What Does Exceptional Look Like?

I got a new journal this week. I filled my last one up. Yep, I’ve had that many ideas. Ok, I admit there are more than a few doodles and couple dozen to-do lists in there, too. But there really are a handful of ideas that I’m glad I captured.

Before I place a filled-up journal on the shelf, I carefully go back through each page. It’s like panning for gold. When I find a good idea, I’m tempted to shout “EUREKA!” I usually don’t, though, because it scares the bejeezus out of my dogs. Every once in awhile a page reveals a flash of inspiration that I had completely forgotten about. Take my entry on 2/5/10 for example:

I asked myself the question: “What do we do?

My answer: “We provide exceptional spaces for people to meet, work, and learn.

I remember the word exceptional jumping out at me, which lead me to ask the question: “What does exceptional look like?

This may be the best question you ask yourself all year:

What does exceptional look like for us? 

More specifically:


What does exceptional service look like for us?
What do exceptional products look like for us?
What does exceptional teamwork look like for us?
What do exceptional employees look like for us?
What does an exceptional leader look like for us?
What does an exceptional business look like for us?

Maybe now is a good time to ask yourself, what would an exceptional 2010 look like for us?

I tagged each question with “for us” on purpose. You’ve got to answer these questions in your own context. What’s exceptional for your company or your industry may be completely different from mine.

Here’s my answer to “What do exceptional people look like (for sparkspace)?” This is straight out of my journal, by the way:

  • exceptionally friendly
  • exceptionally caring
  • exceptionally hard-working
  • exceptionally positive
  • exceptionally into learning
  • exceptionally generous
  • exceptionally smart
  • exceptionally aware
  • exceptionally willing
  • exceptionally confident
  • exceptionally humble
  • exceptionally good at their role

I’ve hired a few people since I wrote this in my journal. As I think about it, they fit this description exceptionally (sorry, couldn’t stop myself) well. Writing down what I consider to be exceptional helped me realize the qualities I’m really looking for, which made finding those people a whole lot easier.

I’m sure you can see how this could be a phenomenal activity to do with your team. What if you asked yourself these questions instead of using a complicated three-day-long strategic planning process? Isn’t this what goal setting should really be about — how to make yourself as exceptional as possible?

By the way, if you’re not trying to be exceptional, I’d really like you to unsubscribe from this newsletter. I’ve decided the only readers I want are exceptional ones.

Still here? Good. That makes me exceptionally happy.

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