A Steadfast Notion
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It’s the scientific method of trial and error.Only by wading through the imperfect can we begin to achieve glimpses of the perfect.So, how do we escape perfectionism?Don’t try to get it right in one big step.Don’t create the entire presentation, just create a slide.Don’t expect to be a great manager in your first six months, just try to set clear expectations.Pick a small, manageable goal and follow through.Then pursue the next.These smaller steps give you the opportunity to succeed more often, which will build your confidence.If each of your goals can be achieved in a day or less, that’s a lot of opportunity to succeed.Do what feels right to you, not to others.Eleanor is a fantastic mother to our three children.Each expert contradicted the next.It’s not that she found the answer.In fact, what helped was that she stopped looking for the answer.What she found was her answer, and that allowed her to settle into her parenting.It made her calmer, more consistent, more confident.And that, of course, helped our children sleep better.By all means, read, listen, and learn from others.That’ll keep you going.Because ultimately, the key to perfection isn’t getting it right.It’s getting it often.If you do that, eventually, you’ll get it right.Critical feedback is helpful as long as it’s offered with care and support.But the feedback that comes from jealousy or insecurity or arrogance or without any real knowledge of you?And if you’re a manager, your first duty is to do no harm.A friend of mine, Kendall Wright, once told me that a manager’s job is to remove the obstacles that prevent people from making their maximum contribution.That’s as good a definition as I’ve ever heard.And yet, sometimes, we are the obstacle.As managers, we’re often the ones who stand in judgment of other people and their work.And when we’re too hard on someone or watch too closely or correct too often or focus on the mistakes more than the successes, then we sap that person’s confidence.Without confidence, no one can achieve much.Catch someone doing seven things right before you point out one thing they’re doing wrong.These three ideas are a good start.Don’t worry about following them perfectly, though.The world doesn’t reward perfection.It rewards productivity.Why Won’t This Work for You?The Value of Getting Things Half RightThere’s very little these days that we accomplish by ourselves.And more often than not, our ability to get things done is, in part at least, dependent on their willingness and drive to get things done.Maybe we try to get good visibility by copying lots of people on our emails, but instead they simply delete them, and us, as irrelevant.Because none of that stuff works.In fact, it works against us.There are times in life when I expect something to be just right.In most cases, though, I expect imperfect.I’m not suggesting you settle for imperfect.I’m advising you to shoot for it.Several years ago, a large financial services company asked me to help them roll out a new performance management process for two thousand people.Why not do it yourselves? I asked my prospective client.This might seem strange coming from a consultant, but I always think companies are better off doing things themselves if they can.We tried! she responded with exasperation.We identified the standards we expect from people.We created the technology system in which to write the reviews.We sent out lots of communication.We practically wrote the reviews for them.But they’re not doing it.After two years of training people, we still have only a 50 percent rate of completion.You’re going to pay managers extra to talk to their employees?She looked a little embarrassed.Give me six months, I said.When I reviewed the materials, I was impressed, even intimidated.They had paid meticulous attention to detail.They followed all the rules of traditional change management.They had time lines, communication plans, and training programs.Still, only half the managers were completing their reviews.I redesigned the materials, the training, the messages.It was a complete and utter failure.My own team dissented.After all, I’d designed this myself.And that’s when it hit me.Of course I thought the performance review process was perfect.I would be more than happy to use it.But I wasn’t the person who needed to use it.My perfect is not their perfect.They don’t have a perfect.In fact, there is no they.There are two thousand individuals, each of whom wants something a little different.The more perfect I think it is, the less willing I’ll be to let anyone change it.The only way people will use it is if they do change it in some way.The only way I will encourage them to change it and make it their own is if I make it imperfect.And I changed everything to make it half right, half finished.It wasn’t pretty, but it was usable.Even the trainings were half designed.Why won’t this work for you?There are too many standards on this form.That’s a good point.So how can you change it to make it work?I guess I could just fill out the standards that apply to that employee. Great.Three people who don’t report to me are asking me to review them, and I have nothing to say about them.That’s a good point.So how can you change it to make it work?I can redirect the review to the appropriate manager. Great.There’s no standard here that relates directly to the issue my employee is having.That’s a good point.So how can you change it to make it work?I’ll just write in the standard I think is appropriate. Great.One by one, we dealt with all the issues people saw as obstacles.One by one, they made their own changes.It’s useful whenever you need someone else to take ownership for something.Just get it half right.Why won’t this work for you?That’s a good point.So how can you change it to make it work?She’ll look at you a little funny because, after all, you’re the boss and you should be telling her what to do.Then you’ll just smile and wait for her to answer and the two of you will redesign the job right there, right then.Delegating work to someone?Why won’t this work for you?That’s a good point.So how can you change it to make it work?When someone changes your plan, you might think the new approach will be less effective.Resist the temptation to explain why your way is better.Just smile and say Great.The drive, motivation, and accountability that person will gain from running with her own idea will be well worth it.This doesn’t just work internally.It’s also a great way to make a sale.Then go ahead and redesign the offer in collaboration with your potential client.You’ll turn a potential client into a collaborative partner who ends up buying his own idea and then working with you to make it successful.Forget about lengthy presentations and long meetings.During economic downturns, when it is critical to get more done with fewer resources, getting things half right will take you half as long and give you better results.Imperfectly, I expect.Which, of course, is the key.Don’t settle for imperfect.Don’t Use a Basketball on a Football FieldStaying FlexibleI was driving in the mountains in upstate New York when I found myself in a sudden snowstorm.It was hard to see, the road was slick, and I could feel the wind pushing my car around.I thought about pulling over and waiting it out, but I had no idea how long it would last.So I kept going, but realized I needed to drastically change my driving.I slowed down, put on my hazards, turned off the radio and phone, and inched my way forward.A ride that normally took one hour lasted three, but I arrived safely.Once I changed my driving to match the conditions, I actually enjoyed it.The silence was relaxing and the snow was stunningly beautiful.You need to change your approach.If you’re playing basketball and suddenly you find yourself on a football field, using more force to bounce the basketball on the grass doesn’t make sense.You need to drop the basketball, pick up a football, and run with it.And notice, when you’re running with the football, are you still using basketball skills and muscles and strategies?Are you thinking and acting like a basketball player on a football field?Or have you truly and fully switched games?Have you become a football player?If you change your approach, not only can you succeed in this moment, but you have also forever expanded your repertoire of movement.And a wider repertoire of movement makes for a better, more effective, more resilient business, and more capable, happier people.So often we hear about the importance of being consistent.Try to be inconsistent.Modify your action to match the changing terrain.Because it’s always changing.So there’s no simple formula that will get you through every situation you encounter.Well, except maybe this one.What’s the situation?Choose the response that leverages your strengths, uses your weaknesses, reflects your differences, expresses your passion, and meets people where they are and is appropriate to the situation you’re in.Let’s say the economic environment is weak.What’s the situation?In an era when huge, established businesses have faltered, the new competitive advantages are trust, reliability, and relationships.Who else is involved?Think about your clients, prospects, and employees.What are they looking for in this situation?Where are they vulnerable?What support do they need?Then think about how you can help.What can you offer that will support others at this time?Once you’ve thought this through in general, apply it in real time when specific opportunities present themselves.For example, let’s say a client wants to cancel part of a project he had previously committed to.You’ll have an immediate, instinctive reaction.Maybe you believe that contracts should never be broken.But before you act instinctively, pause.Ask yourself the three questions.What’s the outcome you’re trying to achieve?Respect in the industry?Knowing that trust is the new competitive advantage, you might choose a different response.Maybe you give the client some wiggle room.Which, perhaps, is not your natural, habitual reaction.But you realize it shows understanding, which builds trust and relationships, which, in these economic conditions, is a great investment.Then you discover something else.A hidden gift in an otherwise depressing economy.Your client put you in a tough spot, and you rose to the occasion, showing true character, which created a deeper relationship.When the economy improves, chances are you’ve got a client for life.A devoted fan, maybe even a friend, who will refer you to many other clients, because you took a chance for him.That opportunity would never have presented itself if the economy hadn’t turned bad, if the client hadn’t needed a favor, and if you hadn’t paused, understood the opportunity, and taken a chance.Value investors will tell you that they make all their money when the market is depressed.That gives them the opportunity to buy low.Think of any obstacle as the equivalent of buying low.A poor economy is an opportunity to forge relationships that will last for decades.A failure is the opportunity to rectify the mistake and develop deep, committed, loyal employees, customers, and partners.Change isn’t a distraction.It’s not an impediment.It doesn’t need to slow you down.Think of it as an opportunity to show your flexibility and build trust as a consequence.Ask the three questions.Who knows, it’s possible you might even find some beauty in a storm.Stay alert and adapt to changing situations.Keep your eye on the ball, whichever ball that may be.Where We AreMastering yourself.Following through on your ideas and commitments.Knowing when a distraction is useful and when it’s an obstacle.Knowing when you’re trying to be too perfect or too focused or too productive.In the right doses, these things can be useful.In the wrong doses, they get in the way.And if you’re having a hard time following through, that’s a good sign they might be working against you.Doing things half right, imperfectly, flexibly, and with a certain amount of healthy distraction might be just the solution to keeping you on track and moving forward.Where We’ve LandedIn part 1, you set yourself up for success by seeing yourself clearly, being willing to question yourself, and being prepared to pause and focus on the outcome you want.In part 2, you combined your strengths, weaknesses, differences, and passions to uncover your sweet spot for success and happiness.After becoming aware of a few pitfalls that might get in your way, you homed in on the five or so things around which you can focus your year.In part 4, you learned that sometimes distractions can be useful.Enabling you to master your initiative, master your boundaries, and master yourself in the service of your annual focus.Hopefully, you’ve already incorporated many of these ideas, tools, and techniques into your life and are already feeling their influence.No matter where you are, what’s your best next step?It’s only one thing.You Don’t Have Ten Gold BehaviorsChoosing Your One ThingI lost eighteen pounds in a month and a half.I didn’t go to a trainer.I’ve done all those things in the past, and some of them worked, but none of them lasted.They were too complicated or too expensive or too cumbersome to continue.So I made a different decision this time.First, a little background on losing weight.It will succeed where the others have failed.So we decrease our fat consumption.We eat more protein.We raise our intake of carbohydrates.

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