February is a short month so we all need to focus just a little bit more and work just a little bit smarter, faster and better in order to get as much out of 28 days as we did the 31 in January… or more! This month’s challenge is on helping the people you lead to go above and beyond – the proverbial extra mile. Extra-mile-ism is a good thing. Extra-mile-ism is good for the company, good for you the manager, good for your customers, good for the team, good for the extra-miler as long as you make sure to give that person the proper recognition and reward. Discretionary effort. That’s the magic of the extra-mile and it’s the huge business variable you can help control as a leader: What are you doing to help every person you lead expend that discretionary effort? What are you doing to help every person do a little bit more a little bit better and a little bit faster?
P.S. I have to thank so many of you again and again for your incredibly generous enthusiasm for my new book – The 27 Challenges Managers Face. Thank you thank you thank you!
MY NEW BOOK
The 27 Challenges Managers Face is now available at Audible.com.
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Managers ask me, “What about the employee who does just enough work and does it just well enough and nothing else? How do you motivate that person to go the extra mile?”
This is usually not the “bare minimum” employee, but at least a notch up. The manager wonders of this person, “Why not try just a little bit harder? Why not do just a little bit more?” Instead, the manager should explain this “extra mile” expectation to the employee in question, in concrete terms, as a regular part of their ongoing one-on-one dialogue. Often managers balk at that advice: “That misses the whole point! I shouldn’t have to tell him.”
I ask, “Should your employee be reading your mind?”
Managers often say, “I want this employee to meet fully the formal expectations and even exceed them. And then – on his own initiative – to see what else he can do to help, and then – on his own initiative – do it!” To which I always say, “So why not just explain to them, frequently and enthusiastically, that “going the extra mile” is the expectation?”
You might think: “That’s just setting the bar higher. So now the real expectation is the old expectation plus going the extra mile.” My response: That’s exactly right! Let’s face it. When you complain that your direct reports are not going above and beyond expectations, you are obviously trying to raise the bar. So raise it! Spell out that higher expectation as clearly as possible.
Instead of wishing for employees to meet a bunch of unspoken expectations, let people know exactly what it would look like for them to “go the extra mile” in their particular roles, every step of the way.
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FROM OUR RESEARCH:
We’ve identified a four step process for talking with employees about going the “extra mile” in your regular one-on-one dialogues:
- 1. Make an “extra mile” list for yourself. What would it look like for you to go the extra mile in your role? After you do your job very well, very fast, all day long. In those extra moments. What are some extra ways you can add value? This will give you a bit of perspective.
- 2. Ask every one of your direct reports to make an “extra mile” list for himself.
- 3. Review each employee’s “extra mile” list. Perhaps talking through it together you will both learn a few things. Sometimes managers are surprised to find that items on the employee’s “extra mile” list would have been on the manager’s list of basic performance expectations. Together create a working “extra mile” list for that employee. Remember, this is always a moving target.)
- 4. Encourage employees to “keep score” for themselves on how often they complete items on the “extra mile” list. Take note of those who do and those who don’t score a lot of “extra mile points.” For those who do, provide recognition, reinforcement, and rewards whenever you can. For those who don’t, ask once in a while, “Why not?”
Our research shows that when managers make the opportunity to ‘go the extra mile’ concrete, employees are much more likely to excel in ways they might not have ever come up with on their own.