Posts Tagged ‘ Excellence ’

Top 3 Reasons Why Being a Great Leader Isn’t Easy

A few months back, I asked a group of leaders for a show of hands on who had experienced either oversupervision or undersupervision. Almost every hand went up. But then I asked how many had themselves oversupervised or undersupervised their direct reports. Only one or two hands shyly peeked out from the crowd.

So what’s going on? Well, leaders can sometimes be unaware of what they should and should not be doing. And this lack of awareness separates good leaders from great leaders. Great leaders know that leading is a never-ending journey that can be filled with treacherous obstacles.

So what do you need to know to become a great leader?
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British vs. American Culture!

Top Talent: Your Organisation’s Knowledge Capital

Sharing Knowledge

Approaching the topic of Knowledge Management is very daunting. Many may say it is nothing more than managing information; others have created numerous academic journals and books on the subject.

I am going to keep it simple:

Your employees are your assets and they have knowledge. This knowledge can be created or gathered (new knowledge), transferred through systems, culture, organizational learning or knowledge sharing.

Organizational knowledge can be used to create strategies, improve product development and increase the bench-strength of your workforce. This in turn can lead to a competitive advantage.

Each of us has knowledge, our ‘personal capital’ (Ashok Jashapara, 2011).

I think it’s fair to say we are know our own worth and being labeled the same as another employee or manager probably wouldn’t make us feel valued. We may do the same job on paper as others, but we have knowledge that makes us unique.

Personal capital can be split down into 2 areas of knowledge; explicit and tacit:

Explicit – Written down or verbalized information

Tacit – Cannot always be verbalized; it’s our abilities, our skills and our ‘know how’

I want to focus on tacit knowledge, as that’s the kind of knowledge that’s difficult to nurture. This is also crucially important to our organization’s competitive advantage, as when that employee leaves, this kind of knowledge goes with them.

Firstly, that person’s skills are very valuable. As an organisation there must be ways to keep that knowledge within the business. This could be linked to their leadership style, the way they approach problems or even a skill like speaking a language.

Organizations are getting smarter at this and are creating top talent programs. They know this is knowledge capital they cannot afford to lose, especially in this fast paced business world where small knowledge advantages can turn into very big competitive advantages.

Secondly, we may want others to exhibit their skills, but how do we do that when these are largely behaviour based?

We need to have a process in place for the top performers to be shadowed or to teach the others. This method of showing the other person what a good job looks like also shows the learner something that cannot be verbalized – that individual’s skill, their ‘know how’.

Shadowing a top performer has many advantages including:

  • Benefit from innovation – Everyone has a different style, learn from the top talents why they do things the way they do.
  • Help understanding the ‘big picture’ –  These individual’s know how the work they does fits into the wider organizational strategy, they can answer questions like, ‘what benefit does the work we do have on the end customer’ or ‘why do we spend so long on X process and not on Y’.
  • Highlighting pitfalls – We often talk about ‘trial by fire’ or learning through making mistakes. This is all part of learning within a role, but shadowing a top performer will help the learner understand the potential pitfalls and hopefully lessen the risk of something going wrong.
  • Relationships and getting the most from others – Not only will shadowing build a network for the learner, but it will also allow them insights into other people that they would not find out about immediately. Perhaps they will be working with is generally slow at responding to requests and so the top performer always picks up the phone rather than emails. Or, that the person likes extra information provided on certain tasks and that produces a better quality of output and less time spent asking questions that could have been addressed upfront.These may not be written down, but you are hearing about the top performers experience and how they have got the most from the team around them.

It’s so important that any learning isn’t just reading a manual of process steps. It also isn’t enough to put a learner with an average achiever. If you want individuals to gain both the skills that can be verbalized and those that cannot you need to get them to shadow your top performers.

Don’t let that tacit knowledge go to waste – if you don’t use it, someone else will.

Top 5 Office Pet Peeves (Leadership Quote)

10 Things You Can Do to Look Smart in a Meeting

The Deadliest Sin of Leadership

“Great spirits have always encountered violent opposition from mediocre minds.” — Albert Einstein

Excellence Road SignDivine Comedy tells the tale of one man’s journey through a three-phased adventure—Hell, Purgatory, and Paradise—in his quest for everlasting life. While stranded in the middle stage of his adventure, Dante has a chilling discovery about life in the everyday world. Stranded in Purgatory, an uncertain state where one’s soul awaits judgment between redemption and retribution, he is enlightened to the wandering ways of the world he has just experienced.

Here, he explains the ills of that world through seven distorted loves, better known as deadly “sins.” These include the excessive loves of Lust, Gluttony, and Greed, the deficient love of Sloth, and the malicious love of Wrath, Envy, and Pride. The abuse of the most pure forms of human interaction, Love, lead to a path of destruction and chaos in the state of Purgatory where Dante finds himself.

My work as a Leadership Consultant has led me through the mind-set of many organizations on a quest to find perpetual success and prosperity. While in this wandering state, I have discovered the most distorted perversion of leadership—the toleration of mediocrity.

Mediocrity is a cunning and crafty creature, the slinks and slides it’s way through a community of people intended for a greater good. It is sometimes guised in charm and humor, winning over fans with its good-natured country attitude. “Mañana! Tomorrow!” is the mantra sung at the end of the day, while rushing down the path toward the comforts of home. Sometimes, it no longer strives, begs, or craves for excellence, but is content with results that are, “good enough.”

When leaders turn a blind eye to, or minimize such attitudes within organizations, it can be a destructive habit-forming virus that slowly erodes the higher vision and values of the community. Far too often, leaders excuse a lack of desire for excellent work because of long-standing relationships with the individuals who consistently host such average behaviors. Some leaders do not know how, or may not have the will to address such subtle behaviors that beg, barrow, and steal from others’ great work, just to cover for their own lack of effort, dedication, or deferred experience to crafting their personal skills at a higher level. Some leaders are, themselves, guilty of the sin of mediocrity.

Millions of individuals throughout the workforce, from Fortune 500 companies to start-ups to non-profits, have pockets of people who, “Quit and Stay” at work. Others are lost or mislead by leaders within the organization, stuck in the rut of performing daily activities without a clear purpose or understanding of how their role contributes to the organization. Even worse, leaders allow average performers to cultivate the poisonous fruit of bitterness and gossip about other high achievers within the organization.

Organizations are only as great as they challenge or permit their contributors to be. If leaders within organizations do not take high performance and effort sincerely, they run the risk of creating a corporate Purgatory by breading a contempt and dismissal of individuals who do value excellence, effort, and efficiency. The deadliest sin of leadership is the aiding and abetting of mediocrity, at work, home, or in life.

About the Author:

Jason Diamond Arnold is a leadership consultant at The Ken Blanchard Companies. He is Coauthor of Situational Self Leadership in Action a real time, real work, leaning experience that develops effective communication and collaboration skills for individuals in the workplace. He is Co Producer and Director of Stepping Up to Leadership with Scott Blanchard, at

The Excellent Employee

*Part One of a Six Part Series on The Excellent Employee

Excellence comes about as a result of habit. We become just by doing just acts, temperate by doing temperate acts, brave by doing brave acts. —Aristotle

Nobody willingly pays a person to be average or mediocre. Or at least, they shouldn’t! And individuals shouldn’t be content being paid to be average or mediocre either!

Imagine going into a job interview or pitching a new project with the premise of retaining an individual’s services through the commitment to a steady dose of procrastination and indifference toward key tasks and reasonabilities. It’s an absurd notion. That organization would be foolish to hire for such a promise. It would be foolish for a person to settle for being average as an employee.

So then, why do organizations hire for excellence and settle for mediocrity? Why do teams within organizations get away with doing just enough to “get the job done?” Why do so many individuals settle for coming to work and being average, at best?

While modern thinkers like Jim Collins, in Good to Great, have evolved the meaning of the word “good” to mean something less than great, ancient writers, teachers, philosophers like Aristotle defined “good” as something extraordinary – exceedingly great. The classic notion of good is manifest excellence—actively pursuing behavior that excels beyond the normal, everyday basics of our mere existence—encouraging us to thrive, rather than simply survive. The pursuit of excellence has led individuals to a greater happiness in living and working throughout history.

The Nicomachean Ethics is one of the most important books in the whole history of philosophy and certainly the most influential works of Aristotle. It is a collection of his most profound thoughts and was based on an exhortation to his son to live the best possible life.

Though taught thousands of years ago, Aristotle’s thoughts on excellence—becoming exceedingly good, still serves as a call to action for those who desire and are willing to lead themselves at a higher level. Although there are many narratives that can be culled out from Aristotle’s epic work, there are a several broad narratives that have practical application in our modern workplace.

A Greater Good

For an individual to perform exceedingly “good,” they must believe that “good” is something beyond just their own need, but also the good of the community, organization, or society they live in. According to Aristotle, excellence is a mindset rather than just a set of activities. Most activities are a means to a higher end, or at least they should be, and our work is no exception.

When individuals start showing up to work just to pull a pay check or organizations get too focused on the profit margins, they loose site of why they exist—to serve a greater good. Excellent employees focus on using their skills and knowledge to serve a purpose greater than themselves and in the process meet their basic needs while achieving excellence.

Virtue, Vision, and Values

Excellence depends on living in accordance with appropriate virtues, vision, and values. A virtuous individual is naturally inspired to behave in the right ways and for the right reasons, finding happiness in behaving according to a set of higher standards of excellence—personal standards as well as the standards expected of them by their community.

The Excellent Employee performs all of their duties with clear expectations of their role and responsibilities, in alignment with the core values of the company. Aristotle is not referring to some imaginary notion of perfection, and neither should organizations expect that of employees. But striving for higher levels of behavioral excellence, creating a greater value in products and projects, should be the goal of every employee.

Know Thyself

The phrase, Know Thyself was inscribed above the entrance to the Lyceum that Aristotle attended as a young man in Athens. Most historians attribute the phrase as an admonition to those entering the sacred temple to remember or know their place before entering into the learning process. Modern philosophies and leadership theories have expanded the notion of self awareness as a means to become more in tune with one’s own personal strengths and weaknesses, beliefs and behaviors.

Excellent employees are committed to knowing themselves through a daily process of understanding the vision and values of the organization, and then aligning them with their own Key Areas of Responsibility. They are also keenly aware of their own assumptions about the organization or a project that may be holding them back. They are aware of where they are at in their own learning process, and what they need from others to successfully complete their daily tasks. Most individuals struggle to move beyond periods of disillusionment and conflict, settling for something less than exceedingly good. The Excellent Employee is equipped to understand their own needs and move through those periods of doubt and disillusionment efficiently and effectively.


Aristotle believed that the bonds that tie citizens together are so important that it would be unthinkable to suggest that true happiness can be found in a life isolated from others. This understanding applies to the modern workplace as well. But excellent employees aren’t just good at building effective social and professional networks on Facebook and Linked In, they are dedicated to building intimate and meaningful relationships through personal one on one communication. They’re also aware of the fact that there are more ways to getting a job done by gaining the support of people in positions of power, but rather influencing peers and colleagues through other types of personal power in order to meet the needs of the greater good and do an exceedingly good work.


Aristotle did not think that virtue could be taught in a classroom down at the local Lyceum or simply by means of a “good” argument, but rather by applying virtue and values to your daily actions. His claim that virtue can be learned only through constant practice implies that there are no set rules we can learn from in just a workbook or a presentation alone; rather we must find a means of transferring that knowledge into action. The Excellent Employee is committed to training in the skills sets that will help them excel beyond average. They are consumed with creating solutions and meaningful results, rather than wallowing in the challenges, setbacks, and conflicts that arise in the workplace.

Become Excellent

The Excellent Employee has a strategy to consistently align their vision and values to the organization’s vision and values, through a clear understanding of themselves and their needs. They also utilize key relationships and apply their knowledge and skills to their everyday workflow, aligning it with the greater good of their company and their clients.

Life is short. Be activly committed to living and working at a higher level, for yourself and the greater good. Aristotle would challenge today’s modern employee to become excellent by doing excellent acts.

Jason Diamond Arnold

Co-Author of Situational Self Leadership in Action

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