I read a quote recently that spurred my thinking. Vince Lombardi of all people: "Excellence is achieved by the mastery of the fundamentals." Now, when I read that, I can't help but think about the absence of spring baseball, particularly Spring Training, where each spring major league teams descend to warmer areas to do just what Vince Lombardi stresses: mastering the fundamentals of their craft, filled with the expectation of excellence during a long, hard fought season.
Baseball, football ... name any sport, and most of the athletes participating will get it. They understand the importance of mastering the fundamentals if they hope to successfully compete. And that's all fine and good.
I do a lot of work in the learning and development field, working to improve the performance of individuals and groups so that the organization can excel. This idea of mastering the fundamentals struck a cord with me. How many of us go to work each day with a clear understanding of the fundamentals of our work, let alone pause to focus specifically on our mastery of them? We can take a page out of the baseball playbook and pay attention to a few key ideas that can help us achieve excellence.
First of all, we have to recognize the fundamentals required to do our job at a high level. And it's not enough to "think" we know what they are. It's something we should talk about, something we should find agreement about with our co-workers, something that has to be understood with a great deal of clarity. If you lead people, then it's incumbent on you to make sure your team understands the fundamentals of their work. And then, you have to allow space for people to practice and improve on those fundamentals. Hold your own spring training to re-invigorate your team.
Secondly, we have to find a way to eliminate the clutter that prevents us from focusing on performing at our peak. Each player on a baseball diamond has a job to do, and they understand that their job can be different from the teammate across from them, and that their performance may depend on a slightly different set of fundamentals. There's a reason why pitchers take very little batting practice (if at all). Hitting homers or striving for a high on-base percentage isn't what they're there for.
And finally, we have to recognize that mastery of the fundamentals is journey, not an endgame. The achievement is in the desire to improve and the reward in the work of improving. It's truly a matter of focusing on the little things so that the big things will take care of themselves.
Here's your challenge: make sure you can articulate the fundamentals of your work. And when you do, run it by the people most important to your success. If you have a boss, run it by him or her. Find agreement. Find clarity. Then get to work. It's still spring, after all.