Bob Schultek
Author of
The Gauntlet

One of the first questions we ask when we begin a new job is: “What’s required of me?” When these basic expectations are met, we get evaluated as being diligent and dependable.

But when heads are down, focused on reliably completing expected tasks, people can get stuck in their routine, and never question if there’s a better way to do the job. Looking around, they often find that they are surrounded by people who are just as stuck as they are, so everyone stays the course, the status quo survives and nothing improves.

Then, someone sees a better way forward, a previously unexplored course. A few others recognize the potential of making a difference, and join in the quest. They become a bonded team who share a purpose and a change journey, delivering an improvement that creates value. This defines a breakthrough.

Breakthroughs are driven by those who seek to do work that matters. They ask: “What’s the opportunity here?” For them, it’s about curiosity, contribution and progress, not simply compliance. It’s a more challenging path, but for them and for the business, it’s a worthwhile endeavor.

All workplaces include those who protect the status quo to drive efficiency with reduced risk, while others search for better alternatives, defeating obstacles by recognizing that they are not insurmountable. Some careers are about checking boxes while others seek to draw the boxes. 

It takes both perspectives to build a successful business. But leaders, who are expected to improve results, rely more heavily on those who ask why, the progress advocates who pursue innovation and improvement to deliver productive change. These leaders succeed in creating value by leveraging the inherent motivation of the promoters – providing opportunities to contribute, action channels in which to impact change, and encouragement that supports their initiative. This is the formula for cultivating breakthroughs.

How do you encourage breakthroughs?