Personal excellence is not a lost art. You know, we can work to be excellent at all that we do. My wife shared with me that a friend stays motivated to fold laundry because she thinks about where the kids will be when they are wearing the clothing and the fun & learning they’ll be experiencing. She imagines this and is excited to be a part of it. Wow. I am “cranky pants on steroids” when I am left to empty the dishwasher.
At the workplace, many would just laugh at such a perspective. Why would I be excited to make another widget for someone to use doing something that I don’t really care about? Engagement with the task at hand is not easy to maintain at a high level. There are days when it’s just not exciting to represent a company in service or production. My question, though, is does it have to be?
Self-fulfilling prophecies happen. If you tell yourself that you’ll fail, you will. If you are sure that a certain person won’t be attracted to you and therefore wouldn’t say yes to a date, you’re probably correct. We believe the imposed hype much more than we should. In physical exercise, this is referred to as unhealthy self-talk. The exercise isn’t the issue; it’s the negativity that runs through your head that’s a problem. Isn’t it possible that a reason you are not at the performance level you’d like to be or at the management level you’d like to be is because you don’t really believe you can?
When a decision is made to accept a job offer, it is not common for the new employee to walk in thinking, “How can I do the least amount of work possible and still get paid?” I’m not saying this never happens, but it is not the common approach. Most will want to do a great job by giving great effort. At what point did giving the best that you’ve got become passe?
Listen, even though I may not know you, I know you. We all get hung up on lousy managers, lousy processes, lousy total rewards plans…I get it and I have belly-ached about those things, too. But one thing I am more sure of now then ever before is that I allowed those things to take away my power to be excellent in what I do. I settled for half-best rather than the best best I could offer. I downplayed my talents in order to make room for the complaining. I robbed myself of personal growth because I was frustrated, angry or fed up with the work I was doing or the company I was doing it for. No more.
Let’s walk into the new year convinced that we are awesome, convinced that we can be excellent at what we do. Let’s stop playing those negative tapes and make the decision, despite all of the reasons to complain, to excel at our work. We spend so much time working, why not make it rich and valuable? Why not change our perspective so that we pursue excellence?
I understand that some of you will read this and think I am being too sensitive or too Stuart Smalley-like. I would have to come back to you and say I am not. This isn’t about feeling good, primarily, although that will be a by-product. I am coming at this a bit more strategically. According to the World Economic Forum, the United States has fallen to fifth in ranking; the US was last in first place in 2008. Each year since has seen another step down the world business/economic health rankings.
The US worker is one of the best in the world, hands down. As such, we must reflect what we are. To compete in the global market, which we ALL do to some degree, we must function at a higher level of excellence than our competition. Giving the best that we’ve got is necessary more than ever; our country has to regain lost ground. Product development, technology and innovation, and improved processes are crucial; however, without excited and committed human capital, these initiatives will fall flat. We make the difference.
The new year is right around the corner. Take some time to realign your enthusiasm and your commitment to the work you do. You are in the role you are in for a reason. Believe in what you know how to do. It matters to your co-workers, your management, your company and your country…it should matter to you.