Do you love or avoid perfectionism?
Are you one of many people who have to finish a task to perfection before sharing the outcomes with others, or are you the opposite? Maybe you’re one of the people who just fire from the hip. Do you slap a few dot points together and shoot it out?
The gold-plating viewpoint…
Sloppy dudes, or so they’re perceived by the perfectionist, often get some doubting questions on their work. The work appears somewhat incomplete and surely is not very detailed. This give a feeling of triumph of the perfectionist, who thinks the sloppy dudes receive justice for their sloppy work.
With frustration, he then observes how the sloppy dude talks his way out of the situation. This somewhat disturbs the perfectionist in his beliefs. He thinks all people should meticulously spell out the last detail before sending something out to others.
Is perfectionism really the way to success?
Who do you think is right? Is it better to run a task down to final completion, or is it better to share when you’ve got the first few ideas?
The perfectionist then observes how the sloppy dude pulls together others, asks for their ideas to improve his work, makes phone calls and gets people to support him. This is the next stage of the perfectionist’s frustration.
“Can’t you do anything on your own?” he thinks.
A few days later, the sloppy dude presents the progress to the managers and again gets some critical questions. The work doesn’t appear as detailed as what the stakeholders are generally used to seeing, and in this fashion it goes on. However, the perfectionist realises that the doubts of management are getting smaller and the first supporters are there; people can see where it’s going.
Well, you can imagine where this goes, right? Which type are you? The perfectionist that works in isolation doesn’t like to share results before they pass his internal standards; sound familiar? Or are you the “sloppy dude” who gets the others in early even at the cost of confusing them initially?
What’s today’s trend?
People who prefer to work on their own until they have something presentable think others are sloppy dudes who can’t do anything on their own, take other’s time and contribute less to the outcome just to get all the glory. Perfectionism makes you demand more from yourself, and you naturally expect better results than the sloppy dude because you worked harder.
Well, here’s the thing. Today’s corporate world is simply not about sitting on things for ages until you are ready to involve others. Doing so, you may find that your work doesn’t survive first contact with others either, just like the work of the sloppy dude.
This is primarily due to the fact that people, when presented with something new, will first strive to find mistakes in it. This almost always happens. The more initial effort you put in, the more you will feel disappointed and become defensive about the feedback you receive.
Today’s world is not about doing things in isolation; it is about engaging others early so that they can give you their feedback. It is about pulling a team together primarily composed of people who do not report in to you.
Today’s world is not about trying to get all the glory because that is, ironically, what the perfectionist wants just as much as the sloppy dude; it is about sharing success with the team.
Today’s world is about quick, small steps, quick failures. Yes, failures. Present your approach; get feedback. Any feedback. Feedback will tell you what your stakeholders want, and that’s what it’s about: delivering what your stakeholders want, not what you think they should want.
Future leadership depends on collaboration.
Today’s world is about collaboration, new tools that increasingly support collaboration even in the most remote location and time. This trend will continue, and it will be less about the person who gets the best result on their own. It’s about the person that can articulate a vision, draw others into it and provide direction to demonstrate positive leadership skills.
You may often hear you should delegate to others if you don’t have the time to do something yourself. Most people dismiss this tip because they don’t have any direct reports. Well, here is where you might be missing a huge opportunity. It’s not about having an army full of people reporting in to you to get things done. It’s about being able to draw people in for the sake of getting things done efficiently. You can read more about how to “delegate” to people who you don’t manage here; perfectionism isn’t as powerful as collaboration.
Most people these days have a fair bit of discretion about their work. Use this to draw others in. Give them a vision to contribute towards. Give them a task that will make them grow in their own field.
Collaborate and let others make a unique, creative contribution to your vision, a contribution without which your vision wouldn’t happen. Let the others know that and point it out; share the glory. This inevitably requires you to work like the sloppy dude, but you’ll be getting things done faster and more creatively than if you tried to perfect it all alone first.
Share your ideas and visions in an early stage and get feedback to get it going in the right direction before it goes in the wrong one. Get some excitement about it; get the management aware of it so that you can draw on their support when required. It’s not about being sloppy and not being able to do it yourself. It’s about levering the strength of the group. When you stop gold-plating your ideas before sharing them, you save time and open yourself up to greater possibilities with a group to support you.
Smart companies know these kind of things, and they let their people make use of this. They foster and promote the people who are able to get others to support their ideas and visions.
How can many of us be so wrong to try and do everything ourselves?
At school, we are being taught to do our homework to the best we can (fostering perfectionism). We get penalised if it’s not good (preventing a quick-fail mindset). The discussion revolves around a completed piece of work, not about a work in progress. It’s the work of an individual, not the work of a group. In the few cases where groups work together, it’s a static group put together in the beginning of a project, not a group that can dynamically change as required to get the task done.
Use these collaboration skills for better time management.
Consider why we often work the way we work and compare it with how it could work much better. Think of examples where you worked leading a task supported by others, or where you supported someone else. Think of the energy and achievement, the network of energies in the team, and make these elements part of your time-management strategies.
There are compelling arguments to critically question our nurtured ways of working simply because the world we grew up in is different than the world we’re in today. You can read more about the downfalls of perfectionism here.