Sorry I’m not talking about “50 Shades of Grey,” which surprisingly I haven’t read. I am, however, talking about moving away from a strict black and white approach to things. Contrary to popular belief, sometimes “in between” or the “grey zone” is just fine, thank you very much.
There is beauty and flexibility if you allow yourself to be in that frowned upon “in-between” land. Sometimes it’s okay if there isn’t a 100% perfect solution, and sometimes the client is perfectly happy with an “ A“ solution. It’s not about the polarity of good or bad. Rather it’s about the client being happy.
Now the perfectionist in all of us (not to mention our egos) wants to deliver the ultimate, best-written, best-designed project or plan, ever seen on the face of the earth. But the ROI to boost an A to an A+ simply may not be worth the expense. Particularly if the client or customer is pleased with the work you have already presented. (Read: It's producing results.)
This is more difficult for some people to understand than others. But the key is learning when to compromise and say “it’s good enough." With that said, I always strive for quality work I’m proud of when my head hits the pillow at night. But if deadlines get pushed and frustration mounts in search of the ultimate solution even though the client is happy with an earlier answer – then maybe the problem is mine.
Now I can hear some of you left-brained folks bristle because 100% accuracy is the only solution in some disciplines. Think air traffic control, or a prescription dosage for example. But in the creative zone, in the strategic zone, I like to build in a little fuzziness, a little ambiguity. I enjoy not backing myself into a corner, but allowing for flexibility and then being nimble enough to change quickly if warranted.
This kind of thinking can also be challenging when the client is black and white. I call this “Living the Letter of the Law” in terms of scope of work and deliverables. But the reality is that marketing is dynamic. The best marketing results occur when you adapt to the market place – particularly in the digital world. You lose the opportunity to be responsive to the customer when you are locked into a very strict SOW (Scope of Work).
This concept is hard to get across to those analytical type clients. In these cases, sometimes there is just a big disconnect and my strongest advice is to somehow build flexibility into a SOW before starting. That’s why sometimes the best agency/client relationships are when you can work with a marketing person that “gets it” as opposed to the CFO or Marketing Analyst who are trained not to see anything as grey.
So if you find yourself gravitating towards being a black and white person, a yes or no person, when “maybe” could actually be the better answer—consider these 5 ideas:
1. If you are your own hardest critic and never satisfied, give the concepts to someone else you respect to review. If they say it is good/great, accept that and let go.
2. Track the time you spend taking a project from excellent to stellar. You will be surprised how much extra time you can save by being comfortable with excellent.
3. If your ego is solely focused on being the “best” as an individual contributor, start doing more work as a team. All of which requires compromise – sometimes the antithesis of black and white-- and counters “my way or no way."
4. Don’t take work so seriously. Don’t tie your whole identity to what you produce during the work day. Work-life balance is important.
5. Listen more, and tune in to external cues. That way you will quickly see if you personally are the one driving for perfection when the client isn’t.