Flawless Preparation: The Key to Winning

Updated: September 16, 2009

Nothing gets me more excited than carrying out a mission exactly to plan. Whether flying a jet fighter sortie, delivering a keynote, making a cold call, or successfully bluffing at poker, when things go flawlessly, it just feels great!

But let's face it…it almost NEVER happens!!

I have a question for you. Are you perfect? Do you ever make mistakes?

In the fighter pilot community, no mission is ever complete until we de-brief. Why? Because 99.9% of the time, mistakes are made and we need to figure out how not to make them again! After all, if we don't fly the mission right, we may not have dinner that night!

In life, no mission is ever flawless, regardless if you're a fighter pilot, sales manager, or an IT specialist. We're all human beings, and human beings make mistakes.

Many great companies stress the concept of flawless execution to their employees. They understand that without proper execution, they are useless. And they are 100% correct.

The challenge with this type of business philosophy is not the concept, but how it's communicated to members of an organization. If communicated correctly, it can lead to positive change. But if communicated improperly (via poor leadership), it can back-fire. Here's why: When people are pushed to be perfect, they stop taking risks and start accepting mediocrity! They become afraid to push the envelope and make mistakes. After all, if they don't perform flawlessly, they must be messing up!

In essence, they become fearful…and fear drives away our winning spirit. In an age where innovation and risk taking are so critical to business growth, that type of behavior can prove fatal.

Here's another question: Do you want to work in an organization that promotes mediocrity? Hmmmmm….

My friend Jeffrey Gitomer is one of the top sales trainers in the world. His best selling book "The Little Red Book of Selling" is packed with great ideas to motivate your staff. Here's an idea he promotes: He pays his employees when they make a mistake!! That's right. When they use their best judgment and make a decision that they feel is in the best interest of his company, they get paid. WOW! Talk about a leader motivating employees to take risks!

Here's a suggestion. Rather than demand flawless execution, command (through your leadership and training programs) flawless preparation! Now that's something that is attainable. Discipline yourself and your corporate team to:

  • Extensively study your prospects & competition
  • Mission rehearse (chair-fly) every sales call or product demo
  • Plan for contingencies (‘what-ifs' of business)
  • Attend seminars & read books to strengthen your personal development & business skills
  • Build trusting relationships with wingmen you can turn to for help

Failing to flawlessly execute is excusable. But there is no excuse for not flawlessly preparing!

Bottom line - don't focus on flawless execution. Focus instead on flawless preparation which will eventually lead to flawless (or near flawless) execution. That's how you build a confident workforce ready to win!!



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