It may be telling that Pete Meslin often finds inspiration for blog posts in business articles and publications, and I'm often moved to write by something I read in less relevant sources. I don't know what that "tells," in fact, but I'm sure it reveals something about us as bloggers.
I found Andrew O'Hagan's article "The Virtues of Fine in the Age of Awesome" in the October 6 issue of "T," the New York Times Style Magazine relevant to Pete's "Guts" series. O'Hagan's context was travel discoveries and destinations, not the world of business in general, or pupil transportation in particular. As he considered people's quest for the "Ultimate Experience" in their recreational travels, he bemoaned that we no longer appreciate experiences that are just "nice."
Rather, in the "Age of Awesome," "Nothing's allowed to be fine because, to the hyped-up mind, 'fine' sounds quite a lot like 'mediocre." He goes on to say, "Not everything has to be great. Maybe it's a thrill to watch things become great." In other words, maybe there's value in "fine" as a starting point.
What if we apply these thoughts to people instead of "things?" What if you participated in getting people to become great? O'Hagan's premise made me wonder – do we have the guts to try to build excellence in an employee who is content to do "just enough," when we need him or her to stretch into something more? After all, turnover costs money, and sometimes, to mix metaphors, we may have to make lemonade out of the lemons we have – as long as they're not too "sour." And, just maybe, when you put forth the effort to help someone be their best, to be "awesome," you'll learn they've been just waiting for you to have the guts to believe in them – sometimes that will be the first step in their believing in themselves. Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, "Our chief want is someone who will inspire us to be what we know we could be." Perhaps we're guilty of not letting people know that our expectations of them are necessarily high.
I'm well aware that I've distorted O'Hagan's urging to sometimes be satisfied with the "fine" rather than demand the exceptional. It just shows that there are all kinds of ways to inspire someone. While that author wanted to point out that "fine" isn't bad, he triggered this author to glom onto his statement about the "thrill" in watching things "become great." Let's plant germs of ideas in staff members' heads – maybe they'll run with them. Give staff members the tools and opportunities to live up to your expectations. Have the "guts" to push them out of their comfort zones (and maybe yours.) Share concepts, and simple notions, and dreams.
Peggy Burns is the former in-house counsel for Adams 12 Five Star Schools in Thornton, Colo., and currently owns and operates Education Compliance Group, Inc., a legal consultancy specializing in education and transportation issues. She is also a frequent speaker at national and state conferences and is the editor of the publication Legal Routes that covers pupil transportation law and compliance.