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04.23.18

The Excellence Dividend

The Excellence DIvidend

T
OM PETERS has produced another thought-provoking book. The Excellence Dividend is 100% Peters. He is a fanatical lifelong learner and this book represents a summary of what he has learned over the last few decades. He considers it a sequel to In Search of Excellence. You might not agree with everything he writes, but it will make you think.

We are faced with a tech tsunami that threatens our work. Daniel Huttenlocher, dean of Cornell Tech, said, “The industrial revolution was about augmenting and replacing physical labor, and the digital revolution has been about augmenting and replacing mental labor.” Machine learning and Artificial intelligence will change the way we work.

Peters says that the best defense against this tech tsunami is excellence. Excellence is an offensive strategy. It's proactive. We need to focus “on the human attributes that will, effectively deployed, likely remain beyond the realm of artificial intelligence.” He believes we need to go on the offensive creating excellence in everything we do.

Excellence is not a list of dos and don’ts. It’s really a quality of heart. It’s a “state of mind.” It’s expressed in everything we do—the next thing we do. It’s our next e-mail; our next conversation. “Excellence is a moment-to-moment way of life. Or it is nothing at all. There’s no tomorrow in excellence; there is only right now.” “Excellence is the next five minutes.” Little touches are the most important differentiators. Little is greater than big.

Execution, then is everything. Execution is the leader's job. “Amateurs talk about strategy. Professionals talk about logistics,” said General Omar Bradley. “Get moving now. Get the job done. On this score, nothing has changed in 50 years, including the fact that all too often the strategy is inspiring, but the execution is largely AWOL.”

People first. Hard is soft. Soft is hard. “Your customers will never be happier than your employees.” Training is your most important investment. “Simply put,” says Peters, “helping your employees achieve a worthwhile future turns out to be the most profitable way to run a company. Period.”

When it comes to innovation WTTMSW: Whoever Tries The Most Stuff Wins and it’s corollary, WTTMSASTMSUTFW: Whoever Tries the Most Stuff And Screws The Most Stuff Up The Fastest Wins. It’s a numbers game. “If you know where you’re heading, you’re not innovating. If things work out as planned, you weren’t chasing anything interesting.”

We must become fully immersed to innovate. “To deal effectively and creatively with a given context, we must push ourselves hard, very hard, systematically, one day at a time, one hour at a time, to become fully engaged with novelty. Novel settings. Novel people. Novel everything.”

When it comes to leaders, “the best of the best are extraordinary listeners.” Most of us think we are good listeners, but we aren’t. “Listening is strategy.” It’s not passive. It’s an action word. “Fierce listening. Aggressive listening.

Peters offers a solid explanation of 26 Tactics to spur leadership excellence. Of course it would not be complete without MBWA. Managing By Wandering Around. As John le Carré said, “A desk is a dangerous place from which to view the world.” The list includes, you are your calendar, it’s always showtime, the rule of zero (every day is a start-up), acknowledgment, thank you, civility, and apologize.

There is much, much, much more in The Excellence Dividend. As you might expect from a Tom Peters book (or anything by him), there is a lot to digest and much to learn from. He gives specific behaviors that you can put into practice now. But I think Peters would say, “Don’t think too long. Execute on excellence NOW and learn by doing.”

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 11:49 PM
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