Are You A "Ricky Bobby" Leader?

We want to succeed… we want our people to succeed… we want our organization to succeed!  Ricky Bobby said it best in Talladega Nights.  “If you’re not first, you’re last!”   But do you know who said, “Second place is just first loser!”?  No, not Ricky Bobby again!  It was Dale Earnhardt Sr., named among NASCAR's 50 Greatest Drivers in 1998, and a member of the inaugural Induction Class for the NASCAR Hall of Fame on May 23, 2010.  Champions know that winning is not everything, but it IS SOMETHING; something really exciting and amazing!

But what if you’re not winning?  What does that say about you, or your team?  There could be a thousand different reasons why things aren’t going your way.  Some problems are complex, enormous and overwhelming.  Let’s hope those aren’t yours!  What if it’s something as simple as this… what if you and your team don’t know what success looks like?  If someone asked you to explain in a few short sentences what those things were that you need to do to be considered successful, could you tell them?  Could your team tell YOU what they think YOU want out of them so they could be successful?

Maybe it’s time to take a fresh look at what it means for you or your team to succeed…


Before you start picking out those things that determine what make you and your staff successes, you need to back that bus up and ask this question. “How often can I manage those I lead, or even how much time will I have to manage my own success?”  If the benchmarks for success laid out are overwhelming in number or size, then stop and reconsider if you’ve taken too big of a bite the pie.  If you choke on the task you won’t win; you can’t win if you’re buried alive.

Another important point to consider when determining your benchmarks for success is important for those that lead others.  Leaders must also ask “How many people can I effectively manage?”  If you are only managing a few people, then maybe it’s good to have either more difficult benchmarks, or a greater number of them for standards of success.

Very Simple

Ultimately you need to come to that point where the artist in you must be able to “paint a very simple picture of success”.  This may sound like an easy task, but it’s actually one of the most difficult things for a leader to do.  Peeling away the fluff, the busyness, the petty and mundane to get to those core activities that are crucial to success can seem almost impossible once you dive into the task.  But it’s crucial for success to take place.

With the overwhelming amount of information regarding leadership development and growth of your staff, just a few quick Google clicks can point you to a variety of successful tips that might point you in the right direction of setting some great standards for your team.

But a question still remains.  “Can you communicate this very simple picture of success?  Just because you know what needs to be done doesn’t mean that your staff will know it, understand it and live it.  For your staff to succeed, what they need most is not a pep talk or a doomsday threat.  They need clarity.  It’s unrealistic for you to expect them to succeed if they haven’t been clearly shown what that looks like.    That’s the picture you need to communicate.


Finally, before you put the pen to paper, or fingers to keyboard, ask yourself these two questions… First, “What is most critical for survival?”  In every organization there are those mission critical tasks that form the basis for the very existence of the organization.  You can’t thrive if you can’t survive.  Before taking your market by storm, what will it take to get you TO the market?  Those are some of the benchmarks that must be a part of the success standards for your team members.

Second, ask yourself, “What is most critical for success?”  The politically correct language may need to be stripped away.  The mounds of details from the job description may need to be ignored.  When it’s all said and done, what needs to be said and done MOST so that in the end you can say, “We won!”?

Teams want to win, players want to succeed.  But they need you as the leader, the coach and mentor to lay out what the very best benchmarks for success that they ought to be working towards.   If you fail to do that well, you’re not going to win.  Remember, “Second place is just first loser!”  So shake & bake baby!

How do you effectively communicate what success looks like to your team?

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