01 December 2006

Good Enough?

Big egos......
In my career I've been exposed to a lot of them. I own and cultivate one myself, but I think being aware of it tempers it somewhat.
It takes a pretty big ego to be a pilot, thinking your skills are good enough to take the lives of others in your hands.
It also takes a bit of ego to Blog, hoping someone will read your stuff, then agree or disagree strongly enough to punch that comment button and respond. A really big ego can cause problems when those comments are negative!

I think people in general are of the opinion that military officers have some of the biggest egos in the world. As a retired Army Officer I'm not an objective judge, so I won't approach that discussion. But I will tell you, I've met supervisors in my civilian life that could go head-to-head with most of the egos I dealt with before I retired from the military.

The title of my post today refers to an essay posted on the wall behind the desk of one of my last military bosses. He looked enough like H.R. Haldeman, the guy in the picture above, to be his twin brother. Same haircut. Same behavior.........
Ego the size of the Astrodome.

The essay was centered behind his desk, with its title in letters big enough to be read the instant you walked into his office that said, "Beware of Good Enough!"
The essay warned that if you were satisfied with "good enough", you'd be buried by competitors that weren't satisfied with just good enough.
The essay was thought-provoking.
My initial reaction was, "Why isn't good enough, good enough?"
I hated working for this man. He was a first-class jerk. The essay posted on his wall said everything you need to know about him.

A couple years ago, I read a basic engineering book on "How things work".
The book went into detail about several common, everyday things most people work with daily, starting with paper clips, working its way through beverage cans, fax machines, and bridges. It went into great detail about engineering details, how the design of things evolve as cheaper, more efficient ways are found to do the job. But it also discussed how over-engineering something, (making it more than "good enough"), would result in it weighing too much, or being wasteful of resources and not economically competitive in its market.
I immediately thought of my old boss and wanted to mail him the book!

The phrase "Good Enough" pretty much says it all, doesn't it?
As an example, if you are in the market for a quality automobile, you won't go shopping at your local Yugo dealership....... a Yugo isn't "good enough" for you.

But if you are searching for reliable, economical transportation.....
something that won't cost a fortune to insure and maintain.......
there are literally dozens of automobiles you'll need to consider before making your purchase. They meet your needs and are "good enough."
(But does it come in Fuschia?)

But let's get back to my old boss and his attitude-
What was he telling those of us that worked for him, putting that essay in such a prominent place? From the little I've said about him, you obviously can't judge his character. But I'll tell you this- I thought he was a poor leader. I think he wanted his subordinates to fear him.
He succeeded.
And although he always accomplished his mission, I believe those of us that worked for him, seeing him broken down along the road, would have looked the other way as we drove by.

I've been a manager of one thing or another for over 40 years. I've studied the leadership techniques of a lot of people during that time, and I've learned a little something from most of them. I tend to agree with the old saying that "you draw more flies with honey than you do with vinegar."

Here's the leadership style I personally find most effective. See if you agree, or have anything to add:
-Don't ask others to do something you wouldn't do.
-Share as much of the "Why something needs to be done this way" as you can, and be open to suggestions about getting the job done more efficiently.
-Lead in such a way that employees want to do what you ask.
-Use negative reinforcement only as a last resort. When you have to lead negatively, try to find out why positive reinforcing techniques aren't getting the job done.
-Praise all involved for a job well done.
-Share "attaboys" when they are given.

And always be aware that when something is "good enough", it is good enough!
An employee that does work that is good enough is worthy of praise.
Not realizing that may result in that employee moving on, being replaced with someone that does substandard work.
Just make certain you know what is "Good Enough" before you start the job!


the golden horse said...

Great column there GB.
I always thought that if you had an employee that if given any choice in the world, would come back and work for you, pretty much says it all.
Lead like you know the way and follow like you want to learn.
I personally had little respect for a leader that used fear to manage. Shows that person is insecure and lacking.

Anonymous said...

Nice post GB,

I would have to agree to your leadership style.

When I think of a leader I think of the Captains I used to fly with when I first began.

The bad ones usually had the insecure aspect and made everything a challenge as if I was out to prove them wrong. Some were leading as they had learned from Captains who belittled them when they were FO's and now that its their turn they were going to do it to you.

The good ones which I was fortunate to experience on most days fulfilled the examples you gave. They had a craving for seeing things done the right way not their way. Opinions gave way to fact and sop's. Questions were always encouraged and they would find out if they didn't know.

They worked as your co-worker not as your superior. They lead by example not by a dictatorship.

You think of movies such as Braveheart and you try and analyze how one man could get a country to fight together. Especially back when they couldn't put up a blog and email new members :)

Basically its undying devotion and integrity to the cause and the ability to make it happen even if that takes getting your hands dirty.

Just my 2 cents worth, great post again and Golden Horse I like the "Lead like you know the way, and follow like you want to learn". I might have to use that someday :)

Cheers !

Anonymous said...

"The supreme quality for leadership is unquestionably integrity. Without it, no real success is possible, no matter whether it is on a section gang, a football field, in an army, or in an office."

-Dwight D Eisenhower

Amen Dwight Amen :)

Andrea & Mark-Radio Patriots said...

Found this on an inspirational type website and thought it matched what you've written:

Never let 'perfect' get in the way of 'better'. Fear of not being 'good enough' holds many back from being the best they can. Comparison with others curtails their possible activities and actions... Better may not be best; but it's the best for the moment. And the best for the moment always brings out the best in you and I. Best we start now.....!!!

Radio Patriot

the golden horse said...


You are more than welcome to quote me.
Give me a leader that hands out smiles, has a twinkle in their eye, hands out much deserved attaboys, has a checked ego, and works as hard as I, and has loyalty to spare and I will probably go to the ends of the earth for that person. Now that is a naturally talented person.
Just an all around pleasant person is all I ask for. Someone that has lots to teach as I have lots to learn.

Anonymous said...

DDE also used a piece of string to teach leadership to his commanders. He would give them a length of string and ask them to push it across the table. Good lesson on leadership

Anonymous said...

Wow...good post....having seen my dad through quadruple bypass surgery this past week and dealing with a bit of neglect by the hospital staff....your list was very reassurring....sometimes you have to be firm, but if it gets the job done, so be it!! We all found out what 'good enough' meant to each of us!!