Business is a competition, and anyone who tells you anything different is lying—probably so they can beat you. In today's environment, kids are given participation awards just for showing up. That attitude is beginning to find itself in the workplace, as professionals are increasingly expecting advancement just for occupying a chair.
I Do a Good Job
As I talk to people from various organizations, one thing I hear a lot is "I do a good job." My immediate response is,
"I'm sure you do, but are you the best?"
Michael Jordan didn't become a legend at basketball just because he had a great jump shot. He changed a sport by inspiring an entire generation of kids. He wrote the book on sports endorsements and branding. Michael Jordan may not have physically been the best player in the entire NBA, but he most certainly made himself the most valuable. That value, in turn, made him the best.
Let's look at another example. Tom's Valet Service employs 10 valet drivers. For this example, we'll assume that:
- Two drivers have poor ratings (and are close to termination).
- Six drivers are rated good, and have had minimal complaints.
- One driver has an excellent rating.
- One driver is exceptional.
It's easy to see why the bottom two drivers are close to termination. Their ratings are poor, probably from customer complaints. The six drivers with good ratings represent most of working America. People who do a good job. It's the top 20 percent that require further examination. What are these drivers doing to earn an exceptional or better rating?
Understanding the Game
The top 20 percent of any workforce, team or organization all understand one thing.
The majority of NBA players an exceptional understanding of basketball, the top 20% are students of the sport. The bulk of people at the workplace do what's needed to keep their jobs, the top 20% dominate the office. Most Olympians are strong athletes and visit the gym, the gold medalists live there.
If you want to make more money in life and move the ball down the court closer to your dreams, you need to understand the game. Can you look at yourself and honestly say you're the strongest person on your team? Can you, through stats or end of year reviews, prove that you are one of the strongest employees in your organization?
If you can't answer yes to either one of these questions, I've just given you something to strive toward.
Coming in second place, anywhere, can set you back years—maybe even decades. Imagine that you have a huge desire to win the gold medal for swimming during the summer Olympics. Instead, you come in at a close second place. You have to wait four more years until you can compete again. In that time, your athletic ability could change, someone better and younger could come along, or you might not qualify. Yes, getting a silver medal is fantastic, and prestigious—but it isn't the gold.
If you are a senior level person at work, but you get passed over for a promotion, how long will it be until another opportunity comes along? If you were considered, why didn't you get the position? It could be years until another management position opens up.
How Are You Preparing?
What are you doing to get ready for that promotion? Imagine that you somehow know for a fact that your current manager is retiring two years from now. How would you prepare? You'd probably start by learning about what your manager does behind closed doors, how they spend their day, who their trusted partners in the office are. You might research their credentials and educational background. The smart move, would be to make your résumé read like theirs.
The race isn't won on the track, it's won during training. The fastest and swiftest individuals train hard and practice.
Whatever you do, train hard, work hard and practice. Be the best and don't apologize for chasing excellence.