How Managers Can Learn From Sporting Icons


I was absolutely entranced by the Saracens versus Northampton Rugby Union Premiership Final at Twickenham. Not just because of the quality of the game, which was harrowingly-stunning in its bruising tackling and excellence in its nervous energy; but mainly because of the way that Saracens have taken the Premiership by storm – known by some as the ‘cult of the Saracens’.

Their chief executive is Edward Griffiths, previously chief executive of the South African Rugby Union. Griffiths is viewed as their “charismatic, unorthodox high priest.” He doesn’t view the end result as the most important aspect of the game.  “Too much of sport operates under the tyranny of the result,” Griffiths said to BBC Sport.

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Moving from Average to Excellence: How Managers Develop Future Skills Today

I ask managers on a regular basis how they are developing their skills and what they are currently reading or listening to.

It must be really annoying to those I ask every time I meet them!
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Defining and Modelling Excellence


Who wouldn’t want their team to exhibit excellent work? The main reason I see managers complain about the quality of work produced by their teams is because we rarely talk about what excellence looks like and how we would know if it actually occurred.

People make individual choices about what to do and how to do it based on two things; their understanding of expectations of quality and their intrinsic motivations.

So how do we define ‘excellence’? Imagine that your team is performing at the top of its game, to its true potential. What would you see people doing? What communication is taking place? What time issues are people dealing with? What happens when they confront problems? How are they showing creativity? What does it look like when projects exceed expectations to clients and customers? How are people learning from their experiences?

You could put answers to these questions down on paper, and then ask your team to add to it so you all create a vision of excellence, one that can be agreed and committed to by all.

Here are some examples of excellence that you can build on:

  • Teams are focused on what’s most important, clear on priorities and know how their work ties into corporate and departmental goals
  • Team members feel challenges and important. Communication is focused and open. They are driven by their internal drivers of excellence and accomplishment
  • Time is used wisely. Meetings are held only when necessary, not because it’s a certain time of the day or week. People want to contribute ideas and are encouraged to be creative
  • You make sure your people aren’t buried beneath tons of projects and they have time to devote to quality rather than quantity
  • Your department knows how to serve the best interests of internal as well as external customers
  • Everyone recognises that change is the only constant. You recognise your role involves helping the team become comfortable with changing environments driven by progress and customer needs
  • You model excellence in all you do, not allowing prejudices and favouritism to bounce you off course. People respect you for your integrity and you don’t say things behind people’s backs that you wouldn’t say to their face. You are trustworthy and reliable.

As you see, this is a journey. Imagine what it will feel like when you reach the destination. Imagine the impact on your team and its results as they all follow the example of excellence. Gone will be the lame excuses. No more ‘it-will-do’ attitudes. Less time spent moaning and groaning about things out of their control.

The possibilities and potential results are many-fold. It just takes one person to make the decision that ‘excellence will be the norm round here’. Let that person be you.

Many thanks

Mark Williams

Head of Training

(Image by Arvind Balaraman)

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Understanding the EFQM Excellence Model

The European Foundation for Quality Management (EFQM) Excellence Model is based on the premise that excellent results with respect to performance, customers, people and society are achieved through partnerships, resources and processes.

The model explains performance gaps and identifies improvement directions. I’ve used it a number of times to determine the future direction of my company, and it consists of a few fundamental elements:

  • Leadership and consistency of purpose
  • Management by processes and facts
  • Employee development and involvement
  • Continuous learning and improvement
  • Partnership development
  • Public Responsibility

Results not only reflect how well an organisation is performing, but also measure a company’s performance from perspectives like customer focus and social results.

What does it require from a management and leadership point of view? Well, here’s a list of management requirements:

  • Develop mission, vision and values
  • Be role models of excellence
  • Be involved in developing, implementing and improving systems
  • Be involved with customers and partners
  • Recognise, support, coach and motivate people within the business
  • Identify, develop and sustain people’s competencies
  • Involve and empower teams
  • Reward, recognise and care for individuals

There are many other ways that the model recognises the professionalism of a company, and I would suggest you take a look at how your position could benefit from looking at this recognised tool for development. The EFQM Excellence Model provides core elements for the effective analysis, assessment, structure, improvement and management of a business, and I would recommend you find out more about it to determine how your strategies could be improved in the future.

Thanks again


Sean McPheat

Managing Director

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The Principle That Sets Top Managers Apart

One thing that differentiates average managers from the really successful ones is their devotion to excellence.

When we ask managers how committed they are to excellence in their role, the majority tell us that they are ‘very’ or ‘totally’. But when we probe a little further and ask what they specifically do to show excellence in their work, there is a distinct lack of clarity.

Let me ask you the same question; how committed are you to excellence in everything you do?

Those we have worked with over the years who have demonstrated this commitment to excel in all they do, share one particular emotion that makes them stand out. And that is the passion they show for excellence.

By that I mean they see opportunities to show a very high work ethic in everything they do, and the passion they show for that level of performance outweighs everything else. All they do is stamped with high quality, and they approach their tasks with a resolute mind-set that creates a confidence in everyone who works with them.

So can you raise your standards whenever you need to get results? If you do that consistently, there is every chance you have a ‘passion for excellence.

Thanks again


Sean McPheat

Managing Director

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