Like Mick, ‘I can’t get no satisfaction’ … because I’m focused on improvement
How is your year so far? If not so good, I’m confident you’re already working hard to make the rest of the year better. If good, then congratulations! However, don’t get too comfortable, because this blog’s for you.
I’m a recovering perfectionist. Even when things are great, I tend to look for what’s not going so well. When I see a survey or report, I don’t dwell on the 90+% positive response color-coded green, I focus immediately on the couple of percent that are coded red. I’m not being negative or taking a “glass half empty” approach. In fact, I’m being optimistic. I consider myself a “fixer” and think things can always be better.
When things are going well, I think it’s the optimal time to look for what could be fixed or improved upon for even better performance. One reason is the threat of complacency. One savvy CEO I know, who runs a very successful company, recently warned his employees that the greatest threat to the company’s success is “hubris” (an overestimation of one’s own competence, accomplishments, or capabilities). For any organization, just because things are going well now doesn’t mean they will automatically go well in the future. Market conditions can change and your competition is always striving to catch up.
In addition, just because you’re doing well overall doesn’t mean all the areas of your organization are doing well. Since First Business is a public company, I can’t say anything about how we’ll do for the rest of the year (the SEC frowns upon that sort of thing, and I don’t think I’d look good in an orange jumpsuit), but our company has been fortunate to have had a record earnings year last year and a record first half of 2013. But since we have eight different operating entities, inevitably not all eight will ever be hitting on all cylinders at the same time. And even in a strong-performing entity, there is the need to look deeper and make sure all the players are pulling their weight.
Also, in some ways it’s easier to make changes when things are good. First, it’s a time when you can afford to make investments that may cost you now but will pay off in the future — things like implementing new technologies and training for your people. You are also in a better position to change out people if necessary. Often when the going is tough, it’s hard to pull the trigger because it takes time for new staff to get up to speed. The new salesperson you hire will take “x” months to meet with clients and prospects and build the necessary relationships to produce, or the new operations person will take “x” months to learn the systems and procedures well enough to be proficient, let alone be more productive. In tough times, you hesitate in making changes that require one step backwards in order to take two steps forward, and you end up sticking it out with what you’ve got.
So if things are going good, I’m not saying you shouldn’t stop and celebrate your success — by all means do! But now may be the best time to be thinking about how to get even better.