The Quality that Defines Star Performers
This was highlighted in a quote from Steve Nash, two-time MVP in the NBA, when asked to evaluate one of the top prospects for this year’s draft:
“It’ll be interesting to see if he has that kind of desire … when he goes to bed at night and he can’t wait to get up and work tomorrow, that’s when he’ll be a great player, an all-star, a starter, a bust or somewhere in between. Like LeBron James, Kevin Garnett, Kevin Durant – they’re super-driven athletes, and every day is centered around how they’re going to get better,” said Nash. “And that’s what separates guys who are great players in our league from guys who are just really good.”
The all-consuming drive to excel and improve is a quality shared by top-performing athletes from Michael Jordan to Tiger Woods and Wayne Gretzky. Jordan was notorious for his intensity during practice. Woods’ fitness routine changed the rules of the game for pro golfers. Gretzky, considered the greatest hockey player ever, was noted for a practice routine in which he would set up a row of pucks 20 feet to the right or left of the goal and practice shooting the puck to hit the far goalpost and then carom into the net.
But this drive to excel and improve isn’t limited to top athletes – it’s the common quality among star performers in every business.
Why good is the enemy of great
Businesses today share a sense of urgency to get things done. A New York Times article described how the principles of continuous improvement reduced one hospital’s waiting time for surgery by two-thirds. At Facebook, signs in the head office say, “Done is better than perfect.” Indeed, the slogan Perfect is the "enemy of the good” has become commonplace in organizations frustrated by delays in launching products that are already good enough to compete in the marketplace.
But Facebook and other winning organizations don’t stand pat after launching a new enhancement. Rather, they use the initial entry as the starting point for subsequent improvement and upgrades. Here’s what Jim Collins, author of the best-selling books Good to Great and Made to Last, had to say on this subject:
“Good is the enemy of great. And that is one of the key reasons why we have so little that becomes great. We don't have great schools, principally because we have good schools. We don't have great government, principally because we have good government. Few people attain great lives, in large part because it is just so easy to settle for a good life.”
Starting each day looking to get better
To maximize the potential of your business, you need the same constant-improvement mindset as the very best athletes. Just as LeBron James and Tiger Woods get up every morning looking to get better, so you need to start each day asking what one thing you can do to improve. Constant improvement has to become the focus of conversations with your team. One advisor holds monthly team meetings that incorporate a progress review in which everyone shares one thing they tried to do differently in the past 30 days. They then identify one thing they’re going to do differently in the next month to make them more efficient and effective.
Senior industry executives are right when they point to complacency as the biggest threat to successful advisors. However, they err by focusing on work ethic as the problem. The biggest obstacle to progress for advisors isn’t the number of hours they spend in the office. It’s their stand-pat mindsets.
Having a constant-improvement mindset is the most important quality that allows already-successful advisors to advance their businesses to the next level. Taking on that mindset may also help you recapture some of the enthusiasm that marked your early days in the business. The best advisors are motivated to spend more time in the office, not because they have to but because they’re excited about pursuing new opportunities ahead.
conducts programs to help advisors gain and retain clients and is an award winning faculty member in the MBA program at the University of Toronto. To see more of his written commentaries, go towww.danrichards.comor herefor his videos.