For most of my life, I have followed alpine ski racing. And right now, there is something extraordinary happening in the women’s alpine skiing world cup circuit. Mikaela Shiffrin, a 27-year-old American is about to break the all-time record for the most wins across all disciplines of the world cup (a record was set by a man, Ingemar Stenmark mid-1980s). She’s been racing at this level for 10 years, which is far fewer years than those who have come before her. In her pursuit of excellence over the years, she has had results that defied anything ever seen in the alpine world. When she first started competing, she was winning races by over a second, which is unheard of in a sport where hundredths of a second are what make the difference. Ultimately, she made everyone else better as they chased her and tried to catch her. She’s still winning, but it’s not by that huge margin all the time. She has a culture of excellence, and this all shows that excellence breeds excellence—in yourself and others.
I tell you all of this because watching her and watching my own and my clients’ businesses grow has brought to my mind what excellence is and what drives us to it, and ultimately what can we do to continually be better. In our businesses, there are things that we can do that will drive our businesses to higher heights and bigger wins and ultimately the highest level of service we can envision. Watching Mikaela and listening to her talk has helped me look at my own practices and what drives excellence in my company.
Here are some of my thoughts:
- Create a culture of excellence. We have to bring the best of who we are and what we do to the table daily. Anyone on the world cup will tell you that Mikaela Shiffrin practices and skis more than anyone on the tour. More. Than. Anyone. And she also naps more than most—ha! For us as business owners, that means that when we show up, We. Show. Up. Ask yourself at the beginning of the day what you can do to bring your best to the table. This doesn’t always mean that you feel your best or that you’re preforming at your highest level ever. It means you bring the best that you can bring on any given day. We must show up so others see we are dependable and can work our business even when we don’t feel like it so that we can continue to grow and feel pride in what we are creating.
- Engage in strategic professional development. This means that you are pushing yourself to know more and be better than yesterday or last year. It means that you are finding where you need more information or where your weaknesses lie so you can shore them up and not let them take you down. Through the last 8 years, I have always had a coach or been in a program to help me build my business. Because guess what? We don’t know everything! We are not experts at everything. It’s impossible! I have hired a marketing coach, a sales coach, a strategy coach, a branding coach, and many others through the years. And I’ve been strategic. I know where my deficiencies are and fill them with knowledge (and also with team members). Please do not take this as permission or advice to go out there and take every course being offered. This is about STRATEGY in what you need and when you need it. Raise your bar but do not bite off more than you can chew.
- Be curious and innovative. There is danger in complacency. It’s too easy to coast along and be fine with being fine. At some point, fine becomes not fine or results in boredom. We need to be able to adapt to new methods or new issues that our clients and customers may be having. Creating new products that make our vision more attainable and bigger creates that culture of excellence and keeps us from just going through the motions. Surround yourself with people who will push you beyond where you are now and make you think about how to be even better and successful (and ultimately happier) and act on those thoughts! If someone had told me I would be offering three programs, two classes, three seminars, and a live event years ago, I would have balked. But remaining open and innovative has built JMD Productivity to where it is. Going back to Mikaela, she started her career only skiing in one discipline. Then slowly expanded to all four alpine disciplines. By being methodical and curious about her growth and potential, she has been able to win across all she touches. Push the limit of where you think you can go, and you’ll go further than you ever imagined.
There is so much more to the culture of excellence I could go into: daily habits, clear values, vision, and focus. But I think I’ll stop here and let you ruminate and take action on the few I’ve mentioned. What can you do to raise the bar for yourself and others? Not to perfection, but to excellence. Make what you do matter and stand out, and you’re on your way. What’s your world cup, and what are the records you can aim to conquer? You can be best you there is, and your business is unique. Go out and set the standard!
Want a little help figuring out how to organize to pursue excellence? Check out my productivity courses HERE.