Part 3 in my Culture series. If Truth is our Mirror, then Excellence is our Model.
Care! Quality is caring. As Robert Pirsig says in Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: Quality is “a feeling of identification with what one’s doing.” There is no duality between who one is and what one does. There is truly no other way to achieve excellence than to care, personally and deeply, about what you are doing. And caring forms the foundation of trust.
Delight the customer. To achieve excellence, you must know what that excellence means. In business, that is to delight your customers. If our customers are truly delighted, that is your excellence. And this is the foundation of your partnership with them.
Pay attention. Excellence is about the big picture, but it is also about getting all the details right. When you step into a beautiful hotel, you can instantly distinguish it from a middle of the road hotel by the attention to detail that pervades every aspect of decor, comfort, and service. It is a holistic experience.
Be committed. Don’t settle. Keep pushing. Excellence is really hard work. Michelangelo said, "If people knew how hard I had to work to gain my mastery, it would not seem so wonderful at all.” The difference between excellence and mediocrity is often how unwilling someone is to settle for the quick and easy road.
Be agile. An unfinished thing cannot be excellent. Excellence comes into being when a customer is delighted. So, while we always strive for the utmost quality, remember that done is better than perfect. Finding that balance is an art in itself. Break work into small excellent batches and get one completely done and delivered before working on the next.
Be creative. Delighting someone often includes going beyond expectations and pleasantly surprising them. Bring the unexpected into your excellence. Understand thoroughly what delights the customer, but then also go one step beyond. That is the heart of innovation.
Invest in yourself. To do excellent things, you must be excellent yourself. This of course applies to your attitude, but also more concrete things like your skills and your ability to get stuff done. Harness your curiosity to learn new things every day. Keep your skills on the leading edge and figure out how to bring them to the service of excellence. Get rest, eat well, get exercise, take long walks, meditate in some way, strive to keep your day from being chopped up by meetings and other distraction so you have big blocks of time to get into flow. This is fundamental to your own performance.
Invest in your people. Same as above applies to the people you manage. Help them stay on top of their game and give them the right environment in which to practice excellence.
Have fun. Excellence is hard but should feel incredibly rewarding and enjoyable. If you are frustrated, that will show in your work. Turn frustration into inspiration to do something about it, but truly enjoy every moment that you practice excellence.
>> Culture, part 4: Agility
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