Leadership and a Culture of Excellence
A culture of excellence is embodied by every team member striving to bring their best efforts daily so that the team can reach their goals toward a specified vision.
A culture of excellence isn’t built over night but over time. It is the accumulation of a million micro decisions on a daily basis by all the team members. However, don’t let that statement derail anyone. If one small decision is made poorly (i.e. without a team member’s best effort), the good news is that another opportunity is most likely behind it. So be encouraged! The key point is for each team member to be striving or pressing forward or making the attempt to bring the best of themselves (leveraging their unique and God given talents or abilities) to their everyday responsibilities. Thus:
“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, therefore, is not an act, but a habit.”
So the aim of every team member should be habits of excellence.
What habits can we use to build that culture of excellence?
First, excellence has to start at the top and filter down through the ranks. So then setting an example of excellence is crucial to the organization. Every subordinate (direct and indirect reports) must see that the leader is bringing his “A” game on a daily basis. This is not to say that a leader might not have off days. We have to make allowances for the human condition. People get sick, are exhausted from a lack of sleep, have emotional situations at home, etc. I think a leader will more times than not be able to work their way through the situation. However, if this happens, the leader can explain the situation and model the importance of humility. This has a twofold effect: it humanizes that leader and the organization and builds an atmosphere of love that is vital toward reaching a culture of excellence.
Second, the leader is the one responsible for creating an environment that is conducive to habits of excellence. A work atmosphere where people are constantly “putting out fires” is not going to lend itself to building those habits of excellence. Rather, the leader needs to be finding ways to limit and/or avoid these situations. Now the reality is that sometimes high priority items come to the forefront of our schedules unexpectedly (Covey’s urgent and important quadrant). When this happens, habits of excellence can suffer as people have to re-prioritize an entire day’s events. The leader can and should be reducing these types of days through the intentional use and modeling of these important skills or habits of excellence:
- Being organized (daily planners, smart phone calendars, contact lists, important and frequently used documents. The prevailing though here: “a place for everything and everything in its place.”
- Being focused (weekly priority lists not daily to do lists, liberal use of batching like tasks together, using large blocks of uninterrupted time to hammer away at important tasks, checking email only at predesignated times, only scheduling meetings when absolutely necessary). There are just so many ways for people to get bogged down with busy work. The leader is always looking for ways to keep his or her people on task.
- Being “all in” or “sold out” to the mission. This should be the primary motivation exemplified by the leader and filtered down through the ranks.
- Being punctual
- Being trustworthy
- Being loving/caring
- Being team centric
- Being respectful
- Being self-controlled
- Being a peace maker
Ultimately, many habits of excellence can be traced back to Biblical concepts.
What are some of the impediments to creating that culture of excellence?
The leader is responsible for identifying and removing the obstacles that keep his or her team from practicing habits of excellence and building a sustained culture of excellence. Some possible barriers:
- A lack of motivation/personal issues
- Personnel conflicts
- Lack of training or education
- Lack of a clear vision
- Wrong person or wrong seat on the bus (Jim Collins’ Good to Great)
- Overly rigid hierarchy/corporate structure/centralized authority
- Lack of delegation and no resolution of problems at the lowest possible level
I hope this first blog about leadership and a culture of excellence has stoked your interest. Come back next time for more. Also, please feel free to let me know your thoughts! Thanks for reading!