Today, I sent an admonition to my co-workers. I overheard a couple of “We can’t because…” a little too closely together. A great idea was about to die before it got out the door because of a production obstacle. It left the impression with me that they who felt defeated by obstacles didn’t see the importance of doing something great. Greatness should never be so vulnerable.
So I reminded everyone that, when facing obstacles, the proper attitude is how good becomes great. More importantly, it’s how great stays great. Every company has a mantra whether spoken or unspoken. Great companies all have what I call “yes” mantras. As the name implies “yes” mantras are an attitude that always responds to a challenge in the positive as opposed to the negative. “We can’t because…” just doesn’t happen in companies with “yes” mantras. Ever.
“Yes” mantras cause people to climb mountains, move mountains, blow-up mountains. They move all obstacles out of the way for the sake of greatness. “Great” is great because it isn’t an everyday occurrence. Great happens because you are trying to be great everyday. It takes passion and commitment. And it requires people who are willing to do what it takes, even be a pain in the butt if need be, to get the job done right.
“No” is easy. “Yes” is hard. That’s why there are very few companies who live by the “yes” mantra to their core. If you’re going to be pure you have to be relentless about your mantra. Everyone you work with you must be more than a little obsessed with it.
There are people who will never adopt the “yes” mantra. I don’t know if it’s not in their DNA or if they take some sick pleasure in being second-rate. (Dragging the rest of us down with them.) But those people have to be avoided at all costs. If they do make their way into the fold, you convert them quickly or you send them packing. All companies have these types. At great companies they don’t last long. I used to have a client who wrote his company motto as: Let the eagles soar and shoot the turkeys. That sounded hard-core but that man knew what he was building and he knew what would keep him from making it happen. Shoot the turkeys if you want to be great.
A young co-worker shared with me a wonderful example of why we have a “yes” mantra. One of her favorite TV programs is about a hospital. A patient was terminally ill and they had her hooked up to all kinds of machines and were doing all of this time-consuming work to try to save her. When one of the doctors asked his chief why they were wasting all of this time, he answered. “So we can tell her family that we did everything possible to save her.”
That’s what a “yes” mantra is really about. It’s not about achieving greatness; it’s about doing everything possible. Greatness takes care of itself when you do everything possible.