Everyone Expects More But Not Many Deliver

As we looked into What’s Love Got to Do With It?, I again referenced how our “employees’ willingness to exceed the call of duty” can “lead to a 57% improvement in discretionary effort” and “on average, a 20% improvement in individual productivity” per the Harvard Business Review. But if we want to have any real shot at achieving results like that, we need to be incredibly honest with ourselves; that’s never something that just magically happens! I’m convinced, based on more than two decades of leadership responsibility, that the only way we’ll achieve this over the long haul is by consistently being in that (less than) 5% of the population I cited John Maxwell as describing who exceed expectations when we worked through ways for designing love and purpose into our routines… I believe the foundation for leading with this type of approach lies in putting your definite purpose to words, but that’s just the starting point!

As Napoleon Hill describes the importance of “Definiteness of Purpose” through chapter three of The Master Key to Riches, he references the critical connection between this and a willingness to go the extra mile. He felt this was so tightly connected with working toward and achieving a strong purpose that he opens chapter four on “The Habit of Going the Extra Mile” by defining it as “the rendering of more and better service than that for which one is paid, and giving it in a positive mental attitude.”

While it often seems like customers, clients, or even employers EXPECT to receive more service than which they’re paying for, the reality is that very few actually deliver in that manner consistently or long term; hence the 5% Maxwell mentioned… A key, but easily overlooked piece, in what Hill shared is “giving it in a positive mental attitude.” If we’re being honest, that can throw a wrench into things rather quickly! But as leaders, do we really have an option? I haven’t minced words at any point through this look at the importance of leading with a clear purpose on just how hard leadership often is, but we forfeited the opportunity of having a bad day when we accepted responsibility for leading others.

Don’t misunderstand that last statement; I’m not suggesting that we won’t have bad days, we most certainly will. That’s life… The point I’m driving is that we cannot pass that bad on to the team members we lead or the clients we serve if we hope to exceed their expectations in a way that yields any level of increased discretionary effort on their part. In far too many cases, I’ve seen the proverbial shit roll down hill where a manager under pressure pops off at the supervisor reporting to him then that supervisor follows suit by crawling all over his people. Interestingly enough, I can’t say that I’ve ever known the folks doing that to have their own definite purpose. I also can’t recall seeing the ones I’m picturing be willing to go the extra mile or point to where I’ve seen any of them earn increased engagement from anyone around them!

Will this be easy? Most certainly not, especially when there are so many other responsibilities we juggle as leaders. Quite honestly, there will be times where it’s excruciatingly difficult. And sometimes it will even hurt. But if we’re willing to dig in and remain consistent, it will lead to the kind of results that few will ever see! Those results might even begin to look like we’re winning - and nothing hurts as much when we’re winning…

Nothing Hurts as Much With a Definite Purpose

From March 2013 to September 2014, less than half of the time in my full time role was dedicated to interviewing, hiring, and onboarding team members for roles throughout the manufacturing facility I worked for. In that time, I hired 225 people. Just out of curiosity, can you guess how many people you need to interview in order to find 225 who have anything resembling relevant skills, an acceptable background check, and could pass a drug screen? Even then, it was WAY more than 225… And in case you missed it, I’ll stress once more that this was less than half of my responsibility at that time.

In July 2013, I received a glowing review from my boss - who had been with the company for just under a year - and he shared that my performance was one of the best out the 40 or so salaried employees at that location. That was followed with a but… And that but was that all he could provide was a four percent increase in salary. For perspective, I have moved into that role about a year prior and was still at the very low end of the salary pay scale since I had been in a lower hourly pay grade for years leading up to that. Cindy and I had gotten out of debt at that point and lived well within our means so the small increase wasn’t a financial hit, but I did know what his pay range was and how much I was delivering on his behalf. I simply replied by thanking him for the positive review and referenced something I had read about “as you sow, so shall you reap,” then closed the conversation by saying I didn’t remember seeing his name anywhere in that part of the Book…

I went back to my desk and continued working as hard as I knew how. Looking back on the year that followed, I see now just how significant the results were that I was able to achieve. While hiring all those folks, I was also able to secure training grants for nearly $180,000 - which was more than three times my annual salary at that point - and that still only accounted for about half of my responsibility at the time. During that same time, enough other things had changed in the facility that I no longer enjoyed much of what I did; the parts that I truly loved had dropped well below twenty percent of what I did! 

By August 2014, following my next excellent annual review that was rewarded by what ended up being a twenty percent DECREASE in total compensation, I knew it was time to make a change after working for that organization for almost my entire adult life - and that hurt to even consider. After a short job search, I was offered a position that I was excited about and gave a little bit longer notice than was customary. And for what it’s worth, I stayed until after 6pm on my last day with that company to make sure I had every possible thing I could in order.

I don’t share any of that as a sob story, it provided me with some amazing life experience regardless of how unappreciated I felt at any given time during the last fifteen or so months I was there. In The Master Key to Riches, Napoleon Hill continues explaining the importance of having a definite purpose and being willing to go the extra mile by sharing this:

Depressions may come and go; business may be good or poor; the country may be at war or at peace; but the man who renders more service and better service than he is paid for becomes indispensable to some and thereby insures himself against unemployment.

You know what else all that can do? Having that clear definite purpose and developing the habit of exceeding expectations for the people who look to us for leadership - regardless of what’s coming at us at any given time - has a way of creating a winning atmosphere around us that current circumstances just can’t bog down. And while we may never avoid all the things that hurt, because that’s often part of the weight of leadership, nothing ever hurts quite as much when we’re winning - or when we’ve latched on to a clear and definite purpose we’re working to achieve! But for that to go beyond just us, we need to make sure we’re building on it for everyone we lead.

How a Definite Purpose Relies on Others

I’ll say it once more in case you missed it, nothing hurts as much when we have a definite purpose! The one thing I can assure you of though is that there were plenty of times in the decade that followed that last story where I wasn’t sure we were actually winning. But as I look back at it, I can point to doors that were opened through that process whether they looked like opportunities at the time or not… 

On down the same page from where I pulled the last quote from The Master Key to Riches, Hill goes on to share this:

Riches may be attained by appointment only; by the choice of a definite purpose and a definite plan for achieving it; also by the selection of a definite starting point from which to take off.

But, let no one make the mistake of assuming that the habit of going the extra mile pays off only in terms of material riches. The habit definitely helps one to tap into the source of spiritual riches, and draw upon the source of every human need.

The decision to move on from where I had worked for my entire adult life indeed served as a starting point and seeing the impact I could have by helping others develop skills that would move them forward had grown into a definite purpose, but I can’t say that I had a clear plan in place yet then. Over the next several years, I worked in roles directly related to my previous job titles - but I became increasingly focused on providing resources for the people around me to become more effective leaders, in my full time gigs and in nearly every minute I was awake outside of those.

Reflecting on each step along the way, I can list specific opportunities we recognized that we likely never would have otherwise and I can think of dozens (if not hundreds) of people we’ve been able to develop relationships with who have helped us continue honing and working toward the achievement of our definite purpose. As Hill closes the chapter I’ve been referencing, he emphasizes this: “For it is obvious for all who accurately that no man ever attains a high degree of enduring success without the friendly co-operation of others; nor does any many ever attain enduring success without helping others.”

If a bank balance or income statement were the only scorecard we used to tell whether we were winning or losing, the time since Cindy and I left our full time jobs with comfortable salaries wouldn’t have been all that pleasant. But as our definite purpose has become increasingly clear, and we’ve been able to see the direct impact the work we’ve done has had on others, it’s been much easier to capture more wins and learn from any loss. And each has been a result of the “friendly co-operation of others” and by intentionally helping others. Remaining consistent in this, though, has required us to be able to keep that definite purpose in front of us ALL THE TIME; through our mission, our vision, our values, and every action we take to achieve them - so we’ll pick up there soon!