Podcast: The excellence dividend

A lot of folks talk about this notion of becoming future-ready as if it’s some sort of magic trick. They paint a picture of a future where we need to learn all kinds of new stuff — new skills, new technologies, new strategies, and new business models — in order to out-maneuver the machines and remain relevant. And to some extent, that’s true. We’ve got some serious work to do from here on in.

On the other hand, there is a school of thought — a pretty well-supported and powerful school of thought — that says in order to become future-ready, we really need to be doing nothing more than what we all should have been doing right from the start: providing excellence — excellence, certainly to our clients and customers, but just as importantly, to our employees.

But that raises a couple questions, like where does excellence come from? And how does it start?

To help us answer these questions, I sat down recently with Tom Peters, who is as deep a thinker in this space as exists in the world today. He co-wrote one of the biggest selling business books of all time, In Search of Excellence, and he wrote The Little Big Things, which Warren Bennis called the single-best management book he’s ever read. His latest book is called The Excellence Dividend.

In this conversation, we cover:

  • How do accounting and finance professionals ensure they’re relevant moving forward?
  • Why focusing on your employees' growth is an important first step to organizational excellence.
  • How do we find exceptional talent in the first place?
  • Why Tom would “beat the crap” out of you if he heard you say you’re "just an accountant."
  • Extreme humanization.

Listen to my conversation with Tom Peters here.



The excellence dividend To highlight the importance of what Tom has to say and what’s in his book, I want to share with you an excerpt from The Excellence Dividend:

“Excellence is not a long-term aspiration. Excellence is the ultimate short-term strategy. Excellence is the next five minutes, or not.

"Excellence is your next conversation. Or not.

"Excellence is your next meeting. Or not.

"Excellence is shutting up and listening, really listening. Or not.

"Excellence is your next customer contact. Or not.

"Excellence is saying 'Thank you' for something "small." Or not.

"Excellence is the next time you shoulder responsibility and apologize. Or not.

“Excellence is pulling out all the stops at warp speed to respond to a screw up. Or not.

"Excellence is the flowers you brought to work today. Or not.

"Excellence is lending a hand to an outsider who's fallen behind schedule. Or not.

"Excellence is bothering to learn the way the folks in finance (or IS or HR) think. Or not.

"Excellence is waaay over-preparing for a three-minute presentation. Or not.

"Excellence is turning insignificant tasks into models of excellence. Or not.

“Excellence is conventionally — in fact, almost without fail — seen as a long-term aspiration. I disagree. Vehemently disagree. Excellence is not a destination at which you arrive on a glorious sunny day after years of brutally hard work.

"Excellence is a way of life that sustains us and inspires us, day in and day out, minute in and minute out. There is no long term. There is only the way we act when we step out into the corridor after a meeting — or, yes, the quality of your next four-line e-mail. ...

"The manifestation of excellence — or not — in our moment-to-moment behavior is the bedrock beneath the bedrock.”

That's where our competitive advantage lies — those little moments in which we exhibit real, heartfelt excellence. Do those things, and the machines won't be able to touch us.

We’re honored to have Tom Peters on the show this week, and he has some great advice for how we can turn excellence into our competitive advantage, from the people we surround ourselves with, to developing a culture of excellence, to hiring the right people.

More resources:


William D. Sheridan