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Beware Best Practices

In many cases before leaders will approve a proposal for innovation or improvement of current practices they direct people to go out and research “best practices”. People spend months doing research and putting together information on what they believe constitute current best practices, then spend a considerable amount of time writing and rewriting the report only to have it sit in the boss’ virtual or physical inbox. By the time the boss gets around to reading the report and forming a committee to review the recommendations, those “best practices” have now changed.

Mark Sanborn is a best selling author, speaker and one of the top leadership trainers in the world. In one of his books I read years ago (I believe it was Up, Down or Sideways) he cautioned about Best Practices. He said Best Practices always have three qualifiers:

    1. Best Practices for now.
    2. Best Practices that we know of.
    3. Best Practices given the circumstances.

This brings to mind many questions:

    • How do you determine what are best practices?
    • Are best practices for a 5 person also best practices for a 500 or 5000 person organization?
    • Are best practices for an organization where everyone works out of one office the same as best practices for an organization with offices around the province or state, the country or around the world?
    • Are best practices for a solopreneur the same as best practices for an entrepreneur who has employees?
    • Are best practices for live training the same as best practices for virtual training?
    • Are “best practices”, really “best” or simply the status quo?

This is not to suggest that you do not keep abreast of what is going on in your field and industry standards. You also need to keep abreast of what the science and research says. The challenge there is to find ways to apply the research and science to your organization and your business.

What Sanborn recommends is that you seek Better Practices and Next Practices.

Better Practices: How do we do what everyone else is doing but do it better?

Next Practices: How do we change the game?

What if as a leader you were to challenge your team to strive for Better Practices on the path to Next Practices? You don’t have to try and change the world, just continually seek to improve your small piece of the world through daily incremental improvements. This requires a culture where people embrace a culture of striving to improve as individuals, teams, and as an organization, understanding that in the striving sometimes they will fail. When they do fail it is an opportunity to learn, grow and improve as a result of the experience.

Imagine what your team could accomplish if you curated a culture where people embraced the challenge and the journey of striving to create Better Practices and Next Practices.

Remember that leadership is a choice and a journey and it starts with you. Choose well, keep learning and enjoy the journey. The Dare to Be Great: Strategies for Creating a Culture of Leading online workshop was created for aspiring leaders and frontline leaders to help you on your leadership journey.

Brian Willis