Good Enough. Does this phrase evoke a strong opinion from you or does it simply state how you live your life? I remember the first time I had to really confront this phrase professionally. My husband and I were living in the Silicon Valley and were both employed by high-tech firms. The organization that employed him had gone through several RIF’s (Reduction In Force) and the CEO brought together the remainder of the global staff for the infamous “all hands” gathering that follows these happenings. His speech began with the usual… the state of the economy and the market… blah, blah, blah. But then he proceeded to declare that the company’s mantra for the future was to be, yep you guessed it, “Good Enough.” My husband was confused and perplexed. Was the CEO asking him and the remaining employees to produce sub-standard work? Or was the leader of this worldwide technology firm trying to justify their additional workload?

That was over 20 years ago. Since then I have had to wrestle with this phrase and the meaning of it many, many times. As a perfectionist, just typing the words make me cringe. Deep down inside my gut tells me that the extra effort it takes to get to perfection is worth every second. But through experience I have seen the devastating results of striving to achieve this standard, especially as a leader. I have pushed hard and expected the same from my team. This expectation has caused resentment and burnout. I have lost quality team members because they felt like they could never live up.

In response, I tried to lighten up a little. But just when I thought I was closing in on mastering my perfectionist tendencies, I was confronted with members of the team who won’t accept “good enough” either! This little phrase raises havoc with their work ethic and their commitment to produce only the best. So I find myself trying to explain something I’m not even sure I’ve fully bought into. Now I know how that CEO felt!
It was time for some serious soul-searching. What exactly did I expect of myself and my team? Here’s what my reflection time revealed:

Quality Does Count – producing excellent work is not only something to strive for, it’s something to be proud of as well. Start every project as if it were your last and ask God to navigate you through the details of what to hold on to and what to let go of as design, develop, and deliver.

Excellence is NOT Perfection – choices, choices, choices. Pushing for perfection could not only kill your people, it can also kill your project. It’s a proven fact that it takes 80% of the effort to product that last 20% to reach this standard. Learn how to recognize excellent work and focus on the major aspects of the project, not the minor details. The ability to recognize the difference will be a major sign of strong leadership. It will help you retain your quality team and will keep your project on deadline.

Just Start Already – don’t over think it. How often have you missed an opportunity because you were waiting to make sure you had all of your “ducks in a row.” Gather as much data as you can, make sure you have a clear vision for the final, and then dig in. You don’t want to waste your time or anyone else’s, but chances are that you really do know what you need to know by just trusting your instinct. Remember the quote from George S. Patton, “A good plan violently executed today is better than the perfect plan next week.”

Be Flexible – almost always the project ends up looking slightly different at the end of the day. The only way to allow creative improvements is to create space within the timeline to evaluate and adapt.

It’s crazy to think that two simple little words can cause so much trouble. But honestly, figuring out what is “good enough” and when and how to address this with your team, is a huge leadership hurdle. If you don’t believe me, check out these wise words from one of the best: