Take a minute and think of someone living or dead, fictional or real that embodies excellence. Maybe it's a sports star or perhaps a mentor you admire. Now think through all the characteristics they have that make them excellent. What behaviors and skills do they exhibit? How do they show up?
You're probably thinking of their grit and determination, their ability to inspire others, their desire to push the boundaries. When we think of excellence, we often think of those who are comfortable to swing for the fences and to pull victory from the jaws of defeat.
Those things are all valuable. When taken on their own, however, they're insufficient. They could be the result of a degree of luck, or they're just a flash in the pan. To achieve true excellence, you need to do the everyday things extraordinarily well and do them repeatably. Excellence isn't about bouts of brilliance; it's about delivering to the highest standard in everything you do.
Those leaders that get there understand these three things:
Excellence is a choice.
Excellence doesn't happen by chance; you can't develop it by osmosis. It's about committing to being the best in everything you do. As Tom Peters writes in The Excellence Dividend, "Excellence is the next five minutes. Or not." Meaning that every interaction, every interruption, every meeting, every status report, every phone call provides you the opportunity to be excellent, should you choose it.
As you think through the things you need to do today-- from the exciting and rewarding to the monotonous and boring-- ask yourself, how can you make each of those individual moments excellent? Commit to be excellent and then go execute.
Excellence is not a destination.
The minute you think you've achieved excellence is the minute that you need it more than ever. Those leaders who are genuinely excellent day in, day out are the ones who never settle on past victories. They continue to push themselves and their teams to be better. They continue to choose to be excellent.
What can you do today to lead yourself and your team toward excellence? Are you continually looking for better, faster, and more effective ways to do things or do you default to the old methods and process that have worked for you before?
Excellence isn't binary.
When it all breaks down, when you fall foul of one of the enemies of excellence, that doesn't mean that your excellence tank starts back at zero. It doesn't negate everything that came before that moment. It doesn't end your excellence streak.
Just be sure to determine what went wrong and commit to excellence again. You'll find yourself right back on the wagon. Similar to a dieter who has a bad meal, the appropriate response is not to abandon your nutrition plan, it's to start over again, one meal at a time. Don't let your failures destroy your desire to be excellent, simply recommit.