The word excellence has a profound meaning in it and it invites pride enormously.
I often find myself reading and re-reading all my notes and emails just to ensure that the same is presented well. Even a simple format that I make for my team goes for several corrections and filter for perfection within myself. I used to wonder whether I am suffering from the ostensible OCD. For those who haven’t come across this abbreviation, it is an obsessive compulsory disorder, a compulsive obsession for certain things in day to day life. For example, one having OCD for reading would not stop reading the same stuff a number of times. I soon realized that it’s a lot to do with the word – Excellence. I realized that we have to keep excelling in our daily tasks every day, every hour, every second and the small steps that we take daily to bring that change for better at our work is nothing but an act of excellence.
Then I realized that it doesn’t occur to all. It comes to those who are restless for betterment in their daily life.
Have you anytime felt uncomfortable with a project that you did or that presentation that you made overnight or that process note that you created, where you felt like going back to it again and tie the loose ends again and again? If you have ever felt that way anytime in your life, you are certainly in a progressive track in your career life. You are nothing but a living soul of excellence.
I walked into the office of Dubai Service Excellence last week and the littlest things that one notice there would surprise you and it’s the smallest things in our daily life that show our excellence and our thirst for excellence. It’s a way of life.
I walked into a library for reading some of the good practices that companies in Dubai do and I could see a number of companies’ report neatly arranged on a table for me to read, each report were kept one after the other on the table, in the same line, not one above or below the line… I guess someone has practiced this in their daily chores. Someone who kept them there knew how to do it. Someone put their heart to it while doing it. Excellence comes when one engages himself/herself to what one is doing. It’s a habit.
Here I recollect what Aristotle said– we are what we repeatedly do, excellence, then is not an act but a habit.
Excellence is not a single act, it is a repeated action that stands out, hence it is a habit. I am always noted as a fanatic for cleanliness and my team, unfortunately, keep hearing from me for not keeping their workstations clean and neat. Not everyone has it in them, but a habit of making sure that your desk is clean, neat, papers are neatly kept in the right folder, your pen holder is in the right place, your notice board hangs papers in an order, your chairs in the office are in right place, the files behind your desk has labels that are uniform and many more.. It’s excellence and excellence in action, in habits, in life.
And excellence is not doing things repeatedly but doing that one excellent thing repeatedly, that one act of yours that comes naturally to you over a period of others.
I was honored to have an excellent leader in my career life, not mentioning his name here as I haven’t sought his permission for the same. However, he as an epitome of excellence is worth mentioning here. It was a board meeting and many were sitting around a table, tea was served to all by pantry team, one of the director’s tea spilled over to the saucer. To my surprise, this great leader of my life, chairman stature person got from his chair pulled a tissue, and lifted the cup and wiped off the spill of tea and placed it correctly for his director friend. One would think why would one do this, many would let it go unnoticed, but if you care to see perfection, a need to be perfect, a need to correct things to perfection, excellence becomes a way of life.
Today we keep hearing about service excellence, customer service excellence, business excellence etc.. In my view everything starts with the leader. Do you ever ask what is that one thing that differentiates you from others? Do you care for that missing dot in your email? Do you care for the salutation that you leave on your emails? Do you care for the emotions of the reader? Do you address issues one by one with clarity? An organization’s excellence depends on the leader’s habits. If you are one who would want excellence in everything that you and your team do, your organization would be living a life of excellence.
Excellence is not just in the surge in bottom lines or in the way your finance cuts corners, or in the way you squeeze the maximum out of your team, or in the way you put pressure on your team to perform. Excellence is by being an example to your team, by being there for them, by handholding your team to perfection, by setting standards in your organization and following it to the tee by yourself. It’s a pity that many leaders fail to practice excellence at work and at themselves but happily wear the mask of excellence in public.
Excellence requires genuine inner drive and is not a fictitious expression. One need to be sincere and real to be excellent. You cannot fake excellence. It has a life and spirit. It is a demonstration of your true values and beliefs. Just to give an example, I have come across leaders who says that this year is a year for employee happiness and they announce this proudly in meetings and when it comes to doing things for making that reality, they do nothing about it, they take no initiative for making that happen. Excellence is doing what you believe in, doing what you propagate. In an organization, people respect their leaders who do what they say, who walks their talks. Excellence is contagious. You need to practice it and you would see how it voyages to the team and then to the organization.
You don’t need to plan for excellence. You don’t need to devise strategies for excellence. It’s here… It’s in the now! It’s in the present. Do it now. Do that littlest thing right in front of you. Walk into your office greeting all your team every day and you will create that aura in the office. Brief your team on keeping things in place and see the difference that it can bring to your office. Create a nice label form, presentable for those box files that you have on the rack and name them right, code them right .. See the difference in your office. That large notice board in your office, make it look presentable and have it updated. That’s excellence. Create work processes, document it and review it, check it frequently and make your team own it and embrace it as their own work, that’s excellence. Keep changing and updating your work processes and that’s excellence.
If you are managing a department or function, define responsibilities, create forms and formats, communicate workflow and keep improving the work processes for better delivery of results and you will see excellence falling in place. As a leader of a team, if you come across one issue at work, focus on the process and not just on the issue in hand. Work on improvising the process to avoid future occurrence of issues and that’s excellence.
Be an example in the way you communicate, the way you address a meeting, the way you walk, the way you open a conversation. Your excellence is exhibited in all these. One need to critically assess every step that they take in their daily life if excellence is what one desires. Excellence is in your leadership style and as a leader one need to know that their habits, their style, their words, their actions etc rise excellence in their team, organizations.
Organizational excellence comes into light when there is a sustainable improvement in performance using a variety of principles, systems, processes and tools at work. Everything depends on the action that leaders take not just in what they preach. Excellence hence is a realistic, consistent action.
Excellence is a discipline as well. You cannot expect your team to be disciplined if you are not!!. If you are a leader who practices punctuality, promptness and quickness in response, it’s excellence and the team down the line just fall into the process of excellence. Do you answer your emails timely? Do you respond to your team’s text messages timely? And above all are you consistent in your actions? Then mark it, You are practicing excellence.
Excellence is also the way you guide your team, the way you teach your team, the way you treat your team, the way you lead, the mannerism you spell at work, the clarity of communication you practice, the care you impart, the respect you deliver and the direction that you give consistently. Leaders should be an embodiment of excellence.
Continuous improvements that you make at work life is what determines the excellence. For that, one need to feel the need for change, need for improvements, need for betterment. If one sits in a comfort zone, breeding complacency, excellence will fly off the window.
As the leader, so the team. If you are a leader who constantly looks for doing things differently, who wants to keep improving practices, who believes in delivering quick service, who believe in owning every situation, you will see your team carrying the same on their shoulders and excellence is a byproduct then.
Excellence is not what you display outside, it has to be a result of quality works behind the scene, a demonstration of inner values. Awards and recognitions of excellence come on your way more often if you practice excellence, but how genuine and consistent you are in excellence is what matters more than the short term recognitions that one receives for excellence. Excellence is not an end in itself, it’s a process. Excellence is a journey and not a destination.
Finally, I believe that excellence is a personal choice. Companies and leaderships set certain standards of excellence in organizations and impose them onto people in the journey of excellence and often it’s not a sustainable one as excellence are a mindset and one need to have it self-imposed than being imposed onto by someone else. It is an act of setting standards for oneself and assuming a sense of responsibility to achieve them consistently. A leader with an attitude to excel will transfer that attitude to his team by way of setting standards at his workplace and the littlest standards make a mountain of excellence and hence Excellence is an Attitude!!
By Binu Prasad
Image: courtesy google.