Michael Jordan and Lebron James. Drew Brees, Peyton Manning, and the QB for the New England Patriots. Ted Williams and Tony Gwynn. Athletes who are/were the best of their profession. They set the bar for what is outstanding performance. I look at their stats and what we consider “outstanding,” and compare to how we measure performance in the “corporate world” and I’m amazed at the differences. While we love to compare the work-ethic of a Wayne Gretzky to our high performers or reward the “Michael Jordan” of the sales team, we hold our corporate MVPs to a much higher standard than their sports counterparts.
Michael Jordan and Lebron James have career shooting percentages of 57% and 59%, respectively. Drew Brees has a career completion percentage of 67% and is the best in the history of the NFL. The current New England Patriots quarterback, considered by many outside of the Indianapolis area as the greatest of all time, has a career completion percentage of 64%. The most prolific hitter in baseball, Ted Williams, had a career batting average of .344. He was successful less than 4 out of 10 tries.
What if we truly held our corporate players to our sporting MVP standards? Our employees have one bad day out of the week and we are ready to write them up. They are good 4 out of the 5 days, 80%, and we want to consider them in a silly category like “meets and sometimes exceeds.” Can you imagine if your favorite QB completed 80% of their passes? How about Lebron going 20 for 25 in the playoffs? Instead, he goes 17 for 35 and he’s the greatest of all time.
Maybe we should treat our employees like the best of the best in sports. We can’t expect our employees to be their best every time the walk into the office. They are going to have bad days. They are going to fall into a slump.
If you told me I would get Pat to give me solid performance 80% of the time, I would be one happy and successful leader because I know Pat is going to have an “off night.” Pat is going to have a few things affecting their performance that may have absolutely nothing to do with the workplace. Relationship issues, childcare issues, a basement that floods on Labor Day, or just a bad night of sleep. Even the best have a bad day.
Good coaches and managers realize they will not always get 100% out of their players each and every outing. But they do know, over the long haul, they will get consistency. While every shot may not go in, they know they will get maximum effort more times than not. They realize when the good ones are slumping and do little things to help them through it. Whether it is a day off, calling a high-percentage quick slant, or allowing them to play through it, coaches plan for and expect some sub-par performances from their superstars.
Employers need to realize that they cannot expect 100% from their employees. Sometimes they just have a bad day and need to blow off some steam or vent to a co-worker. One moment of venting does not make them a chronic complainer.
Give your employees a break. Showing up as their best selves, all day and every day, is exhausting. Allow some space for grace.
While you’re staring at your autographed Michael Jordan basketball, remember, MJ only made 6 out of the 10 shots he took. What if your employee was good on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday and had a below-average Tuesday and Thursday? They’re just trying to be like Mike. Sometimes good is good enough.