How high of a bar should we set for ourselves? What separates good enough from great?  How should we prepare for the surprises that will inevitably show up along the way?

Singer/songwriter Mike Posner told Switched on Pop that he likes to list out the things he and his team will not compromise on and hang them around the studio as reminders. He said, “Your key to success is just not convincing yourself something is done when it’s not, or that something is good when it’s not.” Even before the song emerges, he sets a bar for quality and makes sure everyone stays aware of upholding that standard.

With his quote, he reminds us that we are really good at talking ourselves into accepting something as good enough, even when it’s really not. We can become our own worst enemies when we start to cut corners on the quality of our work. By listing out our “uncompromisables” in advance, we can create simple questions that any team member can ask of any broader situation. Posner gives the example of “no filler lyrics.” That means every word in a song has to mean something or serve some purpose. If anyone hears a line that seems like filler, they bring it up. That’s pop-craftsmanship quality control in practice.

The key to uncovering our own uncompromisables comes from focusing on what a successful project or experience would look like. Posner’s great song might be the equivalent of our great experience. We’re not trying to solve for every step along the way, but we are addressing what questions we can ask any time we’re faced with uncertainty in the moment. By providing the right question to test our standards, we can dramatically increase our odds of staying on track in the face of unplanned events.

For the service industry, one uncompromisable might be to make sure that after an interaction a client would state, “they took the time to listen to me and heard what I had to say.” Imagine a client calls in with a fear about some life or world event. Whoever is handling the situation should be uncompromising in upholding that standard of making sure the client truly feels heard. At every step, every action should be in support of the uncompromisable.

If we step back and just think of our own recent service experiences, how many times in recent memory did you feel like someone didn’t really want to listen to you? In this light, we start to see how our uncompromisables are differentiators. If we give client’s an experience they may not get elsewhere, we increase the odds that they’ll further appreciate us, or better – tell someone about how great we are.

Remember Posner’s quote. Our key to success is in just not convincing ourselves something was OK when it really wasn’t. We have to continuously rise up to the bar we set. Songwriting, business, and most of life is full of uncertainties. We can use uncompromisables to give ourselves an advantage in our professional lives.

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