When 60.2% Means Success: Coaching Excellence

Our business lives are full of rhetoric like ‘give 110%’, ‘be the best’ or ‘leave it all on the table’. However, often our best falls well short of perfection.

This truth struck me this week while enjoying my favorite season of the year – hockey playoffs! They announcers were analyzing centers and the average amount of face-offs that they won over the full season. The 2014-15 face-off leader was Patrice Bergeron who won 60.2% of the time. Since only two people take a face-off, the base odds are 50/50. Therefore, I was surprised that the league’s best was only 10.2% ahead of the median players in the league! He is highly coveted because of this difference, something that seems insignificant at first glance.

If you are more of a baseball fan, a look at 2014’s final statistics reveals a similar pattern. Last year’s hitting leader, Jose Altuve, batted an average of .341 over the season (that means he hit 341 out of 1000 times at bat). The league average was .250. Therefore, by being .091 better than the rest of the league, less than a 10% lead, Altuve won the batting championship!

Organizations also win or lose by narrow margins. So what can athletes teach us about our goal of excellence?

Perfection is unattainable (see Pobody’s Nerfect). The best does not mean 100%. While every job and occupation has different ways to measure excellence, we need to set a realistic bar. Some of you who read this are bosses who set an unrealistic bar. If this is the case, you need to evaluate this carefully. If your coach required you to make 100% of face-offs or bat .500 you would look to play elsewhere. What motivates you to create goals which will eventually demotivate your employees?

Success requires failure. The examples above embrace failure. It is said that the most successful companies have cultures which endorse failure. This is because if you are not failing, you are not trying anything new. How do you encourage your staff to fail well?

Narrow victories require exceptional effort. For the Bergeron’s and Altuva’s to win by gaps of less than 10%, they have put in exceptional amounts of work. While the victories are narrow, the amount of work to rise above average is not. Abolishing perfectionism and embracing failure does not give us permission to accept mediocrity.

Excellence is attainable but it has a demanding recipe:

It embraces imperfection.

It requires failure.

It always demands exceptional effort.


 

Head ShotJeff Suderman is a futurist, professor and consultant who works in the field of organizational development. He works with clients to improve leadership, teamwork, organizational alignment, strategy and organizational Future-Readiness. He resides in Palm Desert, California. Twitter: @jlsuderman

Pobody’s Nerfect – Embracing Imperfection

“We didn’t design the new Wired [on-line magazine] to be perfect. We designed it to be perfected” (Scott Dadich). Wired magazine recently launched a new web site and this caveat was provided by their Editor in Chief as he introduced the launch. Behind some great writing is a great principle.

I love the simplicity of this concept. It may be a modern day variation of the golden rule (if you need a reminder, it is to do unto others as you would have them do unto you).

Here are a few simple examples of this attitude in action.

Customer Service: While dining at a trendy restaurant in San Diego, our medium burgers were served rare. They were dripping blood. When our harried waitress checked-in she immediately owned the problem and waived our bill before we requested it. For everything! Would I visit this establishment again? You bet!! Customer Service isn’t perfect but in can be perfected.

Employees: The old adage reminds us that ‘a rolling stone gather no moss’. I am hard on employees who gather moss because they were not willing to put in the effort to improve. However, grace abounded for those who rolled. Sometimes they rolled in the wrong direction, but they rolled! Employees are not perfect but they can be perfected.

Leaders: I love it when I hear leaders apologize. Not because I want to be the one who is right. Rather, it’s because an apology shows that they have enough humility to acknowledge that they are not infallible. Leaders are not perfect but they can be perfected.

Children: I am embarrassed to admit that when my kids behave poorly publicly, I am usually more concerned about how this affects my image than I am about their perfecting process. I’ll bet I’m not alone on this one. Good parents provide an environment that fosters growth which means mistakes will abound. Kids are not perfect but they can be perfected.

Marriage: A colleague once confessed, “our marriage was pretty lousy for the first 20 years. Then we stopped trying to change each other and it’s been great ever since”. What happens when we focus our efforts on changing ourselves instead of someone else? Marriage isn’t supposed to be perfect but it can be perfected.

You: Some people wear perfectionism like a badge of honor. To me, it’s a red flag. Conversely, others renege on any responsibility to do their best and this is no better (e.g. – the rolling stone principle). The happiest people I know realize they are far from perfect and thrive within the paradox of perfecting imperfection. You aren’t supposed to be perfect but you can be perfected.

To paraphrase Dadich, life isn’t designed to be perfect. But it is designed to be perfected. That’s a principle to live by!


 

Head ShotJeff Suderman is a futurist, professor and consultant who works in the field of organizational development. He works with clients to improve leadership, teamwork, organizational alignment, strategy and organizational Future-Readiness. He resides in Palm Desert, California. Twitter: @jlsuderman

Scott Dadich (April 2015). Welcome to the next wave of Wired. Wired Magazine, p. 16.