It's so easy to see the benefits of this approach and the results that it can achieve so where's the issue?
The challenge is that highly developed perfectionism actually achieves less:
- Less business results
- Less strong relationships
- Less good health
Have a quick think against the following perfectionistic traits and check where you are:
To what extent do you feel the need to live up to certain high expectations?
How many areas of your life do you feel the need to be perfect?
Are you feeling the need to be perfect to meet others expectations?
Do you feel others expect too much of you at home or at work?
Do you set standards for other people that are at any time unreasonably high?
Do you get extremely upset when you feel criticised?
Do you find it difficult to delegate as you worry others won't do it so well?
There are 3 main types of perfectionism and understanding which may be more relevant to your circumstances will help you think it through:
This is where your thinking is naturally driven by your desire to do well. Often high performing people have an element of this thinking as it makes you very self-disciplined goal driven and focussed. Missing a deadline if you feel like this would be unthinkable.
As a team member, this also means the fear of making a mistake can really destroy your confidence and the ability to get the job done well. It hampers creativity and problem solving and it creates an anxious atmosphere.
As a leader, this means decisions can be difficult as you often worry if you have made the right choice. It often affects your confidence as you believe that respect is linked to being seen as perfect.
With this trait, it’s amazing what you demand of yourself when circumstances require it. However unless you can adapt the way you act, it can prevent harmonious relationships with those around you, whether it’s at home or at work.
An example here was ‘Simon’ a small entrepreneur, who was so concerned to get their service offer ‘just right’ that it was permanently delayed in launch. Their perfectionism meant that the service wasn't discussed at any meetings or highlighted in any marketing because it wasn't finished. It held back their business and meant a huge amount of time was invested in minor updates and details which delayed launch and related income streams.
We finally overcame this by engaging key clients in their feedback for the proposed service as well as exploring how perfectionism was holding their business back.
People orientated perfectionism
This is where the perfectionism links to the relationships in your life. The emotions that are linked to this can be very strong and they can cause numerous challenges. It creates a judgemental, critical thinking pattern where you find it difficult to trust others. In turn others often see you as difficult and are not relaxed in your company. You will naturally notice others shortcomings more than their skills.
As a team member, it means you will find it difficult to build relationships and you will often get upset when others don't behave as you expect.
As a leader, you will end up doing everything yourself as you simply won't trust anyone else to meet your standards. This could lead to burn out for you and will definitely lead to a sense of frustration within your team.
An example here was with ‘Patrick’ a gentleman who had a regional leadership role which involved sharing detailed feedback and performance results with the team. He found it highly irritating when his managers didn't show the same commitment as him. On looking at the data he always focused on what could be done better and noticed development areas.
Praise was limited. His team were showing signs of stress and some tenseness was clear. He had warmth and a level of emotional intelligence that had stopped this team tension escalating. The issue was he simply noticed all the things that were ‘wrong’ before anything else.
We developed this by setting targets around positive markers, feedback and recognition. It still didn't come naturally but the heightened awareness of his behaviour made a real difference to the team morale.
Socially oriented perfectionism
This is where you really feel driven to fit in. A lot of your thoughts and behaviours will be driven by worrying what people will think of you. It can mean avoiding confrontation and not being confident in asking for what you want.
As a team member, this can be exhausting as you continually will take on extra responsibilities as you find it difficult to say no at the same time you are balancing a deep need to produce perfect work. Resentment and ill health can often follow.
As a leader, it can lead to more conflict in the workplace as the need to be liked overrides the need to resolve issues. It is also a type of thinking that leads to lower confidence which causes issues.
An example here was 'Lisa' who had a job dealing with complex reporting for the team. She continually missed deadlines and was often ill.
We explored this by looking at the reasons why. She was so concerned everyone had the report looking exactly as they wanted that she was in total conflict. To help another team she had also taken in extra work as she didn't like to say no.
This was resolved by Lisa finally building the confidence to speak to her manager with recommendations for a standard template and reviews and explaining her working hours issues.
So now let's focus on how you can use perfectionism to help you:
Understand yourself – That way you can channel your perfectionism into good results.
Understand your team – That way you can support your team fully and notice when any perfectionist traits are not helping you or the team.
Set boundaries and limits – So that the perfectionism can help innovation and development as well as quality.
And then you can enjoy having a positively perfect team.