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Creating excellence in all you do

23 March 2021

How might you achieve excellence in everything you do? And continue to do so? Michelle Hoskin, managing director of Standards International, designed a process to help do just that. Here she explains The 4E’s of Excellence™

How many of you have ever found yourself in a position where you have clearly over-committed and under-delivered? Whether it is to clients, fellow team members, the boss or, worse still, yourselves… it’s easily done! But – before you beat yourself over the head with a big stick – I’d like to reassure you that you are not alone!

When we care, as much as I think we all do, we become masters at believing we can get more done than is humanly possible! I suffer from it – and so do many people I know. Does it make us bad people? Of course not – we are just super keen and eager and we believe that we have the necessary superpowers on hand to get us through!

After 20 years of working within this magical profession, I continue to promote excellence; however, I am very aware that – while many people have a desire to achieve excellence in everything that they do – a large proportion have little idea of how to actually achieve it, never mind knowing where to start.

So, to give you my usual starter for 10, I knew I needed to create a mechanism, a method, a process for achieving the ultimate pot at the end of the rainbow! Plus, I knew if I really did this right, achieving excellence would be more accessible, and therefore transferable across the profession. A win for one means a win for many!

Just to put my marker in the sand here: I am not talking about technical excellence which seems to still take up airtime in many conversations in this industry… I am talking about excellence in the general sense which can be applied to any area, including but not limited to:

  • a structure for the successful completion of any project​
  • the process to move from creation to implementation of a new process or workflow
  • the selection and integration of a new back office system
  • the key stages for launching a new client proposition or journey
  • the launch of business improvement projects.

And last but not least:

  • the basis by which you and the team around you can be trained and developed.​

It can be used for literally anything! Excellence in means excellence out!

As I was the creator of The 4E’s of Excellence™, it was only right that we tested the concept first within the walls of Standards International HQ.

We use this cycle at many levels of our internal business and external client offering, and have done so religiously for the past two years. It sits specifically as the basis of our initial and ongoing standards assessments. *

Here is the lowdown:

1. The tool is available for universal use, so there is no reason that it can’t be adopted by you too.

2. The cycle should be consistently referred to and reviewed and should live firmly at the centre of all initiatives, projects and deliverables.

3. It has no strict timeframes – the duration of the cycle can be tailored to suit you and what you are doing.

4. You must embrace it and appreciate its effectiveness and – most of all – use it as a tool to unite your whole team. ​

So, grab some paper and a pen, take a moment and write down everything that you are working on right now that is NOT directly client related. ​

These could be projects you are handling for the business, a new idea you are trying to get off the ground or your own training and development plan. As I’ve said, it doesn’t matter – the cycle works for anything.

The 4E’s of Excellence™ is a cycle covering four key stages of a thinking and doing process. Breaking your ‘thing’ down into four stages means that you don’t try to do too much too soon or bite off more than you can chew, which of course leads to the dreaded ‘over commit and under deliver’! Nobody really wins when you feel like you’ve let the side down.

Please trust me and trust the process!

The 4E’s of Excellence™

1. Establish

Far too often, we can become victims of the ‘quick win’ culture and we instantly come unstuck. The Establish stage gives you plenty of time to really try to get a feel for what it is you are trying to do, the stages involved, who you may need to involve in the process of implementation and, most importantly, defining what success looks like.

Everything you are trying to achieve should be seen as a marathon and not a sprint – and in fact working through each stage of The 4E’s of Excellence™ could take anything from one day to four years! It all depends on what you are doing.

Those who dive in too quickly at this stage will have missed the opportunity to think things through properly, as they won’t have given themselves everything they need to get this step right.

Consider the Establish stage like cementing the foundations for a house into the ground. Rush it and your house will collapse as your planning simply won’t be up to scratch!

Once you have established your new way of working, stage one of your project or learning and development, you can then move onto the Embed stage.

2. Embed

Embedding your new practice at a deeper level will give you the opportunity to test, amend, adjust and improve. Again, don’t rush, give yourself plenty of time in order to see what is working and what is not. It may feel a bit frustrating but it will mean that you are focusing on doing it right initially and not wrong twice later. Less haste will pay dividends at this stage – and is a must to achieve results faster and more effectively further down the line.

Don’t let anyone rush you – people who put unnecessary pressure on you at this stage may not understand your methods and are therefore projecting their own deadlines and timescales on you. If done correctly this shouldn’t even be an issue here, as you should have communicated the ideal timescales from the outset at the Establish stage.

This stage takes the longest… it’s the slow cooking of the culinary world… the slower, the better

3. Elevate

Once you have firmly embedded what you are doing now comes the fun part.

This is the stage in the cycle is where you really start to see the benefits, the return on your investments (ROI) and the returns on effort made (REM).

Elevate is the stage to leverage everything you have done so far, so that the maximum impact and results can be achieved​! Boom! All of the planning, the tweaking and the improving is about to pay off big time.

It’s like killing two birds with one stone! Ask, how can you take what you have done and apply it in a way that multiplies your return? A few examples could be:

  • elevating the learning of a new team member to take on more valuable responsibilities in the team
  • taking the functionality of your now embedded back office system so that you can do more with it but for the same fee you are already paying
  • making more and different use of your office space or working set-up
  • revisit that process, procedure or client journey and identifying the improvements needed
  • applying the learning and development you have undertaken to business improvement.

The list could go on and on!

4. Endless

My whole professional life I have been marginally obsessed with the importance of constant and never-ending improvement. I am somehow hard-wired to believe that there is always a ‘better’ way of working – which means my job has always been to try to find it!

So, this stage of the cycle for me is my favourite. I continue to feel a sinking in the pit of my stomach when I see individuals and firms settling for what they have or just being happy with the way things are done because ‘it works’. Just because ‘it works’ doesn’t mean that it shouldn’t be changed.

There is so much to say about this stage but let’s keep it simple: The next time you go to say or even hear someone say, ‘we just do it like this’, or ‘it works so there is no need to change it’, or ‘the “boss” won’t let us do it like that’, etc., etc., etc.,  – then it’s absolutely time for a review of how things are done.

So, if you have completed a training programme, implemented a new product or service, created and launched a new process, or had a move around in your office, then ask: how can we make this better? How can we improve this to achieve continual and endless effectiveness? The magic comes from the momentum of change. Embrace it!

This article was first published in the March 2021 issue of Professional Paraplanner.

Professional Paraplanner