When the Best Isn't Good Enough

By: Lisa Marie Koebcke

I heard someone say the other day that sometimes as a leader you have to realize your best isn’t what your team needs. It took me a few hours to process as I replayed the sentence over and over again. I couldn’t decide at first if I agreed but after some time, I realized I couldn’t agree more.

When you lead a team at work, I think sometimes it’s not as clear as when this concept shows up in other relationships. I feel like married people say this a lot - “I’m doing my best, but it’s not good enough”. Kids say this too, “but…I did my best!”

At work, when you’re the leader - you typically assume you’re the best thing that your team has. In reality, it is possible that you’re not. That doesn’t mean you’re a bad leader. It doesn’t mean you need a new team. It goes back to the other relationships - it means you have some learning, growing, and navigating to do. Sometimes your absolute best is simply not enough for a given situation or a specific personality.

What are the warning signs your best isn’t good enough:

  • You’re burnt out and no matter how much you put into your team it’s not enough
  • Your team is stagnant and not growing
  • You don’t see results
  • Your team is uninspired or demotivated
  • You’re demotivated

What can you do?

  1. Bring in help - try seeing if someone else can produce the results you can’t. This will also give you some bandwidth. Don’t think that leaning on someone as a trait of weakness, but one to strengthen the communication and effectiveness of your team. Everyone is not the same, and many learn and respond differently to people, attitudes, etc. So, venture out as this could be a positive addition to your work environment - and a much needed break for you.

  2. Try a different approach. Look at your leadership from your teams perspective. What do you think that they need? What is another way you can communicate or support your team? Change it up, see their reaction, and maybe something will stick. Talk with other leaders in your profession (or other professions to really stretch yourself). What have they done to enhance the communication of their team and how could you try it out? Step outside of your comfort zone and I guarantee some growth.

  3. Ask them what they’re missing - and try to learn from the feedback. This is the most direct way to make a change if your team is willing to give you truthful feedback. If they don’t feel comfortable that could be feedback in of itself. Look at more than what they are saying, look at their body language, tone, and think about the context of where they are coming form. Most importantly, ask questions, don’t just assume. Go into the conversation with an open mind and be prepared for any feedback you may get.

In an article titled “How to Become a Better Leader” for Business News Daily, it states “Great leaders connect with their team by facilitating open communication, encouraging employee growth and development, and giving and receiving feedback (Schooley 2019).” Becoming a better leader will create a more engaged, effective, and empathetic team.

Many times, the types of changes required to get change, go against the very nature of your “best”. It is possible that for a period of time, embracing this kind of new reality could bring about growth in a way you have not experienced before. Do you feel like you’re doing your best? Is it what your team needs?