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Leadership Lessons with Just One More Degree or 1 More Percent Difference

I first started reading motivational books in the mid-1980s. I had just gone through a divorce and was having huge pity parties. The problem was that no one was attending these parties and I was getting tired of playing ‘I don’t care anymore’ by Phil Collins 100 times a night.

I decided to pick myself up by the bootstraps and start reading motivational books. In retrospect I’m so glad that the divorce happened and I learned the art of self-motivation. One of the first books I read, being a sports fanatic, was one by Pat Riley—then coach of the Los Angeles Lakers.

In one of the chapters he talked about his one-percent rule. The Lakers lost to the Boston Celtics for the NBA championship in 1986 and Riley convinced his team of 12 they each simply had to get one percent better in five different categories that summer. He made the team track everything they did in those five categories—again with a goal of only increasing by one percent of their personal best. He knew by multiplying this by 12 players it would work.

The result? The Lakers beat the Celtics four games to two for the NBA championship. Most of his players increased their personal bests by five percent because it became a focus of theirs. It was then I started to understand the one percent rule.

Twice recently I was reminded of this. Last week the Miami Heat was one game away from this year’s NBA final. After game five, Lebron James was interviewed and he said the Heat has just one goal—to get a little better each game. Is it irony that Pat Riley is the president of the Heat?

The second time was when I was reading the Zappos book by Tony Hseih called “Delivering Happiness.” Tony talked about how his goal for his Zappos team is to get better by one percent per day. He cited the example of what happens when you have $100 and it increases by just one percent per day. After a year that $100 is worth $3,778.34. So getting better by one percent daily will yield a more than 37-percent increase over the course of a year—37 percent.

Here Is This Week’s Question:

Can you get one percent better every day as a leader? Can you lead your team to get one percent better each day over the course of a year? Just think of the difference that can make in your business and for your team!

Just one percent per day seems so achievable, doesn’t it?

One challenge is that, for some reason, some of us believe that an employee with 10 years of experience is 10 times better than a person with one year experience. I challenge you on that one! It may mean they simply have 10 years in a row of one-year experience—meaning they aren’t any more valuable than they were at the first year.

In your next meeting ask your team if they believe they can get one percent better every day for the last half of the year. Then find out what you can do as their leader to make that happen.

If you want to give a great illustration of one degree of difference, show them the following video—it is one of my favorites: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7F38pkwZgXw.

If the link doesn’t work, you can go to YouTube and type in “one degree difference.” In just three minutes you may see the 1 degree of difference your team needs to have a great back half of the year.

It’s just one percent a day! I know you can achieve it—should you make the decision to do so. That’s what great leaders do.

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