Why you, your team have to be your own most ruthless critic

Everyone is working hard to come up with the secret sauce. Your organization is constantly dishing up a mix of variables with a goal of not just putting you out front but keeping you ahead. Our Lady of the Wayside is no exception to wanting to be exceptional, and what we’ve found is that being critical is … well, critical.

Wayside has had the privilege of supporting children and adults with disabilities for 50 years. Your organization’s mission may vary wildly from ours but the common denominator is the importance of advancing big ideas through the accomplishment of infinitesimal detail.

What’s called for here is entrepreneurial lucidity with a stomach for process, procedure and policy. It’s the kind of thinking that gets to the top, uses it for a springboard to the next amazing thing and then lays it all down on paper so everyone in the organization can keep the good stuff going.

The thing is (yep, there’s always a thing) in order to actually accomplish this, you and your staff have to be your own most ruthless critic.

Disassemble and learn
Here’s the opportunity: real success shows up when you’re willing to take apart your work (good, bad and ugly) to see how it can be improved, if it’s sustainable and what needs to be put in place so you can lean into it.

■  Deconstruct: Get your team together, do a victory lap and then dissect, label and identify. Was it a fluke? A perfect storm? A carefully calibrated formula? Fully understand how the win was won or how the loss went down.

■  Get better: There’s always room for improvement. What angles were left unleveraged? Where did the follow-through fall apart? Is there ever enough follow-up?

■  Make it official: The self-exam is over. Now it’s time to get efficient. Execute the process … create the procedure … and ensure the policy puts your best work into motion. Manipulate the details in a way that brings the big picture more fully into focus.

■  Get it to good: Getting lost in the minutia of chasing down details is the death of moving forward. Get the management of details down to a science and so you can maintain excellence while focusing resources on progress.

Keep it going
Initially, it sounds odd: ironclad structure is the best accelerator for innovation. That’s why you have a team of people who — as luck would have it — have a remarkable range of strengths and abilities.

Provide them with the chance to achieve great things. Give them permission to make spectacular mistakes. And trust them with your vision. Once that’s done, light the room for them by taking a critical look at your organization’s bodywork.

Then keep it going because what I’m finding is there’s no such thing as the top of your game — which is great because I come to play.

Terry Davis is president and CEO at Our Lady of the Wayside