Keith Brubacher

Keith A. Brubacher

Earlier this year a friend of mine asked what excellence means to me and our organization. As I considered my response, I realized how common the term excellence is in many mission statements, sales slogans and promises. It seems the delivery is always more challenging than the promise! And yet we all aspire to some level of personal and professional excellence in our lives.

The first aspect of excellence is a personal choice. It is doing my job in a way that is complete, has wholeness and goes beyond the minimum or expected level of service. We often associate this with 'doing my very best' or 'reaching the highest pinnacle of service possible'. Sometimes the best someone has to offer does not meet the required standard and can be an indication that skills or character development is needed. It may also mean a different role in which they CAN excel would be a better fit, either within the current organization or even at another type of company.

Another aspect of excellence is often misunderstood. Excellence does NOT necessarily equate with expensive. It does sometimes (think Ritz Carlton hotels), but if the two always equate, most of the world will never have the chance to experience excellence. Excellence in everyday life goes beyond the tangible and into the relational aspects of what we provide to those we serve. It is treating others as if their best interests were ours, providing good value and full measure. We often think of excellence in tangible terms and metrics, and rightly so. Let's not overlook the importance of relating with others in an excellent way... respecting them enough to speak the truth in love, treating them as they truly are – fellow humans made in God's image, worthy of respect and value, just like us.

If we are serious about achieving excellence, it cannot be relegated to superficial business-speak. Our responsibility as leaders is to interpret what it looks like whether we are planning projects, building roads, repairing equipment, dealing with an irate customer or addressing a performance gap just as clearly as when we set up a policy, procedure or practice meant to 'ensure excellence.'

Using the following questions, I encourage you to start a discussion within your crew, team or company about what excellence means.

  • When have you experienced excellence?
  • What did you feel like at the time?
  • When should excellence = expensive? When shouldn't it? Why or why not?
  • What does excellence look like in the tasks we're about to do next?
  • What stands in our way of achieving it?
  • What will we do about those obstacles?