Are you chopping with a dull axe?

Are you chopping with a dull axe?

Many experienced professionals don’t see the need for continuous improvement. They often think, “I’ve been doing this for fifteen years, so I must be great.” The number of years experience is not a measure of excellence – any honest golfer knows that. Such thinking can limit you from achieving a higher level of success. It is like the lumber jack who works non-stop and never takes the time to sharpen their axe.

Just because you’ve been doing something for years doesn’t mean you can’t or don’t need to improve. Oftentimes, people get satisfied at just being good at what they do. A sales person who stops doing all the little things that made them great, such as using a pre-call checklist, asking for referrals and testimonials, conducting timely follow-up, and sending thank-you notes. But these little things make the difference between good and great.

In fact, a great chasm exists between good and great performance. Realize, however, that this doesn’t mean you have to work harder. Rather, you need the discipline to execute the little things in an extraordinary way every day. Consider U2 front man Bono’s example of taking something good and making it great.

“An early version of our first single Vertigo was massaged, hammered, tweaked, lubed, sailed through two mixes, and got U2’s unanimous stamp of ‘very good.’ Very good is the enemy of great. You think great is right next door. It’s not. It’s in another country,” Bono told USA Today.

Instead of releasing the song at “very good,” the band returned to the studio and took it apart. They rearranged Vertigo with new melodies and new arrangement and new rhythms. They soon discovered untapped reserves of ideas and fortitude, and the song went on to become a number one hit, win the Grammy for song of the year, off the album How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb that won the Grammy too.

Has your performance been “good” or “great”? Have you been on cruise control in your job? When was the last time you went back into your “studio” and reevaluated what you do and how you are doing it? Ask “What Can I Do Better?”

When was the last time you asked a client what you could do to improve his or her experience with you? Years? Months? Never? Some companies like my client PwC have an exhaustive process to make sure they deliver maximum value to their customers. If you want to continuously improve your sales skills, your clients and prospects will have the most valuable insight into how you can become better. So make it a priority to regularly ask them for their suggestions on how to improve and add more value. Sales managers should ask their sale people, “You have worked with me know for three months/three years. What can I do to be a better sales manager? How can I support your more?”

The same question is just as powerful with your family. When is the last time you asked your kids, “What can I do to be a better mommy or daddy?” How about asking your spouse? I guarantee they will have some feed back for you. It take courage to ask and really listen to the answers. You tendency will be to defend yourself. Instead SHUT UP an dd say thank you.

What you often find is that is will be little things they want you to do more often that you did not know where that important. Recently with our middle son Davis the answer came back have more fun. I have been so focused on driving hard as the school year finishes I needed to lighten up!

Although asking “What can I do better?” is an excellent way to continuously improve your performance, asking is really only the first step. The key is to listen when someone offers a suggestion. When a client starts talking, don’t try to defend yourself or justify your actions, just listen to what he or she has to say. Take your client’s/wife’s/husband’s/daughter’s/son’s suggestions seriously and follow up with the them later to ensure you make progress.

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