Posts Tagged ‘Excellence’

I’ve been told on more than one occasion, by more than one person who knows me well, that my expectations for myself are extremely high, and these people are correct. They are. I’m sure I could tell you all kinds of reasons for why that is, but in terms of Strengths, I attribute it to having Maximizer as a dominant theme. Folks with high Maximizer have high expectations and work hard to make something strong into something superb.

I spent today with a team of fairly young leaders from a company I’ve been blessed to work with for the last several months. Today was our first workshop and it was a FULL day. As the day came to an end, and I packed up all my materials, I felt the too familiar “let down” feeling that I often experience after workshops I facilitate. I suspect part of it is the actual physical disconnect that comes when one has been fully engaged, mentally (and for me empathetically), with a group of bright, interested, interesting individuals for an extended period. I suspect the other part is the process of my internal self-assessment; the desire to determine how well I served them, and often find myself wanting.

You see, I can always think of one or two things I could have done more effectively to connect at a deeper level, to serve more effectively, to facilitate more new insights, to offer more new perspectives. I am fully aware that my opportunity, at that point, is to make note of these insights so I can implement them in the next workshop. What I strive for is to be able to have those insights earlier, to be able to adapt as I go through the actual workshop and improve in the moment.

Here are today’s two reminders:

You can’t see the picture when you’re in the frame. And, just because you can doesn’t mean you should!

I don’t usually use a lot of tools in my workshops. Yes, there’s high quality content, thought-provoking questions, facilitated discussions, group coaching, and exercises that will help bring the key lessons to life for the participants…but I typically don’t use a lot of worksheets, forms, etc. In my experience, often creating the space where some of these deep, meaningful, perhaps uncomfortable conversations among key team members can take place is the greatest value I can offer.

About a month ago, I had another leadership coach observe me in action. Her feedback included a recommendation that I enlist more tools; although she admitted to having a bias for tools. Today, I enlisted a lot more tools…and while some worked well, some didn’t resonate with me or the team I was serving. The day was too full…we all needed more room for the free-flowing discussion. We needed longer breaks. I needed to remember that just because I had access to the tools didn’t mean I needed to use them today.

What I’m most thankful for, at the end of the day, is that we walked through the “Today was great because ___________, and would have been even better if _____________” feedback exercise and they were candid with me about worked and what didn’t. I have their perspective on how to serve them better in the future. I look forward to having that opportunity.

In the meantime, I am grateful to have had the opportunity to get to work with and serve them today.


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I was thrilled and blessed to see Chris Isaak in concert last night at The Kent Stage, in Kent, Ohio, and have to say it was truly a highlight of my year. Not only does Chris, and his band Silvertone, put on one heck of an entertaining show, but they also demonstrate what it truly means to connect with others.

These guys travel a lot, and yet, they make a point of truly connecting with their audience whether they are in the BIG city (i.e. New York, Paris, San Francisco) or in a small town in the mid-west (i.e. Kent, Ohio!). Here are a few lessons in connecting that I was reminded of last night:

Connectors show appreciation for others. At the end of the opening song, Chris said, “Thank you for coming out tonight and supporting live music.” This resonated with me for a couple of reasons: 1) It was a snowy day, and the roads to Kent were not in fabulous condition. Having driven 3 hours to get there, we passed no fewer than 6 vehicles off the road (some in the ditch, some in the median, one Durango that looked as if it had rolled across several lanes, spilling its owner’s things thru the median and across the highway). Kent is a bit out of the way; it’s not far from Akron or Cleveland, but a bit off the beaten path. 2) We have so much access to music of all kinds at all hours of the day, fairly inexpensively. Attending a live concert these days is a bit of an investment — tickets, travel, maybe dinner out and a hotel for longer-distance travelers.

In addition, while the tour is titled “Chris Isaak,” it’s not all about Chris. He showcases each member of the band separately during different parts of the show, allowing each to shine with his instruments of choice. He also highlights, and pays tribute to those performers who inspired and mentored him…from Johnny Cash and Roy Orbison to Carl Perkins and Elvis.

Connectors create entertaining experiences for others. Chris and Silvertone put on a SHOW! For them, it’s not all about flash and special effects, unless you count the sequins or mirrored panels on the suits Chris wears when he’s entertaining! The Kent Stage has about 620 seats, old movie theater style, so there wasn’t a bad seat in the house, and the band took full advantage of being able to interact with the audience. Chris and his guitarist, Hershel, were both out performing in the audience during a couple of different songs. They tell stories, they make fun of themselves, they do some fun moves together (imagine the stage shows of bands in the 50’s and 60’s), they even had one of those ridiculous dancing Santa’s on-stage — you know the ones, they move when they are activated by sounds around them. They encouraged us to get up and dance and they performed for a full two hours.

Connectors respond to the needs of others. As  I mentioned, they were out among the audience performing. They invited a few audience members on stage to dance with the bass player. They did a couple of songs based on requests yelled out by members of the audience. If you’ve been to a concert, you know they have a “stage set” or planned play-list that they work their way through. Yes, they had a stage set, and I’m sure they stuck to most of it, but they also improvised in response to the audience.

Finally, there is something so powerful about watching people perform in their passion zone. These guys have been playing together for 25-30 years, and it shows. They were having a lot of fun, and so were we. It was one of those experiences during which I was truly “in the moment” the whole time. If these guys are coming to a venue near you, I highly recommend seeing them, you won’t regret it!

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For the first time, EVER, two of my mentors, John C. Maxwell and Les Brown, appear together in a FREE 3-part video series “Behind the Stage … The Good, The Bad & The Ugly.”

These two have over 40 years of professional speaking experience and they are ready to share it all with you…what it’s really like to be a professional speaker.

Consider it EDUTAINMENT in its highest form! You’ll learn about the speaking business, as well as laugh with them at some of the experiences they have had and share in this video series…If you’ve ever heard Les Brown laugh, you know this is going to be fun; and if you haven’t, you are in for a treat!

Did I mention the 3 videos are not only FUNNY but are FREE?

This launched yesterday, Wednesday, October 23rd.

Here’s the link…After you’ve watched it, tell me what you think!


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Instilling excellence into your organization is a cultural thing. It must be woven into the very fabric of your business, and evident in the way you do everything, every day. The key is, as the leader, you must be the role model and demonstrate, consistently, whatever it is you want your team/organization to do. As my mentor, John C. Maxwell says so eloquently, “People do what people see.”

People do what people see.   ~John C. Maxwell

So, how do you do that? You must establish high standards and inspire others to adopt them, as well. You must be fully immersed in, and committed to, raising the bar on all aspects of your performance, continually striving to get better. You must be willing to banish a “check the box” attitude because you know that “good enough” is not good enough! You must understand you aren’t done, until YOU are done; you don’t base your success or completion on other people’s standards, you keep going until you know you have achieved excellence.

Of course, these things are not possible without high levels of integrity. Will Durant said, “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit.” Every day, you have the opportunity to influence at least four people (and I do mean “at least,” because I believe the true number is significantly higher), which means you have the opportunity to be an excellence role model and encourage others to focus on and demonstrate excellence in what they do, as well.

Having focused on excellence over the past four weeks, what have you learned about yourself? Your organization? How do you rate yourself on this aspect of your leadership performance?

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Thursday, again, already?! Wow!

Time for some reflection…

We’ve been focusing on excellence all month, and perhaps you’ve already come to this place, but I’m curious. What is your motivation for pursuing excellence?

How will a life of excellence impact others?

What motivation will sustain you to pursue excellence day-in and day-out?

I’ve given this some thought, as while I realize this will sound trite, for me, if a thing is worth doing, it’s worth doing well. If I’m going to exchange my time and life energy — both of which I can never get back — I want whatever I spent it on to have meaning and value, and not just for me, but for the others around me, as well.

As I have said on several occasions, I am here to change the world through encounters with people each and every day. I can’t do that without doing what I’m doing at a high level of performance. Well, I suppose I could, but my quest is to change the world in a positive way, and that takes focus, attention, intention, energy, and effort.

I remember being told, by at least three different people, at three different jobs (yes, this is absolutely true!), that I could “relax now…and not work so hard.” I asked each of those people to describe to me what that would look like or be like, because I wasn’t sure what they were attempting to guide me to do. You see, I was working at what I consider “normal Laura level,” not in comparison to anyone else. I wasn’t sure what “relaxing” would mean. None of them were able to describe it for me. I still don’t know.

I want to make a difference. I want to set a positive example. I strive to leave things better than when I found them. And, when I leave a place, I want the people I encountered to say I did my share; I did quality work; and the place was better for my having been there.

What about you? What are your thoughts on this topic?

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Stewardship: the careful and responsible management of something entrusted to one’s care.

Each of us — as individuals, teams, and organizations — has been given something for which we are responsible. Historically, stewardship was responsibility bestowed upon someone to take care of another’s property or wealth — perhaps the King, a Lord, or a landowner. Essentially, the steward would manage those assets with the intent of leaving it in as good of condition as we found it, if not better. Today, we often think of this with respect to the environment, resources, wealth…Sometimes, however, we are more focused on acquiring and consuming than we are on caring for the things we already have.

The irony, however, is that we often gain more when we take care of what we have.I think back to 2008. I was moving my family from one area of Washington State to another, as I had taken a new job. We didn’t find a house we wanted to buy, so we decided to rent for a while. A co-worker told me about some new houses that had been built, but not sold (it was a tough real estate market), and suggested the builder might be willing to rent. I called and inquired; he said he would consider it, and we agreed to meet at the home to walk through it and discuss the idea.

It wasn’t long after we walked into the house that he said he would rent to me. He explained that he had taken a good look at my car before coming into the house and because it was clean and well cared for, he believed I would take care of his home; had my car been a mess, we may have been looking for a decent place to live for a while longer! Apparently, I was considered a good steward!

Your team/organization has also been given resources to manage. The question is, how have they performed?

Today, task them with a self-assessment to determine if they –as individuals — and you as a team/organization are providing excellence in the small things. Then, challenge yourself and them to go the second mile, and provide an even higher level of excellence.

Lead by example, and provide your self-assessment. As you do this, here are some things to consider:

What assets are you managing?

How are you managing them?

Are you squandering them, or are you in a good position for when the owner returns and wants an account of what you have done with what you’ve been given?

What changes can you make, to move your performance up a level?

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Living not too far from Pittsburgh, it’s hard to not hear a lot about the Steelers (Note — I’m not a big sports fan, but the business is full of leadership lessons — both on the side of how to do it, as well as on the side of how not to do it; so I will, from time to time, use sports stories as examples in my blog).

I have heard a quote from Steelers Coach Chuck Noll, who said:

Champions are champions not because they do anything extraordinary but because they do the ordinary things better than anyone else.

Have you found this to be true in your life?

I believe it. You don’t need to do anything extraordinary or complicated. You simply need to do whatever it is you do, extremely well, with a focus on doing it at levels higher than average…with excellence.

So, what small things so you do that lead to excellence in your personal and/or professional life?

What small things does your team/organization do that lead to excellence?

Can’t wait to hear what you come up with. Hint — use the “comments” box below!

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Please forgive me, faithful readers, for being so late with today’s post. I allowed myself to “unplug” over a long weekend, and didn’t think to take my material with me for today. I apologize! That said, let’s get started with Week Four of Excellence.

Excellence is doing small things in a big way!

If you had the chance to interview successful leaders, any number of them, I’m confident they will tell you they have developed and follow habits, systems, and processes daily, regardless of what they are working on, and excellence is no different.

Excellence is to do a common thing in an uncommon way.   ~Booker T Washington

I am reminded of stories of moms and dads who take the time to write personalized notes and slip them into their children’s lunches every day. Very thoughtful! It takes time, energy, and discipline to maintain this kind of schedule five days a week; but any child who has been on the receiving end of this practice will tell you what an enormous difference it makes in their life!

I am reminded of the time I participated in a FranklinCovey workshop called Focus — all about setting priorities and making our time intentionally productive. The facilitator shared that he flew a lot, facilitating classes all around the country. He said that on one particular flight, the Pilot took the time to write a note (on the back of her business cards) to each passenger flying first class, thanking them for choosing that particular airline and trusting her and her crew to get them to their destination safely. He spoke with her about it, because he was very impressed she had taken the time to do it. She explained that she felt blessed to have her job and wanted her passengers to know this. Because during flight we are often on aut0-pilot, she had a lot of time during a flight that she could choose how to spend, and she chose to spend her time connecting with others.

I am reminded of my mother. She was a server in coffee shops for decades. On occasion, she would leave one restaurant and take a job in another. Consistently, her customers followed her from one place to another. Turns out their loyalty was to her, not the restaurant! I was too young at the time to ask any of these people why they followed her, but clearly they valued something she offered…attitude, service…I can only guess, but clearly she was doing something with excellence!

Each of these people put their “signature” on what they did, focusing on excellence. Today, think of ways you can put your personal signature on what you do, by modeling excellence.

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In today’s business climate, competition is fierce; but I’m sure I don’t have to tell you that. Maintaining the status quo in terms of performance is a sure-fire way for your business to not be in business very long. What do you think will happen to your team or business if you aren’t striving to exceed expectations?

What do you think the outcome would be for you, your team, your organization, your customers, and your competition?

Seems like a simple question, but the implications could be staggering.

Spend some time with this one today and let me know what you come up with.

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Wednesday is work with your team day! Take some time with your team, today, to create a strategy for exceeding your customers’ expectations. Ask each person to share a brief story of a product or service experience that exceeded their expectations. Then, as a team, evaluate current expectations and satisfaction with your product or service.

First, have each person answer this question: What do our customers expect from our product or service?

Then: Are we currently meeting these expectations?

If the answer to the second question is “no,” you will first need to make changes to meet those expectations, before you can exceed them.

Next, gather ideas on how you could exceed your customers’ expectations for your organization or team going forward.

Ask: What could we do to exceed our customers’ expectations?

Then: How will we implement these ideas?

Be realistic, and pick two to three ideas you can begin to implement right away…What will they be?

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