I went out to the mailbox to get my mail this afternoon. I sat down for a light lunch and was sorting the mail, not knowing that I would come across something that was absolutely amazing. I reached into the stack and pulled out the latest Restoration Hardware catalog. I opened the front cover and was immediately pulled in to a new world.
Inside the cover was an impassioned message from the CEO with an amazing picture of him wearing a leather jacket. As I turned the pages I realized that I was not looking at the catalog but I was looking at a work of art, and I was amazed at the quality of the photos the layout and the extraordinary way all of the products were arranged in each picture. It reminded me of a brochure from a world-class art museum. As I sat slack-jawed looking through the glossy pages I started thinking. Has a catalog ever amazed me before? No. Have I ever been fascinated by a catalog before? No. Have I ever considered a catalog a work of art before? No. What is it that made that catalog so amazing? As I contemplated this over my lunch I realized what was-it was extraordinary. My next thought was why can’t all companies’ services and products be extraordinary? Now I realize that if every company service and product was extraordinary that none of them would be, because that would be the new standard. What I would like you to think about as a leader is this: would I say that your organization is extraordinary? That your products are extraordinary? That your people are extraordinary? Would your catalog if you had one blow my mind? It’s a compelling question. Why don’t I see a lot of extraordinary in the world of business? I think there are several reasons why this does not happen.
- I don’t think we aim for it. I see far too many companies that don’t aim for being extraordinary exceptional or amazing. I see companies who focus on sales revenue and operations, but don’t mention as part of that focus that the goal is to exceed people’s expectations, or to be amazing. Obviously you only get what you aim for- you can only hit a target if you know what it is.
- We settle for OK. I recently dined in a restaurant which offered handmade brick oven pizzas with fresh homemade tomato sauce and fresh mozzarella. I was excited when I ordered it based on the description of the product. Once the pizza arrived, and I took a few bites I realized that despite the billing the pizza was just okay. Not amazing, not extraordinary not “Oh my God I have to write somebody a letter about this pizza” or “I have to call a friend right now and tell them about.” It was just okay. Someone created that pizza recipe someone made the sauce and oversaw the production of the mozzarella. Someone in that organization said “this pizza is okay.” I believe someone in that organization should have said “yes the pizzas is okay- but how can we make it extraordinary?” They settled for okay.
- We don’t think it’s worth it. I was once talking to a customer service manager at a call center about how long customer service reps were allowed to be on the call with a specific customer. He told me emphatically that they measured call handling times and it was a problem if a rep was on the phone with the customer for too long. I questioned whether they were measuring the wrong thing measuring length of call instead of call satisfaction. He gave me a strange look and said look “customer service is only worth so much- each customer is only worth so much.” I’m not saying that metrics don’t matter but what I am saying is often the metrics that we use are measuring the wrong thing. I don’t think that Ritz-Carlton or Zappos or Neiman Marcus think about the wrong metrics they think about the right ones. I believe when you are extraordinary the money will roll in and the sales will increase in double digits year after year. People love to have extraordinary experiences and buy extraordinary products that surprised them with how great they are. The fact that we are surprised when something is extraordinary I think says it all.
- We don’t train for extraordinary- in most cases employees are trained to do the job to a certain level of basic competency. Based on my experience we don’t train people to be extraordinary we train them to be ordinary and pedestrian. So if as an organization we are to be extraordinary we have to train people the behaviors of what ordinary looks like, and give people permission to be extraordinary in their jobs.
- We don’t reward and incent extraordinary- I often meet people across the country who tell me they do amazing work. During their annual reviews they get extraordinary ratings from their boss and are told that they are doing an extraordinary job. However when it comes to getting a raise that person gets a raise that is on average 2 or 3%. This raise is not much more than people get who are average. So in their frustration they tell me that their extraordinary work is not really appreciated are rewarded commensurate to the level of work they do. So why don’t we reward extraordinary? I don’t know, but I think it is a huge strategic error.
So as a leader I think there are some main questions you need to ask yourself. Is your organization extraordinary? Are your products extraordinary? Are your people extraordinary? Would your customers say that you are extraordinary? These are all hard difficult questions that take an honest look in the mirror in order to determine the answers.
In our business and personal lives we are all looking for the extraordinary.
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