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跳出低期望值陷阱,自我成就职场英雄

假如你立志成为一名卓越的经理人,那么,仅仅努力达到公司要求的实际工作水平(而非个人实际能力)还远远不够。

    几年前的一个早晨,肯特听到办公室外传来大笑声,他发现几位同事正围在公司顶尖的平面设计师查理身边。查理毫无疑问是肯特所领导的营销部最受欢迎的人,但同时也是体型最庞大的人。

    肯特走过去,这时,有人告诉他:“查理减掉了25磅体重。”查理的体重可以说是办公室八卦的老话题,不过经常都是他自己先提起来的。

    肯特说:“太棒了,恭喜你!”尽管减肥这件事与管理没什么关系,但接下来他说的这句话显然是老板的风格。他问:“你的目标是要减掉多少?”

    笑容从查理脸上消失了。

    他说:“呃,就是25磅。”

    这一刻也让肯特感到相当尴尬。事后他私底下向查理道歉,查理说:“你当时说的也对。我确实该再瘦一些。但我曾加入一个减肥团体,所有人都发誓拼了命也要减掉25磅,所以这个数字也变成了我的目标。”

    减肥和企业绩效之间并无关联,但查理的经历也印证了一个我们常常忽视的“机会缺口”原则,因为身处团队的我们会深受团队规范的影响。

    “机会缺口”是指,我们当前的业绩与我们有能力达成的业绩之间的差距。然而,我们经常关注的是业绩缺口而非机会缺口。业绩缺口是我们当前的业绩与外界对我们的期望之间的差距。我们总是满足于达到别人的期望,而不是达到我们真正能力所及的水准。

    的确,期望有时可能会超出我们自身的能力。查理的身体状况或许决定了他很难减肥。或者,分配给一位推销员的任务量完全属于不切实际。但预期常常只反映了一部分潜能。比如,查理最终减掉了四倍于减肥团体目标的体重,这就是他的机会缺口。但他曾一度迷失于业绩缺口,将减肥团体预期的25磅作为自己的终极目标。

    我们认为,业绩缺口和机会缺口之间的不一致也印证了六十年来我们从教学、研究、实践和观察中得到的经验,那就是大多数经理人都未完全发挥出自身实力。他们本可以在自己的岗位上表现得更好,但他们却停止了努力。

    每次我们请公司老板评价自己作为领导者和管理者的表现时都会看到这种情况。绝大多数人都认为他们能够做得更好。当我们问及如何才能做得更好时,很多人都能指出至少一个值得改进的领域,其中最常见的答案是“授权”。

    如果很多管理者,甚至是大部分管理者都认为他们能做得更好,也应该做得更好,他们为何不积极采取措施谋求改善呢?

    要成为一位卓越的管理者,需要长期不懈的努力,也可能需要艰苦的自我改造。践行管理原则原本就不是件容易的事,再加上这方面的成功榜样也并不是太多。

    这些原因自然都发挥了一定的作用,但我们认为其中一个原因相当关键:公司对管理者预期过低。近期的一个数据让我们着实为之一震:贝新联合公司(Bersin and Associates)2009年进行的调查显示,大约四成中层管理者表现“较差”或者“尚可”。

     One morning, years ago, Kent heard loud laughter outside his office and found several people clustered around Charley, the head graphic designer who was easily the largest and most popular member of the marketing department Kent ran.

    "Charley lost 25 pounds," someone said when Kent joined the group. Charley's weight was a common topic of office conversation but only because Charley himself brought it up so often.

    "That's great, Charley," Kent said. "Congratulations!" Then -- always the boss, though this was hardly a management matter -- he asked, "What's your goal?"

    The smile dropped from Charley's face.

    "That," he said, "was it."

    It wasn't one of Kent's most sensitive moments. Later, when he apologized to Charley one-on-one, Charley said, "You were right. I need to lose more. But I got in a group and we all swore do-or-die to lose 25 pounds. That became my goal."

    To be sure, there's little connection between losing weight and business performance except that Charley's experience illustrates a principle -- the Opportunity Gap -- that we in business often overlook because we work in groups and group norms are powerful forces of influence.

    An opportunity gap is the difference between our current performance and what we'recapableof doing. Many times, though, we focus not on our opportunity gap but on our performance gap, the difference between current performance and what we'reexpectedto do. We're content to achieve what others expect rather than what we're truly capable of doing.

    Yes, expectations can sometimes exceed our capabilities. A medical condition may have made weight loss extremely difficult for Charley. Or a salesman may be given a quota that truly is unrealistic. But expectations often do reflect only a portion of what's possible. Charley, for example, ultimately shed four times what he lost in his weight loss group. That was his opportunity gap. But, for a time, he fell into the trap of accepting his performance gap, the 25 pounds expected by the group, as his ultimate goal.

    We believe the disparity between performance and opportunity gaps goes far to explain something we've observed in our combined 60 years of teaching, researching, practicing, and observation:most managers fall short of what they could be.They simply stop getting better at what they do.

    We see this every time we ask bosses to assess themselves as leaders and managers. The great majority say they could be better. When we ask how they could be better, many can identify at least one area -- "delegation" is a common answer -- where they have room for improvement.

    If many, and perhaps most, managers think they could and even should be better, why don't they take active steps to improve?

    Becoming a great manager requires persistent effort over a long period of time. It can require difficult personal change. Converting management principles into practice isn't easy. There aren't many role models.

    All those reasons play their roles, but we think one is key: Companies simply don't expect enough of their managers. A statistic we came across recently astounded us: A 2009 survey of companies by Bersin and Associates revealed that they considered nearly four of every 10 mid-level managers no better than "poor" or "fair."

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