“Wealth doesn’t bring about excellence, but excellence makes wealth and everything good for [wo]men, both individually and collectively.”
This slightly adapted quote from Greek philosopher Plato is as relevant today as it was 2 500 years ago (notwithstanding the gender bias!). But was he right in saying that “excellence makes wealth”? Should we be striving for excellence in the workplace, in the hope that money will follow?
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Lyapa Nakazwe-Masiya, a C-suite and executive board placements consultant in Africa for international leadership advisory firm Egon Zehnder, offers this definition: “Excellence means putting your best foot forward, giving it your all and being the best version of you. At work, that translates into accountability, responsibility and taking pride in what you do.”
However, excellence goes beyond the technical skills for which we’re employed, crossing into the way we communicate what we do. Career and self-leadership coach Briony Liber explains: “You can have all the technical skills in the world, but if you can’t communicate and make them relevant in solving problems, then you may as well not have them.”
It’s also important to remember that excellence is by no means static: it’s an ever-evolving state of consciousness and should develop with you as you progress in your career.
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“If you’re at the beginning of your working life, then you need to be excellent at asking questions, applying what you’re taught, getting feedback, stretching yourself, shadowing others and really absorbing everything in the workplace so that you can do your job as best you can,” says Liber.
As you move through your career to a position of management, your skills should advance accordingly, she adds.
“Leadership requires a completely different skills set, so managing others is more important than being busy doing the work yourself.”