Leadership in Action – Are You a Captain of the World?

When we get set in our ways, convinced that only our way is the right way, it is very easy for us to see the world around us as in desperate need of fixing. This self-proclaimed Captain of the World approach is frustrating enough for ourselves. But, how is it impacting our team and performance?

First, we rationalize our approach: no one has the same high standards that we hold, and it is so hard to find team members that can match those standards. This belief pattern is self-perpetuating. When we focus on what is wrong with the work our team members have done, they soon realize there is no pleasing us. They give up trying to do a great job, and instead focus on just making sure that they are not the one blamed for a mistake. The avoidance of making a mistake is achieved by doing either nothing, or at least nothing with risk. Thus, innovation and creativity are the first victims of being the Captain of the World.

Second, we believe that if we can fix all the problems, then success is the outcome. This second belief pattern has us operating as fire fighters, looking for problems to fix. Our measure of accomplishment is based on how many problems we solve. While identifying the larger problems, that prevent a product from working, is important, waiting until a product is perfect, drives up costs and creates delays in delivery. So, budget and timelines are the second victims of being the Captain of the World.

Third is the belief that the most efficient way to help a team member improve is to focus on what is wrong with their performance. This third belief pattern eventually demoralizes our team members. It can cause them to mentally, or physically leave the organization. Employee engagement is the third victim of being the Captain of the World.

The subtle shift in our leadership, from perfectionism to excellence, is the path to effectiveness. Excellence is the idea that we are performing above standard. Everything has a standard and performing in the top quartile is about excellence. Excellence is about continual improvement, not to be perfect, but better today than yesterday. This expectation of our team members drives not only engagement but innovation, creativity and the ability to deliver on time and on budget.

As we shift our energy, from being the Captain of the World to driving excellence in the places we can make a difference, we not only let go of our own frustrations, we better Energize Action within our team.