What makes an organization evolve from being Good to Incredible? Is it selecting the right paradigm like the Toyota Production System or Lean Enterprise? Do you have to assemble the best leadership team with years of practical experience? Does it take the CEO to fully back up a strong leader to “make it happen”?
All of these are right things but history is littered with stories about organizations who have done them all and more. These teams still can’t get past Good or, even worse, get stuck in the deceptive quagmire of Gooder. So, if it’s not the right mindset, the right team, and the right emphasis, why do some organizations make the successful leap into Incredible?
Incredible organizations only got that way because the teams believed and wanted them to.
Starting at West Point and over twenty years of practical leadership experience across nine industries, I have learned that I could make someone do what I want when I’m in the same room with them. However, what we all really want is for them to want to do what we want when we’re not together. My leadership experience has ranged from motivating grizzled Airborne Rangers to gently guiding my daughters and their friends at a tea party. There is no one leadership style which will work for all people. The smart leader understands that everyone will have their own requirements and motivations. The effective leader will be able to focus them for the organization’s evolution.
Gooder, Great, Incredible
All improvement projects are not the same: some only make us Gooder, others turn out Great, yet a rare few are simply Incredible. Let me explain an easy way to understand the relative differences between Gooder, Great, and Incredible.
Hold your hand level at your heart. That’s Good. Good represents the functional things that you’re doing. It is what your customer needs you to do. Good pays the bills but standards will change. You won’t be able to rest in Good forever. Plus, no one brags to their friends and family about just being Good.
Move your hand up to your chin. That’s Gooder. Gooder is just a little bit better than Good. It indicates some improvement but nothing to write home about. Too many managers chalk up any change to “making a difference” when they’re really just going through the motions. The Intimate Proximity leader should always be cautious about projects which are just trying to make the team Gooder. Either keep it Good where it is or shoot for more. Gooder is a waste of time and energy.
Move your hand up to the top of your head. That’s Great. Great is an exclamation point on all of the Good you’ve done. It’s more than what your customers expect now but it may just be what they expect next year. Great is practical and keeps the team positively occupied. You should even throw a party at the end of a successful Great project. However, most of us don’t throw off the covers in the morning to go work on Great projects.
Stretch your hand as far as you can, that’s Incredible. If what you think you could do is Credible, Incredible is even past that. Incredible is a stretch.
Incredible is farther than immediately achievable
You can’t completely see all of Incredible, but you know it’s there. You can’t get a hold on Incredible from where you are, but you can almost touch it. Incredible is achievable mentally, just not yet physically.
You need to get to at least one additional new plateau before you can fully grasp Incredible. Many of us get frustrated when a project comes to an end and the results are less than expected. Then, we might also get frustrated when we have to start a new project although we’ve just put a lot of energy into getting this far. Change your paradigm and consider that your last project’s move into Great had earned you the right to shoot for Incredible.
Recognize that were it not for your initial project and the complete support of the entire team, you never would have been able to begin to plan to get to Incredible. No one person in an organization takes the team to Incredible by themselves.
Imagination is good for the team
The Intimate Proximity leader challenges his or her team to dare to dream. It doesn’t cost you anything as imagination is the realm where everything is possible. Imagination states are enjoyable and you can share in that fantastic feeling with your team. All of the positive emotions can help you bond with your team.
Ask your team to imagine what their jobs would be like if they had everything they needed. Ask them about necessary physical resources, time, and cooperation from within the team and without. In the imagination realm, all of these things would be available. In the imagination realm, your team believes Incredible is achievable.
Now, as leader, determine what it would take to go fulfill all of those resources. Often, the real costs are negligible next to the probable outcomes of the Incredible project but no one had bothered to ask. Even as you go to secure the cooperation of other teams, let them share in the dream. Let them know how they’d be helping to reach Incredible (especially if they’ve been caught up in Gooder projects).
Since Incredible is significantly more difficult than Gooder, you and your team should feel a bit uncomfortable: this will take work. The sweat equity that you’re putting into the Incredible project and your team will certainly pay off for you all. When you deliver the necessary resources, your team will want to push towards Incredible because they already believed it was possible.
Since Gooder is changing for the sake of change and Incredible is the stuff of dreams, Incredible always beats Gooder. The Intimate Proximity leader’s greatest challenge and most rewarding payoff is getting the entire team to believe in Incredible and want to achieve it.