Aiming higher

Recently I was at a seminar where the facilitator urged us at the beginning of the session to play at a high 10 level – play at our best, take risks and move out of our comfort zone. At the end of the session he suggested that we could up our game even more – go way beyond our comfort zone to really set the bar higher.

As he was talking, I thought about Steve Jobs and his management style. As I’ve said before he certainly wasn’t a model manager in his communications with his staff. Yet, he certainly inspired people to do their best work.

Again the message he gave to staff over and over again – aim higher, don’t settle. What would it look like if we upped our game to an 11, rather than be content with mediocrity

Use your mental powers

Like a high performance athlete going for a gold medal finish, create a picture in your mind of what playing at 11 looks like for you.  Steve Jobs had his distortion reality field. It was named after an episode of Star Trek where aliens create a convincing alternative reality through sheer mental force. An early example was when Jobs was on the night shift at Atari and pushed Steve Wozniak to create a game called Breakout. Woz said it would take months, but Jobs stared at him and insisted he could do it in four days. Woz knew that was impossible, but he ended up doing it.


Distraction is one of the chief challenges we face. It’s difficult to be playing your best game when you are constantly on your i-phone or i-pad. In fact, those products were the result of Job’s practice of concentration.  Jobs took  his management team on a retreat for them to come up with products they could centre on for the coming year. Once everyone had their say, he would scale it back to three. Those three products would be the only focus of the company.

Surround yourself with “A” players

When we are around smart, stimulating and successful colleagues, we challenge ourselves. There is an expectation of greatness. That certainly was true of Jobs. He infused Apple employees with an abiding passion to create groundbreaking products and a belief that they could accomplish what seemed impossible. His top players tended to stick around longer and be more loyal than those at other companies, including ones led by bosses who were kinder and gentler.

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