This line is meant to encourage high performance but actually has the opposite effect. In fact, I believe it directly promotes mediocrity. Don’t believe me? Imagine telling professionals who regularly make life-or-death decisions—say a trauma surgeon or a commercial airline pilot —to do the best they can. For these people, only doing their best isn’t an option, and it shouldn’t be for the rest of us, either.
Leaders, I’m talking to you, because you set the stage for the people you manage. Directing them to perform at “just OK” levels yields “just OK” results. Fortunately, setting high expectations is doable (and no, it doesn’t mean demanding soul-sucking perfection.) Their success (and yours, for that matter) depends on how willing you are to communicate constructively and being honest about what it’ll take to perform a task. Setting high expectations empowers a person to raise their bar, but it also enables you, the leader, to help them lift it. Why is this so critical? Because it demonstrates your belief that people bring more to the table than merely checking tasks off a to-do list.