Monday Morning Moment – Turning Around a Work Culture – From “Not Good Enough” to “Job Well Done”

blog-demanding-bosses-linkedin-dave-kerpenPhoto Credit: LinkedIn – Dave Kerpen

Aha moments can occur in all sorts of settings. My latest happened during our pastor’s sermon this week. Toward the end of a deep and fascinating exposition of Colossians 2, Pastor Cliff reminded us that we are not meant to earn God’s approval. He gives it unconditionally. Then Cliff talked about how we get caught in the trap of “It’s never enough!” when thinking of our efforts or accomplishments. Then “It’s never enough” or “Not good enough” too easily turns into “You’re not good enough.” This is the place where what we do intersects with who we are…

Switch from the Sunday Bible lesson to the Monday workplace application. I’m not talking the unconditional love of God here, but what happens to us in continuous feedback loops. Stay with me…This made me think uncomfortably about the way I once operated in the area of idea generation and innovation.

I am “an editor”…it gives me great satisfaction to take a document or process and make it better. Recently a friend asked me to edit his manuscript. It’s going to be such a great read…can’t wait for it to be published. Still, there will be lots of edits. For me, being an early reader, I just took care of some grammar and flow issues. There will be more qualified editors down the road. It’s enough for me to do quick, elementary edits and wildly praise the author and his riveting storyline, cheering him on to the next steps of publishing.

The tweaking that I used to do regularly in my earlier professional life was more intense in those days…and less forgiving. I wanted it (whatever it was) to be right, and it was my immodest opinion that I could get it to right. Especially when evaluating someone else’s work (ironically, I was less hard on my own work – figuring it was perfect already, right? Sigh…). The tweaking of another era has come round to a newish process called iteration.

One definition of iteration is the “process of learning and development that involves cyclical inquiry, enabling multiple opportunities for people to revisit ideas and critically reflect on their implication”. These feedback loops are meant to be fast-paced with the finish in view.

ScenarioPhoto Credit: SafariBooksOnline

Where iteration (or tweaking) breaks down (if I might be so bold) is when it’s taken well past rapid feedback loops into a realm of fine-tuning that has the team guessing “will it ever be good enough?” Product design and process development are vital to any company, but what we must also consider is the team or personnel involved.

If the feedback loops relate to the launch of a new product or a new business process, excitement and brainstorming are part of the momentum. Continuing to tweak over months instead of weeks before the launch can take a negative toll on the team. No one wants to forfeit excellence, but we don’t want to lose excellent personnel either.

blog-demanding-bosses-lifehackerPhoto Credit: Lifehacker

Trusting the judgment of our best thinkers is worth the risk of possibly releasing a product or service when we may not all be sure it’s “perfect”. That is what beta-testing is all about…the feedback that then comes to us from the consumer or user.

I’m really talking out of my element here (not being a designer or innovator so much as a lifelong learner). My leap from the sermon to the workplace relates to my own past struggle with wanting something with my name on it to be perfect while exhausting my teammates  with “what if we do this?” or “What if we say it this way?”

What a gift for us to take a well-thought-out proposal and, instead of putting it through the “just not good enough” wringer, we read it and pass it back to that colleague and say, “Good job”…empowering them to execute the proposal. How often does that happen these days?

Please share stories [in the Comments] of work situations where you experienced genuine affirmation for a job well-done.

Recently when water started backing up into the kitchen sink, I was afraid that it was something I had done. Too liberal using the disposal, for instance. Dave was out of town and nothing I could do would remedy the situation. Finally, on a Sunday afternoon, in desperation, I called our plumber (Richmonders, if you need a good plumber, email me, and I will give you his contact info). He came and fixed the problem, and best of all, it wasn’t my fault, after all. This young man literally LOVES his job and was kind to take the time, after he was off the clock, to give me the breakdown of what the problem was. What he charged me? Worth every penny…especially the part where it wasn’t something I had done wrong.

Why I bring this up is that being a fairly capable and creative person doesn’t prevent me from faltering at the likelihood that I messed-up.  See the Imposter Syndrome. My mental wiring is such that I get discouraged when my contribution to a situation actually causes more work for someone else, adds expense, or slows down progress. I’ve learned over the years that all that tweaking I may not have taken the product from good to great, and most assuredly caused some amount of frustration to hard-working, quality colleagues. Lesson learned.

There are times and seasons when tweaking is appropriate in developing a product and changing a business process. What we want to take into account is the cost of that tweaking, or iteration, on the people who make things happen in our workplaces. Free them from the “not good enough’s” to enjoy the fruit of “jobs well done”.blog-demanding-bosses-the-musePhoto Credit: The Muse

10 Tips for Dealing With an Overly Demanding Boss – Jacquelyn Smith

How to Get Over the Feeling that You’re Not Good Enough for Your Job – Michele Hoos

10 Things You Can Do to Get Out of Your Boss’s Doghouse – Brian Dodd

Why Incentive Plans Cannot Work – Alfie Kohn – Harvard Business Review

Good Is Not Good Enough: The Culture of Low Expectations and the Leader’s Challenge – Karlene M. Kerfoot

Innovation and Iteration: Friends Not Foes – Scott Anthony – Harvard Business Review

Holding a Team Retrospective – Morale

Workplace Bullying: Protecting Yourself at Work – Slideplayer

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