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Strive to be ‘Your Best’, not ‘The Best’.

Too often people are told they need to be “The Best”. The best performer on the team, the best department, the best division, etc. Many organizations have some version of “To be the best ____________” in their Mission or Vision Statements. This problematic on multiple levels.

On an individual and team level there can only be one person who is ‘the best’ on a team. If I am striving to be that person, then I see the other people on my team as competitors in the race to be ‘The Best’. As a result, I will withhold information, resources, and credit from the other people on the team. To be “The Best” it is not enough for me to be as good as everyone else, I need to create the impression that I am better than everyone else. As a result, I will start rumors about other people on the team, find opportunities to point out their mistakes or flaws, strive to embarrass them in front of our supervisor and trash talk them behind their backs. Does this remind you of any teams you have been part of?

“There is nothing noble in being superior to your fellow man; true nobility is being superior to your former self.”

Ernest Hemingway

As a leader your job is to create an environment where everyone is striving to becoming their best, and continually working to be the best version of themselves that they can be. This includes you. When you have this culture people see their teammates as collaborators, not competitors. As a result, they will be willing to share resources, share information and share credit for ideas teammates came up with or work done by other team members that contributed to the mission.

Having a Mission or Vision Statement to be “The Best _____________” as an organization is also problematic. First, striving to be “The Best” means you are always outward focused, always comparing yourself to other organizations. Instead of getting caught in the comparison trap you would be better served to be continually focused on making your organization a great place to work. You do this by making your people your number one priority. This means striving to create a culture of leading, learning and excellence. A critical element to this culture is continually training and developing your people, then trusting them to do what you hired them to do. It requires creating a culture where you value leaders, not bosses, and are committed to continually developing both current and future leaders in your organization.

Another organizational issue is how do you define or measure being ‘The Best’ especially for public safety organizations and others in the social sectors? Do you base that on citizen surveys? Employee surveys? Number of calls for service? Number of arrests? Number of tickets written? In the US there are 18,000 police departments. No two agencies are the same so how do you decide who is “The Best”? This takes us back to focusing on being your best, not the best. Invest in your people, train your people, give your people the tools and authority to solve problems.

At the individual, team, and organization level focus on being your best, the best version of yourself that you can be. Strive for small incremental improvements and make the people in your team, division, or organization your number one priority.

“Regardless of what you have accomplished or achieved; you will always be good relative to what you can become. Greatness is inherently a dynamic process and not an end state. The moment you start to think of yourself as great, your slide towards mediocrity will begin.”

Jim Collins

 Remember that leadership is a choice and a journey, and it starts with you. Choose well, keep learning, and enjoy the journey.

Brian Willis