How leaders can measure success without perfectionism
By Petra Kolber
Whether you are managing a team of 10 or 100 people, overseeing a smaller “team” of four (your family) or keeping yourself on task as a solopreneur who strives to show up daily as your best self, you no doubt aspire to motivate, influence and become a person whom people want to follow. Unfortunately, when it comes to evaluating our success as aspiration individuals, we too often use perfection as the measurement: we believe that to be a successful leader we need to be the perfect leader.
What I’ve discovered after spending years steeped in research on perfectionism and hundreds of hours dedicated to coaching people through the destructive side of their perfectionistic tendencies is that most of the time the very thing we are striving for is the biggest barrier to our success. On the bright side, even those who are the most consumed by the desire to be perfect can find a constructive way out by becoming aware of some perfectionism myths and completing what I call ‘mindset resets”.
Myth: There can be no room for mistakes.
Mindset reset: Mistakes are proof that you are growing.
I always say there is data in the disasters and research in the rejection. If you or your team have never failed, you are playing it safe, and safe no longer cuts it in a world that is constantly changing. While I don’t believe in the slogan “Fail your way to the top”, I do believe in the acronym FAIL – First Attempts In Learning. Creating a culture that allows room for mistakes will build an atmosphere of creativity and exploration and engender a growth mindset.
Myth: As a leader you need to know everything.
Mindset reset: The more you know, the more you realize what you don’t know.
Collaboration is key when it comes to creating a cohesive working environment. If you never ask for advice, never delegate or are afraid to say that you don’t know something, you are leaving zero room to build strong relationships. Relationships are a two-way street, and nothing makes a person feel more valuable than when you ask for their advice. Whether it is a new piece of technology, a new product or an unexpected question that catches you off guard, when you ask for assistance or advice you are strengthening the connection and trust with your team.
Myth: You need to always be looking ahead for what may go wrong.
Mindset reset: you power resides in the present.
Wherever you are, be all there. Perfection resides in the uncertainties of the future. When you keep your attention and focus on the moment at hand, you will be better prepared for the challenges down the road. Your power and ability to motivate those you work with will increase dramatically when you are present, engaged and in the moment.
Feeling a lack of appreciation is one of the biggest reasons employees start looking elsewhere for a job, and no matter how well you think you multitask, if your mind is always three steps ahead, your team will never feel valued, heard or appreciated.
Myth: You need to oversee everything.
Mindset reset: you delegate, collaborate and trust the process.
Micromanaging, especially in stressful situations, never ends well. Even if the task at hand crosses the finish line, it will leave a residue of mistrust, anxiety and annoyance.
Micromanaging says to your team, “I don’t trust you to do your job”, or “You can’t do your job as well as I can,” neither of which feels good to either party. When you do your job well and take the time to discover not only the strengths of your staff but also their values and purpose, you will have the confidence to know they will do a better job than you every can. If a mistake does happen along the way, refer back to the first myth.
Myth: If you give up perfection you will lose your edge.
Mindset reset: If you giver up perfection you make room for growth and opportunity.
Perfectionism leads to fear-based leadership. This creates procrastination around important deliverables and causes you to micromanage when things get tough, leaving no room for transformational leadership to occur. It is impossible for high-executing, ambitious and driven leaders to stop caring and lose their edge. In fact, they are likely to work even harder than before, but the experience will be fueled by creativity and possibility instead of doubt and dread.
When you focus on potential versus perfection, curiosity versus constriction and collaboration versus control, not only will many more opportunities come your way, but your team will have the energy and enthusiasm to meet these increased demands.
Perfectionism only allows you to look at the faults and notice the gaps around you. While you never want to ignore areas that need improvement, by focusing on all that is going well (versus all that is going wrong) and delegating to the strengths of your team, you will be creating a culture that is energized, collaborative and engaged.
Petra Kolber (petrakolber.com) is a speaker, podcast host and the author of The Perfection Detox (Da Capo, 2018)