3 Keys to a Culture of Excellence
Instinctive n. a natural or acquired tendency; spontaneous
Excellence n. superiority; surpassing goodness
Imagine one organization, from executives to sales staff, from receptionists to field managers, from maintenance to IT engineers — where everyone performed their work with instinctive excellence.
Imagine customer service reps who instinctively respond with superior solutions. Imagine field personnel who instinctively create long-term value propositions. Imagine headquarters staff that instinctively create future strategies that surpass the competition.
Could this organization be yours? Isn’t this what you desire for your team? Can it be done?
Here are the three foundational principles on how to make excellence instinctive throughout an organization.
Principle #1: Excellence is the prerequisite – not the goal.
When excellence is embraced as simply a future goal, it can quickly become merely a hope or a distant dream. It opens the door for tired excuses (“We’ll get there one day”) while giving people an out for any lack of significant progress (We’re trying hard”). It is therefore imperative that excellence becomes the minimum acceptable level of performance today – not some date beyond tomorrow.
The key to transforming excellence from a future goal into a current prerequisite is to create and clarify performance standards. If the standards of performance do not represent excellence as the minimum, then the organization can only hope to survive. Yet if the standards represent excellence as the starting point, then employees raise their sites, engage their hearts, and empower themselves to become excellent! (For a detailed description of how to set standards, get our book, Management 24/7.)
Principle #2: Excellence is a habit – not an act.
You just sat down in your dentist’s chair for your six month check up. As she approaches your mouth holding a razor-sharp teeth cleaning instrument, she confides, “Yesterday I was really great – didn’t make a mistake all day. Last night, though, was a bad night. So today I’m a little tired and shaky.” What would you do? Say nothing? Ask her to repeat what she just said? Pray? Leap out of the chair to reschedule the appointment?
Little organization can survive when their people are only occasionally excellent. You would never fly an airline whose pilots land safely 85% of the time, or use a mechanic who advertises to repair your car the first time…sometimes.
Excellence can only become instinctive through creating good habits. Habits are automatic behaviors, things that are repeated so often they occur without much thought.
Most habits, whether good or bad, are so powerful they are tough to break. Yet it is absolutely necessary today to create habits of excellence, both individually and corporately, in how we lead, manage, sell, and perform every service and every key action.
The key to transforming excellence from an occasional act into a automatic habit is to analyze what you must stop doing what blocks excellence, what you must keep doing what promotes excellence, and what you must start doing anew that drives excellence.
Principle #3: Excellence is a commitment – not an event.
Motivation and commitment are not the same. Motivation is a short-term effort that satisfies an external want. A monthly sales contests is a great example. Sales professionals will perform in an excellence manner over a short time (month) to receive the external want (trip, new car, etc.). Yet inevitably the level of sales excellence drastically drops immediately after the contest ends.
Commitment is a long-term effort that satisfies an internal need. Within commitment is where true excellence lives.
The key to transforming excellence from an event to a commitment is to align the achievement of excellence to the long-term needs of the employee. Vividly demonstrate how a commitment to excellence impacts the employee’s needs, for example, of belonging, recognition, achievement, or security. When connected to satisfying the long-term needs of an employee, excellence will become an employee’s personal commitment rather than your company’s forced compliance.
In summary, excellence becomes instinctive when it is a prerequisite, a habit, and a commitment. When you instill these powerful principles within your culture, your company will be on the road to excellence!