How Do You Challenge The Norm?

To be noticed in this world, it is essential that you challenge the norm and do things differently

By going that extra mile and putting in that bit more effort, you will overachieve. When you overachieve, these things get noticed. Hence, you get noticed.

A lot of people don’t think that they should take pride in their work because it is “only a job” or they’re “being paid”. The fact that you are being paid to do the job should fill you with more pride than if you were not being paid.

When you take pride in doing the best work you can, it shows your boss and your team mates that what you’re doing is “important to you”. It also builds trust and increases your influence.

1. Overachieving

By increasing your influence through overachieving, this says to people that you are valuable, and that you value the work that you are doing. Remember when we discussed that you don’t work for your boss, you work for yourself?


Well, overachieving can definitely increase your marketing with people spreading the word about your overachievements. Even if you are not too happy with how you or the team are being treated, don’t let it bother you. Your motivation is to increase your influence through working for yourself.

Taking pride in your work and overachieving will reflect the quality of work you do, and also your character. Being driven to add value to the team by overachieving, and taking pride in your work reflects who you are.

To help your team overachieve too, you must first work on developing yourself, and help your boss. You can do this by recommending improvements to the current ways that the team work. Or, you can recommend improvements to the current processes that the team follows.

You will be well on your way to becoming an excellent team member, and not an average team member like we have discussed previously. Basically, you will become the leader within your team, even though you are not in the leadership position.

After a period of time, your overachievements will become the new standard for everybody else to meet. Then, because the standards have altered, so will the processes that your team and all the other teams in your department follow.

When improving processes in any department, it’s a huge change. Most of the organisations I have worked in actually expect process improvement from the team members, but it’s rare that it actually comes from them.

It usually comes from consultants that have been hired in. An excellent team member is more than capable of improving the working processes. This could be you, and you can set the new standard.

2. Making Improvements

My articles have been designed to help you do exactly that, become an excellent team member and leader. It is designed to help you to overachieve, and to make improvements to your current processes.

I want to share an example with you from 2009 when I worked for the train operating company in Liverpool as an engineer.

The wheels on the trains were not lasting as long as they should. They are supposed to last for approximately 6 years, but these were not even lasting 3 years. Something was wrong, and nobody was doing anything about it.

The reason for that is because they didn’t want to deal with the company who built the tracks. Within the UK, the train companies and track companies are totally separate, so there is a lot of politics for whose fault it is when things go wrong.

My job at the time was to deal with these issues and provide as much evidence as possible to my boss. He would then go and fight each incident that caused a delay in service with the track company every Friday morning.

I went to a few of these meetings and the discussions that they were having were laughable. A lot of moaning, whining and finger pointing was going on.

Sometimes, just to get the meetings over with, my boss would concede some incidents, even when it wasn’t “our fault”.

I could understand why he would do it, because some of the conversations being had got extremely heated. Especially when it came to incidents between the wheels on the train and the track. It wasn’t a nice thing to witness.

So, after being involved in these meetings, I recommended to my boss that I take on the project to improve the interface between the wheels and the track. My goal was to increase the wheel life, track life and the relationship between the two companies. I do like a challenge.

3. Challenge

I felt that this could be one of the biggest challenges in my career so far. It was a great opportunity to try and unite people too, and help them to improve their processes. There was no better time and place to test myself and bring out my best.

The first thing I did was approach the track company, and ask them to nominate a person who I could work together with on this project.

I had to involve them as much as possible if I was going to break down these barriers. Eventually, they nominated a guy called Mark, and he was a great guy to work with. He was a lot more experienced than I was, so I figured I could learn a lot from him.

He told me that the tracks had lubricators that were placed around the Liverpool network. They were designed to lubricate both the wheels and the track to avoid friction and reduce wear. Ultimately, this was one of the ways that we could increase the life of the wheels and the track.

However, this obviously wasn’t working properly, so Mark and I worked together to improve how the lubricators were performing.

We decided to increase the inspections, and increase the rate of replenishment of the lubricating grease. We also tried to move the lubricators around the network every so often until we found the sweet spot for the wheels.

At first, this worked well and we could see a reduction in incidents that involved the wheel and track interface. However, both Mark and I became dissatisfied and needed to think of other methods or processes to improve the situation.

So, we had a number of joint meetings and involved more engineers from both companies. I was promoting us working together to produce new ideas and better solutions.

There was an engineer who worked for the same company as me called Ian, he was an excellent engineer. He always went the extra mile and trying to improve our processes.

Most of all he loved helping people. He was a true leader within the engineering team, and his influence was ever increasing throughout the organisation.

He suggested that we speak with other train operating companies in the UK who had wheel lubricators fitted to their trains, and worked alongside the track lubricators. Taking his advice, Mark and I went right to work.

4. Building Relationships

We spoke with the top companies in the country and they all had the same opinion, that wheel lubricators do work and that we should adopt this method. So, we did. Mark and I approached the manufacturers, had a trial fitted to one train for a month which was very successful.

We went through all the correct safety and engineering change legislation for approval. Then within a few months the whole fleet was fitted with wheel lubricators.

Ten years later, they are still fitted and the wheels are lasting and performing better than ever. They’re not quite hitting 6 years, but they are definitely within the 5-6 year range.

The relationship between the two companies continues to work well too. Following our project, there have been many more joint projects working successfully.


I must admit, we overachieved on this project and beat everyone’s expectations. Following this project my level of responsibility raised.

Then later down the line I was offered a job in management working for Scottish Railways, which I accepted. Mark and I have kept in touch over the years, and he too has climbed the ladder using similar principles to what I am sharing.

All I did was recommend that we change a few things, that we bring people closer together, and we improve our processes. It isn’t a lot, but it had a huge impact on all involved.

You can do something very similar in your industry and organisation.

Look at what you have achieved in your life, look at the ability you have. Do they match?

I welcome hearing how this post has influenced the way you think, the way you lead, or the results you have achieved because of what you’ve learned in it. Please feel free to share your thoughts with me by commenting below.

Check out my other articles by Clicking HERE

All the best,

Tom (LeadGrowInfluence)

16 thoughts on “How Do You Challenge The Norm?

  1. This is another great example on how co-operation helps achieve a great stuff. I love this. In present world there is much competition and people try to achieve success on their own. That creates too much individualism and too high egos. While working together is something that will always bring bigger, better and more significant results. As always Tom, you have produced some great content! Cheers

    1. Hi Julius,

      I am very pleased with your kind words, means so much to me.

      Keep working on yourself every day and inspiring your people every day.

      All the best,


  2. Great article Tom! I think it’s great how you have written from your perspective and experience.
    Also how you were determined to put your point of view forward, and great how over time has proven you right!
    Unfortunately, many people just don’t want to take the lead and find it probably a bit overbearing.
    You offer an opportunity for one to explore and find their inner power to do this, a form of personal development.

    I often guide colleagues in the right direction if there are any negatives I turn them into positives too, as I see the bigger picture having learned from my experiences!

    It’s also a great idea to offer a free e-book as a stepping stone.

    Thanks for sharing your story, and keep up the good work.


    1. Hi Julia,

      Thank you for your kind words on my post.

      You are right, not enough people are willing to take the lead which is a shame because we all have the ability to lead. It is daunting, but if you put yourself forward enough times, you will become comfortable with being uncomfortable.

      It is my pleasure to share my story and I am so pleased it has resonated with you.

      All the best,


  3. Thanks for your tips in this post. Challenging the norm can be daunting, as people seldom like to be challenged and people don’t like change. However, change is a good thing.

    Unfortunately, in our society, being an “over achiever” has negative connotations to it. I think of going the extra mile or extra distance for my boss when I’m at work. It makes me feel better, and it shows that I take interest and pride in my work and that I care about his goals as well.

    Congrats on your achievement on the project. You surpassed everyone’s expectations and congrats on the increase in responsibilities. By the way, did you get an increase in pay along with the extra responsibilities?

    1. Hi Shalisha,

      I appreciate you sharing your comment.

      I couldn’t agree with you more about how people seldom like to be challenged and don’t like change. This is why leadership is so difficult and needs to be talked about a lot more than it is.

      Overachieving can have negative connotations, but if you are humble about your overachievements then it won’t be as much of an issue to you.

      Thank you for your kind words on the project, and no I didn’t get extra pay 🙂

      All the best,


  4. Hi Tom,
    What an interesting story. Congrats on getting your wheels to last much longer!

    Many people won’t challenge the same old way of doing things because they are afraid the change will make their job more difficult and more time consuming.

    And trying to get people to listen to what you have to say about improving something is another uphill battle.

    So, people avoid all the conflict, and challenges because it is just easier to do the same old things, even though they know that there has to be a better way.

    And sometimes there is a kind of stigma about people who go to the boss and try to change things. People resent them for it.

    Change is hard for people, but sometimes it turns out to be better than before. The new way is actually better than the old way. Not always, but sometimes!

    1. Hi Chas,

      I am really pleased that you found my post interesting, and thank you for your very kind words.

      I couldn’t agree with you more that people are afraid to challenge the norm because they fear change. They just want things to continue the way they are going because they don’t like to be uncomfortable.

      I know you are comfortable with being uncomfortable and I hope you continue to lead your people in the same example.

      All the best,


  5. Hey Tom,
    I loved reading your story of how you overcame obstacles and resistance within your organisation. Then you collaborated, worked together, and sought solutions. It really is a credit to you and Mark for organising the cooperation between your two organisations.
    Thanks for sharing your inspiring story of collaboration, leadership and “working for yourself”.

    1. Hi John,

      Thank you for sharing your thoughts, means the world to me.

      I am really pleased that my articles resonate with you and you can relate to them with your own life experiences too.

      Keep sharing your stories with your people and helping them to overcome their life obstacles too.

      All the best,


  6. Hi Tom,

    Thank you for this great post. You have shared a very important life lesson on how to overcome obstacles and how to come together to solve a problem. Not by doing “just enough,” but by doing more than expected, going the extra mile, and regardless of the difficulty of the problem, you created a solution that has stood the test of time and is still working now!

    You have taught me a very valuable lesson today: to go the extra mile, overachieve, and overcome whatever obstacles come my way.

    Thanks, mate!

    All the best,


    1. Hi Steven,

      I am so pleased that you can relate to my post and that you have even learned a life lesson.

      Please share that life lesson with your people and go the extra mile for them by leading by example. Show them what you have learned aswell as telling them.

      All the best,


  7. Hi Tom

    I enjoyed reading your article. These are some of the things I am learning to develop my leadership skills
    Overachieving is one of those traits that simply works in business. I am still on the long road to learning some of these skills. I will subscribe so I can read more of your good stuff.

    Thank you for a great article.

    Angee x

    1. Hi Angee,

      I am glad you enjoyed reading my article and you are learning to develop your leadership skills.

      I hope you share what you learn with your people and show them how to develop their own leadership skills too. Show them my site and my articles as they will help them.

      All the best,


  8. This article presents some great insights on how leaders can challenge the norm in order to create positive change within their organizations. As someone who manages people, I can certainly relate to the challenges of promoting innovation and risk-taking while also maintaining stability and consistency. The key takeaway for me is the importance of creating a culture that embraces new ideas and encourages experimentation. This requires a willingness to challenge traditional ways of doing things, and to actively seek out and listen to the perspectives of others. I also love the practical tips offered in this article, such as inviting outside perspectives and creating opportunities for brainstorming and ideation. This is a thought-provoking and valuable read for any leader looking to foster a culture of innovation and growth.

    1. Hi Femi,

      I appreciate your very kind words on my article.

      You don’t manage people Femi, you lead them. You manage things, processes, numbers, procedures, business growth. You lead, influence, inspire and motivate people.

      Keep that in mind when you go back to your people.

      All the best,


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