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Say it now: ‘They’re better than we are’

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Robert Lentz

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in Best-Practices Leadership,Leaders & Managers

In every industry, there are white whales that everyone is either chasing or just envious of. Their products, prices and market viability can’t quite be matched. Even their workplaces and employee policies are to be envied.

Most people work somewhere else.

We’ve all had jobs at companies that labored under the wink-wink delusion that they were the gold standard. But it’s in a business’ best interest that employees believe they’re #1, right?

Maybe not. A so-so company’s upper management can start to lose credibility when it emptily trumpets the brand’s superiority. 

If you know you’re second best, or trailing even farther behind, confess it. Embrace it. Come clean with the staff with three steps toward using your very deficiencies to propel the organization forward:

1. Call an “attack” meeting. Spread your competitors’ products out on the table beside your own. Identify exactly the areas where they have an edge. Ask: How does our inability to match this make us feel when we leave the office at night? Determine how exactly your rivals bested you, and assign a number measuring the difficulty of overtaking them in those areas.

2. Freely concede the impossible. It could be that it would take resources or expertise far beyond your capabilities to ever vanquish the competition. Acknowledge this to your staff—then go to work on the shortcomings you can seize upon. There’s likely something the public wants that perhaps you can give them even as your rivals overlook it, or consider it not worth their while.

3. Raise the bar. By adopting a culture of excellence instead of mere clock-punching, your people will feel successful even if they can never be the big dog on the block. Excellence means hiring those who aren’t afraid to nix poor work or overhaul systems when they need to. It means not a single process is ever considered unimportant, and innocent lies about how great everything is won't be tolerated.

Replace “Is this the most money we can make?” with “Is this the very best we can do in this moment?” The latter credo attracts mission-oriented, happy people to your organization, which in turn makes for a company they stay loyal to even when fame and glory remain out of reach.

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