I once had a mentor tell me that my best wasn’t good enough. Ouch! Since best is, by definition, the best you can be, I think I was pretty reasonable in telling him, “Hey, my best is all I’ve got.”
He didn’t let it go: “That’s not good enough,” he told me. I asked him how I could do better if I was already doing my best. His response? “Do better. Learn more; read more. Become better.”
Become better. Become more than best. That seemed impossible, but when I thought about it I realized that when we think about the idea of something being the best, we’re thinking about something static, something that never changes. I don’t know about you, but I’ve never known a person who never changed.
That means there is always a new best you can be. You just have to change what you’re being best at.
Change What You’re Being Best At
When most people join a company, they’re an employee. By learning the ropes, investing in the mission and vision of the business and delivering quality service to clients, they can become a great employee—maybe even the best employee. They don’t have to stop there, though: The next thing they can work at being great at is being the best manager they can be. Once they’re the best manager they can be, they can work at being the best leader they can be.
I call this approach of always working to become your new best the Employee-Manager-Leader (EML) Model.
The EML Model
The EML Model describes the way that someone can transform from an employee to a manager to a leader. This works for people at all levels of business, from the most entry level person to the big boss. It’s a model you can work on for yourself; it’s a model you can use to mentor your employees.
Moving from being an employee to a manager to a leader can feel like a huge leap, but the EML Model breaks it down into three phases, each with three steps, so they can be tackled one at a time.
Here’s what the model looks like:
The Employee Mindset: Be Your Best at Your Job
The Employee Mindset segment of the EML Model is focused on, naturally enough, being great at your job. It also helps you set your sights on being a great leader down the road.
- Step 1: Embrace the vision, mission and values of your organization, and start to think about where you want to be in the organization in the future. What type of leader do you want to be?
- Step 2: Do your best job. When was the last time you reviewed your job description? If you don’t have one, get a copy. Then read it, know it and fulfill it.
- Step 3: Achieve your KPIs. KPIs are Key Performance Indicators; they’re the data that tells us whether we’re meeting our key objectives as a business. Use KPIs to measure your effectiveness and increase your value to the organization.
- Step 4: Manage yourself. Look at how you work, and make changes to increase efficiency. Eliminate distractions; implement a block schedule, dedicating chunks of time to particular tasks; schedule the hardest tasks when you have the most energy. I love the book The Power of Full Engagement by Jim Loehr for learning about managing energy.
- Step 5: Manage your job. It may seem like you’re already doing this, if you’re doing your best job, but there’s always room for improvement. Read about your job. What can you learn from others in the industry to expand or transform the way you do things?
- Step 6: Manage others. Build up your team by fostering a culture of support and connection. Say good morning; keep up with what others are working on and offer assistance and encouragement when you can.
- Step 7: Seek additional training. You may feel, like many people do, that you’re not a “natural leader,” but leadership is a quality that can be learned. When you’re ready to learn to lead, I highly recommend the book [Book Name Here].
- Step 8: Lead others. Leaders come in many flavors. You might have a title that puts you at the head of a division or department, but you can also lead by supporting others. This kind of leading builds on the assistance and encouragement practiced in the Manager Mindset.
- Step 9: Lead on your own. Some leading is done by setting an example for others. How you act, how you show up in the world, can being demoralizing and make people hunker down and protect themselves, or it can be inspiring and empower others to be positive and productive. Behave like the kind of leader you admire, and you will become that kind of leader.
The Manager Mindset: Go Beyond Your Job
When you have a Manager Mindset, you’re not just focused on the daily details of your job. You’re starting to think about how what you do fits into the larger picture of the business—and how you can encourage and support others in going beyond their own jobs.
The Leader Mindset
Managing is about getting work done, achieving objectives. Leading is about thinking long-term, achieving vision. Both are vital to any business or organization, but it is the leaders who reach for the future and forge the path to get there.
Which mindset are you in today—and where do you want to be? Which mindset are the people who report to you in—and where do they want to be? Use the EML Model to decide what you need to do to get where you want to be, and dedicate yourself—right now, today—to taking action.
Let me repeat what my mentor said to me: Your best isn’t good enough. Do better. Learn more; read more. Become better.
Be your new best.