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How to create and reward a “Spirit of Excellence” in the workforce

By Doug Brown
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What does it mean for a company to have a “Spirit of Excellence”? How does this help an organization? Can anything be done to cultivate and nurture a “Spirit of Excellence” culture? What makes it a worthwhile philosophy to pursue and invest in?

Some good questions that I am sure most executives have thought about at one time or another.  A “Spirit of Excellence” means not only recognizing our individual need to improve but having the desire, outlook and drive to constantly explore new ways to learn and develop new skills. It is not always easy to admit we need to improve or that we have faults and shortcomings that need to be worked on yet it is essential to grow and develop as part of our lifelong journey. Successful leaders and mentors understand and encourage our development in order to maximize the contributions and value we can bring to the organizations we work for.  

{mosimage}The Japanese have “Kaizen” programs that mean small incremental improvements every day. Lean and Six Sigma methodology is also constantly looking for ways to do things better or create new efficiencies.

But what does a “Spirit of Excellence” really mean? Primarily it means continually developing the skills, abilities and knowledge to become better at our jobs and careers and always raising the bar on our goals and objectives to achieve new heights. If we dig a little deeper it has to start with motivation to improve and be the best we can be as individuals.

In a lot of cases, employees feel helpless in their roles. Many feel that management makes the key decisions and that their contributions are not valued. Yet, these are the very contributions and insights most needed by organizations to improve. These are the people who perform their responsibilities daily and understand the requirements better then anyone else in the organization.  

The global economy is extremely competitive and there are many emerging economies and countries that are willing and able to deliver the products and services North Americans are presently supplying. In many cases, the businesses in these developing industrialized countries have highly educated employees who are willing to work long hours for typically a fraction of what North Americans earn.

A “Spirit of Excellence” should be thought of from three key perspectives

1. Personal improvement;

2. Support and involvement to help colleagues improve; and

3. Support and initiatives to help the organization improve.

1. Personal – We all need to improve and we need to improve on an ongoing basis. Suggested ways to improve include:

  • Training and development of new skills;
  • Looking and seeking new perspectives; interacting and communicating with others,
  • Looking for ways to improve what we are doing, such as Can we be more efficient? Are there better ways? Can costs be reduced? Are there new opportunities we could explore that have benefits?  Understanding and appreciating the value of constructive criticism…

2. Helping colleagues – For instance:  How often do you provide assistance to your fellow staff? In many cases, colleagues are very helpful but are we acting in ways to help our colleagues grow and develop into better, more productive employees? Can you encourage them? Can you offer support when needed? Can you help them overcome obstacles and challenges? Do you take time to make sure they get the recognition and praise they deserve? Can you help them understand the company goals and objectives and communicate key developments so they are aware of company policy? Can you help foster a spirit of teamwork to build morale and enthusiasm?

3. Organizational improvement – How might we help the organization improve? How many suggestions do you offer per day, per week, per month? Hopefully a lot, with the best intentions to help the organization improve. Here are just a few ideas:

  • Speak up in key meetings with your observations and insights.
  • Promote your company in the community.
  • Suggest training or development that would benefit the company.
  • Think of any ways to enhance quality, improve customer service or make a clients life easier with the company’s products or services.
  • Offer your thoughts on how current processes or procedures can be improved and take the initiative to research the facts to professionally present the business case for your ideas.

A “Spirit of Excellence” means we must also be open to ideas, eager to communication openly and honestly, and willing to listen when ideas are presented. In some cases, new ideas and thoughts are dismissed, as not able to work or help us, before we really think it out.

A “Spirit of Excellence” requires us to observe ourselves and work with colleagues to collectively explore ways and means to improve, to analyze how we contribute and consider what and where we can make things better. Often, small incremental improvements can have huge impact on the success of an organization. We cannot always rely on management to know all the best ways to innovate and improve.

Organizations can do a lot to encourage and inspire a “Spirit of Excellence”. This does not require significant investment but does require consistent practice in recognizing and appreciating the efforts put forward, being open to new ideas and thought processes and building a culture that supports and rewards excellence in effort, behavior and attitude.

Leadership plays a critical role in making it happen!

Some times we all need to look in the mirror and determine if we are part of the problem or part of the solution? If we can commit to and focus on ongoing improvements in these three core areas we can increase productivity, innovate, suggest new ideas, control costs and help drive business success!

Doug Brown is the president of DBC Marketing Inc., which provides strategies and solutions to companies that engage with employees and increase productivity. Contact Doug at

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