Archive for December, 2015

Building a High-Performance Culture Part XXIV

Tuesday, December 1st, 2015

Words that Work: Excellence

In this post on building a high-performance culture, I’m adding the word “excellence” to the “words that work” category. While being better than the competition is noteworthy and motivating, true excellence is something altogether different.

I’ll explain more about cultural excellence below; but first, review the strong and weak cultural words listed so you can conceptualize the ideal culture to move your organization towards, as well as what you must weed out of your culture in order to maximize your organization’s potential.

Words that work and must be woven into culture

Earn: to acquire through merit.

Deserve: to be worthy of; to qualify for.

Consistent: constantly adhering to the same principles.

Hope: grounds for believing something in the future will happen.

Catalyst: a person or thing that makes something happen.

Responsible: to be the primary cause of something.

Tough-minded: strong willed, vigorous, not easily swayed.

Loyal: faithfulness to one’s duties or obligations.

Passion: a strong feeling or enthusiasm about something, or about doing something.

Discipline: an activity, regimen, or exercise that develops or improves a habit or skill.

Commit: to pledge oneself to something.

Prune: to remove what is undesirable.

Wise: having or showing good judgement.

Diligent: giving constant effort to accomplish something.

Hunger: an intense desire, a compelling craving.

Fitness: being in good health, especially because of regular exercise.


Words that hurt and must be weeded out of culture

Fault: responsibility for failure.

Blame: to assign responsibility for failure.

Excuse: a plea offered to explain away a fault or failure.

Mediocre: average, ordinary, not outstanding.

Wish: to want something that cannot, or probably will not happen.

Entitle: a claim to something you feel you are owed.

Sloth: reluctance to work or exert effort; laziness.

Complacent: calmly content, smugly self-satisfied.

Maintain: to cause (something) to exist or continue without changing.

Apathy: a lack of enthusiasm, interest, or concern.

Interest: to be curious about (as opposed to being committed).

Foolish: lacking good sense or judgment.

Micromanage: to control with excessive attention to minor details.

There’s normally a strong competition among peers in an industry, company or league to become “number one” in a given area. Many believe that once they’ve achieved this ranking that they’ve also attained excellence. However, it is entirely possible to be number one and also be worse than you used to be. Thus, you’re number one not because of excellence, but simply because others are worse than you.

Excellence is defined as being “superior” or “eminent.” Again, this makes it easy to believe that because one is ranked higher than another—since they are “superior” to a competitive entity—they have attained excellence. But strong cultures take and embrace a different view: they see excellence as being superior to what they once were. They are their own competition, and by continuing the quest to better their prior best, they become eminent—excellent—in the process.

By redefining excellence in your organization in this manner you will shift your team’s focus from the pride or smugness that may come with being number one in a league everyone else is in, to striving to get so good at what they do they create an entirely different league—and are the only ones in it.