Wednesday, May 7, 2014

If it's good enough for you...

This year I have been fortunate to be an attendee on a personal development course on women and leadership in higher education. In various conversations with other attendees, ‘role models’ and mentors connected with the course I have heard mentioned several times the idea that, as a leader, you need to become comfortable with doing work that is ‘good enough’ rather than spending a disproportionate amount of extra time making marginal improvements.

This comment is invariably solicits nods of agreement and that’s all well and good. Except I’ve thought about it a bit more and now I’m not so sure.

Part of my job involves helping academic staff in developing new courses. I work with amazingly committed people, trying to create exciting, relevant programmes for undergraduate and postgraduate students. In this context, the best outcome is unlikely to be achieved by people producing work that is ‘just’ good enough.

If you are engaged in work that you care about, is it possible to feel good about turning out less than your best? Can you feel proud about good enough? Or does the satisfaction of quantity ticked off a to-do list outweigh the lack of pride in its quality?

I’m not sure I can advocate a style of work were consistently putting in less than your best is acceptable.  How does that make you feel?

I don’t think there are many lecturers who would feel happy about a lecture where they didn’t strive for the best they could do.

Does the innovation, new discovery, breakthrough ever happen without the extra effort?

On reflection I can see how the idea of good enough might be appropriate for some kinds of work but attention to detail, well, the devil’s in the detail isn’t it?


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