I remember that when I was a manager, I once drafted a two-page report on findings of a small assignment. The client was relatively small, with a very tight budget. I was an inexperienced manager at the time. After drafting the report, the director made some corrections to my report. I corrected the report and took it back for re-review and sign-off. The director made further corrections (because I had only made the necessary corrections without re-reviewing the entire report).
After the fifth reiteration of the report I learned the lesson that no matter the size of the assignment or of the budget, excellence is the minimum standard because excellence represents you and what you do. From then onwards what I did had to be as excellent as I knew how irrespective of any recognition.
Excellence is a combination of our talent, passion and discipline.
Talent and passion
All of us are good at something. It’s up to us to find what it is that we are good at. Self-esteem is built on focusing on and spending your energy on the positive attributes in you … focusing on what you are talented in.
Like a magnifying glass, if you focus on something you enlarge your perspective of it. Similarly, if you focus more on your strengths (your natural gifts) you boost your self-esteem. Nurture your strengths and enhance them by seeking opportunities to excel using these talents.
At the same time having a natural interest and passion for what you do not only motivates you but drives you to deliver excellence. Aligning your talents and interests leads to attaining excellence easier.
Excellence is putting in the hours and working smart. In the book Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell presents a case that it takes 10 000 hours of practice to become an expert at something. Any gift is raw talent and putting in the effort to enhance it takes discipline. Discipline means making a personal sacrifice in your life, and one of the most costly sacrifices we can make is time.
Why should you be excellent?
Excellence aces mediocrity. Excellence is your brand and is what you stand for. It demonstrates the value you bring to the table, and makes others take you seriously. It distinguishes you from your peers and may lead to more opportunities for you in future. Excellence makes it easier for you to attain what you are due.
‘The world never gives you permission to shine,’ as Marianne Williamson once said. In other words, you need to give yourself permission to shine by being excellent. 18 July is Nelson Mandela Day; let us continue to strive to lead with excellence as he did.
- Play to your strengths – and thereafter surround yourself with a team that complements you.
- Know your playing field – knowing and understanding your environment drives how and to what extent you will excel.
- Balance striving for perfection at the cost of non-delivery. Know when great is good enough.
- ‘We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit’ –Aristotle.
Gugu Mtetwa CA(SA) Non-Executive Director