Book Review: Challenge the Ordinary

ChallengetheordinaryIn my post, Upright and Breathing Are Not Key Qualities, I shared two reasons why some employers hold on and keep less than stellar performers on their payroll.

Reading ‘Why Evolutionary Companies Abandon Conventional Mindsets, Challenge the Ordinary, Question Long-Held Assumptions and Kill their Sacred Cows’ confirmed another suspicion I had as to why some employers let them stay.  It’s easier to settle than create the environment where exceptional thrives.

Being the kind of company exceptional people want to work at and then want to stay at, demands a commitment to exceptional and a whole lot of hard work.

There is a wealth of information and wisdom in Linda’s book. I have tabs stuck on numerous pages and lots of highlighted information. Here are notes from just four of those tabs:

1.  The Competitive Advantage quadrant outlines four ways companies operate.  Some companies have a clear vision of future but no clear plan on how to get there. Others rest on the laurels of previous or even current success. Because they are successful now, they continue to operate exactly as they have always done and therefore, quickly fall behind.  Some companies look for instant gratification. They have short-term goals which are successfully implemented, but those goals are without long-term focus. Companies in the competitive advantage quadrant have a proven track record of success, but unlike those resting in their laurels, they ask the question “Is this still working  Can this be done better, differently, more exceptionally?”  Companies in this quadrant also have clear direction and take the time time develop strong execution plans.

2.  A change-oriented, learning culture is needed to achieve exceptional.  This really ties back to willingness to ask “Is this still working? Can this be done better, differently, more exceptionally?”  Providing training and coaching support is critical and exceptional leaders ensure their teams get that support, but a learning culture goes beyond that.  A learning culture also includes the assumption that positive change, improvement, happens when there is a pro-active approach to problem-solving.  It means an understanding of and willingness to take on the inherent risk of trying a new approach and perhaps failing. It is through trial and error that better solutions are found.

3.  Setting, sticking to and living  high standards.  Exceptional companies expect so much more than good or great companies. They set their standards high and they don’t let them slide. Mediocre or ‘good-enough’ is not accepted.   The leaders of exceptional companies understand that they must be the living, breathing example of what they expect from the people on their team.  They do not demand or expect more from others than they themselves are willing to give.

4.  A one-size-fits-all approach to coaching doesn’t work.  Some of you will know how much I dislike the one-size-fits-all approach to anything, so I couldn’t help but love this statement.  Coaching, rewards, recognition .. they all need to be done with the individual in mind.  What works for one individual won’t work for another.  Too many companies have approaching coaching, training, rewards and recognition with a one-size-fits-all approach and then abandon them because they don’t work.

These are is only four quick take-aways from Linda Henman’s book. If I kept writing, and I could, you would all need to go and get another cup or two of coffee.  In short, if you want to be the kind of exceptional company that draws star performers to you and then keep them with you, create an environment where stars flourish and shine.  Stars ditch companies that tolerate mediocrity and companies filled with mediocrity don’t attract stars.

Now go, work hard and shine!

(Thank you to Career Press for the opportunity to read and review Linda Henman’s book, Challenge the Ordinary.)

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