Is Perfectionism Holding You Back?

    2 min read time

    As leaders in our organizations, we can tend to expect perfectionism - of ourselves and our teams - whatever that definition is. This is a topic I hold dear to my heart - as I'm a recovering perfectionist.


    Perfectionism is something that is on the rise. We hold ourselves and others to unrealistic and unreasonable standards. Something we need to keep in mind is that perfectionism is linked to depression and anxiety, and can be detrimental to work and personal relationships. Some people say that striving for perfectionism can be good, but it tends to lead to frustration and feelings of inadequacy. And in organizations across the globe, perfectionism is wildly inefficient and not conducive to collaboration.

    What we should be doing to release perfectionism, is to share our thoughts, ideas, projects, etc rather than hold them in. Now, I'm not endorsing low standards or sloppy work. What I am saying is that you should embrace imperfection, and it takes PRACTICE!

    Here are some steps to overcome the perfectionism in you:

    1. Verbalize your intent to collaborate

    Now you don't have to accept everyone's solutions, but do ask questions like "I'm throwing around an idea here and I'd love your feedback" or "Here are my initial thoughts on...". Learn to share your ideas with confidence, even if you are uncertain. 

    2. Make room for idea creation

    You need to allow yourself and your team space and time to brainstorm. All ideas are welcome and none are fully dismissed. Promote risky ideas and creativity. These activities allow everyone on the team to embrace who they are, be engaged and bring forth any ideas that come to mind - perfect or not. 

    3. Adopt a growth mindset

    We should all glean learning from our failures, not just from the content, but also as a test of our underlying assumptions and thought process. 

    perfectionism work

    Forest Church says “the more times you act, the more certain it is that you will be wrong.” So it is important that you practice compassion for yourself, which is essential to soften the judgment of perfectionism.

    4. Trust others more

    When your hopes and expectations are sky-high, it’s not a surprise that you project these same expectations on those around you. In reality, this kind of pressure on colleagues can backfire by making others uncomfortable.

    Learn to embrace the good enough. Perfectionists can find it to be hard to delegate, so they micromanage and nit-pick. When you pull back and relinquish some control to colleagues, subordinates, friends and family, you’ll discover that their way of doing things works just fine, too.

    So let's remind ourselves that we usually have more than one chance to get things right. There are always opportunities to improve and we can learn as we go along. If we do mess up our "draft", it means that we are nothing more than fallible human beings - and THAT'S OK!

    So go to that karaoke bar with your friends and coworkers, even if you can’t carry a tune. Flaws can be absolutely fabulous.