A recent interview by the New York Times (May 18, 2014) with Hannah Paramore, President of Paramore, the Digital Agency, struck a chord with me. In it, Ms. Paramore tells us why she thinks she’s been a successful leader: her ability to make a decision quickly. “It may not be right, but it will be fast, and then we’ll have time to change it…I like making a decision and getting the team to move.”
The interview reminded me of advice my first boss gave me twenty-plus years ago. “Don’t let the perfect be enemy of the good enough,” she said, as I agonized over creating the perfect solicitation letter. It was my first Director of Development position and I wanted to prove that I could write a compelling letter, with beautifully crafted sentences, and perfect grammar and spelling. I was certain that, if I worked on it long enough, I’d write a letter that would raise more money than any of the organization’s prior direct mail solicitations. The problem: in my quest for perfection, I was holding up the letter. For every day I worked on that letter, I wasn’t bringing in contributions. Finally, my boss, told me that perfect is not always the goal…sometimes – in fact, most times – good enough is just that.
Several years ago, I shared this advice with a colleague, a talented writer, who spent days checking, double, even triple-checking a publication before sending it to press. The report had already been reviewed and approved by the key decision makers, yet this colleague was so worried there’d be a mistake that he just could not let it go. With some gentle prodding, and a reminder from me that very few mistakes in life cause permanent damage, he executed. And, I hope, learned a valuable lesson: that excessive time spent trying to achieve perfection on one task means other important tasks are being neglected. In development, this results in missed opportunities to raise funds.
So often, smart, competent workers miss deadlines, and sometimes significant opportunities, because they’re afraid of making a mistake. It’s important to strive for high quality work, but the quest for perfection can lead to paralysis. Now more than ever, as nonprofits compete for charitable dollars, it’s most important to execute. Trust yourself, and empower your employees to trust themselves. If you do that, I, like Hannah Paramore, believe you’ll achieve success.
About the author:
Molly Galo, a Senior Consultant with Laurus Strategies, currently serves as Vice President of Advancement for Pillars. Molly has extensive development experience, with particular expertise in major gift fundraising, capital campaigns, and board development. During her career, Molly has worked for the Illinois Institute of Technology, the University of Notre Dame, and Chicago Public Radio, among other institutions.
Headquartered in Chicago, Laurus Strategies has a passion for helping nonprofits advance their mission. Laurus Strategies’ Non Profit and Public Affairs Consulting Group provides a wide range of fundraising, strategic planning, training and leadership services with a proven track record of success. Together, the team has over 80 years of experience and has helped clients raise over $650,000,000.