You'll Never Be Perfect (And That's a Good Thing)

Caleb Trecek pens part four of our “Kill the Employee” series.

Click to read parts onetwo and three.

My first job was cleaning pools. Sounds awesome right? Try doing it during an Arizona summer. I baked under the sun all day for $5 an hour. I quickly realized I wanted to make something of myself. There was no way I could be stuck doing a job like that the rest of my life. My skin couldn’t take it.

At that time, I didn’t have much of a choice. My dad was on the road a lot for his job, so I had to adopt a bit of a “man of the house” mentality at a younger age than most. My mom and sister needed my support. It’s an experience that is still with me today: I married my wife at 21 and use taking care of my family as a big motivation for all that I do.

This experience drove me to work my way through college. I was able to graduate with almost no student loan debt, a rarity for someone my age.

The chief thing that I learned from all those experiences? Ultimately, you are responsible for your own success. And, to me, a big part of that is trying to do things on your own before you have to fall back on someone else. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. If you don’t know be up front, try to figure it out. Sure, that sounds great. But how can you really do that? Here’s what has worked for me.

Accept you’ll never be perfect

A lot of people have the mentality that if they fail, then they just aren’t any good at their job and should give up. Especially for my generation, it’s just what we’re naturally inclined to think.

Working in a consultant role only exacerbates this. You’re expected to be smart. But if you only focus on your failures, it’s really difficult to excel.

The key is to accept that you’re good at what you do. Make that your starting point, then recognize that everybody makes mistakes. It’s human. This allows you to not take the inevitable screw-ups as hard and begin to see them as learning opportunities.

To me, that means that you have to know that you’re going to mess things up eventually, something won’t be perfect, but work through it until you see success.

I’m in charge of four people. I can’t count how many times I’ve heard “I didn’t know…I’m not an expert.” To borrow a cliché, you have to know that the journey is the destination.

If a client asks you a question that you don’t know the answer to, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with letting them know you need some time to think and get back to them.

One thing I always emphasize is to try not to solution on the phone. If you try to be Johnny-on-the-spot, there’s a good chance you’ll end up telling someone something that is completely wrong. There’s no need to be brilliant at the drop of a hat. There’s no answer box you can dive into and come out saying, “Got it.”

The most successful people out there realize that the people around them will know more than they do. It’s more about how you go into a situation. Set that sentiment out there in square one: I may not know the answers to everything we talk about, but I’m going to guide us through the process and we will come out of it with the answers we’re looking for.

Be highly accountable

I try to always bring a sense of accountability into everything I touch. Not just in managing my team, but everything I’m working on. That flows into the times where I’m getting out of my depth of knowledge. To me it means stopping to ask, “This is what I think I should be doing, does this make sense?”

Of course I want to figure everything out on my own. But it isn’t always possible. And that’s why I believe that being accountable includes admitting that you don’t know something. The same thing goes for mistakes. Having the ability to recognize what went wrong, let people know what happened and move on from it is what greatness is made of. Nobody is expecting you to be 100% perfect. Why hold yourself to that standard?

I saw a quote the other day that said: “Perfection is when your clients don’t see your mistakes” Funny, because I think the exact opposite is true.

You’ve seen it happen. Someone was doing some work for you. You check in from time to time, they say everything is great. Then when the final product comes, it’s totally broken. When you set yourself up on a pedestal, the fall is much more painful. It’s about bringing everyone into the conversation.

Have confidence in your abilities, don’t sell yourself short

I’m 24 years old. But part of my job is advising people who are twice my age about how to effectively run their marketing teams.

I won’t lie, it was a little intimidating at first. But believing in yourself and having some confidence goes a long way. Sure, I could have let that intimidation get the best of me. But I looked inside and realized that I was put into this role for a reason. And that gave me confidence. And with that confidence, I knew that it was possible for people to see me as an authority, no matter my age.

So rather than getting scared, keep in mind that people are paying you for your help. Be confident in your abilities. If your employer didn’t think you could perform, you would have never been hired.

When you’re confident, your clients can feel it. And when that confidence has grounds to it, your clients will love you even more.

How do you foster accountability and confidence in other people?

This is important for anyone in a leadership role, and I think it comes down to letting people take the reins, but also being there to catch them when they fall. Especially in marketing, where people are often given responsibilities without the experience, then are sent to get to work and hopefully it works out.

With my team, I encourage people to take the initiative, but make sure they know I’m always there in case they need me to jump in.  When people are out there beyond their abilities alone, it can easily collapse. If it’s something like a client call, it can turn terrible really quickly.

To a certain extent, when you give someone a task to do and there’s no other option but to do it, it doesn’t really matter how uncomfortable they are. Nine times out of ten, they will figure it out.

Giving people opportunity, but being there to catch them if they stumble, is what builds confidence. I could easily just run all my calls, but how strong would my team be then?

In my life, I’ve always learned by doing. So I try to let my team do that too. I have a tendency to just want to do everything myself and it’s something I’ve actively worked on. I’ve learned that I have to trust my team and be there for them when they’re doing things they’re not comfortable with.

Accountability and confidence go hand in hand. The more you push yourself to learn as you’re working, the more confident you’ll be. And the more self-sustaining your team will become as well.

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