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Eighteen elements for excellence in 2018

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A refreshing 31,557,000 seconds in 2018 are with us. A brand new year invites us not only to have brand new thoughts but to convert them into grand actions. As usual, people tend to have New Year resolutions. My suggestion is to go beyond resolutions, to have specific reinforcements. As an appetiser for a productive new year, I would like to share 18 elements for excellence, especially with the Sri Lankan managers in mind. 


We all complain about lack of time. Even though, there are seminars, workshops, trainings and lectures on “time management”, we really cannot manage time. It is finite and fixed. Instead what we can do is to “manage ourselves” in getting the best out of the given limited time. Only way to do that is to be efficient in our tasks. It involves minimising the wastages, reducing the defects, curtailing the deviations etc. Let’s be efficient in the year 2018.



Being efficient is not enough. We can efficiently climb a ladder placed against a wrong wall. Effectiveness is results related. It deals with the outputs and the outcomes. That’s where we need to being with the end in mind. The mistake we do sometimes is trying to be super-duper efficient, losing track of the larger goal. Let’s be effective in the year 2018.



As we know, empathy is getting into others’ shoes and walking like them. In other words, it means having the ability to look at a problem or an issue from the other’s frame of view. Sri Lankan managers and administrators can improve vastly on this. Rather than jumping to conclusions merely looking at one side of the story, a mature broad approach of being empathic is required. Let’s be empathic in the year 2018.



We need to be “corporate athletes” in maintaining healthy mind-body balance. Energy flows out not by consuming more “energy drinks” but committing to exercise regularly. Unfortunately we see quite the contrary in the corporate world, where most of the things are remote-controlled. Finding quality time for physical exercises on a regular basis will be one sure cure for physical inactivity. Having a healthy dietary pattern, in opting to be fit than fat, is another vital need.  Let’s be energetic in the year 2018.  



Happy employees are productive employees. That’s what the research says. Interestingly, that’s why some enthusiastic enterprises have resorted to measure “laughs per hour”. There are ground realities one cannot ignore. Either one has to find the work he/she loves to do, or love the work he/she has to do. Having a positive approach to work is an absolute must. As Theodore Roosevelt said, “do what you can, with what you have, wherever you are”. Let’s be enthusiastic in the year 2018. 



“Dare to dream, dare to act, dare to fail, dare to succeed”. So goes an old saying. Everything begins with envisioning. As Walt Disney said, if you can dream it, you can deliver it. Unfortunately we see more “day dreams” in Sri Lankan workplaces, especially after lunch. The need of the hour is to be more growth-oriented in terms of working towards long-term goals. Let’s envision in the year 2018. 



We need to enhance our knowledge and skills. With internet as a vast ocean of knowledge offering a variety of informal learning approaches, learning has become a part and parcel of our lives. Unfortunately, we visit internet to find “figures” instead of “facts and figures”.  Sharpening ourselves with cutting-edge knowledge is an absolute must in facing competition. As Socrates said a long time ago, we learn from “the womb to the tomb”.  Let’s enhance ourselves in the year 2018.



Employee engagement has already become a buzz word in the business circles. It captures the essence of employees’ head, hands and heart involvement in work. It refers to employee’s psychological state (e.g. one’s identification with the organisation), his/her disposition (e.g. one’s positive feeling towards the organisation) and performance (e.g. one’s level of discretionary effort). In brief, it captures affective (feeling), cognitive (thinking) and behavioural (acting) dimensions of an employee. We need to engage more in order to excel. Let’s engage more in the year 2018.



This is essentially about being creative, in thinking “out of the box.” It reminds me of what our veteran writer Kumaratunga Munidasa said a long time ago. “A nation without innovation will not prosper, but will lie lamenting, being unable to beg”.  Innovation has paved way for many a country to succeed in becoming globally competitive.  Where are we with regard to innovation? How many new patents Sri Lankans register annually? Nanotechnology can be sited as one promising area where innovation has begun to yield dividends. Let’s explore in the year 2018.



As Lao Tsu said a long time ago, great leaders are “leader breeders”. Such a transformation can only be possible through empowerment. It involves, on the one hand, delegation, assigning tasks to others to handle, whilst being accountable. On the other hand, it involves development. The fundamental mistake we do is to simple delegate tasks without developing the team. Let’s empower in the year 2018.



This is all about continuation. We start things with a big bang and discontinue half-way through. Sustainability has become a critical factor in the midst of business failures. Chaotic weather patterns across the globe are a grim reminder that eco-friendly practices of work need a lot more attention. What matters are not only profits and people, but planet as well. Let’s endure in the year 2018. 



In a rapidly-changing well-connected world, we need to embrace best practices, and perhaps the “next” practices. Take recruitment for an example. Rather than having an interview by a panel of senior members who have no idea about what real interviewing is all about, the time has come to move towards professionalism. There are new techniques to conduct behavioural interviews. Required competencies to a job against actual competencies of a candidate can be accessed through a well-designed assessment centre. The starting point is to acknowledge the need to change in appropriately adapting the new practices. Let’s embrace more in 2018. 



It is a broad term capturing the physical, mental, emotional, social and spiritual facets of life. We need enrichment in a balanced manner on all above fronts. Sadly but surely, what we see in the world is quite the contrary. There is imbalance with the mad rush for material acquisition. As I saw in a poster somewhere, “we gain wealth by sacrificing our health and we regain health by spending our wealth”. Let’s enrich more in 2018. 



It refers to get involved totally, with complete participation. It differs from engagement to the extent where you need to be holistic and be willing to capture the fullness of a situation. Half-hearted, half-baked approaches with shabbily completing tasks are quite the opposite. The Asian term mindfulness aptly captures what you need to do fully in living in the moment. Let’s engross more in meaningful activities in 2018. 



When Nelson Mandela was released from 27 years of rigorous imprisonment, the first thing he did was to forgive his enemies. Then he said, “Reconciliation begins now”. It invites us to forgive and forget. In brief, it refers to the erasing of negative memories. The sooner we erase the negative memories, yet retaining the lessons learnt, the better it is for us to experience inner freedom. Let’s erase the past negativities in 2018.



We need to continuously elevate our standards in order to stay competitive. It is voluntarily raising the bar. “Kaizen” invites us to continuously improve in challenging our past performance and raising the targets for future performance. As the famous quote goes, “Aim for the sky and you’ll reach the ceiling; Aim for the ceiling and you’ll stay on the floor.” Let’s elevate ourselves in 2018. 



This is comparatively a subtle aspect. It deals with practicing the values. The numerous stories we heard, ranging from the global credit crunch to Golden Key chaos, call for the need of ethicality. It is not achieving short-term gains “either by hook or by crook” but something much deeper, grounded on solid principles. Ethics is difficult to define in a precise way. In a general sense, ethics is the code of moral principles and values that governs the behaviours of a person or a group with respect to what is right or what is wrong. “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”, says the golden rule of ethics. Let’s emancipate in 2018.



This is the culmination of all above Es. Excellence is all about being exceptionally good. When applied to enterprises, it involves exceptional achievements in a consistent manner. “We are what we repeatedly do; Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit.” So said Aristotle a long time ago, which has much relevance for today and tomorrow. 

The dawn of 2018 offers us another opportunity to have a fresh look at our lives. Embracing the 18 elements for excellence will ensure the exceeding of expectations. May 2018 be a year of excellence for you, as an individual, as an interactive team member, as well as an institutional employee. Let’s excel in 2018.

(Prof. Ajantha Dharmasiri can be reached through director@pim.sjp.ac.lk, president@ipmlk.org or www.ajanthadharmasiri.info.)

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