We are the change

The reality of success

I’ve been following Michel Roux’s TV programme on customer service, a subject that interests me.  A motley crew of young people are competing for a scholarship with him. Roux certainly comes across as a very patient and good mentor, but something has begun to worry me here.  It’s something that we’re seeing a lot in the media and it does have consequences for businesses, especially in tough economic times.

In at the deep end

It’s the issue of throwing people in at the deep end and expecting them to come up swimming.  We seem as a nation to expect and demand natural flair and brilliance to appear on tap.  Talent shows and reality TV programmes flood our channels trying to leapfrog talent, which a few decades ago was expected to take years to acquire.  This brings me on to another programme I watched recently – a documentary on the comedians, Morecambe and Wise.  What amazed me was the length of time they took to perfect their work and gain those successful TV slots which are now so ingrained on our nation’s memory.  And even then, at the height of their careers, they dedicated phenomenal amounts of rehearsal time to each routine.

Perfection = practice

I’ve started to think we’re in danger of fostering a belief that people can immediately be good at something, that you can get something right first time.  In reality this just isn’t true.  And what we’re doing is setting up a lot of people, especially young ones, to fail.  That’s fine if we have a net to catch them in and if we say, ‘hey it’s ok to fail, here’s what to learn and here’s how to move forward’.  But in this country we’re not great at that.  In other cultures, failure and learning from mistakes is often embraced, expected and factored in to the learning process.

Generations back we used to give people more time to learn, understand and develop a skill or talent.  We used to be better at instructing and guiding them rather than expecting them to just ‘get on with it’.   But In our rush to speed things up and cut costs, we’re making it harder and harder to achieve things successfully.  In fact one of my colleagues believes we’ve actually started diluting success and brilliance isn’t of the intensity it once was.  This comes from forgetting that people are still human and, despite the mass of information around, talent and success needs time to develop.  The professionals Michel Roux’s budding ‘stars’ are work-shadowing have practiced and perfected their craft for years.   But putting that process into the spotlight probably doesn’t make good TV viewing.

One area where our expectations are more realistic on how you get great results is sport.  As a nation, we expect sports people to train in order to be brilliant at what they do.  We don’t assume that an athlete standing at the starting line at The Olympic Games was spotted several months back in an audition.  We accept that the journey they took to get there involved years and years of training.

Enabling people to achieve

So what does this mean for business?  Well, January is a popular month for goal-setting and planning.  It’s one where many business owners and managers focus on new things for the year ahead.  To be honest the goal-setting bit is easy, it’s the mapping out how you get there which is so much harder and often doesn’t get the attention it deserves.  This means being realistic about the time it will take to achieve the objective, goal, plan or whatever.

Part of this will involve:

  • getting people on board
  • communicating the right information with them and checking they really understand it in order to make the implementation work (remember few of us are mind-readers)
  • showing them the stepping stones in the process
  • giving necessary guidance and train to help them do their part
  • giving whatever time it needs to get the goal completed

And this also means being on hand to give further help as things progress, if necessary, rather than letting people muddle along.

Of course, all this is more time-consuming and so expensive (a clash with austerity measures).  But think of the consequences – successfully completed objectives, people who are confident to do something similar again and again and a business that becomes stronger as a result.

So come on TV programmers let’s have a show about how practice makes perfect.  Let’s look at people who are putting in the grind to achieve success or perfection.  And let’s get back some of that brilliance that people used to work hard to create.  It’ll help us show the next generation how to gain real and long-lasting success.

About the author: Michelle Daniels,  Managing Director – Extended Thinking.
An experienced and effective business development and marketing strategist, Michelle has built a successful career increasing top line growth for service businesses and organisations. She helps her clients turn their marketing, business development and thought leadership plans into reality with her ‘hands on’ support and practical advice.    A prolific writer, Michelle also combines creative flair with business nous to produce highly effective results.  She has written (and ghost-written) for many professional and business publications and is a chartered marketer and member of the Chartered Institute of Marketing.

Extended Thinking is a hands-on marketing and business development consultancy.  Bringing together great minds and great ‘doers’, we help our clients devise and implement plans that achieve real business growth.  Our clients come from a wide variety of backgrounds and sectors, but invariably are those who are too busy or lack the resources to action their marketing and business development plans.  We roll our sleeves up and muck in to free them up to do what they really want to do and are good at doing.  www.extendedthinking.com

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