“Excellence is doing ordinary things extraordinarily well” - John W Gardiner
I used to work closely with a woman who would frequently tell me to, “only do what you need to do and no more, or they’ll expect more from you all of the time.” They, being our employers. We were meant to finish work each day at 5.30 pm, but from around 4 pm she would very slowly begin to down her tools. At 5 pm she would be ready with her coat on - poised for the hand to strike half past the hour. She was a nice enough person, but her work ethic grated on me. She wasn’t prepared ever, to go the extra mile.
You see, I believe the quality of our work is the measure of who we are as individuals and I suppose I like to think of myself as someone who will always strive to be excellent – meaning that my talents, abilities and skills are always exercised in the best feasible way. I’m not perfect by a long stretch, but I do like to think I’m excellent. By this I mean that I daily practice the art of being brilliant; that is by giving my level best and more to every situation.
I do not ever strive for perfection. This would only serve to disappoint me and the people I serve, because perfection is an ideal - it is never a reality. I would advise caution with anyone who claims to strive for it, let alone achieve it.
Sadly, there are those within our profession who are content in doing just enough to raise a pay cheque. This does not acknowledge the level of professionalism required to do what we do well. We are in the business of dealing with people who are at their most vulnerable; whether that be through the excitement of arranging a wedding; or the profundity of becoming a new parent; or indeed by helping people at the most critical time with their loss and bereavement.
It is true that helping others regardless of what’s in it for us, will always exceed expectations. Should we not try therefore, to look at every situation in terms of the value we can add to it? We must be cautious not to accept everything at face value. Excellence comes from by contributing and by expecting the best from ourselves and others. We can’t save the world single-handedly, but we can make a difference in how we deliver the service we provide.
We can decide to do just enough, or we can choose to excel in it. The choice is ours. I will always choose the latter.