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Perfectionism: Stop Being Your Worst Enemy

You didn't get where you are on your life's journey without hard work, goals and a plan of some kind. And, if you're like most people, you've also brought along some baggage. One of the bags that is costliest is perfectionism. Perfectionism is driven by insecurity, the fear of not being good enough. It takes a hefty toll on time management, interpersonal relationships and effective leadership.

Perfectionists never have enough time in the day to do it all because it all has to be done brilliantly. Hewing to such a standard can lead to failure to prioritize which initiatives or tasks are most important. Perfectionists have a tendency to re-work things to meet their very high standards. But after a certain point, the Law of Diminishing Returns applies: additional effort applied to a goal or task does not lead to increased output. In a successful organization or venture, meeting deadlines in a timely fashion is imperative. The perfectionist slows down productivity. Perfectionists suffer from reputations as hard to please and de-motivating. They drive people away with their focus on what is wrong. In a classic twist, the leader or manager delegates a responsibility, then looks over the shoulder of the employee, makes suggestions for improvement, and sometimes re-engineers the entire project.

Perfectionists find it hard to take risks, because risk implies the possibility of failure. As a result, they may not take on challenging enough growth opportunities.

If you recognize some perfectionist tendencies in yourself and want to stop the drain on your energy, productivity and relationships:

  • Start by listing successes at the end of each day. In managing yourself and others, instead of focusing on what didn't get done or wasn't done to your standard, focus on what went right. Build on the positive.

  • Look for the learning opportunity in failures or disappointments.

  • Make a decision that you've been delaying.

  • Take a risk.

  • If it has been suggested that you're too controlling, make a conscious effort to empower others and share decision-making.

  • Determine which initiatives and projects can be best done by you and delegate those which are of lesser importance or can be better done by someone else.