Sunday, October 11, 2009

Want Success? Raise the Bar!

Earlier in the week, while attending a team meeting at work, something interesting happened. I was in a meeting where one of my leaders was reviewing one of the key results in my department. It was an area where we were really doing poorly a couple of months ago. We did a full analysis of the problem and put actions plans in place to solve. In the last 4 months, we had exceeded our targets on a consistent basis. I was happy to share the moment with the team. However, I sensed something in the room then that I had to caution. I sensed complacency. I sensed the “we have arrived” syndrome. I didn’t need anyone to tell me that that result will stay stagnant for a while unless I did something. I did

I congratulated the team on the milestone achieved. I told them of the need to feel good about the great result they had delivered. I was however quick to raise the bar for them! I changed the target! My mind immediately played over a story I have read some years back. There was a conversation between a man, and his son, who was practicing to become the best high jumper in the world. Let’s hear from the man.
One evening as I returned home from work, I found Lee practicing his jumping. I asked, “How high is the bar?”
He said, “Five feet, eight inches.”
“Why that height?”
He answered, “You must clear that height to qualify for the state track meet.”
“How are you doing?” I asked.
“I can clear it every time. I haven’t missed.”
My reply: “Let’s raise the bar and see how well you do then.”
He replied, “Then I might miss.”
I queried, “If you don’t raise the bar, how will you ever know your potential?”
So we started moving the bar up to five feet, ten inches; then to six feet; and so on, as he sought to improve. Lee became a better high jumper because he was not content with just clearing the minimum standard. He learned that even if it meant missing, he wanted to keep raising the bar to become the best high jumper he was capable of becoming”
Can I please ask you a question? Where is your bar set? Low enough so you can have a life filled with accomplishments? So high that you continually stretch yourself to climb higher? Somewhere in between: safe yet a little challenging? I believe strongly that each of us can do more. We can accomplish a great deal more than we are doing at the moment. We only need to create the desire, get organized, have balance in our lives, and go for it. We only need to set a new standard of achievement and raise the bar on ourselves and our goals.
Unless you try to do something beyond what you have already mastered, you will never grow
— Ralph Waldo Emerson
The term “raise the bar” came into common usage in the English language through the track and field sports of high jumping and pole vaulting, where athletes run and jump to propel themselves over obstacles. In each subsequent round of competition, the bar which establishes the vertical height of the obstacle is raised, making the event slightly more challenging. The athlete who displays the greatest stamina and skill successfully crosses the highest bar (or series of them), and wins the event.

As applied to life outside of the sporting world, raising the bar most often pertains to setting ever higher expectations of quality or quantity. These expectations may originate externally, imposed by others who are judging performance, or internally, as a method of self improvement. Ideally, the two work in tandem to bring about a new level of achievement unseen in the context of previous measures of excellence.

So what kind of focus and plan does it take to "run up" the score in your business? It takes a lot more than a dream, big goals, and hard work. Here's how I suggest you raise the bar:

1. Compete with yourself more than others. Ask yourself this question, "Am I better than I used to be?" Set goals that stretch you, all the time. Where I work, we call it stretch targets

2. Admire your strong competitors. They prevent you from getting complacent and motivate you and your team. Learn from them and then beat the pants off of them. 

3. Create a mindset focused on making the best out of opportunities and resources. This will make you less susceptible to downturns. 

4. Don't let yourself get complacent. It will infect your team. When a leader lets up a little, the people they manage let up a lot. I suggest you bite off more than you can chew when making goals for yourself. Stretching won't allow you to get complacent. 

5. Stay focused and keep attacking. We sometimes are inclined to coast when we are out in front. Don't play not to lose, play to win outright!

As you raise the bar on yourself and on your team, I can guarantee you something – you will reach new heights of success and achievements

So, what are you waiting for? Raise the Bar…..Today!