Personal Benchmarking If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will take you there. And if you don’t know where you are, no decision can move you intelligently toward a goal or purpose. Knowing where you stand in your profession and industry is critical to becoming a change master in the global knowledge era. Belief systems are at the root of all resistance to change and produce virtually every conflict, as well as every creative invention, innovation and solution to problems resulting from dramatic change. Effective management of change always begins at the individual level, as an inner force that compels behavior and then projects itself externally.
Today’s victories don’t mean a thing tomorrow. You enjoy them, you relish them, but tomorrow comes, always offering a new challenge. So, achievement then is a process, not a status. And the road to success is always under construction. To live without limitations and set yourself free, you need to understand that there are two definitions. First there are physical limits. We’re born with those. I won’t compete in the Olympic Games and I won’t become President of the United States. Do you know why? I’m not prepared. I didn’t go through the training. So, I’m limited in the sense that I don’t have the physical characteristics, experience, or the time now to do certain things. And so I have to figure out what my limits are. Our physical limits are genetics, early environment, past experience and age. We all have those and we need to understand them.
This program is about the desire for change and dissatisfaction with the status quo. I like where I am but I see where I could go and I want to be there. But how far and how high can I go? What are my limitations, psychologically? Limits are physical barriers. Limitations are psychological boundaries. I assert to you that you’ll never reach your physical limits because of your psychological limitations. Over time we all learn to lower or raise our expectations of ourselves based upon our environments and experiences. Successes give us confidence. Disappointments and failures become thorny reminders that history is bound to repeat itself.
When I was a boy I used to enjoy going to the local county fair to see the “flea circus” that was always a hit with me and my friends. I couldn’t comprehend, at first, how those tiny fleas could be trained to hop and jump around on miniature trampolines, trapezes and not leap out of their little arenas that had no ceilings. I found out from the man that put on the show that, for a couple of weeks, he kept the fleas in a cardboard shoe box with a lid on it with pin-pricked holes so the fleas could breathe. Fleas normally can jump to a height of several feet, however the “circus” fleas continually hit the box lid and soon learned that six inches was their maximum limit. When the lid was removed, because they had been trained to lower their expectations, through frustration, they didn’t even attempt to jump out of their circus arena which would have been no problem.
We humans certainly are more intelligent than fleas, however behavior patterns seem to be consistent no matter the species. First we observe role models. We imitate their behavior. Through repetition, the imitation becomes habitual like brushing our teeth, or driving our cars. If the feedback is negative and painful, we reinforce our failed attempts and settle for mediocrity rather than face future challenges and possible setbacks. If the feedback is positive and accepted as “target correction,” we are motivated to try a different approach and keep reaching for our ©2018 Waitley Global All Rights Reserved. highest aspirations. Subconscious reflections of past mistakes, fears of future failures and fears of the unknown tend to act as ceilings or lids on our achievements.
Here’s the good news. While visiting Sea World many times with my grandchildren in my home town of San Diego, California, my grandkids were amazed to see four-ton killer whales jumping in formation out of the water and over a rope positioned ten feet above the surface. We learned from the trainers that they begin by placing a rope on the bottom of the pool and rewarding the Orcas with mackerel and tuna when they pass over it. Incrementally, the rope is raised until it is completely out of the water, and the killer whale is motivated by rewards to jump out of the water to cross over the rope. Just as the whales are encouraged through positive reinforcement, people also respond to rewards, appreciation, recognition and praise. Unlike animals, however, we humans have the power to choose and control, to a large degree, the conditioning of our present and future lives.
The way I was as a child, layered with the way I was 1, 5, 10, maybe 15 years ago equals my present behavior. You see, you condition yourself, and then you behave accordingly. The interesting thing — because past conditioning determines present performance — is that you never make a decision based upon what’s happening right now. You base your decision on what happened before, the way it was, the way it used to be; and you’re likely to experience the same thing again. So past conditioning equals present behavior. That’s why Olympic athletes practice under a coach’s watchful eyes, and then they perform based upon their training.
Well, how do you change? Interestingly enough, it isn’t that present inputs determine future behavior. Oh, I wish it were. I wish you could go to a seminar and then just say, “I got it. I changed.” You see, you get stimulated in the present, but your subconscious computer memory — and if you’re about 40 years old — is almost 350,000 hours full of past conditioning. So you go to a meeting for an hour. “Everybody got the new input? Have we all agreed to change?
Could anyone presume that a pep talk would change somebody? Pep talks wear off. People go back to being themselves. That’s why this ongoing Change Masters program is so important. It’s a training and tracking system for everyday living. Therefore, you look at your past conditioning, and you realize you’ve been limiting yourself. And you use present inputs to layer on top of the past conditioning, and you change the future behavior and performance accordingly; therefore, it’s very important what we think about and practice over and over again. And it’s most important that we view ourselves as being self-limiting by our thinking and training, instead of blaming externals.
Most people feel like thermometers. A thermometer rises or falls to meet the external environment. It’s controlled by outside circumstances. The majority of the population’s self-images are controlled by society’s external standards. Our self-image is the total picture of who we think we are; and the camera starts rolling at birth. The camera, our brain, takes pictures fast and furiously throughout life. And every frame is tucked away in a memory file of limitless ©2018 Waitley Global All Rights Reserved. capacity. This subjective sense of who we think ourselves to be governs all our actions and controls our destiny. How we feel about ourselves, how we rate our ability to hang in there to survive and win, and all that we ever do or aspire to be is based on our time-reinforced self-image.
Unfortunately, once an idea or belief becomes a perception, it becomes a truth for our self-image. Each link we add to the growing chain of self-images may either strengthen or shackle our lives more tightly. Control is in our hands. We can’t outgrow the limitations we place on ourselves through faulty self-imaging, but we can set new, higher standards. We can reset our self-image like an internal thermostat from low to high self-esteem, from loser to winner and from victim of change to victor over change, a change master. Each of us has a number of comfort zones or settings that we’ve developed throughout our lives that dictate the amount of discomfort we’re willing to suffer before we make adjustments. Our self-image is very definitely a thermostat keeping us in a psychological comfort zone.
Benchmarking was originally a surveyor’s term referring to a point of reference. A good definition as it applies to a business or organization is the search for industry’s best practices that lead to superior performance. The idea is to use the best to become the best. Benchmarking, in other words, is looking at yourself from the inside, assessing your own unique talents and skills, seeking out the best in your field and putting those examples to work for you.
For example, competing in the Olympic games is not simply to win a medal. The real meaning behind being an Olympian is to develop yourself to the highest level of performance in your field and then comparing that performance to world-class standards of excellence. Looking at contemporaries in completely different fields gives a fuller view of who is currently best and who might be so tomorrow–and why!
These questions know no occupational or geographic boundaries. There was a requirement that every Singapore CEO was to go through the flight attendant and service programs of government-owned Singapore Airlines, one of the world’s most successful and profitable companies. Enhancement of CEO performance in Singapore—one of the world’s most productive countries for decades–is no accident. Benchmarking shouldn’t be based only on our assessment of ourselves and counterparts in other successful companies; we can also learn from those “above” and “below” us. It’s also no accident that members of the top management staffs of the major hotel chains have been taking training in bell service, valet parking, front desk, housekeeping, and concierge services.
If you want to become or stay the best, you must know more than what your competitors are up to; you must know the best business practices, wherever they exist. Apple has continued to lead all industries in continuing to question what the next consumer demand will be for its emerging technologies, and then meeting or exceeding those expectations with products including new versions of the I-phone and I-pad. ©2018 Waitley Global All Rights Reserved.
For individual benchmarking, it’s important to choose leaders with the new leadership philosophy and the new employee paradigm. Jack Welch, former chairman of the General Electric Company, stressed that the practice is for pinpointing where you sit now, not where you wish or hoped you’d be. It’s locating where you actually are and where you need to be five years hence, as well as realistically assessing the chances of getting from here to there. This requires a clear picture of your strengths, weaknesses, and desired destination–which, in turn, requires a clear perspective on your life.
Knowledge of your attributes, abilities, interests, strengths, weaknesses, and traits is essential to becoming proactive in career choice and career change. Where to begin your personal benchmarking? First you should know your innate talents.
After many years of observation, we’re still surprised by how few people try to make a connection between what they’re good at and what they “do.” Virtually all individuals have at least 3 to 5 major talents. Many have more. It is important to note that all of your talents are present at birth. You will gain knowledge, attitudes, skills, and habits throughout your life. However, you will not receive or develop more talent. Our careers are a blend of natural abilities, environmental modeling, acquired skills, and experience. Many times our careers hinge heavily on the economic requirements at pivotal age and family considerations. If we are to develop our lives along the path of greatest wisdom, however, we should give serious thought to discovering our inherent abilities as early as possible.
The next step in assessing your interests is considering your current ones. What do you most enjoy after work? What do you most want to do on weekends and vacations? What are your hobbies? Your after-work activities? Your favorite kinds of books? Examination of your personal interests might reveal a gem of potential you can apply to your current professional work. Also, our research has shown that what we love and do well as children continues to shape our lives as adults. So an excellent benchmarking exercise is to spend time reviewing positive experiences and fantasies you had as a child.
Talents and personality traits come naturally at birth. Behavior patterns and habits are learned by observation, imitation and repetition. In all of the best research involving high-performance executives in nearly every field and job description –from technical to sales, from top management to hourly workers — combined with a data base working with Olympic athletes, coaches, and professional teams, we have learned that certain core behavioral traits generally define the high achiever and leader. For example, you want high scores in ambition, selfconfidence and mental toughness. Candidates who score low on any of these three traits or whose tests show a lack to self-control of habits, lack of flexibility, and a pattern of becoming overly emotional under stress may require careful screening or special training to predict their probable impact on performance.
Earlier in this program, we quoted the famous Chinese proverb that say: To know other people takes intelligence, but to know myself takes wisdom. Even if you’re reasonably satisfied with the current status of your career and your life, exploring yourself as deeply as possible can increase ©2018 Waitley Global All Rights Reserved. your self-awareness and your motivation. And if you do know what you really want to do–and it involves changes–ask whether you are acting to make your dreams a reality. Change masters know who and where they are today, and what and where they want to be tomorrow. And they get there.