Simon Hartley, Founder of Be World Class
You might imagine that World Class leaders have less frustrations than the rest of us. It is tempting to think that World Class leaders have more of the answers, they’ve got the experience to deal with whatever comes their way and that they’re able to defuse situations before they arise. To a certain extent, there is some truth in that. However, World Class leaders have frustrations of their own. I suspect that, in reality, the frustrations don’t reduce but they do change.
Yesterday I worked with two business leaders that had very similar challenges. One is a Managing Director, the other a Managing Partner. Both of these leaders are incredibly high achievers with sky high standards. Both have a genuine desire to be the very best they can be as individuals, and also to lead their organisation to achieve the same. So, what’s their frustration?
Put simply, they can’t understand why the rest of the people in their business don’t think the same way they do. Why wouldn’t everyone else want to be the best they could be? Why would they not want the organisation to be the best it could be? Surely that’s how everyone thinks, isn’t it?
The honest answer to those questions is, “No, that’s not how most people think”.
I recently delivered a Keynote to a global corporation. The title of the session was “Be The Best YOU Can Be”. I asked an open question of the audience… “Why would you want to be the best you could be?” There has to be a very good reason why you’d push yourself. Being the very best you can be is hard. It requires a great deal of effort. It means that however good you are today, you’re striving to be better tomorrow. That takes focus and dedication. There is no option to sit on your laurels and relax after a good performance. It also means that you’ll keep pushing yourself to find your limits, knowing that it increases the likelihood that you’ll make mistakes and open yourself up to criticism. However, this is exactly what’s needed if you genuinely want to be the best you can be.
I am just finishing writing my next book, which is titled Could I Do That? The book helps to outline how people take on really tough challenges; those that seem daunting or ‘impossible’. I’ve written the book from my own personal perspective (having taken on some challenges myself) and also tapping into the experiences of other people that have taken on epic challenges of their own. I’ve come to realise that people who achieve “extra-ordinary” things, are not normal. In fact, as I delivered my summary at the end of the Be World Class Conferences last year (2012), I noted that world class people are “eccentric”. Eccentric, as a friend reminded me recently, means “off-centre”. To be exceptional, we can never be ordinary or normal. The truth is, exceptional people don’t think the way that most people think, and the certainly don’t do the things most people do. Our two business leaders are ‘extreme’ thinkers; arguably ‘world class’ thinkers.
Although many people will say that they want to be the best they can be, their actions often tell a different story. They may not push themselves consistently. They’ll tend to prefer their comfort zone to their discomfort zone. They will often do what’s required, rather than give the very best they can. If we think about it logically, only a handful of the population are actually willing to be the best they can. Hence why there are only a few ‘exceptional’ or ‘extra-ordinary’ people. If we plotted the population on a bell curve, our two business leaders would be in the tiny percentage on the right hand side of the curve. The team would be spread out across the rest of the curve. As with any population, the majority would congregate around the middle.
The frustration, for our two business leaders, comes when they see a gap between themselves and the rest of their team. How can they close that gap and bring the team closer to them? How can they help their teams to embrace the same ambitions they do, and hold the same standards that they have? Can they do it, or are they fighting a losing battle?
My job now is to help them, to help their team, develop World Class Thinking.