It's a familiar litany: we live and work in an increasingly customercentric economy. Most developing nations can learn a lot from the US, where the majority of the workforce and gross national product come from the performance of services rather than the production of products. An exceptional customer experience - based on the strategy and goals of the organisation - otherwise known as excellence, pays off. Organisations that deliver high-quality, impeccable customer experiences increase market share and have a significantly higher return on investment. Not moving towards excellence means you are striving to be no better than the competition. In order to not do this, you must create a culture of excellence. Not doing so means average will start to creep in and it's insidious and clandestine.
Denial is the first reaction most organisations have when losing their excellence to average. Next, the real scary part, it is the acceptance of average as their excellence. Of course, the first to notice are your customers. And they usually let you know by going over to the competition.
Creating a culture of excellence might sound easy. Unfortunately, without a strategy and set of tools, it's not. If you don't have them, creating a culture of excellence becomes nearly impossible. Soon you start to notice a decrease in market share that means you are simultaneously increasing the competitions. This should really frighten you.
The good news is that you can create your own culture of excellence and become a results-focused organisation where your people come to work every day and give and be their best. Creating a culture of excellence begins when you face the reality that your excellence may have been kidnapped. By first admitting it, you then can start to focus on the four tenets of excellence.
First, excellence is an inside out proposition. It starts with you. Look into the mirror and ask yourself: "Is excellence staring back at me?" Second, excellence is measured by your best, not someone else's. You may think you're in a race, except no one else is racing against you. It's your best. Third, there is no second place for excellence. It (excellence) is the goal - you are either moving towards it or away from it. Last, all five behavioural traits for attaining and maintaining excellence must be present, i.e., passion, competence, communication, flexibility and ownership.
1. Passion: Have a passion and an understanding for what you are doing and know the real product behind the product of your company. Create zest inside you for life that causes you to smile even when circumstances are against you, go the extra mile and see life and work as an opportunity to make a difference, not something we have to get through. Not be burdened by the sludge of negativity.
For example: Zappos. com, Inc., the large online retailer, wants people who are passionate about customer service. In the fourweek training programme, at the end of each week, new hires are offered $2,000 to quit. Why? Zappos wants to make sure they are passionate about sitting in a cubicle all day long in the call centre delivering a Wow! customer experience.
2. Competence: Continuously build the skills to get the job done and remain competitive. Not just in the technical aspects of your work and life, but it's also important in your relationships with others, to share information so everyone succeeds - not use it as a weapon.
3. Communication: Communicate all roles and responsibilities effectively and without confusion. Perception is everything and it is created by effectively communicating. Understand that there is a delicate balance between listening and talking - practice active listening. Communication is also recognising and appreciating people when they go the extra mile.
4. Flexibility: Have the flexibility to do things differently in the ever changing-competitive business environment we all dwell in. Know that the only thing that remains constant is that everything changes, deal with these changes in a practical and professional manner. Look at change as something you are gaining - not at what you may be losing. Southwest Airlines, a large US discount carrier, is a prime example of flexibility. The pilots will help get the cabin ready between flights to reduce turnaround time (passengers leaving the plane after arrival and new passengers boarding for take-off). It is certainly not in their job description, but it is important to keep flights on time. Southwest has enjoyed 45 consecutive years of profitability.
5. Ownership: Take ownership for the productivity and profitability of the organisation. Accept your responsibilities and use your judgement even in the face of constraints and barriers. If you see something that needs fixing, do it even if it is not your job. At Deloitte, the large accounting firm believes that taking responsibility for what they do for the client, people, communities and society are all interconnected. Give management and employees alike a purpose for going to work every day and being their best.
It is imperative that all five of these behavioural traits are practiced daily for excellence to take hold both professionally and personally. If you miss any of these, then you're moving away from excellence towards average. Your passion becomes indifferent, and you stop caring. Your customers and fellow clients will be the first to notice.
Don't embrace ongoing learning and information sharing and you start to become incompetent in your abilities. You become confusing in your communications. There is no clarity and you become the master of mixed messages. You stop listening to the viewpoint of others. Your flexibility becomes stiff and you accept doing everything the way it was always done before. The inability to stretch becomes missed opportunities. You choose policy and procedure over adaptability and common sense. You stop taking responsibility for your actions and look for someone else to blame. Pretending that you care, you simply want to deceive and impress.
Now is the time to create a culture of excellence and banish average from your organisation forever. It's a must to survive in the ever-increasing people-centric business world. It sets you apart from the competition and it also cannot be duplicated by them, because all the people in your organisation make up your culture of excellence.
(Harry Paul is a motivational speaker who has co-authored seven business books, including the best-seller FISH!A Proven Way to Boost Morale and Improve Results, and Who Kidnapped Excellence?)