Growth—Seeking to be the Best You Can Be at All Times

Sixth in a series excerpted from the book FOSTERING CULTURE, A Leader’s Guide to Purposefully Shaping Culture

by Shane Jackson

For 10 years I competed in triathlons. I never won a race, but every year, I set goals to get faster or place better, and I worked relentlessly toward those goals. If you’re going to take the sport of triathlon even semi-seriously, you must be prepared to commit a hefty amount of time and make sacrifices in other areas of your life.

Let me tell you that if I did not have highly motivating, public goals, most mornings I would have chosen to ignore the 4:45 alarm clock and go back to sleep. However, I fell in love with the results of what that discipline did in my life. The physical, mental and spiritual rewards were immense. The races were just a celebration of what the training achieved in my life and a way to mark progress along the journey. It was the expectation I put on myself to keep improving that yielded the benefits.

Organizations function in much the same way. When they set lofty goals that force them to stretch, they make better decisions. They put in place the disciplines that force them to do better and be better.

Even if this value doesn’t seem natural to you, I believe there is both an economic and moral imperative for growth. The economic imperative is that if a business isn’t growing, it’s dying. The moral imperative is not just about your impact on other people … it’s about your intrinsic rewards for a life well lived.

When I think about growth and seeking to be the best you can be at all times, there are a few key principles I learned from my dad that continue to hold true. They include:

  • There’s No Growth Without Failure. If you are growing, you’re going to have failures. In fact, I would argue that growth necessarily involves failure. We improve by failing and then learning from our failure, as do those around us. One of the descriptors we often hear when people explain the culture of our company is “risk-free environment.” What this means is that people are free from the consequences of failure because we know that you have to take risks (the risk of failing) if you are going to grow. We don’t punish failure, as long as you learn from and grow from it.
  • Take Personal Responsibility. You’ll never learn if every problem is always someone else’s fault. In every situation there is something different you could have done to improve the outcome—even if it’s just owning your own reaction or emotional state. If you’re always the victim of circumstance or of other people’s actions, there is no opportunity for you to improve or grow. As a manager, if someone on your team misses their goals, whose fault is it? Theirs? Well, yes. But isn’t it also yours? Did you do a perfect job training them? Did you provide them with perfectly timed communication? Even if the answers to these questions are (amazingly) yes, then did you hire the wrong person? People who are growing know that sometimes they will fail, and when they do so, they own their part of the failure. That way, they’re able to analyze what happened and learn from it, so they are better prepared for situations in the future.
  • Be the Best. You may or may not achieve being the best at something, but if you set being the best as your goal, it will force you to figure out what it takes to become the best. And at a minimum, those actions are going to make you better. Setting the expectation that you’re going to be the best creates a picture that you—and those on your team—will strive to live up to. You have no doubt seen the adage that “success is a journey, not a destination.” Great visions have the quality of never being quite finished. It is the vision of each Jackson Healthcare company to be the premier or unparalleled company in its niche. These are not static positions. Once you become the best, other businesses will copy what you do, and you have to keep getting better or lose your position. Today’s record is tomorrow’s second place.

Seeking to be the best you can be at all times is a tremendous journey. As we near the end of 2018 and look ahead to what’s possible, now is the perfect time to reflect on your personal and professional growth areas and what being the best will mean to you in the new year. Cheers!

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