There's not much Good in "Good Job"
A few weeks ago I watched the remarkable film Whiplash. It focuses on the conductor of a jazz band that is absolutely obsessed with perfection in every aspect of his band, and this leads him to harsh and questionable tactics to get the best out of the drummer in his band. He abuses the drummer with a barrage of shouts and slaps that eventually leads to the young man breaking down completely, and eventually leaving the band. At a later stage they meet up again and the conductor explains his reasoning with the following line:
“There are no two words in the English language more harmful than good job.”
I have never found a quote from a movie to be more true. Now obviously I’m not saying we should all be shouting at each other, slapping one another through the face, and throwing stuff around to encourage great work. But this statement cautions us against celebrating small achievements and mediocrity.
The point I’m trying to make is that there is something absolutely non-sensical about backslapping each other for doing our work properly. Standout, highly crafted work should be standard. The compliments should be coming from our clients. Worthy celebrations by an agency should be held for big pitch wins, awards success and long term changes made to our clients’ bottom line.
Once big congratulations become the order of the day, we run the dangerous risk of celebrating the mundane, and feeling that everyday work is simply good enough. But when we encourage brilliance, and only celebrate brilliance, it betters what we consider as “standard.” And when your standard is brilliance, there’s not a lot of companies that can beat you.