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Below The Line

Published August 17, 2013

Excellence
Several years ago I was co-facilitating a meeting with our restaurant managers in Kansas City rolling out the new Performance Review form and bonus metrics plan. We were several hours into the meeting when I made a statement that I passionately believed but had never vocalized. I told everyone that if they were rated Above Expectations for the current year and performed at the same level making no improvements in performance the following year then they would be rated Meets Expectations.
You can imagine that this caught most everyone off guard, but only a few people were upset. You may guess that the ones who were the most anxious about this mindset shift were the low performers, and you would be right. From just a few people we heard how this wasn’t fair, we weren’t considering how hard they were working, this wasn’t the culture of the company, and on and on and on.
For far too long companies everywhere, big, mid-size, and small, have been settling for and setting a lower bar of excellence for their teams. Individuals, Teams, and entire Organizations have been allowed to live below the line of excellence and it is time to stop. It is crucial that as leaders we expect more from our teams every year, every month, and every week. This doesn’t mean we have unrealistic expectations but it means we do cast a big enough vision that our teams realize that we aren’t there yet and there is much more to do.
Top performers inherently know this. They never walk into a room thinking they are better than they are. In fact, they walk into the room and talk about all the things that they have to do to get better, and to help their team get better. Folks like this work in an organization that has super high standards and recognizes those folks who don’t settle for mediocre. They recognize leaders who develop their teams and make them better. They recognize a leader who celebrates successes, but realizes there are new challenges that must be accomplished in order to get closer to the desired goal.
Allowing mediocrity to slip in is almost never intentional. It happens in stages. A missed target here. A missed sales projection there. There isn’t as much of a sense of urgency as there once was. Be on the lookout for signs that your team isn’t as passionate as they once were, and then check your own pulse. Where are you on the continuum of excellence?
Keep raising the bar for your team. Make sure they know what outstanding looks like. Be the example. Invest in them, celebrate them, reward them. If that happens you and your entire organization will be well above the line of excellence.