30 Mar Successful Companies: The Value of Dissatisfaction
What do all sustainably successful people and sustainably successful companies have in common? Over the past thirty years, I have worked with over 600 companies and thousands of leaders and entrepreneurs and every one of them had this one quality.
Today I want to talk about the power of dissatisfaction.
One of my favorite CEO’s, Darren Entwistle, who guided telecommunications giant TELUS to unparalleled success once told me that “to outpace the competition you must develop a relentless dissatisfaction with the status quo.” Greatness and complacency simply don’t go together.
What does this mean for successful companies? It means constantly asking:
– What would it mean for us to take this to the next level?
– What are others doing better than us?
– What would someone do that could put us out of business tomorrow?
– How could we do this more efficiently?
– What has made us successful that might blind us to how we need to change?
Successful Companies: Client Examples
Let me give you a great example from one of my favorite clients.
Qantas Airlines is the second oldest airline in the world. Recently, they were named once again the “safest airline” in the world. Yet, during my time at Qantas, I have seen a relentless dissatisfaction about safety. They are constantly asking, “How can we be better?” They are constantly finding out what other airlines are doing to see what they can learn from others. They are constantly pushing the major manufacturers like Airbus and Boeing to make changes in aircraft systems. They are so dissatisfied that I have even heard leaders and pilots there worry about being considered “too safe.” Meaning, they want to keep from getting complacent.
Another client of ours is Royal Bank. Despite being Canada’s largest bank and one of the most stable banks in the world, in my work with them these last years I have seen that same constant dissatisfaction with the status quo. They are constantly looking at what it will take for them to stay great and looking over their shoulder at what others are doing while pushing themselves to come up with new products and services to meet their client’s needs.
If you work for a company that is relentlessly dissatisfied you should be grateful, because NOT being dissatisfied means there is a pretty good chance others will pass you by.
The same is true for an individual. The path to greatness is to be relentlessly dissatisfied with your own status quo. Successful people are constantly asking questions like:
– Who is even better than me at my job or some part of it?
– What do I need to work on to be an even better professional, parent, spouse, friend or human being?
– How could I be even more effective as a leader?
– What do I have to do to keep up with changes in the world around me?
One of my mentors had a simple formula for relentlessly getting better. At any one moment always have at least ONE thing you are working on to be a better leader and at least one thing you are working on being better at as a human being. For six months work hard on those two things then move on to two more things. Within ten years you would be better at 20 things as a leader and 20 things as a person!
Don’t confuse relentless dissatisfaction with unhappiness. You can be happy and dissatisfied. You can recognize and celebrate success and always focus on getting better that’s what successful comapanies do.
At Qantas, TELUS and Royal Bank there is a constant celebration of the victories alongside this focus on getting better. The most successful people celebrate their strengths while focusing on being better.
Successful Companies are Relentless
In fact, relentless dissatisfaction WITHOUT celebration doesn’t work. It is the very success we make in improving that makes our people and ourselves want to keep improving.
Each year I give about sixty talks inside companies on the theme of my book “Stepping Up.” Sometimes people get nervous because they think but we are already stepping up! But you see stepping up to the next level is what winners do. When Qantas wanted to take their service to a new level they put the entire domestic workforce through a program challenging each individual to step up even more–to take their contribution to new levels. Not only did their net promoter scores rise dramatically but thousands of people started asking how can I make a bigger contribution?
So if you want to be successful be dissatisfied. That relentless quality is true of every great person I know.