Many years ago, there was a television commercial that caught my eye. I vividly remember it to this day. The camera captured a college football team at halftime in the locker room. The coach was generally upset, getting on everyone, and pointing out all the mistakes from the first half. Eventually, one of the players raises his hand and, in a very questioning way, asks, “Coach, aren’t we winning by 21 points?” (Meaning, dude, back off, we’re killing these guys.) The coach looks at him and says, “There it is. As soon as you’re satisfied as a football player, we’re finished as a football team.”
I still get jazzed up when I think about it.
EVOLVE WITH THE TIMES
Sure, this was only a commercial, but the message is absolutely spot on. You can never allow yourself to become satisfied and stop improving as a player, coach, manager, leader, employee, or person. There is no permanently achievable level called satisfied, only levels of satisfaction each leading to another. Claiming to be satisfied is inviting stagnation. Stagnation leads to complacency, complacency leads to mediocrity and declining performance, and declining performance puts you and your company at risk.
Without question, the strongest service managers and leaders I’ve been around are continually improving themselves through networking; participating in industry interest groups; training; and, perhaps most importantly, reading books, articles, or anything causing them to think, learn, and grow. These people have an attitude of being better today than yesterday and better tomorrow than today — not just for themselves, but for those around them since a big part of their responsibility is improving their teams. Having a continual improvement mindset drives you to find better ways to do business, inspire others, and it will positively impact everyone around you.
So, what kind of self-improvement mindset do you have? Ask yourself these questions, either personally or professionally:
• How many books have you read over the past 12 months that have anything to do with self-improvement?
• How many self-improvement groups are you involved with? These could be networking, mix groups, coaching, training classes, or volunteering or exercise groups.
• How often do you use online forums to learn or share new ideas?
• Do you ever question your own level of knowledge or expertise and wonder how it’s affecting your performance?
• How much do you really care about improving?
If your answers indicate self-improvement hasn’t been a high priority for you, then assume you’re satisfied with your current performance.
Let’s look at how this might apply in your role. You’re leading a service team in pursuit of a goal to increase your service agreement base from $1.0M to $1.3M by the end of 2015. If you’ve achieved the goal, then you celebrate and set a more challenging goal for 2016. If you’re not achieving the goal you can either:
• Accept defeat;
• Make yourself feel better by saying the goal was unattainable;
• Blame your teammates;
• Blame your customers, economy, or other things beyond your control; or
• All the above.
While there may be some element of truth in each, none are acceptable.
Basically any reason for not achieving a goal can be overcome if you have the desire and passion for self-improvement. Why? As managers and leaders, our jobs are all about achieving goals and, if our team fails, we are accountable. If we are accountable, then we are also responsible for improving our management/leadership abilities through self-improvement. It’s that simple. Unfortunately, many service managers won’t ask for help in this area for two reasons: fear they will appear weak, or they don’t know how to start or who to ask.
Continual self-improvement starts with self-awareness or knowing yourself. Understanding your own personality traits, strengths, weaknesses, how they influence your actions and decisions, and how they may be limiting your progress is the most critical aspect of self-improvement. Very simply, if you don’t understand yourself, you will never find consistency managing or leading others.
The most effective way to begin is taking a personality assessment. There are many options available, some are free and some may cost a few bucks. Do your own research, but some assessments I’ve used are the Prevue, DiSC, Myers Briggs, Jung-Myers Briggs, NEO-PI-3, Profiles International PXT, and Strengths Finder. All of these are unique and do a great job identifying your core personality traits, explaining how they influence your thought process/behavior, explaining how you might interpret information, identifying what causes stress, and recognizing your natural strengths/weaknesses. Can you see how this might be helpful in your role as a service manager and leader?
Once you better understand yourself, and realize the value in this new understanding, ask, “What other areas could I improve upon to benefit myself, my family, my clients, my company, and my team?” There is an endless list of topics and resources available on the Internet, in addition to other sources, so there is no excuse for not doing something. As a start, the best service managers focus on:
• Leading, motivating, and inspiring;
• Goal setting;
• Time management;
• Delegating; and
• Talent management (recruiting, hiring, developing, and retaining employees).
Self-improvement is the one thing — above all else — you and only you have complete control over. It’s about taking control of your life, job, career, and future. Those who have a passion for continual improvement find answers to their problems, ongoing success, and grow their businesses. Those who are satisfied with their current levels of knowledge, expertise, and performance limit themselves, their future and the people they’re leading.
To wrap up, let’s revise the coach’s statement from the commercial and apply it to your job. “When you’re satisfied as a service manager, we’re finished as a service company. Now, you think about that.”
Publication date: 2/8/2016