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The last couple of First Friday Challenges I presented to my subscriber base focused on Bravery and Resilience. This month, I took a closer look at a common creativity and innovation killer: Perfectionism. In her book bird by bird, a delightful read about writing and life, author Anne Lamott calls it out as a major cause for writer’s block and plain old drab:
“Perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor, the enemy of the people. It will keep you cramped and insane your whole life, and it is the main obstacle between you and a shitty first draft. I think perfectionism is based on the obsessive belief that if you run carefully enough, hitting each stepping-stone just right, you won’t have to die. The truth is that you will die anyway and that a lot of people who aren’t even looking at their feet are going to do a whole lot better that you, and have a lot more fun while they are doing it.”
I see perfectionism getting in the way of many efforts and opportunities beyond creative writing. Perfectionism keeps you from experimenting. It will stop you from starting something when you are not certain that the outcome will be anything like the idea that you hold in your mind.
Perfectionism is a myth that asserts itself in several ways. These myths tell the story of “not ready yet” and “not good enough”. It focuses on flaws and lack. It is a bravery, resilience, creativity and joy killer.
So let go of it already!
Easier said than done you say? Well, let’s explore the myths that perfectionism perpetuates and begin rooting it out of our daily lives:
1. The Myth of Permanence
Perfectionism lures you into thinking that your efforts are watched and judged by everyone around you. In reality, the majority of our imperfections or imperfect actions will hardly be noticed, will be easily laid to rest, or they are things that can be edited, updated, or improved at a later date or with the next rendition. The important thing is to do something and get moving towards a goal.
Remembering that nothing is permanent and that taking a first step, even if wobbly, is better than waiting for perfect. Taking a shaky first try will set your creative juices flowing, allow you to tap into greater creativity, and ultimately enjoy better results!
2. The Myth of Success or Failure
Perfectionism blinds you to the spectrum between success and failure. Like other all-or-nothing ways of thinking, it highlights the extreme options with nothing in-between! Even worse, the tendency is to believe that the odds are slanted significantly in the failure direction. Of course you procrastinate – who wants to fast track towards failure?
The truth is that there is always room for improvement no matter how amazing your first effort is. Because we are constantly learning and growing, when we look at past efforts the desire to update can be strong! Some things aren’t even worth your time to fret about. Other things can be considered valuable learning experiences that can be mined for valuable insights. Take the time and energy to figure out which is which – let go what needs to be let go and learn from what can be improved.
3. The Myth of Getting Respect or Approval
If you’re struggling with perfectionism, it can also be a signal that you value the opinions of others more than what is healthy for you. It can seem logical that you need to present a polished and perfect appearance for others to accept your leadership. However, it has generally been my experience that people are attracted to authenticity and vulnerability not perfection. As a leader, a mask of perfectionism can have the effect of making you unapproachable to your team. Of course, you want to remain professional but putting up a fake front of perfection will not promote your reputation in your team nor does it create a safe space for them to take risks and be creative.
4. The Myth of Everyone Else Has It All Figured Out
This one is more common than you might guess, especially among leaders. It is closely related to Impostor Syndrome as well – the idea that everyone else got where they are by merit, but you’re just lucky and don’t really deserve to be there! It fills you with the internal pressure to make sure you do everything correctly so no one finds you out. The truth is that very few leaders feel 100% confident all of the time. Comparing yourself to another leader will always lead to self-doubt and will hamper your own and your organization’s growth.
Have you gotten pulled into believing any of these Perfectionist Myths?
How do you see them playing into those internal voices that say you are “not ready yet” or “not good enough?”
I invite you to challenge perfectionism in your life and in your leadership with a simple and concrete action:
Give yourself a finite amount of time to work on a big project. Once the time is up, send whatever you have to a colleague or business ally for feedback, no matter where you are in the process.
Would you like access to more leadership capacity building practices? Contact me here or even better, schedule a free Discovery Coaching Call with me! I love talking with people!
In one of my favorite scenes in the movie “We Bought a Zoo”, Matt Damon’s character (Benjamin Mee) talks to his son about facing fears and doing the unthinkable:
“All it takes is 20 seconds of insane courage, 20 seconds of embarrassing bravery, and I promise you something great will come of it!” ~ Benjamin Mee
How often have you shied away from doing something new because of a fear of failure? Do you only start things when you know you will succeed?
Becoming comfortable with uncomfortableness is a current mantra for many successful leaders. It is nearly impossible to grow without some level of discomfort. And yet, leaders often resist seasons of ambiguity and change even while knowing it is the right thing to be able to embrace the tension of those inevitable transitions and phases of not knowing the answers to questions yet.
So how do you start to appreciate ambiguity? How do you practice resilience? How do you begin to find your center in uncomfortableness and continue to breathe through it as scenarios unfold around you at a rapid speed?
I invite you to practice! You can “become comfortable with uncomfortableness” by doing things that get your adrenaline flowing and that stretch you into something new and never done (by you) before.
When you step into Insane Courage and take gasp inducing action, a few things may happen:
1. Wild Animals Threaten to Shred You to Pieces
Fight, Flight, Freeze responses are easily triggered in high-stakes settings. Trust that the “wild animals” in the corporate world may show their fangs and claws but you do not really have to fear for your life. Breathe. Create a pause to think and consider your options before you respond. Practice slowing down in the moment, so you act with intention and in control of your emotions. Trust that the sun will go down and rise again. Take it one step at a time.
2. A Royal Bust Unfolds
Your act of Embarrassing Bravery pivots into an unexpected direction and your idea falls apart for the world to see. Self-directed humor may diffuse tension and allow you recover more or less gracefully. Resisting the temptation to apologize before you know what to apologize for or if an apology is even necessary, exiting with flair and acknowledging the bust are some creative-productive options.
3. Awkward Silence
Invite a reaction and wait for it, wait for it, wait for it.
4. A Standing Ovation
Your idea takes off like a rocket ship and your audience is delighted. Accept the applause and the accolades, give credit to the people who supported you and enjoy your spotlight while it lasts.
When the enormous wave of adrenaline has ebbed and you are in back in your safety zone, take a caring look at what you think happened. There is something to learn from any of the above scenarios and more possible outcomes of stepping into the unknown. Stay clear of defensive reasoning and being overly critical of yourself. Own what you contributed to the situation, and consider what you would want to stop, start or change the next time you have an opportunity to practice insane courage. Reflect on your expectations and possible expectations of your audience and give yourself a pat on the back for having stepped into the arena of life and taking a chance.
REFLECTION & ACTION FOR GROWTH
What may be a gasp-inducing action you can take that would open new doors and new possibilities…
… in your professional life?
… in your relationships?
… in your personal life?
What is something you really, really, really want but you have not had the courage yet to take action on?
Create an opportunity for yourself that makes you gasp and that brings you closer to something that is important to you!
How resilient are YOU? Take a simple resilience survey to assess your readiness to handle ambiguity and challenges.
Take the survey HERE.
I would love to hear about your 20 seconds of bravery!
Friderike Butler, PCC, Human Potential Catalyst
Butler Communication – http://www.DevelopingCreativeLeaders.com
A client shared a great article about the importance of organizational culture awareness for job seekers as well as organizations wanting to attract top talent. Rather than asking hiring companies about the uniqueness of their organizations, the author Adam Grant suggests asking and listening for stories will reveal the organizational culture and the hidden shared beliefs that drive behaviors at a work place.
Recently, I have been playing with 5 of Gerd Hofstede’s 6 cultural dimension indicators to see whether they may be useful to assess and compare organizational culture.
- Low or High Power Distance
How accessible are the leaders in the organization and how do they relate to the frontline staff? How complex is the organizational structure? How short or long are reporting and project approval paths?
- Individualism vs. Collectivism
How does your organization celebrate success, for the individual, the team and the organization? Are employees essentially competing against each other or is team effort valued over lone wolf mentalities?
- Uncertainty Avoidance
How quickly are decisions made? How much information is required and how complex is the approval process for new initiatives? How risk averse is the organization?
- Masculinity vs. Femininity
In a cultural context, Hofstede defines masculinity as “a preference in society for achievement, heroism, assertiveness and material rewards for success.” Femininity is defined as “a preference for cooperation, modesty, caring for the weak and quality of life.” (Weak in this context may mean a less experienced team member or a person requiring or simply benefiting from special accommodations.) While the labels may sound dated and may have to be modified to reflect the current climate for work place discourses, the concept of conquering versus integration is nevertheless an important marker for corporate culture and behavior.
- Long-term vs. Short-term Orientation
Are traditions valued and implemented in long-range plans? Are quarterly results the main decision drivers? Is institutional knowledge valued or does the organization put innovation front and center?
Additional dimensions came to mind when inquiring about an organization’s culture that are not captured by Hofstede’s traditional culture model, which was original developed for national cultural assessments:
What does the on-boarding process look like? What does the organization do to encourage continuous learning at the organizational level as well as at the individual level? How are mistakes handled?
Generative vs. Critical Feedback
How do employees know that they are successful? How is feedback given and received in the organization? Is up-chain feedback encouraged? Is feedback used as a constructive personnel development tool or is it usually used to reprimand staff? An easy gauge is to ask whether employees are usually looking forward to receiving feedback and performance evaluations or if they dread it.
Level of Internal Cohesiveness
How would the front line staff answer these questions? The manager? The leader of the organization? Vastly differing responses indicate internal disconnects.
Why are these important considerations for job seekers? While salary and benefits are important to meet your needs for your life outside of your workplace, the company culture will be the driving factor for long-term job satisfaction and professional growth and most importantly, “culture eats strategy for breakfast” (Peter Drucker) – every day and all the time.
Here is the follow-up post from Global Leadership Development expert Melissa Lamson: http://lamsonconsulting.com/blog/traits-of-global-leader-part-2-be-mindful/#.U5sQ-SHD8fI
Professionals in the field of intercultural competency development like share their thoughts and insights. One such expert focusing on Global Mindset development is Melissa Lamson of Lamson Consulting, who offers poignant advice: