We Have Seen the Future. And it was green with a hint of neurosis. Part 4 — Being a Perfectionist

By TRISOFT team

There’s nothing wrong with wanting to have it all, many would think. We do it in business, we do it in our personal lives — it is nice and comforting to feel that you can become the best version of yourself. Trouble arrives however when your inner critic conquers too much territory and perfection turns into an obsession. That’s when you should watch out for the risks of placing value on the wrong things, which sometimes can actually hinder your good sense of doing successful business.

Psychology studies show that perfectionism has both positive and negative consequences. Setting the bar (too) high for ourselves can be more a curse than a blessing when it comes to a business, mainly because perfectionist managers very often create and nurture an environment where nobody can really get it right, an environment where you seem to hear a lot of “there’s always room for improvement” or “if you could stretch just a little bit farther”…

Paying the price

Chasing perfection can and will be addictive if you let it. As ideal as it sounds, it takes just a few steps to fall into the perfect trap, the very first being the example that society sets up for us. Take Martha Stewart for instance — she is one of the many successful people who has described herself as a perfectionist, arguing that her quest for perfection is what led her to success.

This is where it all starts: the common belief we are all taught to strive for, that if we work hard enough and long enough, we can get whatever we want. And maybe in some cases it is true. Maybe some who follow this pattern get to achieve their goals. But there are also those who push for perfection and have their dreams fall apart. It all depends on the type of perfectionist you are, psychologist Don Hamacheck says. Not long ago, he identified two types of perfectionists in his studies: the normal perfectionist and the neurotic perfectionist. Their titles are quite self explanatory, however we need to point out that while the first one doesn’t obsess about perfection and he doesn’t let it affect their happiness, the second one basically ends up feeling worthless because their entire life support is linked to impossible goals. This is how perfectionism can quickly become a lose-lose proposition.

So if your constant need for perfection becomes a tad too much, you need to focus and temper yourself, for the good of both your personal and business success. Here’s a few ideas on how you can identify the characteristics of a dangerous perfectionist attitude and how you can cope with them better.

1. It takes you longer to complete tasks

What perfectionism sounds like: I have just completed an important project, I checked all the functionalities, it all seem to work and I am on time and ready to deliver. But I need to triple check some details, make sure everything is perfect to the last dot.

Time is money, you’ve heard the old saying. Well, it’s just as valid and true today as it was 50 years ago. So if it takes you twice as long to complete a task because you just can’t let go of any small thing, you will waste precious time which you could invest to pursue other projects. And you will lose money.

Action: It takes just a little courage — jump in and finish what you’ve started. No matter how hard it seems, try to step away from the project and look at things from a wider perspective. Don’t allow your perfectionism to prevent you from getting the very thing you are struggling to obtain — that is, success. Remember that you can always make changes and develop better projects.

2. You avoid taking risks

What perfectionism sounds like: I always strive to be the best at everything I do, but sometimes this desire turns into a great fear of failure.

Perfectionists run the risk of being overwhelmed by the fear of not being able to do things as they want to, so sometimes they end up settling for what they know will work. This is quite a challenge for an entrepreneur, as by the nature of their profession, they must be open to explore new, uncertain territory and take risks. Failing to do so may result in failure of everything they have struggled to achieve.

Action: Fight the urge of running the opposite direction when the road gets rocky. When faced with difficulties, gather your team, expose your weapons and come up with solutions. More often than you think, the answer is right in front of you. You just need to be brave and use the negative feedback in order to become precisely what you desire: a better version of yourself.

3. You’re working more than necessary

What perfectionism sounds like: This is an important project, I need it to be perfect, so I will work as much and as hard as I can. The client will be thrilled with my dedication.

The truth with clients and projects is that people expect the work to be ready on time and to meet all the criteria required. Rarely does anyone really expect greatness from a simple task. Also, your obsession for perfect may even damage the relationship with the client, since more working hours mean more money. And to top it up, think about this: if you spend too much time wrapped up in the details of a project, you might be missing out on other great business opportunities.

Action: Take a step back and start planning your working hours in a more efficient way. Also, take breaks — rest is as important as work. When you give your body what it needs to stay in good shape, your mental state will also be healthy and your business will have the support of a strong leader rather than a desperate, obsessed one. Take walks in nature, meditate, nurture calm and balance and you will find that working more than necessary is almost never the answer.

4. You’re a know-it-all

What perfectionism sounds like: I have all the answers to my questions and I know how to handle any situation.

If you ever sound like this, even if it’s only for yourself, you need to stop now. For starters, nobody ever has all the answers and if you do a little research, you will discover that great leaders aren’t those who know it all, but those who never top asking themselves and the others questions.

Action: Focus on asking the right questions and the answers will lead you closer to the success you are seeking. It’s time to stop seeing yourself as unbreakable and start embracing the fact that you can too make mistakes. Mistakes are often opportunities in disguise, use them wisely.

5. You can’t evolve quickly enough

What perfectionism sounds like: I want to do it all and now, so I need to see results right away.

Very often, such mentality will only bring you disadvantages. When you absolutely need to achieve perfection, your mind will focus on this alone too much and positive energy is wasted. This is how you might find yourself stuck in inefficient business plans and even failing to meet your goals because there is no learning process and hence, no evolution.

Action: You need to do two things: first, learn to adapt to new situations as you go. As our world spins faster and faster, we need to keep up with the pace and become ever more innovative. Secondly, try to find motivation in your passion for what you are doing. It’s often much more desirable than the fear of failure or the need to be the best. When your purposes are of a more profound nature, you will notice you are more resilient to difficulties and ultimately more successful.

6. Your relationships with co-workers are damaged

What perfectionism sounds like: I don’t need anyone to tell me what to do, I can manage on my own. And if you work with me, you need to keep up with me.

As you can imagine, a perfectionist isn’t a perfectionist only when it comes to him or her. No no! It goes deeper, above and beyond and always affects the ones around them. This means colleagues, partners, subordinates. The tension created around a person who demands too much is often a deal breaker in business relationships.

Action: A piece of advice: remember not everyone thinks like you do. And that is good — brings freshness and a multiple-view perspective to your business. Learn how to trust your people and delegate tasks. This will give you more time to focus on innovation and will empower your team to work harder towards achieving the goals they have been assigned with.

Excellence and perfection are not one and the same!

Now this may sound like a revelation (’cause it did for us), but perfection and excellence aren’t quite the same thing. Living in a world where everyone wants to be the first, the best, screw the rest, sometime we lose sight of what we really desire and what is actually beneficial for us.

It is indeed great to do great things in our professional lives and we should set high standards and dream big. However, along with this we should also accept that there will be errors and setbacks. This is when we need to learn and adjust. This is what a leader in search for excellence should do. While the perfectionist will crush and burn and wonder why bad things only happen to him. So which one do you want to be?

Conclusion

What perfectionism sounds like: There is a big conference in the city. I don’t know how my business logo should look like. If I don’t have a logo, I won’t be able to make business cards. Without business cards I am nobody at the conference. I guess I can’t go.

Action: When you find yourself making such a decision it’s time to ask yourself: What do I really gain from being a perfectionist? That is if you realize you are one, as studies show most perfectionists are unaware of the fact and they believe they are simply doing or trying to do a good job…

At TRISOFT, we have learned that perfectionism can be a two-edged sword. It may give you the boost to strive for excellence or it may restrict you from the much desired success. Analyzing your ways of doing business closely and objectively will guard you from falling into extremes. Balance, again, is an important asset in our opinion, along with admitting to what we do wrong today, so that we are able to do it better tomorrow.