I read a line in a newspaper article recently that really struck me. The gist of the story was that prior to a big horse race, the jockey asked the trainer to define the strategy he wanted to employ. The trainer said, “Get out in front, then improve your position.”
The reason I liked it so much is that it’s really the essence of what we preach. Incentives are about improving performance, and a typical incentive winner is the kind of person who, like the trainer’s advice, gets out in front and keeps on getting better. The fact that you’re in the lead doesn’t mean you should let up, because sure as night follows day, your competitors will be relentless in their pursuit. So if you’re ahead and you’ve reached your goal, keep going and reach higher. As one of the world’s greatest ad guys said, “your reach should exceed your grasp, or what are the heavens for.”
Being born and raised in Philadelphia, I am a passionate Phillies fan who loves seeing my team boasting the best record in the major leagues. As of 3 days ago, they were a whopping 7 ½ games ahead of second place Atlanta. The Braves came into town for a critical 3 game series. The Phillies swept all 3 games and now are 10 ½ games ahead. The Phillies were in front, and improved their position.
In 1964, the Phillies were ahead by 6 ½ games with a mere 12 games left in the season. They were comfortably out in front. But rather than going for the jugular, they rested on their laurels, lost 10 games in a row and finished second!
Though both teams share the same name, and both got out in front and had the championship within their reach, one improved their position and will win, while the other remained complacent and lost.
See any analogies with your sales force or dealer network?