Continually Setting High Standards or “The Fourth Element” to Success
In my book, Taking Your Team To The Top – How to build and manage great teams like the pros, I talk about the fourth element of the “F.U.D.E.S.” catalyst to building top level teams; EXCELLENCE.
“The top teams in any industry understand this idea. They put forth a little more effort, spend a little more time, and always do more than is necessary. This starts way back with selecting the right types of people, those who understand that the difference between 100 percent and 110 percent isn’t just 10 percent.”
This isn’t some profound concept that suddenly came to me in the wee hours of the morning while writing the book. In Leadership Lessons Of The NAVY SEALS, Jeff & Jon Cannon also emphasize the importance of continually setting high standards. This level of performance must become a SEAL Team member’s accepted norm, not the unusual or out of the ordinary achievement. The best teams in the National Football League understand this as well. How many times have you seen Tom Brady, or Aaron Rodgers, or Peyton Manning come off a double digit win, only to focus on the things they could have done better and need to improve on?
The flip side of that coin is the organization that celebrates like they won a divisional playoff game in Week 5 of the regular season. These teams don’t “expect to win” but rather see victory as a unique reward for “doing their job.” They talk about how “everyone pulled together”, how they “wouldn’t be denied”, and how they’ve “come so far” after the various adversities that they’ve overcome to reach this point. The NFL General Manager stands victorious in the locker room to hand out game balls to the head coach and perhaps a running back that gained 101 yards.
Then the following week they get shellacked by 28 points in a 35-7 rout.
As the Cannon’s express in their book;
“Setting a high standard is not about accomplishing a superior objective and then backing off. A large number of workers can occasionally produce fantastic results, with large dry spells in between. A large portion of the population can walk the distance of a marathon, and then not walk again for a long time. A lot of sailors and soldiers can occasionally hit a bull’s eye, firing lots of stray bullets in between. When your team occasionally does produce a fantastic result, congratulations!”
“The down side, or course, is that they perceive it as an unusual achievement, on that cannot be accomplished every day. You reinforce that perception every time you thank them for doing something exceptional. ‘Thanks for getting the project in on time, guys. That was really unusual’.”
To become a NAVY SEAL you first have to graduate from BUD/S. You must run far and fast through sand, swim for miles, become an expert in an assortment of weapons and combat equipment, dive in the most hostile conditions, and conduct “intense team-based operations.”
BUD/S graduates then must master parachute jump school and advanced SEAL training before even being placed on a TEAM. The list of non-negotiable requirements doesn’t stop there; routine physical fitness tests, qualification tests, contingency simulations.
As Leadership Lessons puts it, “you need to do a lot more than just hire competent folks and then sit back while they automatically excel.”
The NFL may have it a bit backwards when filling the rosters of their 32 member clubs. Top candidates are primped and preened prior to ever stepping foot in an organization’s headquarters. The media clamors for “one on one” interview opportunities, 30 second sound bites, and extended marketing contracts before making a single tackle, catching a single pass, or running a single yard at the next level. The “best of the best” are lavished in New York leading up to the annual NFL Draft, then handed their jersey & cap for a quick “selfie photo op with the Commish.” Their subsequent contracts are guaranteed (to one extent or another) with only a handful of OTA and mini-camp practices under their belts.
Why? Because they’re special, they’re NFL players, they’re part of an elite group of college athletes that outlasted the rest in a growing “reality TV” process that feeds the BEAST annually with incoming talent.
The League loves this stuff, but then it’s up to the individual clubs to take it from there. Those TEAMS that continually excel in the National Football League accept what is painted as elite or superior performance coming out of college as merely a routine standard. All-Conference, All-American, Heisman, Outland, Butkus, or Lombardi doesn’t matter.
Look around the NFL and identify those teams that have turned the superior into their standard, they’re usually playing in the postseason. Conversely pick out those that can’t contain themselves after ending a 3 game losing skid.
The NAVY SEALS understand this, “When your team accepts what used to be superior as a routine standard, then you’re on your way. Although your team members will regard their standards as ordinary, they’ll know that they are far above the accepted standards of other teams.”
As I stated in Taking Your Team To The Top, NFL club leadership (GM’s, Head Coaches, Owners) should covet these types of team members. Does yours? Or has GOOD become good enough?