"Without continual growth and
progress, such words as improvement, achievement, and success have no meaning,”
Attributed to Ben Franklin
of us are normally supporters of growth. We may differ on the desired amount,
type, timetable or direction, but we have all experienced and embraced growth
at some point in our lives. Some of us, whom we call greedy, may at times
have too much desire for growth. Some of
us, whom we call lazy, may at times have too little. Most of us strike a
balance fluctuating somewhere between hunger and contentment.
the economy is good, most of us thrive – sometimes even in spite of our own
actions. We may lose some of our opportunities to the natural ebb and
flow of things like death and other demographically identified factors. We may also lose opportunities because we
can’t always deliver perfect solutions. But when times are good, new opportunities
always seem to be available to more than replace the losses.
not the case when times get tough and "survival of the fittest” becomes the
norm. When opportunities become scarce, some businesses start cutting in
the hopes of outlasting the weaker competition. Others become aggressive
and use the opportunity to pounce on and devour the competition. A large
number continue doing what they’ve always done and hope that the results remain
the same in spite of the changes taking place in their environment.
is in these difficult times that the strategy of growth can become the primary
factor for survival or extinction. Here are three tactics to improve your
odds of survival – build on your strengths, exceed expectations, and mutate.
Build On Your
think this would be obvious.
we spend a lot of our life learning from people who aren’t great
teachers. As a parent, as a coach, as a peer and as a manager, I can
personally vouch for contributing to the accuracy of this observation!
into a teacher’s position, most of us find that it’s easiest to point out the
things our student is doing wrong and therefore we spend the majority of our
time trying to make corrections. Most of the time this tactic yields the
results we hope for – the student starts performing in the standard way.
But there are a couple of potential problems with performing in the
standard way if your environment is changing.
one is that doing things the standard way inherently discourages creativity and
innovation. Imagine a world in which Bing, Frank, Chuck, JB (either one),
Elvis, Michael, Freddie, will.i.am and Skrillex were trained to always perform
in the same fashion. Would they even
want to excel if their performances were indistinguishable? (Sorry ladies, in making this list I assumed
that in these conditions, Gregorian chants performed exclusively by males would
be the only available music genre).
second problem with performing in a standard way is that humans have unique
abilities and limitations. I always
wanted to play basketball like Michael Jordan but I never found a coach who
could teach me how to grow five additional inches to match his height. No amount of training available at that point
in my life was going to correct my height limitation.
happens when you build on strengths?
had the honor of hosting Gregory Gadson, Colonel, US Army, as a motivational
speaker at our Boomer Technology Circle Summit meeting in August 2011.
Col Gadson was recently appointed as the Commander of the U.S. Army Fort
Belvoir Garrison in Fairfax County, Virginia. In addition to his work as
an active duty soldier, Col Gadson earned a Super Bowl XLII ring for his inspirational
work with the New York Giants and had a starring role as LTC Canales in the
2012 movie Battleship. You may notice him in a current national
VFW television commercial. Look for someone using two prosthetic legs – he lost
his in 2007 while serving in Iraq.
the Army allowed him to build on his strengths instead of insisting that he
perfectly fill a standard issue uniform.
If you need a warrior, an inspirational speaker or someone to star in a
movie, he’s a better choice than I am by about a million times.
Performance standards are obviously important – and in
some situations even critical. But in a competitive economy, don’t
overlook the possibility of a gold vein already present in your firm.
It’s sometimes better to be the fittest at something rather than the average at
everyone survives an economic downturn.
But on the other hand, economic downturns have not yet caused an extinction
of our species – someone has always managed to survive. When times are tough people may eat less
steak and more potatoes but they’re still eating steak and potatoes. The buying and selling doesn’t stop, it
changes. To survive you just need to make
sure you’re the one selling.
you're not the best at what you do then you're starting every job at a
competitive disadvantage. Fortunately, there are a number of effective
strategies you can employ to swing things in your favor.
most common strategy is to cut price.
You hope that as price goes down it will spur an increase in demand
which might lead to a reduction in supply which should lead back to an eventual
increase in price.
that make anyone happy? Well, your client will be happy in the short term
but if it comes at your expense then it’s not a sustainable feeling. A savvy client will discern that any price
adjustment will eventually be recouped unless it was fictional to begin with. A client who is primarily motivated by price
will simply jump from supplier to supplier to take advantage of whichever is
weakest. That client should eventually
"get what they paid for” and be unhappy because they aren’t having their
consider the strategy of exceeding expectations.
expectations is the equivalent of getting a D-minus letter grade in a class at
school. You passed, but if you had done
one less requirement you would have failed.
And yet that is the primary goal of most businesses.
expectations is a strategy that cultivates long term relationships by doing the
"extra credit questions” that others ignore.
Random acts of kindness, outstanding customer service, completing an
unanticipated task without imposing a change order – there are many ways to
exceed expectations and most of them can be done without additional expense. But this tactic should also be considered as
one of your most effective marketing strategies and if you do incur an expense,
consider it an investment in marketing.
caution: the strategy of exceeding expectations must become part of your
culture to remain effective because once you’ve exceeded an expectation in the
same way for a few times, your action becomes an expectation.
are many excellent individuals and firms who have suffered the past few years
because of conditions that have nothing to do with their excellence at a
particular skill. Global recession, hurricanes and droughts are creating
impacts that are relevant to most of us because of our location, as opposed to
our ability. Technological advances have
eliminated some types of jobs while creating others. Growing populations, scarcity of resources,
and changes in social/political conditions have triggered upheavals in governments
and disrupted entire industries.
was Darwin’s observation that "natural selection” occasionally favors species
that are not necessarily the strongest, smartest and fittest, but rather the
ones that produce differences. Mutations, variations, innovations – growth –
is what lessens the risk of extinction.
do you mutate? Invest in education,
training and technology. Set aside time
for creative and artistic endeavors.
Cultivate your interests and loves.
Determine to embrace change. It
might someday make the difference between survival and extinction.
on strengths, exceeding expectations and finding opportunities to mutate are
tactics to improve your odds for survival in any economic conditions. But even being "the fittest” is not a
guarantee of survival. Always Think, Plan & Grow™.