The Mundanity of Excellence

AllianceOne - 10.15.2020

I recently read a book about the history of swimming: “Splash! 10,000 Years of Swimming,” by Howard Means.

In a chapter chronicling ever-advancing record times in competitive swimming, the following jumped out at me.

“Just as world-record times drop incrementally, with every new standard refocusing the expectations of swimmers coming behind, so individual times are mostly lowered not by sudden bursts of glory (although they may look that way to the outside world) but by focus, discipline, and attention to detail.”

The author relates the experience of sociologist David Chambliss, who in the early 1980s, attended virtually every major U.S. swimming competition – including Indoor and Outdoor National Championships, the 1984 Olympic Trials, and eventually the Games themselves – and interviewed some 120 national- and world-class swimmers and coaches.

“What he learned, basically, is that the little things count: ‘Superlative performance is really a confluence of dozens of small skills or activities, each one learned or stumbled upon, which have been carefully drilled into habit and then are fitted together in a synthesized whole. There is nothing extraordinary or superhuman in any of these actions; only the fact they are done consistently and correctly, and all together, produce excellence.’”

Chambliss called it the “mundanity of excellence.”

Excellence can be achieved through the mundane tasks we do daily.

We strive for excellence every day in helping consumers resolve their debts. This difficult task requires focus, discipline, and attention to detail. It takes well-trained people who are willing to continuously improve their skills. As evidence of our commitment to employee training and development, last year we completed 718,369 hours of training. Our agents receive ongoing coaching. In fact, our Supervisors devote 80 percent of each day to coaching their team members. By learning and practicing important skills such as active listening, asking probing questions, and expressing empathy, we achieve positive outcomes, both for our clients and for the consumers with whom we interact on a daily basis.   

I believe our team embeds these qualities in their lives and in the communities in which we live. Every single step counts.

Contributed by: John Yanny