Send It Back
There is a famous story told about Henry Kissinger when he was secretary of state. He asked a subordinate to produce a report on an important national issue.
The subordinate brought him the report, and Kissinger said that he would look at it and talk to him about it the following day. When the subordinate came in the following day, Kissinger gave him the report back and said that it was not yet good enough and that he could do a much better job if he took a little bit more time to polish and perfect it.
The subordinate went away to work on it again for the next two or three days. Once more, he brought the report back to Kissinger, who again reviewed it overnight. The following day, Kissinger returned the report to the subordinate and said that it was still not good enough.
He would have to work even harder to polish the report for it to be of sufficient quality. Once again, the subordinate took the report away and worked on it for another two or three days.
Finally, the subordinate returned to Kissinger with the report. This time, he said that it was the very best report he could possibly write. There was nothing he could do to improve it in any way. If Kissinger was not satisfied with the report in its current form, the subordinate said, there was nothing he could do to make it any better.
At this, Kissinger replied, “Well, if you are completely convinced that it cannot be any better, I will now read it for the first time.”
Set a Good Example
In addition to demanding high standards of quality in the work of each person, you must set an example of high-quality work yourself. You lead the way. You are the role model. When you do excellent work—work that is obviously the result of “going the extra mile”—you set a standard for everyone who works for you and with you. Every time a person does an excellent job, his self-esteem goes up. Every time people do an average job and others accept it, their self-esteem remains unaffected. And when they do a poor job that is allowed to pass, their self-esteem actually goes down. When people do poor-quality work, they feel a little bit inferior and a lot like losers in the world of work. When someone does an excellent job and is recognized, rewarded, and appreciated for doing so, that person feels like a winner. But very few people can do an excellent job unless someone sets a standard of superior quality for them and then holds them to that standard. Zero defects is a wonderful target to aim for.
The Value of Quality Work
Going back to our previous discussion about values (in Chapter Eight), it is important that you explain to your staff members that the survival and success of your business is dependent on the quality of the work that you produce.
Encourage them to strive to do a perfect job every time. Even in small things, such as writing a letter, an email, or advertising copy, little things mean a lot. By insisting that every piece of correspondence or communication from the company is letter-perfect, carefully proofed, and edited so that there are no mistakes, you set a standard of excellence that permeates and spreads through the entire organization.
Accuracy, precision, and perfection are essential when producing a proposal for a customer or completing an order form for a purchase or sale. When people receive any form of written correspondence from your organization, they immediately judge the entire quality of the company—including its products, services, and people—by the accuracy and mistake-free nature of the communication.
When one of your employees does something of superior quality, make it a big deal. Remember, you’re going to get more of whatever you recognize, reward, and reinforce. When you constantly remind people of the importance of doing excellent quality work, you set an ideal that more and more of your people will aspire to. As they aspire to ever-higher ideals of quality work, their self-image improves and their self-esteem goes up. They are even more motivated to do even better work in the future.
ACTION EXERCISES TO MOTIVATE YOUR TEAM
- Set standards of excellent performance for every job, product, or service that goes to your customers, and make sure that each person on your staff knows exactly what they are.
- Set an example by doing high-quality work yourself, in every area, and by continually striving to become even better at the most important things you do.