In ancient Rome a centurion could command those who were not Roman citizens to carry their equipment for a mile. Generally the conquered citizens resented the forced labour, but first century Christians began a tradition of “going the extra mile”. Not only would they do what they were required by law to do… but they would do more… by choice.
Two millennia later the principle of going the extra mile is still a powerful philosophy in life and leadership. No wonder Wayne Dyer observed, “It’s never crowded on the extra mile”. It’s a rarer breed who are willing to go beyond what is required, but that’s what world-class leaders are made of.
I’m sure you’ve discovered that mediocrity is the most crowded marketplace of all. It’s what Kim & Mauborgne refer to as the “red ocean” of competition and overcrowding in their breakthrough book Blue Ocean Strategy.
These days business leaders often speak about “delivering on expectations” as if it’s a worthy benchmark of some sort. That roughly translates “doing what we said we would do”. Is it just me, or does that sound more like base camp than an actual goal?
Delivering on expectations is about integrity not excellence, so if you can distinguish yourself from your competition just by acting with integrity, it might be time to think about working in a different industry.
The extra mile is about the stretch. It’s about doing the unexpected (delivering on UNexpectations). It’s about customers who are surprised not just satisfied.
- So what does the extra mile look like for you?
- In what ways could you go beyond expectations and leave a lasting, positive impression?
- Does your organisational culture reward or punish (even subtly) team members who go above and beyond their duty for your clients?
Put some space between you and your competition. A mile would be a good start.
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Paul Andrew is Founder of The Leadership Coach™
He is a Keynote Speaker and Management Consultant based in New York