IN 1982, when Tom Peters and Robert H. Waterman, Jr. wrote their best selling book, In Search of Excellence, the business world took notice of the lessons contained therein and devoured the book, buying over 3 million copies in its first 4 years on the market. The book examined the art and science behind the management successes of companies that were both profitable and known for their innovative approaches.
It was a groundbreaking book, and phrases like “stick to the knitting” and “management by walking around”, permeated our business culture.
Our businesses got leaner, management became more open to innovation and intrapreneurship, and we learned to communicate more openly. We were primed for corporate success.
In the decades since, I have witnessed these and other messages of corporate excellence in practice.
Unfortunately, while our organizations were being governed better, we lost sight of the importance of excellence in individuals. Whether there are more actual lapses in judgement today, or the reporting of such and the rise in social media is to blame, is a question. But there appears to be a crisis in leadership; a loss of expecting excellence from ourselves.
If the Peters/Waterman book taught us anything, it is that there needs to be a bias for action in all we do. Therefore, we first need to recognize that excellence is a process, not a destination.
Every amazing person I’ve known is on a constant path of growth. The moment you feel like you’ve accomplished excellence is the very moment you’re furthest from it.
The following 5 attributes are a place to start on your journey towards excellence:
- Brutal honesty: with ourselves; tactful and open communication with others. Excellence requires that we not stop with the easy answers. We ask for and demand truth and are willing to be open and transparent with those around us.
- Curiosity: embrace the unknown. If we look at each situation as either an opportunity to remain stagnant or to adopt new talents and/or strategies, and choose to embrace the opportunity, then we are moving towards personal excellence.
- Time sensitive. Find the time to do what needs to be done. No more excuses. With only 24 hours in the day, each of us has the choice of how to spend those hours. Wake up an hour earlier or carve out time during the day. Be protective of your time.
- Passion and value driven. Explore becoming more passionate about the things that move you. Check your values to make sure they reflect your true beliefs. Let these two words (passion and values) guide you daily.
- Forgiveness. The best place to start is within. Letting go of anger, disappointment and frustration is a good start in a journey towards excellence.
Given the highly polarized and politicized landscape in which we now live, it is critical, I think, for personal excellence to reemerge. As I write this, I’m listening to the news. In every single news story, an element of blaming someone else is present. We can no longer afford for this to be the norm; I encourage us, all of us, to own our actions, our direction and our outcomes.