Expectation breeds inspiration in the workplace. When the expectation is to do better, be better, create better, team members become inspired to meet those expectations. A great example is Steve Jobs. One leader’s innovative mindset set the bar (high) for competitors, who became inspired to create equally ingenious products. The same is true for your in-house team. If you, as a leader, have an expectation that things can be, your team will be inspired to rise to the challenge.

Innovation is the creation of new value, whether it’s cutting costs, increasing sales or increasing customer satisfaction, it all creates value for the organization. The point of failure here is often, ironically, when an organization finally achieves success. When the company becomes profitable, the stock price is stable and customers are happy with the end-result, it’s tempting to sit back and think, “Whew, we did it. We made it. Time to relax.” Enjoy a well-deserved pat on the back, yes, but the party shouldn’t last for six months.

Companies like Apple, Google and Amazon dominate in their markets, yet they remain pioneers. They constantly ask their teams, “How can we expand? How can we leverage our strengths?” That’s the kind of environment you want to create. In a continuous improvement model, you never reach your goal. The goal should always move forward as you approach it.

Of course, setting up a five-year milestone makes sense. It inspires people when they have a destination to work toward and delivers a sense of accomplishment when achieved. But the five-year goal should take you toward your 10-year goal and beyond. The greatest athletes in the world, whether on teams or solo, are still hitting the practice field the day after a victory. Despite their utter mastery of their trade, they move forward to the next competition. The goal has nothing to do with where they’ve been but where they want to be.

So what’s your method? Are you moving toward a static goal or are you fostering a continuous improvement model within your team?

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