One of our core values at Room 214 is “Doing Our Best.”
It sounds simple and sounds like something that can just be written off. This is true of any core value that is not practiced, considered, challenged and reinforced.
Taken literally, this could come off as an inspirational and/or motivational value. It is put forth to set an expectation of always doing our best work. So yes, it should be inspirational.
Part of living this value is knowing a person’s best is different from day to day, moment to moment. I might have just come back from vacation, been buried in meetings all day, feeling sick, or feeling sleep deprived — all of these emotional or environmental factors are going to impact the quality of my output, but they should never prohibit me from doing my best.
As fans, we demand this of athletes and musicians all the time. The worst criticism performers can get is that they “took the day off.” No one wants that person on their team. No fan wants to see the show the band or cast took off. Giving 100 percent is universally valued, recognized and celebrated.
Giving 100 percent and doing your best sounds all fine and dandy. But where the magic happens is when Doing Our Best is an agreement between teammates, supervisors, and leaders to ensure everyone is able and empowered to deliver their best work.
To enact this agency value we start with a perspective I learned from a mentor of mine, David Dibble. “Approximately 90 percent of the results produced in the workplace are a function of the systems, not the people who work in them,” Dibble says.
That other 10 percent becomes a hurdle when you are dealing with a real people problem, such as incompetency, lack of commitment, or dishonesty. But these are rare in an organization with systems competency.
If we take this motivational value of Doing Your Best and now look at it as function of business systems, we empower everyone to create the processes and environment in which we can deliver our best work.
One my favorite questions to ask is, “Is this our best work?” It’s a back-door question into understanding if the system in which people are working is optimized to get the best out of them. It can also uncover whether if they’re exerting energy trying to clear systems hurdles.
If you ever ask this question, take out your notebook and listen very carefully, because the answer will be full of ideas on how to improve your systems.
Someone might answer: “Under the circumstances, I did my best, but it’s not my best work.” Applaud that, but then ask, “How could it have been your best work?” An answer you might get is: “If I had more time I could have done better.” That’s a really common one in the agency world, and 90 percent of the time the solution is not to work faster. The solution of “just work faster” is for leaders not willing to love, grow and serve and defend their teammates. Very rarely is the person’s competency in question, it’s the system that needs to improve.
When people don’t have enough time, the solution is to open a conversation with the person assigning the work about establishing and defending longer timelines. This could lead directly to a discussion about planning further out to ensure the time is sufficient to deliver the expected results.
Sounds easy and logical right? As an agency with a service mentality, asking the client for more time is never easy, and can be seen as incompetency. The leaders in the organization have to have the courage and conviction to stand up for the agency’s core value of Doing Our Best and support the team members in getting it done. Importantly, when we ask for more time and get it, we better deliver.
In the Real World
I recently had a client call me and say he needed to come up with a big idea for an annual marketing campaign, and needed it in five days to secure the budget. My immediate response was we can deliver ideas in five days, but they won’t be our best ideas. If the company is depending on this annual campaign to drive sales based on ideas delivered in a mere five days, he won’t be happy trying to justify that campaign all year long.
Better to fight the good fight right now, and justify the reason to get more time to come up with a solid idea the company can be 100 percent confident in putting its dollars behind. I gave an example of a client who was taking part in our Room To Think big idea process. We could definitively say the ideas we reached on Day Five were not comparable to the ideas we were working on after Week Four. I told the client if he wanted to base an annual campaign on decent, but not great ideas, that’s his prerogative. But our job is to help make the company successful, and rushing the process erodes our ability to overdeliver.
Why not take the time up front to get it right, get it vetted, agitate it and integrate it? Then watch it sing. What I was doing was defending our core value of Doing Our Best. The client was willing and able to get us the time and budget to come up with the big idea that delivered.