What they never told you about “Best Practices”
I have been an entrepreneur for 40+ years. For the last 30 years, I’ve devoted my work to teaching, speaking, consulting and writing about leadership thinking and behavior and what it takes to achieve extraordinary. And yes, I help owners and leaders install best practices in their companies.
Best practices are collection foundational methodologies, systems and behaviors that are evident in all great companies. Simply put, best practices represent essential disciplines and accountabilities for leaders and companies. The key word here is “foundational.”
Consider Zappo’s approach to creating a dynamic and high performance culture. I visited Zappos Las Vegas headquarters to see their “delivering happiness” culture in action. (“Delivering Happiness” is the title of Zappos’ CEO Tony Hsieh’s best-selling book.) There were more people walking around with helium balloons, blowing whistles, ringing bells and cubicles decorated with all sorts of crazy stuff.
How crazy? Think “Rainforest Café” in an office setting. Tony Hsieh wanted a company that was fun to work at — where happiness was a core value. Although best practices are in play at Zappos, Hsieh innovated entirely new and different best practices for Zappos.
Create Something Extraordinary
Here are seven no-compromise strategies to help you find and lean on those best practices that will create something extraordinary:
1. Seek “extraordinary — avoid “conformity”: Ultimately, trying to implement best practices that don’t fit or compliment you and your company will either hinder performance and growth — or, at best, create a fine company that is almost indistinguishable from its competition. Because "best practices" is about conformity, the opportunity to achieve extraordinary is diminished.
- Apple adheres to many best practices, but when it comes to corporate structure, innovation, secrecy, and its ability to focus on what’s important, Apple innovated its own best practices. In 2008, Steve Jobs went so far as to create Apple University to teach executives to think like him. He even hired the dean of Yale University’s School of Management to run it. Just note that Apple’s best practices fit and work at Apple.
2. Intimidate yourself: Comfort zones are for couch potatoes. Achieving extraordinary means innovating best practices that push you far beyond your comfort zone. I never thought I could ride my bike 100 miles in a day, but I’ve done it many times. I remember how amazing I felt the first time I hit 40 miles. Then I did 50 miles, then 75 miles.
3. Break the “best practice” mold:
- The same happens in leadership and business. I freaked out the first time I spoke in front of 500 people; today, public speaking is what I love to do. I didn't know I could write and move people with my words. I’ve written and published three books. Challenge yourself to attempt something extraordinary and create best practices to make it happen.
Breakthroughs happen when you smash the mold, raise the bar, and discover new possibilities. The mold, and the best practices that keep it intact, is about conformity and doing things the same way. Yesterday's mold may have achieved yesterday's extraordinary, but yesterday's extraordinary is today's ordinary.
- When was the last time you broke your trusted mold? It's probably past its useful life. Invent a new mold to achieve a new breakthrough. Just remember, you'll have to break that mold too one day.
4. Choose wisely: Achieving extraordinary doesn't mean ignoring best practices and industry benchmarks. It means selecting the best-of-the-best business practices that will take your company to extraordinary new places. It means locking them in to your company's thinking and culture. Most importantly, it means testing and perfecting new best practices and defining new benchmarks to make your company stretch.
- Olympic athletes know about achieving extraordinary and the discipline and accountability it takes to set records and win gold medals.
5. Lift or drag: One industry's or company's best practices may not reflect the best practices for you and your company. For example, some best leadership practices may be outside your skillset or comfort zone. The harder you and your team work to conform to best practices that don't fit your leadership style, culture and company, the more stress and frustration those best practices produce.
- Leaders need to recognize when a new best practice is creating issues. It’s a pretty simple rule to remember: If it’s not creating lift — it’s creating drag. Build, support and encourage lift. Get rid of drag.
6. It’s all about information flow: The nemesis of all best practices is poor information flow. A best practice could be just what your company needed, but its implementation and execution were compromised because its purpose and process were never properly communicated. Accountabilities were never clarified. Proper training and monitoring were short-changed.
- In this case, one best practice falls victim to another best practice that was poorly executed.
7.Believe in yourself: Life is a roller coaster full of ups and downs. There are times when you need to reach deep to find those morsels of courage to keep you in the game and moving forward. It sure helps to have people around you who believe in you, but in the end, you must believe in your own ability to achieve extraordinary.
- We all have the ability. Not everyone has the courage. Then again, what's the worst that could happen if you give it a go?
Support Your Vision
I am a fierce advocate for best practices. I am also a fierce advocate for a no-compromise approach to leadership and business. No compromise simply means, if it needs to be done — get it done. Create dynamic business cultures focused on achieving extraordinary. Make tough decisions before thing go critical. Protect the company culture at all cost. Deliver on your promise to the customer.
Best practices are the foundation of all great companies. Choose them wisely. Innovate new ones that support your vision. Periodically break the mold and reinvent the best that your company stands for.
It's Your Turn
What are you thoughts about best practices? Thanks for your comments!