Skip to main content

stop being ordinary

Contented Cows is a great blog about how to facilitate cooperation in the workplace.  The premise is simple: contented cows produce more and better milk.  While not looking to produce milk, as a leader I am interested in how to create an environment where people can be productive, feel appreciated, and accomplish great things.

In that spirit, I pass along this post entitled “Stop Being Ordinary!”


Have you seen the YouTube video of the Thomson Airways (a UK carrier) safety video? If not, click on it (above), take 3 and a half minutes to look at it, then keep reading.

Sure, it’s cute. The kids are really good. Adorable. And the creative team that put it together is brilliant. But what makes it work is that it’s anything but ordinary. Thomson passengers actually watch the thing, and I have to believe that retention of the material is off the charts compared to the forgettable safety videos on almost every other airline.

Anybody can do ordinary. As leaders, we’ve really got to do better than that.

Ordinary is having a need to meticulously account for every day, hour, and minute someone is “at work”, whatever “at work” means anymore. Extraordinary is what they do at Netflix. Check out what they call their “Freedom and Responsibility Culture“. No, it won’t work everywhere, but it sure seems to work for Netflix. And it sure isn’t ordinary.

Ordinary is treating everyone consistently. Extraordinary is being fair with everyone, but rewarding WOW work and commitment with WOW rewards.

Ordinary is giving everyone who does a good job a gold star, whether they happen to like gold stars or not. Extraordinary is learning what your workers’ dreams are, and finding a way to link their dreams to the success of your enterprise.

Ordinary is sympathizing with a team member when they’re going through a hard time. Extraordinary is parting with some of your own cold hard cash, or other resources, to help a worker out – someone who needs it, and who deserves it.

Ordinary is buying the corporate line that “we can’t afford any training right now until things, you know, get a little better.” Extraordinary is finding creative ways to support workers’ development needs.

Ordinary is playing it safe. Examples: you fail to give someone really difficult feedback because it’ll be really unpleasant for both of you; you keep someone on the payroll who has ceased to earn his or her place there, because, well, it’s just easier; you hire the acceptable candidate who’s going to be easy to get through HR, rather than the best one, whom you may have to do battle for. (Please – no nastygrams from my HR friends, of whom there are many. I’m just sayin’…).

While I’m castigating ordinary, I’m not advocating weird or bizarre. Or illegal, or unethical. But I am saying that if you, as a leader, or as an organization, want to get people really engaged, to stand out, get noticed, make a real difference, you gotta leave ordinary behind.

Kinda like Alice and company…