Excellence is a beautiful thing to behold, but what is it? It is that rare state when all things converge flawlessly into a product, service or experience. It is the culmination of innovation, fierce attention to detail, finely honed systems, discipline and accountability to a desired end result. And once achieved, that state of excellence is admired, respected and sought after.
In business, excellence is coveted by many but only earned by few. It is much like the Lexus tagline, “The relentless pursuit of excellence,” where the word “relentless” defines the extent of the company’s commitment to chasing the extraordinary. Without “relentless”, the word “pursuit” becomes highly suspect in its meaning and intent. A company can easily give lip service to its pursuit of excellence without ever channeling the resources, commitment and leadership necessary to achieve it. Simply put, you may want excellence … but how far are you willing to go, and what are you prepared to sacrifice to get it?
Here are some No-Compromise Leadership insights into delivering excellence:
- Actions over words: To employees, talking about delivering excellence eventually just sounds like, “Blah, blah, blah.” It’s talking about going to the gym to workout but never showing up to feel the pain of gain. It’s talking about losing weight but never sticking to a diet. The worst occurs when a leader starts to believe his or her own hype, viewing their flawed version of excellence as something that it truly is not. Achieving and delivering excellence is about taking action and the commitment to do the tough work of getting it right. Excellence is like a vision statement. If you and your company don’t earn and live it every day … it’s just words.
- Leaders take it there: Delivering excellence is a journey filled with breakthroughs and setbacks, wins and losses. It takes a No-Compromise Leader to guide, push and inspire the people and the company to move towards excellence. That’s why so many companies get stuck at ordinary rather than extraordinary. It’s not the people that stopped pursuing excellence – it’s the leader who hit the auto-pilot button and then stepped away to take a nap. No-Compromise Leaders must want excellence at least ten times more than those they lead. That’s where the urgency and energy that fuels the journey comes from. Followers will lift up a No-Compromise Leader when he or she falls down because they know it is a rare occurrence, but followers will eventually tire of picking up a leader that naps too much, talks too much and plays the blame game too often.
- Look, feel, originality: Hold something excellent in your hand and you know it, feel it and experience its excellence and originality. Service excellence is something you can see and experience because it is honed to a state where it appears to happen effortlessly. Jonathan Ive is Apple’s long-time engineering designer. In a recent interview, he was asked, “If imitation is the highest form of compliment, are you flattered at how others copied your iPhone design?” Ive’s response, an emphatic “No.” He said, “Those that copy didn’t do the work to achieve their breakthroughs. They didn’t sacrifice the late nights and time away from family. They didn’t create something amazing that never existed before.” FACT: Excellence is an outcome.
- Imperfections seed compromise: Imperfections cannot be trusted. Imperfections are impending points of failure. Everything about delivering excellence is about No-Compromise Leadership, whether it’s delivering a fine dining experience, building a product, providing excellent customer service or even just executing a haircut. Allowing the slightest imperfection in one chain link will compromise the integrity of the entire chain to the point where it cannot be trusted. Excellence demands an investment in skill development, relentless testing, systems design and execution … and the discipline to weed out any known imperfections. Anything less than that, and imperfections become acceptable … sometimes even friends. And once imperfections settle in, they are hard to evict. This is especially so with people.
- Evolution and sustainability: Excellence must evolve to be sustainable. Today’s version of excellence is simply a template that must adapt and evolve to remain relevant tomorrow. Each rendition is worthy of celebration as long as work begins on its next iteration … or a completely new and innovative design or approach. No-Compromise Leaders understand that excellence is a perpetual series of stepping stones. Get too comfortable on one stone for too long and your hard-earned excellence can become irrelevant.
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