Would you rather be the best player on the worst team, or the worst player on the best team?

Tough question.

Being the best player is easy — it’s comfortable. Being the worst is difficult — it’s uncomfortable.

The player in the uncomfortable position has an advantage, though. He or she has something to chase. He or she has more reason to improve.

Contrarily, the comfortable player has little reason to improve. He or she is already the best. He or she has met the proverbial glass ceiling. There’s nowhere to go. Comfort often ushers complacency.

Further, it’s more difficult to improve when you’re the best because once you’re good, getting to great is in the minutia. It takes a lot more focus and intent to bridge the gap from good to great.

Many of the business teams I’ve worked with for a while find themselves in the comfort category. They consistently reach the goals we set during planning sessions and their businesses are soaring. But future success is determined by the work you do today — not what you did yesterday. Just because business is booming now, doesn’t mean it will continue to do so in the future if you don’t continue to think of new ways to improve.

Here are five tips to help the best get better:

  1. Go to a bigger pond. I’m not suggesting you leave your company for a bigger one, but rather that you move your company into a bigger arena. If at first you measured your success against your citywide competition, rank yourself against your statewide competition. After you’re the best your state, chart a plan to become the best in the nation. Keep raising your glass ceiling.
  2. Remember your competition. Your competition is chasing you. They’re studying your every move. The game is yours to lose and theirs to win. The moment you decide you have enough of a lead to slow down, they’ll start moving faster. Remember: Your competition is not comfortable; they have a reason to grow. Don’t let them catch up. Instead, go faster.
  3. Continue learning. If you’re in the lead now, it’s because you did something the competition didn’t. Make sure you continue to discover new techniques and tricks. Reinvent the standard so that by the time your competition masters your old winning move, you have a new one.
  4. Request feedback. When you’re the best, you have a lot of people telling you how great you are. That’s great, but it’s often more valuable to learn about your shortcomings. To improve, you must request, be open to and learn from honest feedback and constructive critiques from your team members, coaches and fans.
  5. Celebrate. As important as it is to learn from your mistakes, learn from your wins, too. If you did something well last quarter, pinpoint it, celebrate it and keep doing it. On the road to greatness, reward and recognize your and your team’s achievements. It’ll give you the information and energy to keep winning so you can keep celebrating.



Originally published in The Tennessean.

photo credit: <a href=””>Ant1_G</a> via <a href=””>photopin</a> <a href=””>cc</a>