How to Overcome the 5 Obstacles to Excellence
Today’s marketplace is more noisy and competitive than ever. If you want to capture—and keep—your audience’s attention, you need to build wow into whatever you're offering. But that's harder than it sounds sometimes.
Several years ago, when I was CEO of Thomas Nelson Publishers, I had a conversation with one of our editors. He had just finished a new manuscript from one of our biggest authors. I asked, “So what did you think?”
“Honestly?” he replied, slightly hesitant. I assured him that I wanted the truth, and he gave it to me. “Not great,” he said.
My heart sank. We had invested a lot of money in this book and were counting on significant sales from it. “Okay,” I said, now a little apprehensive, “what’s wrong with it?”
“I dunno,” said the editor. “It just feels like the same ol’ same ol’. I didn’t really see anything new here that he hasn’t said before.”
“That’s a problem,” I said, stating the obvious. “This project is too important to settle for anything less than wow.”
I almost always get to this point in a project, the fork in the road. I have a choice—you have a choice. Either we can settle for good enough or press on toward wow. In my experience, one or more of these five obstacles tempt us to settle.
See if any of these ring true for you:
- We lack time. The deadline looms. We scramble to get the product out the door. We have to wrap up so we can get to the next client. We simply don’t have the time to give our best effort. So we let it go. Half-baked. Before the job is really done.
- We lack resources. We’d like to do a better job. We sincerely want to take it to the next level. But we just don’t have the money or the people-power. We rationalize, “I did the best I could do with the resources I had.” And again, we let it go and turn our attention to the next project or client in the queue.
We lack experience. We just don’t know how to do what we know needs to be done. Our vision exceeds our know-how. We know what the product or service could deliver, but we don’t have the knowledge or the skills to get us there. So, we settle for something less than our vision demands.
We lack resolve or conviction. Too often, we acquiesce to the committee. Perhaps we're a little unsure of ourselves. “Everyone else seems to like it,” we say to ourselves. “Maybe they’re right. There are a lot of smart people in this room. Just let it go!” And so we do. We succumb to the collective judgment of the group and dial back our own vision for what could be.
We lack courage. The biggest obstacle of all is fear. If we're honest, we must admit that the previous four obstacles are mainly excuses. If we had enough courage, we would find the time, the resources or the experience. We would stand up to the committee. We wouldn’t settle for something less than wow.
But what are we really afraid of? Perhaps we fear losing our job, our client, or our influence. Maybe we don’t want to be thought of as unreasonable or demanding. We're afraid to step out. We're afraid of what others might say behind our back. Instead, we want to be liked.
Whatever the reason, if we are going to create wow experiences, we must become courageous.
You have to listen to your heart, take stand for excellence, and remind yourself of what's at stake. This is a personal, psychological bridge we need to cross. The experience we want to create is on the other side of the ravine, and there’s no other way to get there from here.
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