In Search of Excellence
David Freund, Chief Leadership Officer

Last week I wrote about what I learned in 2021. On our podcast, Marisa and I discussed several topics in detail. As I reflected on that podcast episode, there was an underlying topic that was part of the conversation but never called out. That topic is excellence. In 1982, Tom Peters and Robert Waterman wrote their iconic management book In Search of Excellence. The book was based on the study of 43 of America’s best-run companies. In their book, they identified eight key attributes of a successful organization. They are:

  1. A Bias for Action
  2. Staying Close to the Customer
  3. Autonomy and Entrepreneurship
  4. Productivity Through People
  5. Hand-On, Value Driven
  6. Stick to the Knitting
  7. Simple Form, Lean Staff
  8. Simultaneous Loose-Tight Properties

They gave us great insight into how an organization can be excellent, but what about a person? What would the key characteristics be of a person searching for excellence? What if a person wants to pursue excellence in life? What if they wanted to make excellence a lifestyle. What would that look like?

You guessed it! I found a list of 10 and made a few tweaks. Here are a few to get us started:

  1. Value Excellence – If we want to be a person of excellence, we need to value what that means. We need to prioritize things that contribute to being a person of excellence and eschew things that work against it. I have a sign hanging in my office that reads, “No Shortcuts, Ever!” Now, I didn’t put the sign up because I had mastered this concept; I put the sign up because I need to be reminded. What I found interesting in my life is that I am tempted to take a shortcut on the things I can do most easily. I need to remember to take the time to always give my best.

  2. Don’t Settle for Average – When you go out for dinner, do you look for an average restaurant? Would you like to buy an average car? Now don’t get too stressed about this one. I love the example of the difference between the word ordinary and extraordinary. The only difference in the words is a little extra. We live in a world where so many people are okay with being ordinary. If you are willing to do a little extra, you become extraordinary. Don’t settle for average in yourself or others.

  3. Remain Committed and Focused on What Really Matters – You need to know why you do what you do. You need to know what you value; when you know these two things, you need to choose to be committed to those things. When you are committed and focused on these things, amazing things will occur.

If you want to be a leader, you need to strive for excellence; your team depends on it. We all need you to be a person who pursues excellence in your life. You have the potential to change your world.

If you would like to hear more about the other seven key characteristics of personal excellence, please join Marisa Norcross and me for episode 240 of The Next Page Podcast.

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