Are you too perfect to succeed?

Human beings are not perfect. DaVinci’s masterpiece is both beautiful and anatomically accurate. Yet, there is evidence that there are previous versions of the painting underneath the final version. At some point, we need to decide our efforts are good enough. If you’re too focused on perfection you are unlikely to succeed.

While high standards are valuable and important when it comes to achieving results, too much of a good thing can and does backfire. When people adopt unforgiving, rigid, unrealistic, or unreasonably high expectations for themselves, it inevitably has the opposite effect of what they are trying to achieve. This type of thinking is often the root cause of business owners’ disappointing results. Or why someone hits a professional wall.

Impossible goals result in impossible stress

When human imperfections smash up against impossible goals and standards, there is a tendency to focus on the flaws – ours and everyone else’s. The result can be some mean and relentless self-diminishing thoughts, causing stress and anxiety. When directed outward, it can demean and disengage team members or employees, sucking the motivation right out of them.

Perfectionism prohibits the ability to move quickly, be more efficient or delegate tasks. Instead of acting, there is endless analysis or reiterations. Conversely, the drive to constantly do better may also mean quickly trying to resolve problems. It is difficult to be vulnerable and hear less than optimal feedback when something goes awry.

Perfectionists can make lousy leaders

People with inflexible high standards often have a difficult time hiring and retaining people.  They demand that others be able to meet their unrealistic expectations. Perfectionists may feel discomfort providing improvement feedback to others in a tactful way. They may struggle to communicate effectively on sensitive issues or try to increase control over situations. If an overachiever’s uncompromising criteria are accompanied by an unforgiving attitude, the end result can be toxic and a revolving door for employees. And here is the kicker, you probably don’t even realize you are doing it. Or that it is the cause for so many woes.

We are much more successful when we can accept our imperfections and cut ourselves a break. Clients pay for delivering what is promised or a product that works. There is no add-on fee for perfection. Under promising and over delivering can be an effective strategy – spending excessive time and effort to go well beyond what is expected rarely gives us the advantage we hope for. It’s important to learn to pause and assess the benefit to effort ratio. At some point it is critical to identify when investing in improvements is no longer desirable, or profitable. This is often referred to as the law of diminishing returns.

Rewire your brain for better balance

The skills we need to overcome the root cause of needing to be too perfect can be learned. But we must first unlearn the thinking habit that’s getting in our way and understand what is driving the need for perfection. Just like there can be many causes of the sniffles or a sore throat, there are many causes of common behaviors that get in our way. We are all wired to react differently, based on our own experiences. This drive for unrelenting high standards can be caused by many things, including fear, overvaluing control, or rigidity about values.

If you are this way, do you think you can figure it out yourself? I challenge you to. But, if you have been trying to change this behavior for six months, two years, or since forever, you need some rewiring. This is what I do. (I am told I do it really, really well). Using a Neuroscience based approach, I can help you lay waste to those faulty connections and lay down new and transformative neuropathways.

The brain can change — and that changes everything. Start creating your masterpiece.

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Leading with Introspection Through Turbulent Times

Introspection is a Leadership Superpower

Stress and anxiety are palpable everywhere. Exceptional leaders will recognize this as an opportunity to practice and model introspection, a leadership superpower. This is the opposite of taking the stance “don’t be emotional at work”! People experience emotions all day, everyday and research indicates 70% of decisions are driven by emotion, not logic. While emotions are running high right now, self-awareness, skillful observation, and active listening is required when leading with introspection.

The key is to recognize emotions and take hold of them instead of letting them take hold of us. When we are stressed, anxious, fearful, angry – our amygdala gets hijacked and all logic goes out the window. We become incapable of problem-solving, thinking linearly, finding the root cause or being creative. People who have become overwhelmed or triggered either become very reactive – like losing their temper – or they shut down. Neither is productive.

Introspection results in better outcomes

Practicing introspection means we identify for ourselves, or to others, what emotion we are experiencing, process it, and decide what to do with it. During a crisis, it is important to model this for others, especially if you lead a team or organization. It is a strength, not a weakness, to know when you need support. Your team, peers and clients will respect you for being able to say “I’m concerned… I need your help…” They will be much more likely to rally around you and do what needs to be done. Think about it – wouldn’t you rather hear that kind of honesty vs. someone losing their shit in a meeting? It is a sign of trust to be able to tell someone they disappointed you or made you angry.

Introspective people see their own biases and assumptions and make an active effort to push past them. This is critical during a crisis. No one person has all the answers or all the best ideas. An introspective leader can identify the pang they may feel when someone comes up with an idea that is better than theirs, and move past the blow to the ego to realize the best idea is what is most important. 

Introspection leads to action

This is a fearful time. Anyone who says they are not experiencing any fear right now is a big fat liar. What many people don’t understand is that by merely acknowledging we are afraid we start to master the fear. When we stuff down emotions they cause havoc. Avoidance accomplishes nothing and often results in the problem only getting bigger. Once we name what we are experiencing we can then start to confront it and problem-solve what to do about it.

Your people need to see, not just hear, that it’s ok to be feeling overwhelmed or anxious or stressed. When you allow people to name what they are experiencing and explain its impact, it helps diffuse it. Then you can help them identify what they need to be able to move past it.  

Mastering and leading with introspection is the first step to learning true empathy. Once we become cognizant of why we do things, it enables us to be open to why others might be reacting a certain way.

Stay tuned for Superpower # 3 – Empathy.