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How To Produce Excellence In Your Firm

By Edward Piatt, Ed.D.

Society is plagued by disagreement, adversity, a lack of excellence and more importantly, excuses rather than effort. As they say, “An organization is a microcosm of society,” meaning that the ills of society are often mirrored in organizations.

As an organizational consultant, I see this on a daily basis. I am constantly inundated with employees who complain, offer excuses and want free reign to saturate the organization with more mediocrity.

Given the societal pressures to be politically correct (which has transcended into today's organizations), leaders are often reluctant to discuss the merits of prodding, pushing and extolling their employees to attain the "diamond-level" status of being excellent. In all levels of an organization, I’ve witnessed a significant portion of employees just "doing their job," and nothing more.

My consulting advice to organizational leaders who have these types of employees in their organization is this: It is time to move them up to the next level of excellence, or move them out of the organization.

One of my favorite excellence quotes comes from Ralph Marston, who stated, "Excellence is not a skill. It is an attitude." Additionally, Pat Riley extols us in seeking and attaining excellence by stating, "Excellence is the gradual result of always striving to do better." Together, excellence is the product of having the correct attitude, multiplied by always striving to do better. The end result of this attitude and work ethic not only produces exceptional employees, but it moves the organization to the diamond-level status of greatness.

How then do we produce excellence in the organization? According to an interesting article written by Dr. Will Moreland, titled "Eight Key Factors for Producing Excellence," there are eight factors on how to achieve excellence in an organization. The key points are listed below, along with my comments on how to add these to your leadership domain:

1. “Make excellence the target.” Excellence is never a choice. It’s a habit that is ingrained in the worker. The pursuit of excellence must be your mantra and practiced over and over again.

2. “Model excellence.” Modeling excellence is akin to seeking and achieving what Olympians do every day: They put in the work, ignore the pain and never make excuses. If they fail, they get back up and go at it again. Effort, not excuses, is how you model excellence in your life and in the organization.

3. “Communicate your desire for excellence.” If the old adage is true — ‘you never have a second chance to make a first impression’ — then, this result is also true: You never have a second chance to communicate your desire for excellence if you produce mediocrity and remain stagnant in the status quo. You cannot and must not accept mediocrity at any level. You cannot be mediocre one day and excellent the next.

4. “Expose yourself to excellence.” Seeking and achieving excellence is never easy. One way to achieve it is to model your behavior after those who have achieved excellence. Ask them what they did to achieve and maintain excellence in their lives. Seek them out and ask for assistance. Model their behavior and practice their habits of excellence.

5. “Work hard at achieving excellence.” If excellence is the product of attitude and work ethic, then the employee must do the things that set them apart from their peers in the organization. Dedication, communication, effort and working harder than anyone else sets the stage in motion for achieving excellence. It’s not working harder, but smarter and more efficiently that engages the ignition for excellence.

6. “Focus your efforts and surround yourself with the best.” As a former college athlete, I understood at an early age that you never get better by playing with those less talented than yourself. You get better by being challenged to engage in higher levels of performance by competition, modeling the best and brightest and never making excuses. It’s a byproduct of attitude, performance, dedication and the pursuit of doing your best in every situation that makes diamond-level employees flourish in their respective jobs.

7. “Challenge your results.” Never be satisfied with where you are at in your career. They say in sports you are only as good as your last performance. From that perspective, never rest on your laurels, rather, engage and motivate yourself to higher levels of excellence.

8. “Excellence is a strategy.” Excellence is like a vision statement: What is your purpose? Complemented by your personal mission statement, how do I tactically achieve what my vision states? Therefore, excellence is a strategy that gets you from where you are to where you need to be. It is the essential roadmap that takes you to newer and deeper insights of how to attain new heights of excellence in your life.

Consistently, some leadership experts praise the virtues of achieving and sustaining operational excellence, loosely defined as being world class. Viewed from another perspective and as discussed in an article written by the Institute for Operational Excellence, "The key to success in achieving operational excellence starts with the right definition, one that everyone, at all levels of the operation, can understand and know how to achieve. That way, each employee will see that our continuous improvement efforts are not about eliminating waste or lowering cost. Rather, the end goal is to have operations be a key player in creating and delivering products that customers want in order to establish perpetual business growth."

If we want to achieve personal and operational excellence, we must do the things that set us apart from our peers and competition. Personal excellence rests on attitude and work ethic, whereas operational excellence centers on being a key player and satisfying the wants, needs and desires of the customer to achieve perpetual growth.

In the end, excellence is a habit. It requires diligence, commitment, attitude and a stellar work ethic. Finally, it is a continuous improvement process of never making excuses, but making a sustainable and achievable effort to be a world-class citizen. The choice always is yours, so choose wisely and be excellent.

Dr. Edward Piatt, Ed.D., is a retired manager from the state of Illinois with 32 years of front-line leadership experience. He is an adjunct professor of business in the MBA and MOL programs at Olivet Nazarene University. He is also an organizational/economic development consultant and lectures frequently on emotional intelligence, organizational culture and leadership. You can contact him at

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