Perfectionism Doesn't Rule

Category: Newsletters Published on Jan 24 2017



I enjoyed your newsletter on being a control freak*.  Would you consider doing one on perfectionists (of which I am one) and needing to let go of things at a certain point?


Barb, PA

Dear Barb,


As a recovering perfectionist, I feel your pain. Believe it or not, perfectionism contains the tools for being a great manager. The hard part is to control our tendency to go to extremes.


The key to control is to convert the search for perfection to a quest for excellence. And this involves knowing when good enough is actually good enough.


I know, to a perfectionist, nothing is ever good enough. I’m talking like a heretic. But I have walked in these shoes and have made the change myself. A tool that I used that made a big difference in my managing style and my ability to let go is the question:


“What is the worst that could happen?”


If I let John do this on his own and he fails (gasp!), what is the worst that could happen? If I let Mary do this and it comes out imperfect (oh my!), what is the worst that could happen? Very rarely is the answer so earth shattering or life endangering that John and Mary should not only be allowed, but encouraged to do the task on their own. Giving others the opportunity to be imperfect is an important aspect of both their growth and yours.


Delegation does not come naturally to a perfectionist, because we always know that we can do it better than the person we’d give it to. And frequently, we can do it faster. However, if we insist on doing everything ourselves we muck up the works:

 - We become the place where all the work slows down

 - We fail to grow our people to their fullest potential

 - And if we become sick, no one else knows how to do anything and everything stops

 - Or worse yet, others do it and really make a mess of things (worse than if you had trained them!)


Therefore, it’s important that we let things go by delegating and training our employees.


Here is the good news. When you learn to moderate and control your perfectionism, your employees will see you as more approachable. When you allow them to fail and you respond supportively by turning it into a learning opportunity, they will admire you. And when you let them see your imperfections and failures, painful as it may be, they will see you as human and they will start to respect you.


It’s ironic – to be the “perfect” manager, we need to be quite imperfect!


Have a great day!




*See November 2016 newsletter