After an extensive review of successful business leaders, professional athletes, Olympians, and other success stories, it was amazing to note how they had instrumental people, such as a coach, mentor, advisor, or some influential person, that they learned from along the way.
“It takes a wise man to learn from his mistakes,
but an even wiser man to learn from others.”
- zen proverb
The road to excellence and extraordinary results is very challenging. So, even though you may have extraordinary talent in one particular area, rarely is someone excellent is every area, nor do they become excellent overnight. It’s a journey, and the journey is much more productive with expert guidance along the way.
When Michael Jordan stepped on the basketball court, he had to know more than just how to shoot a basketball… he needed to know how to execute the game plan, how execute his role, how to handle certain situations, and how to respond to ever changing challenges from opponents. Even with his great natural ability, and years of experience, Michael still seeked guidance from coaches and advisors to continuously improve his game and ensure that the game plan, his performance and the performance of the team were on target. Fortunately, he had some of the very best coaches/advisors along the way. In college, he was coached by legendary coach Dean Smith. Dean Smith is considered one of the best college coaches of all time. Once Michael turned pro, he was fortunate to be coached by one of the greatest NBA coaches of all time, Phil Jackson. Phil Jackson has 13 NBA championship rings!.. 2 NBA championship rings as a player, and 11 championship rings as a head coach! So, as you can see Michael Jordan had excellent coaches and mentors that helped him achieve his extraordinary results.
Steve Jobs, the admired entrepreneur and technology innovator, is described by many people as a talented maverick and a loner, but that’s simply wrong. The Apple co-founder turned his personal vision into reality with the help of trusted, talented advisors and teams. How did he and his people come up with their ideas and solve the technological and design problems they encountered as they worked on Apple products? By spending time together. As Steve said to his biographer Walter Isaacson: "Creativity comes from spontaneous meetings, from random discussions. You run into someone, you ask what they’re doing, you say "Wow, and soon you’re cooking up all sorts of ideas." Even as brilliant as Steve Jobs was, he still surrounds himself with brilliant technology experts and leveraged all the talent to develop and execute innovative products and extraordinary results.
Michael Dell, founder and CEO of Dell Computers, has long been credited for his ability to find and surround himself with extraordinary talent. Even in the early days of Dell, he would assess where he needed additional insight and talent, and then took action to surround himself with the best talent that would supplement his capabilities and help address his business needs.
The Challenge: While the results and the need to learn from others is well documented, still people resist getting help from others. Why?! The reasons range from ego, pride, insecurities, or other misplaced thoughts. Successful leaders have learned to put away those fears, and realize that their success, and their organizations success will be far better off with the help of other talented people. None of us are experts at everything. Asking help from others doesn’t mean that they are smarter than you… typically the advisor’s value is they have more experience and insight in that one particular area due to their background or specialty, which can be tapped to fast-track the knowledge transfer to you and your initiative. Supplemental expertise allows you to achieve results far faster than you could by yourself.
So who are you learning from right now? No matter what your age, status, or position, everyone should be continuously learning from others. A good start is to look at your current challenges, projects, or concerns and find people that are experts in that area. Adding the right expertise is a catalyst to success. You may need the resource for a day, a week, or many months… whatever the time period, when it produces value and increases the pace of success, it's a great investment. Think about how you and/or your organization good benefit by learning from others.
This article is part 6 of a 6 part series titled “6 Factors For Excellence”, and discusses the 6 factors that drive excellence and help you achieve extraordinary results. To read the other articles in this series click here.
I really appreciate all the positive feedback that I received on this series. Follow the other factors for excellence that are included in this series, make sure you clearly set your goal, apply the incredible power of visualization, and learn from others. I hope you put these factors for excellence into action and achieve extraordinary results!
Excellence doesn't come easy! It requires an unwavering commitment and an unwavering pursuit of the excellence. Why? Well, the unfortunate reality is, the majority of people are comfortable with the status quo. They will see being “ordinary” as OK… and become uneasy when someone takes actions that are extraordinary. So, when you start making changes to achieve excellence, and initiate the actions to move from ordinary to extraordinary, it's not surprising that some people will become uncomfortable with the “change”, and there will be some push-back. Such a situation required real leaders with the heart, commitment, and energy to drive the relentless pursuit of excellence.
Let’s take a look at some successful leaders and their journey in pursuit of excellence.
So, even for some of the most successful leaders, excellence didn't come easy, but the characteristic they share is their unwavering commitment and pursuit of excellence.
The critics and naysayers: For more than 25 years, I have been hired by companies to transform under-performing teams and help them achieve their stated goal of excellence. While such initiatives typically start off well, once we enter the stage that requires changes and/or challenges, you often start to encounter the “critics” and “naysayers” of the organization. Suddenly their comments change to “maybe the goal was too lofty”, or “this company is different, maybe it won’t work for this company”, and various other excuses..... This point is a moment of truth… if you want to achieve excellence, you must overcome these excuses and push forward. Leaders must step up and lead, and they must demonstrate their unwavering commitment to pursuing and achieving excellence. So before you start such an initiative, make sure you have that unwavering commitment up front, and take the necessary steps to sustain that commitment along the way.
Excellence doesn’t come easy, which is why so many fail to achieve it. But when you do achieve excellence, the results are extraordinary. The unwavering commitment and pursuit of excellence is the foundation of great people, great teams, great companies, great nations, and great accomplishments. Don’t settle for anything less!
This article is part 5 of a 6 part series titled “6 Factors For Excellence”, and discusses the 6 factors that drive excellence and help you achieve extraordinary results. To read the other articles in this series click here. I really appreciate all the positive feedback that I received on this series, and look forward to sharing the final part of this series with you next week.
A great idea, innovation, excellence, and many things in life have a “window of opportunity”.
Timely action and executing the right plan in the window of opportunity are key to success.
To achieve extraordinary results, you will need the right plan, the proper preparation/planning, discipline, meticulous execution and the other factors described in this series. But too often, the one element that people/teams get hung-up on is “execution”… you must take timely ACTION. Too often people get “paralysis by analysis”, and fail to execute in a timely manner. In today’s fast-paced world, you must execute in a very timely manner, or you will miss your window of opportunity. Innovation and things that can provide you a competitive advantage typically have a tight window of opportunity, and once others are doing the same thing, you start losing the advantage.
A window of opportunity applies to everyone, including market-leaders. Apple’s first iPhone was innovative, which provided them a competitive advantage at that time. The next innovative version of the iPhone was released a year later, and also was perceived to be innovative. But over time, competitors caught up and produced competitive products that caught the attention of many smartphone buyers. Those competitors also started releasing their new phones on a more frequent basis in order to be the first to market with the new, innovative features. As a result Apple’s “window of opportunity” is now being squeezed, and they will be challenged to shorten their action plans and execute in a more timely manner.
Information technology organizations are also being squeezed to deliver more timely results. Years ago, it was common for information technology projects, such as software development or a global ERP implementation, to take 12 to 18 months... but not any more. With the availability of quickly deployed, cloud-services, low-cost, easy to acquire apps, and more solutions that can solve a business need in timely manner, technology users demand a timely solution and timely action. Leaders must adapt and adjust to be successful.
Seizing the moment: Michael Jordan was a great basketball player, but if he never took a shot, he wouldn't have achieved excellence. And if his shots weren't on target, or poorly timed, or not aligned with the game plan, he would have failed. He understood the importance of “seizing the moment”, and executing the right actions at the right time.
Executing as a team: Even with Michael Jordan's extraordinary talent, he understood the importance of the overall team and each member playing their role. And they knew that the team had to execute better than the competition, in order to win. Steve Jobs was a brilliant, innovative man, but his achievements at Apple were accomplished with a great team around him. He knew the importance of assembling the right talent, leveraging that talent, taking action and meticulously executing as a team.
Often, when I’ve been engaged as a trusted Advisor to diagnose and transform under-performing teams or failing projects, at the core of the issues is a lack of proper, timely execution. Their decisions are getting bogged down in numerous, ongoing committee meetings, and/or there is a lack of decisive, effective leadership. While a solid plan is definitely necessary, you have to find balance, and the leader must know when to move from the phase of planning, analysis, feedback gathering, consensus building, etc., and move things forward with a decisive actions and timely execution.
If your idea, project or organization is bogged down, consider bringing in a proven performance catalyst that can quickly help you evaluate the situation and find the solution to move things forward. Even with the most talented and capable leaders, when you are there in the situation day after day, it is easy to get consumed, and a fresh perspective and the voice of an unbiased, external, trusted Advisor can be just the catalyst needed to move forward and achieve timely, excellent results.
This article is part 4 of a 6 part series titled “6 Factors For Excellence”, and discusses the 6 factors that drive excellence and help you achieve extraordinary results. To read the other articles in this series click here.
The Secret Sauce, #3, Visualize and Believe.
To achieve excellence, “visualize” and believe that you can be the best. While each of the 6 factors for excellence play a pivotal role, this factor is the one that is most often overlooked, and is also one of the most powerful influences. Over many years of extensive, in-depth research, I have often seen people and/or organizations that actually did many of the other factors listed, but failed to perform this vital factor, which greatly impacted the results.
Visualization techniques are incredibly powerful and influential! It’s not good enough to just say you are going to achieve an extraordinary goal, you need to SEE yourself performing and achieving the goal. If you are saying all the right things to achieve your goal, but in your mind you are seeing fears, potential pitfalls, and lots of uncertainty, in the end the results follow what the mind sees. Therefore, proper visualization of success is vital.
Over many years of reviewing numerous interviews and conversations with some of the world’s greatest athletes, business leaders, and prominent influencers, there was one amazing, common thread that they all shared… they all had an incredible ability to visualize greatness.
Visualizing success and firmly believing that you will be successful has worked for these renowned influencers, and thousands of others. If done properly, it will produce extraordinary results for you too!
If you are the leader of a team or organization, make sure you do the same for everyone on your team. Help them visualize success and firmly believe that the team will achieve the goal. How often have you seen leaders, just state the goal for the team, but nobody on the team buys in or believes that they will really accomplish it?... we all know how this type of scenario turns out, the team fails to meet the goal… the results reflected their state of mind and what they visualized.
Once you master visualization techniques, you will be amazed at the change in results. It is so important that you master this factor and effective visualization techniques. There are firms that conduct seminars and training sessions to help you fast-track the development and mastering of this skill, and the payback is big and ongoing. Among all the training I have delivered over the years, this topic has produced some of the most enthusiastic feedback. They contact me with their enthusiast praise on the incredible impact of this factor, and the positive change it has produced. Put it to work for you!
Follow the other factors for excellence that are included in this series, make sure you clearly set your goals, and apply the incredible power of visualization to achieve extraordinary results!
This article is part 3 of a 6 part series titled “6 Factors For Excellence”, and discusses the 6 factors that drive excellence and help you achieve extraordinary results. To read the other articles in this series click here.
#2, Passionate, Focused Leadership. In the previous article titled, "Transforming Ordinary Into Extraordinary", I listed the 6 factors that drive excellence and help you achieve extraordinary results. This article is part 2 of a 6 part series that will be published over the upcoming weeks, which will provide a more in depth discussion of each of the factors.
Passion for excellence drives extraordinary results. Have you ever looked at an extraordinary achievement, and thought “Wow! How did they do that?”, and hopefully, “How can I do something extraordinary?”.
When you watch Michael Jordan leap through the air to score the go ahead points in a basketball game, you can see his passion! When Tom Brady, renowned quarterback for the New England Patriots, needs to lead his team to victory at the peak of a football game, you can see his passion for excellence all over him… his intense body-language, leadership of the team, and in the way he instills that passion in all of his teammates. They are determined to score, determined to win, determined to be the best!
When you watched Steve Jobs deliver a speech or talk about a new innovative Apple product, you can FEEL his passion. His meticulous attention to detail, emphatic demands for excellence, and push to be “extraordinary” is well-known. He has passion for what he is doing and what his company is doing. His passion and quest for excellence makes him extraordinary, and his accomplishments extraordinary.
When you watch, Joel Osteen, the pastor of the largest church in the United States, you can feel his passion. So, why does Joel Osteen fill stadiums with followers every week, and have the largest congregation in the U.S.? He is not your “ordinary” preacher that talks about the same ordinary things, in the same ordinary way that other preachers have done for many years. His message is positive and inspiring, his approach is innovative and modern, and his audience can feel his passion for doing great things, and they are being inspired by his passion for excellence.
" Without passion, you don't have energy; without energy, you have nothing. Nothing great in the world has been accomplished without passion"... quote from prominent, billionaire businessman, Donald Trump.
Focused Leadership: While having passion is very instrumental, that passion needs to be focused. If the passion is wondering or unfocused, it can be disruptive and unproductive. Therefore the passion needs to be focused and directed towards the goal/target. You must know how to properly channel that passion in a way that supports and energizes the drive to the goal/target.
Find your passion for excellence! While you may not be the next basketball or football superstar, or you may not invent the next amazing technology, each of us have talents and something that makes you feel passionate… you just need to find what that quest is for you. If you don’t have it in what you are doing currently, keep looking. Pursue how you could ignite the passion for excellence in what you are doing,, and if it is not possible in your current endeavor, then it’s probably time for a change. My company, Xtrii, conducts seminars, presentations, and one-on-one sessions to help people, teams, and companies find and ignite their passion for excellence. If you or your organization is searching for the catalyst to help you achieve your best, invest in proven expertise to help you find your passion for excellence.
Passion for excellence is contagious, but the lack of it is also. When a Leader sets a lofty goal for the team, the team is impacted by more than just the words that are spoken, they also watch the body-language, the tone and conviction in the leader’s voice, and their level of passion for excellence. Great leaders inspire the team, and their passion for excellence is contagious. Make sure your passion and actions, match your words and goals.
Pursuit of Extraordinary: At Xtrii, we founded the company with a single mission in mind, helping our customers achieve extraordinary results… or as we call it, "Xtrordinary results". Please join us in this pursuit. Let’s challenge “ordinary”, instill passion for excellence, and start transforming the ordinary into extraordinary.
In the previous article titled, "Transforming Ordinary Into Extraordinary", I listed the 6 factors that drive excellence and help you achieve extraordinary results. This article is part 1 of a 6 part series that will be published over the upcoming weeks, which will provide a more in depth discussion of each of the factors.
#1: Target to be the best - to some this factor may seem obvious and simple, but you would be amazed how often people, including people that are designated to be a "Leader", starts off an initiative with the wrong target. They inquire as to "what has been done in the past", or "what is everyone else doing", or other language that is setting the tone to be "ordinary".
If you want to be the best, you have to target to be the BEST. You must clearly and definitively set your target, and the target for all participants, to be the best.
When you set this target to be the best, expect some push-back. Some people are uncomfortable with "extraordinary", or things that are outside their ordinary, comfort zone. You will either have to help them get on-board and fully embrace this target, or remove them. As we will discuss in more detail in another upcoming article in this series, there must be a unwavering commitment by all.
In today's ultra-competitive market you better be "extraordinary", "remarkable", and "excellent", or you will get lost and soon overtaken by a competitor that has set the right target. Today's market is also fast-moving, so if you are targeting what competitors have done in the past, you are playing a loosing game of catch-up. Don't target where the market has been, or where it is today, shoot for where it is going, and where you need to be to stay ahead of your competition, and be the one that customers see as the "Innovator", "Market-Leader", and "Standard of Excellence".
Pursuit of Extraordinary: At Xtrii, we founded the company with a single mission in mind, helping our customers achieve extraordinary results… or as we call it, "Xtrordinary results". Please join us in this pursuit. Let’s challenge the status quo, set the target to be the best, insist on excellence, and start transforming the ordinary into extraordinary.
What’s the difference in “ordinary” vs. “extraordinary”? Whether you are talking about people, companies, products or services, there are common factors that drive and determine the difference. Most of them will only achieve ordinary. Why? Well, most of them think ordinary, they get guidance that is very ordinary, they set the same target as everyone else, they take the same cookbook actions that everyone else is taking, and they perceive that they are playing it safe by doing so. But actually, being ordinary is not safe, and is definitely not the best bet.
Only a very few will ever achieve truly extraordinary results. Extraordinary requires that you think and act different than the ordinary. Factors that drive excellence and help you achieve extraordinary results include:
1. Target to be the best.
2. Passion for excellence.
3. Visualize and believe.
4. Action and execution.
5. Unwavering commitment and pursuit.
6. Learn from others.
History provides examples: While achieving extraordinary is challenging, sustaining it is even harder. History is full of great examples of companies that were once the prominent, market-leader, such as Kodak, Xerox, and Nokia, that became complacent, and over time they became “ordinary”, which ultimately led to their fall from grace. Even renowned companies that were dominant and once looked unstoppable, like Microsoft, Dell and Apple, are now facing criticism and challenges about their recent lack of innovation or lack of new products that are extraordinary. Don't let your organization be the next example.
Call to action: We need bold leaders that will step up, challenge the ordinary, and become the catalysts that drive us to achieve "extraordinary". Be leery of companies that propose the same old products and cookie-cutter, “ordinary” approaches. Assess whether they have all the factors for extraordinary results that are listed above.
Pursuit of Extraordinary: At Xtrii, we founded the company with a single mission in mind, helping our customers achieve extraordinary results… or as we call it, "Xtrordinary results". Please join us in this pursuit. Let’s challenge the status quo, instill passion for excellence, and start transforming the ordinary into extraordinary.
Mark Johnson is the Chief Executive at Xtrii. He is a proven, 10x CIO, renowned, global technology advisor and business leader.