If you missed last week’s episode, we talked about what excellence looks like in leadership. And in an effort to increase our clarity, I’m going to spend some time in this episode looking at four areas where you can focus your effort to increase the presence of excellence in your life and work.
As a quick recap, here are some of the major points from last week’s episode:
- Excellence will cause you to stand out
- Excellence will force you to narrow your focus
- The risk with developing excellence is you slip into perfection
- Excellence is a lifestyle, a commitment to a way of living
- Doors open when you commit to excellence
Lory Hough wrote an article called Does It Have To Be So Complicated back in 2015 for the Harvard Graduate School of Education. One of the points she made in that article was that if you ask your own questions, you take greater ownership of your learning and deepen your comprehension. It leads to discoveries on your own rather than being dependent just on the supposed “experts.” And in the absence of obvious solutions to complicated challenges, the answer to complexity is sometimes to simplify.
A Student Just Like You
I am not an expert on excellence. I’m a student just like you. My job is to present thought-provoking information and content. Your job is to consider what I present, fact-check it for yourself, and then draw conclusions that help you to grow in your leadership competencies.
So as I focus on these four areas today, I’m including some great questions that you can ask yourself to measure your performance and pave a pathway to improvement. They aren’t substitutes for your own questions. I want you to come to your own conclusions, your own discoveries because you thought about it for a minute. Because you challenged yourself with a question which made you think. The questions I’m providing are simply meant to start the conversation. Are you ready?
Attitude isn’t everything
The first area is attitude. Attitude isn’t everything because if it was, our world would be in much worse shape than it is. Think of how many bad attitudes you encounter every day! Thankfully, our world doesn’t hinge on our ability to choose a good attitude each morning when we get out of bed! Now, attitude may not be everything, but I do believe it’s quite possibly the most important thing and I’ll venture that without a good attitude, excellence will forever elude you.
What do people say about your attitude? Do you have a reputation for being cross or grumpy? Are you egotistical and hard to get along with? Do others find you unapproachable? What would your customers say? Do they enjoy doing business with you? Do you always have to be right? Can you have a conversation without making others feel small?
Is your tendency to see things positively or negatively? Are you overly optimistic or weighed down with pessimism? You might think that you are bound to struggle for instance if you aren’t optimistic. Or maybe you believe that because you are more solemn, you can’t produce excellent customer service. Neither is true. You will have to understand your behavior and then adjust accordingly to produce the result you desire.
Excellence Starts With A Focus On Discipline
The second area is discipline. Excellence starts with a focus on discipline. Remember the quote from John Maxwell last week?
Consistency is the prerequisite to excellence.John C. Maxwell
Do you demonstrate commitment to habits that will propel your growth? Are you fixed on the process regardless of the outcome? Have you decided to make a change and come what may, you aren’t about to let it go? It reminds me of Will Smith talking about what sets him apart. I mentioned this back in Episode 032.
He never thought he was the best actor, the best looking, the most intelligent. But one thing was sure. He was 100% committed to outworking you. He said if you and he got on treadmills at the same time, you could be sure that one of two things was going to happen: you would get off first, or he would die.
So where does your discipline rank? Are you under control or a loose cannon? How you behave in public is a good starting place, but know this: how you respond in private eventually shows up in public as well.
What are you doing to improve your emotional maturity, your emotional intelligence? Or were you not aware that there are others in the universe that you occupy? Do you recognize that your childish tantrums and fits erode trust and produce instability?
Discipline Is Doing More Of What Matters
Discipline is doing more of what matters most even when it’s time-consuming, uncomfortable, or just plain hard. Rarely does excellence not require fortitude. Are you distinguishing yourself from the rest of the pack through disciplined habits? Your ability to stay focused and on-task when others are distracted or have lost interest produces staying power.
The bridge between wishing and accomplishing is discipline.Harvay Mackay
Who You Are When No One Is Looking
The third area is character. Who you are when no one is looking? Would you be tempted to do something you know is wrong if there was a guarantee you would NEVER get caught?
Excellence will never be found in the company of compromise.Mark Slemons
Are you committed to doing what’s right every time? No matter the cost? I can hear it already: “Mark, you have no idea what you are saying. Do you have any idea what you are saying?” Yes, I’m saying that you will not experience excellence.
Do you blame or do you take accountability? This is massive. Can you honestly say that something like this has ever come out of your mouth? “This is on me – I’m responsible and I will make sure that it not only gets corrected and also that it doesn’t happen again.”
Can you identify a blind spot that someone has revealed to you in the last six months? How about the last year? If you have no idea of your blind spots, it’s because you aren’t asking. There is no reason why you shouldn’t be able to identify something multiple times a year that you didn’t know about yourself previously.
Transparency invites excellence when you’re dedicated to improvement.Mark Slemons
Bringing Others Along
The fourth area of focus is people. Who are you bringing along? Who are you investing in? What are you building that will outlast you?
For example, I had a manager one time who was threatened by the notion that a new hire would want his role. So you know what he did? He prevented ANY possibility of that by refusing to hire anyone with ambition. Now THAT should scare you. Are you surprised to find excellence thwarted in that environment? Do you think there will be any lasting legacy? What will succession look like? It’s an awful mess.
What work are you doing with your team to understand how you are fueling or inhibiting their success? Do they know that you are committed to them? To the mission? To the company? Are you equipping them to succeed whether or not you are there? Or do they only hear you bad-mouth others behind their backs leaving your team to wonder what you say about them when their backs are turned? Do they hear encouragement and optimism? Are you cheering them on?
Who are you mentoring? Have you met with someone in the last six weeks that was for their gain, not yours? Some people won’t like this, and maybe you disagree; however, I believe that it is necessary to identify high performers and invest yourself in their future success. If you have a team of 10, my guess is that two of them stand out above the others. Give them the coaching they deserve to succeed.
How You Lead Will Be Imitated
How you lead will be imitated. You don’t abandon the other eight, but you must make sure that you establish a legacy. Make sure that excellence persists after you depart. Trust me, when you replicate you into those two top performers, the whole team will benefit. Those two are also going to impact the other eight. The bar raises for the whole team. So go find your 20% and invest yourself in them.
This journey isn’t about perfection. Rather, it’s about a relentless focus on improvement. Becoming a superior version of you. To clarify, not a perfect you – think about the fallacy in that. Do perfect things ever improve? No.
And this isn’t about being dissatisfied with you – just the opposite. Because I want you to go to bed each night knowing that you did your best. That’s it. It’s that simple. Do your best with your attitude, being disciplined, working on your character, and bringing others along. You can’t go wrong and you will find excellence increasing as a result.
Resources Mentioned In This Episode:
The Leader to Leader Podcast Episode 124: What Does Excellence Look Like In Leadership
Lory Hough’s article Does It Have To Be So Complicated
The Leader to Leader Podcast Episode 032: No Excuses: Never Count A Great Leader Out
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Now, go lead like someone you would want to follow!