Lessons from Adele: stuffing up with grace

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Anyone watching the Grammys this year learned a lesson in the art of perfectionism courtesy of British singer Adele.

Shortly into performing a new arrangement of the song Fastlove as a tribute to the late George Michael – one of her own musical heroes – Adele stopped and apologised, halting the entire performance. She requested they start over again on the grounds that she couldn’t “mess this up for him“.

For viewers at home it was live television at its best – and not just because Adele dropped the F-bomb. Twice. (Which, for the record, I have no problem with. I mean, she won five Grammys – she would have been well within her rights to drop a C-bomb after each F.)

It was amazing to watch because not only was it impossible to anticipate, it echoed a sentiment my dad always expressed to my sisters and I: “If you’re going to do something, do it properly or don’t do it all.”

Admittedly, when my dad said it he was usually banging on about our dish-drying or car-washing technique (slave-driver). But when Adele called out the need for her own do-over in front of a room packed with hundreds of her peers, not to mention a live television audience of 26 million people in the US alone, the message was clear: if it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing well.

Here’s why it’s just as important for business owners to recognise when something’s not right and start again.

Your name, your reputation

Putting your name (or company’s name) to a product or service that’s not up to scratch can damage your brand, even if it only happens once or twice.

In musical terms, let’s refer to it as the Milli Vanilli effect. It only takes a few mentions of your shortcomings for that kind of damage to stick, so better to take the reins on a re-do and make sure what you’re putting out into your market is top-notch.

No shame in showing integrity

You might think it’s awkward or embarrassing having to stop or withdraw something in order to fix it, but the truth is that it shows integrity.

(If only Mariah Carey had known this before she completely annihilated her 2016 New Year’s Eve performance – and not in a good way.)

Being able to say “I’m sorry, I know I can do better and that’s exactly what I’m going to do” shows your clients that your high standards are of the utmost importance to your business.

It also shows that you value your clients so much that you’ll make sure the highest standards are what they’ll only ever get from you, no matter what.

Short-term pain, long-term gain

That moment of awkwardness, embarrassment or panic for you when you realise you need to start again is fleeting compared to the long-term effects of putting a not-so-great product or service out into your market.

Take Justin Bieber (please). The moment when he threw up on stage during a concert would no doubt have been preceded by the thought “I think I’m going to throw up on stage during a concert”. He should probably have hit “pause” on the performance to start again – and spew elsewhere!

The inconvenience of a do-over for your client will also (hopefully!) be brief in comparison to the longstanding consequences of a product or service that’s just not good enough.

So when it’s necessary, be brave and do it again to do your best. You might not get a standing ovation from a room full of legends, but your clients will respect you for it.

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