“When is good, good enough?” by D’aun Green, Ph.D.

As we wrap up the semester and head off to our various ways of celebrating the Holidays, I want to jot down a few thoughts about a question I have been pondering since the middle of September.  When is good, good enough?

My department lost an amazing young professional suddenly to leukemia in mid-September.  Literally, one day she was at work laughing and joking with all of us and the next day, she was in the hospital never to reawaken from a brain hemorrhage.  When I reflect on the events leading up to her passing in the search of making some sense of things, I wonder if I missed some obvious signs things were not going well.  She was burning the candle at both ends like many of us have done and are doing.  She was trying to do it all and keep everyone happy.  She would still be working when I would pack up and head for home most nights.  I would encourage her to “go home” but it seemed to fall on deaf ears.  I remember thinking, “Oh goodness, she reminds me of myself at that age”.  She was our “go to” person and yet, did we “go to” her too much?

What responsibility do we have as supervisors and leaders to identify and help correct misconceptions of what is expected in our work environments.  I don’t believe it is ever our intention to create workaholics or nurture this type of behavior.  However, I do wonder if the search for bigger and better helps to feed behaviors we know are not healthy.  What behaviors am I role modeling to the young professionals, especially women, I work with?

I know my concept of good enough has been impacted by my strengths [Ideation, Input, Learner, Deliberative, Intellection], my generational expectations, my past supervisors, my upbringing, and my gender.  When it comes to my strengths, I can always find something to take a good thing to the next level.  Why do a little when a lot is so much better?  As a 50 year old Boomer/X-er my concept of good enough in the work place is influenced by whatever I need to do to make sure I’m competitive and meeting the expectations of those I work for and with.  I have had supervisors who demanded a specific level of commitment to the job which included feeding my own workaholic tendencies.  Both of my parents were high achievers and dedicated to their work and their family.   As a third generation female college graduate, I grew up with traditional female roles and expectations, but with high priorities placed on independence and self-reliance.  The collection of my life experiences and education have focused on skill development dedicated to moving from good to better, and then on to best.   But when is good, good enough?

Our work environments are supercharged with words such as efficiencies, streamlining, and change.  It seems as if we are continually asked to do more with less and yet, not cut or reshape what we are currently providing to help meet the demands of the “more”.  I want to put forth the notion that it is time for us to evaluate the concept of bigger and better in our work environments and especially as it impacts those we supervise.  Do we really need to make everything a grand production or can our organizations be happy with our best efforts?  I believe our “I want it right now and I want it better than the last one” society feeds our bigger and better appetites.  I try to groom the staff I supervise to be able to excel in the workplace by being creative and looking for ways to take “good to great”.  Am I truly helping them to form strong work ethic habits or am I helping to create a group of professionals who are more focused on whatever it takes than on finding some kind of balance?

This semester has been a struggle for me in trying to come to grips with a loss, while also trying to reevaluate what is truly important in my work environment.  Can we instill the desire and teach the skills for continuous improvement without setting unattainable expectations which set staff members up for failure?  Can we, as women in Student Affairs, make a commitment to keep an eye on all of our staff members but especially those up and coming women who are emulating what they think they have to do in order to be successful?  I believe we can.  I believe we have to in order to prepare the next generation to be committed but also balanced.

While I did not really set out to make this all about me, I do want to highlight my belief that the things that happen are often opportunities to reevaluate and provide reflection.  Although it doesn’t seem so at the time, it is a precious gift.  I want to make sure I’m challenging new professionals to find a balance between too much and not enough.  I want to assess my work environment and guide our practice in a manner that provides exemplary service to our students and their parents/families without working folks into the ground.  I want to be a supervisor who inspires the folks I work for and with to celebrate good while striving for better as simply an opportunity for growth and development.   I believe this balance can happen and I believe we can be the impetus behind it.

I would love to hear from folks if you have developed strategies to help yourself and/or the staff members you work with/supervise find the bigger and better balance.  Happy Holidays!

D’aun Green, Ph.D.
Senior Associate Managing Director, University Student Housing
Texas Tech University
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13 Comments

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13 responses to ““When is good, good enough?” by D’aun Green, Ph.D.

  1. Beautiful post, D’aun. Thank you for sharing your thoughts during a particularly challenging year. I think what you ask is difficult to answer–on many levels. I want the staff I supervise to be the very best and to work hard every single day–our students deserve their best self and the best care.

    However, part of being “the best” (however you define it) it about knowing your own boundaries, sticking to your priorities (personally and professionally) and managing your time in a way that works for you. Should I be the person to ensure that they have found (and stick to) some sense of balance? I’m not always sure. It’s still an issue I need to think through more. Thanks for starting the discussion.

    Continuing to send your staff good healing thoughts. Have a blessed 2013!

    • d'g

      Thanks Ann Marie! It’s a tough position to be in really. Sometimes darned if you do and other times darned if you don’t. I loved your response. Thank you for sharing such thoughtful reflection. Happy Holidays!

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  3. Thank you for your post, D’aun. Your thoughts definitely have me thinking. This morning I ran across a post from an earlier Harvard Business Review article that I think touches on many of your observations (http://blogs.hbr.org/cs/2012/08/the_disciplined_pursuit_of_less.html). It is my take we all have to choose how and what we pursue and what is worth our time. Great supervisors can help set this example, not glorifying (sometimes in unintentional ways) unwell professional behaviors, and most importantly, collecting data on how your staff perform their work to be able to support an environment that focuses on the most important outcomes.

    What a tremendous loss for you and your staff. Thinking of all of you.

    • D'aun Green

      Thank you Renee. Great article/resource and much to ponder. I really like what you said about “not glorifying unwell professional behaviors”. I think we can do this sometimes without even being aware of it. Appreciate your post.

  4. D’aun~ my friend…I adore & admire you & my heart hurts for you and the Texas Tech family.
    As a Gallup/Clifton Strengths believer I found Tom Rath’s book Well Being to be powerful & I’d encourage everyone to focus on themselves this break & give it a read. We (in Student Affairs) need to focus on excellence not “more”-quality over quantity…we can only achieve excellence if we value ourselves and our own well being. Only by taking care of myself can I give my best self to others. This is something I think about every day & when I do it well others benefit…. Love-T

    http://www.wbfinder.com/home.aspx

    • D'aun Green

      Thank you friend. It’s been a trying time of things but ya know what, it’s also been an opportunity to take a long hard look at what matters. People matter. I’m so thankful to be in a profession where there are arms that give hugs and reassuring voices that reach out over the miles to share in the good times and in the not so good times. I’ve learned about support this year and about how close we are even if we aren’t sitting right next to each other. It takes the sadness away and it brings back a smile.

      I think this is one of the few Gallup/Clifton books I don’t have. Amazon is my next stop. Thanks again! Hope to see you in the new year! Take care.

  5. Great post! Thank you for sharing.

    I am so proud of all the work I have accomplished at Texas Tech and even more proud of all the work we have accomplished together!

  6. Kris McPeak

    You must be my soul-mate, D’aun….I’ve spent the better part of this semester pondering this for myself in a Recreation Management masters class. If i ever finish said 2nd master’s degree, it WILL be my Thesis topic. I, too, look to Tom Rath’s WELL BEING book and try to model wellness for my team. But I firmly believe that some of us Gen X’ers need to hunker down and turn the ship around, because we continue to lose good professionals to jobs that pay more and stress less.
    Thanks for your post – i may quote you in my literature review!

    • D'aun

      Kris, thanks so much for your post. I’ll be happy to help in any way I can. Thanks for the book suggestion as well. I totally agree with the need to find ways to keep our folks in the field. Thanks again! Here’s to a happy and healthy new year.

  7. D'aun Green

    Thanks so much folks for your posts. Yes, it has been a year and I for one look forward to Lucky 13! Great thoughts and resources.

    Thanks again!

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