I’m a big Jim Collins fan. For those of you who don’t know Jim’s work he is an exceptional researcher of business drivers paired with business results, and he has had a large impact on business thinking around the world. In his second book “Good to Great”, the one that launched him into the sphere of “one whom we should heed”, he postulated that “good is the enemy of great“.
The thought was that when we strive to be good enough we might miss just how great we might become. Imagine that … good isn’t good enough because the standard should be “we are great“! I’ve always bought into this school of thought intellectually, but it isn’t so easy to engage a thought when it is only an intellectual exercise.
Last week I experienced “good is the enemy of great” first hand.
Any of you who follow my posts know that I’ve been pursuing certification as a coach over the past year. The Hudson Institute of Coaching has a rigorous program, a part of which is to record a few coaching sessions with clients and submit them for review by master coaches. As a part of that submission, we complete a self-assessment where we state what we are working on to elevate our skills as coaches.
My “learning edges”, as we refer to them in the program, were technical in the world of coaching. They were about how to execute at a higher level. They were about honing the edge on a specific skill.
The feedback I received from the master coach, if I can paraphrase him, was something along the lines of “you are good enough at being a good coach. Can we move on from there and understand what it takes to be a great coach?” In essence, moving up one notch on the good scale won’t hold a candle to stepping off that scale and moving on to using the great scale. When we concentrate on being good enough, we don’t give ourselves an opportunity to be great.
No doubt that we have to move through good to get to great. The problem seems to be that sometimes we see good as the destination. When I heard feedback from a master in the field that I aspire to, it really made me think about the subtleties of what it would take to be a great coach. These were things like:
- How to prepare for a coaching session such that we show up with great thinking already in mind.
- How do we move beyond our IQ and employ our EQ to move ourselves and others.
- Do we manage our state of presence moment to moment instead of day-to-day so we can respond beyond the situation to the people engaged in it.
This was amazing feedback. It took me out of a comfortable mentality of “I think I’m good at this” to a new learning mentality of “how do I become a great coach.
How do we use this thought as leaders? At a company level, Jim Collins has many findings with respect to what companies do to transcend good to get to great. Leaders work both organizationally and one-on-one. Jim Collin covers organizations exceptionally well.
The question really is …. do we, as leaders, acknowledge the passage through good enough, but really focus our team members on what they can be truly great at.
If that team member is an accountant, acknowledge that the ledger balances, but work with them to invest their unique passion in uncovering trends in the key accounts that moves the business to the next level.
If they are they are an account executive, acknowledge that their client base produces more revenue than any other account executive in the company, but encourage them be driven by the fact that they know they can help their client transform its thinking about how it is solving a certain problem, cementing a long-term, trusting relationship.
In summary, do we ask our team what the greatest thing they can imagine accomplishing is? And then do we ask them to stretch a bit to imagine everything going exactly right and exceeding their wildest dream by just a little bit? What would that feel like? What would they need to do differently to make that image a reality?