Either as an athlete, coach or business we all aspire to be successful. We want to be noted in the same breath as excellence. Even as an individual trying to convince yourself to go to the gym to prepare for your next race, you are chasing excellence. However where does this culture of excellence begin? In my mind it begins in how you handle stress or adversity in obtaining a level of excellence (because this stress or adversity will be there). I think we see this ability to handle stress in professional coaches when things are maybe not going as planned. Mike Babcock of the Detroit Red Wings might be one of the best in putting the stress to the side in order to push through. After losing back to back games vs the Chicago Blackhawks and creating a game 7, Babcock was quoted as saying “I love Game 7s. I’m excited about it. We got a chance to push them out of the playoffs. Should be a lot of fun.” It is only a quote, however it speaks volumes of what is ahead and what the positives are as opposed to dwelling on the negatives. In his post-game press conference after Game 6 he also discussed taking ownership of “making young mistakes.”
Some may view this attribute of overcoming stress, doubt or adversity as mental toughness, however I propose this concept of competing and creating a culture of excellence individuals must develop hardiness. Hardiness has been used to describe stress resistant individuals (Bartone, 1999; Bartone & Snook, 2002; Maddi, 2006). Maddi (2006) implicates that hardiness involves the three C’s – commitment, control, and challenge and that hardiness can be seen through the courage “to remain involved with the events and people around you, no matter how stressful things become” (p. 160). As outlined by Salvatore, Khoshaba, Persico, Lu, Harvey, and Bleecker (2002) commitment is an attitude in which people initiate instead of react; the control attitude involves people influencing what is going on around them through effort, and finally the challenge attitude involves people continuously growing in wisdom and learning from negative and positive experiences. Maddi (2006) goes on to suggest that the 3C’s “provide the courage and motivation to do the hard work of turning stressful circumstances from potential disasters into growth opportunities instead” (p. 160). “The aspects of performance that are expected to be enhanced by the hardiness process include effectiveness in carrying out difficult tasks, taking a leadership role, being creative, increasing awareness and wisdom, and avoid rule-breaking and other conduct problems” (p. 161). Hardiness in my mind is a more direct and concrete conceptual framework in establishing a culture of excellence. These cultures do not happen overnight, they take time to evolve and require a purposeful approach to competing.
In moving forward there are couple of key initiatives Competitive Will likes to establish in working with their clients to establish the concept of hardiness and helping in developing a culture of excellence for individuals, teams or business:
1. Stay Process Focussed: This can be difficult, but if things do not go as planned stress and emotions usually enter the equation and those who can surpass those emotions and move forward (take steps forward) usually create a strong foundation for when adversity strikes again.
2. Take Ownership: Mistakes or taking a few steps backwards are always out there, however we usually find an excuse for why it happened. However it seems as though human nature has the ability to move forward after a fault if we take ownership of the mistake or misstep. It increases our sense of awareness and when we are more aware we are more willing to narrow our focus on the correct process.
3. Your Route to Excellence is not the same as Others: As in previous articles, I am a firm believer that we all have different route to success. It may not be fair but that is the way it is. Goaltender Antti Niemi of the San Jose Sharks is a 2012-2013 finalist for the Vezina Trophy as the NHL’s top goaltender. However what many fail to realize is that Niemi was a part time Zamboni driver playing in the 2nd Level of the Finnish League before signing with the Chiacgo Blackhawks as an undrafted free agent in 2008 and earning a roster spot as a backup to Cristobal Huet before earning the starting spot and winning a Stanley Cup with the Chicago Blackhawks. Now as a Shark he is still heralded as the hardest working goalie that his teammates have seen and has created his own culture of excellence.
In closing, creating a culture of excellence is out there, however as teams or individuals you must identify through honest self-awareness what is possibly holding you back and how you are going to overcome that stress or adversity? The outcome you want is out there, it just may take a conscious effort to achieve.