“Still The Question Recurs, ‘Can We Do Better?’” — Abraham Lincoln

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Still the question recurs ‘can we do better?’ The dogmas of the quiet past are inadequate to the storm present. The occasion is piled high with difficulty, and we must rise with the occasion. As our case is new, we must think anew, and act anew.” — President Abraham Lincoln in his Annual Address to Congress (December 1, 1862)

High performers, and great leaders are never satisfied.  They are always challenging themselves, their teams, and organizations with “Can We Do Better?”

This challenge is always with us.  When things are bad, when we aren’t achieving our goals, it becomes, “We must do better!”  In tough times, doing better is often a matter of survival.  Too often, however, we create excuses or try to assign blame.  Rather than trying to figure out how to achieve goals, too many give up.  High performers are different.  They don’t care about excuses, they don’t assign blame, they look at what they need to do to correct the situation.  They look at what to change, they look at how to improve, they ask for help.

When times are relatively good, when we are making our numbers, when we are achieving our goals, when we are out performing the competition, the temptation is to rest on our laurels and recent success.  It’s at these times that individuals and organizations are most vulnerable.  Those that fail to constantly challenge themselves with “Can I do better,” or “Can we do better,” will be lost.  Perhaps not today or tomorrow, but they will fail.  They don’t recognize the need to change, to constantly improve, to move the bar to a higher level.

Too often, “hitting our numbers,” masks under performance.  We could do more, we could do better.  Unfortunately, I get into conversations with sales people and managers, proudly declaring, “We made our numbers, we are growing!”  But assessing the data, you see win rates less that 25%, low average deal values.  They are underachieving their potential.  They could do better, they could to more.

The press of every day business causes us to take short cuts.  We send the email rather than picking up the phone.  We  send the same old email campaign we sent last week because we don’t have the time to construct a new message.  We need to make our prospecting calls, we pick up the phone, dial, and regurgitate the same tired pitch, we don’t take the time to research who we are calling and how we can most effectively connect with them.

If we are going to continue to differentiate ourselves, our products, our companies by creating superior value for our customers, we must constantly challenge ourselves.  We live in worlds of constant disruption and change.  What worked yesterday may no longer be as effective.  We have to think, how do we do better.

We are entering the final two quarters of the year.  Look at what you’ve done this year.  You may not be achieving your goals.  You may be 200% of quota.  Reflect back on what you have done and ask yourself “Can I do better?

Managers and leaders, sit down with your teams and explore the question, “Can we do better?”

Perhaps, with our customers, we might help them think, “How do we do better?”

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