Living the Dream

Perspective from the field

What does “great” really look like? March 4, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — jenward @ 8:54 am
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I was at a management meeting today and got into an interesting discussion.  How good is good enough?

Let’s imagine a patient who lives with daily pain for a year.  They go see a doctor, and the doctor says “I know what’s wrong, and if you take this pill, you will feel dramatically better.”  The patient takes their pill every day and they feel much better, very quickly.

If you ask that patient how they are doing, they will then probably tell you “I feel great!”  But do they?  Their threshold for discomfort has been reset.  Their expectation when they wake up each day is to be in pain.  The medicine has greatly reduced that pain, and that means that their expectations are being exceeded. They are happy, they are pleased.  However, how good COULD they be?  Are they feeling completely “normal”, in line with what is expected for their age group?   After so much time feeling pain, can they even possibly remember what “good” looks like?

Now take this analogy to the sales arena.  Do all of our reps and managers know what “good” looks like?  Think about a rep who has been struggling with performance over time.  The manager has been giving them strong and direct coaching, but hasn’t seen any response.  At a certain point,  the rep certainly starts to improve.  The DM tells them “You are doing great!”  The rep feels great too – and keeps doing what they are doing because they think they are now a “great” rep.    However, while that rep has shown marked improvement over the sub standard level they were performing at previously, they are still not fully meeting expectations.

In both of these instances, a calibration needs to happen.  The doctor has to carefully and thoroughly question their patient to recognize if that patient is living pain free.  He knows what “great” really looks like for the larger population.  The Representative and the Manager need to be fully realistic and honest about what “Good” and indeed, what “Great” looks like.  Is the performance great compared to the prior performance, or is it truly great?

Calibration is one of the keys to ensuring performance excellence.  As professionals, we need to constantly seek out opportunities to recalibrate our own view of what excellence looks like.  No matter how good your performance, you should look to those around you for examples of excellence which will help you to better enhance your own performance.    As managers, we need to look for opportunities to ride with the highest performers – and the average performers – in other groups outside of our own staff.

Top performers are those that constantly strive to identify new levels of performance.  They don’t compare themselves to their peers – they are those that compare themselves to what could be.