Getting Good Out Of the Way of Becoming Great

Written by: David McClaskey, President, Pal's Business Excellence Institute

In a recent Pal’s Business Excellence Institute (BEI) “Achieving World-Class Results” class, one of the class participants, I will call him Sam (not his real name), described what he got out most of the class. What he said struck me. It touched on one of those fundamental truths that we all know. A truth that is in the back of our mind but that we should bring to the forefront. What Sam said is this: the class caused a paradigm shift in the way he was thinking. It had enabled him to see that his mindset of knowing that his company was a “good” performing company was one of the biggest impediments stopping it from becoming a “great” company.

We have all heard the saying, “good is the enemy of great.” We have heard it so many times that we have forgotten to listen to its truth. We have accepted it as just another good saying. Thus, we tend to just let it blow by us, with little bearing and causing little to no effect on our way of thinking or acting. Thom Crosby, CEO of Pal’s Sudden Service, once described good as being the best of the mediocre companies. What I would like to accomplish in this blog post is to bring this profound truth back to the forefront of your mind, so it can be active in creating an impact on you and your company or organization.

“Good is the enemy of great.” Do you believe this? Most leaders will say yes.  Is the way you are leading your organization acting out this truth? If your answer is no, you have settled for “good”. This is an easy trap to fall into.  Sam explained that he and most people familiar with his company talked about how “good” his company operated. He believed his own PR. The constant talk about how good their company was had distracted him and his leadership team from producing a really great company. He had settled for “good.” The fact is most people will tell you good things to your face and say the unfavorable things behind your back (or even worse, on social media).

The remedy is to see the truth.  See what is possible. It reveals “good” for just what it is.  In this case, seeing what is possible happened, as it often does in our class, during the included Pal’s Sudden Service store tour.  This participant saw the level at which Pal’s Sudden Service was operating at and it reminded him of what great operations look like. It illustrated to Sam how great his company could be if he would just stop “settling for good.” He had been reminded of the achievable levels of operational excellence, levels he knew his company could obtain with the right leadership mindset, and was inspired to relentlessly pursue this excellence. Sam went away with the absolute motivation to not “settle” again. He also came away from the class enabled with a number of principles and practices that motivated and will enabled him to raise his good company to an extraordinary level one step at a time. Through Pal’s BEI class, Sam attained a new standard of excellence for his company and a way to get there, and you can too.

Key practices getting “good” out of the way of “great:”

  1. Find a way to see where the excellent benchmarks can be set: Seek out experiences where you and your leadership team can see really great operations and discuss what is possible.
  2. Never let “good” be your standard: Never be satisfied with the level at which you are at. Always remember that no matter how good your business is, there is always a way to be better at the most important aspects of your business.
  3. Be enabled: Learn simple, practical principles and practices that will enable you to get from “good” to “great.”
  4. One thing at a time: Don’t get overwhelmed. Find one thing to improve in your business or organization that is important, incorporate improvements into your processes and operations, and stick with it until those improvements become the new standard. Then go on to the next thing. A key failure mode for many change efforts is trying to improve too many things at once. Sustained change requires months of persistent pursuit.
  5. Relentless pursuit: Keep your standards high for the important things to your business and relentlessly pursue getting better and better in those areas. Never give up. Learn from your failures and successes and just keep going.

Not letting “good” get in the way “great” when it comes to those things that are most important to you is a general life lesson. And it is one of the key differences in how leaders of sustainably extraordinary organizations think compared to how leaders of ordinary organizations think. It is what we know at Pal’s and is key to what we teach. We affirm that any organization or company, no matter how big or small, can become a great one. As part of Pal’s BEI consulting and classes, we help leaders renew their commitment to being the best they and their organization can be, instead of being only “good,” or “just settling.” And once inspired, these leaders can use the many concrete principles and practices they learn at Pal’s BEI to create the higher level that they now want to obtain. It is such a pleasure when we get to be part of that journey. If you have been in our class, thank you. If you have not already let your entire leadership team experience excellence, come back with your team.  For leaders who have not been here, come join us. (www.palsbei.com)