrants. Some will not make it.
But that is all part of pushing your company to establish and increase its competitive advantages.
One last point
None of this works without open and trusted communication. The most common management mistake we see is a failure to communicate consistently and properly with direct reports. Meet with them regularly formally or informally and let them teach you what they have learned. This keeps you both focused on the task.
Without the ability to work well with others in any business, critical parts of the business will begin to slide toward mediocrity. There is truth to the phrase, “You are only as good as your weakest link.”
Creating a culture that focuses on standards of excellence that your leaders have agreed upon, then creating in-house experts to lead each of the component teams is the way forward.
Important! Do not let things you are not expert in get in the way. You are competing in a world or a region where standards of excellence relative to competitors will always win out. You and your company cannot be that standard in everything you do. When you identify these parts to your product of service, these components where you are not expert, that is the time to outsource them to experts in those fields.
Thanks for hanging in ‘till the end. We are here to help your company achieve its rightful place as a standard of excellence in your industry. We do it one way that really matters in business. That is people.