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The Operational Excellence Show

Aug 7, 2020

Last week’s podcast was all about the Ops Manual – so that your operations run like clockwork - even when you are not there. Or – so that in a crisis – as COVID 19 – you have it all in one place and won’t have to frantically search for documents or processes! 

It did make me think though. What is Excellence?  What does it actually mean? 

Let’s have a look at the origins of the word: 


The word originates in Latin – “Excellere” & Excellentia” meaning surpass. According to the Oxford Dictionary – the word was used a lot in the 19th Century, but then – in the 20th Century it dipped considerably only to gain an upwards trend again in the 21st Century – peaking slightly again in 2002 – and remaining stable as of 2017

The Oxford dictionary explains excellence as “the quality of being outstanding or extremely good. We all know the quote “Jack of all trades, master of none” by Benjamin Franklin
It is thought, however, that Franklin was misquoted and actually he had said “Jack of all trades, master of One”! So that would indicate that Excellence is achieved once you master your ONE, your trade! 

In the contact centre context, Operational Leaders are often frowned upon as “None Experts” – as oftentimes we need to bring the subject matter expert in. For example for Workforce Management, for Quality Control, for training etc. 

Many Ops leaders did stints in other areas of the business – and returned! For me – most definitely this was the case! I ventured into Account Management, Project Management, even HR – but – I always went back to Operations! 

With every bit I learned in other departments I became a more rounded Ops leader and also a more passionate Ops Leader! 

You see – Master of One in Silo is quite common! Master of ONE in Operations or General Management is rather rare. 

I’m making this very bold statement: 
Truly skilled and people-focused Operational Leaders are the backbone of every successful Business / Contact Center! 

What makes someone an Expert producing Excellence? 

I recently came across Jordan Raynors Book “Call to Mastery” – I will refer to it in the show notes - Jordan explains that there are 4 steps in the pursuit of Excellence: 

  • Explore

  • Choose

  • Eliminate

  • Master

These 4 steps nicely reflect how you - in operations - can become an expert in your field.

But let’s take it Step by Step

1. Explore

No other industry offers so many opportunities to learn and qualify in a subject matter than the contact centre industry does. If you are fortunate enough to work in a customer services centre - then do go and explore all departments that are of interest to you. Moving around is quite common! It also broadens your horizon and you learn how things hang together. 

I was quite astounded to understand the HR impact front line operations created by not diligently doing one on one’s, return to works or annual appraisals. Only when I spent a couple of months in HR and took courses in HR matters I realised how vitally important it was to work closely with my HR Business Partner! And believe me - the first time I was called to an employment tribunal I was eternally grateful for the fact that my paperwork was watertight! All there - done by the book. 

2. Choose

As we explore - we are, more than once, called to choose - especially if we love what we do! My basic question has always been: where can I serve people best? And where can I serve God best? For me - it was not a question of money or prestige - but a question of servant leadership (which I learned from my dad) 
Being a Relator in my Strengths-Finder also points in the direction of people management and relationship management.

And - as I get bored rather easily - loving the fast-paced Ops environment - HR for example really wasn’t for me. 
When we are asked to choose - there is always an option to either persevere or to pivot. Sometimes - it’s just not right - then go and pivot, find the next good thing and know that you tried. The process of elimination is a valid process. 
Other times you know that it’s right, but it’s tough going. Then - perseverance is required - with the view that you will learn a lot. 

Jordan Raynor writes in his book: “Choosing your vocation is not about choosing between good and bad or right and wrong. It is about choosing between better and best” - this sums it up nicely! 

3. Eliminate

Now the work begins! You have explored, you have chosen! Now it’s all about sticking with it and eliminating distraction. It’s now about boundaries! 
Saying “no” to nonessentials. 
Saying “yes” to the essential. 
Be aware of Side Paths

. Especially Operational Leaders with a lot of experience in other, related fields, need to learn to say Yes to Essentials and NO to nonessentials.

For me - as a recovering people-pleaser this is not an easy thing to do. I learned, that, if I am not working in my Zone of Genius - then I get annoyed, stressed, unhappy. Saying no, lovingly is an art - and has to be practised! As Ops Lead you are most likely asked to support Bid-Management or leading a Project or stepping in on Transformational Programmes. All great opportunities. But if the do not serve your calling - leading people - and take you away from leading your people, you might have to say “No”.

4. Master

In his book Jordan Raynor debates whether passion comes with mastery or mastery results from passion. He comes to the conclusion that, to do something really well, you should start off with an apprenticeship, followed by purposeful practice and then discipline over time. Clearly - there are no short cuts to mastery. In my own career I can truly say I did my apprenticeship in people-focused Operational Delivery with Hertz in Swords!

6 years I learned from the best! Then I practised with Sitel in Outsourcing for another 6 years. In these 6 years, I got promoted, I got demoted, I got excellent feedback and I was frequently in serious discomfort. I grew my skills, my knowledge, my expertise. Then I started to apply discipline over time - meaning I stuck with Operations, applied what I knew to be true in a number of turnaround operations before starting my own business - I mastered Operational Excellence. And I’m passionate about it. So going back to the chicken and egg question - what was first Mastery or Passion? For me it was Mastery! 

Now - today I’m letting you into a secret.

If you are on my mailing list - you know that we - at Rutz Consulting - have been working on “something” in the background! 
I’m so excited to share my knowledge with my audience! I love to see other Ops Leads strive for excellence! So…. drumroll, please…

I’m excited to announce, that in October I will be running the very first course of the LEAP Academy!

By now you are familiar with the LEAP Framework. Leading People, Executing Process, Amplifying Profit. 
Just in Time for your Peak Season (or Black Friday or COVID -19 Robustness), I will be running a 6 weeks Team-Turnaround Bootcamp for Frontline Managers (Level Team-Manager / Ops Manager) with the aim to move 3 underperforming team members of each Manager’s team from the bottom quadrille to the top quadrille in performance - and this with ease and joy - attributes you might not use in the same sentence as operational performance management.

I invite you to join the LEAP Academy Waiting list today! The link is below!

Jordan Raynor on LI:

Jordan Raynor's website:

Master of One on Amazon:

LEAP Academy Waiting List:

My Podcast is produced by: