Producing a Mission to Excel

Having a solid mission statement is nothing without the product or service that reflects that commitment. As projects are completed, do you think to yourself, "That could have been better, but I'll talk to the team about doing better next time"? Hopefully not. Successful businesses would never send inferior products or services out the door with a promise of doing better next time. Your team needs feedback in order to be successful. They need to hear about both the things that are going well and the areas where they are falling short. If you want to lose weight, you have to be disciplined to exercise. If you want to tip the scales toward business success, you have to be disciplined with striving for excellence. Make it your mission. Now let's take a look at a couple example mission statements:

Mission Statement 1:

We resolve to just be OK. We won't make too many errors, so many of our customers should be somewhat satisfied. We want people to like working with our team, and feel comfortable working at our company.

Now, there's a mission statement - if you're on a mission to fail. No business would ever create such a mission statement, let alone frame it and put it on the wall for all customers and team members to see. Now take a look at this one:

Mission Statement 2:

We resolve to being the best. We will strive for excellence while providing high-quality service so our customers will always be satisfied. We want hard-working people who enjoy being employed by a company who goes all-out to be the best in the industry.

Now, there's a mission statement for a company on a mission to success. Good mission statements should include words that inspire, like "excellence", "high-quality service" or "best in the industry." After all, that is what you're after, right?

How does your firm strive for excellence every day and with every client? It takes a strong leader who can be intolerant without alienating others. While we all want to be seen as tolerant, if we are tolerant of a wide range of performance, won't we get a wide range of results? We want to be intolerant of poor performance, but also provide an atmosphere that supports risk taking and learning.

How do we find a balance between demanding excellence, and providing opportunities for growth? To achieve that balance, the commitment to excellence must come first. When we have a team full of high-performing people, seeking excellence, they resent the one player who's not pulling their weight. "A" players want to succeed, and they want to be around other "A" players. They want measurement and accountability, because they want to continuously improve. They thrive in cultures of excellence, and are quick to leave cultures of tolerance.

10 Steps to Moving Toward a Culture of Excellence:

1. Think of and use 10 different methods for providing leadership and improvement. (Leadership and the One Minute Manager by Ken Blanchard will give you some ideas.) It is quite common for team members to resist change or become defensive when corrected. Find the approach that works for each person to frame your corrections or incorporate positive reinforcement.

2. Provide regular feedback. Let team members know how they are doing and how they can improve. Your "A" player especially will appreciate this.

3. Have team members do peer reviews as well. It's important that they function well together and potential problems are cut short before they impact performance.

4. Identify the "A" players on your team and request their feedback. Let them help you shape the company's culture so they too are comfortable with it. They are the backbone of the company and should be rewarded for their commitment to excellence. Also, make sure they know their performance measures so they can monitor their performance and continue to improve.

5. Recruit aggressively all the time. "A" players aren't easy to find, so we need to be looking all the time, and have a solid screening process. Having "A" players waiting in the wings makes it easier to separate from those team members who don't share your commitment to excellence.

6. Insist on continuous improvement. Teams not only need to correct mistakes but they need to understand why and how they happened. If they don't do this, the mistake will persist and become a significant problem. Try using the "5 Whys" to get the heart of a problem.

7. Insist on consistency. Knowing why and how you succeeded is as important as knowing why you did not. Make sure you and your teams know why and how they achieved excellent results. Success depends on reproducible results. Fine tune and change your processes and procedures as needed to ensure more excellence.

8. Seek regular feedback from customers. Ask your customers how you are doing and changes they would like to see. Find out what they like about your products or service as well as how they would improve them. Customers like companies that care about them and their needs.

9. Measure your performance. Know where your business stands. Consistent and regular measures can provide insight into lingering or potential problems. Be critical of your business and ask an outside confidante to evaluate your business' performance as well.

10. Measure yourself. How are you doing managing the business? Do you need to change? You cannot expect your company to excel if you are not excelling.

Excellence requires more than coming up with a catchy motivational speech and hanging it on the wall. Excelling in business requires adopting and promoting a culture of excellence. You need to be challenging while still able to tolerate change and improvement. It may not be easy, but it's not impossible.


I am a Chicago small business consultant and I host numerous Chicago small business workshops that focus on helping business create successful plans for continued long term growth and development.

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