Bill Wittenmyer, ELEAD1ONE Partner, was recently featured as a guest blogger on the AutoSuccess Blog.  You can find the original post on AutoSuccess Here

The Great Big Toys “R” Us Christmas Wish Book

As a child, my favorite time of year was Christmas — actually, it still is. As an adult, I look forward to the family gatherings, the comfort of tradition and the true meaning of this holiday.

As a child, however, it was all about the candy, fun and the Toys “R” Us Christmas Wish Book! I would pour over that book until the pages were worn out, wishing and hoping and dreaming of opening all of the wonderful things I wanted Christmas morning. My parents were frugal throughout the year, and we were lucky for that, because they always went way overboard and gave us very special Christmases.

I am reminded of those childlike expectations and dreams by watching my kids experience the same thing. One of the greatest gifts that come from parenthood is viewing things through your children’s eyes. Not too long ago when my youngest was in those early years and still had a wide-open mind, I made a mental note that he had no limit on his expectations. He had not yet become contaminated by the restrictions of age and experience. He was not greedy; he just knew that anything was possible, and his desires were not just things he hoped for — they were expectations.

Things change as we get older, of course. We are conditioned to expect less and the disappointments come more frequently. Our dreams are often easily curtailed. We effortlessly create excuses as to why our expectations are not higher and design seemingly legitimate reasons as to why we can’t achieve our dreams. Woe is us.

These same attitudes have the tendency leak over into your professional life if you let them — and most people do. You can become conditioned to accept “good” and not expect “great.” You accept a decent performance versus an outstanding one. We are challenged every day to accomplish various tasks and achieve certain goals. Too often, we create excuses as to why they are not done — or worse, we accept minimum-effort job performance and results. Occasionally, we even view high expectations or demands as a bad thing or as an ineffective management style. I sometimes hear, “You are too hard on your people,” or “They are doing a good job — don’t be negative. Allow them to celebrate.” Basically, average is OK.

Managers, there are always obstacles that try to keep you from raising the bar. It’s almost as if success and greatness are battling mediocrity and average. Average knows when you are about to surpass it. Averagely prepares to defeat you. It throws obstacles in your way in the form of excuses and challenges, and then tempts you with the satisfaction of achieving an average number or goal. It relishes in you celebrating the minimal performance and gives you all the reasons in the world to justify when you don’t achieve goals. If you don’t listen, average will work on your team and those around you until it gets a sympathetic ear. It solicits others to work on its behalf — always trying to gather more momentum and fans so that success and greatness become the minority, a myth or, even worse, a negative result. Success and greatness only win with the defeat of average and mediocrity. A favorite quote from my good friend Jim Ziegler sums this up: “Average is where sucks begins.”

To be great, you have to ignore the naysayers and those who believe the propaganda of average. Average is easy, and greatness is a challenge rarely achieved. You have to set higher expectations and provide the support and belief necessary to achieve your goals. Overcome those who push back and give you unreasonable excuses as to why the goals are unreachable. Average’s favorite phrase is “make sure to set reasonable expectations.” The key to that phrase is that average has already provided you with a reason not to be great. It’s one thing to expect greatness; it’s another to prepare for it. Greatness is rarely achieved without preparation.

Here are some challenges to help defeat average and prepare you and your team for greatness:

1. Prepare, constantly prepare and over prepare.
2. Know the numbers. Track everything daily, weekly, monthly.
3. Set goals early and often and make sure to review them constantly and publically, and keep them consistent for each period.
4. Make the ultimate goal public to your organization. Enlist everyone to be a part of that goal and constantly provide updates.
5. Always look for areas to achieve higher results. Do not settle for only hitting your goals; that only means that they were too low from the beginning.
6. Make the true goal beyond the public one that others are expecting.
7. Create huge rewards for huge results, not average ones.

Finally, remember that if you set your goals and expectations high, you have a chance of missing them and falling short. If they are high enough, falling short is still better than where average previously kept you. Don’t over celebrate the wins and don’t obsess on losses. Keep pushing and allow you and your team to achieve what they once thought impossible. Most of all, dream and expect like a five-year-old looking through the great big Toys “R” Us Wish Book.