What a Culture of Excellence Looks Like

December 7, 2020

One of the responsibilities of a leader is to create a culture of excellence in the organization she leads. While the components to create that culture may differ, based on the type of organization and personal leadership style, there are some universal qualities most people would agree, are required.

What Your Team Wants

Team members want to be treated with dignity and respect. They want honest communication from their leaders and to be appreciated for the value they bring to the organization. Your team members would like to be trusted to do their job without being micro-managed. They would like to be compensated fairly, enjoy what they are doing and have the opportunity to learn and advance. This is not meant to be an exhausted list, but some things most can agree on.

I led the Air Force Academy’s Association of Graduates (AOG) for several years. The AOG provided a plethora of services to its members including producing various events across the country. The young women, Ashley, who ran the events department was talented, personable, and experienced, having cut her teeth in events with a significant five-star resort in the same city.

I Heard It Through the Grapevine

I heard through the grapevine that the same resort now had an opening for their top event position and was actively recruiting Ashley. I knew that as a non-profit, we would not be able to compete with the five-star’s compensation package, so I was resigned to the fact that we would lose her. At the same time, I truly believe it is a leader’s obligation to mentor and prepare their staff for greater responsibility and higher levels of success, even if it means them leaving the organization.

I stopped by her office to tell her that I had heard the scuttlebutt, to “give her my blessing” and to congratulate her on this wonderful opportunity. She started laughing and said, “"T,” I’m not going anywhere and especially not there.” Noting my puzzled look, she went on to tell me that she loved working at the AOG for so many reasons: the kindness and helpfulness of her coworkers, the fact that we trusted her to run her own show, the overall positive tone set by senior management and even the respect and civility shown by our members when she put on our events.

What Is Your Culture?

She commented that the work environment at the five-star left much to be desired, from management, to the lack of respect shown by some of the upper-class clientele. Yes, she could make more money, but her current pay was fair and most importantly, she truly enjoyed coming to work every day which was much more important than a higher salary.

What kind of environment exists in your organization? Would a team member pass on a higher paycheck somewhere else, because of the culture you’ve created where they are?

During her tenure, our event revenue tripled, and she received glowing reviews from our membership for the services she provided. We did eventually lose her services, but not to the competition. A dashing young Air Force major swept her off her feet. They were married and soon afterwards transferred to another city.


“Customers will never love a company until the employees love it first.”
-Simon Sinek