I am reading Tom Peters’ latest book titled “The Little Big Things” and am energized by Tom’s writing on Excellence.* (Peters, 2010) You may recall Tom wrote the best selling “In Search of Excellence” several years ago and has been an important voice ever since on the idea of reaching higher. (Peters and Waterman, 1982)
Here are questions to consider: What is Excellence? Why should I pursue Excellence? How do I pursue Excellence? While there could be many long answers to these questions, here is one writer’s attempt to answer.
What is Excellence?
At times, excellence is something you just know when you see it. (Thanks, that helps!) No, really it is true. Let’s say you and me stop to buy gas at local station A. The attendant saunters out and gives an unenthusiastic, “What can I do for you today?” Once the transaction is complete, we drive away. Later in the week, we stop by local gas station B. This time, the attendant approaches our car with a purpose in his step, pleasant look on his face, looks the driver in the eyes and gives an energetic, “What can I do for you today?” The attendant quickly works with other drivers in a similar way and still has time to say something to us about the weather over the last few days. Just before we drive away, the same attendant hands off the receipt with a genuine “Have a great day!” Which of these two instances were Excellent? Which transaction caused us to leave with just a bit more optimism for the day? You know the answer.
Why Should I Pursue Excellence?
Excellence is like a magnet. Most of us like to be around Excellence in any form so why not be an Excellence magnet too? We all like Excellent food, Excellent family members, Excellent friends, Excellent grocery stores, Excellent anything! Not only that but the word about an Excellent establishment OR person spreads quickly. It does not take much imagination to decide what might happen by showing Excellence all around.
How Should I Pursue Excellence?
I am convinced few people wake up in the morning and say, “How can I have a mediocre day?” I believe most of us want a good if not great day. While a faulty paradigm may be the problem sometimes, the greater challenge is likely consistency. Think about it. Most of us know how to treat others well but do we do so consistently? In the gas station example above, both attendants probably knew something about good manners and what it takes to make others happy but one did it and one did not. Pursuing Excellence may be more about pursuing consistency than turning over a new leaf.
Application Challenge
• Identify one positive paradigm or mindset you would like to behave out of more consistently. What specific things will you do to make this happen? Think in increments as achieving Excellence is a journey, not a destination. What will success look like in this context?
• What are your best behaviors? Now ask “why” to understand the Excellent mindsets underneath the actions. Take a moment to enjoy these successes. How can you expand these strengths into other areas of your life? For example, if you are great at customer service on the job but struggling with a relationship at home, how can you apply the “work” mindset to improve on the personal side?
• Find more people with Excellent attitudes. Make friends with them and learn from them. Hang out with them … a lot. What new things do you discover about living an Excellent life?
* Tom Peters strongly recommends always capitalizing the word Excellence.
Peters, Tom and Waterman, Robert (1982). In Search of Excellence. New York, NY. Harper and Row Publishers, Inc.
Peters, Thomas J. (2010). The Little Big Things. New York, NY. HarperCollins Publishers.

Copyright 2010 Michael A. Friesen. All rights reserved.

Author's Bio: 

Michael Friesen is the owner of Leading Strategies, a firm dedicated to coaching concierge medical groups and other service organizations to build high performance teams (www.LeadingStrategies.net). Mike is a retired military officer, fighter pilot, former CFO, and holds a M.B.A. with Strategic Leadership emphasis. Michael is also the author of "Expected End: What Culture Is, Why It Matters, and How to Improve It." You are invited to follow Leading Strategies on Twitter at @LSTeams.