The Five Steps to Greatness

Saturday Snippets, #2: The Five Steps to Greatness


I had three meetings last week, involving different committees and groups of people who were all trying to help an organization improve its processes and results, increase quality, and maximize customer (patient) safety and satisfaction.

As I listened to the various concerns and complaints, arguments and angles, fights and frustrations the folks discussed, I realized that most of the time there are really only five steps involved in being great at anything.

If we applied these five steps to our work, on an individual level or to an entire organization, I believe that 90% or more of the problems we face would dissolve. And by extension, the number of meetings we have and memos we send would plummet. 

Here are my proposed Five Steps to Greatness:

  1. Show up: It’s amazing how many problems are related mostly to folks trying to handle situations over the phone, via email or text, or through the time-tested, “I told so-and-so to do that.” Wouldn’t everything be easier if we took the time to handle things directly, face-to-face? Email and text simply do not communicate emotion properly, and leave too much to inference and chance. Take the time to show up, and see your results improve. 
  2. Be nice: It seems silly to say this when you’re talking about adults, but a huge number of the problems in companies (and hospitals) really boil down to people not being nice to each other. One of the meetings I attended was focused on developing a policy to handle situations in which someone is mean or inappropriate to others in the organization. And lest you think it’s just a problem where I work, I learned that the federal government requires companies over a certain size to have a written policy for these matters. If we were all just polite and kind, we’d save lots of time and millions of trees (since we wouldn’t have to have all those written policies). 
  3. Work Hard: Again, this should be self-explanatory, but it’s apparently not. Half of one of the meetings I attended was composed of a huge fight that resulted from a few people simply not being willing to work as hard as they should. No one ever achieved greatness by waiting for other people to do the work.
  4. Know your stuff: If you’re getting paid to do something, you ought to know how to do it. Don’t be a poser. Keep up with your field, and strive to be as good as you can be. Otherwise, go be great at something else. Why would you want to punch a clock your whole career doing something that doesn’t inspire you to try hard to be great?
  5. Follow through: How many hours of your life have you spent trying to rescue a situation that was created because someone else simply didn’t follow through on something they were supposed to do? We’d have far fewer policy manuals, committees, and meetings if all of us just kept our word and did what we said we’d do.

Unfortunately, in today’s world it doesn’t take much to separate ourselves from the average. If you want to be great, these five simple steps will make you stand out from the crowd. That will lead to more sales, better outcomes, increased efficiency, and happier customers (or healthier patients if you’re in health care).

Show up, be nice, do the work, know your stuff, and follow through, and you’ll be on the path to greatness in all areas of your life. 

If you want to stop being average and move toward being great, start with the five steps.

And start today.

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Start With You

Saturday Snippets, #1: Start With You

My friend is having a problem. The other party in their marriage is doing something that hurts. It injures. My friend is trying, but the spouse isn’t ‘getting it;’ and my friend wonders if it’s time to call it quits.

Another friend is struggling at work. He has a bad manager, a corporate policy that’s heavily impacting his ability to sell his products, and one customer that’s really pushing his buttons. He’s thinking he might fire his customer, or go to another company. 

And globally, one country is threatening another with war because they have different takes on the same religion. This nation has drawn a line in the sand, executed people, and stated they aren’t going to budge. 

In my own life, sometimes I distance myself from people or cool off relationships when others disappoint me. It’s easier to withdraw than to deal with conflict sometimes; I’ve often chosen simply to avoid the fight. 

But if I try to apply next-level thinking to these situations, I realize something important:

Other people really don’t ever change just because we insist on it.

That sounds cynical, but think about it. How many times have you achieved lasting change in another person by insisting they do what you want, think like you do, change a certain behavior?

If I’m really honest, the biggest positive changes I’ve ever seen in others happened after I changed me first.

Jesus asked a weird question about specks and logs in people’s eyes, in Matthew 7. 

Really, if you divorced everyone, fired everyone, distanced yourself from everyone, and nuked everyone when they wouldn’t change, how long would it take for you to end up all alone? 

There’s peace in working a little harder to resolve conflict. And as the old saying goes, attitude reflects leadership.

You want other people to change? Change yourself first. Give them an example. Make the first move.

If I want my coworker to be nicer, I need to be nicer first. Make sure I’m squared away before I worry about anyone else. 

Real change starts with me. 

I’m starting with me.

Start with you.

And start today.

If you like this article, you’ll love my free weekly newsletter. Click here to check it out, and sign up so you never miss anything.

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Sorry for Yourself [YST Podcast Episode 062]

You can’t feel sorry for yourself and proud of yourself at the same time. Do you ever feel sorry for yourself? You know, my life is so hard and no one understands and I’ll never get that job or he took my sale or whatever?

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Here’s the thing friend: self-pity is one of the most toxic and limiting things we can allow into our lives. And it is ALWAYS within our power to change.

But here’s the truth:

You can’t change your life until you change your mind.

Life is hard, and we all have problems. But if you respond to yours by feeling sorry for yourself, or even worse, by seeking other people’s pity, you can expect the future to look very much like the past. This is true for business, relationships, finances, and every other aspect of your life.

Why? Because the best predictor of the future is the past, unless you change your mind.

Today, we learn how.

Stop Worry In Its Tracks [YST Podcast Episode 061]

You lie awake all night long. Your eyes just won’t shut.

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Your mind is racing, chasing rabbits down holes of thoughts about all the things that are hard in your life. Your kids, your grandkids, your biopsy results that are coming next week, your finances.

You go back over that conversation or that decision, and you feel the cold grip of regret that maybe you didn’t handle it right. And that might lead to a broken relationship or a business failure. You are driving yourself crazy with all this thinking, and you can’t make any headway on any of it.

You’re worrying.

And it’s wrecking your night and your peace of mind.

What do you do?

I’ve got good news for you, my friend. Today, we’re going to learn how to stop worrying.

If you’re plagued by worry, you can learn how to overcome it and improve your brain chemistry and your mental state, renew your faith and overcome the thought patterns that are hurting you.

You can start today.

Punch Fear in the Face [YST Podcast Episode 060]

Life can be a scary place, my friend.

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Sometimes, fear can paralyze us, keep us stuck, and ruin our quality of life. Sometimes it’s more of a nuisance that keeps us playing it safe, afraid to really go for something we want.

If you’re dealing with fear, then take heart. Today on YST, we’re going to learn how to punch fear in the face.

Stick around to learn how to handle fear, starting today.

From Average to Awesome: how to Break Through [YST Podcast Episode 059]

There are only three changes that must be made if you want to really break through in any area of your life. Only three. And they’re all inside your head.

It’s true: the secret to changing any area of your life is within your own power, and it can happen almost instantly. In episode 059 of You Start Today, we’re breaking through.

You can succeed and thrive no matter what your past looks like, but it takes a little self brain surgery. And you have to start today.

Tune Up Your Life [YST Podcast Episode 058]

In Which I Play Guitar

Today we talk about making music with your life. When everything’s tuned up and all the parts of your life are working together, you’ve finally found your jam, your sweet spot.

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That’s what we’re after. We want to get those notes playing just right so that no matter what happens in life, our music will play on. Today we’ll learn how.