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StrategyOct 15, 2014

Excellence for the Wrong Reasons?

Adrian Romo

Excellence is a universally prized virtue in our culture, especially in the workplace. People commonly receive praise at work for winning a big business deal, producing a high-quality product that wows customers, going the extra mile, working 60 to 80 hours a week on an important project, or pulling an all-nighter to perfect an important presentation.

In most cases top performers are highly valued team members who receive recognition from their peers and are rewarded with raises, bonuses, and promotions by their employers. No one would argue that excellence is not a virtue. In fact, it is one of Credera’s four core values. However, can we strive for excellence for the wrong reasons?

Why Pursue Excellence?

Why do we strive for excellence? When you think of examples of excellence, you may think of people who are dedicated, intense, zealous, and driven. But driven by what?

–  Some of us are competitive and used to winning at everything. Work is just an extension of that habit.

–  Some of us are craftsman who are passionate about our craft and can’t help but pour our heart and soul into it because we love what we do.

–  In some cases we believe strongly in the mission of our organization and that purpose gives us zeal to see it accomplished.

–  Some see work as a calling and apply ourselves diligently to show gratitude to our Maker and honor the One who gave us our talents—no matter our vocation.

–  Still others derive our identities from our professional achievements, being known as a top performer, the person who always delivers, the one who comes through in a pinch.

All of us are looking for validation. All of us are seeking answers to the essential questions about ourselves:

Do I matter? Am I valuable? Do I have what it takes to make a difference?

And it is tempting to seek those answers in the workplace.

Finding Self-Worth at Work

Is finding your self-worth at work unhealthy? Let’s look at it this way: if you give your career the power to validate you then you are also giving it the power to invalidate you.

Perhaps you grew up only being praised for accomplishments and never for your virtue, character, or your true self. Maybe you are used to trying to measure up to impossible standards. Or even worse, you were told you would never amount to anything, and life is a constant struggle to prove your naysayers wrong.

The problem with seeking validation from professional accomplishments is that it puts you on a performance treadmill that never stops. There’s always that next business deal, next presentation, next project, etc. When you are on this treadmill adversity and setbacks become crushing defeats instead of life lessons and opportunities for refinement. The only way to stop the performance treadmill is to get off.

Self-Diagnose Misguided Excellence

How do you know if you are striving for excellence for the right or wrong reasons?

Ask yourself these questions:

–  Do you wear the label “workaholic”?

–  Do you feel as though your resume is your life’s report card?

–  Are you less eager to go the extra mile when no one is looking?

–  How do you react to professional setbacks and failures—do you blow up or melt down?

Hopefully these questions bring your motivation into focus. The key to having the right motivation is being satisfied with yourself regardless of the circumstances.

You can only do that when you’ve found the answers to those essential questions about your worth someplace that is deep, meaningful, and unassailable. Then excellence is simply a natural expression of who you are, not a never-ending foot race. And when you face adversity you approach it as an opportunity to adapt, persevere, and overcome.

Leaving Your Mark

How do you want to be remembered when your life is over? No one is going to talk about how busy you were at work, how great your sales numbers were, or that you were an ace in the boardroom.

They will remember your relationships, the lives you enriched, and what you gave to your fellow man. Strive for excellence, but be excellent in all that you do, in every area of your life. Let your career be the footnote of your eulogy, not the headline.

Our Values

Credera’s core values are integrity, excellence, professionalism, and humility. Our values are the building blocks of our culture and the basis of everything we do. Our clients hire us to own their toughest challenges, they retain us because we keep our promises. If you want to experience the difference of partnering with a values-driven firm like Credera, please contact us because we’d love to serve you.