When seeking to improve performance, results or overall satisfaction in themselves, their business or their employees , too many follow conventional wisdom and focus on fixing weaknesses. Find what’s wrong and try to correct it. Unfortunately, that “wisdom” leaves them struggling on the path to mediocrity. Three sources that I have been reading lately converge on methods to surpass the mediocre, whether it is within your small business or within the confies of a large, bureaucratic organization. Find your motivation, find your strength, then develop your niche.
Daniel Pink, The Science of Motivation
I have been following Daniel Pink (a lawyer and formerly Al Gore’s speechwriter) since I watched his TED video where he examines the science of motivation in relation to the business world. His recent book Drive talks about the three elements of true motivation: autonomy, mastery and purpose. Motivated people achieve results. Achieving results satisfies people. Satisfied people are more motivated to achieve results. Narrow your focus; align your business. Always ask yourself, “Was I better today than yesterday?” Autonomy is the freedom to make a decisions. Mastery is the opportunity to improve. Purpose is connecting to something larger than a paycheck. For more information, Alexis Martin Neely recently had a great post on the book with an interview with Pink that is more specific to a law career.
Gallup‘s Strengths Finder
The second idea is the Gallup Consulting Organization’s Strengths Finder concept. Gallup research has proven that the best way to develop employees — and net the greatest return on investment — is to identify the ways in which they most naturally think, feel, and behave, then build upon those talents to create strengths — the ability to provide consistent, near-perfect performance and employee engagement. Engagement, in turn, boosts retention, productivity, profitability, customer engagement, and safety.
In relation to your career or business: stop focusing on all of the things you can’t do well — no one person can do everything great and you are wasting time that could be spent on making your talents even better. Instead, spend your time developing your personal brand or finding ways to be distinctive and defining your niche. The reasons for having a niche are simple: It’s easier to become an expert in a niche. It’s easier to sell to other prospects within that niche as they can see what you have done before. As an expert in that niche you can charge a premium for your depth of knowledge.
Jim Collins, Good to Great
After re-reading the icon of business books, Good to Great, I was reminded of The Hedgehog Concept: the fox, always quickly bounding forward, attacking the hedgehog, is consistently met with the hedgehog’s simple defense of rolling into a ball of spikes. Collins compares “Great” companies to that little hedgehog – always focused on their consistent method of success. In other words, have a simple, clear concept of what your business is, and it should be something within the following three circles: 1) make money at; 2) be passionate about; 3) be the best in the world at.
This is no longer your father’s company; times are changing. Case studies of Google’s 20 percent time (employees work on projects of their choosing one full day each week) and Best Buy’s Results Only Work Environment (employees work whenever and however they choose—as long as they meet specific goals) demonstrate change. Whether you are a solo-firm, or working at a large firm with hundreds of employees, consider methods where you can: be unique, leverage strengths, and find ways to expand them consistently and within reason to increase your comparative advantage.
(photo Gare and Kitty’s)