How Leaders Restore Sanity to the Excellence Value

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“Excellence is a core value around here.”

Many organizations espouse this sentiment, always with the most noble of purposes.

But why is it that, for some organizations, aspiring for “excellence” leads to an inspiring environment of achievement, while for others it seems to lead to a neurotic atmosphere of fear?

The difference is found in a healthy understanding of what the excellence value really is, and what it means. If you want to move towards a healthy view of excellence,  there are three important distinctions that must be understood.

1.   Understand the distinction between showmanship and excellence.

Showmanship is an often misguided attempt to mimic the sheen and polish of another organization. Showmanship is shallow and inauthentic.

Whereas the heart of excellence is reflected in a passionate desire to simply not settle for anything less than our best.

2.   Understand the distinction between individual excellence and corporate excellence

Individual excellence means “do your best”. Corporate excellence means “do OUR best”.

This shows up all the time in local churches. For example, if deacon Joe sings a solo at the weekend service, individual excellence would call him to do HIS best. But if he simply cannot sing well, and if there are others in the church far more gifted in vocal ministry, corporate excellence would call for that more gifted person to do the solo.

Corporate excellence calls for the organization’s best, not just an individual’s best.

3.   Understand the distinction between perfection and excellence

Perfection, almost by definition, is either unattainable or unsustainable. It can lead to an almost neurotic pursuit of error-free performance that can suck the joy out of your organization.

Excellence, on the other hand, creates an inspiring environment which sees teams spurring one another on. It recognizes that God has only ever given us His very best; therefore we ought to do no less for Him.

If the excellence value has been causing your organization undue angst, don’t discard the value. Instead, take it out, brush it off, and apply these three points of clarity to how you live it out.

Your sanity will be restored, and your organization may indeed move to new heights of excellence you never thought possible.

the author

Scott Cochrane

Vice President- International, Willow Creek Association. Love Jesus, Nora, Adam & Robin, Amy, Dave & Willow and John, Fiona & Will. Lifelong learner.

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