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Excellence Is Not an Exception

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As you go about preparing to realize your vision, it’s important to plan for excellence. Often — too often, actually — planning efforts are focused on “what” and not “how.” Certainly, knowing what to do is vitally important if you have any chance of realizing the future state of a vision. But knowing how you will do it is even more important, because success is grounded in discipline. Planning the details of what will be done needs to be coupled with the way you and the team plan to get it done. Ideally, how you will do it is with an unparalleled level of excellence. Think about it: If not excellence, then what?

Excellence is preferred to any alternative, for sure. Excellence is the desired state for every individual and team, and it’s realized through the discipline of executing details of a plan.

Perhaps the most consistent display of excellence is among the team of ladies and gentlemen at the Ritz-Carlton. They’re known for their service excellence. Whether you’ve stayed at one of their hotels and experienced the level of their service firsthand or know of their service from others who have, you know they’re the standard-bearer of excellence.

The most common understanding of excellence is being the best — the best quality; the best service; the best product; the best, period. Among teams today, leaders must drive excellence at the point of preparation so that it’s an ingrained expectation throughout every action the team members take. You must drive excellence in the small things to realize excellence in all things. That’s what makes the Ritz-Carlton team so renowned. They just get it because it’s ingrained into them to do so. They prepare properly, measure expectations against outcomes appropriately, and have uncompromising follow-through.

It’s important to note here that your sense of excellence mirrors how excellence is perceived by your customers, team members and all other stakeholders. You see, excellence is similar to personal brand; it’s important that you define it clearly so you understand it, but it’s determined only from the perceptions of others.

Legendary football coach Vince Lombardi saw excellence as more than simply doing your best. He said, “The quality of a person’s life is in direct proportion to their commitment to excellence, regardless of their chosen field of endeavor.” How’s your level of personal excellence? What level of excellence are you driving and realizing every day, with every action and every person? Are you delivering Ritz-Carlton levels of excellence in your work? If not excellence, then what?

Think about the immediate and downstream residual impact from delivering excellence in everything you do and everything your team does — not just for customers, but also for one another on the team and within the organization. Do you know the value of your excellence in service? Research from the American Society for Quality found that while 9 percent of customers will leave because they are lured away by the competition and 14 percent will leave because of dissatisfaction with a product, the vast majority — 68 percent — will leave because of the experience they’ve had with one person. This is true with your customers and highlights the level of excellence you should be focused on delivering. How’s your level of excellence? Is it where you want to be, or are there improvements you need to make?

Don’t sacrifice. Remember, your excellence is not an exception. It needs to be infused in the preparation of your work and in how you and your team go about work in everything and with everyone — every day.

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About Tim Rahschulte, Ph.D. (Full Bio)

Chief Executive Officer, The Professional Development Academy

Tim Rahschulte is the CEO of the Professional Development Academy and chief architect of the NACo High Performance Leadership Program ( He is the co-author of “My Best Advice: Proven Rules for Effective Leadership.”