Editor's Blog


Demanding vs. Pursuing Perfection

March 28, 2012
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I think Lexus™ got it right when they coined the phrase, “Relentless Pursuit of Perfection”.

I think pursuing perfection can be a healthy thing.

I know that demanding perfection of yourself and others is not a good thing at all. Why do I know that? I lived a life of demanding perfection for too long in my own life and my own business career.  

Demanding perfection can paralyze you. This is because nothing can ever be done well enough for you. It’s an evil temptation that evolves into never doing anything new or creating programs that never get off the ground. The company slowly strangles itself. And the only ideas deemed worthy are from the perfectionist, so it stifles the staff and the company once again.  

The staff becomes disinterested in taking any initiative if you’re an uncompromising perfectionist. Why bother if taking initiative only gets you grief? Whatever you suggest or do will be seen as “half baked” and never good enough to please you.  

The worse trap is that you begin to believe that only you can do things the right way so delegating and engaging your employees in problem-solving is never an option. And the myth continues to grow.

Perfectionism is a mirage

What does demanding perfection do to you? It can become isolating. It can wreck your health and destroy your business. It becomes the opposite of what you originally desired when you latched on to the concept of only what perfection can do. In extreme cases where the demon of perfectionism goes unchecked, it can cost you your life!  

Know that it can be a wide spectrum of demanding perfection. Sometimes it’s small and sometimes it’s all-consuming. Know, too, that a little bit of perfectionism rarely stays small. It grows like a cancer if unchecked.  

A rampant form of destructive perfectionism is procrastination. The need to stall everything has at its core the unwillingness to do anything new or start a new project or program because you feel it’s never perfect enough…it just needs more time. And that time never seems to arrive because perfect can never be achieved. It’s a mirage. It’s never going to be perfect from the start and it’s never going to stay perfect forever.

Stuff happens!

When I realized the damage I was doing to myself, to my co-workers and my company, here’s what I learned to say, “Good enough for today. We’ll make it better tomorrow.”  

What a relief! Here’s what I learned to do instead:
    1. Brainstorm ideas with the team.
    2.
    Work through the best of the ideas together.
    3.
    Create a step-by-step plan for each good idea.
    4.
    Create measurable goals and milestones along the way so we would  know when to make adjustments.
    5. Have a timeline when it gets released.
 
If you don’t do this, I promise you your projects will never get off the ground and you’ll wake up to the same things that plagued you and your company yesterday. And you’ll be facing that same thing tomorrow.  

Interestingly enough, many of my new clients are afflicted with the “Perfectionism Disease.” The curious thing about that is things tend to be anything but perfect at their companies or why would they be asking for my help. They know it’s broken and it needs fixing. The tough thing is that the owner needs fixing if they allow the Perfection Monster to continue to rule their companies.  

Once you move from demanding perfection to pursuing perfection, your company can become a fun and productive place to work. You and everyone who works for you will be a lot healthier for it.  

I have witnessed at the companies I’ve worked for over time staff members who were chain smokers and overweight take control of these bad habits and live a healthier life. That’s because the stress and tension of perfectionism has abated. They become less hard on themselves and actually gain the control they always demanded but that eluded them.  

Pursuing perfection vs. demanding perfection doesn’t mean you have to drop your standards. It means you can raise your standards by doing it in a more rational way that includes doable small consistent steps that get you to your objective goal of being a happier person.

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