Roasting Coffee: A Discipline of Excellence

Becoming Aware of a Discipline of Personal Excellence

Coffee RoastingWhile eating my breakfast of organic grains, fruits, and milk, I became aware of the discipline of excellence we practice in our daily lives as leaders. My leadership principle #3 is about systems. In musical conductor terms, it’s “Rehearse for Success.” If we want to have excellence, we must establish and rehearse excellence as a daily discipline. The focus on effective systems is the theme. Achieving meaningful results is the goal. Defining how to get meaningful results is the duty of the leader. See Seth Godin’s blog post about “better.” To get better, we must rehearse better.

I love coffee. Many years ago, when my son, A. J., was in graduate school and worked for Kaladi Brothers Coffee, I became acquainted with how good coffee can taste. I realized that coffee does not have to be bitter. I also realized that there are many types of coffee, with each one offering a different flavor and experience. Finally, I became aware of how important the roasting process is to the flavor, and that brewing coffee with freshly-roasted beans provides an amazing difference in the depth and body of the flavor.

In order to be able to enjoy the flavor difference, I needed to learn the art of coffee roasting. I continue to learn from every coffee roastmaster when visiting different roasters in various cities around the country. Each person has a unique perspective to share, in addition to the common best practices they all have in common. This small difference in effort on my part provides me with a big difference in results. It’s way more than worth it. And now, I’m not willing to compromise the quality, because I know the difference.

To end up with quality, one must start with quality. Starting with good-quality green coffee beans (I choose fair trade, shade grown, organic beans) is the beginning. Then, I monitor the roasting process to ensure the exact roast that I prefer for the type of bean I am roasting. Finally, when brewing the beans, I grind the beans just before I brew them with the right temperature filtered water. And, certainly, don’t use any type of paper filter which impacts the flavor. I choose a French press.

Leaders do the right things. The right things are defined by your core values, guiding principles, and vision. Being grounded in what you stand for is the foundation for success. Beginning with a quality vision is essential. Excellence begins with an excellent vision, and then an excellent plan and, finally, excellence in implementation.

We give lip service to excellence. It’s the daily practice of excellence in every activity that delivers excellence. If musicians rehearse with lack of attention to detail, then the likely result will be a less-than-excellent performance. Musicians must rehearse the fundamentals of their craft, like tennis pros must constantly practice their serves and other fundamentals of their sport. Musicians and athletes rehearse excellence, while many leaders attempt to go directly to the performance, and skip the rehearsal.

Effective leaders establish and maintain best practices, even in the little things that less-effective leaders disregard. Excellence is excellence in every part of us and, especially, in every activity.

Excellence is the focus on quality, not on quantity. It’s not the accumulation of stuff that signifies success.

How do you define success for yourself and for the organization you lead? Are those definitions the same? Can those definitions be separated?


Hugh Ballou
The Transformational Leadership Strategist

(c) 2013 Hugh Ballou. All rights reserved.

Hugh Ballou (Author)

  • DS

    Everyday we fight to redefine success – that it’s not about possessions or what other’s think.  That it’s about living this place better than we found it for something bigger than ourselves.  Serving others.