It struck me recently that a common greeting around the golf course comes in the form of the question: "How's your game? The answers given to this question usually disclose that improvement is needed. It doesn't matter if the person is a very good golfer, just starting, or one with a perpetually mediocre game; we all wish to play better.
Wouldn't it be wonderful if we all had the same attitude toward service excellence? Why don't we?
There are some fascinating parallels. For example, in the game golf, the individual interacts with the course and conditions to achieve a specific target called PAR. To achieve par, one must put the ball in the hole within a specified number of strokes. Par for each hole, on each course, is announced and does not change. This allows the players a consistent measure of their ability and their progress. Achieving par brings a sense of satisfaction, even for the best players in the world. For others, it inspires us to keep trying. Occasionally, we are able to make a shot just like the pros.
Service in Barbados like miniature golf
In Barbados, we claim to want service quality. However, without national standards that are measurable, it is like a golf course without par - miniature golf. Many people and organizations consider POLITENESS (the absence of rudeness) to be the standard for service excellence. This definition does not make us globally competitive. To defend and insist upon it makes us look stupid and backward. It is a sure sign that we are not ready for primetime.
Playing at par is a hallmark of consistency reached by a minute percentage of all those who take up the game. Those who play at par or better come from a wide variety of backgrounds and are generally admired for their ability to play at this high level. The phenomenon of Tiger Woods speaks for itself. Woods and all touring professionals practice daily and employ coaches to improve their game. The demand for golf lessons worldwide is increasing at tremendous rate.
Real professionals are consistent performers
By contrast, I hear front line service providers responding defensively to any suggestion their game needs to improve. They want recognition but want to set their own terms of performance. Indeed, I have not seen any national awards for service excellence that are linked to measurable, publicized standards of performance. By rewarding non-performance and using ambivalent criteria, we encourage mediocrity and boast as though it is true excellence. I am all for encouraging improvement but real professionals must demonstrate attention, intention, and consistent performance against a lofty standard.
There are a number of key points to this analogy
- It is impossible to have excellence without clear measurable standards. "If you don't stand for something, you will fall for anything"
- Striving to meet unwavering standards is inspirational, satisfying and humbling
- Accomplishments against challenging standards bring respect, admiration and other rewards
- Excellence requires a personal commitment to learning, continuous improvement and a willingness to admit mistakes
- Anybody can blame others when we fail to perform but the failures will continue until we acknowledge the need for assistance
- Practice makes perfect if we are practicing the correct things. Otherwise, we are only perfecting mistakes
- Occasional acts of excellence must be transformed into consistent ones to achieve par. The benefits of seeking excellence flow to all aspects of our lives
- Excellent golfers have many different approaches to the game according to their mental and physical makeup. What they all have in common is the desire to perform better than par
- National service quality is directly linked to individual commitments to excellence
How is YOUR game?
Dennis Strong can be reached at (246) 432-2722 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org