Steve Jobs knew that death was the ultimate motivator.
Knowing that the end is near was always his litmus test for getting the stuff done that he wanted to get done, often faster than anyone else thought possible. Steve did not suffer fools because he did not want to waste time. He focused only on the A-Players for a reason. They, too, did not want to dilly-dally and waste valuable time on mediocre work. Steve held Apple to this exceptional standard, and he expected the same of others he hired and worked with. He always said he tried his best to avoid or dismiss ’the bozos.’
What can we learn from this? That it is OK to be a jerk at work? That Mercurial people get the job done? That we all possess a Jobsian Force Field that can bend or alter reality as others know it?
What we can learn from this is by all means, have high standards for people. Have high standards for your colleagues and the people you lead. Have high standards for your family. Have high standards for your friends.
So, why do we need to have high standards for the people in our lives? Because when we have high standards for the people in our lives and we communicate these standards to them, they tend to meet them. If we do not have high standards for people or simply have low / no standards for the people in our lives, they tend to wallow in those, too, scraping the bottom of the barrel. People tend to meet our expectations no matter the level we set. As a tech leader, Steve implicitly knew this and communicated (and sub-communicated) this often. He exuded his own high standards at Apple. He lived them. He breathed them. He taught them to others.
Look at teaching. Jaded teachers tend to have low expectations of their students. This is a shame because teachers with low expectations of their students get the low results they expect out of their kids. It’s the same thing with parents.
Conversely, teachers with High expectations for their students, those who set the high bar of expectations for them, have students who typically meet or exceed them.
What’s the point? People tend to meet the expectation level you set for them. As a leader, why wouldn’t you have high expectations for your people then? You should. You should have them for yourself and for your team, and remind them of this often. If not, then why are we here, anyway? To do a mediocre job? To half-ass it? What would Steve Jobs say? He’d let you have it, is what he’d do. And you know something? Rightfully so. Steve was not always right to scream at people, but Steve was simply trying to wake people up out of their slumber. Steve was saying, “Hey! Wake up! We are not here to fuck around. What do you think we’re all doing here, anyway?!? We’re here to change the world!!!”
Like today, Apple’s early employees were not here to fuck around. They were here to change the world, to enhance peoples’ lives, to make things better by making better things. Tim Cook continues to lead the Apple charge with a similar ethos.
We do not have as much time as we think. This should be your guiding beacon and charter toward creating, toward making things better by making better things. You don’t have time to F around. You’re here to make a difference. You’re here to enhance lives. You’re here to solve problems. You’re here to believe in people and set high expectations for them and to remind them often of these high expectations and to get them to believe in themselves as much as you believe in them. This is why you are here. So, you better get after it — right now. There is never a need to wait. Start right now.