Focus on excellence is essential to an effective, meaningful life

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Dusty Staub“The quality of a person’s life is in direct proportion to their commitment to excellence, regardless of their chosen field of endeavor.” — Vince Lombardi

Through more than 37 years of working with individuals, teams and organizations, I have come to the conclusion that the life we live is the life that we have created through the focus, decisions and actions we have chosen.

For example, my dad chose a path of service to this country through his 26 years in the army. He created followership and deep personal connections through his focus on creating excellence in leading others and challenging them to stretch beyond what they thought possible. He made decisions that reinforced his commitment that the people under his command were prepared to defend their country and minimize risk to them.

He acted on those decisions in ways that ensured fidelity with stated intentions. After leaving the military, he developed sales teams and leaders through his unrelenting focus on excellence in execution of plans, service mentality and integrity between stated intent and the decisions and behaviors consistent with that intent.

We create our future self and influence outcomes through our focus, decisions and actions. These behaviors further develop our mental, emotional and spiritual capacity or they diminish them. The more we focus on ensuring that our intent is reflected in our decision-making and actions, the more likely we are to create fidelity between words and deeds. This ensures consistency.

We need to take it one step further by ensuring that our intent is focused on creating true excellence in what we do, whether at work or home. If we take that step to ensure there is integrity between our focus on excellence and our decisions and behaviors, then we will maximize our chances to live an effective and meaningful life.

As the great football coach Lombardi put it, the quality of life is in direct proportion to the commitment to excellence.

Since the theme is excellence, let’s take a moment and define what that means. Excellence is not perfection. Perfection is the impossible task of never making a mistake, doing it absolutely right every time. It is nonhuman and self-defeating to strive for perfection. Excellence is the commitment to doing the very best that can be done, at an agreed upon standard.

In quality circles this is the realm of six-sigma, still not perfect but conforming to an agreed upon standard of performance that is achievable. Once the standard is set and the goals agreed upon, all decisions, processes and behaviors have to be guided, coached and reinforced to ensure there is consistent alignment with the stated intent.

A client I worked with wanted to pass the family business on to his son. He had grown it into more than a hundred million dollar enterprise with loyal customers, dedicated employees and a strong reputation based on his commitment to excellence. His son did not share the passion for the business, nor the same commitment to service levels.

Working together it became apparent there was a big disconnect between them threatening the future of the business as well as the relationship between them. By creating a series of open discussions and dialogues between the father and his son, as well as between them and the senior leadership, we created a greater depth of understanding while outlining alternative pathways.

In the end, the son stepped into a co-chairman role with his father and the father moved the Chief Operating Officer (COO) into the CEO role he had played. The COO shared and demonstrated in his decision-making and behaviors a high level of commitment to excellence in terms of running the business and serving its customers.

The son sat on other boards of directors and brought valuable insights and perspectives to the business in dialogue with his father and the CEO and board members. He pursued more of what he was passionate about (philanthropy and the arts) and his father was able to continue to influence and guide the business while enhancing his relationship with his son.

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