"Be a yardstick of quality. Some people aren't used to an environment where excellence is expected." ~Steve Jobs

“The best performers across every field have an unwavering desire for excellence for what they do, the way they think, and the way they work.” ~Unknown

Do you have an environment in your department where excellence is the expectation of every single employee, or do you have an environment where the mediocre employees continue to plod along in a continuous march of blandness? While organizations who tolerate mediocrity can compete with other organizations who tolerate mediocrity, they are generally CRUSHED by organizations who expect excellence. So how can you set an expectation of excellence in your department for success? All excellent organizations share some part of the following:

  • Get clear on metrics
  • Excellence not perfection
  • Give constant feedback
  • Be consistent

Get clear on Metrics – It is IMPERATIVE that you find a way to measure performance that is black and white, and that you communicate those metrics to each employee regularly, both in public forums and in private. Display boards with updates (and possibly team member names left out) in a public place let everyone know that the metric is important to you and where they rank. One on one meetings between supervisors and line-level employees are essential to talk through issues, reinforce the message, and drive results.

Excellence not perfection – Excellence is just that, excellent, but it need not be perfection. Striving for perfect can be demoralizing and a source of paralysis for an organization. Set your goals truly high, but not so high as to be unobtainable.

One thing to mention: If you have a culture of mediocrity, then you may need to build momentum with "reasonable" goals to start out with and moving toward the truly excellent. For teams that aren't used to "winning" the 1st win begets 2nd win, then 3rd, then success becomes an expectation.

Give constant feedback – A staff that is achieving excellence wants to know what is going on constantly. Feedback will be the fuel that powers the racecar, so get ready to give it as quickly as you can. Weekly is better than monthly, daily is better than weekly, hourly is better than daily, etc.

Be consistent – Most everything takes longer than we want it to take and excellent results are no different. So whatever timeline you want….double it, but be persistent and consistent in the results you expect. Do not let timing or other factors persuade you to accept anything less than excellence. To do so is to undermine all of your other efforts as your team will realize that you will crumble under the pressure and accept less than their best.

The idea is that great performers are recognized and rewarded, and poor performers understand that excellence is expected (they shape up or ship out). It is in this environment that greatness begins to flower.