Chuck was the best of the twenty-four candidates. Still, he didn't
have exactly what I was looking for and my instincts warned me of his
unusual personality. Yet the skills required for the job were specialized
and he had most of them, and I'd been interviewing for five months, and my
boss wanted the position filled before the budget process started. No, he
might not be perfect, but he would be ok.
So I hired Chuck. As a new manager, it was a decision I came to regret.
Chuck turned out to be a marginal performer, never grew into the job, and
drew frequent complaints from his teammates. It might have taken me five
months to hire Chuck, but it took me eighteen to fire him. Still, I'm
grateful for the experience. Chuck taught me a lesson I applied in my next
twenty years in management: don't settle.
When you settle, you choose mediocrity. Don't settle for the best of the
worst. Keep looking. Don't settle for something that's barely okay. Push to
make it better. Don't settle for average work from others when exceptional
is needed. And don't settle for delivering good when you're capable of
better. Expect more from yourself. Then expect more from others.
Whenever I've settled, the work or decision comes back like a boomerang,
reminding me to keep my standards high. As W. Somerset Maugham says, "It is
a funny thing about life; if you refuse to accept anything but the best,
you very often get it." I know that's been my experience.
There's a story I like about Phidias, a Greek sculptor working on the
Acropolis. As he was finishing a statue of Athena, which would stand a
hundred feet high next to a marble wall, an onlooker asked, "Why are you
chiseling strands of hair on the back of her head where no one will see
them or even know they're there? "I'll know," replied Phidias.
I wish I would have found a cabinet maker with that same attitude when we
were building our home. When we moved in, we discovered tops of cabinets
uncapped and unstained. It's true no one would see them. But, it was not
the quality of work we expected, paid for or wanted. The cabinet maker had
settled for mediocre. But we didn't. We had him do them over.
People who are winning at working know when good is not good enough. They
operate like Phidais, not our cabinet maker. They understand that quality
work is not an accident. It's a deliberate focus that starts with high
personal standards. People who are winning at working don't settle for
mediocre. Not in others. And not in themselves.
© 2005 Nan S. Russell. All rights reserved.
Sign up to receive Nan's free biweekly eColumn at www.winningatworking.com. Nan Russell has spent over twenty years in management, most recently with QVC as a Vice President. She has held leadership positions in Human Resource Development, Communication, Marketing and line Management. Nan has a B.A. from Stanford University and M.A. from the University of Michigan. Currently working on her first book, Winning at Working: 10 Lessons Shared, Nan is a writer, columnist, small business owner, and on-line instructor.Visit www.nanrussell.com or contact Nan at email@example.com.