The other day I was walking along an insignificant road and looking at all the insignificant things I would not generally look at. I stopped and took my own sweet time to look at the deep-brown barks of trees, the bright-green leaves on the branches and the countless shapes of the clouds above.
Then something caught my eye – some abandoned pots along the side of a road – that seemed to have been forgotten by someone leaving in a hurry – and growing in those pots were some insignificant flowers.
Having the time to literally stop and smell the flowers – I stopped to peer at those flashes of colour. What I saw took my breath away because there in those broken earthy pots I saw excellence at its best. Simple unnamed flowers, each excelling in form, shape, colour. A profusion of beauty and symmetry. They were a masterpiece in art – created for the crown of a princess not there – for an audience that had long left – for applause that will never sound
But then, if flowers bloomed only when there were audiences or applause, then we would have no spring.
The passion to bloom and be the best that they could possibly be, was completely intrinsic. Nature doesn’t crave for validation, it just exists, and excels. Be it the smallest of specks to the tallest of mountains, everything in nature is crafted to perfection, each playing its role without expecting recognition.
While nature and perhaps a grander plan creates flowers, sunsets, mountains and rivers to perfection – what is it that an organization can do to bring excellence to life in everything it does? How does this passion for excellence translate into organizational culture? What is it that we need to do to make excellence a way of life?
Excellence presupposes large effort and it seems to take the fun out of pursuing it – but that is far from true! Here are four attributes that we have learnt while working with the best in business :-
In the organizations that we have worked, I have noticed that excellence thrives where excellence is defined. Leaders take responsibility of articulating what excellence looks like – continuously and setting the standards for excellence. These standards of excellence have been clearly defined and communicated to each and every one in the organization. Everyone in the organization is aware of what standards they are working towards. I know of a large watch manufacturer who sets these standards of excellence where even the floor of their factories has to be maintained in a very specific way.
A lot of care is taken to ensure that the right people enter the organization – their recruitment processes are extremely rigorous and often the leadership spends inordinate amount of time understanding candidates before they make them an offer. They truly believe that people make excellence happen and the right people make it happen effortlessly. There is tremendous clarity on what is it that people need to bring to the table and what are the behaviours that interviewers need to look for. I know a large IT giant that makes candidates go through multiple rounds including breakfast with leaders and an interview with peers. The conversations are tantamount to peeling the onion and efforts are made to look for a mutual best fit.
The processes of delivering excellence are very well established. Care has been taken to identify the best ways to deliver excellence and these are institutionalized. It is about making excellence easy. Each process is whetted for whether it allows for easy execution of excellence. I knew a premier services firm that had established processes along with templates, so their employees knew exactly what to do and could focus energies and efforts on how they did it. Excellence for this organization did not emerge in the processes but what was done within the frame of the process.
The leaders of the environment ensure that they don’t just preach excellence, but embody it, and are living examples of it. Whether it is day-to-day communication, or feedback, or client meetings, or decision making, the leaders at these organizations ensure that they excel in all their work, thereby influencing their teams to follow the same path. In a day and age, when we see the leadership deficit coming onto the front page of newspapers, the leaders who have high standards of excellence for themselves are the one who drive it effortlessly. I have seen leaders who have created extraordinary teams with ordinary people and delivered pathbreaking excellence. I have personally worked with leaders who have created new industries and established standards of excellence in a completely blue ocean.
So, before you head to work today, ask yourself a question: Are we driven by excellence or are we doing a quick fix job? Are we being internally motivated to deliver better than our best or are we limited by the comfort of mediocrity?
What a powerful situation we would be in if we delivered brilliance without an audience or appreciation. The joy would be in creating masterpieces in every single thing we do – whether it is the way we show up for work, enable our teams, or create solutions for our client’s challenges.
The trick to making excellence happen is to be that flower that blooms in brilliance whether it gets noticed or not.
This article was originally published at LinkedIn