Success Versus Excellence

Success Versus Excellence

It has been my pleasure this week to attend our company’s annual General Manager’s Rally in beautiful Callaway Gardens. Our theme this year was “Success Versus Excellence”.
My opening remarks were about the many successes our company has enjoyed this past year.  Sales and profits are up in spite of a tough economy.  Customer perceptions of us and our products continue to improve.  Remodels are finished and new products are lined up in the pipeline.
I told our employees that all of this makes us a success.  The real question I had was “are we excellent?”   I don’t believe that question is really for our company, but rather it is a question for each employee to answer about themselves.
In today’s culture, doing a good job seems like it isn’t enough.  Average has been branded as mediocre and very good is barely enough.  The problem with this kind of thinking is that it creates unrealistic expectations.  No one can be great at everything all the time.
Comparing ourselves to a certain standard of excellence can be beneficial and challenging in a healthy way.  Comparing ourselves to others can be defeating and discouraging.  Many people believe they can’t achieve excellence because they define it by comparing to others.  
Excellence doesn’t mean perfection.  We don’t expect that of our employees.  In my older years, I have come to understand that perfection is an impossible goal.
Excellence is a process, not an outcome.  It is something we do every day.  We challenge ourselves to do the best job we can do, nothing more.  There shouldn’t be expectations that can’t be met, but you should be able to look in the mirror and say, “I did the best job I could do today”.  
Excellence allows for learning from mistakes, not harsh criticism. Our company is full of people that learned from a mistake and never made it again.  We have expectations, but we want our employees to grow and be happy in their job.
Excellence sees others in a supportive role, not an adversarial role.  It is only when your team is working together that you can enjoy increased sales and profits, satisfied customers, and happy employees.  
Aristotle said almost 2,400 year ago, “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.”
Such is our charge to our employees.  Do the best that you can do, every day.  Make it your habit.  Don’t do it to please us, but to please your own self.  Success will certainly follow.
It isn’t really much different in our own personal lives.  We shouldn’t measure our success by the car we drive, the house we own, or the clothes we wear.  We should measure it by doing the best job we can do every day, no matter what our call in life may be.  
Success is measured by others.  Excellence is measured by you alone.  How will you choose to measure yourself?
o0o
Dan Ponder can be reached at [email protected]

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