#22 - It's Good Enough
I remember my relief when hearing the words “Good Enough!” from a boss, a long time ago. Previous bosses were often asking for more and more, and getting upset when the product was delivered with errors, even when the impossible deadline was met. What a relief to hear someone acknowledge that to err is human, that I was genuinely doing my best. I promised myself when I became ‘the boss’, I would be happy with ‘good enough’. Of course, my team and I would strive for excellence, but not at all cost. Humans would always come first, and I wouldn’t sweat the small stuff.
Recently, I lost my patience and realized I’d fallen into the trap of perfectionism, and was starting to focus on small errors. How did that happen? I could invoke the volume of work, stress and increased expectations, or could I? Most of us complain about having too much to do, and feel there’s too much resting on our shoulders. Neck pains, back pains, headaches and insomnia, our fuses are shorter, and we complain about the ineptitude of others. Someone must be to blame, right?
Blame leads to risk-aversion, which leads to perfectionism, then leads to stress, which leads to disrespect. Then here comes malaise, which leads to sickness, then leads to disengagement, which ends in the very opposite of what we truly want: satisfaction with our work.
At a client site the other day, I was told that the Assistant Deputy Minister would have a fit if one typo was found in a 30 page PowerPoint deck. What!??? When did Perfection become the standard for human endeavor?
Back in my own team, I gave myself a shake, and apologized for forgetting we are humans, not robots. We discussed what we could do differently, changed the process and schedule, gave ourselves a break, remembered why we were doing what we were doing, clarified roles and responsibilities. And then we tried, again, and slipped again, and adjusted again, and are continuing to experiment. That’s what work is supposed to be about: doing our best, continuously improving, enjoying the process of creation.
Next time you’re tempted to focus on the error and look for a culprit, I say, first look at your process for doing this work. Is there anything that can be changed, such as a sequence of steps or a timetable? If you can’t change much, can you live with a margin of error? If national security or human lives are not at stake, is it so critical that every document be perfect and checked and rechecked 100 times. What else is not being done when falling into the perfectionism trap? Remember, some of the world’s best ideas have come from mistakes.
Enjoy your life! Don't sweat the small stuff. It’s probably good enough.