I recently had breakfast with David Churbuck, a wise friend, who’s the head of digital marketing at a large computer and electronics manufacturer. He left me with a zinger quote that stuck to my brain like Super Glue. To paraphrase David and protect the guilty:
Details and presentation matter. I just sat through a crowded public presentation from a senior brand manager at XYZ company. But you know, for all the glory and savvy of XYZ company, one of the world’s largest data-driven marketers, the glaring typo on one of his slides made him look sloppy — like a supermodel with a giant, oozing zit.
Ouch! You can do your best to be tight with your presentation at every customer touch point. But as this example shows, just the smallest oversight, the smallest imperfection, can be significant. This is especially true within experiences that are otherwise stellar, or ones that have high expectations. You can be perfect 99% of the time, but the 1% you’re not can have a hugely disproportionate impact. So be careful of that 1%.
Sure, high presentation and experience standards are critical — they will make or break you. But the real lesson here is about intentions and expectations management. First, it’s only acceptable to have good intentions, 100% of the time. However, it’s equally important to acknowledge that you’re not perfect 100% of the time. Good intentions and humility win forgiveness, respect and trust — from your colleagues, investors, customers, partners and other stakeholders. Good intentions coupled with humility breed culture and karma that manifest in experimentation, collaboration and innovation. Importantly, good intentions and humility prevent you from becoming that supermodel with the giant, oozing zit
At our startup, we call this the 7:1 rule. That means we expect one another to do extraordinarily more good than bad. However, there are times when we’re not perfect, and it’s OK — because we acknowledge it, fix the shortcoming, learn from it, and quickly move on to achieving our larger goal. This balance of intention and humility is an incredible competitive advantage.
(This essay also ran as a column at MediaPost.)