I am not often satisfied with any results: not of my own work, not my teams’, not that of the company as a whole or each individual person in it. When someone shows me something, I usually go: ”Well, that’s not quite my tempo.” Alright, I don’t throw chairs. Though I almost always find something to pick at.
Is this constant discontentment a good personality trait of mine? Most definitely not! People were doing their utmost best, worked nights risking a burnout, they gave it all that they’ve got… And here I am, giving their work a quick look and having neither praise nor approval for them but just a dry “There at the end, you should put a dash instead of a hyphen.” That’s f*cked up.
Any book would tell you a leader should praise and encourage people for motivation. You know, the worn rule of wrapping your criticism into a sandwich with enough praise to give people a nice feeling. Something like “John, the design is wonderful, very good. Right there below, I would advise putting a dash instead of a hyphen. And then your work will be complete and very harmonious.”
But for f*cks sake, if I’ll make a sandwich out of everything, I’d become a damned Subway! Besides, what’s the point of all these ridiculous manipulations, cheap NLP techniques? I frankly expect my teammates to be adults, mature enough to reasonably respond to comments and take criticism without taking it personally.
Although some people are offended by absolutely ridiculous things. Like when you don’t start a Slack message with “Hey, what’s up, whatcha doin?” Personally, I hate when people start a working text with the “Hey, whatcha doing?” and then wait, like, two minutes for you to answer then what it is exactly that you’re doing before they’d jot down a decent follow-up. What the heck is that? What could I be “doin” at my workplace? Why are they forcing me to write this “hello, how’re you”? Isn’t it easier to just straight away make your point?
Excuse me, I got a tad distracted here. What I actually wanted to say is that to me personally, dissatisfaction leads to progress. It’s the engine of my personal growth. Like any human, I like positive feedback and praise, because they trigger the release of endorphins. But hey, that’s pure physiology. You have to be above this kind of trivial matters. Embrace frustration!
The imperfections all around are my best motivator. I look at things, I get frustrated, and I immediately see what can and must be done better. The design can be improved. Architecture should be perfected. Working conditions? Must be refined! Interviews? We should do it better! And, finally, we must put that damn dash where it belongs!
Now, probably, this is why I like the Whiplash movie so much. I watched it five times. It’s the only film in the last twenty years that I’ve watched that often. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not into the extreme-psychological-pressure approach. I do admire the philosophy of discontent driving better results.
So imagine if Jones had just said, “Well, that’s okay, Charlie. That was all right. Good job.” And then Charlie thinks to himself, “Well, shit, I did do a pretty good job.” End of story. No Bird. That, to me, is an absolute tragedy. But that’s just what the world wants now. People wonder why jazz is dying.
I do believe that only dissatisfaction drives people to go forward and push the world to progress, too. If a person is peaceful and satisfied, they don’t really have a reason to wish for more, and so it’s easy to just go with the flow and stop striving for better things. People who’re always content with everything don’t have a reason to give a shit about anything. They’re just happy. Tinkering on things could even destroy their content.
So a company needs to create a culture of constructive dissatisfaction. Praising a mediocre result is a crime. You should only praise a completely effing fantastic result. You know, the one you look at and drop your jaw, the one that makes you think, “This is unbelievably, mind-blowingly damn great!”