There’s nothing quite like the smile on an athlete that has just competed with the best of the best and won an Olympic gold medal. They know that they competed with excellence. While most of us have not won an Olympic medal, we all know the sense of satisfaction that comes from doing an excellent job.
The necessity of excellence“If you don't have time to do it right, when will you have the time to do it over?” –John Wooden
The nature of excellence
The time for excellence
Findings on excellence
The ERC (Employers Resource Council) compiled a list of characteristics of “great workplaces that excel at the attraction, retention, and motivation of top performers” based on 15 years of surveys and interviews. 
The leadership practice of having an attitude of excellence in the workplace corresponds with an attribute in the ERC report.
ERC noted the following about great workplaces:
Through performance management practices that help guide, support, and develop exceptional performance, great workplaces provide clarity on how to be a top performer, help other employees become top performers, and assist existing top performers in sustaining top performance. Reaching for excellence each and every day is what makes great workplaces successful.
It’s clear that excellence in the workplace is a great attribute that we should all aspire to. The question for leaders becomes, “How can I encourage and instill excellence in my organization?” Here are four ways that I encouraged excellence in our company.
- Through clearly expressed values: One of our core values was “Strive for Excellence”. This value was posted for all to see, taught and emphasized at company-wide events, and routinely referenced as a defining core value for the company.
- By example: Most principles are better caught, than taught. I always tried to live and work in an excellent manner. When people see their leader working with excellence, it’s easier to perform their own duties with excellence. I believe each of us should set the bar higher for ourselves than anybody else will.
- ON/IN: We developed an internal initiative that we called ON/IN. It simply stated, “Work ON the business, while we work IN the business. Working ON the business meant growing our people, growing our business and making quality improvements.
- QIC: We taught another internal initiative called QIC – which stands for Quality Is Contagious. This initiative supported our quality management system for continuous quality improvements.
Since I was very young, I have tried to do things with excellence. In fact, I've identified Strive for Excellence as one of my core values. One thing I have learned about myself is when I Strive for Excellence too strongly, I can cross the line into perfectionism. And when I cross that line, there are “dead bodies” (employees and family members) lying around me. I realized that when I push too hard, they give up trying and everyone, including me, winds up frustrated.
Every leader can improve their culture by incorporating an attitude of excellence into their workplace.
Leaders, you can set the standard for excellence by how you go about your work. I’ve learned that we have to be intentional about having an attitude of excellence.
With some thoughtful planning, you can communicate your expectations of excellence, and develop some codified approaches that will move everyone toward the gold medal podium.
How do you encourage excellence in your organization? – Please leave a comment below.
PS: Here are links to the first ten posts in this series on great workplace cultures.
- How to Win in the Marketplace
- Two Ways Leaders Can Improve Their Cultures
- How to Hire the Right People
- Are You Investing in Training and Development?
- 7 Ways You Can Up Your Communication Game
- The Secret Every Leader Needs to Know
- What Does Dr. Seuss Know About Building an Inspiring Culture?
- An Uncommon Way to Grow Your Business
- 6 Ways to Achieve Work/Life Balance
- Who Else Wants Confident and Courageous Employees?
 yourerc.com “HR Insights Blog” ERC (Employers Resource Council), 5-Sep-2013 (12-Aug-2014).