Perfection is a destructive force.
And the French philosopher, Voltaire recognized this when he said “Perfect is the enemy of good.”
I never really fully understood this saying, until recently reading a Harvard Business Review article (June 2011) called “The Paradox of Excellence.”
The article states: “High achievers often undermine their leadership by being afraid to show their limitations.”
At the heart of it…high achievers can let anxiety impede their progress through stress, alienating others, and failure to seize real opportunities.
Here from the article are some of the “classic high achiever” behaviors that can get in the way of success unless artfully managed and balanced (my views):
1) Results-driven: High-achievers can be so work-oriented that they forget the people the make it all it happen. This is why they need to remember to delegate, empower, share, and CARE about others. The work is a team effort!
2) Highly-motivated: They can be so serious about all aspects of their jobs that they “fail to distinguish between the urgent and the merely important.” Instead, they should take a bigger-picture PERSPECTIVE on the tasks and prioritize these accordingly. Not everything is life and death, thank G-d, and we need to keep a sense of humor and take the time to enjoy what we are doing.
3) Competitive: They “obsessively compare themselves with others,” which can cause them to feel insufficient or make false calibrations. You have to remember to INTERNALIZE that the competition is not with others but with yourself–be the best you can be!
4) Risk-managed: “They may shy away from the unknown” and avoid risky endeavors. As they say in Wall Street, without risk, there is no reward. To INNOVATE and transform, you need to take calculated risks (without betting the farm!) after doing due diligence on an investment or opportunity.
5) Passion: This can lead to powerful, productive highs, but can also result in “crippling lows.” Recognize that there are natural ups and downs in the course of one’s work. You can STEADY yourself through these by seeing it as incremental growth and improvement, rather than as either pure success or failure.
6) Guilt: “No matter how much they accomplish, they feel like they aren’t doing enough.” This is an endless trap of it’s never enough and never good enough. Hey, we’re all mortal. Do what you can and balance the many demands that you have on you in your life, but FOCUS on what’s most important, since you can’t do it all and you can never get it all done.
7) Feedback: High-achievers “care intensely about how others view their work” and they require a steady stream of positive feedback. Don’t get hung up by what other people say or think–it’s not personal and they have their own problems. Stay focused on delivering excellence in products and services to the customer, and use whatever feedback you can get–positive or negative–as valuable information to IMPROVE your offering.
If you are a high-achiever and demand much (if not the impossible from yourself), take a step back and a breath in and out–you can accomplish a lot more of what’s important to you if stop trying to be perfect, admit your vulnerabilities and limitations, and just try to do your best–that’s all that anyone can ask.