But what stunts performance?

There's a major, yet hidden, culprit lurking in your workplace.

It's when your employees don't truly understand the difference between what good and great performance looks like. Thus, they spend their time on a murky "good enough" that doesn't grow and stretch them or contribute to peak results. (The same "good enough' that Olive Garden chefs live by I'm guessing)

Think about it. Can you truly say that for every important project or critical aspect of performance related to your job that your employees really understand how you'd define what great looks like?

Odds are, no, which means your employees are guessing and likely won't think to ask you.

So take the time to sit down with your employees and get really clear on what good is and what great is and then embrace and work towards the latter.

I mean literally spell it out--in words.

What follows are real examples from discussions I've had with employees where we came to a mutually acceptable definition of what good and great looks like on a variety of important performance attributes.

The discussion is often eye-opening. The light will suddenly click on for the employee on how they can elevate their performance several notches (or for you on why they haven't been doing so already) or they'll come to understand that they're actually crushing something they thought they were just average at. Confidence increases in both the short and long term accordingly.

By the way, what's important is that you have the conversation--not that you leverage each definition that follows exactly as is.


Good: You get things done.  People like working with you.

Great: You can't help but lead because others want to follow. This definition sparks rich conversation on what it means to be a leader that others want to follow (again--insert your own definitions here).

Thinking and acting decisively

Good: You make firm decisions, with sufficient data in hand.

Great: You make firm decisions, with sufficient data and stakeholders in hand. (After all, people need to weigh in before they can buy in)

Getting things done

Good: You make things happen.

Great: You make the right things happen before you're asked. And you over-invest in work that is legacy-worthy.


Good: You let fear smartly temper your risk-taking--well thought through, calculated risks only, please.

Great: You fear not taking calculated risks.

Priority setting

Good: Trash compactor management -You brutally prioritize and compact your workload, focusing on delivering the most important things.

Great: Accordion management -You continually re-prioritize, like an accordion you constantly contract and expand (in this case your workload) by adding more high-value work at times, taking off low-value work, and flowing to surges.


Good: You personally take on and crank through any priority you're given.

Great: You make it personal to get work done through others as well.

Strategic thinking

Good: You consistently lead management's thinking.

Great: You consistently lead, and largely finish, management's thinking (with thorough, vetted thinking without major holes and with questions anticipated).


Good: You have great intelligence (IQ).

Great: You have great emotional intelligence (EQ) as well--your emotions work for you, not against you.  

Attention to detail

Good: You have an eye for detail.

Great: You helicopter up and down fluidly, diving into detail where it's appropriate but knowing when to keep your detailed attention on the bigger picture.


Good: You consistently solve problems with solid thinking.

Great: You bring problems management didn't know they had, along with solutions.

Follow through

Good: You follow through on the important things with excellence, and pick and choose the rest.

Great: You follow through relentlessly--even if it's to say you aren't following through. You inspire an unwavering sense of confidence that you've "got it covered."

Organizational contributions

Good: You've made significant contributions working in the system and improving "the smell of the place."

Great: You've also led unexpected contributions working on the system that have changed the DNA of the place.

Growing capability In others

Good: You invest in your people--they'd all say they've learned from you.

Great: You've become a "destination"--people seek you out to work for you.

Again, it's much more important that you do the exercise yourself with your employees and come up with your own definitions (versus following mine exactly).

You'll be amazed at not only how the discussion builds confidence but how it changes what employees spend their time on and how much their learning, growth, and performance improves.