Pursuit of Excellence – That Winning Edge?

August 3, 2011Vincent Byrne

So how does any athlete or sports person achieve such world beating levels of performance? And, how does what they do, apply to the rest of us mere mortals, and in particular someone running a business or working within a business?

Having looked into the behaviours of successful people, over the past few years, in reading their biographies and examining the views of other experts, the answer seems to be as simple as ….. self-improvement, a little at a time!

Rory McIlroy is, at the tender age of 20, an incredible talent but he didn’t just arrive on the scene and start shooting great scores.

So, what makes him different? He obviously loves golf (loving what you do is a pre-requisite for greatness in any field), he started young (I heard his interview after the win in which he said that from the age of 10 or 11 he wanted to be a professional golfer) but most significantly, he has also committed himself to do whatever it takes to consistently improve – this is a key ingredient in the making of champions and the achievement of excellence!

Since he arrived in the public awareness 3 years ago, he has systematically driven towards increasing levels of achievement -initially qualifying to play on the European Tour, then gaining his first European win and now his first win in the USA, together with a ranking within the top 10 players in the world.

How did he do it? Well (no doubt working with his coach), he would have started with a goal, he then would have analysed what he needed to do to achieve it (a kind of reverse engineering!) and this would have identified the elements in his game that needed improvement.

Then with this clarity of purpose, combined with a detailed plan, he would have set about the process of self-improvement with practice and perseverence!

When Andre Agassi, through a catalogue of injuries, fell down the tennis world rankings from No. 1 to No. 146, he said in his autobiography, that his only strategy for recovery was to try and get better day by day. A year later, through applying this principle, combined with discipline and hard work, he had made it all the way back to No. 6!

In business, the lack of competition and a method of measurement, in the form of a league table or tournament, can make it more difficult to set goals and judge progress. However, there is nothing to stop us, as business owners or employees, from setting our own goals – we could use any one or a combination of sales, margin, net profit, enquiries, efficiency levels, orders etc, as a start.

We can then set out the target that we wish to attain, identify our improvement areas, make a plan and take action. Then, using some method of ‘keeping score’, track our progress – this is a proven strategy for improving on both our individual and our company’s, ‘personal best’.

So why not take time out, NOW, to set an ‘excellence’ goal for yourself or company, identify the factors that need improving and take action in the form of ‘small steady steps – every day’ and see what you can achieve by the end of the week…..or the month. There is no ‘ideal’ time to get going, so just Start From Where You Are!

The ‘pursuit of excellence’ is the only strategy for a successful business. This applies in any economic circumstances and, in particular, in the business environment that we currently face, whereby the harsh reality is that only the best will survive.

The philosophy works, without exception,in every facet of life, sport and business, and has worked for Rory and Andre. It has also worked for Steve Jobs, Bill Gates and Warren Buffett through their respective business highs and lows and ultimately led them to greatness in their fields.

In my view, this is the lesson for us all in Rory’s achievement!

P.S. I have no doubt that Rory’s pursuit of his next goal has already begun and, as with all top performers and achievers, the ongoing pursuit of excellence continues!

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