The Flames of Discontent

The most successful people know that good enough really isn’t. In fact, they know that good enough is just a mirage and accepting anything as “good enough” merely puts you on the path to mediocrity. 

 

Tony Gwynn, the San Diego Padres Baseball great said that the minute you’re satisfied with where you’re at you’re not there anymore. In that same vein, the second you believe what you’ve done is good enough it isn’t. 

 

Authentic Leaders do not accept good enough from themselves or their people. They fan the flames of constructive discontent until the desire for improvement burns hotter than the comfort of the current.

 

Those leaders take a humble pride in their accomplishments but ensure their future success by realizing that they can do better. They drive towards continual continuous improvement and bring their people and organization along for the ride. 

 

Introspection is a key for constructively discontented leaders. They evaluate their performance and then reevaluate. You’ll never hear them explaining that the reason they do something is simply because they always have. They know exactly why they do what they do and they know that one day they will do it differently…. and better. 

 

Leaders who long for improvement learn to become comfortable with being uncomfortable. They realize that if they aren’t trying something new from time to time then they simply aren’t trying at all. They accept the risk of failure as the price for continual success and are not afraid to take a path that others didn’t even see. 

 

They are careful not to “read their own press.” They accept the recognition that comes with success but have pretty short memories and they use their past success only to guide themselves even higher. 

 

The most Authentic Leaders use their own success to help their people achieve uncommon results. Sometimes they push their people towards success, sometimes they pull them and oftentimes they come along side of them to bring them on a common journey. 

 

They fall at times but that only slows their climb, it does not stop them. 

 

The most successful leaders, and the most successful people, know that continued success lies in finding contentment in constructive discontent. They are never fully satisfied but that in its own way is uniquely satisfying to highly successful people. 


If you’re satisfied with where you’re at or with what you’ve accomplished then get yourself unsatisfied as soon as possible anyway you can. Learn to be comfortable with being uncomfortable and your success will know no limits.

Improvement Requires Change

I am frequently surprised by people who want something “better” in their life. I guess that’s not really the part that surprises me, after all, who wouldn’t want “better”. The part that surprises me is that they want something better but they are not willing to accept any amount of change in their life to get it.

 

Any improvement, even a little one, requires that something must change. 

 

Just because you may not enjoy change (you’re most certainly not alone there) does not mean there will be no changes in your life. Change happens whether we want it to or not. 

 

Once you accept the fact that change is one of life’s certainties then you have the choice of whether those changes will drive you or you will drive them. That means the real question is will the changes in your life happen to you or because of you.

 

If you want to drive the change in your life then you must decide what changes you want. You must be very specific about what you want, “better” isn’t nearly specific enough to make it happen. Knowing exactly what you want to be better is a key to having it. You’ll also find that being able to effectively communicate, to yourself and others, exactly why you want the improvement is a big help too.

 

When you know what you want then set your goals and make a plan on exactly how you’ll make the change come about. This is the part many people miss, they want to see a change but they have no plan to make it happen. You need a plan! 

 

Now here’s the thing about your plan… it’s very unlikely to work, at least exactly as you had drawn it up. Expect disruptions in your plan, your path to successful change with be littered with obstacles and nay-saying people. Push on!

 

While you may find your plan wasn’t perfect it’s likely your planning process was sufficient enough to allow you to get right back on course when someone or something pushes you off. 

 

Be patient but be sure you’re not just procrastinating. The very best time to begin your journey to successful change is the moment you’ve identified the change you desire. “Later,” “tomorrow,” and “someday” are just words that slow you down, or stop you all together. The word you need is “now” as in right now, immediately, today. 

 

Be sure to surround yourself with supportive people. Change isn’t easy but like everything else, it’s easier when we get some morale support along the way. Never allow anyone to tell you that you can’t succeed and for heavens sake, never say that self-defeating horrible thing to yourself. 

 

You are going to experience change in your life; for some people that’s pretty bad news, for others it’s pretty good news. I guess it just depends on if your sitting behind the steering wheel of the change bus or if you’re just along for the ride.


So…where are you sitting today?

The Need for Feedback

Some people want feedback on their performance and some people don’t. But if you’re a leader you need to understand this basic fact: ALL people NEED feedback. At least if their performance is going to improve in any significant way.

 

As a leader it is vital that you provide that feedback if you want your people to grow. By the way, if you don’t want you people to grow then stop calling yourself a leader. Just sayin’.

 

This feedback must be fairly consistent and very specific. It can be “scheduled” like during an annual review but it can also be spontaneous, occurring in the moment that you think feedback would be helpful. I should also point out here that if you are providing feedback only during those scheduled annual reviews you’re likely not providing your people with nearly enough feedback to be truly helpful. 

 

Let’s talk about specific feedback. “You need to improve” is NOT feedback, that’s criticism. Feedback involves much more detail. Be as specific as possible about where and how the improvement must occur. Let your people know how you will determine if the improvement has happened. Provide a timeline on when the improvement needs to happen and set a specific date and time to provide updated feedback to confirm that you’ve seen the required change. 

 

Do not ever tell someone they need to improve in a particular area by the end of the month and then leave them wondering if you think their improvement has been sufficient. You need to follow up with additional feedback.

 

I wonder sometimes if the reason so many “leaders” are poor at providing feedback is that they feel giving feedback could lead to confrontation. If you’re a leader who feels that way it could be because you see feedback as something you only provide when improvement or corrective action is required. However, the best leaders provide feedback in all circumstances, bad and good! 

 

It seems most every leader understands the some sort of feedback is required when improvement is needed. What many forget is the it’s also great to provide feedback when things are going well. When you give feedback for a job well done you reinforce the successful actions of your entire team, even if the feedback was provided to a single individual. Feedback for successful actions also needs to be specific, “nice job” barely qualifies as a compliment much less feedback. Tell the person WHY it was a nice job, share with them specifically where they went right and encourage them to continue the effort.

 

A couple of key points here; obviously feedback given to promote corrective action or improvement is best given in private, between you and the person you’re trying to help. Feedback for positive reinforcement can and probably should be given publicly to display a model of successful effort. 

 

Now, back to where we started, some people want your feedback and some people will “resist” your feedback so don’t attempt to force your people to drink from the well of feedback rather inspire them to have a mighty thirst for it. 

 

You inspire them to thirst for feedback by showing them you truly care. By showing them that you have THEIR best interests in mind. 

 

When your people know the feedback is intended FOR them and not directed AT them they will likely become much more receptive. 


One last thing for those of you on the receiving side of feedback. I’ve never in my life received negative feedback. The feedback I received may well have been intended to be negative, I simply refused to receive it that way. That’s a choice and it’s one I would encourage you to make as well.

Small Changes, Big Difference

You cannot improve one thing by 1000% but you can improve 1000 little things by 1%.” — Jan Carlzon

Jan Carlzon was the CEO of the SAS Group (Scandinavian Airlines) from 1981 – 1994 and turned around the airline from one of the industry’s worst performers to one of its best. In doing so he revolutionized the airline industry through an unrelenting focus on customer service quality.

The turn around was engineered through Carlzon’s development of The Rule of 1 Percent. Basically that “rule” says that even a series of very small changes can add up to a very, very big difference.

He studied his business and made the changes seem easy to make, he didn’t ask anyone to make a major change, he just asked a whole lot of people to make small, much easier changes.

What are the small changes you could implement in your organization? You may have looked at those changes in the past and thought that they didn’t amount to enough to bother with. Think again and consider the impact of all of your co-workers making similar small changes. 

Here’s the real beauty of The Rule of 1 Percent – The higher you’re already performing the more impact a 1 percent improvement will have. If you’re functioning at 50% then an improvement to 51%, while good might not be that significant. Now if you’re functioning at 90% then your 1% improvement gets you to to 91% and that’s huge! 

Never believe for a moment that your contribution towards improvement, no matter how small you think it might be, doesn’t matter. It matters because you matter. Most companies run leaner today than ever before, there are few if any people left in organizations who don’t need to be constantly seeking improvement.

The Rule of 1 Percent is applicable not only to business, it actually can apply to any area of your life where you want to improve. Too many people fail in their attempts to improve because they try to go from zero to one hundred without ever passing 50, or 10, or even 1.

I’ve never met anyone who couldn’t make a 1 percent improvement in many areas of their lives, they just have to realize how much of a difference 1 percent can make, especially when the 1 percent comes in many areas.

Don’t overburden yourself trying to change your world all at once. Just improve yourself a little bit and you’ll have improved your world as well. 

 

How to Build a Better World

Your task is to build a better world,’ God said. I answered, ‘How?… this world is such a large, vast place, and there’s nothing I can do.’ But God said, in all His wisdom, ‘just build a better you.’ – Author Unknown

Every person I know seems to want a better world. Pretty much everybody you see on TV talk shows says they want a better world. All the politicians you hear and see are talking about how they have a plan to build a better world. 

All the plans seem to have one thing in common… Somebody else has to change or somebody else has to do better. It seems so daunting a task that few people actually attempt to make the world better. 

Pretty much everybody you see or hear talking about a better world forgets the easiest place to start… with themselves. It is just like the poem says, “build a better you.” 

Befriend people who aren’t like you. Don’t judge them, just try to understand them. Listen, really, really listen to someone who has a point of view very different than your own. Put yourself in their shoes and look at their point of view as if you were going to help them convince someone with your point of view… that your point of view is wrong. 

It’s very difficult to learn new things when we invest our time only with people who think like us, act like us, and do the things we do. Expand your horizons by expanding your sphere of influence, have a conversation with someone you normally wouldn’t at least once a week. 

Learn a foreign language and while you’re at it learn about the country and people who speak it natively. Don’t criticize someone else’s thinking without first understanding the origin of their thoughts. You may discover that the only reason you don’t like someone is because you don’t know them well enough.

Don’t wait for someone to ask for help, don’t offer to help someone who you think needs it… just help whenever and wherever you see help is needed. Don’t aspire to a position or title that people will follow, instead inspire them to follow the PERSON that YOU are. 

Never, never, never try to be someone that you’re not. Don’t try to imitate someone else, simply be the best you, the you that you have always been meant to be.

Invest time and energy in building a better you every single day and imagine just how much better the world would be if every other person followed your lead. 

If you really want to build a better world… then begin by building a better you!