So how do you pursue excellence and what steps can you take to ensure you and your team outshines the competition? Put Employees First, Customers Second As a leader, you want your organization to be respected for exceptional customer service. And while it doesn’t happen by chance, you have more influence than you think because it comes from employees who are engaged and invested in treating the customer right. By putting your employees first and your customers second, you’ll reap the rewards of a team that is motivated, respondent and excited to exceed your expectations. How do you build connectedness? Practice MBWA, or “managing by walking around” to stay in touch and out front with your employees. Ask them what they think, how you can help, and make listening a priority. Acknowledge and appreciate a job well done and let your people know that you are invested in their success. Be kind, and don’t hesitate to apologize when necessary. A heartfelt apology buys invaluable amounts of trust, respect, and strengthens relationships. Stand for Something Valuable Differentiating yourself in a competitive market can be a challenge, but it’s the key to excellence. Learn something new every day and brand yourself to become distinct. Focus on the TGR, those “things gone right” for maximum benefit. It’s never wasted effort to spend time on the details that could be valuable differentiators long term. In Gill, there’s a restaurant called the Wagon Wheel that makes it a point to keep fresh cut flowers in the restroom, ensuring a warm, inviting experience for all. Stand for something valuable and give your team reason to do so as well. Master Execution Excellence is all about successful execution- think of it as its own strategy. Mastering how things are done and putting a plan into play is integral to success, yet too often, leaders devote all of their time to creating a brilliant plan, with failed execution. Never forget, a leader’s primary job is to execute. Even if you’re unsure of the results, try. Try often and fail often to discover what works, and what doesn’t. The best execution is part knowledge and part experimentation to get it right. After all, the faster you fail, the sooner you can succeed. Remember, excellence is a personal choice, not an institutional choice. It’s not something for you to aspire to; it’s now, in the next five minutes. When you’re ready to excel, don’t make a plan – just start doing it.