The best views come after the toughest climbs. Anyone who has spent much time outdoors appreciates the truth of that adage. But when it comes to our work lives, we expect things to be easy—for the rough spots to be smoothed out and the barriers removed from our assigned path. Unfortunately, that’s not the way things usually work.
The barriers persist and performers get frustrated, often to the point of not getting things done. Not so with top performers. One of the common perspectives we’ve observed in top performers across all types of roles is that they are resolute.
Top performers don’t let things stand in the way. Perhaps that’s a result of their having already decided on the few priorities (the critical outcomes) that really matter, and so they know those goals have to be met for them to be successful. Or perhaps being resolute in their pursuits is just something top performers all have in common. Whatever the reason, we’ve come to realize the importance of this trait in achieving top performance.
Of course, leaders in organizations take on the responsibility of eliminating or reducing barriers. One great way to do that is to observe how top performers get through or around the barriers and then study that approach to identify ways to eliminate the barriers. All performers will benefit from improvements that smooth the way to excellence.
Question to ponder:
- Does your organization appreciate and reward the resolute?
Robert Kennedy, paraphrasing George Bernard Shaw, said: “There are those that look at things the way they are, and ask why? I dream of things that never were, and ask why not?”
Top performers share Kennedy and Shaw’s perspective. They have mastered the art of seeking the possible rather than focusing on the easily attainable. That perspective is one of the key differences that sets top performers apart. Good performers set their sights on the visible horizon; top performers see farther and reach higher—and they usually achieve much loftier goals.
Asking why not? is a hallmark of top performers. This one simple question drives them to go after the big hairy audacious goal while also providing the impetus behind numerous small innovations that drive daily efficiency and a cycle of continuous improvement. This perspective shows up in practically everything top performers say and do: the words they use to express their goals, the way they describe their tasks, and, most importantly, the measures they use to define their success.
Why not change your horizon? Why not set goals and associated measures that stretch your thinking—that turn even the most mundane tasks or roles into personal challenges that toss the visible horizon aside and ask, as Shaw and Kennedy did, “Why not?”? In our work with top performers, we find that this mindset lies behind many of the outcomes that top performers produce.
Question to ponder:
- When was the last time you or your organization asked why not?
We live in an age of instant gratification. We see it, we want it, we get it. We complain when receiving an Amazon Prime order takes a whopping two days. And don’t even think about waiting over a minute for a new app to download!
We all know that salespeople are the epitome of the instant gratification culture. They focus on short-term sales results and are furious when anything gets in the way of the immediate sale. It’s all about making quota, right?
Well, maybe not.
We spend a lot of time analyzing how top salespeople excel in various contexts. Recently a very successful, highly compensated sales rep in a complex sales environment told us he wasn’t focusing on the current year. He had a new territory with new customers. That, combined with a complex sales cycle, meant the current year was pretty much a write-off for him. Instead, he was focusing on establishing the foundations that would pay off in the next year and then come to full fruition in the following year and beyond.
That patience, the ability to take a long-term view rather than a short-term view, is a hallmark of successful consultative salespeople as well as those in other roles.
Question to ponder:
- Do your leaders encourage taking a purposeful long-term view, or do they overemphasize immediate gratification?