You may have set your sights on becoming an exceptional workplace.  But it won't happen on its own. Like running a marathon, you can't just decide one day you want to run and go out the next day and do it.  You need to prepare and train.

The first step to preparing to become an exceptional workplace is to understand the current state of your organization, and the potential hurdles that could obstruct the way.

These are common roadblocks that I so often see:

1. No strategic hiring plan.

Companies often fail to strategize a recruiting process to hire the right people and develop a strong team.  As you map out such a hiring plan, you should think about the specifics of the job and how you'll source candidates, the right questions to ask in interviews, how many interviews will be conducted (as well as when and where), and the on-boarding routine.  Think both short term and long term about the team you are working to develop.  What skills are you missing?  How can you fill gaps?  What types of individuals will help bring you to the next level?  Involve hiring managers and the executive team in the development of your hiring plan to ensure that everyone is on board.

2. Small thinking.

You need to have aspirations.  Don't let yourself get bogged down in the day to day and forget to set or work toward goals.  Goals should be specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and timed.  Before you can think long term, develop short term goals.  Short term goals can cover a month, a quarter, or a year depending on your business cycle.  Short term goals will drive long term goals, which typically address the next one to five years.  Determine what you want your goals to be centered around.  Are they for sales, service, operations, or performance?  Setting goals will help you become exceptional by giving you and your team the direction to strive for excellence.

3. Undervalued employees.

Let's face it, employees are the crux of your business.  Employees that know they're valued will give 110% and maximum productivity to achieve your goals.  To that end, reward and recognize your employees through simple programs like spot cash awards or store gift cards.  A more developed program can be tied to an employee's compensation or performance goals.

4. Lack of communication.

Employees won't describe their workplace as exceptional if they feel cut off from supervisors or executives.  Don't leave communication to chance.  Set up regular ways to communicate with your employees.  This could include a newsletter, town hall meeting, lunch, or open door office policy.  Be sure to truly encourage employees to talk.

5. No accountability.

Performance feedback--both formal and informal--engages employees, reinforces their work toward the company's objectives, and ensures efficient teams.  The only way to make managers accountable to give this feedback, however, is to incorporate it into their own performance goals.  To ensure this gets done, implement a 360-degree feedback system that asks subordinates to review managers.

6. Work-life imbalance.  

If you don't have family-friendly policies, you'll have trouble recruiting top talent and keeping employees engaged.  Encourage employees to take vacation, train them on time and stress management, and consider flexible hours or telecommuting options.  When you implement new or different initiatives, outline objectives, costs (who will pay for what), how they will work, and when they will be reviewed.  It's important to note that your company may change a plan if objectives are not met.