A while ago the photographer David duChemin described how our pleasure at having made a great picture may not mean that it also is our best shot.
The confusion between best, great, and satisfaction can be a challenge for leaders. When the return they get and the work they have done satisfies them, they may perceive it as their best work.
And it might actually be true.
However, every project is also a teacher, if it is allowed to be.
It’s a posture.
One can look at it from the perspective of the adopted mindset.
Taking it from the point of view of the fixed mindset as Carol Dweck described it, having reached the best or having had a great success is at the same time a limiting belief. Either it will not be possible to reproduce it, or reproducing that same success becomes the objective.
Using a growth mindset, the perspective is different. Having done one’s best work simply means that it has been a satisfying and great piece of work. Not only because it served the client well, but also because it taught so much that there is more to be done. New ideas can contribute to doing one’s “best work” again and again without ever trying to reproduce previous achievements. They know that today’s best work is a stepping stone for tomorrow’s best work.
Best is a moment in the journey, not necessarily a linear progression, but something that leaves a mark in the journey.
While satisfaction is necessary, it is a trap to assume that something that touches or satisfies us is the end. Staying with it for a moment is encouraging and rich in information. Sticking to it means avoiding stepping out of what has been comfortable.
Whenever focusing on doing their best work is limiting leaders, they will find it hard to establish a culture allowing for errors and learning. Their measure is the past success, one that becomes better and better, but only retrospectively.