Sandra Ericson|Dec 12, 2016

When is good, good enough? How can you balance work and life so neither suffers? According to rbb Communications CEO Christine Barney, you can’t. Recently, Barney was presented with the PRSA Miami 2016 Bill Adams Lifetime Achievement Award and, as part of this honor she was featured at the PRSA Miami Cocktails and Conversations series to share her views on how she blends her work and personal responsibilities.

She purposely uses the term “blend” versus “balance” to signify the bleed of work beyond 9-5, and personal needs beyond evening and weekend hours. While rbb’s award-winning employee driven workplace offers employees the flexibility to set their own work schedules, not every workplace has that option.

That leaves many people with an even greater challenge to get it all done – especially up to the standards we set for ourselves, and our clients expect.

A key insight Christine imparted is her philosophy to strive for excellence not perfection. We found this fascinating and sat down with Christine to learn more.Christine Barney

Christine Barney

Sandra: Can you explain what you mean by your “excellence not perfection” philosophy?

Christine: It means making sure that you get enough done to not only meet and exceed your goals, but without going so far overboard that you don’t get extra benefit from that additional effort. In other words, if you can accomplish 95 percent of what you sought to achieve but it’s going to take you 20 percent more effort to reach 100 percent, you need to determine if that last 5 percent is worth the effort. It’s putting a value on determining – when is good, good enough?

Sandra: How does this play into the goal setting process?

Christine: It’s not so much about the goals, but everything that goes into the goals. For example, if you’re writing a supporting document to make a marketing decision and you find three sources to back up your point, is it really necessary to have five? Look at every step of the process and ask if this work affects the outcome. That’s what I mean when I say excellence not perfection. We still want to do great work but when it comes to crossing every “t” – sometimes maybe you need to use a word without a “t” in it.

Sandra: Having been a CEO for some time, do you find that a lot of people in this business go overboard, striving for perfection and doing more than what they need to?

Christine: I do. I think people get very focused on the task at hand. Say you’re working on a grand opening and one of the tasks is to get 100 RSVPs and you’re given a list of 300.  By 3pm you’re already over quota and have 150 RSVPs but you have two hours left in the day. Do you spend it getting more people to attend or moving on to the next task to make sure the people that come have a great experience? That’s where I think people get mired in process. It’s ok to achieve the goal and say now it’s time to move to the next step.

Sandra: What advice would you give people about where to put the extra effort?

Christine: I still think at the end of the day, you have to look at the end goal and with everything you do say to yourself “does this activity contribute to achieving the goal?” And if doesn’t, you can make the hard choice to say I’m not going to spend my time on this. It’s also a matter of being more creative. If the menu calls for oysters and oysters are not in season, do you spend hours trying to get oysters flown in at great cost or do you say, “shrimp will work just as well.” Sometimes we go overboard on the details without thinking about the impact on the overall customer experience.

Sandra: It sounds like a big part of it is presentation and packaging and convincing clients/customers on what’s the best value for them?

Christine: Yes. Like I said, every time you do something you should think, “does this add value to the task”? If it doesn’t add value, don’t spend time doing it. Or, is this a task someone could do faster, or better so I can spend my time using the skills I have that add value.

Sandra: Speaking of skills, I think a lot of people in our business are perfectionists and are used to doing the work themselves because they have a fear of letting go and allowing some mistakes to slide through.

Christine: Unfortunately, the only way to let it go is to let it go. You have to mentally be prepared to say, these are the five things that I’m going to delegate and truly mean you’re going to delegate. Now, if you’re a person who has trouble with that, start small. Also, consider that just because it’s not done the way you’d have done it, it can still be excellent.

Sandra: You’ve done a lot of research on Breakout Brands. From the customer’s point of view, are there any examples of brands that are going after excellence not perfection by focusing on the primary things their customers want?

Christine: One example our research shows is that overwhelmingly customers want honesty from a brand. Eight of ten don’t believe product claims and sadly it’s often for good reason. People appreciate honest sentiment and react poorly to exaggeration. Again, think about what you’re really good at – you don’t have to be perfect at everything. Like all the other tenets of the Breakout Brand, if you put the customer first, innovate to make customer’s lives better and communicate with soul, you will find that customers are willing to pay more for your product or service.

Sandra: Even if you make mistakes sometimes?

Christine: Absolutely. We’ve all seen big brands who’ve had set backs. Our top 10 Breakout Brands of 2016 include some brands braving rough waters. Customers are more willing to accept you’re not going to be perfect if you are constantly showing you’re doing your best for them.

Sandra: Any last tidbits of advice for living this philosophy?

Christine: Keep the idea of excellence not perfection top of mind. We all have our own style but in the end, is it going to change the way the story is told? If you challenge yourself for a week and question everything you do, you’ll start to get in the habit of determining if your actions are adding value or just adding time and stress.


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