Excellence is your next email”

In an inter­view with Daniel Pink, lead­er­ship guru Tom Peters says “excel­lence is your next email.”

Peters is known for say­ing, “Excel­lence is the next five min­utes.” That’s true, too.

The point of his com­ment is that it’s com­mon to believe excel­lence is some huge kind of feat. In oth­er words, our default is to believe excel­lence requires enor­mous plan­ning, prepa­ra­tion, and per­se­ver­ance. The truth is excel­lence starts with how you approach all the mico-deci­sions in your life and work. This includes seem­ing­ly mun­dane deci­sions like com­mu­ni­cat­ing with our cowork­ers and how we main­tain our envi­ron­ment.

Excel­lence starts with how you approach all the mico-deci­sions in your life and work

Josh Mitchell

Peters con­tin­ues: “In a five line email, you reveal every sin­gle impor­tant ele­ment of your per­son­al­i­ty and view of life.” Peters remarks to Dan that they both know this is true.

Cue it up to 10:50 to hear Tom Peter’s riff on “Excel­lence is...”

When life and work get crazy, spend­ing time to thought­ful­ly craft a mes­sage in writ­ing requires focus and think­ing. We resist high­er lev­el think­ing and rea­son­ing. We want to achieve the end goal with­out deal­ing with the messy mid­dle.

As you reflect on your work, do you approach micro-actions with any lev­el of excel­lence?

Excel­lent email writ­ing does­n’t have to look super fan­cy or be “Eng­lish on stilts.” It does­n’t mean you have to start have all the cor­rect gram­mar and punc­tu­a­tion (key word start). It means you have con­sid­er your read­er and the issue at hand. It means paus­ing and think­ing about the ques­tions some­one might have when they read your writ­ing. It means car­ing for oth­ers: show­ing empa­thy and con­nec­tion.

What are you reveal­ing about your per­son­al­i­ty when you send an email?

What are you reveal­ing about your view of life when you share your writ­ing?

Peters’ obser­va­tion rings true for me. Many of my cowork­ers and col­leagues reveal so much about their val­ues in the way they write. Some take the time to write thought­ful, clear words. This earns trust. Oth­ers spew out infor­ma­tion onto the screen. This caus­es frus­tra­tion and extra work.

Have you con­sid­ered how you can spread excel­lence in your micro-actions?

Who is your replacement

You may be just walk­ing into your role as a leader or maybe you’ve been at this for a while. The best lead­ers are always think­ing for­ward to how they can make them­selves replace­able.

If you know you your replace­ment might be...

  • What respon­si­bil­i­ties or projects could you del­e­gate to them some­time soon? 
  • How might you inten­tion­al­ly bring them into your world and how you think through things?
  • Is there a way for you to take them out for cof­fee or lunch... have them over your house?

If you don’t know who your replace­ment is... 

  • Just keep this idea in mind over the com­ing weeks... “who is my replace­ment?”
  • Who might you recruit that might be a leader for the team one day?
  • Ask some peo­ple on your team if they’d ever con­sid­er being a leader... 

Giving authority away

Check out this awe­some quote from Craig Groeschel: “When you del­e­gate tasks you cre­ate fol­low­ers. When you del­e­gate author­i­ty, you cre­ate lead­ers.”

“When you del­e­gate tasks you cre­ate fol­low­ers. When you del­e­gate author­i­ty, you cre­ate lead­ers.” — Craig Groeschel .png 64.9 KB View full-size Down­load

Del­e­gat­ing tasks looks like peo­ple “help­ing you” to get some­thing done. This results in fol­low­ers. You have the authority—they have an action item.

How­ev­er, when you give away author­i­ty, you give some­one else the abil­i­ty to make deci­sions on their own, which allows them to step up a leader (yet you’re still the leader). 

Great teams of leaders create leaders.

In oth­er words, they’re not just on the team to ful­fill a task, but to pour into peo­ple.

Great leaders build better leaders and create opportunities for them to exercise their strengths

That means your role isn’t to just do a bunch of tasks and get things done — it’s to devel­op lead­ers on your team. There is prob­a­bly some­one in your sphere of influ­ence that you could “free up” to take own­er­ship of some­thing. Your job is to give them that oppor­tu­ni­ty. The way to do it is by giv­ing them author­i­ty, not tasks. 

Some questions to consider... 

  • Do you feel like you have the author­i­ty to make deci­sions in your role as a leader?
  • As a fol­low up to that first ques­tion, think of the peo­ple on your team. Do they feel like they have the author­i­ty to make deci­sions? (How can you help them to make sure they do?)
  • What are some upcom­ing projects where you can give some­one else the author­i­ty to car­ry out a project? (And not micro­man­age them!)
  • Are you build­ing a team of “helpers” or “lead­ers”?