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Striving for Flawless, Not Perfect

Practice makes perfect.

How often did you hear that saying growing up? If you ever played sports, a musical instrument or tried to get proficient at any skill as a child, a well-meaning family member or coach probably said it to you at least once. As we get older, though, we learn that striving for perfection can be a double-edged sword, especially in business. It can be a powerful motivator, but it can also lead to more stress and burnout. And for those of us in the meetings and events industry, perfection is largely elusive. In fact, if anyone sets their sites on a perfect show, they’re probably setting themselves up for failure.

That’s why one of our core values at The 180 Group is Flawless Execution. To us, that means the endless pursuit of excellence — not perfection. Perfection is when everything goes 100% as planned and without error, and when you’re dealing with people, technology and other variables during a live production, it’s a tall task, to say the least. Flawless Execution, for us, is an aspirational goal because we’re constantly dealing with a moving target and will always need to adapt.

Delivering Flawless Execution is very much achievable when we do things The 180 Group way. We’ve put the right people, processes and redundancies in place so when things change, the show goes on, and the audience is none the wiser. As CEO, I’ve learned that striving for flawlessness is even better than seeking perfection because it provides more opportunities for innovation and actually reduces stress. Here’s why:

Sets Clear Expectations

Over the years, we’ve discovered that delivering Flawless Execution can mean different things to our clients and our teams. To our clients, we define it as creating a seamless experience for the audience and presenters and exceeding their expectations during their event. However, if we don’t set clear expectations with them ahead of time and make sure we’re all on the same page about what flawless looks like, we open the door for confusion, frustration and a possibly unpleasant experience for everyone involved.

To ensure this doesn’t transpire, we start by working closely with our clients to build a clear vision and blueprint of their show. We then look at any place where people or technology could fail. For instance, if one of our team members or a presenter gets COVID and can’t be there on show day, how will we adapt? If our streaming machine malfunctions, how will we fix it? What if we lose fiber internet? We run through both probable and improbable scenarios with our team so we can either create or use existing procedures and fail-safes in order to remain calm and deal with each issue as it arises.

Our mission with all of that prep work is to be show-ready by rehearsal. We run through every cue and every potential curveball with our crew, technical team and client so no one will be caught scrambling frantically in the moment. Ultimately, an impeccable rehearsal instills confidence in our clients because they see that if something does go awry, we’re able to adjust to the challenge smoothly and with no disruption.

Meantime, for our teams, we’ve learned that expecting flawlessness without defining how we view it and how to achieve it can be toxic. People take the word seriously and assume they’re either being given carte blanche to make it happen however they see fit or that we, as a company, expect everything to go perfectly. Unfortunately, when things don’t go as planned, this could lead people to withhold information about what happened in order to avoid embarrassment or worry. By hiding those imperfections, we’re setting the stage for similar mistakes to happen in the future and also stifling any potential learning and innovation that could evolve from them.

To minimize this, we as a Coaching Team make sure we define exactly what we mean by flawless with every single person on our team, particularly new hires. We also set very clear expectations about the steps they have to take before, during and after a production to prevent any misunderstandings. Clear definitions and expectations have been the key to ensuring our teams and our clients are on the same page when it comes to creating a flawlessly executed event. Plus, setting clear expectations has been shown to reduce employee burnout and stress; that’s a big win-win!

Provides Learning Opportunities

Even with the best-laid plans and backups, it’s impossible to predict everything, and the unexpected will happen. For example, let’s say a presenter’s microphone battery suddenly dies on stage. Do we disrupt the show for a few seconds to bring them a new one, or do we send them to the podium where another microphone is ready to go but where they’re stuck in a stationary position? When a problem occurs in the middle of a live show, we immediately have to weigh the risk versus the reward of instituting one of our fixes and make a decision at that moment about which will disrupt the show the least. Sometimes those decisions work, and sometimes they don’t.

Whenever hiccups happen during events, it’s crucial for us to debrief and discuss what occurred, what could have been done differently and what possible solutions we can enact so it doesn’t happen again. Because we set clear expectations that flawless does not mean perfect, we allow more room for growth and learning. We’re not shaming but instead reframing those instances as opportunities to innovate. True innovation does not come easily; it’s a trial and error process. Sadly, many workers say their companies don’t encourage them to innovate through their mistakes, and that’s a huge missed opportunity.

Over time, we at The 180 Group have seen that aspiring toward Flawless Execution is not only possible but practical. It’s pushed us to be more responsive and understanding and to deliver excellence under demanding circumstances. It’s not perfect, and that’s perfectly fine with us.

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