One of the challenges many leaders face is perfectionism, the need to attain flawless results and perform to exceptionally high standards to feel safe and worthwhile as a person. “What’s wrong with having high standards?” I’m often asked this question by my perfectionist clients. There’s nothing wrong with having high standards. In fact, the need for high quality is actually a strength when it comes to perfectionism. The challenge comes in the form of *impossibly* high standards.
Ask yourself, “What happens if it’s not perfect?” Do you find yourself musing about your self-worth and value as a person? Do you think you’re less worthy if something isn’t flawless? Do you feel less secure? When being perfect is how you feel safe, secure, and worthy, then it’s something you may want to take a closer look at. A big challenge for perfectionists is difficulty with delegation. When your standards are so high that your team can never meet them, you may struggle to delegate tasks to your team, which can lead to imbalance, overwhelm, and stress. You can also appear isolated and cold to others. And, of course, when you don’t delegate, you rob your direct reports of valuable and career-building opportunities.
Perfectionism can lead to tasks not being completed because, frankly, sometimes compromise is necessary to complete tasks. There’s nothing wrong with high standards. But as a leader, it’s important to ask yourself if you have high standards to the degree that they cost you (and/or your team), and if so, in what ways. Perfectionism can be managed in coaching. I typically give my perfectionist clients a variety of exercises and thought experiments to help minimize the cost of perfectionism. Has perfectionism cost you? If it has, how?