We often talk about excellence in our professional and personal lives. But what is our understanding of excellence? What are those qualities which define excellence? These are questions which we need to reflect on from time to time if we want to consistently excel in whatever we do, not only in our profession, but also in our personal lives. There are multiple traits defining excellence. More so, contributes in the journey towards excellence .
However, it is important to understand the core qualities or elements which differentiate ‘’Excellent’’ from ‘’Very Good.’’ Opinions can vary, as they will, but one can always debate and discuss on these core qualities and their influence on our behaviour and performance. Based on my practical experience, I believe the following seven key qualities, play a significant role in our journey towards excellence and helping us emerge as a leader in our workplace.
Let us briefly look at each of these qualities.
Robust values based on integrity, ethics, trust, empathy, safety and responsible social behaviour, to name a few, are the pillars on which the culture of an organization or an individual is built. A value-based culture and mindset nurtures excellence and plays an integral role in the journey towards excellence.
This is yet another important factor that contributes in the journey towards excellence.
Vincent Van Gogh had said – “I would rather die of passion than of boredom.” The moment a job or a task becomes routine, boredom, mediocrity and complacency set in. Passion triggers enthusiasm, precision, perseverance, perspiration and zest for life where every activity is taken as an opportunity for improvement and change. Passion energises the work environment and inspires team members and associates to give off their best.
It generates the desire to sharply focus on each situation and each activity with fresh eyes and with fresh perspectives. Passion motivates a person to rise above mediocrity and develop an attitude of positivity and enthusiasm by walking the extra mile, beyond the boundaries of defined roles and responsibilities. Experience shows that passion builds resilience which is particularly important for sustainable performance and growth.
Ownership is a personal value. Ownership culture fundamentally revolves around keeping commitments and taking responsibility, under any circumstances, more so when the situation or outcomes are not favourable or are different from what was planned or expected. However, when we talk of excellence, ownership goes much beyond. Seeing it, owning it, fixing it and improving it proactively is a demonstration of excellence in ownership. A sense of ownership is one of the most powerful tools an individual or an organization can possess. Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam once said, a true leader is one who gives the credit to his/her team for success and takes the blame for failure.
Domain expertise and interpersonal skills are crucial for achieving excellence. Competency ensures that individuals are equipped with the right skill sets to perform efficiently and deliver their best. Here, individuals include the entire spectrum of the organization – Leaders, Managers, Supervisors, Workers etc. Developing skill sets is a continuous process and demand constant learning, research, knowledge sharing and innovation. An organization or an individual must have the ability to respond to challenges swiftly by providing effective solutions. Without competency, this is not possible. Learning from experience and bringing in continuous improvements are critical pre-requisites for an organization to be a market leader.
One can define adaptability as the ability to adjust and respond to changing situations or conditions. This is not easy. There is always internal and external resistance to change. Circumstances and situations are constantly and rapidly changing. Therefore, it is imperative to be able to manage our response to these changes in a mature, professional and responsible manner. No change, however, should be adopted without acquiring proper inputs, in-depth analysis and meticulous planning. It is important to understand that effective governance is essential, but it needs to evolve in harmony with the dynamic environment, without compromising on values and principles. Archaic and complex processes, rules and regulations adversely affect the operational efficiency.
Hence, if we look at adaptability from the perspective of excellence, then, stimulating a change proactively for bringing in improvements is a wiser option!
Communication is a complex and wide subject. For our purpose it is sufficient to appreciate that communication is a particularly powerful tool in our journey towards excellence and must be wisely used as such. It is a two-way street of active listening and articulating our thoughts and ideas in a lucid and simple manner. Miscommunication can lead to confusing or wrong perceptions and interpretations, possibly with undesirable consequences. Therefore, active listening to comprehend the other person’s views is critical in deciding an appropriate response and strategizing subsequent actions. Effective and transparent communication builds a culture of trust and mutual respect.
Excellence cannot be achieved without consistent demonstration of the seven qualities, irrespective of the challenges and circumstances. The only way to bring in consistency is to develop a habit of excellence through repetitions and self-discipline. To quote Aristotle – “You are what you repeatedly do. Excellence is not an event – it is a habit.” People follow the habits they have developed over a long period. Therefore, it is necessary to develop a habit of continuous learning, managing change, taking ownership, consistency in behaviour and actions etc. Consistency promotes a culture of reliability and trust.
Conclusion – Excellence is a journey!
Excellence does not show up without focus, persistent hard work and devotion. A mind-set and attitude change, with dedicated and disciplined practice of the key qualities mentioned, will positively take us towards our goal of achieving excellence.
It is well known that top class champions continuously compete against themselves and raise the bar every day to consistently give off their best in whatever they do. They set the standards and create benchmarks for others. In the end, loving our job really makes the difference. “Flying Fish,” Michael Phelps, the most decorated Olympian of all time, says – “I found something I love, and never gave up.”