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Powerful Practices for Excellence in Work (and in Life) — Part One

By Patricia G Omoqui

Each of us has an inner urge, a voice within encouraging us to grow beyond our current stage, to expand into our full potential.  Many call it the drive to succeed.  Some call it the search for excellence.  Others term it self-actualization.

Patricia G Omoqui
Patricia G Omoqui

Almost everyone I meet expresses a desire to be their best and to gain recognition for excellence in their career.  Yet, if you ask around you will find that this level of achievement is considered rare.
As I thought about this topic, my mind returned to my years as a manager and consultant in corporate America.  Seeing the great potential in those who reported to me, I was often perplexed that so few became top performers.  Many of my employees seemed shocked during their annual reviews when they were not rated as A+ performers.   They verbalized their desire to be outstanding employees; yet few consistently demonstrated the qualities that characterize high achievers.

I cherished that handful of employees in my group who not only said they wanted to succeed but also showed by their attitudes and actions that they were doing their best every day.  These people became go-to players.  I could count on them to get the job done whether I was present in the office or on the road.  They invariably delivered great results.  Theirs were the names that immediately came to mind for bonuses and promotions.
Why were they more successful than their peers who seemed to have just as much raw talent and capability?

This week and next week I will share with you qualities that, when practiced consistently, lead to excellence.    While these suggestions are focused on helping you be the best at your occupation (no matter how humble or exalted), they are transferrable to all other aspects of daily life.  Let me clarify the goal.  I ask that you let go your focus on comparing yourselves or competing with others; instead, turn full attention to being YOUR personal best.

Steps to reaching your full potential:

1. Foster self-confidence by getting to know yourself.  Take stock of your aptitudes, talents and skills.  What strengths do you bring to your current position?  Are you gentle?  Assertive?  Are you naturally a leader or do you enjoy being in the background?  Do you thrive in the details or love the big picture?   Do you prefer interacting with others or prefer doing the books?  Are you good at numbers?  Words?  Art?  Sales?  As your self- understanding develops, it will help you play to your strengths on the job.  By understanding what you bring to the job, you will be more likely to find ways to maximize your talents and grow your confidence.

Consider the example of an experienced teacher I know.  She was always the last to leave the building.  She viewed this as a shortcoming.  She worried that work took her longer because she was slower or less gifted.  Self-doubt drained her energy.

When she took a closer look, she began to see that her work habits were evidence that she cared enough to bring extra creativity to her job.  She started to notice that other teachers were continually copying her original materials and ideas for activities.   She also began to acknowledge that she was always able to develop a special connection with children in her class.
In taking stock, she started to feel better about herself.  As her confidence increased her joy in her work did as well.  As a result of her growing self acceptance, she was confident enough to accept an offer to become the lead teacher in her grade.

Knowing and embracing your unique set of gifts and talents gives you the confidence needed to reach new heights!

2.    Use feedback for personal development.   The more that you appreciate who you are, the more you can see, without feeling threatened, that you have plenty of room for improvement.  Always try to be non-judgmentally honest in your own evaluation of yourself.  Be open to constructive criticism from co-workers, managers and clients.  Learn to see feedback from others as valuable information to help you in your quest for excellence.   Criticism almost always contains some nugget of wisdom if you are willing to consider it.

Turn comments into questions.  If someone says, “You spend too much time with customers on the phone.” Try not to get defensive.  Listen intently.  Ask yourself, “Are there ways in which I spend too much time with customers on the phone?” Perhaps you could increase efficiency by moving conversations along more quickly.
The more open you are to learn and grow, the faster you move to personal excellence.

3. Make a commitment to yourself to stay focused.  We all know co-workers who spend work time writing emails to spouses, sending text messages to friends, making personal calls or lingering at the water cooler to take in office gossip.   Even those who appear to be on task, allow their minds to wander to marital problems, upcoming parties they plan to attend and their list of to-do’s for after work.

For employees with these habits, their job is not their main focus.  They do the minimum, getting just enough done, to avoid losing their job.   Mental preoccupation makes simple tasks take far longer than necessary.  It’s unusual for these employees to produce noteworthy results and reach top positions.

If you can see any of these behaviors in yourself, note carefully what is keeping you from being fully present at work.  Noticing is the first step to releasing mental and behavioral distractions.

Here is an exercise to help you get mentally focused at the beginning of each work day.  Take a minute or two to list all your personal worries and responsibilities.  Then tuck the list in a pocket and turn your thoughts and energy to your job.  If things on your list keep coming to mind, stop yourself and release them again.  Assure yourself, “This will be waiting when I finish work.”

Make increased focus on your work a daily intention.

4. Look for ways to bring more of your unique self to the job.    It is often the small, thoughtful things you do that make you stand out on the job.  Consider the story of a young adult with Downs Syndrome who worked as a bagger at a grocery store.  The management team called a meeting and asked each worker to think of something they could do to improve the customers’ experience.

Johnny wanted to show his customers how much he cared.  He decided that each night he would find a special quote to share with the people who chose the cash register he was assigned to.  The customers loved his thoughtfulness and creativity.  They felt inspired by the words of wisdom he found for them each day.  They liked what he did so much that they would only go to Johnny’s register even if other lanes were open.  Top management visited the site to see this phenomenon.  Everybody recognized Johnny the Bagger.  In blessing others Johnny blessed himself.  Ask yourself this question, “What can I do to make a difference in the lives of fellow workers or customers?”
Your assignment this week is to choose the one of these steps that resonated most with you and give it your full attention.   You may also want to cut this article out and save it for reference.  Once you’ve mastered one step, you may want to start on another.


“The great danger for most of us lies not in setting our aim too high and falling short; but in setting our aim too low, and achieving our mark.”  — Michelangelo


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