Excellence as a Core Value
By: Mike Murray
STC Associate Fellow
Former Three-Time Chapter President
(Author’s Note: In this series of articles, we will explore “Excellence.” What is it? Why is it important? What must we do to reach it? How do we know when we have arrived? How do we maintain it? What are some examples of excellence in STC and beyond? In the months to come, we will address these questions and more.)
“Desire is the key to motivation, but it’s determination and commitment to an unrelenting pursuit of your goal— a commitment to excellence—that will enable you to attain the success you seek.”
— Mario Andretti
Any discussion of excellence must begin with a review of core values. Core values are the fundamental beliefs of a person, an organization, a nation, or a culture. Core values are the guiding principles that dictate behavior and action. Core values can help people to know what is right from wrong. They can help companies to determine if they are on the right path and fulfilling their business goals; they give direction to a nation or a culture; they create an unwavering and unchanging guide.
In an ever-changing world, a person’s core values are constant, but they differ from person to person. They also differ from organization to organization, from nation to nation, and from culture to culture. When core values clash, conflict results.
Since our discussion is focused on excellence in STC, the first step is to establish the shared core values of our organization. They are not descriptions of the work we do, nor the strategies we employ to accomplish our organizational mission and our business objectives. These values underlie our work, they govern how we interact with each other, and they determine which strategies we employ to fulfill our mission and objectives. The core values are the basic elements of how we go about our work. They are the practices we use (or should be using) every day in everything we do.
How Core Values Are Used
A core value is only a true core value if it has an active influence, and if the people or organization manage to live by it, at least most of the time. As an example, imagine you have a project that has to be completed by tomorrow morning. It is now the night before and you are already well past your usual bedtime. Your eyes are bloodshot. The pillow beckons. Should you do the best you can in the next half hour, get some desperately needed sleep, and then in the morning just submit whatever you have? If one of your core values is Excellence (and it is one of ours), that’s not the right decision.
Back in 2002, in my first year as the chapter president, that is exactly the situation I faced in completing and submitting our application for a Community Achievement Award (CAA). That was—and still is—a colossal task. The list of criteria you must meet is 10 pages long, and every activity you “claim” must be substantiated with detailed support documentation—all in triplicate. Our completed application filled fifteen 3-inch binders. To complete this daunting task, I pulled an all-nighter—and we won our very first Chapter of Distinction award. Because Excellence is one of our core values, while the work itself was grueling, the decision to finish the job was easy.
(Editor’s Note: Watch for the next installment of Mike’s series on Excellence in the April edition of Memo to Members.)