In yesterday’s posting, I reported on a consultant who certainly knew how to drop names. You could read the observations negatively, but in fact, I truly respect the individual for his ability to bridge the gap between the public and private sectors and his courage to reach outside of the “safe zone” most of us operate within. He is successful because he has stretched the comfort zones (and created some room for those afraid of the other side to benefit by using his services.)
Conversely, last night at dinner with the company’s most effective salesperson as we prepare for the Ontario General Contractors’ Association symposium, we discussed the seemingly self-imposed limitations of others within our organization. Are some people setting their personal-best bar too low and is there, we asked, a way we could increase the success threshold?
I wish I had a convincing and effective answer. I know, for certain, that it is virtually impossible to motivate others to achieve more unless you can reach inside their heads and discover what is really important to them. Some really great leaders have this ability all of the time and most of us have it on occasion when we need to reach far beyond our own limits (or we have some special cause or passion which captures the hearts of others.) However, as an employer (or for that matter, in any context) it is hard to get that deep into the head of anyone else. I mean, how can you really ask the probing questions about childhood, previous life experiences, existing (private) friends and relatives and so on? We have the right to privacy and employees, especially, certainly don’t need to share details of their non-work private life.
So we do our best, setting out rules, systems, creating examples and frameworks, occasionally resorting to the negative emotion of fear — like you will lose your job if you don’t shape up!
Sometimes I wonder if I fall into my own comfort zone, which prevents me from accomplishing much greater things. Certainly, I have a lifestyle and circumstance in many ways echoing my parents, especially my late father, with perhaps the most significant difference that I am taking much more care about my health than he did.