Excellence, Enough, and True Satisfaction

Max, the Vice President of Sales for the Southeast Region, couldn’t believe what he was hearing. The CHRO told him that his region’s attrition rate was 38% higher than other regions over the last year. The data gathered during the exit interviews named his management style as the number one contributing factor to the employees’ decision to leave. When asked for specifics, a significant number of those interviewed said, “Nothing I ever do is good enough for him.”

“Ouch. I’m baffled. I try to be a great sales manager. I’m hard driving and demanding, sure. But c’mon, it’s sales - in the largest region in the country. And besides, my team has exceeded corporate sales objectives for five straight years – and we beat every other region, every quarter,” claimed Max. 

The CHRO responded, “Max, you are no doubt an excellent sales person and this company is fortunate to have you. Make no mistake, we want to keep you and we want you to do well, but we also want to keep the people you manage. I’d like to recommend that you start working with an executive coach who specializes in building better bosses.” And Max reluctantly agreed.

In their first coaching session, Max told the coach that he is a natural competitor and a high achiever, so meeting the sales goals for the quarter or year is no big deal. In fact, he considers that outcome just doing his job.                              

"We should be exceeding those goals! Me and my team. Now that’s an achievement!” he exclaimed. “My father taught me to pursue excellence and to push my limits. And to NEVER be satisfied. That’s what I'm teaching my son now. I coach his Little League team,” Max proudly stated.

"Max,” said the coach, “it sounds like you are a high achiever and pursuing excellence has served you well. But I’m wondering what’s it like to NEVER feel satisfied?”

Max paused. He took a deep breath and quietly said, "Honestly, it feels lousy. The summit is always out of reach."

 "What does lousy feel like in your body?” asked the coach.

“It feels tight, rigid - I guess stressful – maybe even fearful,” said Max. 

The coach offered a compassionate smile and said, “Your self awareness is admirable. I’m curuous, do you experience any happiness or joy in your work? Max grimaced. She paused for a moment and asked, “What do you imagine the people who worked for you, the ones who quit, felt when they couldn't ever please you?”

“Oh no!” Max cringed thinking about that. “I never thought about it like that.” In his heart, he wanted to be a great manager - and a great dad. And he wanted pople to do their best and win. Now he was considering that his pusuit of excellence and never being satisfied were making his team (and probably his son and the little-leaguers), miserable. 

A leader’s perpetual dissatisfaction can drain a team’s resourcefulness.
And worse.
While you may think you are “pushing them to be their best”, you may actually be setting them up to fail.
— Lisa Bourdon

“The coach asked him, “Have you considered that your constant pushing may be setting you up to fail? Do you have any markers that tell you that you’ve done enough? In essence, how do you know when you – or your team - have done a good job in any given situation, on any given day?”

“Those are good questions. I don't know…”

She smiled, "Good, let's change that by putting into paractice what business coaches call Conditions of Enoughness. It’s a way to not only set and achieve SMART goals, but to be truly satisfied while reaching the summit. 

Conditions of Enoughness

During the course of his coaching, Max began to wake up to the fact that his “impossible to please” standards were causing his staff to abandon ship. Research (as well as common sense) confirms that when people feel good and successful about their performance at work, they are engaged and accomplish not only specific tasks, but are motivated to keep the momentum going, and often do more. While it’s great to have high standards, it’s demoralizing to work for someone who is impossible to please. 

If you relate to Max’s never satisfied, never good enough mindset, do yourself (and your team) a favor and put this Conditions of Enoughness coaching tool into practice. 


“Enough” doesn’t mean “just good enough” or mediocre. And it doesn’t mean giving up on big dreams (or big goals). Enough is simply a set of meet-able conditions that allow you to declare a task or goal “Done!” and give yourself a pat on the back, a “Yay, me!” 

To determine what is your “enough”, define for yourself what an identifiable task within the goal is and when will you perform it and finish it. For example: “I will return the phone call before COB today,” or “I will create my presentation outline before I leave for Phoenix on Friday.”

Think in terms of the parts that make up the larger goal, and start with the simplest tasks first to get moving in the right direction. Ask yourself, “What is the simplest thing I can do now?”


Name the task in a way that you know when it is done: at what time will you do it during the day or week? How many days of the week will you do it?  How much time will you spend on it? 

By adding these conditions to the task, it will give you a container so that you know when the task is finished. The big finish, the big goal, may not be finished, but the smaller named tasks along the way can be declared done. For example, when you return the phone call before COB today or create the outline for your presentation before you leave for Phoenix on Friday, you have achieved your Conditions of Enoughness and have earned your “Good job!” 


Even though it is tempting to raise the bar, if your named condition is spending an hour before lunch every day on working on a new innovative project, then keep that condition. But don’t make it longer or more intense or you will erode your self-trust. Remember, if you’re never satisfied, then you’re never satisfied, and this can lead to feeling like a failure or believing others are failures.  


When your Conditions of Enoughness have been met, declare that you are satisfied with your work and yourself. When you are getting started with this goal achieving process, you may not feel super satisfied about your day’s or week’s work, but getting in the habit of recognizing your successes will gradually change your thought patterns, which will positively affect your outcomes. 

Leading with Enough

As a leader, it is key that each one your team members sets her or his own Conditions of Enoughness so that finishing the identified tasks is dependent on the person, alone.  It is important that tasks aren’t contingent on someone else doing something in order for the task to be accomplished.  It is also great if your team hear your support in declaring satisfaction in work, too. Without it, they (and you) will never be satisfied. 

 Enough said!

Allie Rice