Over the last year I’ve helped dozens of Senior Leadership Teams articulate their values and develop a team charter that describes ‘the way we do things around here’. However, while every team—and every company—is different, there are some values that have regularly bubbled to the top (albeit described in slightly different ways).
One of the values that often gets tabled is the value of being Excellence-Driven. Sometimes it’s described as Aiming High, Striving to Do Better, Quality Focussed or Being the Best—but in a nutshell, it’s about delivering the best possible work, in the best possible way. There is an agreement amongst the team that Excellence is both the goal and the motivation.
Sounds good, right?! Imagine having a team that agrees Excellence is important to them. In fact, so important that they want to list it as a value and embed it into company culture. That right there is a commitment to lift standards and keep them lifted—am I right? So, why doesn’t it work?
The problem with developing company values or a team charter, is that often that’s where the work ends. The team gets together, they throw about some fine sounding words, and they decide that a bunch of them are the ones they’ll work towards. The problem is they never discuss what those values look like in action.
What does it mean to be Excellence-Driven? How will you know that your team are living by that value and making Excellence both the goal and the motivation? It’s one thing to say the company is Excellence-Driven, but what are you going to do to prove it?
Being able to describe your values in action is a critical part of ensuring any Values and Culture work sticks. Every value needs an action-plan that describes what it means to live and work by that value. Without an action-plan, you’ve got a bunch of fine sounding words and not a lot of substance.
So, if your team or company claims to be Excellence-Driven, what might that look like in action?
Regular Professional Development
If you want to be excellent at anything, you need to be committed to ongoing learning and development. That might be through formal courses or programmes, but it can also be through informal channels such as reading relevant books, taking part in online discussions or joining industry-specific Facebook groups. Being truly excellence-driven means setting learning goals and making a commitment to continuous growth. If your company values excellence, you need to become a learning organisation and you’d better have a budget for learning and development!
Being excellence-driven means being pro-active in soliciting feedback. Feedback from your boss, feedback from customers/clients, feedback from peers, and feedback from the people you lead. If you are truly pursuing excellence, it’s not enough to be open to feedback—you need to actively recruit it on a regular basis. Honest feedback is critical for developing excellence.
It is often said that we learn by experience, but that’s not strictly true. The real learning happens when we take time to reflect on experience. While most leaders recognise the benefits of self-reflection, remarkably few engage in it as an intentional practice. Even less encourage their team to do so. If you are truly seeking excellence, then you—and your team—need to be intentional about asking:
- What worked well?
- What didn’t go as expected?
- What could I/we do differently next time?
Of course, being Excellence-Driven shows up in other ways, too. Things like actively researching best practice in your field, entering awards to measure your company’s performance against others, and submitting your work for peer-review. The point is being an Excellence-Driven business takes more than claiming Excellence as a value. Without action, it’s just words on a page.
What are you doing to demonstrate being Excellence-Driven today?