Creating Excellence in a Changing World

Posted by Nancy Mueller on Tuesday, September 3rd, 2013
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I was watching an episode of Inside the Actor’s Studio with Sydney Pollack, the late award-winning film director of movie hits that include Out of Africa and Tootsie. Reflecting on what it took to become a great actor/director, Pollack said you need five things to be successful. Consider how his framework applies to creating excellence in any field.

According to Pollack, you have to:

1) Know who you are.

Dancer flickr smabs sputzerDo you know what makes you come alive? Creativity expert Sir Ken Robinson shares the story of Gillian in his book, The Element: How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything. As an eight-year-old, Gillian’s school performance was shaky. She frequently turned in late assignments and had difficulty paying attention in class. On the recommendation of Gillian’s teacher, her mother turned to a psychologist for help. After spending time with the eight-year-old, the psychologist stepped outside to talk to her mother in private. But before leaving, he turned on the radio. Out of sight, the two adults watched as Gillian got up and moved around the room to the music. The psychologist concluded that there was nothing wrong with Gillian. He told her mother she was a dancer and recommended enrollment in a dance school. Gillian went on to become a world-class choreographer. What a gift when someone recognizes and accepts us as we are.

When you know who you are and what you need to thrive, you’re less likely to be blown off course when conditions change.

Who are you when nobody’s looking?

2) Know what you want.

Apple CEO Steve Jobs pushed his team to ” . . . create the first phone that people would fall in love with.” The Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. dreamed of a nation where his children ” . . . would not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.” You have to know what you want to get where you want to go.

What’s your vision?

3) Know why you want it.

Knowing what drives you, your purpose, what gets you out of bed in the morning, changes the playing field from informative to inspiring. Your passion for a cause or belief inspires others on an emotional level to take action. Knowing your why also gets you through the tough times when you’re inclined to quit.

What’s your why?

4) Know your relationship to the other person(s).

When you know who you are, what you want, why you want it and you can connect your essence, vision and motivation with others, magic happens. The challenge is how to do so successfully with people who see the world differently than you do.

Adapt your approach by anticipating differences in communication styles. Demonstrate respect and understanding of others’ perspectives. Ask more questions. Make fewer assumptions. Practice using appropriate protocol. Tailor your communication to reach your intended listener for mutual understanding.

How do you invest in your relationships?

5) Establish a time reference, a sense of urgency.

“Now is the time,” Dr. King declared, not some distant future, when advocating for civil rights in the March on Washington.  He appealed to America to accept the “fierce urgency of now.”

What’s your sense of urgency for achieving your goal?

* Photo is courtesy of flickr – smabs sputzer




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