Leadership and Management

Quick Read: Better?

Here’s a short thought experiment about the difference between better and good.

Imagine you’re driving a big truck along a highway. You see a sign that says low overpass ahead. 13′ clearance. You realize you’re driving a 19′ tall truck. Good thing you saw that sign! You go back to the dispatch warehouse and get yourself into a 16′ tall truck. There, that’s better, right? No? But the height of the truck moved down towards the standard from 19′ to 16′, so that’s better isn’t it?

My teammate and I had to sit in 2 hours of traffic on the Glenn Highway near Anchorage when this driver took out an overpass with a house! Not good.

Better is such a tempting disguise for below standard results in the workplace. We are wired to be fooled by patterns, and the direction of a measure can be more persuasive than it’s value. Said another way, if our business outcomes are getting “better”, moving in the right direction, we generally feel pretty good, even if our numbers aren’t quite at the standard.

A good servant leader won’t let their people fall victim to this fallacy. Better is nice, but good is a standard. It’s not enough for a leader to make things better. We have to create more good for those we serve. Sometimes that means reminding people what the standard is, always from a place of kindness, patience, and respect. Our job is to help others get through the overpass and to the other side, whatever that means for you and those you lead.

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