• Danielle N. Adams

When “Good Enough” is Not Good Enough



It’s everywhere and you have seen it: in the supermarket, in our homes, in our offices, and an abundance of this in mall parking lots. Our inner critic might tell us that somehow we are “not good enough”, but what happens when over-confidence, indignation, or even laziness creeps in and turns the message into “eh, good enough”? We may even do it to ourselves, driving personal success, accomplishment, and achievement with a monstrously high expectation of what we are capable of doing. What happens when our standards (established and accepted rule or norm for the objective measure of extent, value, or quality) are at conflict with expectations (the subjective anticipation or belief that we attach to a person or situation)? To start, one is fact and one is fiction.

When “good enough” rears its ugly head at home, it could manifest (pardon the pun) in having a boyfriend/spouse who is convinced that being home every night, not cheating or being verbally abusive, and providing financially for the household is validation that he has fulfilled his obligations as a “good man”. However, the other half of the relationship might quickly suggest that is the very minimum of her expectation, because her standard is that any good man worth the pants he pulls on will be physically and emotionally available to her and will be faithful and respectful within the confines of the relationship and beyond. Why would she settle for less? However, from his perspective, he should be lauded and rewarded with the highest esteem (here dear, is your gilded “Man of the Year” participation trophy). Now, if her expectations become unreasonable to the extent that she demands that he arrive home nightly before his 8pm curfew, cook her dinner, prepare her lunch, lay out her clothes for the next day, and sing her to sleep in a perfect key of E…we may be looking at a different set of circumstances. Joking aside, there is clearly a different concept of what the standard is.

The vision of how this shows up in your workplace is probably becoming more clear if it wasn’t already vivid. But just in case, I’ll give you another example with an employee who was transferred from another branch to mine. He had satisfactory job knowledge, likeable service skills, but he failed to be effective in referring products and services to customers for their benefit. Wanting to be promoted, he felt his overall performance compensated for his slack sales record. Good enough? Or simply meeting expectations?

My employee had resigned himself to believe he could not do or be better, or that he did not feel compelled to meet the standard that was set forth. Plus, his normative performance forced me as a manager to wonder, “is this worth settling for less? What are my other options?”

How does “good enough” behavior impact you and your staff or your coworkers?

Underwhelming performance and behavior can be contagious! How long do you think it took for other employees to see that they could still meet the minimum standard, without exhibiting strong sales behaviors? Now you’re dealing with an environment where people are adjusting to the lowered standard—it’s like down shifting and braking because the traffic ahead of you has slowed down. Or, you will have people who will move into the fast lane and careen past those slow pokes! With a lot of coaching and motivation, my team was able to get on board with meeting and exceeding, not just the standard, but my expectations as well.

Standards vs. Expectations

Both are preconceived notions based on previous experiences to dictate future ones. Standards are the realization that there is another option, empowering you to invite only the best into your life. You can see where you can try this idea on in your love life: in love, everyone has an ideal vision, but realistically we can be incredibly happy with someone who simply meets the standard, whatever that may be. In business, we apply the same dichotomy from who we take on as clients to who we hire as staff. Our expectation allows us to charge the responsibility outside of ourselves without taking ownership of our own influence or choice, which is why it is often easy to start conjuring an unrealistic vision. Organizations that lack a clear mission and vision are often devoid of establishing a company culture that will help to guide its team. The same goes for individuals—without a compass to guide your decisions, where might you end up? You have a standard for what you will and will not accept in your life. However, be careful not to let your assumptions, interpretations, and limiting beliefs dictate the standard.

Be Clear

Having clear goals and objectives in any plan of action creates a path to success. To cope with standard/expectation conflicts:

  • stay committed to how your standard is actually serving you and test it frequently for feasibility.

  • be accountable to accepting that your personal best may require much more effort for someone else to reach themselves. You are at choice as to whether this person is a fit for you.

It’s true—good enough is good enough. Just don’t expect to rock anybody’s world putting in the minimal amount of effort. When have you ever caught yourself doing a task “half-fast”? Wrapping gifts? Folding clothes? Parking straight between the damn lines? (I am looking at you, neighbor with the Jeep.) Think about what your core intention was behind it:

  • Avoidance (as in “whatever-mode”)

  • Guilt—Filling an obligation

  • Rushing—I don’t have time for this!

  • Procrastination

  • Resentment

  • Getting **it done—Here! It’s done! Okay?!

  • Getting on to the next “to-do”

  • Judgment

  • Internal—I can’t do this right.

  • External—He thinks I’ll screw it up anyway.

Okay, now reset your commitment to getting the task done. How can you elevate your personal standard and still feel proud of the result? How can you challenge the way you currently do things for a different or improved result? How will you hold yourself accountable? Be present (don’t jump down the rabbit hole of “what had happened”) in each situation, whether it’s with your partner or your employees, and invite genuine curiosity into understanding both perspectives at a deeper level. People are like elevators, they either bring you up or bring you down. Sometimes to take the high road, you just need to take the stairs...one step at a time.


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